Cablegate: Psc Supports Presidential Impeachment

Published: Tue 26 Oct 2004 08:42 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: On October 25, the Social Christian
Party (PSC) leadership decided to follow through on party
leader Leon Febres-Cordero's post-electoral threat to
pursue impeachment proceedings for misuse of funds
against President Lucio Gutierrez. PSC leaders tell us
there are divisions within the party about pursuing this
course, but also general reluctance to confront Febres-
Cordero. Given half-hearted PSC support, it will be
difficult for the opposition to attract the 67 votes
required for impeachment. Unfortunately, this effort
will divert the Congress from other urgent issues
requiring Congressional action. End Summary.
Resistance within PSC
2. (SBU) Nebot told the Ambassador and CG on October 26
that the role of Congress has become a "shameful
spectacle," with only marginal influence on national
policy. He said that while President Gutierrez is bad
for Ecuador, Vice President Palacios could be worse. The
Ambassador emphasized the costs of political instability,
even by constitutional means, to Ecuadorian democracy and
the economy. Without openly criticizing Febres-Cordero,
Nebot implied his disagreement with the impeachment
tactic, saying the only thing that would move him to
challenge the Gutierrez government would be any cut to
municipal tax resources. With international oil prices
at an all-time high, he said, the Gutierrez government is
less likely to do so. He denied any desire to run for
president in 2006, and criticized Ecuador's record of
negotiating international agreements.
3. (SBU) PSC President Pascual del Cioppo told PolChief
in October 25 that he and the grouping within the PSC led
by Guayaquil mayor Jaime Nebot disagrees with Febres-
Cordero's decision. The Nebot group, which includes del
Cioppo, Guayas prefect Nicolas Lapentti, and Manabi
Congressman Simon Bustamante, believes ousting Gutierrez
will damage national interests and is motivated by
personal, not national motives. According to del Cioppo,
Febres-Cordero and his inner circle of Miguel Orellana
and Javier Niera are behind the move. Nebot and his
supporters have been estranged from Febres-Cordero for
some time; del Cioppo said the two men meet or talk only
every two months. Nebot and Lapentti were furious with
Febres-Cordero for dominating their election night
victory press conference. Nebot did not attend the
October 25 meeting; Febres-Cordero participated from New
York by telephone.
4. (SBU) According to del Cioppo, Congressional support
in favor of impeachment hovers around 60-62 votes, short
of the 67 needed to impeach. The PSC will start the
process using its own 25 votes to create an impeachment
commission. The commission would be expected to submit
its findings to the plenary the week of November 15. A
simple majority of 51 votes will be required for Congress
to declare that the recommendation to impeach has merit.
Debate and a final vote would occur by December 9. Del
Cioppo expressed some worry that the impeachment process
might tempt Gutierrez to dissolve Congress.
5. (SBU) Divisions within the PSC over the merits of
impeachment are already being reported publicly,
undermining opposition support for the measure. Some
opposition members (even from Pachakutik, formerly
solidly in favor of impeachment) have criticized Febres-
Cordero's motives. The President's wife, never a great
defender of her husband's government, publicly declared
in the wake of the PSC decision that the PRE and PRIAN
will stick with the president. She said the Socialist
Party (PS) and Popular Democracy Movement (MPD), usually
counted among the pro-impeachment opposition, might also
do so.
6. (SBU) The decision by the PSC to go forward will not
cause the fall of the Gutierrez government overnight, and
at this early stage seems unlikely to come to fruition.
While opposition to Gutierrez is high, Vice President
Palacios is not an appealing alternative to the
opposition. None of our PSC or ID interlocutors are
(yet) proposing to pass over the VP in favor of a
consensus candidate, which would circumvent
constitutional order.
7. (SBU) However, at a minimum, the PSC's move to get
the ball rolling on impeachment will divert the Congress
from pressing issues and prompt undesirable measures from
the Executive to attract opposition votes. Both could
negatively affect a variety of USG interests. We have
therefore emphasized to the opposition the high cost of
political instability. Nebot appears to have no stomach
for challenging Febres-Cordero, and denies any desire to
run for president in 2006.
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