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Cablegate: New Push for Dialogue: Show Before the Showdown?

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C O N F I D E N T I A L LA PAZ 000735

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/04/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PBTS OFDP OVIP BL AR CO BR
SUBJECT: NEW PUSH FOR DIALOGUE: SHOW BEFORE THE SHOWDOWN?

REF: LA PAZ 677

Classified By: EcoPol Chief Mike Hammer for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (U) Summary: Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca called
for renewed examination of third-party facilitated
negotiations with the opposition March 31, in conjunction
with an April 1 La Paz visit by OAS envoy Dante Caputo.
Caputo met with Santa Cruz opposition leaders April 2.
Choquehuanca said the government is looking into all options
to "get the opposition to the table," including facilitation
by OAS, church, or a "friends group" of countries. Foreign
Ministry delegations from Argentina, Colombia, and Brazil are
arriving April 3-4 at government invitation.

2. (C) Despite what we've heard from the Vice President, MFA
Vice Minister Cabinet Director Jorge Caballero told PolOff
April 1 that there is no role for the United States in any
friends group. Caballero said the government would only
resort to a friends group after May 4, hoping the violence it
produces can be blamed on the opposition to bolster its
negotiating posture. Caballero opined that the government
would use third-party facilitation of a dialogue as a
stalling tactic or if it could be reasonably assured of a
GOB-friendly outcome. He said the government wants to
prevent the May 4 referendum from happening, but if it goes
forward will use its civilian supporters to bloody the event
to challenge the legitimacy of the results. End Summary.

Surprise OAS Visit: Caputo to the Rescue?
-----------------------------------------

3. (U) An OAS delegation led by Dante Caputo, Deputy
Secretary for Political Affairs, arrived in La Paz March 31.

SIPDIS
The delegation met with President Evo Morales, Foreign
Minister David Choquehuanca, Senate President Oscar Ortiz
(PODEMOS-Opposition), Chamber of Deputies President Edmundo
Novillo (MAS-Government), and National Electoral Court
President Jose Luis Exeni on April 1. Caputo met April 2
with Santa Cruz Department Prefect (state governor) Ruben
Costas, and had separate meetings with leaders of
neighborhood civic groups, legal expert and autonomy statutes
drafter Juan Carlos Urenda, and Martha Lazo, the Santa Cruz
director for the watchdog "fourth power," representing social
and indigenous groups.

4. (C) The visit comes as something of a surprise, as the
Bolivian government had put the OAS on hold pending the
outcome of proposed church negotiations. The government
appears to have called in Caputo for a last-minute detour as
he was returning from a medical trip to Argentina. In any
event, OAS officials were expecting OAS Secretary General
Jose Miguel Insulza to be tapped for such a trip.

5. (C) Bernhard Griesinger, OAS Representative in Bolivia,
told PolOff weeks ago that the government reacted defensively
to the OAS statement following the February 28 encirclement
of the Bolivian congress by government supporters, keeping
opposition congressmen from attending critical votes. He
said the government was surprised at the level of OAS
criticism, particularly following a rosy Morales January 25
reception with Insulza. Griesinger told DCM on April 2 that
there was also resistance to OAS involvement by the
opposition, which was very upset by remarks made by Insulza
and "spin" by the government according to Griesinger. The
OAS representative told DCM that Caputo may return in 12-19
days to mediate between the government and opposition, if
conditions warrant.

Evo Invites Superfriends (not U.S.) to La Paz
---------------------------------------------

6. (C) Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca told leading daily
La Razon March 31 that the government would evaluate the
option of OAS facilitation "in parallel" with an option to
have a "group of friends" from various countries facilitate.
The latest list of such a group based on anonymous sources
from Brazilian newspaper Folha includes Brazil, Argentina,
Colombia, and, maybe, Mexico (Note: we have also heard Peru
and the U.S. as possible members. End Note.) Argentine
Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana and Colombian Vice Foreign
Minister Camilo Reyes arrive in La Paz today (April 3) to
meet with government and opposition leaders. Reyes is
scheduled to meet with President Morales at 9:30 a.m.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim will arrive April 4.
Government invitations have not been sent to the U.S. nor
Mexico, according to anonymous media sources in the Mexican
Embassy.

Government Talks Up Dialogue, But Not With Opposition
--------------------------------------------- --------

7. (U) Foreign Minister Choquehuanca explained that the
government is looking into various options to facilitate a
negotiation with the opposition. "We are not going to
concentrate only in one option," said Choquehuanca in
reference to stalled efforts to get the Catholic Church to
play a facilitation role. "We want, with the help of these
organizations, to bring the opposition to negotiation table."
The government had still not favored any option nor laid out
any concrete dialogue agenda. The only official mention of
the OAS meetings was state media coverage of the National
Electoral Court meeting, which laid out the reasons the court
cannot verify or recognize the May 4 Santa Cruz autonomy
referendum results and announced an OAS audit of the CNE's
electoral roles in the coming weeks.

