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Cablegate: Bolivia: Evo Attacks Press for Corruption Coverage

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #2569 3462030
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 112030Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9480
INFO RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 1543
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS LA PAZ 002569

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PINR EAID BL
SUBJECT: BOLIVIA: EVO ATTACKS PRESS FOR CORRUPTION COVERAGE

1. As more evidence is made public about Presidency Minister
Quintana's alleged deal to allow contraband to be smuggled
out of the country in return for political support, many
groups (including allies of the ruling Movement Toward
Socialism party) are calling for Quintana's resignation.
Congress has asked Quintana to testify on the case.
President Evo Morales has publicly defended his most powerful
minister, and on December 10 lashed out at the media for
their reporting on the case.

2. While acknowledging that he knew of Quintana's meetings
with the smugglers, Morales defended Quintana, saying his
only crime is "investigating USAID." Morales then publicly
harassed a reporter who had published a story on the
contraband case, calling for the reporter to stand next to
him, demanding evidence, and then saying, "We have this class
of newspapers and of journalists who lie and lie." In
response to the widespread criticism that followed his
actions, Morales announced that he would not apologize to the
reporter until the reporter's paper apologized to Morales.
"If they can't prove it, the newspaper should apologize to
Evo," Morales declared, adding, "I am always humiliated by
reporters...they tell me there's no freedom of expression
(but) if there were no freedom of expression there wouldn't
have been that article" (the article that prompted Morales'
aggression toward the reporter).

3. During a celebration to mark the anniversary of the UN
Declaration of Human Rights, Vice Minister Sacha Llorenti
also threatened a reporter who asked about Morales' earlier
outburst. Refusing to comment on the President's actions,
Llorenti asked the reporter where she worked and then told
her that he would be speaking with her boss. In response to
questions about the events, presidential spokesman Ivan
Canelas said, "If one reviews carefully what the President
said, there was no humiliation."

4. Opposition politicians have accused Morales of covering up
corruption, and Senator Oscar Ortiz (opposition party
PODEMOS) described Presidency Minister Quintana as having
"the power and influence of Montesinos" (former intelligence
chief to ex-president Fujimori of Peru.) Press organizations
have rallied to protest the public humiliation of their
colleagues, and most newspapers have run editorials
condemning the President's actions. An editorial in El Deber
suggested that "something bad is happening at the palace" and
that Morales is "losing his mind." La Prensa's editorial
suggested that the reporter humiliated by Morales represents
every Bolivian who has been humiliated by the President:
"Never in the history of this country have we seen a leader
elected by popular vote who has poured so much hatred and
contempt over citizens, institutions, and authorities...the
impotence on (the reporter's) face is the same as that felt
by the businessman accused by the President of exploiting
people, or the magistrate accused of bad practice, or the
public official stigmatized as corrupt, or the opposition
member described as a terrorist..."--a strong editorial from
a newspaper that has historically reported favorably on the
government.
URS

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