Viewing cable 05QUITO2088

05QUITO20882005-09-08 16:43:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 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 002088 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/07/2015 
Classified By: PolChief Erik Hall, for reason 1.4 (b&d). 
¶1.  (C)  Summary:  In an initial office call, the Ambassador 
thanked FM for the GOE's generous offer of disaster 
assistance to the U.S., and requested patience while 
international assistance offers are considered.  She urged 
dialogue with Colombia to resolve important bilateral issues 
and promoted a bilateral USG-GOE accord on maritime 
interdiction procedures.  Parra vented about differences with 
Colombia, but expressed grudging commitment to dialogue 
focused on problem-solving.  He claimed to have been 
misquoted by the press, which sought to "dramatize" the issue 
of relations with Colombia "to sell newspapers."  Despite 
persistent rumors of his impending departure, Parra gave no 
sign of leaving his post in the near future.  Parra 
surprisingly declared himself an ally in the search for a 
negotiated settlement of the Occidential Petroleum case.  He 
will also propose that President Palacio attend a public 
signing ceremony to mark U.S. development assistance after 
their return from the UNGA on September 19.  End Summary. 
¶2.  (U) The Ambassador paid a courtesy call on FM Parra on 
September 7 in his office.  She was accompanied by DCM and 
PolChief.  Parra was alone.  He opened the discussion by 
praising departed Ambassador Kenney's capability and 
expressed confidence that Ambassador Jewell would have 
"magnificent" success in Ecuador. 
US Grateful for Disaster Relief 
¶3.  (U) The Ambassador thanked the GOE for its generous offer 
to donate bananas with a market value of approximately $2 
million toward hurricane relief.  U.S. disaster management 
experts are trying to match donations with needs, which will 
take some time, she said.  She requested GOE patience to 
allow us to do so.  Parra expressed understanding, and his 
personal shock and horror at the suffering in the U.S. 
"I'm no diplomat" 
¶4.  (C) Parra used this phrase several times during the 
conversation in reference to his personal and frontal 
approach in dealing with problems, and later in reference to 
his transparency with the media.  "There will always be 
problems between friends, but it is important to discuss them 
and deal with them head on," he said, in reference to 
relations with the U.S. and Colombia.  For example, when an 
Ecuadorian fishing vessel was damaged during U.S. 
interdiction efforts, he authorized a note to encourage the 
USG to compensate the boat owner directly.  Doing so was not 
meant as an attack on the USG, but rather a defense of 
Ecuadorian citizen treatment. 
¶5.  (C) The Ambassador agreed that communication was key to 
good relations, and suggested that a bilateral accord on 
maritime interdiction procedures could help improve 
communication.  We have proposed such an agreement, which we 
understand the Ecuadorian Navy has approved and is currently 
under review by the MFA U/S for Sovereignty Issues.  Parra 
agreed an interdiction agreement would be desirable, but that 
it had not yet come to his attention. 
Media Want to Sell Newspapers 
¶6.  (C) Parra admitted that his willingness to talk to the 
press had gotten him into trouble.  He claimed to have been 
misquoted recently, and denied recent comments reported by 
Radio Luna on Plan Colombia (alleging 'U.S. intervention' in 
the conflict) and Ecuador's relations with Colombia (to the 
effect that 'dialogue is over').  He was incredulous that 
earlier comments he made about a recent papal statement on 
corruption in Ecuador had been so misinterpreted to cause 
some to accuse him of insulting the Pope. 
Anti-Colombia Venting 
¶7.  (C) Though accusing the press of "dramatizing" Ecuador's 
differences with Colombia "to sell newspapers," Parra 
insisted that Ecuador's demands that the GOC eradicate coca 
crops manually rather than by aerial spraying within 10 km of 
the border was reasonable.  It was entirely within Ecuador's 
sovereign rights to impose a visa requirement on Colombians, 
to make it easier to round up and deport some of the 
"trouble-makers" among the estimated 500-600,000 Colombians 
resident in Ecuador.  Police believe Colombians are involved 
in every case of kidnapping within Ecuador's borders, he said. 
