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09LAPAZ11 2009-01-06 13:13:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy La Paz
Cable title:  

CRY FRAUD: PRE-DENOUNCING REFERENDUM RESULTS

Tags:   PGOV PINR KDEM VN BL 
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RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
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RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L LA PAZ 000011 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/07/2019
TAGS: PGOV PINR KDEM VN BL
SUBJECT: CRY FRAUD: PRE-DENOUNCING REFERENDUM RESULTS

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



1. (C) Summary: Opposition Podemos Party launched its first
wave of voter fraud accusations January 5, focusing on sudden
large increases in the electorate and increased support for
the government in key regions. Former National Electoral
Court (CNE) President Salvador Romero told us the attacks on
the August 10 recall referendum results published in leading
daily La Razon, anonymously based on his analysis, are meant
to minimize fraud for the January 25 constitutional
referendum. Podemos Senator Rafael Loayza said the
opposition would be rolling out new charges of fraud based on
Romero's analysis every few days in the lead-up to the
referendum. He said the Senate would follow-up with an
investigation into the fraud and that he and Romero would
privately encourage international observers and Bolivian
citizens to monitor suspect polling stations, even if it
meant violent confrontations with pro-government supporters.
The CNE dismissed the dubious statistical surges as simply a
sudden and profound increase in citizen participation, as
other opposition voices are separately criticizing the CNE's
impartiality. Romero was highly critical of both OAS and
Transparency Bolivia endorsements of the 2008 recall vote.
End Summary.

This Just In: Electoral Fraud in 2008


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





2. (U) Leading La Paz daily La Razon published a special
report January 5 on statistical irregularities for the August
10 recall referendum that favored the ruling Movement Toward
Socialism (MAS) Party. The report contends that voter rolls,
voter turnout, and voter support of the MAS were all
suspiciously high in certain provinces and municipalities in
the nominally opposition-aligned departments (states).
Without specifically connecting the dots, the articles imply
the National Electoral Court (CNE) allowed large-scale fraud
in the referendum to favor the MAS, particularly to
(unsuccessfully) recall or at least undermine opposition
prefects (governors) in the Media Luna departments of Pando,
Beni, Santa Cruz, and Tarija and to artificially bolster
support for President Evo Morales. CNE Spokesman Antonio
Costas defends the August vote in the article as simply
expressing a groundswell of support for Morales and the MAS.
MAS Congressman Cesar Navarro is also quoted, explaining the
suspect numbers are deserved retribution for the opposition's
"negligent and delinquent attitude."



3. (U) Among suspicious anomalies, La Razon noted:

--Voter rolls in Pando Department rose 36.8 percent between
2006 (24,691) and August 2008 (33,794). The rolls gained
almost as great a percentage increase in two months between
June and August 2008 (16.5 percent) as in two years between
2006 and June 2008 (17.4 percent).

--Voter rolls in Beni, Tarija, and Santa Cruz departments
rose 10.6, 9.1, and 4.9 percent respectively between June and
August 2008, but 4.3, -3.4, and 11.5 percent between 2006 and
June, 2008.

--Morales won 99 percent of the vote in six highland
(altiplano) municipalities, many of which had greater than 95
percent voter turnout.

--Seven Media Luna provinces and two municipalities with
dramatic increases in voter registration changed their 2005
presidential election rejection of Morales into support
during the 2008 recall referendum. For example, Santa Cruz's
Charagua province gained 13.4 percent voters in the two
months prior to the recall and changed its rejection to
support for Morales.

Fraud Exposure Campaign to Parallel "No" Campaign


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



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





4. (C) Alternate Senator Rafael Loayza (Podemos, La Paz) told
PolOff that the January 5 story would be the first salvo in a
series of leaked information to the media concerning
electoral fraud during the August 10 recall referendum and
its potential impact on the January 25 constitutional
referendum. Loayza said the anti-fraud campaign would
parallel the opposition's "no" campaign. He said the next
story will be released January 7 and will feature
incongruities between voter participation and the missing or
incomplete voter sign-in logs in several districts in Potosi
Department (state). Loayza said the Potosi Regional
Electoral Court President alleges the CNE instructed him to
accept all votes, regardless of whether the voter logs were
filled in correctly (documenting names and thumb prints) or
even filled in at all. (Note: Perhaps not coincidentally,
the CNE instructed the Potosi Electoral Court to hand over
its records in December, the only district court required to
do so. End Note.)



