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Cablegate: Engaging Civilian Leadership to Improve Mil to Mil Relations

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C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000885

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/10/15
TAGS: PREL MASS PARM PTER KHDP EC CO
SUBJECT: Engaging Civilian Leadership to Improve Mil to Mil Relations

REF: QUITO 829; QUITO 708; QUITO 616

CLASSIFIED B...


id: 229888
date: 10/15/2009 20:53
refid: 09QUITO885
origin: Embassy Quito
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 09QUITO616|09QUITO708|09QUITO829
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C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000885

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/10/15
TAGS: PREL MASS PARM PTER KHDP EC CO
SUBJECT: Engaging Civilian Leadership to Improve Mil to Mil Relations

REF: QUITO 829; QUITO 708; QUITO 616

CLASSIFIED BY: Heather Hodges, Ambassador; REASON: 1.4(A), (D)

1. (C) Summary: The Embassy is receiving mixed signals regarding
the Ecuadorian military's willingness to continue historically
strong cooperation. Likely causes are: instructions by civilian
leadership to lessen dependency on the U.S.; a lack of information
and communication within the Ecuadorian military; political
posturing; and fewer financial resources. Engaging the military's
civilian leadership, even when the Ecuadorian uniformed military
attempts to keep issues within their own channels, will need to be
a central part of the Embassy's strategy to improve military
cooperation. End Summary.

Military to Military Relations Skittish

2. (C) The Ecuadorian military has recently displayed skittish
behavior toward engagement with the U.S. military, expressing
apparently earnest requests for cooperation in certain sectors,
while rejecting cooperation in other areas. An example of the
former would be the numerous requests the Joint Command of the
Ecuadorian Armed Forces has sent for assistance in the destruction
of munitions and arms (Ref B), and its hosting of a delegation from
Washington to perform an assessment of the GOE's munitions, weapons
and storage bunkers. The Joint Command requested that the U.S. not
only destroy the munitions, but also train its personnel and assist
in paying for upgrades to its facilities. The Ecuadorian Army's
northern border units have maintained good working relations with
the Embassy for the past two years, most recently in the
development of riverine capacity and training.

3. (C) In contrast, despite over ten years and approximately $4
million in support for a TPS-70 radar in Ecuador's northern border
region, Ecuadorian Air Force (FAE) Commander Brigadier General
Rodrigo Bohorquez refused to allow U.S. Air Force technicians
access to make repairs on the radar in August, 2009. Bohorquez
subsequently sent an official memorandum complaining that the USG
failed to provide operational and maintenance support for the
radar, even though a 1998 U.S.-Ecuadorian bilateral agreement
clearly stated that the GOE was responsible for the operations and
maintenance of the radar. (Note: Due to the above, and the lack
of commitment to the radar by the GOE, U.S. Southern Command has
discontinued USG support of the radar. End Note.)

4. (C) Throughout the transition of the Forward Operating Location
(FOL) at Manta, the Ecuadorian Air Force (FAE) was very
cooperative. However, it is likely that the Ministry of Defense
and other civilian leadership gave instructions to the FAE to keep
quiet about any positives from the ten-year relationship with the
U.S. at the FOL. Instead, civilian leaders and a parliamentary
committee sought to smear the U.S. presence and contributions. The
GOE did not attend the July 17 FOL "last flight" tribute ceremony
(Ref C), and did not invite the Embassy to attend a last minute
ceremony marking the transfer of the FOL to Ecuador on September 18
(Ref A).

5. (C) In the same schizophrenic vein, Navy Commander Admiral
Aland Molestina asked the Embassy's Naval Attache to initiate a
request to formalize information sharing between the Ecuadorian
Navy and USG, with the ostensible justification that this would
ensure onward cooperation if the commander were replaced in the
near future. We understand that the real reason for the request is
Molestina's fear that his informal cooperation with the U.S. on
narcotics trafficking leaves him exposed to political and legal
attack, as happened in February against police units cooperating

with the USG. (Note: The Embassy MilGrp is working with U.S.
Southern Command to review the potential impact such an initiative
may have on our bilateral cooperation, and counternarcotics
information sharing between Ecuador and the Joint Interagency Task
Force (JIATF) South. End Note.)

