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Cablegate: Government Appointed Commissioner Warns of Narco-Democracy

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C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000933

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2029/11/05
TAGS: PTER SNAR PGOV MARR EC CO
SUBJECT: Government Appointed Commissioner Warns of Narco-Democracy

REF: QUITO 227; QUITO 233

CLASSIFIED BY: Hodge...


id: 233417
date: 11/5/2009 21:59
refid: 09QUITO933
origin: Embassy Quito
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 09QUITO227|09QUITO233
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C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000933

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2029/11/05
TAGS: PTER SNAR PGOV MARR EC CO
SUBJECT: Government Appointed Commissioner Warns of Narco-Democracy

REF: QUITO 227; QUITO 233

CLASSIFIED BY: Hodges, Heather M, Ambassador, State, EXEC; REASON:
1.4(D)

1. (C) Summary: Francisco Huerta, head of a government-appointed
commission investigating the March 2008 Colombian bombing of a FARC
camp in Ecuador, warned during October media interviews that
Ecuador was becoming a "narco-democracy." A member of Huerta's
commission told us on November 4 that the group's report would not
agree with GOE allegations of a U.S. role in the attack. If the
final report indeed reflects what we have heard so far, we expect
the government to distance itself from the report, or discredit the
commission. End Summary.

Commission Highlights Narcotrafficker-Government Links

--------------------------------------------- ---------

2. (SBU) Francisco Huerta's denunciation of the ills of
contemporary Ecuador is likely not what the GOE had in mind in
appointing him. In support of his charge that Ecuador was on the
road to being a narco-democracy, Huerta described Ecuador today as
"half democratic" since it had a government chosen by popular vote,
but infiltrated by narco-traffickers. Huerta said there had been
too many cases of judicial, executive and legislative branch
members linked to narco-trafficking, which obviously corrupt a
democracy. He asked rhetorically who could compete in election
campaigns against those with narco-financing. Huerta noted that
impunity was often thanks to complicity by those in the armed
forces. He did not hesitate to call the Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia (FARC) terrorists, a designation the GOE has avoided.

3. (SBU) Huerta leads the five-member Truth and Transparency
Commission investigating the March 1, 2008, Colombian military
attack on a FARC camp in northern Ecuador, as well as the
allegations of GOE-FARC ties (Ref A). The Commission is often
called the Angostura commission after the town closest to the FARC
camp. Huerta was appointed to represent the National Council for
Higher Education and was considered left-leaning.

4. (SBU) Responding to Huerta's comments during a BBC interview,
President Correa claimed that Huerta was referring to problems near
the country's border, where state presence had always been absent
and where there were many narcotrafficking routes. He affirmed
that the GOE needed to pay attention to the area. When pressed
further, Correa highlighted what he considered Ecuador's successes
against drugs, including the absence of coca cultivation and the
large number of seizures, which he said made it unlikely Ecuador
would become a narco-democracy.

5. (C) Commission member Walter Gellibert Larreta told us on
November 4 that the influence of narco-traffickers in Ecuador had
already been proven. What the Commission was still trying to do
was further document the ties between people of the government and
the guerrillas. He said the Commission did not yet have a fixed
date for the report's release. Larreta was nominated for the
commission by the Ecuadorian Association of Radio Broadcasting; as
a young man he lived for 11 years in the U.S.

Indicators of a Fledgling Narco-Democracy

-----------------------------------------

6. (C) Other events in recent weeks have added to the impression
that narcotics trafficking organizations pose a threat to
government institutions. FARC threats were reported against police
officers involved in the mid-October capture of 8.3 tons of cocaine

which belonged to a Colombian drug trafficking organization, but
with the FARC assisting in transportation and security and an
Ecuadorian Army officer heading the transportation cell.
Government and Police Minister Gustavo Jalkh said the GOE was
taking the necessary measures to protect police officers who were
part of operations that put them at high risk. Also, the
provincial prosecutor who would have handled the case requested
that he be moved, which many observers attributed to his fear of
narcotraffickers' retribution.

7. (C) The events described above build on concerns created by
reports of former Security Minister Gustavo Larrea and former Under
Secretary Jose Chauvin's ties to the FARC (Ref B). In a related
development, on October 23 an Esmeraldas judge found the Ostaiza
brothers (whom Chauvin cooperated with) and nine other defendants
not guilty of drug trafficking in conjunction with the FARC; they
are now detained only on a money laundering charge.

U.S. Role in 2008 Colombian Military Incursion

--------------------------------------------- -

8. (C) According to commission member Larreta, the Commission's
report on the Colombian military incursion of March 2008 would
include nothing damaging about the U.S. He said the Commission had
already completed the drafting of the section of the report about
the attack. Larreta told us the report would conclude that the
Colombian military had the capacity to carry out the attack on its
own and that there was no evidence to support the allegation that
aircraft based at the U.S. Forward Operating Location (FOL) in
Manta had been involved. Larreta noted that one Commission member
(unidentified) had insisted on including a statement about a FOL
role, but that four other members refused to include an
unsubstantiated allegation.

9. (SBU) The Ambassador met with Larreta and the other members of
the commission (minus Huerta) at their request on April 28 at the
start of their investigation. In addition, the Ambassador
responded in writing in late July to the Commission's written
request for information. The request focused on early U.S. Embassy
notification of certain Ecuadorian officials about the Colombian
military actions on March 1, 2008, and the capabilities and
possible involvement in the attack of FOL aircraft.

Comment

-------

10. (C) We are surprised by Huerta's courage in trying to issue a
wake-up call to the Ecuadorian public on the dangers of increasing
narcotrafficker influence over government institutions. If indeed
the Commission members stick to their guns and issue a report
documenting government officials' links to narcotics traffickers,
they would prove wrong the many skeptics who argued that the
commission members were too aligned with the government and
restricted in the information they would gather to conduct a
significant and objective investigation. Furthermore, if the final
report absolves the USG, it would counter GOE charges that the USG
played a major role in carrying out the March 2008 Colombian
attack. We imagine the GOE must be thinking hard about how to
prevent such a public relations disaster, or discredit the report.
HODGES

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

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