266. Telegram From the Embassy in Ecuador to the Department of State1

871. Subj: Transfer of Fighter Planes to Ecuador. Refs: A) State 026807 B) Quito 618 C) Quito 801.2

1. Gen. Leoro, Commander of the Ecuadorean Air Force and member of the Supreme Council of Government, asked me to come to his office on the afternoon of Feb 7 to discuss press reports that the U.S. had denied permission to Israel to sell KFIR to Ecuador. I told Gen. Leoro that I had just a few hours before confirmed with Washington that such was indeed the case. I went on to say that the decision was a very difficult one for the U.S. Government, which had had to weigh its desire to cooperate with Ecuador in satisfying its military requirement and at the same its long-standing policy of not contributing to the introduction of advanced weaponry into Latin America. The General expressed his profound disappointment at the U.S. decision, which he described as “lamentable”, and said that Ecuador would now be forced to seek a comparable aircraft from third countries, “including the Russians”. He added that it was doubly unfortunate because while the KFIR would have been available within 12 to 18 months, there would be a longer lead time for other aircraft.

2. I seized upon this latter statement to suggest that the FAE once again consider the F–5. I said that I would do whatever I could to reduce the 24-month lead time that the FAE had previously been informed would be necessary. (We had already been informed by [Page 764] Northrop representatives that it was possible to reduce this lead time). Leoro said flatly that the F–5 would not be considered because it was not an adequate aircraft to protect against the Peruvian threat.

3. Upon my return from Leoro, I received a call from the President, Admiral Poveda, who was inquiring about the same press reports. I gave him the news and he reacted with the same expressions of chagrin that I had received from Leoro. He pointed out that alternative aircraft would probably be much more expensive for Ecuador and also that the lead times would be longer. But, he said, the acquisition of a modern interceptor was absolutely essential and Ecuador would have to turn to other suppliers.

4. Comment: I do not take Leoro’s reference to the Russians seriously. Also in spite of Leoro’s negative comment regarding the F–5, I believe that we should make an effort to present Ecuador with an alternative to the KFIR if our position on sophistication is to be at all credible. Leoro’s rejection of the F–5 must be taken in the context of his extreme disappointment, indeed ire, at the news of the denial of the KFIR. I ask, therfore, that the Department bend every effort to offer Ecuador the F–5 with a shorter lead time than heretofore. We understand from the Northrop representatives that deliveries could be made in 18 months. If we could couple this with the offer of a couple of aircraft in twelve months, I believe that we still would stand some chance of convincing the Ecuadoreans that they should opt for this considerably cheaper package.

5. It would also take some of the sting out of the KFIR decision, if we were able to respond in the near future to the GOE’s recent request for an increase in the FMS credit for FY 77 (Ref C), and I ask that prompt consideration be given to the recommendation in Ref C.

6. Incidentally, the timing couldn’t be worse. The Supreme Council and the military are rolling out the red carpet today and tomorrow for the visiting Maj. Gen. Rachmeler, Coordinator of Security Assistance for the Department of the Army. It also would have been helpful to me if I had been informed in advance of the probability that the announcement of the KFIR denial would be made at today’s noon briefing.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770044-0053. Secret; Immediate; Exdis.
  2. In telegram 26807 to Tel Aviv, February 6, the Department noted: “Under Secretary Habib informed Ambassador Dinitz February 4 U.S. had decided (a) that it could not agree to proposed Israeli sale of Kfir aircraft to Ecuador and (b) that security supporting assistance element of FY 78 aid request to Congress for Israel would be increased from dollars 500 million to dollars 785 million, for total of dollars 1.785 billion. Habib explained Kfir sale approval would have run counter to our policy of not selling advanced weapons, including sophisticated fighter aircraft, to Latin America—a longstanding policy which was consistent with our views about arms transfer in general.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770042-0661) In telegram 618 from Quito, January 26, Bloomfield reported on his meeting with Poveda and commented: “Ecuador has a genuine security stake in obtaining appropriate aircraft in the shortest possible time. The Peruvian acquisition and imminent receipt of Soviet SU-22s has heightened the GOE interest in the Kfir purchase.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770029-0010) In telegram 801 from Quito, February 3, the Embassy recommended that the Department give “favorable consideration” to Ecuador’s request that its FMS credit allocation double for FY 77, to $20 million. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770040-0152)