Cablegate: Ecuador Election Update: Correa Names Surprise

Published: Wed 9 Aug 2006 09:58 PM
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1. (SBU) Summary: Far-left presidential candidate Rafael
Correa (PAIS) on August 5 announced Lenin Voltaire MORENO
Garces as his running mate at a mass rally in rural coastal
Guayas province. Moreno, a relative political unknown, is
unlikely to attract many votes to Correa, who said his choice
of Moreno, a paraplegic, showed that "we are on the side of
the weak." With four tickets now complete, electoral
speculation now centers on whether Freddy Ehlers, a prominent
journalist, will enter the race, dividing the center-left, or
possibly defer and even endorse Roldos. On August 8, the
Alvaro Noboa's PRIAN formally withdrew from its earlier
electoral alliance with Lucio Gutierrez' PSP. In other
election news, the PSC registered party patriarch Leon Febres
Cordero at the top of the candidate list for Congress from
Guayas province. The new Minister of Government told the
Charge on August 7 that the government is considering adding
a "sixth ballot"--essentially a referendum--to tap public
opinion during the second round of presidential voting on
November 26. Women's groups are challenging implementation
of the quota law which mandates that every party include 45%
women candidates. End Summary.
Correa Selects Unknown Running-mate
2. (SBU) Moreno, a motivational speaker and promoter of
"laugh therapy" for the disabled, hails from the Amazon
region and is himself wheelchair-bound. Moreno supports
modernization of the public sector and increased rights for
the disabled, researches emotional intelligence and is known
for his sense of humor. He describes himself as someone who
"decided to return to life" after he was paralyzed by a
gunshot in 1998. Another leader of the handicapped movement
told us he had also been offered the VP slot by Correa, who
was apparently intent on selecting someone from this sector.
3. (U) Correa announced Moreno as his running mate in rural
Palestina, Guayas province, on August 5. Correa used the
announcement speech to outline five strategies for rural
development to the audience composed mainly of poor farmers.
Moreno pledged to support Correa's agenda and focus on
modernizing the public sector, promoting tourism, and
supporting the disabled and street children. He expressed
confidence in his own and Correa's ability to get the job
done, saying "I don't think that the country is unmanageable,
they just have not known how to handle it." The two
registered their candidacies with electoral authorities on
August 7, presenting 417,000 signatures in favor (note:
98,000 are required for movements to register; political
party candidates are not required to present signatures, but
are required to have won more than 5% of the national vote in
the previous election).
4. (SBU) Bio Information: Moreno was born on March 19,
1953, in Nuevo Rocafuerte, in the Amazonian province of
Orellana. He is a licensed Public Administrator and Academic
Director of the "Event Foundation" where he promotes
emotional intelligence and is a motivational speaker known
for his use of humor. Moreno graduated from Central
University where he studied Social Science. From 2001-2004
he served as National Disabilities Director. He has also
served as the Executive Director for the National Federation
of the Chamber of Tourism in Pichincha province. Moreno has
published ten books on philosophy and humor, including a book
of jokes. He reportedly enjoys painting, swimming, singing,
and playing guitar with his wife and three daughters in
Quito. (Comment: Moreno has active and positive ties with
the Quito "forajido" movement that toppled Gutierrez; a
highly engaging speaker, one former Gutierrez minister told
us that he could significantly help the ticket in Quito.)
Proano Maya Registers Running-Mate
5. (SBU) Former Congressional leader Marco Proano Maya, the
Quixotic presidential candidate of the newly created Movement
for Democratic Vindication, registered his candidacy with
electoral authorities on August 4. Proano had left Abadala
Bucaram's Roldosista Party in 2004, after being passed over
for the President of Congress position. His base of support
includes mainly pensioners, whose rights he champions. He
was joined on his ticket by Galo Santillan, a former
Guayaquil chamber of commerce official. Santillan brings a
youthful and mainstream appeal to the ticket, but is not well
enough known to alter this candidate's lackluster results so
far. Proano presented 125,000 signatures to register his
candidacy but has attracted only marginal support (1-2%) in
national polling.
Freddy Ehlers on the Fence
6. (U) A new element of uncertainty was injected late in the
pre-campaign period when popular journalist Freddy Ehlers
spurned offers of the vice presidential slot on two tickets
(Viteri and Correa). Instead, Ehlers said he was considering
running for president himself for his New Nation Movement
("Nuevo Pais"). He also had reportedly been working behind
the scenes to forge a national consensus ticket of powerhouse
mayors Jaime Nebot and Paco Moncayo, but that fell through.
