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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06LAPAZ1062
2006-04-19 15:02:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy La Paz
Cable title:  

BOLIVIA: MORALES AND JUDICIARY FACE OFF

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  SOCI  PHUM  USAID  BL 
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VZCZCXYZ0005
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #1062 1091502
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191502Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8907
INFO RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 5772
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 3058
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 6925
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 4164
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1464
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 1428
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 3726
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 8653
						UNCLAS LA PAZ 001062 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SOCI PHUM USAID BL
SUBJECT: BOLIVIA: MORALES AND JUDICIARY FACE OFF




1. (SBU) Summary: President Morales has accused key actors
in the judicial sector of protecting "sacred cows" and
resisting the process of political change. In response, key
representatives of the justice sector have accused the
President of interfering with and politicizing justice.
Although long subject to political influences, the Bolivian
judiciary's fragile independence could be further eroded by
the current government's targeted assault. End Summary.



2. (SBU) Relations between the executive and judiciary have
deteriorated over the past weeks, with representatives of
both branches of government trading barbs and accusations in
the media. The strains began at the outset of the MAS
party's assumption of power. President Morales' plan to cut
all government salaries (now implemented), including in the
Constitutional and Supreme Courts, was widely seen as a ploy
to pack the courts (and other parts of government) with MAS
party sympathizers. So far three justices have resigned --
two from the Supreme Court (including former President
Eduardo Rodriguez) and one from the Constitutional Tribunal.
There are rumors of more resignations on the way.



3. (SBU) Intra-branch relations worsened when the
Constitutional Tribunal agreed to consider a petition,
presented by executives of Lloyd Aero Boliviano (LAB),
seeking to nullify the government's partial intervention of
the bankrupt airline. President Morales and Minister of the
Presidency Ramon de la Quintana publicly attacked the
Tribunal's move as "political." (Note: Ironically, the
Tribunal later ruled substantively against the LAB
executives' petition. End Note.) The Tribunal publicly
responded that it was acting on strictly legal grounds and
that government interference would not be tolerated. Since
that time, tensions have continued to escalate. During
Easter weekend, Morales upped the ante, publicly declaring
that certain "sacred cows of Bolivia's justice are resisting
the process of political change." In a troubling signal,
Morales further warned that the Constituent Assembly
represented a kind of deadline for those in the judiciary to
join the program or be cast out of their positions.



4. (SBU) Key judicial representatives have fought back. In
response to Morales' latest assault, the President and
Justices of the Supreme Court, the President and Magistrates
of the Constitutional Tribunal, members of the Council of
Jurisprudence, the President and Justices of the National
Agricultural Tribunal and the Presidents of the Superior
Courts of Bolivia all signed a public communiqu outlining
their growing concerns about executive encroachment on
judicial independence and vigorously defending the judicial
system from the public attacks against it. The communiqu
underscored, inter alia, the critical role of an independent
judiciary in preserving democracy. On April 18, a small
demonstration in defense of judicial independence was held in
Sucre, Bolivia's formal capital and the seat of the country's
judicial power.



5. (SBU) Comment: Bolivia's judiciary has long been a weak
link in the country's democratic system, in large part due to
the political influences that have shaped its make-up and
decisions. For example, key judicial representatives --
including in the Supreme Court and Constitutional Tribunal --
were mostly appointed by political parties via the infamous
"cuoteo" method (positions were apportioned according to the
percentage of votes that parties received). That said, many
observers believed the institutionalization of the judiciary
in Bolivia was improving as democratic values increasingly
took hold and democratic structures began to throw down
roots. To many observers, these gains appear increasingly
under assault. End comment.
GREENLEE