Cablegate: New Defense Policy Addresses Narcotics Threat

Published: Mon 28 Aug 2006 07:53 PM
DE RUEHQT #2151/01 2401953
O 281953Z AUG 06
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: QUITO 02078
1. (U) Summary: Since taking office in August 2005, Defense
Minister Oswaldo Jarrin has attempted to shift the focus of
Ecuador's defense posture away from its traditional rivalry
with Peru towards more current national security threats,
including that of narco-terror on Ecuador's northern border
with Colombia. On August 10 he released a 144-page "white
paper" updating the ministry's 2002 defense policy (which
Jarrin also spearheaded in an earlier capacity). In a
significant departure, the new paper emphasizes the need to
beef up security along the Ecuador-Colombia border. Without
offering operational detail, the paper is being interpreted
here as favoring a more robust military fight against
narcotrafficking and illegal armed group activity in Ecuador.
2. (U) Civil society leaders have publicly criticized the
paper, saying that the Ministry failed to sufficiently
consult them before finalizing the document. Others contend
that Jarrin is trying to expand the military's mandate to
include domestic policing. Jarrin has rebuffed such critics,
claiming consultations were conducted in numerous cities and
that the military is trying to combat external threats which
have violated Ecuadorian territory. Our view is that
Jarrin's efforts to refocus policy towards real security
threats is positive and supports USG objectives to combat
narco-terrorist activity in the region. An important focus
left out of the white paper, however, is the crying need to
circumscribe the role of the military as arbiter of irregular
changes of government. We are hearing some rumblings that
Jarrin's paper lacks buy-in from the military rank and file,
which does not augur well for implementation after his
departure. End Summary.
Jarrin's Defense Policy Released
3. (U) Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrin on August 10 unveiled
the Ministry's "National Defense Policy 2006" to a
distinguished gathering of high-level GOE officials, foreign
military attaches, civil society leaders, and diplomats.
President Alfredo Palacio, Foreign Minister Francisco
Carrion, and Jarrin addressed the group, all stressing the
need for a well defined defense policy to combat growing
transnational crime and to protect national sovereignty. In
the event's only departure from script, Palacio was heckled
by indigenous women from the Amazon region, who denounced the
government's protection of oil installations from the forced
entry of human rights demonstrators.
4. (U) The U.S. Military Group provided financial assistance
for the policy update process, allowing the MOD to fly in
defense dignitaries from Argentina and Chile. U.S. funding
also helped to pay for printing of the text and for the
August 10 unveiling.
Background on Jarrin and His Paper
5. (U) Jarrin, a retired general and former undersecretary
of defense and chairman of the Joint Staff, is the
acknowledged mastermind behind the white paper. Immediately
after assuming the MOD position in August 2005, Jarrin began
efforts to update the 2002 defense strategy, which he had
overseen as undersecretary for national defense under former
president Gustavo Noboa. To do so, Jarrin convoked security
strategists, foreign policy buffs, academics, and civil
society leaders to discuss the nation's current security
context for inclusion in the revised policy. Nevertheless,
unlike the Foreign Ministry's PLANEX (reftel) efforts, the
2006 National Defense Policy is not viewed here as the
outcome of an open consultative process, and insiders suggest
internal military support for the document is questionable.
At least during his tenure, however, the document will
constitute the current national defense agenda.
6. (U) Like Carrion, Jarrin is considered one of Palacio's
strongest ministers. Jarrin's realistic estimation of the
regional narco-terrorist threat has made him more in sync
with regional USG objectives. Some of our contacts speculate
that if Leon Roldos (ID-RED candidate) is successful in his
presidential bid, Jarrin could remain as Defense Minister, at
least at the outset of the new government. As a former
general officer, Jarrin exerts effective control over the
military ranks, but the civilian Ministry of Defense
structure supporting him is weak.
Defense Strategy Explained
7. (U) Jarrin's white paper states that the primary security
objective of the Ecuadorian military is to preserve peace and
stability of the state, giving priority to political,
diplomatic, economic, and other non-military solutions over
armed conflict. The paper claims the GOE is open to
international cooperation to confront security threats.
Through active participation in the United Nations and the
Organization of American States, Ecuador seeks to combat
transnational effects of the narcotics trade, illegal
trafficking in arms, organized crime, and terrorism.
Ecuador's response to such threats is shared among the
Ecuadorian National Police, Customs, National Council for the
Control of Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances, and the
Armed Forces, the paper affirms.
Strategic Objectives Outlined
8. (U) The white paper outlines actions aimed at protecting
Ecuadorian territory, population, resources, cultural
patrimony, and interests, while contributing to regional
stability. The document sets out the following strategies to
achieve the mission:
-- Neutralize threats against territorial integrity in the
border regions, at sea, or air.
--Defend national territory and sovereignty against real and
potential threats of external aggression.
--Cooperate with institutions and governmental bodies in the
case of emergencies.
--Protect strategic areas.
--Contribute to democratic institutions to guarantee judicial
--Contribute to the preservation of the natural environment.
--Protect the population, resources, and public services in
the event of grave internal unrest.
