EVO’S DIPLOMATS: AFRAID, IRRELEVANT, ENDANGERED

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07LAPAZ2974 8 November 2007 Confidencial Embassy La Paz

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C O N F I D E N T I A L LA PAZ 002974

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/09/2027
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, BL
SUBJECT: EVO’S DIPLOMATS: AFRAID, IRRELEVANT, ENDANGERED

REF: A. LA PAZ 2587
B. LA PAZ 2626
C. LA PAZ 2500
D. LA PAZ 2456

Classified By: EcoPol Chief Mike Hammer for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: Foreign Ministry contacts complain career
diplomats are increasingly ignored in foreign policy
decisions, citing the decision to advance diplomatic
relations with Iran as a prime example. They consistently
described a battle over foreign policy between the MFA and
advisors at the Presidential Palace, personified in a feud
between Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca and Presidential
Minister (Chief of Staff) Juan Quintana. Careerists are
being sidelined at higher ranks and shadowed at lower ranks
by political appointees or contractors. Although there has
been no broad purge (as is the case in other ministries),
more than 20 returning diplomats from overseas posts have
been placed on unpaid administrative leave. Until a recently
adopted policy reserving one careerist position at each
foreign post, nearly all overseas positions were being filled
by political appointees. Bolivian Foreign Service
institutions are crumbling under assault by the government.
End Summary.

Wanted: Political Cronies, No Experience Required


----

2. (C) Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Religion Legal Advisor
Yovanka Oliden Tapia (please protect all MFA contacts) told
PolOff that, until recently, no new careerists have been sent
abroad since Evo took power in January, 2006. (Note: Besides
careerist holdovers still posted overseas, Evo appointed
career diplomats to ambassadorships in Brazil and the
Netherlands last month. End Note.) All of the more than 20
returning diplomats have been placed on administrative leave
without pay. This number could double in the coming months
as this is prime rotation season. Although the Foreign
Service Law does protect careerists from being fired, it also
allows the Foreign Ministry to replace end-of-tour officers
at will. (Note: there are about 70 careerists stationed
abroad of about 270 total career Foreign Service Officers.
End Note.) Jorge Caballero, Cabinet Director for the
Vice-Foreign Minister, also referred to returning diplomats
in "limbo" September 25, adding they are being replaced by
ruling MAS party loyalists.

Careerists at Posts: And Then There Was One ...


3. (C) Oliden said some Ambassadors pushed for a stop to the
wholesale replacement of careerists during an MFA meeting to
discuss overseas staffing late in September. She claimed
even "political" Ambassadors argued for a minimal number of
careerists to get the work done. This resulted in a new
policy requiring at least one careerist per post.

Fear and Loathing at Chancellery


4. (C) According to Oliden, only two out of 16 MFA Directors
are careerists. Even at sub-director level, she asserted
careerists are being relegated to menial tasks in an effort
to force them to leave so they can be replaced with political
appointees. The Foreign Service Law protects them from being
fired, but they can be shuffled or placed on administrative
leave for "insubordination."

5. (C) Director of Foreign Commerce Patricia Sanjines told
PolOff employees are generally afraid to speak on the phone
for fear they are tapped, although she conceded this was
probably an unfounded fear. "Everyone is afraid of losing
their jobs and is playing it safe." In addition, Caballero
told PolOff not to contact him on his work phone or e-mail
expect for "official" business and not to mention careerists
favorably in public, out of fear of repercussions for being
associated with the Embassy.

Pink Slip Panic Postponed, For Now


6. (C) Sanjines said even if the Morales administration could
conduct a wholesale purge of careerists, it would probably
hold off for the short term, partly to avoid a legal battle
regarding the Foreign Service Law, but also because political
appointees need careerists to make the ministry work.
Careerists help political appointees navigate technical
documents, international agreements, and foreign policy
protocol. "We know where the files are. For the moment they
cannot do it (foreign policy work) without us." She said the
government has been slow to replace technocrats at the
Central Bank for similar reasons.