5. (C) Loayza and former National Electoral Court (CNE)
President Salvador Romero outlined the strategy to PolOff
under which Romero would leak information from his analysis
of the August 10 vote for the articles to an unnamed reporter
at La Razon (the January 5 special report went without
attribution). Although the reporter had agreed not to
disclose the source of the analysis and it is based on
ostensibly public CNE records, Loayza claimed Romero was
concerned the story would be traced back to him and had
therefore waited to move his complaints forward, albeit
anonymously through the media, until after a case against him
concerning missing voter forms in 2005 was dismissed in
mid-December. (Note: This was the first time we heard about
this case and cannot speak to its merits. End Note.) Loayza
claimed they had decided to embargo the strategy until after
the holidays "because no one would be paying attention then"
and to release stories incrementally between January 5 and
the constitutional referendum January 25 to maximize coverage
of the fraud story. "We did not want to release everything
at once because Evo could bury a single story with some new
accusation, maybe against you (the Embassy)."

Stages 2 and 3 of Campaign to "Take Back Democracy"


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



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





6. (C) Stage two of the strategy, according to Loayza, is for
the Senate to organize an investigation. He noted they did
not want the complaints to originate directly from the Senate
out of fears that bringing it up for the first time by
opposition political leaders would tarnish the charges as a
Podemos political maneuver and "no one likes Podemos
anymore." Loayza and Romero said stage three of the strategy
is to lobby the international community and specifically
foreign election observers to target "questionable" districts
and encourage Bolivians to observe polling stations and "take
back their democracy."



7. (C) Loayza admitted encouraging opposition observation in
pro-government strongholds would encourage violent standoffs
at polling stations, but said this was a reasonable risk in
order to highlight the fraud issue. Loayza did not want a
repeat of the August 10 recall referendum, when he claimed 70
percent of Podemos observers sent to districts in La Paz
Department were denied access by local pro-government
altiplano leaders. According to Loayza, who was Podemos'
departmental coordinator for observation of the recall vote,
a few of the would-be observers were attacked and "hundreds"
of opposition-aligned voters were denied access to voting
stations in La Paz Department. For example, Podemos'
candidate in Achacachi was beaten badly after showing up to
observe and thrown out of town for the duration of the
election.

Will Crying Fraud Change Referendum Results?


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





8. (C) Romero was optimistic that getting eyes inside
districts with bogusly inflated voter rolls and suspicious
increases in support for Evo might prevent the fraud. Romero
thought the constitutional referendum was not a lost cause
for the opposition, citing soft support (43 percent) of the
constitution in recent opposition polling. Romero lamented
that the opposition was making a huge mistake focusing on the
December 2009 general elections and not on the potentially
winnable constitutional referendum. Romero asserted the same
60 percent (ostensibly the figure without fraud) that voted
for Morales in August could be swayed to vote against the
constitution. Romero likened the MAS to a flooding river,
and said this January was when the "river would be at its
narrowest, and easiest to dike." He feared a solid MAS
victory would pave the way for new MAS judicial appointments
and possibly winning two-thirds in Congress, granting it the
power to change the constitution and pass laws at will.
Romero also postulated a strong MAS showing would put the
opposition into a desperate "permanent minority" mindset that
could led it to resort to violence.



9. (C) However, Loayza doubted the opposition would be able
to win the referendum outright even under the most optimistic
scenario. He predicted that Morales will succeed in
personalizing the constitution as "Evo's constitution" and
leverage his cult of personality. Ultimately Loayza was more
concerned with the margin of the opposition's defeat and
discrediting the results of "any election that uses this
voter roll."

Past as Prologue: Romero's Recall Vote Analysis


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

--



10. (C) The La Razon article is short on accusations or
analysis, instead relying on the figures to make the case
without commentary. Romero, however, told us the numbers
support the allegations of fake voters, such as the "phantom
voters" in Potosi, and fake results, based on voter
intimidation at voting stations where the vote was not
private. Romero said he was "shocked" that the OAS had
conceded that up to 10 percent of the vote had been conducted
publicly, but had dismissed it as "normal" in Bolivia due to
its tradition of "community voting." Romero countered that
"Bolivians do vote in groups historically, that is true, but
they are endorsing blatant voter intimidation far beyond
this." Romero cited examples of seven altiplano
municipalities that voted from 97.2 to 99.7 percent for
Morales in 2008, but voted for Morales from 65.5 percent to
87 percent in 2005. Romero added that figures of nearly 100
percent support for Morales in some altiplano municipalities
were "impossible" and "unprecedented" because "there is
always some people who vote contrary just to make a statement
or because they mark the wrong box."



