Selecciona Edición
Conéctate
Selecciona Edición
Tamaño letra

Cable sobre la situación de Argelia

El embajador de EE UU analiza, ante la entrada en 2008, la coyuntura de un régimen que considera enfermo y frágil

ID: 135031
Date: 2007-12-19 12:06:00
Origin: 07ALGIERS1806
Source: Embassy Algiers
Classification: SECRET
Dunno: 07ALGIERS1237 07ALGIERS1618 07ALGIERS1658 07ALGIERS1704
Destination: VZCZCXRO5580
PP RUEHTRO
DE RUEHAS #1806/01 3531206
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 191206Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY ALGIERS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5022
INFO RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 2467
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 8733
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 2078
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 6935
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 6149
RUEHNM/AMEMBASSY NIAMEY 1403
RUEHBP/AMEMBASSY BAMAKO 0353
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA 3182
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 ALGIERS 001806

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/17/2027
TAGS: PINS, PGOV, AG
SUBJECT: AN AILING AND FRAGILE ALGERIAN REGIME DRIFTS INTO
2008

REF: A. ALGIERS 1704
B. ALGIERS 1618
C. ALGIERS 1237
D. ALGIERS 1658

Classified By: Ambassador Robert Ford; reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Recent discussions with former government
officials, long-term opposition leaders and journalists paint
a picture of an Algerian regime that is fragile in ways it
has not been before, plagued by a lack of vision,
unprecedented levels of corruption and rumblings of division
within the military rank and file. Our Algerian contacts are
often a grumpy lot, but we now hear more than the ordinary
amount of concern about the GOA's inability or unwillingness
to address political, economic and security problems. The
December 11 suicide bombings in Algiers, carried out by two
men amnestied under the Charter for Peace and National
Reconciliation, have ignited heated debate about the ability
of President Bouteflika's reconciliation program to protect
the country. The debate pits proponents of an urgent and
aggressive approach to the terrorist threat against those
aligned with Bouteflika who still believe that amnesty has a
role to play. The picture of an isolated president, a
stagnant reform process and an uncertain approach towards
terror comes at a time when efforts within the government to
engineer a third term for Bouteflika are gathering steam. We
do not sense an explosion coming right away. Instead, we see
a government drifting and groping for a way forward. END
SUMMARY.

SHIP OF STATE ADRIFT
--------------------

2. (C) On December 3, opposition Rally for Culture and
Democracy (RCD) leader Said Sadi presented a somber overview
of the Algerian regime, saying it insisted on continued
control but lacked vision and capacity. Sadi warned that in
the context of current stagnation in economic and political
reform, Algeria's institutions were corroding from within,
losing many of their best cadres of workers and civil
servants. The former leader of the Islamist al-Islah party,
Abdallah Djaballah, who was ousted from the party's
leadership with active help from the Interior Ministry,
pointed out to us on December 17 that the harraga phenomenon
(ref A), in which youth flee on makeshift crafts to Europe,
was no longer limited only to poor, unemployed youth.
Djaballah viewed Algerian youth as having a choice "between
death at sea and a slow, gradual death at home" given the
profound lack of opportunities in the country's stagnant
economy. Sadi told us he was shocked to find so many
educated, middle-class Algerians in Quebec and parts of the
U.S. on a recent visit. "Those people are the future of
Algeria," Sadi said.

3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX, told us
December 17 that when it came to national reconciliation, the
December 11 bombings had polarized the debate within the
Algerian security services, with an increasing number of
voices favoring a tougher approach. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that the
regime had no single, clear approach to fighting terror, a
fact proven by its indecisiveness on how to handle
high-profile amnesty cases such as that of Hassan Hattab (ref
B). According to Sadi and XXXXXXXXXXXX ordinary Algerians, who
have already lost confidence in the economic and political
reform agenda, are now losing faith in the ability of the
regime to protect them. Laila Aslaoui, a former minister,
women's rights activist and writer, told Ambassador at dinner
December 18 that much of Algerian society was demobilizing
against the terror threat. It was scandalous that the
Interior Ministry knew the Supreme Court was a target and did
nothing to improve the building's security or warn the
public, she claimed. She was caustic about the Interior
Minister's comment that it was impossible to provide complete
protection against bomb attacks, wondering why the GOA does
not more vigorously pursue terrorist suspects. The GOA had
asked Ms. Aslaoui on December 17 to help organize a march
condemning terrorism. In the 1990s, she said she would not
have hesitated. Now, she remarked bitterly, she would do
nothing that helps the Algerian government justify its
approach to security. XXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXX


XXXXXXXXXXXX, told Ambassador December 17
that there is a growing gap between what ordinary Algerians
see as their key needs and what they perceive the government
is offering in terms of wages and quality of life. As a
result, he said, fewer Algerians are willing to help the
government. The word on the street, he said, is that if you
have to do business in a government office, go but then leave
promptly and stay out of the way.

