AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH DORIA MEDINA AND UN PARTY LEADERSHIP

Código Fecha Clasificación Origen
07LAPAZ167 23 January 2007 Confidencial / No para extranjeros Embassy La Paz

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SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/23/2017
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, ECON, BL
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH DORIA MEDINA AND UN PARTY
LEADERSHIP

REF: A. 2006 LA PAZ 3244
B. LA PAZ 103
C. LA PAZ 55


Summary


1. (C) On January 20, National Unity (UN) party leader Samuel
Doria Medina and several UN party officials told the
Ambassador, DCM, and Ecopol officers they believe cooperation
among opposition political parties has improved, although
obstacles remain to close coordination. Doria Medina claimed
a recent Mori poll shows Morales, popularity dropping to an
all-time low of 32 percent. (Note: Post has not seen the
poll and is skeptical, given that other recent polls put the
President’s popularity in the high fifties. End note.)
Doria Medina drew parallels between Morales, &revolution8
and the U.S. civil rights movement, stating that Bolivia,s
indigenous are in their radical phase; he hopes they will see
that violence is not the solution. The Ambassador noted
bilateral difficulties but said the USG wants to continue
working with the GOB toward common interests; Doria Medina
called the Embassy,s low profile &smart8 and advised the
Ambassador not to give Morales a chance to distract the
population from growing domestic problems by &blaming big
brother.8 Regarding the Constituent Assembly (CA), Doria
Medina said his party has few representatives but makes up
for what it lacks in numbers with its centrist position. In
response to the Ambassador,s inquiry, Doria Medina said
Venezuelan interference is not to blame for Bolivia,s
problems but observed that Venezuela is playing on the GOB,s
greatest weakness, its limited financial resources. End
summary.


CAN THE OPPOSITION WORK TOGETHER?


2. (C) On January 20, National Unity (UN) party leader and
Constituent Assembly (CA) member Samuel Doria Medina and
several UN party officials told the Ambassador, DCM, and
Ecopol officers they believe cooperation among opposition
political parties has improved, although obstacles remain to
close coordination. The Ambassador expressed concern for
Bolivian democracy and pointed to a number of events,
including a midnight senate session in which the MAS
manipulated senate rules (reftel A), as signs that the GOB
may be moving towards a more authoritarian path. The
Ambassador reiterated Assistant Secretary Shannon,s
statement that a country,s ideology is less important than
its commitment to democracy and its willingness to work with
the United States. At this point in Bolivia, the Ambassador
said, both factors are in doubt.

3. (C) Doria Medina responded by assuring the Ambassador that
the UN,s cooperation with Podemos and the National
Revolutionary Movement (MNR) has improved, citing the
parties’ late 2006 success in organizing nationwide protests
and hunger strikes in support of a two-thirds vote in the CA.
He said the MAS, midnight senate session was the catalyst
for improved cooperation but implied the UN,s willingness to
work with Podemos is complicated by resentment over Podemos,
&dirty8 campaign tactics in December 2005. That aside,
Doria Medina said the opposition is attempting to gain
control of the senate presidency to balance the Morales
government, noting that the UN (as well as the Santa Cruz
department) understands what is required to counter Morales,
well-organized political machine. (Note: The lower house
re-elected Edmundo Novillo as its president on January 21;
the senate remains deadlocked, with Podemos, the UN, and the
MAS vying for the presidency. End note.)


MORALES, DROPPING POPULARITY?


4. (C) Doria Medina told the Ambassador that according to a
recent Mori poll, Morales, popularity has dropped to an
all-time low of 32 percent. (Note: Post has not seen the
poll and is skeptical, given that other recent polls put the
President’s popularity in the high fifties. End note.) He
said mestizo and middle class Bolivians are starting to turn
away from Morales, citing as an example the January 11
conflict in Cochabamba in which middle class indigenous women
fought MAS cocaleros (reftel B). He also claimed MAS
cocaleros are growing tired of being used by the GOB. Doria
Medina argued that the MAS, radical faction wants to
generate conflict in order to move toward a participatory
democracy, as it believes the current democratic model has
failed. Doria Medina claimed that private citizens are
beginning to arm themselves and warned that if Morales
continues with his current strategy of confrontation, there
will be more deaths. He lamented that hardliners in Santa
Cruz want to precipitate the GOB,s fall, stating that it is
&easy to start violence but hard to stop it.8

5. (C) Doria Medina also criticized the GOB,s management
style, noting in particular its failure to make decisions.
He said most GOB officials are reluctant to make decisions
without Morales, approval and pointed out that executive
branch chaos slows conflict resolution. He also criticized
Morales, instigation of problems with the police and the
press. Doria Medina joked that based on his contact with the
press, Morales had succeeded in generating more &spirit8 in
the press corps than in some political parties. Doria Medina
said the GOB wants to govern alone, without opposition or
prefects, but remarked that the administration must accept
the political opposition. He added that given Morales,
sagging popularity, the opposition should welcome a
referendum on elected officials. Doria Medina believes that
if a new election were held now, Morales would lose, or at
least have to face a second round runoff.