Careerists Afraid of Their "Shadows"


7. (C) Sanjines said instead of replacing working level
staff, the administration has brought in political appointees
as contractors to shadow existing staff. In her section,
they typically mirror economic sector or negotiation
specialists in a particular sector or negotiation, such as
CAN (Andean Community of Nations), ALBA (Bolivian Alternative
for the Americas), or ATPA (Andean Trade Preferences Act).
Sanjines fears it is only a matter of time before these
apprentices learn enough that the administration feels
comfortable replacing careerists. She also fears when the
Constituent Assembly is adjourned, the MAS friendly members
will "be looking for jobs, maybe our jobs." That’s when she
suspects the ultimate test of the Foreign Service Law will
begin.

Hear no MFA, See No MFA, Speak No MFA


8. (C) Oliden explained careerists are afraid to speak their
minds and resigned to keeping their heads down since the
courts decided against them last summer, ruling the Foreign
Service Law only guaranteed positions if they were "open."
Since the Government fills all rotations with political
appointees, there are no open positions, and, according to
the decision, no basis to complain. Oliden said careerists
are done complaining to courts or other government oversight
offices because "who would we complain to? The government
controls everything."

9. (C) Caballero provided a more optimistic assessment. He
said the Presidential Palace does listen to MFA experts, but
"only to a point." They did act on MFA advice to stop a
Bolivian deputy (national representative from lower house)
from speaking in Spain with a group linked to the
terrorist-affiliated ETA organization (Basque Homeland and
Freedom), grounding the plane in Santa Cruz to explain the
situation to the deputy, who was oblivious to the group’s ETA
links.

Iran Case: Careerists Sidelined


10. (C) Oliden and Sanjines said careerists were against and
surprised by the decision to open diplomatic relations with
Iran (refs b-d). Before the change in course, the issue was
considered a rare example of their advice being followed,
according to Sanjines. Now "that is gone" and people are
even more reluctant to stick their necks out on policy
issues. Caballero claimed the MFA drafted a report advising
against diplomatic relations with Iran that was disregarded
by Morales’ inner circle of advisors. The report allegedly
argued Iran had little to offer Bolivia and that Bolivia
risked global isolation if it pursued relations. It also
warned against petroleum technology exchanges that would
encourage reliance on Soviet-era technology. He suspected
Morales never saw it, as he appears to see no down side to
the relationship and touts Iranian technology publicly.

11. (C) Ruben Vidaurre, Director of Multilateral Affairs,
told PolOff that Bolivia’s delegation to the International
Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors was called during an
early-September meeting by "high levels" in the Foreign
Minister and ordered to abstain from commenting on the
IAEA-Iran Action Plan (reftel). He claimed the delegation
"fully understood" and "did not disagree" with our demarche
arguments, but that it was "out of our hands."

12. (C) Sanjines said after two years, employees are
increasingly aware that broad foreign policy direction comes
from a tight circle of advisors at the Presidential Palace,
most prominently Venezuelans, and have stopped offering
unsolicited advice as futile and career adverse. She said
the government would never have considered diplomatic
relations with Iran in its early days, but now with economic
and political problems looming, it is grasping at desperate
measures. She downplayed Iran’s $1.1 billion pledge of
investment and technical assistance over five years as a
fantasy for a country half a world away with "zero trade
relations with Bolivia." She asserted people would forget
about these promises in five years or make excuses why they
were not realized. Although some in Morales’ inner circle
have high hopes for Iranian investment, she asserted the main
reason for the change was to "poke a finger in the eye" of
the U.S., please Hugo Chavez, and create a sovereignty issue
to distract from the government’s domestic performance.

RIP: Institutional Professionalism


13. (C) Oliden lamented that Foreign Service institutions
were either being deconstructed by the Morales administration
or abandoned by hopeless and fearful careerists. Her
examples:
— The promotion board, a defender of merit and standards, was
dismissed after Evo took office.
— No one ran in the February 2007 elections for the MFA’s
employee association. Careerists have given up on the
organization as a counterweight to administration abuses and
consider running for leadership not worth the career risk.
— The MFA diplomacy school is still "open," but it has
stopped offering classes. Incoming diplomats are now sent to
Venezuela for a six-month course instead of the two-year
Bolivian course. Sanjines opined it is better the school
offers no classes, rather than courses developed by a new
teaching staff to favor indoctrination over technical
competence. She fears incoming classes will have no
"academic foundation" to be effective Foreign Service
officers.

