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Cablegate: Bolivia Crisis Management Exercise

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #0900/01 1082148
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 172148Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHFSI/DIR FSINFATC
INFO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7250

UNCLAS LA PAZ 000900

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DIR FSINFATC FOR FSI/LMS/CMT
SECSTATE FOR S/ES-O/CMS AND WHA/EX

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PREL AEMR BL
SUBJECT: BOLIVIA CRISIS MANAGEMENT EXERCISE

REF: FSINFATC 1303

1. Summary: Mission Bolivia held a Crisis Management
Exercise (CME) via digital video conference with Washington
on April 7. Members of the Emergency Action Committee (EAC)
and representatives from DEA Santa Cruz and Cochabamba were
present. The scenario outlined a civil disturbance in La Paz
with scattered violence throughout the country. Embassy La
Paz had previously conducted a CME in November 2007 that
included locally engaged staff and took place over two days.
The April 2008 exercise included only direct-hire Americans
and took only one day, revisiting and refining the earlier
exercise with significant changes to the scenario. End
summary.

2. The following comments are keyed to reftel paragraph 2,
A-H.

A. Digital video conference format was effective. Three
hours were sufficient, although some EAC members suggested
that the 1-hour orientation be shortened to allow more time
for the exercise and review. Audio and video quality were
clear enough to allow for effective interaction. Because of
the sensitivity of the microphone at FSI, we recommend that
the microphone be muted when controller is not speaking, thus
eliminating stray paper and movement noises.

B. The CME scenario was appropriate and worked well with a
digital video conference format. Due to time limitations,
the scenario had to be cut during the exercise: in the
future, a shorter scenario might be better.

C. Intervention by the controller was appropriate and
effective.

D. Post has drawn up an extensive list of lessons-learned
based on this exercise. EAC will work with these lessons
learned to modify reactions in the event of a real crisis.

E. The primary lesson learned, echoing the experience of
2007, was that action sooner is better than later. As a
corollary, thanks to La Paz's unique setting sometimes even
the earliest action does not allow sufficient time for an
evacuation. La Paz is located in a narrow valley, and all
roads out can be easily blocked by protesting crowds (as has
occurred in the past.) Therefore, Embassy La Paz and the
NAS/USAID building need to be prepared for a "shelter in
place" situation. In both crisis scenarios, the EAC
attempted to call for evacuation at the earliest indication
of need, and both times significant numbers of employees
remained in the city when the crisis came to a head and no
travel was possible. As a result, another lesson learned was
to attempt to revise our drawdown list, minimizing
"essential" personnel so that a potential siege at the
Embassy or NAS/USAID building would have less impact.

Another lesson learned is the difficulty of getting out of
the country in general. The primary mode of protest in
Bolivia is street-blockades, and many of the major interstate
roads are two lane and blocked with little effort. In the
past, many Mission plans for evacuation have been based on
the expectation that Santa Cruz could act as a temporary
safe-haven on the way out of the country. With increasing
turmoil in Santa Cruz, this assumption may no longer hold.
Both official and private Americans may need to be ready to
shelter-in-place and wait out a crisis if internal travel is
impossible.

Both CMEs emphasized the need for preparation as a
best-practice for crisis management. EAC members suggested a
dry run to test the set up of an alternate command center,
both to have the experience of the quick conversion and also
to determine what will be needed in the event an alternate
command is needed. The EAC could then meet at alternate
command centers occasionally, to familiarize themselves with
these new areas. In anticipation that shelter-in-place may
become necessary, EAC members suggested increased
communication regarding stockpiling, the location of
safe-houses, and exit strategies.

EAC members also requested more information on the reaction
time of various fly-away teams, including military support
teams. Hands-on practice drills with partner Bolivian groups
such as the National Police could also be valuable, although
difficult to arrange due to the current sensitivities of the
Bolivian government. The EAP will be updated to include
recent contact information, a streamlined drawdown list for
evacuation, and more information on shelter-in-place needs.
F. The overview training provided a good introduction to the
various resources available in a crisis, particularly from
agencies or departments that help State in a crisis. The
overview training in DVC format was appropriate. Currently
no overview training for LES or non-EAC Americans is
scheduled, but Post plans to provide some of the information
in upcoming townhall meetings with the Mission and American
communities as appropriate.

G. Current schedule of CMEs seems appropriate. Post will
continue to supplement this schedule with internal exercises,
as in November 2007. Although some level of basic crisis
training should be maintained for all posts (a plane crash or
truck bomb can take place anywhere), it seems to make sense
that posts that are more likely to face a crisis (based on
current developments or historical trends) should receive
more preparation and training.

H. Mission Bolivia appreciates CME coordinator Douglas
Kinney's efforts in facilitating our most recent crisis
management exercise.

GOLDBERG

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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