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Cablegate: Tfha01: La Paz Media Engagement On Haiti


DE RUEHLP #0102/01 0211851
R 211851Z JAN 10



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: TFHA01: La Paz Media Engagement on Haiti


1. (U) Summary. Reporting in Bolivia on the U.S. response to
the earthquake in Haiti has been generally balanced in the
independent media outlets, while state-run media outlets have
focused their coverage on GOB criticism and suspicions of U.S.
efforts. Embassy La Paz has taken multiple steps to inform the
independent media in Bolivia of the facts about the U.S. response
to this disaster. While our actions have had an impact,
inflammatory rhetoric on the part of President Evo Morales and Vice
President Alvaro Garcia Linera against the U.S. military presence
in Haiti has also drawn significant attention in both the state-run
and independent media. End Summary.

2. (U) On January 18, Bolivian Vice President Garcia Linera
accompanied a Bolivian Air Force cargo plane that delivered
humanitarian assistance to Port-au-Prince. In comments to the
press while on the ground in Haiti and upon his return to Bolivia
on January 19, he claimed that the United States was taking
advantage of the disaster to occupy Haiti militarily. Among other
accusations, he made the claim that, "The U.S. military presence,
in its bases and now its camouflaged appearance in Haiti, is an
aggression against the continent." He also said that, "we did not
see a single U.S. soldier lift a rock or piece of cement." On
January 20, this same accusation was echoed by President Evo
Morales who called the U.S. relief effort a military occupation of
Haiti that he considers, "unjust, inhumane, and opportunistic."
Morales then said that Bolivia would ask the UN to convene an
emergency meeting to reject the US "occupation."

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3. (U) In light of these and previous statements attacking
the intentions of the U.S., we have been engaged since the
beginning of the crisis with all major independent media outlets to
provide them with updated and translated information about the U.S.
effort in Haiti. Embassy La Paz has issued four press releases on
January 13, 14, 18, and 19 and reached out to
owners/editors/reporters, providing statements by President Obama
and Secretary Clinton and facts about the U.S. efforts. Elements
of these press releases have been used by many outlets, including
the La Paz dailies La Raz'n (cir. 30,000), La Prensa (cir. 5,000),
and El Diario (cir. 3,000). Embassy La Paz has also circulated
public-domain photos of the U.S. relief effort with translated
subtitles, which have been used by El Diario on January 15 and 20.
We have also set up three interviews with two national radio
networks, Radio Panamericana and Radio Fides, and with the
highest-rated television station, Unitel, with the Director of the
Media Hub of the Americas who is currently in Haiti and who can
report on the situation on the ground. These efforts have
succeeded in giving the independent press a fuller picture of the
US assistance, as reflected in their reporting.

4. (U) Major independent Bolivian media outlets have
generally given balanced news coverage to the U.S. response to the
earthquake in Haiti, highlighting both positive stories about, and
criticisms of, U.S. efforts. All independent television stations
have included positive images of U.S. search and rescue teams and
U.S. military personnel in Haiti, but have also aired the negative
comments made by President Morales and Vice President Garcia
Linera. Topics that have received positive coverage include the
immediate response of the U.S. to make the airport in
Port-au-Prince operational, President Obama's initial pledge of
$100 million, the Secretary's visit to Haiti over the weekend, the
work of American search and rescue teams, and the efforts by the
U.S. military to deliver humanitarian aid. Criticisms by the GOB
and others of poor management of the airport, the slow distribution
of humanitarian aid, and the accusations of a U.S. military
occupation of Haiti have also been reported.

5. (U) Editorials and commentaries in the major independent
media outlets have also been balanced. La Paz daily La Raz????n's
(cir. 30,000) main editorial on Sunday January 17 was entitled,
"Signs of Hope" and commented positively about the successful
international cooperation demonstrated in the relief effort. Father
Eduardo Perez, an influential radio host on the national radio
network Fides, has commented favorably about the ongoing U.S.
efforts, highlighting especially the U.S. military's efforts to
make the airport in Port-au-Prince functional. Cochabamba daily
Opinion (cir. 3,000), on the other hand, published an editorial on
Saturday, January 16 that was critical of the U.S. and European
countries saying, "Natural disasters cannot be foreseen or avoided,

but behind the tragedy in Port-au-Prince there is a historic
background for which colonization must take some responsibility."

6. (U) As opposed to the balanced reporting of the
independent media outlets, the Bolivian state-owned media outlets
have been incessantly negative in their coverage of the U.S. The
state-run television station, Bolivia TV, has focused its coverage
on the international and domestic criticism of the U.S. military
presence, has aired one-sided news reports produced by Telesur, and
has coincided their coverage of Haiti with the re-airing of a
documentary entitled "The Flight of the Eagle," which presents
multiple conspiracy theories about the purported nefarious role of
the U.S. in Bolivia. The government-owned daily Cambio (cir.
3,000), has printed articles entitled, "Haiti demands aid and
doctors, not more U.S. soldiers", "The U.S. sends the military to
Haiti and unleashes controversy", and "Chaos in the airport
controlled by the U.S.", among others. Cambio's editorials have
echoed the position of the GOB, one of which said, "As discredited
as the power of the United States is, at least in Latin America,
those that are really in control of the businesses and the arsenals
of the White House have found the right moment to launch a strategy
that will allow them to recuperate territory in the region and to
direct, not only what will come to be called and what the world
will know as 'humanitarian aid', but also the politics and economy
of a country crushed by decades of misery and political

7. (SBU) Comment. Given that the negative rhetoric from
high-ranking officials within the GOB is likely to continue, all
media outlets will continue to report on these criticisms. The
government-owned press outlets will continue to amplify the GOB
message and any engagement with them will be ineffectual. We will
continue to engage the independent media with clear and factual
messages about the U.S. effort in Haiti to ensure that balanced
reporting continues in the independent media. End comment.


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