"COMMUNITARIAN JUSTICE" SPIRALING OUT OF CONTROL?

Código Fecha Clasificación Origen
09LAPAZ386 12 March 2009 Confidencial Embassy La Paz

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C O N F I D E N T I A L LA PAZ 000386

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/11/2019
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KDEM, PHUM, PINR, ENVR, ASEC, PTER, BL
SUBJECT: "COMMUNITARIAN JUSTICE" SPIRALING OUT OF CONTROL?

REF: LA PAZ 374

Classified By: A/EcoPol Chief Brian Quigley for reasons 1.4 (b, d)

1. (C) Summary: Following the March 7 ransacking of former
Vice President Victor Hugo Cardenas’ home and attack on his
wife and family (reftel), provincial community leaders
declared March 10 they would formally expropriate the
property and claimed the new constitution explicitly
justified their actions. Community leaders forbade police or
government investigators from entering the property, citing
their right to "communitarian justice." A Cardenas campaign
insider tells us ruling Movement Toward Socialism party (MAS)
congressman Gustavo Torrico was the main organizer and
financier of the attack and that it "surely had the knowledge
and approval of the President and Vice President." However,
in an about-face from earlier comments and perhaps sensing
the potential for land seizures to spiral out of control,
Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera and other MAS leaders on
March 11 rejected the attack and ordered it to stop. Post
worries that the MAS may not be able to control this new
application of communitarian justice. End summary.

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Illegal Becomes Legal Under the New Constitution
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2. (SBU) Selectively quoting the newly-passed constitution,
rural community leaders in Omasuyos on March 10 declared
their right under poorly-defined traditions of "communitarian
justice" to seize the home of former Vice President Victor
Hugo Cardenas and barred any police or government
investigators from entering the province, much less the house
itself. According to a resolution approved by regional
leaders, the decision to take the property was done because
Cardenas campaigned against the approval of the new
constitution, which "damaged the dignity, ideology, and
policies of the Aymara community." The resolution further
stated that as Vice President, Cardenas "was complicit in the
auctioning off of strategic businesses and delivering into
the hands of transnational businesses Bolivia’s renewable and
non-renewable resources."

3. (SBU) The leaders cited Articles 190, 191, and 192 of the
constitution in justifying their actions, which together
state that indigenous communities have the right to apply
their own cultural norms, that members of such communities
will be bound by any judgments reached, and that the state
will respect the community’s judgments. (Note: The
constitution also states that such "communitarian justice"
may not violate the constitution, including freedom of
speech, the right to private property, and the inviolability
of the home from forced entry. End note.) MAS-affiliated
leader Justino de la Cruz also said the Cardenas property was
not "fulfilling a social function," which made it eligible
for public seizure according to Article 56 of the
constitution. Responding to the fact that there are neither
legal definitions as yet of the term "social function," nor
procedures for legally expropriating properties under the new
constitution, MAS congressman Leandro Chacullaca announced he
would present a specific law "expropriating the home of the
ex-Vice President, as it serves a necessary public function."

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Community to Government: Stay Out
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4. (SBU) De la Cruz further declared the province of Omasuyos
to be outside the jurisdiction of the central government and
said that "from this date forward, no one will enter, neither
an investigator nor a member of the police, (although) they
do desire to investigate. Omasuyos has its own investigator,
its own (unofficial) police force, and they have the right to
investigate in their own territory. Those investigators that
wish to enter should read Articles 190, 191, and 192 of the
constitution." The resolution passed by regional leaders
reiterates this statement and further directs that "no one
should hold discussions with the oral or written press, nor
the (state) legal authorities."

5. (SBU) Notwithstanding this declaration, Attorney General
(equivalent) Mario Uribe ordered district attorney Jorge
Gutierrez to start an investigation. Gutierrez said he did
not know when he would decide to send police to recover the
property.

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MAS Directs Violence, Cardenas Takes Advantage
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6. (C) Opposition Alternate Senator and Cardenas backer Toto
Loayza said MAS Congressman Gustavo Torrico was the main
organizer and financier of the attack and that it "surely had
the knowledge and approval of the President and Vice
President." Loayza said the vast majority of the crowd was
imported from neighboring communities in the Lake Titicaca
region. He estimated only 20 percent of the small town
participated and then only because they were threatened
and/or paid. He reported that many people told Cardenas
local MAS and union leaders had threatened them or else
&their houses would be next.8

7. (C) Although he condemned the violent seizure of the
property, Loayza also said Cardenas was playing the situation
for all it was worth, and perhaps too much so. In his
opinion, if the government conducts an investigation, they
will find that Cardenas was well aware the attack was coming
and left his family to fend for themselves, and that he
planted a TV cameraman across the street the day before.
Loayza said Cardenas would be wise to let the "victim
impression8 linger instead of revisiting the issue.

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MAS Opens Pandora’s Box?
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8. (U) After initially issuing a raft of statements
essentially blaming the victim (Cardenas) for bringing the
home invasion upon himself, government leaders on March 11
made a complete about-face, rejected the ransacking of
Cardenas’ property, and ordered that it stop immediately.
Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said, "The constitution
contains absolute respect for private property. No one can
use the new constitution as an argument to attack private
property." Regarding arguments that the property did not
fulfil a social function, Vice Minister of Lands Sergio
Almaraz clarified that the "social-economic function" would
apply only to larger properties, and that Cardenas property
was no larger than 300 square meters. In the Lake Titicaca
area, he said, only properties larger than five hectares
would be considered eligible for redistribution. (Note: With
regard to "social-economic function," property size is not
discussed in the constitution. Almaraz may be referring to
existing implementing laws for the Law of Agrarian Reform
(INRA). End note.)

9. (U) In news of another application of "communitarian
justice," leading local daily La Razon reported March 12 that
former Congress member and MAS party dissident Marlene
Paredes made a formal statement that she had been expelled
from her property in the Yungas valley area (Carmen de
Chicalulu community) by MAS party followers. Showing several
large bruises on her body, she said a large group had shown
up on her property on March 3, accused her of being a traitor
for leaving the MAS, beat her with sticks, and took over her
property.

10. (SBU) Separately, on March 11 President of the
Confederation of Eastern Bolivian Indigenous Communities
(CIDOB) Alfredo Chavez announced that leaders of the
country’s 36 indigenous nations were going to "draft their
own indigenous law" against those that had "destroyed" Santa
Cruz’s indigenous communities. "We are going to apply
’communitarian justice’ on (Branko) Marinkovic and (Ruben)
Costas... because they are responsible for the assault,
taking, and destruction of our (community) centers."

- - - -
Comment
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11. (C) After President Morales initially called Cardenas a
"traitor" and said "the pueblo doesn’t stand for or pardon
traitors," and after Garcia Linera said approvingly that the
indigenous community was exacting long overdue revenge for
Cardenas’ past "traitorous acts," the government suddenly
decided to stop the community takeover. Post believes the
MAS has begun to see it may not be able to control copycat
applications of "communitarian justice" now sprouting around
the country. Violent property seizures and statements such
as CIDOB President Chavez’s do not square with what our
indigenous contacts have typically described as
"communitarian justice. End comment.
URS