A NEW YEAR, A NEW CABINET

Código Fecha Clasificación Origen
07LAPAZ188 25 January 2007 Confidencial Embassy La Paz

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DE RUEHLP #0188/01 0251552
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 251552Z JAN 07
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2225
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 6489
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RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L LA PAZ 000188

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/17/2017
TAGS: ECON, PGOV, PREL, BL
SUBJECT: A NEW YEAR, A NEW CABINET

REF: A. LA PAZ 3301
B. LA PAZ 54
C. LA PAZ 75

Classified By: Ecopol Counselor Andrew Erickson for reasons 1.4 (b) and
(d).


SUMMARY


1. (C) Despite recent public statements that he would not
make any cabinet changes, President Morales announced a
shake-up late January 23, replacing seven ministers
(government, education, agriculture, justice, public works,
planning, and labor). The announcement came as a surprise
for many, except perhaps the Venezuelan ambassador. The new
cabinet, more leftist than indigenous, promised faster action
to improve the lives of Bolivians. Santa Cruz interests
hostile to Morales complained that no new minister represents
the interests of eastern Bolivia, but other reactions have
generally been positive. The big question is whether Morales’
new cabinet can push forward his agenda more effectively than
the last one. Given Morales’ highly personal leadership
style, we see little grounds for believing it will. End
summary.

2. (SBU) Despite recent public statements that he would not
make any cabinet changes, President Morales announced a
cabinet shake-up late January 23, replacing seven ministers,
discussed in detail below. Morales renewed the mandate of
nine others, including Minister of the Presidency Juan de la
Quintana, Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca, Defense
Minister Walker San Miguel, and Hydrocarbons Minister Carlos
Villegas.


Government: Alfredo Rada


3. (C) Long viewed as a weak link in the cabinet, Minister of
Government Alicia Munoz had been criticized for her handling
of the hunger strike at the San Francisco church in La Paz
(reftel A) and for the January 9-10 Cochabamba violence
(reftels B and C), and has not been seen in public since
then. The president replaced her with Alfredo Rada Velez, a
sociologist and economist. He was most recently Munoz’s vice
minister for coordination with social movements. He is also
a former investigator for the leftist European NGO Cejis.
Rada has stated he will keep a low profile as minister and
will focus on national security. He is on the record as
wanting to preserve the police’s national command structure
instead of ceding control to the prefects.


Education: Victor Caceres


4. (SBU) Morales replaced Felix Patzi, viewed by many as one
of the more radical indigenous members of his cabinet, with
Victor Caceres, a former teacher and union leader, lawyer,
and communist party militant. Patzi lost credibility as a
result of last year’s failed education congress, which many
educational sectors abandoned. His proposed legislation to
reform Bolivia’s educational system stalled in Congress and
lacked the support of teachers’ unions nationwide. Patzi was
also implicated in corruption charges that related to the
purchase of computers for Bolivia’s schools. Caceres appears
to have more widespread support of teachers’ unions.


Agriculture: Susana Rivero


5. (SBU) Morales relieved Hugo Salvatierra of his position,
purportedly for his alleged role organizing violence in San
Julian on the fringes of the December cabildo in Santa Cruz.
The new minister of agriculture, Susana Rivero, a former
lawyer and Unitel journalist also associated with the NGO
Cejis, says she will focus on "new policies" for land
redistribution.


Justice: Celima Torrico


6. (C) While Casimira Rodriguez proved to be a solid Embassy
interlocutor, particularly for USAID justice projects, she
was widely viewed as ineffective. The new justice minister,
Celima Torrico Rojas, is a tough, leftist, campesino leader
who reportedly organized the January Cochabamba protests
against Prefect Manfred Reyes Villa. She has experience as a
member of the department-level government council in
Cochabamba, has worked for Radio Fides, and is associated
with a national campesino women’s organization. Embassy
officers believe she has been close to Morales since the
1990’s.


Public Works: Jerjes Mercado


7. (SBU) Salvador Ric resigned as minister of public works
last week, stating he could not bridge the differences
between the GOB and Santa Cruz. His replacement, Jerjes
Mercado Suarez, an electronic engineer, was Morales’ vice
minister for electricity and was educated in Russia. Born in
Santa Cruz, Mercado says he will reach out to eastern Bolivia.


Planning: Gabriel Loza


8. (SBU) Gabriel Loza Telleria will be Morales’ third
minister of economic planning, replacing Fernando Larrazabal
who took the office in September 2006. Loza is known by
Embassy officers and is a well-regarded technician and
economist. Most recently, he was the head of the government
think-tank UDAPE (Economic and Social Policy Analysis Unit).


Labor: Walter Delgado


9. (SBU) Morales named Walter Delgado Terceros as Santiago
Galvez’s successor as labor minister. Delgado is a former
leader of the Central Bolivian Workers Union (COB) and
factory workers’ union, as well as a former Revolutionary
Leftist Movement (MIR) deputy.


Comment: A step forward or back?


10. (C) Morales’ cabinet shake-up came as a surprise. As the
announcements were made to the diplomatic corps in a palace
ceremony, even the Cuban ambassador frantically took note of
the new names; the Venezuelan ambassador, in contrast, gave
the impression that he had prior knowledge of the changes.
Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca spoke on behalf of the
more leftist-than-indigenous cabinet, declaring that they
would accelerate efforts to improve the lives of Bolivians.
Choquehuanca acknowledged that the new cabinet had "much to
do," and said their guiding principles would be honesty, hard
work, sacrifice, service, inclusion, and anti-corruption.
Reactions have generally been positive, with the exception of
the Santa Cruz opposition, which complained that no new
minister represents the interests of eastern Bolivia. The
big question is whether Morales’ new cabinet can push forward
his agenda more effectively than the last one. Given
Morales’ highly personal leadership style, we see little
grounds for believing it will. End comment.
URS