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
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAID ECON EC UNGA
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH FM PARRA
Classified By: PolChief Erik Hall, for reason 1.4 (b&d).
Â¶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.
Â¶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
Â¶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"
Â¶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.
Â¶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
Â¶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.
Â¶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.
Â¶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"
Â¶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.
Â¶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
Â¶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.
Â¶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.
Â¶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.
Â¶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.