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Cablegate: Bolivian Press Reviews Closure of Usaid Programs

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #1333 2642107
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 212107Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1669
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 0020
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 6578
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0540
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 7745
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 4792
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 5130
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 0023
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0021
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS LA PAZ 001333

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL EAID PGOV BO
SUBJECT: BOLIVIAN PRESS REVIEWS CLOSURE OF USAID PROGRAMS

REF: LA PAZ 1239 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Summary: Over the weekend of September 19-20, the
Bolivian press featured extensive coverage of the recent
closure of USAID democracy and public administration programs
(reftels), highlighting the concerns of Bolivians affected by
the cuts and prompting the GOB to articulate its interest in
a "new form of cooperation" with the U.S. Bolivian news
media featured a brief statement from the Embassy confirming
the termination of some programs at the request of the
Bolivian government and reiterating our commitment to the
bilateral dialogue now underway. End summary.

2. (SBU) Apparently contacted by USAID partners and aid
beneficiaries affected by the program closures, the Bolivian
news media gave broad coverage to the story, in some cases
providing detailed accounts of the programs under fire. The
La Paz daily "La Prensa" reported at length September 20 on
the concerns of municipal leaders about the impact of closing
USAID's integrated justice centers in their cities. The
GOB's action proved popular with cocalero groups, however,
who called for a further termination of all USAID programs in
the country.

3. (SBU) Bolivian government officials, including Planning
Minister Noel Aguirre (who in July and August conveyed the
original GOB demands for program closures) and Deputy Foreign
Minister Hugo Fernandez, confirmed that the Bolivian
government had requested the aid program terminations, but
sought to reassure the public that only "political" programs
would be affected. Aguirre explained that the GOB is seeking
a "redirection" of U.S. assistance priorities toward social
and economic needs, while Fernandez spoke of a "new form of
cooperation" to replace the existing aid relationship with
the United States. Both referred to the ongoing bilateral
talks, with Fernandez noting that U.S. officials (Special
Envoy Maria Echeveste and WHA DAS Chris McMullen) had met
recently with Foreign Minister Choquehuanca to further that
process.

4. (U) Bolivian news media carried the Embassy's brief
statement on the matter, which confirmed that we have taken
action in response to GOB requests and reaffirmed our
commitment to the bilateral dialogue on these and broader
issues.

5. (SBU) Comment: The news coverage of the USAID program
closures has been generally helpful so far, making clear that
the terminations have come at the request of the Bolivian
government, highlighting the value of the U.S. programs and
revealing a measure of GOB defensiveness in light of public
concerns about these and further aid cuts. Significantly,
senior GOB officials are now talking up the bilateral
process, just days after the September 15 de-certification
announcement, signaling that at least some in the Bolivian
government continue to back the effort.
CREAMER

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