4. (C) On the other hand, Djaballah told us that widespread
disenchantment about the government's willingness to share
power with Islamists ultimately prompted Algerian Islamists
to heed calls by his and other Islamist parties to boycott
the November 29 local elections. They understand, he said,
that the new electoral law (ref C) was designed to
marginalize them and perpetuate the ruling coalition's grip
on power. Closing out political space will merely spur more
extremism, he warned. The Ambassador told Djaballah that the
U.S. favors political liberalization in Algeria but we also
understand that this may have to be done gradually. The U.S.
does not want to see a return to the violence of the 1990s
and is working with the GOA against those who actively seek
it. He welcomed Djaballah's effort to play in the legal
political system. The important point, the Ambassador
underlined, is that while political evolution might be slow
it needs to be in a steady direction of liberalization.
Djaballah accepted the point and appreciated our having
raised election process problems with the GOA.

A RULING "GANG FROM TIKRIT"
---------------------------

5. (C) Commenting on the stability of the country, XXXXXXXXXXXX
stressed that Algerians "have been through far worse than
this," and that internal divisions should not be mistaken for
instability. The regime, XXXXXXXXXXXX pointed out, values
stability above all else, and is consequently both fragile
and stable at the same time. XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed with an analogy
made by Sadi both to us and publicly in the press, comparing
the Bouteflika government to "a gang from Tikrit" in which a
disproportionate number of cabinet ministers and generals
came from the same region in the western province of Tlemcen
as President Bouteflika. (Indeed, many in the inner circle
come from the small town of Nedrumah.) The loyalty of this
"gang," according to XXXXXXXXXXXX and Sadi, is key to maintaining
stability, just as it did in Saddamn Hussein's Iraq.

SADI: "STAND UP FOR OUR YOUTH"
------------------------------

6. (C) Sadi warned of the long-term dangers of the U.S.
remaining silent on what he perceived as the deterioration of
Algerian democracy, as evidenced by the local elections. In
Sadi's view, outside support is critical to the survival of
democracy and the productive engagement of Algerian youth --
70 percent of the population -- in political and economic
life. If the U.S. is seen to be complicit in meaningless
elections and the process of amending the constitution to
allow Bouteflika to run for a third term, he warned, it risks
losing the youth demographic for the future.

7. (C) The Ambassador reminded Sadi of our fruitless efforts
to maintain a National Democratic Institute program in
Algeria that the Interior Ministry consciously shut down; few
political parties had pushed hard to save it. Ambassador
told Sadi we had raised on multiple occasions problems with
the election process and its credibility. He noted to Sadi
that we had heard other parties ask for more public U.S.
support, and urged the RCD and other Algerian parties to make
their voices heard. The U.S. would be credible in raising
obstacles to liberalization only if the Algerian political
parties themselves spoke out loudly. Given the absence of an
international election monitoring commissions in the 2008
legislative and local elections, the Ambassador advised Sadi
to consider sooner rather than later generating public
requests for international observers for the 2009
presidential elections.

STABILITY IN THE HANDS OF A DIVIDED MILITARY...
--------------------------------------------- --

8. (S) Sadi, who maintains contacts with elements of the

ALGIERS 00001806 003 OF 004


Algerian military and security services, told us that the
army was no longer as unified as it had been even a few years
ago. Two splits were emerging, he said. The first is among
younger officers who know Algeria is not well and blame the
old guard for neglect and mismanagement. These officers,
Sadi said, want change and feel an increasing sense of
urgency that the country is adrift. The second split
identified by Sadi lies within the senior ranks of the
military, between officers who favor a tougher approach to
security and counter-terrorism (the "eradicateurs") and those
still aligned with Bouteflika's national reconciliation
policy. XXXXXXXXXXXX, whose brother
is an army officer, said on December 17 that there are
colonels in the Algerian military who think the current drift
cannot continue. The question, XXXXXXXXXXXX whispered, is whether
they can organize themselves.

