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Cablegate: Evo Avoids Sucre, Justice Minister Unwelcome Too

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #0024/01 0041814
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041814Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6115
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 7485
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 4851
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 8765
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 5989
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 3196
RUEHGE/AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN 0556
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 3411
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 5180
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 5841
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0452
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0858
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS LA PAZ 000024

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL BL
SUBJECT: EVO AVOIDS SUCRE, JUSTICE MINISTER UNWELCOME TOO


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Summary
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1. (U) Protesters in Sucre hurled insults and firecrackers
and proceeded to block Justice Minister Celima Torrico and
members of Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party from leaving
Bolivia's Supreme Court building following the inauguration
of the 2008 judicial year. With strong police protection
Torrico eventually escaped the angry crowds. The Supreme
Court President used the occasion to once again denounce
President Evo Morales' interference in the judiciary.
Despite tradition, President Evo Morales and Vice President
Alvaro Garcia Linera were noticeably absent; government
officials cited security as the reason. Morales
administration officials immediately responded that the
protests were racially motivated, ignoring the fact that the
Sucre protesters were venting their frustration over the
government's actions during the November 23-25 violence that
left three Sucre residents dead and hundreds injured. End
Summary.

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Sucre: No Place for the MAS
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2. (U) Despite tradition, President Evo Morales and Vice
President Alvaro Garcia Linera were noticeably absent from
the inauguration of the new (2008) judicial year on January
3. The government's highest ranking official in attendance
was Justice Minister Celima Torrico. The Vice Minister for
Citizen Security Marcos Farfan later stated the president did
not travel to Sucre for security reasons. After the
inauguration, protesters who had circled the court building
prevented Torrico, lower level justice ministry officials,
MAS parliamentarians, and other MAS officials from leaving
the court building.

3. (U) The protesters, mostly young university students,
carried signs and shouted epithets against President Morales,
Torrico, and Minister of Government Alfredo Rada, as well as
the police and military who were protecting court building.
The police had to resort to tear gas to prevent the
protesters from entering the court. The protesters moved a
burned out vehicle --which previously served as the official
car for Constituent Assembly President and MAS delegate
Silvia Lazarte-- to the square in front of the Supreme Court.
Signs stating "Evo Murderer" and "Celima Your Car Awaits
(referring to the burned car)" were prominently displayed.
Protesters burned a copy of the recently approved MAS
constitution and a whipala --a flag used by the MAS, but also
a symbol for indigenous groups. Protesters attacked and
injured a few MAS-istas. The police were finally able to
evacuate Minister Torrico in the early morning of January 4.

4. (U) Administration officials immediately responded by
calling the attacks racially motivated. Justice Vice
Minister Wilfredo Chavez was one of the first government
officials to respond publicly, stating "We are concerned, I
protected myself well to ensure my physical safety, I don't
think they accomplished anything by attacking a women of the
pollera (a reference to Torrico's traditional skirt that
implies the minister is indigenous) who holds public office."
Chavez also cited protesters who shouted four-letter words
and racial epithets against Torrico and President Morales.
Vice Minister Farfan characterized the protesters as
xenophobes who discriminate against Aymara and Quechua
indigenous people.

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Stop MAS Interference in the Courts
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5. (U) President of the Supreme Court Hector Sandoval,
during his inauguration speech, clearly rejected what he
characterized as attacks on, and interference in, the
judiciary by President Morales and his MAS party. Sandoval
stated "We reject all interference in judicial acts, wherever
they may come from, encouraging the other State powers to
respect legal norms and judicial rulings." He noted that the
government has carried out a systemic campaign to denigrate
the courts and the honor of individual of justices. Sandoval
also used his speech to highlight weaknesses within the
judiciary and called for a national summit between the three
branches of power to find mechanisms for "coordination and
understanding."

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Comment
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6. (SBU) While there were likely protesters shouting racist
comments, the government chose to ignore that the Sucre
protesters primary motivation, their frustration and anger
over the government's actions during the November 23-25
violence. Instead administration officials immediately
pulled out the race card. In recent days government
officials have tried to distance the administration from the
November violence, arguing that the bullets that killed two
young men could not have come from military or police
weapons, providing little evidence to support their claims.
The January 3 protests indicate that Sucre's residents are
not buying the government's arguments. While the MAS may be
co-opting the judiciary, the people of Sucre --who once
supported the MAS-- appear to have abandoned the party; they
certainly hold Evo and his government ministers responsible
for what is now being called "Black November." End Comment.
URS

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