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Cablegate: Bolivia: Request for Authorized Departure

VZCZCXYZ0017
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #1951/01 2562157
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 122157Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8473
INFO RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS LA PAZ 001951

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA A/S SHANNON, DAS MCMULLEN AND WHA/EX ROBERTSON
STATE ALSO FOR S, D, P, E, T, M, G, R, S/ES, S/ES-O, A, CA,
DS, RM, H, L, PA,PM AND USAID - CARDENAS
USCINCSO FOR COMMANDER AND POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AMGT AEMR CASC KFLO AFIN ASEC BL
SUBJECT: BOLIVIA: REQUEST FOR AUTHORIZED DEPARTURE

REF: LA PAZ 1942 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Summary and action request: After intermittent
clashes in the past weeks, the level of violence in Bolivia
has increased dramatically with deaths, wounded, and troop
movements. Air traffic into the country is limited due to
difficulties and uncertainty at the Santa Cruz commercial
airport. Food and fuel are unavailable in some areas of the
country and is expected to become scarce in La Paz in the
coming days. Mission employees have been or are being
removed from areas of high-tension such as the Chapare, Santa
Cruz, and Trinidad (Beni department). President Morales'
anti-American rhetoric has worsened recently, and the
government informed us that Ambassador Goldberg was persona
non grata on September 11. President Morales' Movement
Toward Socialism (MAS) allies are blaming the Mission and
Ambassador Goldberg for the recent strife and deaths in the
country. The potential for general violence is rising, and
there is an increasing possibility of another attack on the
Embassy, particularly with the expected USG announcement
regarding drug certification scheduled for September 15.
Previous evacuations have shown that due to La Paz's
geographic situation (in a bowl with limited egress and where
access to the airport can be easily cut off) it is important
for us to drawdown as soon as there is a credible risk, as
there is now. Action request (para 6): the Ambassador
requests, consistent with EAC recommendation, authorized
departure for non-essential employees and eligible family
members (EFMs) and delegated authority to approve travel of
employees and family members at post who do not elect
authorized departure. End summary and action request.

2. (SBU) Ongoing tensions between the opposition departments
of the media luna (Santa Cruz, Tarija, Pando, Beni) and the
ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) government erupted
September 10 into widespread violence. Opposition groups
forcibly took government installations such as tax offices
and state telephone company equipment. In the hydrocarbon
producing region of the Chaco, opposition forces took over
pipelines and gas fields and threatened refineries. These
actions resulted in an explosion at one pipeline which burned
for a day. Violence between opposition civic groups and
MAS-aligned campesinos resulted in a reported 35 deaths on
September 11 in the northern department of Pando (bordering
Peru and Brazil.) The government has agreed to meet with
Tarija opposition Prefect Mario Cossio September 12 at 1800
for talks but all previous attempts at dialogue have failed.

3. (SBU) The government is moving troops and armored vehicle
regiments toward Santa Cruz and the Chaco gas fields.
President Morales is also calling on his MAS-aligned social
groups (cocaleros from the Chapare, cooperativist miners,
indigenous militia) to fight against the opposition.
Opposition groups worry that the troop movements may be
intended to arrest their leaders, an act that would likely
provoke more riots and bloodshed.

4. (SBU) President Morales has consistently alleged that the
USG "foments conspiracy" with the opposition. After the June
9 attack on the chancery, Morales publicly congratulated the
organizers of the demonstration. Our requests for
confirmation of our physical security under the Vienna
Convention have been met with weak, not reassuring answers.
We have reports of another large protest planned for the
Embassy in the next week. Also, some contacts tell us that
angry MASists from El Alto (the city of one million mostly
MAS-supporters where the airport and many roads connecting La
Paz to the rest of the country are located) may intend to
come into the southern residential area of La Paz, targeting
opposition homes. All Embassy housing is located in the
southern residential zone.

5. (SBU) President Morales's cocalero followers have already
evicted USAID from the Chapare, and on September 9, the
government asked DEA to leave the Chapare based on cocalero
threats and DEA has been told subsequently that they are
indefinitely out of the Chapare. In light of the
government's anti-American rhetoric and encouragement of
violence against the chancery, the EAC recommends authorized
departure in increments of thirty days, a recommendation
which the Ambassador endorses. At the same time, political
instability and civil unrest in Bolivia can resolve
themselves quickly: violence can be followed by normal
patterns of activity within days. Keeping the Embassy
appropriately staffed and the community reasonably cohesive
will require flexibility based on judgments made at ground
level. The Ambassador requests, again consistent with EAC
recommendation, that the Department delegate to the Charge
the authority to approve personal or official travel of
employees and EFMs who are at post when departure is
authorized and who have not elected to leave under authorized
departure.

6. (U) Action request: (1) Authorized departure for thirty
days for non-essential employees and EFMs; (2) Delegation to
the Charge for travel decisions for employees and family
members not "caught out" at the time authorized departure is
granted.
GOLDBERG

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