Published by Wikileaks & Bivol.bg
 date: 5/9/2006 10:04 refid: 06SOFIA647 origin: Embassy Sofia classification: SECRET//NOFORN destination:  header: Tim W Hayes  02/11/2009 11:09:57 AM  From  DB/Inbox:  Search Results  Cable  Text:                                                                                                                                                          S E C R E T    NOFORN     SOFIA 00647 CXsofia:     ACTION: POLEC     INFO:   AID DCM FAS FCS DAO PAO AMB POLM RSO  DISSEMINATION: POLE CHARGE: PROG  APPROVED: AMB:JBEYRLE DRAFTED: POLEC:JSENIOR CLEARED: DCM:JLEVINE, POLEC:BFREDEN, POLMIL:PNEMEC, RSO:TBURKES  VZCZCSFI326 PP RUEHC RUEHZL RUEAIIA DE RUEHSF #0647/01 1291004 ZNY SSSSS ZZH P 091004Z MAY 06 FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1871 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY  ----------------- header ends ----------------  S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 SOFIA 000647    NOFORN  SIPDIS    E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/09/2016  TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PINR, MARR, ASEC, KCOR, KCRM, BU  SUBJECT: BULGARIA'S MOST POPULAR POLITICIAN: GREAT HOPES,  MURKY TIES    Classified By: Ambassador John Beyrle, for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d).    1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: Sofia Mayor and former Interior Ministry  General Boiko Borisov has stormed onto the national political  scene in recent weeks, founding a new movement that has  quickly become the most popular political force in the  country.  Borisov has denied rumors that he will be a  candidate for president in this fall's elections; he seems  instead to have his eye on the more powerful post of prime  minister, and has publicly said that he does not want to see  the current coalition government serve out its term.  Borisov  has cooperated closely with the Embassy on law enforcement in  the past and, publicly at least, remains strongly  pro-American.  However, Borisov has been implicated in  serious criminal activity and maintains close ties to LUKoil  and the Russian embassy.  END SUMMARY.    2. (C) Borisov was elected mayor in November 2005, after  overseeing the nation's law enforcement agencies as Chief  Secretary of the Interior Ministry from 2001-2005.  He  catapulted to fame in that job, personally leading raids  against drug traffickers and car thieves and gaining  near-heroic status in the media as Bulgaria's top  crime-figher.  Borisov, who once described himself as  "Bulgaria's biggest asset," appeals to the public with his  plain yet colorful language, unpretentious behavior, and  sharp criticism of the country's political elite.  He is the  most popular political figure in the country, having  maintained a consistent approval rating of over 60 percent  for the past five years despite a mixed record against  organized crime at the Interior Ministry.    Something like a Phenomenon  ---------------------------    3. (C) On March 27, the Sofia City Court announced the  registration of a Borisov-linked association called "Citizens  for the European Development of Bulgaria."  Though  awkward-sounding to the English ear, the group's name was  carefully chosen to reflect a balance between patriotism and  pro-European values.  Its reference to Europe distinguishes  it from the anti-EU extremist party ATAKA, while the group's  Bulgarian acronym "GERB," by which it is commonly known,  means "shield" or "coat-of-arms" and has a strong patriotic  connotation.    4. (C) Borisov is not a co-founder of GERB, or even a member  -- officially, he remains focused on his duties as mayor.  In  practice, he serves as GERB's public face and has traveled  across the country giving speeches at GERB events and  inaugurating new chapters.  His efforts have been well  received; the five week-old "citizens' association" has leapt  to the top of the national polls.  In a survey released April  24, 22 percent of respondents said they would support "the  party of Boiko Borisov" if parliamentary elections were held  immediately.  The Socialist-led Coalition for Bulgaria, which  won first place in last fall's elections, came in second with  19 percent.    5. (C) GERB's meteoric rise has siphoned away support from  the radical nationalists of ATAKA, whose rating fell to 7  percent, off a high of 11 percent in January (septel).  GERB  has also attracted supporters of center-right opposition  parties, which in recent years have become too divided by  personality conflicts among their leaders to offer any  meaningful counterweight to the ruling coalition. Borisov's  nationalist, "tough-guy" credentials, pro-European rhetoric,  and populist style have led many political observers to  consider him the only man who can unite the Bulgarian right.    