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EL ECUADOR DE CORREA

Cable sobre el reemplazo que hace Correa del ministro de Defensa

ID: 149237
Date: 2008-04-09 19:28:00
Origin: 08QUITO331
Source: Embassy Quito
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Dunno: 08QUITO327
Destination: VZCZCXYZ0003
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RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 3884
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 2980
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ APR LIMA 2546
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 3487
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000331

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E.O. 12958: DECL: TEN YEARS
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, EC
SUBJECT: CORREA REPLACES DEFENSE MINISTER WITH CLOSE AIDE

REF: QUITO 327

Classified By: Ambassador Linda Jewell for Reasons 1.4 (b&d).

1. (C) Summary: The GOE announced Minister of Defense (MOD)
Wellington Sandoval's resignation April 9, after accusations
by President Correa of U.S. infiltration of Ecuador's
intelligence agencies. Javier Ponce Cevallos, the Personal
Secretary to the President, was sworn in as MOD in the same

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day; his background is as a journalist and writer on social
and development issues. Responding to the President's
threats of changes in the military, the Ministry of Defense
issued a formal request from the Armed Forces commanders for
a meeting with the President and a statement defending its
cooperation with the USG as legitimate. In addition,
Commander General of the National Police (ENP) Angel Bolivar
CISNEROS Galarza will be replaced by ENP Inspector General
Jaime Hurtado. (End Summary)

MOD FORCED TO RESIGN

2. (C) After numerous assertions by Wellington Sandoval that
he would not step down as Minister of Defense, the latest on
April 8, his resignation was announced the next morning. A
series of events undermined his tenure as MOD. Following the
March 1 Colombian attack, Sandoval had to explain why the
Ecuadorian military did not have prior knowledge of or
capability to detect the Colombian incursion. Most damaging,
however, was the failure of the Ecuadorian military to inform
President Correa that Franklin Aisalla, an Ecuadorian victim
of the March 1 attack, had ties to the FARC. Correa accused
the GOE's intelligence services, and specifically the
military intelligence service, of infiltration by the CIA and
of passing information to Colombia, saying that there would
be repercussions (ref A). A civil-military seminar entitled
"Strategic Challenges and Opportunities," sponsored by the
USG and held in Quito April 7-10 with Ecuadorian military
participants, was played in the press on April 8 as further
unwanted intervention by the USG, although attended by the
Vice-Minister of Defense (who retains his position) and the
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

3. (SBU) In response to the press coverage and the
President's accusations, the Commander of the Joint Staff,
Lieutenant General Hector Camacho, and the commanders of the
Army, Navy and Air Force on April 8 formally and publicly
requested a meeting with the President "to maintain an open
and transparent dialogue on this issue to avoid putting the
security and stability of the nation at risk." The Ministry
of Defense issued a statement on April 8 that the Ecuadorian
military's cooperation "with other countries and national and
foreign institutions on issues of security, defense and
development are permanent and legitimate." This statement
also defends the USG seminar as "within the processes of
training and cooperation established with various countries,
and in this case with the U.S. Embassy."

4. (SBU) Principal Under Secretary of Defense Miguel
Carvajal announced on April 9 that the President's Personal
Secretary, Javier PONCE Cevallos, would replace Wellington

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Sandoval and be sworn in the same day. Carvajal said in an
interview that Sandoval's departure was not due to pressures
within the Armed Forces, but rather concern over weaknesses
in the system of intelligence of both the military and
police. He implied further changes at various levels, "to
include improved operations and efficiency, and better
conditions to control what is happening along our border, as
well as a change in the concept of intelligence systems ...
for the handling of any risk or threat."

5. (SBU) At his swearing-in ceremony, Ponce said he did not
have any cards under his sleeves, rather the desire to make
the relationship between the military institution and civil
society transparent. He also asserted that he would lead the
creation of a "high level commission to investigate the
supposed flight of information from the military to
organizations of other countries of the region."

6. (C) Carvajal, who reportedly has close ties to the
President's inner circle, is expected to stay in his
position. Less certain is the fate of many others within the
MOD and Armed Forces, especially those who have maintained
good working relations with the USG. The Chief of the Joint
Command General Hector Camacho, as well as Army Commander
General Guillermo Vasconez, announced on April 9 that their
positions were at the disposition of the President. Vasconez
stated that "the Armed Forces are united, but I feel as head
of the Army, that the institution has been questioned, that
there is no confidence in who is running the institution, and
because of this I've offered my position to the disposition
of the President."

POLICE COMMANDER ALSO OUT

7. (SBU) The Commander General of the Ecuadorian National
Police (ENP), Angel Bolivar CISNEROS Galarza, also stepped
down on April 9 as part of Correa's shakedown of those
responsible for failures in the GOE's intelligence services.
Following the announcement of his resignation, Cisneros
stated that the ENP had informed the President in writing
about the ENP's intelligence on Aisalla, and that he was
preparing a document that detailed all the agreements on
training and cooperation that the ENP maintains with the USG
and other countries. Cisneros' replacement will be General
Jaime Quilino HURTADO Vaca, currently serving as the
Inspector General of the ENP. The Embassy has had little
contact with Hurtado.

COMMENT

8. (C) We expect our military and police partners to be
cautious about cooperation with the USG in the short term.
It remains to be seen what impact these events will have on
our longer term military and counternarcotics cooperation,
which has been strong to date with the Correa administration.

BIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION

9. (SBU) Javier PONCE Cevallos, who has served as the
President's Personal Secretary since August 14, 2007, was
tasked with coordinating the activities of the President's
office with all cabinet ministers. Ponce is a native of
Quito, born on April 28, 1948, and has worked mostly as a
journalist and writer. He started his career as a journalist
covering the Constituent Assembly of 1966, and has closely
followed social and rural development issues and the
indigenous movement. Ponce was an editorialist for El
Universo from 2001 to 2007 and Hoy from 1989-2001, and
authored 15 books, including novels, poetry and political
commentary. Ponce studied sociology and political science at
the Central University of Ecuador in 1968-1970 and sociology
at the University of Vincennes, France in 1970-1972.
Jewell