--Participate in international peacekeeping and humanitarian
--Comply with international conventions and treaties for
which Ecuador is a signatory.
Ecuador-Colombia Border: New Focus
9. (U) In a significant departure from the 2002 defense
policy, Jarrin's 2006 update specifically addresses relations
with Colombia and the security threat along the common
border. The paper notes that Ecuador-Colombia relations have
historically been good, but that differences over Colombia's
ongoing internal conflict, transnational threats now
affecting Ecuador, and the Colombian government's posture
have harmed bilateral relations. The paper affirms that
Ecuador's proximity to troubled Colombian territory has
generated strong pressure to develop a combined military
strategy, which would depart from Ecuador's policy of
non-intervention in the affairs of sovereign states.
10. (U) The white paper expresses GOE concern that
narcotrafficking, illegal drug cultivation, environmental
damage caused by coca eradication, refugee flows, precursor
chemical trading, money laundering, and further involvement
of border residents in illicit activities could threaten
national security, and have serious domestic social,
political, and economic implications. Asserting that the GOE
can not afford to ignore such activity, Jarrin's white paper
outlines the following priority measures:
--Demand that the Colombian government exercise better
control of its border by activating National Centers for
Border Attention (CENAF), preventing the transfer of illicit
Activities, and increasing Colombian military presence in the
vulnerable zones to the north and northeast of Ecuador.
--Maintain Ecuadorian territory free of cultivation and
processing of coca.
--Neutralize illegal armed groups active in Ecuador.
--Prevent a potential humanitarian disaster for refugees or
displaced persons in Ecuador.
--Preserve the natural environment and natural resources from
the impact of eradication of illicit cultivations (in the
proximity to national parks - diversity).
--Initiate development programs for the protection of
vulnerable populations and the generation of social and
economic stability.
11. (U) The paper cites the Colombian government's decision
to install a CENAF(which house immigration, customs, and
other law enforcement agencies) in San Miguel-Putumayo and to
activate Brigades 27 and 29 and Mobile Brigade 13 in Putumayo
and Narino as positive. The paper explicitly acknowledged
USAID assistance in helping UDENOR to invest $78 m. in social
and economic development in the troubled region. The
Ecuador-Colombia Binational Border Commission (COMBIFRON),
establish in 1996, remains an instrument of mutual confidence
preventing government-to-government conflict, the paper noted.
Reform Discussed without Much Detail
12. (U) Jarrin's white paper briefly addresses military
Reforms in its final chapter. The paper affirms the
importance of restructuring the military to better fulfill
constitutional mandates and new military responsibilities,
but gives little supporting detail. Among several vague
bullet points outlining organizational changes needed, the
paper notes that the proposed reform to the military's
authorization law will address unspecified legal and
structural issues.
Reaction Mixed
13. (SBU) MFA Director for Border Relations with Colombia
Amb. Claudio Cevallos told PolOff on August 22 that he
considered Jarrin's paper a step towards redefining Ecuador's
national security threats. Despite internal anti-Plan
Colombia sentiments, opportunistic politics, and nationalist
journalism, Carrion, Jarrin, and others in the GOE are
pushing a greater security and development focus in the
border region, he said. Cevallos praised Jarrin's leadership
and stressed the need for greater investment in the region to
keep Ecuador from transforming into a narco-state.
14. (SBU) Bertha Garcia, Ecuador's foremost civil-military
relations analyst and Director for the Democracy and Security
Foundation at Quito's Catholic University, told PolOff that
Jarrin's initiatives were "cosmetic" and off the mark.
Garcia said that the white paper would do little to
professionalize the military or foster greater respect for
democratic norms, and warned that the U.S. should not help
strengthen the military further.
15. (SBU) Garcia also criticized the military's involvement
in the economy, the lack of transparency, and claimed that
high-level corruption is rampant. None of these issues is
addressed in the white paper, she noted. Garcia agreed that
the GOE should focus greater attention towards the
Ecuador-Colombia border, but suggested that the Ecuadorian
National Police (ENP) should take the lead on internal
security matters, not Jarrin's military. Garcia admitted that
she and Jarrin are at odds over her public criticism of the
armed forces. She lamented her exclusion from the Ministry's
security strategy sessions, and said that she had even been
prevented form participating in some of the MFA's PLANEX
sessions on security.
16. (U) Countering criticism, Jarrin in an August 20
interview said that his new defense paper seeks to help the
GOE comply with obligations under the International
Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and
Psychotropic Substances and the Inter-American Convention
Against Terrorism. Jarrin said that new external threats
require a "multidimensional" approach in which multiple
security elements work collectively to ensure national
security. He refuted allegations that he seeks to
inappropriately involve the military in internal policing.
USG Interests
17. (SBU) We view the white paper as generally positive in
shifting the GOE's attention towards real security threats
posed by transnational criminal and terror groups along the
northern border with Colombia. It remains to be seen whether
the new policy paper will outlive Jarrin's tenure (or whether
Jarrin's tenure might be extended under a new government).
Though generally supportive of USG security interests, the
new policy paper falls flat on another key USG
interest--limiting the role of the Ecuadorian military in
irregular changes of government.
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