6. (C) Borisov has done little to disabuse them of this  notion.  In a recent meeting with the Ambassador, Borisov was  dismissive of other right-wing parties, stating that he  "would destroy" ATAKA, and that the National Movement for  Simeon the Second (NMSS), with whom he was once affiliated,  "is melting."  If he were to ally with anyone, he said, it  would be with the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the  right-wing party which ruled Bulgaria through much of the  nineties.  The party, which currently polls at less than 5  percent, "is finished" in Borisov's view, but he would still  consider a partnership, if only "to keep the brand" alive.    7. (S/NF) The timing and tactics of the Mayor's next move  remain unclear, but recent statements hint at the direction  he will take.  A May 2 interview in the high-circulation  daily "24 Chasa" appeared under the headline quote: "This  coalition should go home early."  In a recent conversation  with us, Borisov was more direct, saying bluntly, "I will  bring down the government after the basing agreement is  completed."    An Influential Ally on Basing  -----------------------------    8. (S) Borisov has repeatedly assured us that he supports  close relations with the United States, including the basing  of U.S. troops on Bulgarian soil.  In a May 5 op-ed, he  described the signing of the Defense Cooperation Agreement as  a foreign policy "win" for Bulgaria, stressed the advantages  of joint training and U.S. investment, and called on basing  opponents to "hold their tongues in consideration of the  national interest."  However, Borisov has occasionally  strayed off-message, particularly when trying to make hay  from the government's unpopular handling of the initiative.  Speaking in Haskovo on April 5, he told a crowd of hundreds  that he personally supported basing U.S. troops in Bulgaria,  but went on to describe the government's failure to subject  the basing issue to a national referendum as a "fundamental  blunder."  Comments in a later interview were harsher; "On  Iraq (the government) said that they would withdraw our  troops immediately.  They didn't withdraw them; they sent  another brigade there.  They gave the Americans bases without  getting anything in return."  A letter from the Ambassador to  Borisov taking strong issue with these comments had the  desired result -- the Mayor has refrained from further  criticizing the government on this issue, and issued the May  5 op-ed (repeating large sections of the Ambassador's  pro-basing arguments verbatim) in order to clarify his  support for the joint bases.    Bio:  From Fireman to "Batman"  ------------------------------    9. (S) Born on 13 June 1959, Borisov grew up in Bankia, an  outlying district of Sofia, where he was involved with petty  gangs and gained a reputation as a neighborhood tough.  After  finishing high school, he attended the Interior Ministry  Higher Institute (Bulgaria's main academy for police and  security services) and graduated in 1982 with a degree in  Firefighting Equipment and Fire Safety.  He was reportedly  denied entry into the Military Academy and more elite  faculties of the MoI academy because his grandfather had been  executed in a 1950s communist show trial.  After graduating,  Borisov, who holds a black belt, became coach of the national  karate team before joining the Sofia police force as platoon  commander and later company commander.  From 1985-1990 he  worked at the Interior Ministry Institute and was granted a  doctoral degree in "Psychological and Physical Training of  Operatives."    10. (C) After the end of one-party rule, Borisov went into  business.  He founded his own private security firm and built  it into one of the biggest in the country at a time when  "private security" was synonymous with extortion and  strong-arm tactics.  In the 1990s he served as personal  bodyguard to late communist dictator Todor Zhivkov (by then  out of power), and was later hired to guard former king  Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha during the ex-monarch's private  visits to Bulgaria.  When Saxe-Coburg returned to Bulgaria  permanently and was elected Prime Minister in 2001, he  appointed Borisov as Chief Secretary of the Interior Ministry  -- a post that Borisov built into the most powerful law  enforcement position in the country.  In addition to  traditional law enforcement agencies, Borisov oversaw the  National Border Police, the Customs Service, and the National  Security Service, which is responsible for  counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism.    11. (S/NF) Borisov promoted himself shamelessly as Chief  Secretary, skillfully combining influential connections with  media owners and Hollywood-perfect press instincts to ensure  the favorable coverage that his image is built on.  