315. Telegram 2819 From the Embassy in Ecuador to the Department of State1 2

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  • Political Situation

1. Summary

Recently there has been progress in the two most important and sensitive areas of US/Ecuadorean relations: fisheries and oil. At the same time, there have been student disturbances in Guayaquil, and the GOE has expressed concern about internal security to the Embassy. It appears that the GOE is reasonably well disposed to the US at present but that it is hampered by nervousness and uncertainty. The 8th anniversary of the 1964 agrarian reform and colonization law was observed this month, and its implementation was almost universally described as a failure.

2. Fisheries:

In the first week of July, Ambassador McKernan, in a [Page 2] series of informal negotiations, brought the fisheries question closer to at least an interim solution than has been possible since January 1971. The possible agreement includes a) lifting of the FMS ban in return for an arrangement to preclude further seizures, b) an interim period during which procedures (resembling somewhat those in the US/Brazil agreement) would be in effect, and c) negotiations in September for a longer agreement. It appears that the GOE is interested in reaching an agreement provided that it can point to US concessions and avoid the charge of selling out to the US.

3. Oil:

The moment of large scale oil production and export is at hand. Texaco-Gulf could have started exporting 280,000 bbl per day on July 12. If all their problems with the GOE had been settled. Although the problems remain, the GOE has agreed to negotiate differences with Texaco-Gulf, and these talks began on July 12. The consortium is somewhat optimistic about the prospects of reaching a satisfactory agreement.

4. Disorders in Guayaquil:

Recently there has been a problem of student disorder in Guayaquil. There have been student strikes, occupations of school buildings, and demonstrations. This has led to police action, including arrests, and the expression of official concern to the Consulate General and the Embassy about the potential of the situation. Furthermore there has been a number of daring armed robberies on the coast. While these are believed to have been the work of criminal elements, military authorities have taken the opportunity to round up and detain a number of identified leftists. In short, the GOE is apprehensive about the country’s internal security situation. One reflection of this anxiety is the GOE request for CS gas and 2 bell helicopters. According to [Page 3] the Consulate General, the situation in Guayaquil is not as serious as the GOE seems to believes, but the GOE reaction is an example of its sensitivity to public order matters and tendency to over-react which in turn is evidence of its general feeling of insecurity and nervousness.

5. Establishment of special military courts:

An additional example of the GOE’s concern with internal security is the establishment on July 12 by decree 618 of special military courts in Quito and Guayaquil for the trial of those accused of the misuse of public funds, abuse of office, and corruption (another step in the moralization campaign) and, more interestingly, for cases of terrorism, sabotage or subversion. Each court will consist of two senior military officers and one civilian lawyer. Sentences can be appealed to the Supreme Court.

6. Ecuadorean Navy in political difficulties:

The Embassy has heard on good authority that President Rodriquez will soon relieve and assign out of the country the military governor of Guayas province and the commander of the first naval zone. Both these officers are senior Navy captains. These transfers are reportedly attempts by the army to improve its position vs the Navy in Guayas which is the most important province of Ecuador. The new military governor of Guayas will probably, for example, be an Army colonel.

7. Agrarian reform:

Form and colonization law. The anniversary attracted wide attention. The general opinion expressed in the press and tacitly admitted by the GOE was that the application of the law had been a failure. According to published data, the net result of 8 years of reform has been the distribution of 179,235 hectares to 31,508 people and the distribution of 518,044 hectares to [Page 4] another 14,473 people through the colonization of new land. Naturally there have been demands for improvements and the GOE has announced the establishment of a special commission to study the matter with a view to an “authentic and real” agrarian reform but one which will not threaten land which is worked productively.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL ECUADOR. Confidential. Repeated for information to AmConsul Guayaquil and USCINCO for POLAD.
  2. The Embassy informed the Department of State of the progress in the two most important and sensitive aspects of U.S.–Ecuadorian relations: fisheries and oil. The Embassy also informed the Department of State about internal unrest in Ecuador.