What Wikileaks Reveals About America’s Role In Ecuador’s Elections
(ANALYSIS) — As Ecuador’s leading presidential candidate of the governing Alianza Pais party, Lenin Moreno, wrapped up his campaign with a massive rally in the nation’s capital, Quito, on Wednesday, WikiLeaks tweeted out portions of the U.S. diplomatic cables related to the three major candidates in Sunday’s election.
While the documents offer little new information, they do offer glimpses of U.S. government assessments of each candidate, and perhaps, more revealingly, show the long and close relationship between the two most prominent right-wing candidates and the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador.
Cynthia Viteri: “Eager to enlist our sympathy”
By far, the greatest number of cables relate to the Social Christian Party or PSC candidate Cynthia Viteri, who is running on a platform that includes establishing tax-free zones along Ecuador’s northern and southern borders.
Viteri is mentioned in a September 2006 memo documenting a meeting she requested with the U.S. ambassador in Quito during that year’s election campaign, in which she eventually came a distant fourth to the eventual winner, current President Rafael Correa.
The cable remarks that Viteri was “clearly eager to enlist our sympathy,” by highlighting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s support for then-candidate Correa.
The same memo points out that while publicly equivocal about her support for a proposed free trade agreement with the U.S., she was much more enthusiastic in private discussions with the U.S ambassador.
However, the memo pointedly notes that “By implicitly appealing to us to counter Correa’s electoral threat,” she was “privately revealing a lack of conviction that (her) private beliefs will appeal to voters.”
An earlier U.S. assessment of Viteri’s candidacy was skeptical of her prospects noting that “she suffers from her close association with (PSC) party boss Febres Cordero,” who presided over massive human rights abuses while he was president of Ecuador in the 1980’s.
Several 2008 memos — both during and after the successful referendum to adopt Ecuador’s ground-breaking constitution — document her regular contacts and political consultations with the U.S consulate in Guayaquil, the country’s financial capital.
These memos record Viteri’s reports to the U.S. consul general that she was trying to quietly organize opposition to the constitution based on issues of “abortion and gay marriage” because she acknowledged that her party, in the words of the PSC president, “was so discredited that (openly) campaigning for the ‘no’ vote would be a ‘Christmas present for Correa.'”
The memos, which describe Viteri as “politically astute,” also reports that “Correa has ably captured the aspirations of the Ecuadorean people for a more just and prosperous country,” and that for Ecuadoreans, Viteri’s “No” vote campaign “looks like a step backward to the politics of past.”
Those same 2008 reports say that Viteri had told U.S. political officers that “her PSC past and poor track record in the last elections make it unlikely that she could beat the popular president (Correa)” and that she “will therefore probably focus on securing a seat in congress and positioning herself for a presidential campaign when her chances are better.”
Viteri subsequently won a seat in Ecuador’s National Assembly and is currently running a distant third behind Correa’s former vice president, Lenin Moreno.
Guillermo Lasso: “Numerous contacts”
While former banker Guillermo Lasso’s previous appearances in the Cablegate memos are well-documented, the re-released reports show that Lasso was a regular visitor to and political consultant for U.S. officials in Ecuador.
References to Lasso are found in confidential reports as far back as 2005, where political officers who were part of the U.S. mission in Ecuador sought out his assessments of then-President Alfredo Palacio and his finance minister, Rafael Correa.
In summarizing the assessments of Correa from “numerous contacts,” of which the memo only names Lasso, the report concludes on a threatening note: “We have heard from various contacts a similar refrain: Correa will not be taught, he will have to learn for himself, and at what cost to Ecuador?”
Lenin Moreno: “Genuine commitment to making a positive difference”
Leading presidential candidate Lenin Moreno makes only two appearances in the cables, yet the tone is noticeably different.
The first mention is a report on Moreno’s public introduction as Correa’s running mate in the 2006 elections and notes that he “has published ten books on philosophy and humor, including a book of jokes. He reportedly enjoys painting, swimming, singing, and playing guitar with his wife and three daughters in Quito.”
On a more political note, the memo highlights Moreno’s “active and positive ties” with the grassroots “forajido” movement in Quito, which helped organize the popular uprising that toppled President Palacio after his shift to the right in 2005.
The only other mention of Moreno is a report on a “courtesy visit” the U.S. ambassador paid to the then-newly-elected vice president in his office on Jan 19, 2007.
This memo repeatedly notes Moreno’s “genuine commitment to making a positive difference,” saying that during the meeting he “conveyed a sincere desire to improve coordination of social programs, his core interest and assignment.”
The report effusively describes his sense of humor, and the warm and welcoming attitude he conveyed during the meeting, saying that “Moreno conveys a mature, serene demeanor and a genuine commitment to making a positive difference for his country.”
The memo explicitly notes that while Moreno was much more positive about Ecuador’s potential relationship with the U.S. than the notably anti-imperialist Correa, he still “seems to enjoy good access and to have developed (Correa´s) respect.”
The report highlighted that Moreno “spoke with passion about the need to attend better to the country’s most disadvantaged populations,” and also “underscored the importance of the fight against corruption.”
The memo concludes that the U.S. hoped Moreno would be a “moderating influence” on Correa and a potential “conduit for political messages that may be difficult to deliver directly” to Correa himself.
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