Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra (1893-1979) came to power for the fourth of five non-consecutive Ecuadorian presidential terms in September 1960. Velasco won decisively by running on a platform that was more populist than liberal. He appealed not only to the left but to the majority. He had received a record 80% of the vote in 1933, his first presidential run. Velasco, however, did not appeal to the U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Velasco’s domestic platform was centered on internal infrastructure constructed with Ecuadorian labor from Ecuadorian companies. His foreign policy platform included nullifying the Rio de Janeiro Protocol, an attempt to solve the long-standing territorial dispute between Ecuador and Peru that had caused the Ecuadorian-Peruvian War of 1941-1942. The Protocol was negotiated in part by representatives of the United States. Velasco claimed that the Protocol had been signed by representatives under coercion as foreign troops were stationed on Ecuadorian soil.
Velasco’s platform did not include abiding by the two mandates of American foreign policy in Latin America – breaking relations with Fidel Castro’s Cuba and instituting aggressive action against internal communist sympathizers and leftists.
Throughout the next three years, the CIA would execute a series of actions in Ecuador that would become textbook Agency examples of covert subversion techniques:
- Infiltrate – Political organizations from both sides of the spectrum were infiltrated at all levels. Leftist infiltration sought to stem the rising tide of growing anti-Americanism and undermine any support for Castro among Ecuadorian leftists. Right-wing infiltration served to steer the coordination of anti-leftist activities towards goals parallel with the CIA.
- Organize – If no organization existed to serve a need of the CIA, a front organization would be created to serve that that specific purpose. The group would often be lead by a noted regional personality who also happened to be on the CIA payroll. Sometimes the front groups existed. On other occasions they existed only on paper.
- Control – Once the puppet leader of the new CIA-funded organization was chosen, a visible media campaign would pay for notices to be placed in leading newspapers. The notices would serve as warnings of leftist government infiltration as well as calling for a break with Cuba. If the effort needed to extend beyond a media campaign, the personality leading the effort would make a public speech written be a CIA representative. A newspaper editor or columnist, also a payee of the Agency, would then praise the speech.
- Compete – A myriad of labor organizations would be created to compete with leftists unions and labor groups that already existed. The CIA front groups wanted to attract the national leadership away from the legitimate groups. They were lured with classes and all-expenses-paid excursions to both Ecuadorian resorts and to the United States. The classes served as an opportunity for CIA representatives to impart the dangers of communism to the union leaders, but also as a sort of psychological Petri dish. They were screened, monitored, and analyzed to gauge who had the skills and mindset necessary to be an active CIA asset in the future.
CIA action in Ecuador would serve as a sort of primer for black operations within Latin America over the next three decades.
Part Two of “Ecuador, Velasco and Covert Ops” will be featured on Midnight Writer News in the coming months.