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Cablegate: Bolivia's Eastern Departments Define Autonomy

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DE RUEHLP #1877/01 1872147
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 062147Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4235
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 6909
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 4255
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 8145
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RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 5253
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 9854
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0400
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RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS LA PAZ 001877

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON BL
SUBJECT: BOLIVIA'S EASTERN DEPARTMENTS DEFINE AUTONOMY


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Summary
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1. (SBU) To celebrate the one year anniversary of their vote
in favor of "autonomy" large crowds gathered in the
department capitals of Bolivia's four eastern departments on
July 2. Each of the four departments also unveiled their
unilaterally formulated "Autonomy Statutes." The statutes,
essentially draft constitutions, if enacted would give the
departmental governments vastly expanded powers, many of
which are currently handled by the central government. The
most controversial feature in the Santa Cruz statute would
grant the department government the power to regulate
internal migration, a proposal that received much GOB
criticism. In a clear attempt to defuse the controversy that
has pitted departmental autonomy against indigenous autonomy,
Santa Cruz Prefect Costas and the leaders of five indigenous
groups signed a "social and political pact" defending both
forms of autonomy. Until July 2 the eastern departments had
never defined their vision for autonomy; the Movement Towards
Socialism (MAS) still has not. Now Constituent Assembly
delegates and the Bolivian people have the opportunity to
debate the two competing visions on autonomy, one which is
clearly defined, the other of which remains nebulous. End
Summary.

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Departments Declare Autonomy
----------------------------

2. (SBU) To celebrate the one year anniversary of their vote
in favor of "autonomy" large crowds gathered in the
department capitals of Bolivia's four eastern departments --
Beni, Pando, Santa Cruz and Tarija -- on July 2. Santa
Cruz's rally overshadowed those of the smaller eastern
departments. According to Santa Cruz civic committee
president Branko Marinkovic Jovicevic approximately 60,000
people gathered in Santa Cruz (we estimate fewer, perhaps
40,000). At the rally, Department Prefect Ruben Costas
unveiled Santa Cruz's Autonomy Statute. (Note: The other
three departments also presented their autonomy statutes,
similar to the Santa Cruz statute. End Note). Referring to
the statute, Santa Cruz Provisional Autonomic Assembly
President (and PODEMOS deputy), Carlos Pablo Klinksy
Fernandez declared "Santa Cruz is autonomous by the decision
of its people and this statute is a fundamental step in our
process of self government."

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The Statutes (Constitutions)
----------------------------

3. (SBU) The statutes, essentially draft constitutions, if
enacted would provide the departmental governments vastly
expanded powers, many of which are currently handled by the
central government. The Santa Cruz statute calls for a
directly elected executive and legislative assembly. Under
current Bolivian law there is no legislative branch at the
departmental level. The statute's drafters envision a
departmental judicial system, with locally appointed judges
and prosecutors. The Santa Cruz assembly would elect a
departmental human rights ombudsman, as opposed to current
practice in which the national human rights ombudsman
designates a departmental representative. Below are a few of
the powers currently handled by the central government that
would fall under the departmental government's control:

- Passage and enforcement of departmental legislation;
- Regulation of internal borders;
- Management of the educational system;
- Establishment of budgets;
- The raising of taxes and contracting of public debt;
- The issuance of concessions, licenses and permits; and,
- Management of the police force.

Vice Minister for Government Cooperation Hector Arce was the
first GOB official to officially respond to the statute
calling it "seditious" and an attempt to break the nation's
"unity."

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Controlling Internal Migration
------------------------------

4. (SBU) The most controversial feature in the statute falls
under article 8, attribution 21 which states the departmental
government will have the exclusive right to "Regulate
internal migration ...." GOB officials have called the
statement discriminatory, designed to block "collas" (people
from the altiplano) from entering the department, going so
far as to state that Santa Cruz will require passports of
people traveling to the department. Juan Carlos Urenda, an
advisor to Prefect Ruben Costas, responded to the criticism
stating, "We are not talking about individual restrictions
such as passports, which the government has ... led you to
believe." Yet Urenda fed into the GOB's arguments by
explaining the proposal simply attempts to prevent a
recurrence of the massive 1950s migration from the west (the
altiplano) to Santa Cruz.

5. (SBU) Branko Marinkovic, in a July 3 conversation with
Emboff, acknowledged the migration statement was poorly
drafted. His explanation that the proposal's intent was to
merely give the department the ability to prevent migrants
from entering Santa Cruz's many "protected areas, parks and
indigenous territories" was weak. A local media contact
(from the UNITEL network), who met with Emboff on July 3,
provided a more convincing explanation. He explained that
Santa Cruz city has grown by 700,000 inhabitants since 2001,
exhausting the city's educational, health and utility
systems. The proposal, he argued, aims to prevent future
shortages in critical services. Klinksy publicly elaborated
on this argument by stating the GOB has failed to transfer
adequate funding (from hydrocarbon tax revenues) to Santa
Cruz to cover the many recent migrants to the department.
(Note: Other Crucenos have privately told Emboffs that the
real motivation for controlling migration is that poor
migrants tend to vote MAS, and in marginal electoral
districts continued migration is bolstering support for
President Morales. End Note).

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Pact with Indigenous Leaders
----------------------------

6. (SBU) In a clear attempt to defuse the controversy that
has pitted departmental autonomy against indigenous autonomy,
Prefect Costas and the leaders of five indigenous groups )
Guaranis, Guarayos, Ayoreos, Chiquitanos and Mojenos --
signed a "social and political pact" at the Santa Cruz rally.
The pact promises to defend the rights and the communitarian
territories (TCOs) of indigenous peoples within Santa Cruz
while recognizing both departmental and indigenous autonomy.
The pact also calls for the establishment of a fund to
promote indigenous issues. Guarani leader Carmelo
Justiniano, the most outspoken indigenous leader at the
rally, stated his people would defend departmental autonomy
with "bows and arrows." Nonetheless, the Confederation of
Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia (CIDOB), a well-known umbrella
organization that represents the thirty-four lowland
indigenous groups, denounced the five leaders stating that
they did not represent their respective indigenous groups and
that they had been "expelled from the CIDOB leadership for
irregularities." A CIDOB leader accused Justiniano and the
other indigenous leaders of being on the payroll of the
prefect and agro-business interests.

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Comment
-------

7. (SBU) Until July 2 the eastern departments had never
defined their vision for autonomy; President Morales and the
MAS still have not. While there is debate as to whether the
statutes are in final form or simply initial drafts, they
represent the first clear definition of departmental autonomy
and will serve as templates for the opposition's autonomy
proposal before the Constituent Assembly. Now Constituent
Assembly delegates and the Bolivian people will have the
opportunity to debate two competing visions on autonomy, one
which is clearly defined, the other of which remains
nebulous. End Comment.
GOLDBERG

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