8. (C) Choquehuanca stressed that he was in a hurry to get a
dialogue started before Santa Cruz's May 4 autonomy
referendum because the alternative is an obligation to
"respect the law" (Comment: we take this rather cryptic
comment as a veiled threat of a crackdown on opposition
referendum organizers or an admission that the
government/police will not step to quell violence associated
with the "illegal" referendum. End Comment.) A spokesman
for the Archbishop of Santa Cruz said the church has not
received any indication from either side that they want to
negotiate.

Both Sides Waiting for the Phone to Ring
----------------------------------------

9. (U) Presidential Minister Juan Ramon Quintana and other
government officials are busy characterizing opposition
leaders in Santa Cruz as unreasonable radicals intent on
tearing Bolivia apart. "The government has not proposed any
conditions (for dialogue). I hope the opposition recovers
its moderation, its calm, and says yes to dialogue for the
peace of the country," said Quintana. Opposition Senator
Roberto Yanez shifted the onus for dialogue on the
government, saying its the government's responsibility to
initiate a negotiation process. Three former Bolivian
Presidents (Carlos Mesa, Jaime Paz Zamora, Guido Vildoso) and
one former Vice President (Victor Hugo Cardenas) jointly
asked President Morales to "take a step back," revoke the
draft constitution, and return hydrocarbon funds to the
prefects (states). Paz Zamora and Cardenas said it was
incumbent on the government to initiate a negotiated solution
with the opposition.

Santa Cruz/Opposition Reaction
------------------------------

10. (U) Despite the government's new public push for
negotiation, Santa Cruz leaders say the government has not
talked to them about a new dialogue. Santa Cruz's Director
of Autonomy Carlos Dabdoub publicly discounted the motives of
the government's latest dialogue overtures: "If the purposes
of dialogue is to postpone May 4, this will not happen."

11. (C) Santa Cruz Director for International Relations Karen
Balcazar told PolOff that the best prefect leaders are hoping
for is that Caputo presents a balanced report to the OAS.
She said prefectural officials laid out in detail to Caputo
the history and reasoning of the autonomy movement in Santa
Cruz, after which Caputo stayed true to his characterization
of his "listening tour" and had no substantive comments. He
explained to opposition leaders that the OAS could only take
on a observer role for the May 4 referendum at the request of
the Bolivian Foreign Ministry.

MFA insider: No U.S. Role in Negotiations
-----------------------------------------

12. (C) MFA Vice Minister Cabinet Director Jorge Caballero
(protect) bluntly said there is no role for the United States
in any "friends group," directly contradicting what Vice
President Alvaro Garcia Linera told us last week (reftel).
Caballero said a U.S. role would be unacceptable to the
government, just as a Venezuelan role would be unacceptable
to the opposition. He asserted MAS hard-liners would color
our intentions as "intervention" and we could ultimately
endanger the prospects of a negotiated settlement.
Caballero's advice is we stay out of any direct, public
mediation role and instead work behind the scenes with
international partners; i.e. push them to play a role.

13. (C) Caballero said he had never heard the U.S. was being
considered in a friends group. He suspected all the
different friends group compositions are being floated
because there is no agreement on who should be in such a
group and when asked about it, officials are just throwing
some reasonable names out off the top their heads. To the
best of Caballero's knowledge the government has not
seriously considered who would be in such a group, consistent
with their low prioritization of this option (see below).

Trying to Decipher the GOB Plan
-------------------------------

14. (C) Although Caballero concedes there is much internal
MFA confusion regarding the government's plan, he said the
follow rank list of options was his best effort at
deciphering the administrations strategy. He emphasized,
however, that incompetence and misunderstandings reign
supreme in the Morales interagency process and added that
"having a plan is one thing, but executing it is another
thing."

--Option 1: OAS. This is the only real option both sides
"could accept" to come to a negotiated solution, in
Caballero's opinion, but Caputo is an unknown quantity
to the GOB. Government leaders will feel out Caputo April 1
and push for an OAS facilitation/mediation role if they
determine he is inclined to favor the government position.
They may also accept an OAS role if they feel it will buy
them time, as they feel like the opposition has captured the
momentum and will support any veneer of
facilitation/mediation if it postpones autonomy. If the
Morales Administration gets the feeling he is inclined to
favor the opposition, they will move to option 2. This
option also fails if the opposition opposes it for perceived
government leanings, which is likely, considering their
inherent distrust of the OAS and preference for church
mediation.

