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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06LAPAZ1956
2006-07-19 17:42:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy La Paz
Cable title:  

EDUCATION CONGRESS ENDORSES SECULAR EDUCATION

Tags:   ASCH  APER  AMGT  PGOV  PREL  SOCI  BL 
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VZCZCXYZ0038
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #1956 2001742
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 191742Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9990
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 6005
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 3323
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 7172
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 4434
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1712
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 1721
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 1752
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 3928
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 4343
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 8904
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
						UNCLAS LA PAZ 001956 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/AND AND A/OPR/OS/CS BSCOTTI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASCH APER AMGT PGOV PREL SOCI BL
SUBJECT: EDUCATION CONGRESS ENDORSES SECULAR EDUCATION

REF: LA PAZ 1795

UNCLAS LA PAZ 001956

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/AND AND A/OPR/OS/CS BSCOTTI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASCH APER AMGT PGOV PREL SOCI BL
SUBJECT: EDUCATION CONGRESS ENDORSES SECULAR EDUCATION

REF: LA PAZ 1795


1. (SBU) Summary: Days of contentious debate ended July 14
with the National Education Congress' endorsement of a
secular education system that "respects the beliefs and
spirituality of indigenous nations and the Bolivian people"
and "rejects all dogmatic impositions." The Catholic Church
accused delegates of ignoring the GOB's promise to respect
religious education and joined other groups, including
teachers and professors, in opposing the proposed reforms.
Most observers have declared the congress a failure, and
Minister of the Presidency Juan Ramon Quintana criticized the
education minister for failing to achieve consensus. While
the MAS got what it wanted on paper, Bolivian educational
reform appears far from settled. End summary.


2. (U) Days of heated debate ended July 14 with the National
Education Congress' endorsement of a secular education system
that "respects the beliefs and spirituality of indigenous
nations and the Bolivian people" and "rejects all dogmatic
impositions." The role of religion (and especially of the
Catholic Church) was a particularly contentious issue, but
reforms calling for the "decolonization" of education
(reftel) and greater emphasis on indigenous cultures and
languages also generated debate. The congress endorsed the
changes without full support, as 177 of its 628 delegates
walked out July 10 to protest the GOB's heavy-handed
management of the week-long meeting.


3. (U) The Catholic Church accused delegates of ignoring the
GOB's July 13 promise to respect religious education and
joined other groups, including teachers and professors, in
opposing the proposed reforms. La Paz Archbishop Edmundo
Abastoflor said in his July 16 homily that it would be
"silly" to stop allowing Bolivians to be guided by God, and
Santa Cruz Auxiliary Bishop Estanislao Powlaszewicz remarked
that the GOB wanted to eliminate "not only religion, but also
God" from national education. Teachers, university
professors, and other groups objected to a perceived lack of
representation in the congress and complained that the event
was unfairly controlled by the Movement Toward Socialism
(MAS) party, attacking the GOB for seeking to stifle dissent.


4. (SBU) Most observers, including Confederation of
Neighborhood Committees Secretary General Benjamin Caceres,
have declared the congress a failure. Caceres told EconOff
July 18 that the walk-out of key groups weakened the
congress' legitimacy and would lead to new confrontations
between the GOB and civil society. Minister of the
Presidency Juan Ramon Quintana criticized Education Minister
Felix Patzi for failing to achieve consensus and suggested
the congress was "not the best venue" for debate, lamenting
the withdrawal of important institutions. The GOB, he said,
"would have liked to obtain better results."


5. (SBU) Comment: While the MAS got what it wanted on paper
(delegates made few changes to the MAS proposal), Bolivian
educational reform appears far from settled. The MAS could
be taking on more than it can handle by opening an internal
front against the Church, universities and urban teachers.
In addition, some say the education congress is a preview of
what could go wrong in the Constituent Assembly. We will
continue to monitor how planned reforms will impact the
American Cooperative School and work with the diplomatic
community to press the GOB to moderate its position. End
comment.
GREENLEE