Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

Search

 

Cablegate: Embassy La Paz Convenes Democracy Working Group

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #0055/01 0502211
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 192211Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0739
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS LA PAZ 000055

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM BL
SUBJECT: EMBASSY LA PAZ CONVENES DEMOCRACY WORKING GROUP

1. (SBU) Summary: The Charge hosted February 12 a meeting of key
resident ambassadors and UN High Commission for Human Rights
(UNHCHR) representative Denis Racicot to launch an informal working
group on democracy and human rights issues in Bolivia. The group
reviewed the Bolivian government's report to the UN Human Rights
Council's Universal Periodic Review in Geneva earlier that week and
discussed concerns about anticipated Bolivian legislation on the
judiciary, corruption and regulation of the media. We intend to
ensure regular meetings of this group in the months ahead as the
Morales government pursues its second-term legislative agenda. End
summary.

2. (SBU) Resident ambassadors, embassy representatives and UNHCHR
Racicot welcomed the U.S. initiative to exchange views on Bolivian
democracy and human rights developments, agreeing that the
international community needs to maintain a close watch, given the
governing Movement toward Socialism (MAS) party's domination of the
government, parliament, and, potentially, the judiciary.
Participants agreed to the formation of an informal working group,
hosted on a rotating basis, to review these issues and coordinate
public and private responses to the GOB as needed. The initial
group, whose membership is expected to grow, includes
representatives from the U.S., UK, Dutch, Canadian, German, Danish
and Swedish embassies, as well as UNHCHR. Dutch Ambassador de la
Beij offered to host the next session.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

3. (SBU) Racicot reported on the February 10 review of the Bolivian
government's presentation to the UN Human Rights Council, within
the Working Group of the Universal Periodic Review. Racicot
indicated that Bolivia's report was warmly welcomed by its
traditional ALBA and other developing country allies, and that most
member states were able to find positive elements in Bolivia's
presentation, while highlighting various key concerns. European,
democratic Latin American neighbors and the U.S. raised concerns
about the independence of the judiciary and media freedom,
corruption, women's and children's rights, and the need to
reconcile, under the new constitution, indigenous justice with
ordinary justice and international norms. The Working Group
produced 78 recommendations for Bolivia, all but one of which were
accepted by the Bolivian delegation (the exception was a UK
proposal to support a specific initiative for media
self-regulation, which the GOB rejected on the grounds that it did
not include employees as well as media owners).

4. (SBU) Racicot informed the working group that the GOB had agreed
to renew the mandate of the UNHCHR office in Bolivia, which expires
in July, and had also committed to issue a standing invitation to
the UNHCHR's special procedures mechanisms. Racicot indicated that
visits to Bolivia of special rapporteurs and experts on racism,
freedom of expression and the judiciary have not yet been set, but
will probably be spaced throughout the coming year. These offices
can engage the GOB on their issues in the meantime, he said.
Racicot also reported that UN High Representative Pallay may visit
Bolivia this year, albeit briefly.

5. (SBU) Members of the La Paz working group voiced concerns about
the passage that day of a so-called "short law" ("ley corta")
empowering President Morales to appoint temporary judges to
Bolivia's supreme court, constitutional tribunal and judicial
council, until constitutionally-mandated popular elections for
these posts in December (septel). All recognized the need for some
stop-gap measure to stand up these otherwise vacant institutions,
but agreed that the law as enacted places too much authority in the
hands of the executive and could seriously undermine the
independence of the judiciary. The group observed that elections
in December, with candidates selected by the MAS-controlled
parliament, could also yield courts biased in favor of the
government.

6. (SBU) The GOB has announced an ambitious legislative agenda of
reforms and measures to conform the law to the requirements of the
new constitution. Media reports and remarks by GOB officials
suggest that some of these proposed laws could raise human rights
concerns, although in most cases we do not yet have access to
actual drafts. One such measure concerns strengthening sanctions
against corruption. While the current Bolivian anti-corruption
regime is widely viewed as inadequate, the new measures reportedly
under consideration include retroactivity (or, alternatively,
elimination of statutes of limitation), shifting the burden of
proof to the defendants, and trials in absentia. Working group
members resolved to obtain drafts of this and other proposed
legislation at the earliest opportunity.

7. (SBU) The general consensus of the La Paz working group, as
articulated by UK Ambassador Baker and Dutch Ambassador de la Beij,
was that Bolivia currently enjoys a free press -- at least in
comparison to other Latin American countries -- but that the GOB's
comments about new restrictions could portend a serious threat to
freedom of expression (septel). In January, President Morales
declared that new legislation would ensure that the press "no
longer lies," and media reports suggested that the GOB was looking
at tougher libel sanctions and a prohibition on the use of unnamed
sources. Following a fierce outcry from journalists and NGO's and
redoubled efforts at self-regulation, the GOB appeared to
backtrack. Still, the Swedish aid representative informed the
working group that her government is looking at funding a media
watchdog organization, to complement efforts of Bolivian media and
NGO's.

8. (SBU) Comment: This first session of the democracy and human
rights working group revealed considerable agreement among the
members regarding the current situation and potential threats in
Bolivia, as well as a common resolve to continue to coordinate
closely on these issues. Our goal in the months ahead is to
support the engagement of the UN with the GOB and to ensure the
broadest possible international response to the Bolivians whenever
needed.
Creamer

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
 
 
 
World Headlines

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.