|05QUITO868||2005-04-20 17:57:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Quito|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 QUITO 000868
1. (C) Summary: Following a night of persistent protests
centered on the Presidential Palace, in which one journalist
died, the situation in Quito remains extremely volatile.
Protests are ongoing and expected to grow. The Ambassador
met with the President early on April 20 to urge a bold
signal in the government's stance in favor of conciliation.
Congress failed to make progress on April 19 to resolve the
court issue and the opposition has united 52 deputies to
seize control and move to destitute Gutierrez. National
Police Chief has resigned in protest and the military high
command has urged Gutierrez to announce a call to early
elections. Rumors that the military has withdrawn their
support from the President are rampant. End Summary.
2. (C) Anti-government protests are occurring throughout the
city, after the arrival of government supporters bused in
from the coast. On April 19, anti-government protesters
gathered in Carolina Park in the north of the city starting
at 17H00. Entire families, including infants and
grandparents, primarily convoked by Radio Luna, gathered in
the park. Protesters later at approximately 18H15 proceeded
south towards the Congress building to demand President
Gutierrez' resignation. Protesters clashed with police at
the well-guarded Presidential Palace until approximately
02H00 on April 20. Newspapers estimated the group numbered
up to an exaggerated 100,000, however RSO estimates are
closer to 12,000. Feared confrontations between pro- and
anti-government protesters were avoided on April 19.
3. (U) In the city center, a 58 year-old Chilean
photographer and Quito resident, died of a heart attack
suffered during the protests on April 19. His family members
and the Red Cross blamed exposure to tear gas for his death.
According to the Red Cross and the 911 service, as of April
20 00H10, approximately 180 protesters suffered asphyxiation
from tear gas, and 18 received injuries. Many protesters lit
small fires to help dissipate the tear gas. Protests
continue on the morning of April 20 with several student
groups gathering in various sections of the city.
4. (C) The Ambassador met with Minister of Trade Ivonne Baki
and Ambassador-designate to the US Mauricio Pozo on April 20
and accompanied them to the Presidential residence. They
urged the President to consider taking dramatic steps to
signal reconciliation, to include: convincing ex-President
Abdala Bucaram, whose presence has destabilized the political
situation, to leave the country; announcing a Cabinet of
reconciliation to replace hard-line Ministers (of Government
and Foreign Affairs) with moderates; go on television
immediately to urge reconciliation; and reach out to
international organizations, to possibly include the OAS, to
enlist help in building a new judicial system.
5. The Ambassador emphasized that it was imperative for the
President to act now, not just to help himself, but for the
good of the country. In a conciliatory television address,
the President should emphasize that he had heard the people
and their concerns, that he is glad the people are involved,
that a peaceful solution must be found, and that the Cabinet
will be opening space for dialogue. The President should
also say that his Foreign Minister's efforts to enlist
support from international organizations to help resolve the
court issue. The President said he had already sent
intermediaries to opposition leaders (including Nebot in
Guayquil), however the Ambassador emphasized that he needed
to call Bucaram personally, and convince him to leave, as
soon as possible. The President sent Baki to meet with Quito
mayor Paco Moncayo (ID) and Pozo meet with prefect Ramiro
Gonzalez to ask for a call for calm. Baki would also call
Guayaquil mayor Jaime Nebot (PSC) though the Guayaquil
situation is much more in hand.
6. (U) Government Spokesperson Carlos Polit indicated on
April 19 that the President has no intention of resigning.
During the height of the April 19 evening protests, Ivan Ona,
Presidential Secretary of Communication, publicly stated that
the government is ready to form a "government of
conciliation." Oscar Ayerve, Minister of Government, said on
April 19 that he believed the public discontent was due to
the need to form a new Supreme Court. Ayerve said that the
responsibility for resolving the situation was now in the
hands of Congress.
7. (U) Renan Borbua, a Patriotic Society Party leader and
cousin of the President, told media that beginning in the
evening of April 19, buses filled with Gutierrez supporters
would be leaving coastal cities for Quito. This travel is
reportedly financed by the Ministry of Social Welfare.
Evangelical indigenous that had marched in Quito earlier on
April 19 to support the President, were no longer in the city
center during the evening avoiding feared clashes with
8. (U) VP Palacio issued a statement in "solidarity with the
Ecuadorian people" at noon on April 20, and called on the
police and military to "respect the democratic role they have
9. (C) On April 20, 52 opposition members of Congress (PSC,
ID, Pachakutik, MPD and some independents) left the session
to reconvene elsewhere, to vote out Congress president
Quintana and then turn to declaring President Gutierrez
mentally unfit to serve. On April 19, the president of
Congress, Omar Quintana (PRE), blocked the opposition parties
(PSC, ID, and PK) from approving a mechanism to designate the
new Supreme Court justices. Quintana did not include the
Organic Law on Judicial Functions in the day's agenda
because, he said, there was no report for a first debate over
the bill. The ordinary session began at 10H50, and quickly
disintegrated into chaos. Quintana closed the session at
13H30. Quintana said that the Civil and Penal Commission,
led by Sandra Sandoval (PRE), would present the document in
an extraordinary session at 16H00 on April 20 for debate.
PolOff spoke with Sandoval on the morning of April 20,
however, and she said there would be no report today.
Military and Police
10. (C) Early on April 20, Radio Luna spread the rumor that
the military high command had withdrawn its support from the
President. The 31 members of the military high command met
until the early hours of April 20 at the Ministry of Defense.
A public declaration from the high command is expected.
Commander General of the police Jorge Poveda resigned on the
morning of April 20 stating he did not want to be a part of
confrontations with protesters. It is reported that General
Marc Cuvero Velez will be his replacement.
Third Party Efforts
11. (U) PolChief met with Nestor Herrera Heredia, President
of the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church (CEE), on
April 19 which has offered to facilitate dialogue between the
President and opposition. The CEE issued a statement on
April 19 calling for: 1) putting capable and honorable
magistrates, independent of any political party, in the
courts; 2) respecting the division and independence of the
government branches to guarantee against the abuse of power;
3) ridding political parties of opportunities; 4) permitting
a wider participation of social movements in resolving
conflicts. No direct meetings between the government and
opposition have taken place.
--RSO will continue to monitor the security situation.
Several tripwires have already been reached, however, there
have been no known direct threats or incidents involving
--All non-essential activities will be curtailed to include
--RSO will set a 20H00 curfew.
--Liberal Administrative Leave will go into effect for the
afternoon of April 20 as well as for April 21.
--CONS will be sending out an updated warden message to
--CONS will review F77 reports.
--The Consulate will be closed to the public until the
--No country clearances will be issued until further notice.
--POL will reach out to Congress to urge restraint and
respect for the Constitution.