Dubbed  "Batman" for his brooding presence, penchant for black  designer clothes and sudden appearances on crime scenes,  Borisov built a PR machine that won him broad support from  all age and social groups.  Journalists tell us privately  that Borisov pays cash for positive coverage and threatens  those who report negatively on him.  His tenure saw him  hailed as "Sheriff of the Nation" despite at least 123  organized crime-related assassinations and no arrests of  major OC leaders.  To his credit, Borisov broke new ground in  cooperation with U.S. law enforcement and intelligence  agencies, and orchestrated numerous arrests of drug  traffickers, counterfeiters and human traffickers.  He has  attempted to use these ties for his own ends, often boasting  of his close relationships with Western security services  generally, and U.S. services in particular.  His regular  meetings with representatives of the Russian Embassy receive  less publicity.    12. (S) In private conversation, Borisov presents himself as  almost violently anti-Communist -- an epithet he applies to  the contemporary Bulgarian Socialist Party as well as the  former regime.  He often refers to his grandfather's death at  the Communists' hands and rails against the leading role  played by scions of "old Communist families" such as PM  Stanishev, Chief Prosecutor Velchev and Parliamentary Speaker  Pirinski.  Borisov is street smart but often appears  politically naive, as when told us he expects direct American  support for his political career as a sign of our  appreciation for his cooperation.  His high energy level and  short attention span sometimes lead him to pace like a caged  tiger.  He is exceptionally thin-skinned when it comes to  public or private criticism.    The Dirt  --------    13. (S/NF) Accusations in years past have linked Borisov to  oil-siphoning scandals, illegal deals involving LUKoil and  major traffic in methamphetamines.  Information from SIMO  tends to substantiate these allegations.  Borisov is alleged  to have used his former position as head of Bulgarian law  enforcement to arrange cover for criminal deals, and his  common-law wife, Tsvetelina Borislavova, manages a large  Bulgarian bank that has been accused of laundering money for  organized criminal groups, as well as for Borisov's own  illegal transactions.  Borisov is said to have close social  and business ties to influential Mafia figures, including  Mladen Mihalev (AKA "Madzho"), and is a former business  partner of OC figure Roumen Nikolov (AKA "the Pasha").    14. (S/NF) Borisov has close financial and political ties to  LUKoil Bulgaria Director Valentin Zlatev, a vastly  influential kingmaker and behind-the-scenes power broker.  Borisov's loyalty (and vulnerability) to Zlatev play a major  role in his political decision making.  The Mayor has engaged  LUKoil in a number of public-private partnerships since  taking office: LUKoil has agreed to donate asphalt for the  repair of city streets, take on the upkeep of a Soviet Army  monument, and finance construction of low-income housing.  In  a reciprocal gesture, Borisov has advocated using municipal  land to develop new LUKoil stations.  Though this may seem a  significant quid-pro-quo, Borisov's public agreements with  LUKoil are only side deals in his much deeper and broader  business relationship with Zlatev, which has been reported in  other channels.    Comment: Implications for U.S. Interests  ----------------------------------------    15. (S/NF) Boiko Borisov is an unpredictable individual with  unbridled political ambition and an apparently bright future  in Bulgarian politics.  He may be capable of making good on  his threat to bring down the current government, though not  without political allies from within the ruling coalition.  In any case, few people expect him to move before the  November presidential election and Bulgaria's planned  accession to the EU on January 1.  Borisov voices strong  support for close relations with the United States, and is in  a position to advance some American interests in this  country.  His clear appeal to nationalist voters may  occasionally bring him into conflict with U.S. policies, but  it is also an opportunity to promote a more positive image of  the U.S. to the public at large.    16 (S/NF) Borisov's ego may provide our greatest leverage  over him -- he craves international attention and  particularly covets U.S. approval.  We must continue to walk  a fine line between being used by Borisov's publicity machine  and alienating an exceptionally popular and seemingly  pro-American politician who may emerge as Bulgaria's next  leader.  In other words, we should continue to push him in  the right direction, but never forget who we're dealing with.   END COMMENT.      Beyrle 

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