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Cablegate: Government Accepts Bolivian Assurances On Arms Purchases

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R 151346Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASUNCION
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0026
INFO MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
AMEMBASSY CARACAS
AMEMBASSY LA PAZ

UNCLAS ASUNCION 000576


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL MCAP PA BL
SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT ACCEPTS BOLIVIAN ASSURANCES ON ARMS PURCHASES

REF: ASUNCION 561

1. (U) Leading daily ABC Color reported September 11 that
Bolivian and Paraguayan Foreign and Defense Ministers held a 2+2
meeting in Asuncion September 10 to discuss a pending controversial
Bolivian USD 100 million arms purchase. According to ABC, Bolivian
Foreign Minister Choquehuanca confirmed that Bolivian arms are not
being purchased to attack Paraguay, but to strengthen Bolivian
armed forces to fight poverty, drug trafficking, and terrorism.
Paraguayan Defense Minister Bareiro Spaini told ABC that he was
"fully satisfied" by the Bolivian minister's explanations.

2. (U) While the official position is that Bolivian
assurances are sufficient, most members of Congress and even some
government ministers are skeptical. Senate President Miguel
Carrizosa rejected Bolivia's explanation of poverty alleviation
"unless they are thinking of distributing bullets to the needy."
Likewise, Defense Minister Spaini canceled a trip to Ecuador to
hold widely publicized military meetings to discuss spending and
organizational changes within the context of the planned Bolivian
purchases. Paraguayan Foreign Minister Hector Lacognata, citing a
South American arms race, said Paraguay may need to buy more
weapons in response to its neighbors' actions.

3. (SBU) COMMENT: There is a broad, but unofficial, public
consensus that Bolivian arms purchases are a threat to Paraguay.
Political attacks on Bolivia's intentions will likely continue as
politicians curry popular support. Despite these concerns, no
drastic changes are expected to Paraguay's basic defense policy or
spending, although a slight uptick is possible. The current GOP
total defense budget is only USD 11 million annually. END COMMENT.


AYALDE

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