Viewing cable 07LIMA2860
Title: POSITIVE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO EARTHQUAKE SO FAR

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
07LIMA28602007-08-22 22:46:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Lima
VZCZCXYZ0006
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPE #2860/01 2342246
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 222246Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY LIMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6594
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION PRIORITY 1768
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 4993
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 7538
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 3062
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0698
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ AUG 4464
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO PRIORITY 9273
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 1404
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO PRIORITY 1441
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL PRIORITY
UNCLAS LIMA 002860 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAID ECON XM XR PE
SUBJECT: POSITIVE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO EARTHQUAKE SO FAR 
 
REF: A. LIMA 2850 
 
     ¶B. LIMA 2849 
 
¶1.  (SBU) Summary: The Government's swift response to the 
August 15 earthquake, with President Garcia and several key 
ministers quickly taking charge on site in Ica, earned it 
early public kudos.  Lapses in communication, security and 
effective victims' assistance have since eroded the image of 
competence and resolve somewhat.  Inevitable rumblings about 
the President usurping the functions of local authorities 
have also begun, but these reflect a structural problem of 
relative capacity and not just Garcia's hope to shore up 
popular support.  In our view, the central government should 
get good marks for its work thus far.  End Summary. 
 
¶2.  (SBU) The Government of Peru responded with commendable 
swiftness to the massive 8.0 earthquake that struck southern 
Peru on Agust 15 (ref A).  Within hours of the event, 
following an emergency cabinet meeting, key ministers were 
dispatched to Pisco -- the epicenter of the quake some 150 
miles south of Lima -- to assess the damage and to begin 
coordinating the government's operations.  These included the 
Ministers of Health, Housing, Interior, Labor, Women's 
Affairs and Defense.  By early August 16, buoyed by the 
outpouring of public sympathy and by widespread expressions 
of national unity, President Garcia himself arrived on site 
to take the reins of the government's operational and public 
response.  Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo and President of 
Congress Luis Gonzales Posada (who represents Ica) were in 
tow.  Before long, Garcia was presiding over informal cabinet 
meetings and holding press conferences in a makeshift 
operations center at an airbase on the outkirts of Pisco, the 
seaside city most dramatically impacted by the quake (ref A). 
 Many observers praised the President for immediately 
recognizing the magnitude of the challenge and for 
proactively engaging the national government's machinery to 
respond to it. 
 
¶3.  (SBU) In the intervening days, public focus has shifted 
from the government's immediate response to the series of 
obstacles that have undermined successful service delivery. 
In his initial public declaration, Garcia himself sharply 
criticized the quasi-national telephone company -- 
Spanish-owned Telefonica -- for the immediate and almost 
total collapse of land-line and cell phone communication 
networks, which have been non-existent to spotty in the Ica 
region and parts of Lima ever since (ref B).  Likewise, other 
services such as water and electricity remain unavailable in 
most of the directly affected areas.  Security problems too 
surged several days after the quake, with reports of looters 
stopping supply trucks and of armed bandits robbing stores 
and terrorizing innocent civilians.  The Government responded 
by sending in several hundreds of national police 
reinforcements, which appear to have helped restore order. 
Continuing reports of victims who have yet to receive 
assistance even days after the quake -- juxtaposed with news 
articles and TV images of the massive national and 
international assistance effort -- underscore the central 
challenge of coordination and follow-through, and have begun 
to undermine the government's image of competence and resolve. 
 
¶4.  (SBU) The inevitable critical rumblings about the 
President, cabinet ministers and other high profile political 
figures usurping the functions of the national Disaster 
Relief Agency (INDECI) and of regional and local authorities, 
and thereby compromising the relief effort, have also begun. 
While a politician of President Garcia's caliber is unlikely 
to miss the political opportunity latent in a crisis of this 
kind, this only partly explains his high-profile 
participation in the government's response up to now.  For 
one, the relative incapacity of regional and local 
governments, many of which lack the resources or capabilities 
to marshal any response at all, is a real problem.  The early 
reaction of several key local authorities is illustrative. 
According to an Embassy officer who was on the scene August 
16, one local mayor who had lost a family member in the 
devastation fell into a listless despondency, while another 
assumed an attitude of passive waiting for what Garcia and 
the central government decided to do.  In this kind of 
leadership and basic capacity vacuum, the government probably 
had no choice but to jump in full bore.  Garcia's unmatched 
energy, his desire to be at the center of the action, and his 
keen attention to detail were precisely what Peru needed at 
the time. 
 
Comment: Effective Response So Far 
---------------------------------- 
¶5.  (SBU) If the early challenge was to shine a political and 
public spotlight on the scope of the problem in order to 
ensure an adequate response, the President has performed 
admirably well.  In an environment in which the government 
would probably be damned either way, an excessively strong 
response has been preferable to an insufficiently robust one, 
and in that sense the Garcia administration should get high 
marks.  Strong public support for the government's actions 
and a slight boost in the President's informal poll numbers 
lend early support to that perception.  Second-phase 
challenges, particularly the onerous, low-visibility task of 
coordination to ensure that the considerable resources 
gathered get to their intended beneficiaries, are of a 
different order.  Already, the GOP has assigned 
responsibility for certain tasks and certain areas to 
specific ministries, and stood up at least 13 service 
delivery centers to facilitate the flow of services.  Over 
the mid to long-term, however, these tasks will probably 
require a quiet hand-off to INDECI and to those local 
authorities that are capable of taking up the slack. 
Indications are this is underway. 
McKinley