THE INDIGENOUS &REVOLUTION8


6. (C) Doria Medina drew parallels between Morales,
&revolution8 and the U.S. civil rights movement. He said
the indigenous in Bolivia are in their radical phase, just as
the civil rights movement passed through a similar stage in
the United States. He hoped that the indigenous would
realize that opportunity, hard work, and education are the
solution, not violence, but admitted that improving equality
without impinging on civil liberties is a great challenge for
Bolivia. He said radical calls for the incorporation of
community justice and other indigenous traditions into the
Bolivian mainstream represent an indigenous protest at having
been excluded from modernization. He said studies show that
the majority of Bolivians do not want community justice;
rather, they want a competent formal justice system. (Note:
Our own studies confirm this. End note.).

7. (C) Doria Medina said contrary to popular belief (which
was falsely bolstered by the poorly-worded 2000 census), the
majority of Bolivians are mestizo, not indigenous. Doria
Medina pointed to the example of Felipe Quispe, a radical
indigenous leader who has made several unsuccessful runs at
the presidency. He explained Morales, electoral success in
part due to his choice of light-skinned Alvaro Garcia Linera
as a running mate, quipping that Morales decided &coffee
alone is not enough; it should be coffee with milk.8


BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP


8. (C) The Ambassador noted bilateral difficulties,
particularly in the area of counternarcotics, but said the
USG wants to continue working with the GOB toward common
interests. He told Doria Medina that Bolivia had

successfully ridden the shirttails of Peru and Colombia on
ATPDEA but said Morales, anti-U.S. discourse from Brazil
would not be helpful to the bilateral relationship, just as
his attacks on Colombia and his strong position on selling
gas to Brazil would complicate regional relations.

9. (C) Doria Medina responded that the GOB &has to make its
own mistakes and is doing just that.8 He called the
Embassy,s careful low profile &smart8 and advised the
Ambassador not to give Morales a chance to &blame big
brother8 and distract the population from growing domestic
problems. Doria Medina called Morales, newly announced visa
policy &absurd8 (reftel C) and damaging to Bolivia,s
tourist industry. He said many Bolivians residing in the
United States with Amcit children have already postponed
travel to Bolivia due to the uncertainty of Morales, new
policy. He added that the GOB is so self-absorbed that it
will be surprised when the jewelry industry, among others,
moves to Peru or Chile.


THE UN IN THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY


10. (C) Doria Medina, the leader of his party in the
Constituent Assembly, said the UN has few CA representatives
but makes up for what it lacks in numbers with strength. His
vision for the UN is centrist, offering an alternative to
voters who dislike the polarizing politics of the MAS and
Podemos. He said GOB disorganization is also apparent in the
CA, as the MAS delegation is plagued by disorder and
inexperience. Doria Medina remarked that his party has often
reached consensus with MAS delegates, only to have senior
level GOB officials pull the rug out from under them. He
noted that on some issues, he has negotiated with as many as
ten different high-level GOB officials, all of whom were
afraid to make a decision without Morales, personal
approval.


VENEZUELAN INFLUENCE


11. (C) Doria Medina said Venezuelan interference is not to
blame for Bolivia,s problems but observed that Venezuela is
playing on the GOB,s greatest weakness, its limited
financial resources. He told the Ambassador that Morales
reportedly donates large sums of cash to small towns and said
the cash could not come from the strapped Bolivian treasury.
Doria Medina cited Venezuela,s donation of helicopters as a
particularly effective measure, as they enable Morales to
travel difficult Bolivian terrain to stay in touch with his
political base. Doria Medina,s team suggested that the
Bolivian opposition is not as weak as Venezuela’s. One UN
analyst pointed out that if the Bolivian opposition takes the
senate presidency, it will have done in eight months what the
Venezuelan political opposition failed to do in eight years.
(Note: Despite a simple majority in the senate, in point of
fact, the opposition has yet to succeed in voting a senate
president; Doria Medina and Podemos head Tuto Quiroga remain
locked in a bitter personal battle about which party should
hold the presidency. End note.)


GETTING TO KNOW DORIA MEDINA


12. (C) Doria Medina offered the Ambassador a brief overview
of his political experience, beginning with his stint as
economy minister in 1991-1993. Doria Medina’s personal
wealth made him an attractive target for the MRTA terrorist
group which kidnapped him in 1995 for 45 days until he paid a
USD 1.4 million ransom. (Note: Doria Medina said the MRTA
used his ransom money to finance the taking of the Japanese
embassy in Peru in 1995. End note.). In 1997, Jaime Paz of
the MIR party invited Doria Medina to be his running mate in

the presidential elections. They lost the bid, and growing
differences with the MIR led Doria Medina to found the
National Unity (UN) party in 2003. The UN had a respectable
showing in the 2004 municipal and 2005 national elections,
despite Doria Medina,s failed bid for the presidency, which
he attributed to MNR and Podemos attacks. He said both
opposition parties attacked him instead of the MAS hoping
that UN supporters would vote for them; instead voters turned
to Morales, MAS party. He also told the Ambassador the
story of his against-all-odds survival of a 2005 plane crash.


COMMENT


13. (C) The UN is Bolivia’s third-largest party after MAS
and Podemos. Doria Medina is aware that to be effective, the
UN must work with other parties. At the same time, the UN
wary of associating too closely with any one party.
Self-interests and personality differences have hindered the
opposition’s ability to work together, thus emboldening the
MAS. The ongoing senate president election is a test of the
opposition’s willingness to put differences aside and form a
united front against the MAS. So far, the opposition is
failing this test. End comment.
URS