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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08LAPAZ2197 2008-10-09 21:18:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy La Paz
Cable title:  

SANTA CRUZ: WORN DOWN AND DISPIRITED

Tags:   ASEC BL PGOV PHUM PINR PREL PTER 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LA PAZ 002197 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/10/2018
TAGS: ASEC BL PGOV PHUM PINR PREL PTER
SUBJECT: SANTA CRUZ: WORN DOWN AND DISPIRITED

Classified By: A/EcoPol Chief Brian Quigley for reasons 1.4 (b),(d).

-------
SUMMARY
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1. (C) Emboff met with Santa Cruz political, civic and
business leaders on October 7-8. The mood within the Santa
Cruz leadership is dispirited. All believe that the Movement
Towards Socialism (MAS) constitutional referendum will pass
and that it will be almost impossible to defeat Morales'
constitutional project. The regional opposition finds itself
without a plan B after the breakdown of the Cochabamba
dialogue observed by UNASUR (South American countries), the
European Union, and the Catholic Church. End summary.



--------------------------


CIVIC COMMITTEE


--------------------------





2. (C) Mario Bruno, Santa Cruz Civic Committee President
Branko Marinkovic's Chief of Staff, told Emboff that the
regional opposition is "disoriented" and do not know how to
proceed. The government's constant violations of democratic
principles and political witch hunts are taking their toll
according to Bruno. "There is no Bolivian institution left
capable of telling Evo enough is enough," said Bruno, "and
the government acts with impunity." Bruno is convinced that
legislation for a constitutional referendum will be passed by
congress and that the new constitution will be approved by
voters. "Somehow we will keep pushing our agenda but Santa
Cruz' fury has now turned into fear after Prefect Leopoldo
Fernandez arrest." Bruno commented that Branko Marinkovic
will make a series of international trips to try and bring
attention to the opposition's position but also because his
personal safety is at risk in Bolivia.



3. (C) Bruno thinks that the regional opposition will
capitulate rather than enter into a civil war. "We are not
street fighters, we are not radicals like the government's
backers. We do not want blood to be spilt." Bruno also
discounted the possibility of military action or a coup
attempt, asking "why would the military risk their salaries
and pensions?" Bruno sees two factors that will hopefully
put a check on Morales' "dictatorial" plan: pressure from
Brazil and the eventual economic crisis in Bolivia. "If Lula
would put direct pressure on Evo and if the economy continues
to go south then Evo will be weakened. However, the drug
economy is going to act as a buffer to the formal economy's
crisis."



--------------------------


PREFECTURE


--------------------------





4. (C) Prefect Ruben Costas' brother and personal advisor
Alberto (Beto) Costas told Emboff that he is sure the
constitutional referendum will be approved. "We do not have
the capacity to stop it and if we boycott it we will go the
way the Venezuelan opposition went." Beto Costas envisions a
united campaign for the "no" vote similar to the recent
constitutional referendum vote in Venezuela. "Santa Cruz
entrepreneurs who thought they could do business with this
government are now realizing the government's true intention
is to destroy them. They need to fund the "no" campaign."
Costas accuses the national government of "dirty fighting"
and admits that he and others in the prefectural government
are "worn down."

LA PAZ 00002197 002 OF 002





5. (C) Costas also touched on Brazil and the economic
situation in Bolivia. He hopes that President Lula will make
good on his invitation to meet with Ruben Costas and wants to
continue to broaden their relationship with the Brazilian
Embassy in La Paz. Costas is counting on a weak economic
forecast to hit Morales hard. "Mineral prices are down,
agricultural commodities are down, and we are starting to see
signs of a run on dollars. Those things coupled with the
loss of ATPDEA related jobs will bring pressure on Morales
right around the proposed date of the constitutional
referendum." Like Bruno, Costas mentioned that the Bolivian
drug economy will act as a "shock absorber" to any economic
down turn.



--------------------------


BUSINESS LEADERS AND ANALYSTS


--------------------------





6. (C) Former Ambassador and businessman Joaquin Dabdoub
complained that the opposition "acts based on personal
interests." Dabdoub said the national government is very
capable of capitalizing on this to weaken and divide the
opposition. Dabdoub lamented the "tremendous amount of
racism that Morales interjects" and expressed fear that "Evo
will get his way." Ferroviaria Oriental (a Genesse and
Wyoming train company) General Manager Jaime Valencia thinks
that "Evo will be around for at least another five years" and
admitted to sometimes wishing "that the government would just
nationalize us so the company can take its investment out of
Bolivia." Talk show host and political analyst Julio Cesar
Caballero told Emboff that "we have lost our spirit to fight"
and that "we are at the point of giving in." Caballero had
harsh words for national political party Podemos and is
convinced "they will sell out and pass the constitutional
referendum." Caballero said that the regional opposition
does not have a plan B but that it is obvious to everyone
involved that the "we'll leave you alone if you leave us
alone" strategy will not work. Caballero closed by saying
that he hasn't completely given up hope "because if we lose
hope we might as well just leave the country."



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





7. (C) The Santa Cruz establishment is at a loss as to what
to do next. While not quite to the point of resigning
themselves to a new constitution, the opposition risks a
complete breakdown in their movement unless it does something
to reinvigorate itself soon. End comment.
URS