11. (C) Some of Romero's other criticisms, which we expect to
be released in upcoming media reports:

--Some provinces experienced a dubious change-of-heart in
favor of Morales, with increases of support for Morales from
60 (North Lipez, Potosi) to 234 percent (Marban, Beni) from
2005 to 2008. The vast majority of these high-increase
provinces were in rural areas of the Media Luna.

--In 2005 general elections there were seven municipalities
with more than 91 percent voter turnout, only one of which
voted more than 85 percent for the MAS. In the 2008 recall
referendum, 38 provinces (all traditionally pro-government)
garnered more than 91 percent voter turnout, 34 of which
voted more than 95 percent in favor of the MAS.

--As in Potosi, the La Paz Department Electoral Court
President told Romero the CNE told him to ignore
discrepancies between the vote and voter logs. The voter
logs do not normally leave the regional electoral courts and
were not challenged or checked. He also alleged ballot
stuffing in Oruro and Chuquisaca departments.

--According to Potosi electoral court officials, unknown
persons trashed large quantities of ballots from
opposition-aligned areas.

--Besides intimidating voters while they voted with a variety
of carrots (i.e. projects for the community) and sticks, many
of the vote counts did not have an opposition witness.
Government-aligned social groups pressured election
volunteers to inflate the pro-MAS vote.

--The percentage increase in coca-producing areas (read
pro-Morales) skyrocketed far beyond the national average of
nine percent between 2006 and 2008. The Chapari as a whole
went up 14 percent, with Morales stronghold Villa Tunari up
by 22.5 percent. The Yungas went up 36 percent, Tiragque
26.3 percent and Caranavi 26.2 percent. The percentage of
votes for Morales was typically above 90 percent and as high
as 97.6 percent (La Asunta). By comparison, La Paz City
increased five percent and the city of Sucre six percent.

--Romero harshly criticized the NGO Transparency Bolivia for
endorsing the 2008 vote when "their own figures contradict
this." Romero argued Transparency Bolivia numbers, taken
directly from vote tallies at sample voting stations, for
Pando and Chuquisaca deviated by 4.2 percent and 4.7 percent
from CNE figures. Romero asserted this discrepancy "proves"
that voting station personnel submitted false reports to the
regional electoral courts in those departments. He further
argued the Transparency figures differed by 4.1 percent with
the CNE for the recall vote of the Oruro Prefect (MAS) and
Pando Prefect (Podemos). Romero maintains it is a strange
coincidence that the two most significant outliers occurred
in departments where the vote to recall or retain prefects
was the closest.

Pando: If at First You Don't Succeed...


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





12. (C) Romero said it is no accident that he found many
statistical irregularities in Pando Department as the MAS was
feverishly trying to take the small department over through
the recall referendum to break the Media Luna and send a
message to its opposition leaders. Romero claimed the MAS
identified Pando as the weakest of the opposition departments
politically and determined it would be easiest, with only
25,000 voters, to take electorally. He said Government
Minister Rada facilitated the establishment of fake
identities via the police role in issuing national identity
cards, which can then be used to vote with. When the effort
to depose opposition Prefect Leopoldo Fernandez failed via
the recall vote, Romero claimed Presidency Minister Juan
Ramon Quintana started a concentrated smear campaign against
Fernandez aimed at mobilizing campesinos (peasant farmers).
He claimed the culmination of the campaign was a march to
"take Cobija" September 11, which instead resulted in bloody
standoff in the town of Porvenir. (Note: Prefect Fernandez
was subsequently arrested and is now in jail in La Paz, while
the department is governed by a Navy Admiral appointed by
Morales. End Note.)

Gauging the Total Fraud; Alleged CNE Purge


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





13. (C) Romero conceded estimating the exact amount of fraud
in the recall referendum was a non-scientific "speculative
exercise," but never-the-less said Morales likely gained no
more than around 60 percent, about seven percent less than
the official 67 percent CNE figure. Loayza claimed 13
percent based on intimidation (public voting), phantom
voters, and falsification of the ballots. He estimated
250,000 fake voters where added to the rolls and that this
tracks with a source he claims was charged with creating
bogus identities in the national registry. Romero claimed
the director of information at the CNE was fired by CNE
President Jose Luis Exeni shortly before the August 10
referendum for challenging the rolls and that four additional
employees in the CNE's 15-person information directorate have
followed, including the Deputy Director. Both concurred that
the fraud is occurring at the polling stations, not at CNE
headquarters where the results are tabulated, and thus
invisible to international observers.