9. (S) Sadi told us of at least one conversation he has had
recently with General Toufik Mediene, the head of Algeria's
DRS (military intelligence apparatus) who is widely viewed as
the key figure in ensuring regime control and survival. He
said Mediene acknowledged that all was not well with the
health of Bouteflika and Algeria writ large. However,
according to Sadi, Mediene said that he needed some kind of
reassurance that any political alternative "would be viable"
and, by implication, would not destabilize the country. Sadi
said that many senior officers were beginning to wonder if
they could get the army out of politics altogether, without
fear of public retribution for past abuses during the civil
war.

...WHILE CORRUPTION AND OIL PRICES REACH NEW HEIGHTS
--------------------------------------------- -------

10. (S) Sadi, Djaballah, XXXXXXXXXXXX and numerous other
contacts have told us that corruption has reached
unprecedented levels in the current regime. As we reported
in ref D, the ruling FLN party, intent on laying the
groundwork for a Bouteflika third term, has sought to install
local officials through electoral wrangling based on loyalty
even at the expense of competence. With oil prices at record
highs, former Finance and Prime Minister Benbitour told
Ambassador in November, there was less incentive for the
regime to carry out much-needed reforms. High oil prices are
bringing incredible wealth into the country, Benbitour told
us, but ordinary people are not seeing any impact on their
daily lives. (Indeed, Benbitour publicly coined a term we
see often in the media now: Algeria is rich, but the people
are poor. Islamist leader Djaballah used it with us often on
December 17.) Corruption, XXXXXXXXXXXX, has reached epic
proportions, even within the military. He cited Lieutenant
General Ahmad Gaid Salah, commander of Algerian military
forces, as perhaps the most corrupt official in the military
apparatus, something other contacts have told us as well.
When Sadi mentioned the corruption problem to General
Mediene, Sadi said, Mediene acknowledged the problem.
Motioning silently to the portrait of Bouteflika that hung
over their heads, he indicated to Sadi that the extent of the
problem went all the way to the top. (Comment: many embassy
contacts think President Bouteflika himself is not
particularly corrupt, but they readily finger the President's
brothers, Said and Abdallah, as being particularly rapacious.
The Algerian military, meanwhile, has launched an
anti-corruption program that is ambitious by Algerian
standards but has left the senior leadership relatively
untouched. End Comment.)

COMMENT: AN AILING REGIME, AN AILING PRESIDENT
--------------------------------------------- -

11. (S) Our Algerian contacts are often a grumpy lot, but we
now hear more than the ordinary amount of concern about the
GOA's inability or unwillingness to address political,
economic and security problems. The bombings and the debate
about how to handle Islamist extremism also are starting to
remind of the ferocious arguments within Algerian society
during the worst of 1990s violence. These contacts agree
that while the 1990s showed most Algerians can withstand lots
of pain, the December 11 bombings laid bare the regime's lack
of vision and inability to manage the pressures. We are
starting to hear echoes of a debate within some circles of
the military establishment of an increasingly polarized

ALGIERS 00001806 004 OF 004


debate over national reconciliation has become a discussion
about the viability of Bouteflika's government itself.
According to our contacts, stability remains the top priority
even among officials on opposite sides of the debate,
although they see stability as flowing not from Bouteflika's
leadership but from a military apparatus that appears to
realize that the buck stops with them. The new element is
the push from Prime Minister Belkhadem and the FLN apparatus,
probably with impetus from Bouteflika's brothers if not
President Bouteflika himself, to arrange a constitutional
amendment and a third term. Sadi, a medical doctor, said
that both Bouteflika and Algeria itself were in critical
condition and fading. According to Sadi (who may or may not
know), Bouteflika suffers from terminal stomach cancer, and
the regime lies on the operating table, slipping towards a
point of no return as "untrained surgeons" stand by.
Meanwhile, the government's seeming inability to jump-start
the stagnant economy has Algerians, especially youth, feeling
gloomy and grim about the fate of their country as it drifts
into the new year.
FORD