¶8.  (C) The Ambassador stressed the importance of maintaining 
dialogue with Colombia on these issues.  Public statements 
about GOC intransigence are unhelpful in this context.  Parra 
said he was committed to dialogue "to reach solutions to our 
problems," but also said the health effects of continued 
spraying should be considered at the Hague. 
"I am your ally" 
¶9.  (C) Parra volunteered that he considered himself a U.S. 
ally on the issue of caducity of Occidential Petroleum, and 
agreed with the Ambassador's early public remarks on the 
importance of finding a negotiated solution.  Going to 
international arbitration was not in the GOE interest, and he 
had warned President Palacio that politically, the OXY issue 
would only get harder over time.  Better to solve it with a 
negotiation over royalties (raising from 20% to perhaps 50% 
at current market prices) and raising the tax rate on oil 
companies.  A new deal with OXY would also help the GOE 
renegotiate with other companies benefiting from abusive 
terms.  OXY should collaborate with the GOE on a public 
relations strategy to help convince a skeptical media and 
public, he said.  "The Chinese are highly interested in what 
becomes of OXY's oil field concessions," he warned. 
¶10.  (SBU) Parra said President Palacio would depart for New 
York September 12 and stay until September 19, returning 
after giving Ecuador's UNGA address.  He planned to recommend 
that Palacio attend a signing ceremony with the Ambassador to 
announce $35 million in USAID development assistance upon his 
Biographic Notes 
¶11.  (SBU) Parra commented that Castro's Cuba is the last 
communist regime standing.  He said he found conditions in 
Havana to be "a shame" and expressed shock at seeing during a 
recent visit the "Soviet-era" exclusion of Cubans from 
developed areas of the city set aside for foreign tourists. 
He praised the health and education systems, but regretted 
the export of 20,000 Cuban doctors to Venezuela and the low 
salaries they receive. 
¶12.  (SBU) Parra said his daughter works for Abbott 
Laboratories in Chicago.  He loves visiting her in Chicago, a 
city he finds more amenable than New York.  He owns a 
condominium in Miami, and worries about the potential for 
hurricanes.  He made several jokes about drinking (whiskey in 
Puerto Rico, wine in Spain, before the bullfights, which he 
finds abusive of the bull).  Parra declared his "love" (not 
enchantment) for Spain, having studied law there, and waxed 
eloquent about the virtues of the siesta.  Discussing 
disasters, he said he is mortally afraid of earthquake 
tremors in his hometown of Guayaquil. 
¶13.  (C) The atmospherics of the meeting were good, perhaps 
too good, with Parra attempting to establish rapport by 
monopolizing the conversation.  Despite having the 
conversation revolve around himself, Parra gave no indication 
that he intends to depart his post.  The press is now 
speculating on what we heard recently from presidential 
sibling Gustavo Palacio, namely that Palacio is considering a 
Parra job swap with Francisco Carrion, now serving as 
ambassador to Parra's beloved Spain.  In this conversation, 
Parra referred explicitly to his close personal friendship 
with Palacio, but made no other allusion to his own job 
security; he has publicly claimed that despite his frequent 
offers to resign, Palacio has hitherto refused to accept it. 
¶14.  (C) Parra's comments on Colombia reflect deep GOE 
resentment of Colombian inflexibility on the fumigation 
issue; we do not expect him to let go of the issue, which 
also bolsters his public standing.  His transparent attempt 
to skirt responsibility for his own unhelpful public comments 
on Colombia were not convincing to us.  The fact is that 
Parra courts the press, which welcomes and amplifies his 
nationalist stance, complicating relations with a U.S. ally. 
Parra's message that "we may have our differences, but I am 
not your enemy" is disingenuous; we do not consider him a 
useful ally on any current bilateral issue.  We will 
nevertheless use Parra's professed support for a maritime 
interdiction agreement to press his staff to deal with our 
proposed text.  We will also continue to attempt to moderate 
Parra's influence as long as he remains in office.