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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08LAPAZ2056 2008-09-22 21:42:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy La Paz
Cable title:  

DIALOGUE: EVO PUSHING, OPPOSITION WEAKENING

Tags:   PGOV PREL PTER KDEM ASEC CASC BL 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L LA PAZ 002056 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/17/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER KDEM ASEC CASC BL
SUBJECT: DIALOGUE: EVO PUSHING, OPPOSITION WEAKENING

Classified By: EcoPol Chief Mike Hammer for reasons 1.4 b,d



1. (C) Summary: The central government pushed hard the night
of September 21 for the opposition to sign an agreement on
the "framework" of the dialogue, but the opposition is thus
far holding out. Government-aligned social groups have
besieged the city of Santa Cruz and announced that they will
"increase pressure" and enter the main plaza on September 24
if the opposition prefects do not sign (note: September 24 is
Santa Cruz day, and entry by government-aligned social groups
could spark violence in the opposition city. End note.)
Opposition contacts seem disheartened and in disarray, while
the government is applying pressure at the negotiation table,
through social groups, and through the arrest of opposition
Pando Prefect Leopoldo Fernadez. The British (whose
Ambassador is an observer at the negotiations) inform us that
there has been some progress in the talks and that
international participation is still valuable, but that
UNASUR's Venezuelan observers see their role as "supporting
the government" rather than facilitating dialogue, a position
which is alienating the opposition. End summary.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Observers: Talks "haven't collapsed yet, but very fragile"
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2. (C) The Brazilians, who are observers in the Cochabamba
dialogue, told us that as the talks began the opposition
already appeared defeated. Opposition Santa Cruz Prefect
Ruben Costas reportedly even apologized to Morales for having
insulted him. Rather than granting forgiveness, Morales
lashed out at Costas and the other prefects for their acts
against the state. The Brazilians believe the opposition is
ready to sign any agreement that might prevent Morales from a
further crackdown on their departments now, in the hopes that
they then can regroup to block Morales' power grab later.



3. (C) British DCM Steve Townsend told us that the British
Ambassador is still an observer at the talks that Townsend
describes as "discordant and tense". According to the
British, the talks almost collapsed on September 21 when the
government pushed for the opposition prefects to sign a new
agreement after only four days of negotiation. After the
prefects refused to sign, both sides agreed to restart
dialogue on September 25, while the technical committees on
IDH hydrocarbon tax revenues and autonomy will carry on
meeting.



4. (C) Reportedly the government is now insisting that the
Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) draft constitution only be
reopened to address the autonomy issue, while the opposition
prefects want other issues to be open for negotiation as
well. Townsend feels that the opposition prefects "realize
that the reelection issue (that Evo be eligible for two more
5-year terms) is untouchable." The opposition also seems to
have abandoned any attempts to obtain legal protection for
opposition Pando Prefect Leopoldo Fernandez, leaving his fate
to the courts (Note: Evo and the MAS have gutted both the
Constitutional Tribunal and the Supreme Court, so Fernandez'
fate is far from clear. Townsend notes that because Bolivian
law offers immunity to elected officials, the congress should
have met to suspend this immunity before Fernandez was
arrested, making his arrest itself illegal. End note.) Dutch
PolOff Harmon Van Dijk told PolOff September 18 that although
he generally approves of the government's approach to the
talks he was "angry" with the government's decision to take
Prefect Leopoldo Fernandez into custody: "This is stupid and
does not show a sensitivity to negotiation."

- - - - - - - - - - - -
Pressure on Santa Cruz
- - - - - - - - - - - -



5. (C) Townsend indicated that the government is claiming
that it cannot control the government-aligned social groups
currently besieging the city of Santa Cruz. The government
has, however, also stated that the opposition prefects'
signatures on the framework agreement is a prerequisite for
lifting the siege. Townsend feels that the opposition is
fully aware that the government and the MAS control the
social groups. Santa Cruz Prefect Ruben Costas has publicly
declared that opposition supporters will not react to the
siege or to a possible influx of MAS supporters on September


24. Some opposition contacts have warned us, however, that
the entry of a large number of armed MAS supporters into the
heart of the opposition territory could easy spark violence.
Townsend said that the opposition views the MAS supporters as
"spoiling for a fight" and predicts that "an accident could
spark major violence." Although the opposition is attempting
to continue with negotiation, Townsend feels that "any
violence in Santa Cruz would end it."



6. (C) Comment: We are closely monitoring the situation in
Santa Cruz. While we have relocated our staff to La Paz, we
may need to issue a warden message asking Amcits to exercise
extreme caution on September 24. September 24 is a Santa
Cruz holiday so our consular agency, now open for emergency
American citizen services, would be closed.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Venezuelan Observers Unhelpful
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



7. (C) In the wake of UNASUR announcements supporting the
government (and offending the opposition, who feel that
UNASUR's pro-government stance negates the organization's
value as a neutral observer), Townsend told us that there are
divisions within the UNASUR observer team. The Venezuelans
are insisting that UNASUR's role is to support the
government, while others (Townsend mentioned the Chileans)
are frustrated by this twisting of their role as observers.
Other international contacts have told us that UNASUR, under
the influence of Venezuela, is trying to encourage other
observers to meet only with the government side.

- - - - - - - - - - -
Opposition Fragmented
- - - - - - - - - - -



8. (C) The regional opposition group CONALDE (opposition
prefects and civic leaders) has always faced challenges due
to their inherent division by department: for example, the
four autonomy statues are different, while CONALDE member
Chuquisaca has not yet voted for autonomy. The division
between the national and regional opposition was highlighted
by the decision of national opposition party PODEMOS to allow
the August 10 recall referenda law through the Senate despite
terms that were prejudicial to opposition prefects (and in
fact, CONALDE eventually lost support when opposition
Cochabamba Prefect Manfred Reyes Villa and independent La Paz
Prefect Jose Luis Paredes were recalled.)



9. (C) Smaller opposition groups, including "indigenous
alternative" groups headed by former Vice President Victor
Hugo Cardenas and indigenous intellectuals, are attempting to
come together to form larger, more-coherent opposition
parties. Even with these attempts at cohesiveness, however,
the non-PODEMOS opposition is highly fragmented, with
multiple groups loosely-united along ideological and regional
lines. The traditional national opposition has thus far not
successfully united with indigenous opposition groups,
leaving President Morales and the MAS basically challenged
only by the regional opposition.

- - - -
Comment
- - - -


10. (C) Over the last few days, opposition leaders have
seemed more demoralized, watching as one of the most savvy
and skilled opposition prefects was arrested,
government-supporters besieged a key opposition city, and
"neutral" international observers announced their unequivocal
support for the government in the negotiations. Opposition
contacts tell us they see no clear way to block President Evo
Morales' constitutional agenda and they fear that, with a
chance at two more terms, Morales will lock Bolivia into a
populist totalitarian regime more extreme than even
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has managed. With the opposition
doubting its chances through dialogue and with thousands of
armed government-supporters threatening to enter the main
opposition city, violence still looms as a real possibility.
End comment.

URS