Cablegate: Ecuador Elections: Quito/Pichincha Races

Published: Fri 24 Sep 2004 06:28 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) Summary: With 19% of the national vote, the
electoral battle for Pichincha province, which includes the
capital of Quito (itself 15% of the national vote), is a key
test of the Democratic Left's (ID) strength. The Quito mayor
race overshadows the Pichincha provincial prefect race in
national significance. Polls show popular incumbent mayor
Paco Moncayo building a strong lead over his nearest rival,
former mayor Rodrigo Paz. Both candidates are supportive of
USG interests in the capital. End Summary.
2. (U) Pichincha province goes to the polls on October 17 to
elect a provincial prefect (U.S. governor-equivalent) and
seven provincial councilors, as well as 43 mayors and their
corresponding city councilors and 59 town councils, Of the
1.7 million eligible voters in Pichincha province, 1.3
million of them live in the capital of Quito.
3. (U) General (Ret) Paco Moncayo was elected mayor in 2000
after a long and illustrious military career. Moncayo won
heading a Democratic Left Party (ID) ticket at the invitation
of ID leader Rodrigo Borja. However, Moncayo is quick to
point out that he is not personally a member of the ID, but
runs with their support. Ecuador's largest indigenous party,
Pachakutik, is also supporting Moncayo, having obtained in
exchange the temporary post of acting mayor during the
4. (U) Moncayo's lead rival, Rodrigo Paz, served as mayor of
Quito 1988-92. Paz, who runs a major banking empire, is best
known to the public as the flamboyant and successful owner of
a major national league soccer team. Paz entered politics
from business at the invitation of then-president Jaime
Roldos of the Popular Democratic Party (DP), and has
distanced himself from the DP since the downfall of the
Mahuad administration. (Paz had groomed Mahuad to replace
him as mayor in 1992.) Paz is now running at the head of a
local political grouping he created entitled "Quito in
5. (U) While the Quito race is essentially a two-man show,
Ecuador's national parties are fielding candidates. PRIAN,
the party of billionaire banana magnate / two-time
presidential runner up Alvaro Noboa, offers physician Marcelo
Cruz, Noboa's 1996 running mate. The Coast-based PRE,
traditionally weak in the highlands, chose businessman
Eduardo de la Cadena. Predictably, his greatest aspiration
lies in meeting party founder (and fugitive from justice)
Abdala Bucaram. Finally, President Lucio Gutierrez's PSP
fields former Housing Minister Ermel Fiallo. None of the
three garners even five percent support in recent polling,
Polls Show Moncayo Pulling Ahead
6. (U) Recent polls taken at the beginning of September show
incumbent Mayor Paco Moncayo enjoying a 12-15 point lead over
former Mayor Rodrigo Paz. One poll indicated that Moncayo
enjoys more support among women voters (55%) than men (46%).
Moncayo also had high approval (56%) among youthful voters
(ages 18-24 years).
7. (U) Polls also show a coattails effect benefiting the ID
prefectural candidate for Pichincha, Ramiro Gonzalez, who
leads Paz's prefectural counterpart, Wilma Salgado, by 37% to
22%. PSP candidate Napoleon Villa, the president's
brother-in-law, scored less than 2%, likely due to recurring
rumors of corruption.
Paz: Unfair Playing Field
8. (SBU) In a September 21 meeting with PolCouns, Paz
accused Moncayo of using his incumbency as an unfair
advantage to evade campaign finance limits. Those limits are
artificially low, he said, with just $40,118 as the limit for
the mayoral race in the capital (second only to the $44,126
limit for the mayorship of Guayaquil). According to the
electoral watchdog group Citizen Participation, Paz has
already exceeded his limit, spending $52,000 on publicity by
September 21. Paz claimed Moncayo is using municipal funds
to publicize public works under his administration.
Electoral Issues
9. (U) Moncayo's popularity derives largely from a series of
public works transportation projects and the successful
clean-up of Quito's historic center. Critics fault him for
getting off to a slow start at the outset of his political
career, but even Paz credits him with these more recent
successes. Paz promises to do Moncayo one better on public
works, criticizing his slowness breaking ground for a new
airport. Paz has used the issue of citizen insecurity in the
face of rising crime rates to attack Moncayo's performance.
Paz told PolCouns he believes Moncayo, as an ex-General who
has presided over the city at a time of rising crime rates,
is vulnerable on the security issue. Paz' campaign has
focused on poorer neighborhoods where crime concerns are
10. (SBU) The Embassy enjoys good working relationships with
both Moncayo and Paz. Either would continue to be supportive
of Embassy administrative concerns, including the
construction of a new Chancery compound, in which Moncayo has
already been helpful.
11. (SBU) The Democratic Left Party carries the burden and
enjoys the advantages of incumbency in these races. It has
most to lose in Pichincha, its heartland, and in Quito, a
plum political stepping-stone to national office. A loss of
the mayorship or prefect would represent a stunning blow to
the party's national standing. By all accounts, such a
reversal appears highly unlikely, and Mayor Moncayo seems set
to repeat his term.
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