Cable 191162

El primer cable sobre Ecuador es el Nº 191162, clasificado como confidencial, en el que diplomáticos de la Embajada cuentan a sus superiores en Washington que el comandante policial Jaime Hurtado Vaca cambió al jefe del Centro Operativo Anti-Coyoterismo (COAC), adscrito a la Dirección de Inteligencia, sin seguir el protocolo acordado.

id:

191162

date:

2/9/2009 21:33

refid:

09QUITO100

origin:

Embassy Quito

classification:

CONFIDENTIAL

destination:

09QUITO10|09QUITO57

header:

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RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC

 
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 QUITO 000100 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/09/2029 
TAGS: PREL, MARR, SMIG, SNAR, EC, CO 
SUBJECT: CORREA ANGRY OVER CONDITIONS ON VETTED UNIT 
 
REF: A. QUITO 57 
     B. QUITO 10 
 
QUITO 00000100  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Heather Hodges for reason 1.4 (D) 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  During his February 7 weekly radio/TV 
address, an indignant President Correa, reading from a 
January 8 letter from the DHS/ICE Attache in Quito, rejected 
coordinated selection of personnel for an 
anti-smuggling/contraband unit and announced the Attache's 
expulsion, apparently unaware that he had departed three 
weeks earlier.  He threatened that the GOE would do similar 
checks on pilots flying counter-narcotics surveillance planes 
under the gas-and-go model after the FOL departs.  We suspect 
the influence of the new security minister and/or retribution 
for the embarrassment caused by the arrest of a government 
official involved in FARC narcotics trafficking may have 
prompted Correa's statements.  It remains to be seen to what 
extent this move will affect cooperation with other 
U.S.-supported and vetted units.  End Summary. 
 
EVENTS THAT LED TO CORREA'S OUTBURST 
 
2.  (C) The Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and 
Customs Enforcement (DHS/ICE), using funding from the Bureau 
of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs 
through the Narcotics Affairs Section, has supported the 
Ecuadorian National Police National Intelligence 
Directorate's Center for Anti-Contraband Operations (COAC) 
since FY 2003.  A verbal agreement existed between the ICE 
Attache and police commanders that the personnel would submit 
to polygraph tests in order to avoid corruption.  USG 
assistance to the unit, which targeted those involved in 
human smuggling as well as contraband, totaled $720,000 to 
date. 
 
3.  (C) In December 2008, Ecuadorian National Police 
commander General Jaime Hurtado informed DHS/ICE Attache 
Armando Astorga that he had decided to appoint a new COAC 
chief without coordinating with DHS/ICE.  Astorga attempted 
to persuade Hurtado to follow agreed procedures.  When his 
efforts failed, Astorga sent the January 8 letter to Hurtado, 
with the concurrence of his headquarters and the Ambassador. 
It stated that DHS/ICE operational and logistical support 
would be terminated and asked for the return of all equipment 
previously provided.  The letter suggested that the decision 
could be revisited if circumstances change.  It said in part: 
 
"The DHS/ICE Quito office is completely in agreement that 
assigning personnel of the unit is a power of the National 
Police of Ecuador and specifically of its leadership. 
Nevertheless, we do not agree that the chief and/or personnel 
of the unit should be assigned without previous coordination 
on the respective selection and conducting integrity checks 
that are fundamental requirements to protect the security of 
the unit and the confidentiality of the investigations." 
 
4.  (SBU) President Correa read selections from the letter in 
his February 7 radio address.  Addressing Attache Astorga, he 
said he should keep his $340,000 in suspended assistance and 
the $160,000 additional funding anticipated this year, 
terming it "dirty money."  Correa directed police commander 
Hurtado to return everything to the last computer flash 
drive.  He called the U.S. insolent for not understanding 
that since January 2007 (his inauguration), Ecuador was not a 
colony.  To applause, he said Ecuador should make a donation 
of $160,000 annually to the U.S. for a project to avoid 
torture in the U.S., such as is happening at Guantanamo. 
(Complete transcript of Correa's remarks e-mailed to WHA/AND.) 
 