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble: Choquehuanca v. Quintana


------

14. (C) Caballero described two ideological battles currently
raging: between careerists and advisors in the Presidential
Palace and between Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca and
Presidential Minister (Chief of Staff) Juan Quintana. He
said Quintana has achieved rough parity with Choquehuanca on
international issues, much to Choquehuanca’s irritation. On
November 5, Caballero advised the Embassy to focus on
expanding contact with Choquehuanca as a counterweight to the
radically anti-U.S. Quintana. He said although Quintana has
the advantage of being in the palace, Choquehuanca is Evo’s
friend and has his ear.

15. (C) Oliden confirmed that there has been intense feuding
between Choquehuanca and Quintana during the last few months.
She claimed Morales sided with Choquehuanca when
Choquehuanca complained about Quintana’s meddling in foreign
policy in October, but would not disclose how she knew this.
She asserted Choquehuanca, with his indigenous credentials,
is too symbolically valuable to "move down" and has opined in
the past that he was one step removed from foreign policy
process by not being at the palace. Oliden and Sanjines gave
guarded praise for Choquehuanca, particularly when compared
with other MAS options for Foreign Minister, for his honesty
and consideration of careerist advice, even though he rejects
much of it.

Other Ministries More MASified


16. (C) Despite harsh treatment of returning diplomats and
the climate of fear prevalent in the Chancellery, Oliden and
Sanjines asserted the Foreign Ministry has actually fared
much better than others without the protection of the Foreign
Service Law that have been gutted of professional staff.
Thus far no one has been "replaced" the Foreign Ministry, in
contrast to other ministries that have become spoils shops
for friends of MAS leadership. Sanjines cited the Ministry
of Mirco-Credit, which put its employees on leave shortly
after Morales took over in 2006. When they returned to the
renamed Ministry of Economic Production and Micro-Enterprise,
most of them found pink slips waiting for them. Now most
career staffers in most ministries have been replaced. The
ministries of development, justice, and agriculture were
hardest hit with about 70 to 90 percent turnover, according
to Sanjines’ rough estimate.

Civil Service Superintendent Superpoliticized


17. (C) Rodolfo Illanes Alvarado, Superintendent of Civil
Service since December 2006, told PolOff complaints from
employees are actually down to about 220 in 2007 so far,
compared with almost 600 in 2003. He attributed this to the
"corrupt, unfair" rule of former President Gonzalo Sanchez de
Lozada in 2003, in contrast to the current administration’s
regard for "justice." He described his job as protecting
civil servants from unfair practices. He planned to focus on
hiring complaints, to ensure that "people with foreign last
names" are denied the preferential treatment they have had in
the past. He explained MFA employees were out of his purview
because of the Foreign Service Law (they would complain to
the Public Defenders Office instead), but nevertheless opined
the law could be changed to allow outright firings of
careerists. Illanes dismissed any professional downside to
such a change, adding that he is a political appointee.

Comment:


18. (C) Sending diplomats to administration "purgatory"
without pay is only semantically different from firing them.
With the court’s decision endorsing a purge-friendly
interpretation of the Foreign Service Law and crumbling
Foreign Service institutions, the climate of fear and
hopelessness described by our MFA contacts seems sadly
justified. The Morales administration seems torn between
wanting to fill the MFA with rank amateurs and understanding
they need careerists to keep it working. We can expect an
upswing in misunderstandings, lack of communication, and use
of public statements at the expense of formal diplomatic
channels at Bolivia’s embassies as careerists are moved out.
We expect a continued feuding between Choquehuanca and
Quintana over the execution of Bolivian foreign policy. End
Comment.
GOLDBERG