Ehlers ran unsuccessfully for president in 1996 and 1998,
winning third (with 20%) and fourth-place (14%) finishes,
respectively. In 2002 he was elected to the Andean
Parliament with more than 20% of the national vote. His
announcement immediately caused a furor in the Roldos/ID
camp, which fears an Ehlers candidacy would divide the
center-left vote. ID leaders postponed the announcement of
Congressional candidate lists, offering to defer to Ehlers on
some nominations in exchange for him staying out of the
presidential race.
7. (U) Ehlers' camp pushed for inclusion of ex-Minister of
Economy Diego Borja in the ID candidate list for Pichincha
province, where controversy already raged over the omission
of senior ID legislator Andres Paez. After Ehlers declared
he would urge voters not to vote for Congress, pledging a
Constituent Assembly to change constitutional rules on
selecting a new Congress and Supreme Court, the ID declined
to incorporate Borja in its lists. Ehlers reportedly has
already dropped the idea and Nuevo Pais is in the process of
drawing up congressional candidate lists, placing Borja at
the top of the list for Pichincha and former Cuenca mayor and
Ehlers campaign manager Fernando Cordero for Azuay province.
The ID list remains secret, but Roldos' running-mate Ramiro
Gonzalez told the press that Paez would be included,
preventing internal schism.
Government Considering Non-binding Plebiscite
8. (SBU) In a courtesy call on August 7 the new Government
Minister, Antonio Andretta, told the Charge he would mobilize
public forces to ensure peaceful elections. After lamenting
early public apathy Andretta said the Palacio government
would likely suspend its push for political or electoral
reforms before the election. (Note: Traditionally, the
Government Minister has led these efforts.) One exception,
he said, might be the inclusion of a question or set of up to
three questions (content unspecified) to be posed to voters
in a "sixth ballot," in addition to the ballots for Pres/VP,
Congress, Andean Parliament, Provincial Council, and
Municipal Council seats. If this initiative, proposed by
Education Minister Raul Vallejo and civil society groups,
comes to pass, Andretta said, it would only take place in the
second round of presidential voting, on November 26. He did
not clarify which issues might be posed to voters, but they
would deal with education policy rather than broader
political reform issues. Any such plebiscite would not bind
the next government, but depending on results, could
encourage action on reforms by the new Congress.
PRIAN/PSP Alliance Off
9. (SBU) Press reported on August 8 that PRIAN congressional
leader Sylka Sanchez announced that the PRIAN will run its
own candidates, rather than entering into any alliance with
ex-president Lucio Gutierrez' Patriotic Society Party. If
confirmed, the decision would put to rest speculation that
Noboa might invite former Trade Minister Ivonne Baki or
Gutierrez sidekick Fausto Cobo to join him on the ticket.
Baki told the Charge on August 9 that Noboa did not feel that
he knew her well enough to make the offer, and that a meeting
between Noboa and Gutierrez on broader alliance issues had
gone badly. Baki thought there was still a remote chance for
salvaging the alliance, but that egos involved were making it
10. (SBU) Lucio Gutierrez moved ahead in the post-breakup
scenario by announcing early on August 9 that the PSP would
run a ticket led by his brother Gilmar Gutierrez and his
government's former agriculture minister Leonardo Escobar.
While the PRIAN and PSP slates will remain a factor, absent
an alliance it is much less likely either will make it into
the second round. All candidacies for President, VP,
Congress and council seats must be registered by August 15.
PSC Sticks with the Boss
11. (U) The Social Christian Party surprised no one by
registering party patriarch and former president Leon Febres
Cordero at the top of the PSC's candidate lists for Guayas
province, assuring his re-election. Febres Cordero has not
been seen in Congress for years, due to health problems with
the altitude of Quito.
Women Pushing for Access
12. (U) Women's groups have challenged the Supreme Electoral
Tribunal's (TSE) interpretation of the law requiring 45%
women candidates in the Constitutional Court. The TSE had
declined to mandate that male and female candidates alternate
one for one at the top of the party lists of candidates,
permitting some parties to alternate using other formulas
(e.g. men for the principal list, women as alternates) which
reduce prospects for women to gain office. The ruling from
the court is expected before August 15.
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