278. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Vaky) to the Acting Secretary of State (Christopher)1


  • Ecuador—Elections in Jeopardy

Ecuador held model elections July 16, elections that surprised everyone by giving a commanding lead to Jaime Roldos, the candidate of the populist Concentration of Popular Forces (CFP). The probability of a Roldos victory in the run-off election unleashed an up and down [Page 807] cycle of plotting by conservative military elements in league with the nation’s conservative economic oligarchy. The preferred strategem, common knowledge in Ecuador, is to get a manipulable Electoral Tribunal to now declare massive fraud in provinces where Roldos was strong, forcing annulment of the elections.2

President Poveda, the architect of what had been a truly successful retorno process, has wanted to go through with the process and let Roldos take office. When I delivered the President’s letter of encouragement, Poveda restated his commitment and noted that his conversations with Roldos had reassured him.3 Roldos himself, is a bright young (37) politician who in the words of our Ambassador, might make a good President if they let him.4 The plotters’ charges that Roldos and his running mate are radicals or worse seem to have no substance; basically they fear his commitment to social and economic change.

We have continually sought to encourage Ecuador to persevere in an honest political process. Poveda’s leadership has provided a guarantee but he now seems to be wavering. He just told our Ambassador, who had expressed our concern at the plotting, that if the Electoral Tribunal declares massive irregularities, the GOE might have to set aside the elections and hold new ones. Interestingly, Poveda indicated he would clear any decision in a meeting of military commanders down through colonel where the distrust of Roldos at the upper echelons is not shared.5

We sense that Poveda is maneuvering to preserve the process and national comity. But if he annuls the elections, the transparency of the charges of fraud will produce popular reaction that could lead to repressive measures. At all events, a breakdown in the process would require us to review our relationship with Ecuador.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P850155-0321. Confidential; Exdis. Draftd by Guerra and McNeil. A notation in the top right-hand corner of the memorandum indicates that a copy was sent to Ambassador Gonzalez on September 8.
  2. In telegrams 5434 from Quito, August 3; 5905 from Quito, August 23; and 6158 from Quito, September 1, the Embassy analyzed and reported on its responses to the plotting. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780319-0218, D780346-0983, and D780358-0734)
  3. See Document 277. In telegram 7446 from Bogota, August 9, the Embassy summarized Vaky’s meeting with Poveda in Bogota. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780325-1339) In his September 6 Evening Report to Carter, Christopher wrote: “up to now President Poveda has been dedicated to the retorno process, but he appears to be wavering.” (Carter Library, Carter Presidential Papers, Staff Offices, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 20, Evening Reports (State), 9/78)
  4. Gonzalez’s remark not found. In telegrams 5086 from Quito, July 21; 5475 from Quito, August 5; and 5585 from Quito, August 9, the Embassy reported on its meetings with Roldos. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780301-0123, D780321-0167, and D780326-0900)
  5. In telegram 6118 from Quito, August 31, the Embassy reported on Gonzalez’s August 30 conversation with Poveda. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780356-0761)