--Option 2: Church. Caballero said the government turned to
the church first more as a stalling tactic than a good-faith
effort to negotiate a long-term solution. In fact, the
government would prefer the OAS because it sees the OAS as
more favorably inclined to it than the church. That said,
the best government outcome would be for the church to ask
Santa Cruz to postpone the autonomy vote for the sake of
dialogue. In this scenario, the government wins if Santa
Cruz accepts postponement (unlikely) and wins if Santa Cruz
rejects it, as government will claim the moral high ground
and that even the church is on its side against cruzeno
radicals.

--Option 3: Violence. There is no feeling of urgency to the
government negotiating strategy because they view May 4
violence as an acceptable outcome and negotiation by other
means, especially if they can distance themselves from the
blame.

--Option 4: Friends Group. The government would resort to
this only after May 4, as it determines it will have more
leverage with foreign governments after people die or get
hurt in the "opposition's referendum." The government thinks
it could use foreign governments or international
institutions to force the Media Luna to heel, something it
"realizes it cannot do" by force. In any event, the Morales
Administration will have nothing to loose. A Friends Group
mandate could be revoked at anytime by the government and
results wouldn't be enforceable; neighbors will ultimately
avoid confrontation with the Bolivian government.

GOB Red Lines
-------------

15. (C) Caballero said the government will not compromise on
granting autonomy originating from the Department or on
moving forward on a new constitution, although they are open
to changes to the constitution. The ruling MAS party is
having some second thoughts about parts of its draft
constitution (overlapping autonomies, communitarian justice),
which they could change and then paint as benevolent
compromises to the sake of national compromise. Caballero
said the government has always been open to changing the
draft constitution and is now ready to compromise on
distribution of funds for the prefects (states), "but now it
is too late. Santa Cruz wants a lot more."

Making May 4 Illegitimate, Not Just Illegal
-------------------------------------------

16. (C) Ultimately, Caballero said the government understands
it cannot win with a heavy hand in Santa Cruz and can't win
by allowing a peaceful, successful referendum to occur.
"That would be the end for them. They need to show the
outcome is in dispute." They will use violence to discredit
the referendum, casting it as illegitimate, not just illegal.
In the same way that the draft constitution will forever be
associated with violence in Sucre, the government hopes to
undermine Santa Cruz's referendum with violence and chaos.
Because the government "understands they cannot rely on the
security forces" (Note: Minister of Defense Walker San Miguel
discarded any use of the military to impose a "state of
siege" April 2. End Note.), they will instead step back and
allow supporters in MAS strongholds around Santa Cruz to
attack polling stations, referendum officials, and anyone who
tries to participate. Caballero said this is partially a
deliberate strategy and partially out of the government's

hands, as they can't control their radicals any better than
the opposition can, allowing the government to plead
deniability for blame in the outcome. "You should not allow
them to deny their responsibility." Caballero was concerned
that ideological extremists from neighboring countries might
play a role and push more reasonable Bolivians to violence.

Chapare Indigenous Leaders: "Evo Does Not Negotiate"
--------------------------------------------- ------

17. (C) Indigenous rural leaders from the Evo bastion of
Chapare, a region infamous for coca production encompassing
most of Cochabamba department, told PolOffs today that they
have known Morales since the 1980s during his rise as leader
of the coca unions and "he has never compromised." They
lamented Evo worked his way up in both the coca union and
politics by projecting an inclusive image publicly, but
busting heads behind the scenes. When his tenure ended as
president of the coca unions, he simply changed the rules to
allow multiple terms (Morales maintains the union presidency
today). They ominously warned that May 4 in Santa Cruz would
be a repeat of Evo's 2001 takeover of the Assembly of
Sovereign People (their organization): when Evo couldn't talk
his way to a MAS takeover, he ordered his supporters to "kick
out" his detractors, resulting in a death, three serious
injuries, and division of the permanent organization.

Comment
-------

18. (C) The Morales Administration is interested in the
public relations value of cultivating a image of a government
that values dialogue, but short on concrete proposals. That
said, the opposition in Santa Cruz is not inclined to
negotiate either; they are just more honest about it. We are
inclined to accept Caballero's pessimistic analysis: the
government is ultimately more interested in using
negotiations as a tool to scuttle the May 4 referendum than
as a means to establish a comprehensive peace with the
opposition. Without pressure from the international
community (as opposed to support), there is no reason to
believe the government calculus will change. End Comment.
GOLDBERG

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