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Cablegate: Fol Turnover Complete, but National Assembly Continues To

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C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000829

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2029/09/18
TAGS: PREL MARR MOPS EC
SUBJECT: FOL Turnover Complete, but National Assembly Continues to
Irritate

REF: QUITO 616; QUITO 391

CLASSIFIED BY: Heather M. Hodges...


id: 226031
date: 9/19/2009 0:08
refid: 09QUITO829
origin: Embassy Quito
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 09QUITO391|09QUITO616
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C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000829

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2029/09/18
TAGS: PREL MARR MOPS EC
SUBJECT: FOL Turnover Complete, but National Assembly Continues to
Irritate

REF: QUITO 616; QUITO 391

CLASSIFIED BY: Heather M. Hodges, Ambassador, State Department;
REASON: 1.4(A), (D)

1. (SBU) Summary: The U.S. Air Force turned the Forward Operating
Location (FOL) facilities over to the Ecuadorian Air Force on
September 18, concluding ten years constructing and utilizing the
FOL for counternarcotics surveillance flights. GOE senior
officials celebrated what FM Falconi called a "triumph for national
sovereignty and peace." Meanwhile, the Prosecutor General's Office
summoned former president Gutierrez and others for questioning for
allegedly allowing the U.S. military to sink Ecuadorian vessels and
commit other crimes. The National Assembly plans further
investigation. End Summary.

FAREWELL TO THE FOL

2. (C) During a brief ceremony at Ecuador's Eloy Alfaro Air Base
in Manta, FM Fander Falconi, Defense Minister Javier Ponce, and
Coordinating Minister for Internal and External Security Miguel
Carvajal marked what they considered the "recapture" of Ecuadorian
sovereignty. GOE officials apparently chose in their remarks not
to charge the FOL at the event with boat sinkings and human rights
violations. According to a MFA press release, FM Falconi asked his
listeners not to forget that "today is the moment of the Grand
Fatherland, an epoch of profound and complex transformation when a
Latin America-oriented vision crosses the continent and rejects all
forms of tutelage that seeks to promote relations based on
subordination." He alleged that the "base" (sic) obeyed a strategy
of military control, meaning by the U.S. Falconi faulted former
GOE officials for their failure to allow debate by the Ecuadorian
people before the agreement was concluded in 1999, and also for not
securing approval by the plenary of the then Congress (only the
International Relations Commission considered the agreement at that
time).

3. (C) Over the past week the planned signing over of the FOL
morphed from a closed door meeting of mid-level officials to a
ceremony complete with GOE ministerial participation. U.S.
officials decided not to make themselves part of a media circus and
did not attend the GOE event. In fact, we were not invited.
Instead Military Group commander COL Robert Gaddis signed the
necessary turnover documents and had them delivered and then signed
by the Ecuadorian Air Force Area Defense Commander, Gen. Alonso
Espinosa, prior to the GOE's ceremony, thereby meeting our legal
requirement. The U.S. Air Force's 478th Expeditionary Operations
Squadron (EOS) held an inactivation ceremony at a nearby hotel for
the FOL the morning of September 18 that included members of the
12th Air Force and Embassy Quito, but not the GOE or Ecuadorian
military.

4. (SBU) Mid-day newscasts covered the GOE event, with several
suggesting that the Ecuadorian Government "forgot to invite the
Americans" to the ceremony, and one noting FOL contributions to the
community. Each featured a different minister with his take on
events, with Defense Minister Ponce referring to an investigation
into an alleged "secret accord" (apparently a reference to the
Operational Procedures for Boarding and Inspecting Vessels), FM
Falconi focusing on Ecuador's relations with Colombia, and Carvajal
tepidly praising the positive nature of the transition and turnover
process.

PROSECUTOR GENERAL INITIATED INVESTIGATION

5. (SBU) According to the press, the now defunct Legislative
Commission's International Relations Commission is planning to
release its report (reftel) at a concert in Manta the evening of
September 18 celebrating the FOL turnover. The report alleges
thousands of deaths, human rights violations, and sinkings of
fishing boats caused by the FOL.

6. (C) The Prosecutor General's Office has already moved forward
with investigation of the report's unsubstantiated allegations. In
August it summoned former president Lucio Gutierrez (runner-up in
the April 26 elections this year), as well as two foreign ministers
that served under Gutierrez, to appear. They are being
investigated for covering up acts of piracy allegedly committed
against Ecuadorians and Ecuadorian-flagged vessels which the
summons claims were intercepted, destroyed, or sunk in Ecuadorian
territorial waters or in international waters by vessels of the
North American (sic) navy.

7. (C) The new National Assembly International Relations
Commission president, Fernando Bustamante, told the Ambassador on
September 18 that his Committee needed to continue looking
"politically" into events surrounding the FOL, including Ecuadorian
politicians who approved the agreement, and the alleged human
rights violations. When the Ambassador suggested such actions
would be only a witchhunt, Bustamante tried (unconvincingly) to
convince her that the process would be fair.

COMMENT

8. (C) The USG can be very proud of what it has accomplished at
the FOL over the last ten years, as well as ensuring the transition
process over the past six months did not become a crippling bone of
contention. We behaved graciously in leaving many items at the FOL
(valued at $1.4 million) behind for the Ecuadorian Air Force or
local charities, when the only requirement in the agreement was the
turnover of the installations. We hope this will pay dividends as
we seek to maintain a constructive relationship with the Correa
government and the Ecuadorian military, particularly in the
anti-narcotics fight. We do have some concern about the National
Assembly's plans for continued investigation of the ridiculous
allegations against the USG. The Prosecutor General's
investigation is of less concern since there will be a greater need
in a legal proceeding for firm evidence.
HODGES

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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