5.  (SBU) Correa then turned to counternarcotics cooperation 
under the gas-and-go model, which the Ambassador had proposed 
to him on January 26, to be implemented after the closure of 
the U.S. Forward Operating Location (FOL) in Manta (Ref A). 
He said, "Madam Ambassador, I accept that these Coast Guard 
planes can land on Ecuadorian soil once the Manta base (sic) 
leaves, with one condition:  that we will have to check on 
the pilots that come flying these planes so that no criminals 
enter our country."  (Note:  We were rather surprised Correa 
raised the gas-and-go agreement in principle.  We had 
expected the GOE to announce it only after careful 
preparation.  End Note.) 
 
AMBASSADOR HIGHLIGHTS NEGATIVE EFFECT TO FOREIGN MINISTER 
 
6.  (C) After hearing about Correa,s Saturday address, the 
Ambassador immediately called Foreign Minister Falconi to 
express her deep concern about Correa,s actions and words. 
Falconi said that the Astorga letter had been unacceptable. 
 
QUITO 00000100  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
The Ambassador reminded Falconi that in their meeting on 
January 12 (Ref B), she had raised the situation with the 
anti-smuggling unit as an example of the distancing of the 
GOE and the U.S., and that she had followed up faxing a copy 
of the letter (apparently Falconi never received the letter). 
 Falconi told the Ambassador that the U.S. had to realize 
that Ecuador was a sovereign country and that the U.S. was 
dealing with a "different government" than in the past.  The 
Ambassador noted that in any case the U.S. had been dealing 
with the Correa Administration for two years and various 
vetted units had been functioning.  She added that she 
believed that Correa's actions and words could have a 
negative effect on relations between the U.S. and Ecuador. 
Falconi said he would tell Correa about their conversation. 
 
7.  (C) The next day (February 8), FM Falconi summoned the 
Ambassador to the Ministry at 7 PM to express formally 
President Correa's and the government's "deep indignation" 
over the January 8 letter from DHS/ICE Attache Astorga to 
police commander Hurtado.  Falconi specified as objectionable 
three parts of the Astorga letter:  the language on the 
agreement "not functioning satisfactorily for our 
governments," the list of items to be returned to the USG, 
and the decision to reconsider the $160,000 destined for a 
human smuggling unit.  Falconi rejected any interpretation of 
the letter's language other than Correa's.  Falconi said he 
had spoken with Correa subsequent to Falconi's February 7 
telephone call with the Ambassador, and relayed the 
Ambassador's deep concern.  Falconi expressed regret that 
this issue was getting in the middle of our cooperative 
relations. 
 
8.  (C) Addressing the GOE's objection to U.S. vetting of 
personnel in supported units, the Ambassador explained that 
there were a number of these special vetted units, not just 
in Ecuador, but around the world.  She walked Falconi through 
the process of establishing these units, pointing out that 
they were created under mutual verbal agreements, and that 
the DHS unit had been operating for the duration of the 
Correa administration.  At several points in the discussion, 
the Ambassador attempted to clarify with Falconi whether the 
GOE was prohibiting USG vetting, in which case we would have 
to suspend cooperation with other supported units.  Falconi 
ducked the question, asserting that vetting was unacceptable 
for Ecuador's sovereignty, but that the Coordinating Minister 
for Internal and External Security, Miguel Carvajal, was 
responsible for regularizing the agreements.  The Ambassador 
noted that she had spoken with Minister Carvajal on February 
6, about suspension of cooperation to another vetted unit, 
and that Minister Carvajal had suggested formalizing 
agreements on the units. 
 
9.  (C) The Ambassador noted that Astorga had been discussing 
the situation with General Hurtado since December 2008, and 
that Astorga's letter summarizing the situation was sent on 
January 8, including copies to other relevant officials.  The 
Ambassador even sent a facsimile of the letter to then 
Bilateral Afffairs Under Secretary Carlos Jativa on January 
12, subsequent to her first meeting with Minister Falconi. 
It is not clear to us why this had become an issue only now. 
We disagreed with the GOE's characterization of the letter. 
Moreover, even in the event the President was upset with the 
letter, his public outburst was not the appropriate manner to 
address it.  Expelling an embassy official was a very serious 
step. 
 