Increasing Civilian Leadership (and Control)

6. (C) The Correa government has placed an increasing number of
political appointees in the Ministry of Defense so as to establish
civilian control over the Armed Forces. Perhaps the biggest change
in leadership occurred on January 2009 with the appointment of Vice
Minister of Defense Miguel Carvajal to the position of Coordinating
Minister of External and External Security. Several uniformed
military have noted to us that initiatives were harder to get
approved after Carvajal's appointment, not just because of an
additional layer of approval, but mostly because of Carvajal's
leftist ideological leanings. Initial concerns and uncertainty
among senior military officers regarding promotions and assignments
have calmed, especially after the August 10 presidential
inauguration. However, senior officers are still adjusting to the
increasing level of control exerted by the civilian leadership.

Why the Mixed Message?

7. (C) The conflicting messages regarding the Ecuadorian
military's willingness to pursue cooperation with the U.S. are
likely the result of several factors:

-- Directives from civilian leadership to lessen dependency on the
U.S. Defense Minister Ponce said during his April 2008
inauguration that the MOD would review all cooperation with the USG
to determine what cooperation could be directed elsewhere, and has
repeated this mantra since.

-- Lack of information. The Ecuadorian military and civilian
leadership often do not share information, and have limited trust
in each other. The military and its leadership are often also
unaware of the overall bilateral relationship the U.S. shares with
Ecuador, even in terms of security cooperation.

-- Political posturing/survival. Now that it is clear that Correa
has staying power, military leaders know their options are either
to visibly cooperate with their civilian leaders, or lose their
careers.

-- Financial crunch. The GOE has turned to China, Russia and other
countries prepared to offer financing or barter payment to fund the
purchase of weapons and/or equipment.

Forward Strategy

8. (C) While mixed signals make cooperation more challenging, the
Embassy has developed a strategy to remain engaged with the
Ecuadorian military. Using the experience of our renewed
cooperation with the Ecuadorian National Police, we will allow

pressure to build from within the Ecuadorian military on the GOE
political leadership for the broad, quality-based assistance only
the USG provides. This strategy will be implemented as follows:

-- Embassy will require that requests for assistance by Ecuadorian
military counterparts will need to be in writing, and when
appropriate, channeled through the Ministry of Defense.

-- Cooperation will be reviewed to determine the degree of U.S.
benefit in the proposal, and whether the Ecuadorian military is
using assistance effectively and as originally agreed. Absent high
marks under these criteria, that cooperation may be discontinued or
the GOE's request for assistance denied. For example, as described
above, assistance for the TPS-70 radar was cut. Due to a lack of
access to the Ecuadorian military's northern border units, the
Military Group relocated its counter drug Joint Planning Assistance
Team officer from Coca to Ibarra.

-- Areas of cooperation that are very much in the USG interest that
we will want to continue include the following: renewing the
exchange of diplomatic notes to provide protections for TDY
military personnel in Ecuador; a Section 1033 Memorandum of
Understanding to allow assistance to the military's
counternarcotics efforts along Ecuador's northern border; and
cooperation in the destruction of missiles and munitions as well as
humanitarian demining.

9. (C) At the same time, the Embassy will take the following steps
to improve military to military relations, and protect longer term
access:

-- The Embassy Country Team will increase engagement with the
military's civilian leadership to attempt to increase the comfort
level of civilians in working with the USG. The Embassy will begin
by providing information via meetings and briefings on our
bilateral cooperation, in security, development and other areas.

-- The Embassy intends to use visits, both Ecuadorian civilian and
military leaders to the U.S., as well as U.S. civilian and military
leaders to Ecuador, to discuss security cooperation.

-- The Embassy will pursue civilian-military seminars, as well as
short-term training opportunities in areas of interest to the
Ecuadorian military, such as weapons and munitions handling,
humanitarian demining, etc.

-- The Embassy will also propose funding under Section 1207 to
assist the Ecuadorian security forces to secure Ecuador's northern
border region and to promote civilian leadership of the military
and police, and to improve GOE interagency coordination.

10. (C) Note: These strategies and initiatives to regain full
cooperation with the Ecuadorian military may prove more difficult
than with the Ecuadorian National Police, since DefMin Ponce seems
more inclined to follow Security Minister Miguel Carvajal's lead,
and is less likely to stand up for the military's interests. End
Note.

Comment

11. (C) Maintaining positive military-to-military relations is
important to achieving USG objectives in Ecuador. Our historically
good relations have provided excellent counternarcotics and
counterterrorism information, and operational access. Moreover,
some leaders within the Ecuadorian military are sincerely focused
on improving the military's ability to combat narco-trafficking and
to repel the encroachment of illegal armed groups such as the FARC
into Ecuador. Working with the civilian leadership of the
military, even when the Ecuadorian uniformed military attempts to
keep issues within their own channels, will need to be an integral
part of the USG's engagement strategy in Ecuador.
HODGES

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

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