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Cablegate: Sucre - a Step Back From the Brink

VZCZCXYZ0010
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #2488/01 2532111
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 102111Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4948
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 7057
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 4425
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 8322
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 5550
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 2776
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 2957
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 4838
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 5410
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0018
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0524
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS LA PAZ 002488

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON BL
SUBJECT: SUCRE - A STEP BACK FROM THE BRINK

REF: A. LA PAZ 2465

B. LA PAZ 2333
C. LA PAZ 2090

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Summary
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1. (SBU) A decision by the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS)
dominated Constituent Assembly directive on September 7, and
a court decision on September 8 served to reduce tensions in
Sucre, site of Bolivia's Constituent Assembly. Pro- and
anti-government groups had descended on Sucre prepared to
fight over the proposal of returning the legislative and
executive branch to Sucre as well as other polemical issues
(ref A). Most observers agreed that serious conflict was
inevitable unless one side backed-down. Late on September 7,
the Constituent Assembly's directive decided to call for a
one-month recess to reduce the possibility for clashes in
Sucre. Opponents (primarily from the MAS) of Sucre's
restoration were handed a defeat when the Superior Court of
Chuquisaca, on September 8, ruled against the Constituent
Assembly's August 15 decision to exclude discussion of the
issue. Despite the two decisions, the potential for conflict
remains. Optimists see the directive's decision as the MAS
behaving responsibly to avoid a conflict and pave the way for
dialogue; pessimists view it as a cynical ploy by the MAS to
regroup and redefine its strategy for pushing through its
agenda in the Constituent Assembly. End Summary.

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Reaching The Decision to Suspend
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2. (SBU) Seven members -- five from the MAS and two from
the National Unity Party (UN) -- of the eleven Constituent
Assembly directive members met the morning of September 7 to
deliberate over suspending the assembly for one month until
October 8. According to MAS representative and Constituent
Assembly President Silvia Lazarte Flores it was UN
representative Angel Vilacorte who proposed the suspension.
Representatives of PODEMOS, the main opposition party, were
not invited to the deliberations. Directive member Mauricio
Paz, a representative from PODEMOS, in learning about the
recess stated that the MAS had once again violated the
Constituent Assembly's norms. President Lazarte cited
Article 12, section B of the assembly's regulations as the
basis of the decision, which states the president can
"suspend and close" the assembly's sessions. Villacorte
explained that the directive decided to suspend the assembly
to reduce the possibility for conflict. Villacorte also
stated the break should be used to establish a dialogue over
the issue of capital, and other hotly contested issues before
the Constituent Assembly.

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Lazarte - Divides Rather Than Unifies
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3. (SBU) While the Constituent Assembly's recess has been
touted as a measure to reduce tensions, President Lazarte in
an open letter to the press on September 9 likely antagonized
the opposition. Lazarte wrote, "We made this decision
convinced that the strength of the democracy of the Bolivian
people will persevere over the conservative interests of the
little egotistical elite (MAS code for the opposition) who
work . . . to bring us to confrontation." She continued by
writing that the elite, "hate their nation, in which for the
first time people feel proud to be chola, indigenous, mestizo
. . ." She concluded by stating, "I have no doubt that the
Social Summit (of pro-MAS groups) which will convene tomorrow
in the city of Sucre will be a great celebration for
democracy, that will deepen the promise of re-founding a
united country, just, dignified and sovereign."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Reactions to the Suspension
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
4. (SBU) Despite the one-month recess, pro-MAS (indigenous,
labor and coca grower) groups still converged on Sucre for a
September 10 for a "Social Summit." Organizers of the event
state it will peaceful and argue that its goal is to show
that the Constituent Assembly enjoys broad support. (Note: A
follow-up cable will discuss the outcome, if any, of the
"Social Summit." End Note). There are still concerns that
pro-MAS groups will clash with opposition supporters and
Sucre residents who want to see their city returned to full
capital status. Jaime Barron, rector of Sucre's University
San Francisco Xavier and the president of the group leading
Sucre's demand for full capital status called for the people
of his city to avoid confrontations with pro-MAS groups.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Court Rules Sucre Cannot Be Excluded
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (SBU) On September 8, the Superior Court of Chuquisaca
ruled against the Constituent Assembly's August 15 decision
to exclude debate on moving the executive and legislative
branches to Sucre (ref B). MAS and UN party representatives
on the Constituent Assembly's directive stated they would not
accede to the court's decision, arguing the courts had no
authority over the Constituent Assembly. Proponents for
Sucre's restoration saw the court's decision as a victory for
their cause and argued they would call for the prosecution of
directive members if they did not follow the court's orders.
Based on the court's decision, Jaime Barron called off his
group's hunger-strike and pressure tactics (marches). Barron
stated that he and other leaders from the "Junta
Democratica," a conglomeration of opposition groups, would
regroup the week of September 10 to decide on how they would
proceed.

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With Tensions Lowered, Evo Resumes Caracas Visit
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (SBU) As the tension in Sucre mounted up to September 7,
Embassy La Paz had learned that President Evo Morales had
canceled his planned visit to Caracas. However, he did
travel to Caracas on September 8. (Comment: Perhaps with the
Constituent Assembly's recess and tensions lowered, Morales
felt comfortable enough to travel outside the country. End
Comment). Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez used the visit to
add to the Bolivian government's false claims that the USG is
conspiring to topple President Morales. In addition to
blasting the United States, Chavez and Morales signed letters
of intent to jointly develop: two cement factories, a
petrochemical plant, a forestry venture, and the remaining
fifty percent of the massive Mutun iron deposit not
contracted to India's Jindal Steel and Power (ref C).

- - - -
Comment
- - - -

7. (SBU) Optimists see the Constituent Assembly's directive
decision as the MAS backing down, acting responsibly to avoid
a pending conflict, and providing a chance to begin a real
dialogue. The decision provides both sides thirty days in
which to reach some form of agreement on the most contentious
issues; the status of Sucre, departmental and indigenous
autonomy, communitarian justice, a unicameral versus a
bicameral legislature, as well as single versus multiple
terms for the president. Pessimists see the directive's
decision as a cynical ploy by the MAS to regroup and redefine
its strategy for pushing through its agenda in the
Constituent Assembly. The pessimists view the recess as only
delaying the inevitable clash between pro- and anti-MAS
groups. Both optimists and pessimists agree that if the MAS
and opposition cannot reach a compromise during the month
break there is a strong possibility that the Constituent
Assembly will fail. Despite pronouncements to the contrary,
the opposition is likely hoping for the Constituent Assembly,
the MAS, signature project, to unravel.

8. (SBU) The superior court's decision, while symbolic,
does not necessarily change the situation on the ground. The
subject of restoring Sucre to full capital status is going to
loom over the Constituent Assembly despite the MAS' attempts
to exclude it. End Comment.
GOLDBERG

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