Stop Being "Desperate" and "Silly:" Possible MAS Responses


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



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





14. (C) Without prompting, MAS Vice Minister for Water and
Social Services Gustavo Morales predicted the opposition
would eventually revert to a strategy of denouncing fraud for
the January 25 referendum, which he discounted as "silly"
because "they didn't care about the fraud during the (four
departmental) autonomy referendums (in 2008); they used the
same voter rolls and the same regional courts to endorse
their agenda. Where was the outrage then?" Morales told
PolOff December 15 that the government would largely ignore
such criticisms of the CNE and discount them as "only showing
how desperate the opposition has become." Vice Minister
Morales explained the increases in votes for President
Morales was inevitable, as "you cannot compare" elections in
2005, when Morales was competed with several candidates, with
the recall referendum in 2008. "Of course more people are
going to vote for you when there is no one else."



15. (C) Vice Minister Morales said the government could
ignore opposition fraud complaints because the MAS will be
the "only players" politically for a "long time." He said
the opposition had "no credibility, no national leader, and
no alternative vision." Vice Minister Morales added that MAS
supporters are "willing to fight," unlike the opposition.
Although he is an enthusiastic "yes" campaigner, Morales
called the draft constitution "luke warm" and "not radical
enough." Morales asserted the government made too many
concessions in the draft constitution, particularly on
private property of the "right, who has never loved this
country." He explained the length and lack of clarity was
due to the draft constitution being "a political
constitution, not a judicial constitution like yours," adding
"this is the right constitution for our country and nothing
we need to apologize for."

Other Attacks on CNE; Voter Roll Review Postponed


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



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





16. (U) Separate to the La Razon article, Senator Luis
Vasquez, President of the Congress' Joint Constitutional
Commission, criticized the CNE for postponing its review of
electoral rolls. The CNE announced January 2 it would not be
able to complete its review before planned December 2009
general elections and would only be able to issue 7.5 percent
of its new voter cards by then. Vasquez accused the CNE of
failing to "comply with the obligations it assumed" when
government and opposition congressman agreed to a compromise
constitutional text in October. Media Pundit Carlos Valverde
dumped a bag full of national identification cards during the
December 11 edition of his television program, claiming they
were found in a street in Santa Cruz after the August 10
referendum and proof of voter fraud. "Tell us again how
there is no fraud Mr. Exeni" (CNE President), railed
Valverde. Charges that Venezuelan-financed voter
registration efforts registered fake voters or the same
voters under multiple identities were rife during the August
10 campaign and have began to resurface as well.

Comment


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





17. (C) Although fraud allegations are bound to be a major
bone of contention leading up to the January 25 referendum
vote, we are not persuaded it will change the outcome.
Romero has some legitimate complaints and raises necessary
questions, but he is also a clear partisan aligned with the
opposition who ghost wrote the La Razon article. We suspect
Romero will largely be preaching to the choir, but not
gaining any converts. The academic nature of Romero's
analysis will likely be ignored by many of Morales' rural
supporters who either will not be able to track Romero's
technical arguments, let alone read and understand the
mammoth 411-article draft constitution. Nor will these
Morales supporters be inclined to second guess the
constitution's merits or whatever process is used to pass it.
Loayza is likely correct that many Morales supporters will
consider it enough that it is "Evo's constitution" and accept
MAS denials of fraud on face value. More likely than
changing minds, the opposition will use Romero's fraud case
to justify future challenges to the constitution and the
legitimacy of the Morales administration in general.



18. (C) Vice Minister Morales' contention that MAS supporters
are "willing to fight" is troubling when juxtaposed with
Loayza's strategy to force opposition observers into
altiplano polls. We are likewise concerned that whatever
noble intentions Romero has in exposing electoral fraud, the
regional opposition may use his arguments to justify ignoring
a new constitution, if passed, and instead resume their
autonomy drives, a sure collision course with the Morales
administration. Comments by Minister of Government Rada over
the weekend that "there will be violence if the new
constitution does not pass" further illustrates the MAS'
intentions to get their new constitution regardless of the
tactics required to do so. End Comment.
LAMBERT