10.  (C) Falconi claimed that he had never seen the letter. 
He asserted that President Correa, in the wake of the March 1 
Colombian attack on the FARC camp in Angostura, told the 
Ecuadorian police that there could be no more agreements of 
this type, and that Ecuador was reclaiming its sovereignty. 
Falconi also asserted that Correa had the right to 
communicate any way he desired.  The Ambassador said, yes, 
and if that is what he wants, then he must realize that there 
will be a negative reaction.  She noted that she had not 
spoken in public about all the anti-U.S. rhetoric, but all of 
Correa's remarks -- including his comments during and after 
his trips to Cuba and Iran -- were being seen in Washington. 
 
11.  (C) Just as the meeting appeared to be over, Deputy 
Foreign Minister Pozo reminded Falconi that he had a letter 
to deliver to the Ambassador.  The letter was actually 
addressed to DHS/ICE Attache Astorga, and signed by Correa's 
private secretary, Galo Mora, but according to Falconi 
dictated by President Correa.  The Mora letter (e-mailed to 
WHA/AND) essentially repeats Correa's tirade from his 
February 7 address.  The Ambassador advised Falconi that if 
the Ecuadorians wanted to speak of indignation, the letter 
and Correa's remarks about torture by the United States were 
 
QUITO 00000100  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
an insult, especially to the Obama Administration.  She said 
she was very disappointed by the turn of events, since recent 
bilateral communications had been promising.  She added that 
President Correa's agreement in principle to a gas-and-go 
arrangement had been very positive. 
 
12.  (C) Since Mora's letter to Astorga raised post-Manta 
arrangements, the Ambassador noted those discussions should 
more appropriately be addressed to her, but she wondered 
precisely what was meant by Ecuadorian vetting of USG 
aircrews, since an unworkable proposal would spoil a good 
dialogue to date.  Falconi ducked answering that question as 
well, indicating that discussions should continue with the 
Under Secretary for Sovereignty and Borders Affairs. 
 
13.  (C) February 9 Post Script:  The Ambassador received a 
call from close Embassy contact, and former Under Secretary 
for Bilateral Affairs, Carlos Jativa.  He said Falconi and 
Deputy Foreign Minister Pozo had asked him to call and 
express concern about what had happened.  They had asked him 
to pass on their desire to have good relations with the U.S. 
 
WHO IS PUSHING CORREA'S BUTTONS? 
 
14.  (C) Those working for President Correa know he has a 
tendency to rant and rave before looking into the facts of a 
matter or considering the consequences of his words.  We 
suspect Minister Carvajal, working through presidential 
personal secretary Mora, provided Correa a copy of Astorga's 
letter and described it in a way that set him off.  Carvajal 
has close connections with the Cuban government and may have 
been looking for an opportunity to harm U.S. relations with 
Ecuador. 
 
15.  (C) Another factor behind the turn of events may have 
been anger over the exposure of links to the Correa 
government by the Ostaiza brothers, who were involved in 
narcotics trafficking and money laundering on behalf of the 
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).  This affair 
(see septel) has embarrassed the Correa administration and 
forced former security minister Gustavo Larrea to drop his 
candidacy for the National Assembly in April elections. 
 
16.  (C)  It is worth noting that Correa had returned a few 
days earlier from a trip to Venezuela, where Chavez may have 
pressed him to be more critical of the United States or where 
his revolutionary fervor may have been re-energized.  We do 
not see that Correa would gain much electoral advantage from 
his remarks since the majority of Ecuadorians view the U.S. 
positively and/or see the necessity of a constructive 
relationship with us. 
 
TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT, OR MORTAL BLOW TO US PROGRAMS? 
 
17.  (C) COMMENT:  While it is quite clear that DHS/ICE 
cooperation with the COAC unit is over, it remains to be seen 
what impact the weekend's events will have on cooperation 
with other vetted units that we support.  The USG needs to 
stick to its principles in terms of conditions for our 
support in sensitive areas of law enforcement.  At the same 
time, we do not want to leave the GOE in a corner with no way 
out if cooler heads do begin to prevail and we have the 
opportunity to continue programs that support U.S. security 
interests.  We hope a conversation the week of February 9 
with Minister Carvajal will give us an indication whether 
vetted unit cooperation will be able to continue, perhaps 
under written agreements.  We will also need to follow up 
with the MFA to see if Correa was serious about vetting our 
pilots.  Depending on press coverage this week, we may want 
to consider releasing the full text of the Astorga letter. 
 
HODGES 
 
=======================CABLE ENDS============================