El Salvador: 2009 Investment Climate Statement

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¶1. (C) Summary: The BDG is considering replacing ailing
President Iajuddin Ahmed out of concern that his poor health
will prevent him from running his office during the term of
the caretaker government ahead of next January’s
parliamentary elections. PM Zia favors giving Ahmed some more
time either to recover and stay in office or to offer to
quit, before making a request for his resignation. A new
President, if elected, will get a five-year term from the day
he or she takes the oath of office. End Summary.

¶2. (C) At an informal meeting on June 19, PM Zia and two of
her top policymakers reviewed the situation arising out of
the failing health of President Ahmed and decided to look for
options to replace him in the likely case of his inability to
function as President, particularly during the 90-day tenure
of the non-party caretaker government scheduled to take over
in late October. (Note: Although a ceremonial figurehead, the
President controls the defense forces and assumes legislative
authority and control over the government during the
caretaker regime. End Note) The President is elected by
Parliament; hence, BDG leaders generally prefer an early
decision on the issue as the term of the current Parliament
expires on October 28.

¶3. (C) The PM’s Parliamentary Affairs Advisor, Salahuddin
Quader (“SQ”) Chowdhury, told Pol FSN that the PM consulted
him and Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr. Khandaker
Mosharraf Hossain on how to deal with the situation arising
out of the President’s illness. “The PM seemed hesitant about
asking for replacing President Ahmed and rather wanted us,
and particularly Dr. Hossain, to make suggestions to this
end,” Chowdhury said, adding that it was Hossain who had
recommended Ahmed, his former colleague at Dhaka University,
to be nominated President in 2002. Chowdhury quoted Hossain
to have told the PM that he did not see any option other than
to elect a new President as Ahmed was too ill to be able to
run the presidency during the likely political turbulence in
the run-up to the elections slated for January 2007. PM Zia
dismissed Acting President Zamiruddin Sircar as the possible
replacement for Ahmed and asked for other suitable candidates.

¶4. (C) On his return to Dhaka on June 20 after undergoing
heart by-pass surgery at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in
Singapore, Ahmed went straight to the Intensive Care Unit
(ICU) of the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) and is staying
there. Chowdhury said the President’s wife and son insisted
he return to Bangabhaban, his official residence, instead of
the CMH to avoid entreaties to quit the presidency because of
his poor health. The President, however, listened to his
doctors’ advice. The Director General of the Army Medical
Corps also questioned whether an ICU could be set up at
Bangbhaban, Chowdury said, adding that besides the heart, the
President’s kidneys, liver, and prostrate are malfunctioning.

¶5. (C) Giving a similar account, the President’s Press
Secretary Mokhlesur Rahman Chowdhury said the President does

not seem to have a problem resigning, but his family members
are opposed to it. He said the President will enjoy the
status of a cabinet minister and continue to get some perks
and privileges even after his resignation, but the members of
his family are not willing to give up the pomp and splendor
of their life at Bangabhaban. He acknowledged discussion
among top policymakers about replacing the President and said
electing a new president is beneficial to the ruling party as
the new president will be in office for five years from the
day he or she takes the oath of office regardless of which
parties come to power through the next parliament elections.

¶6. (U) The 75-year old Ahmed was admitted to the CMH on May
23, a day after PM Zia saw him at Bangabhaban to brief him on
her recent foreign trips. Opposition leader Hasina publicly
speculated that “Ahmed was made to fall sick” by Zia as she
herself now wanted to become the President. On May 24, an air
ambulance flew Ahmed to Singapore where he was found to have
three blockages in his arteries. He underwent surgery on May
¶26. According to press reports, doctors diagnosed Ahmed as a
cardiac patient long ago and had advised him to go for care

¶7. (U) Comment: Given the acrimony between the political
camps, a Presidential resignation would likely give rise to a
spate of controversies and accusations right before the
four-party coalition leaves office. This will revive the

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controversy over Professor Badruddoza Chowdhury’s ouster from
the presidency in June 2002. The opposition will ask if
Ahmed’s departure from Bangabhaban has been designed to give
the BNP an opportunity to install its chosen person to be in
Bangabhaban for another five-year term even if the opposition
wins the next parliament election. End comment.