A MIXED RECEPTION FOR CHAVEZ IN BOLIVIA

Código Fecha Clasificación Origen
07LAPAZ679 12 March 2007 Confidencial Embassy La Paz

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VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #0679/01 0711904
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 121904Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2784
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 6620
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 3940
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 7828
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 5076
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 2308
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 2417
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 3369
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 4473
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 4948
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 9536
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0204
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

C O N F I D E N T I A L LA PAZ 000679

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/13/2017
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, ECON, BL, VE
SUBJECT: A MIXED RECEPTION FOR CHAVEZ IN BOLIVIA

REF: A. LA PAZ 3302 (2006)
B. LA PAZ 673

Classified By: DCM Kris Urs for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).


SUMMARY


1. (C) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez visited Bolivia March
10-11 to show solidarity with Bolivia’s flooding victims. In
the Beni department on March 10 before a trucked-in crowd of
several thousand Bolivians, Chavez donated disaster
assistance, including two helicopters and 40 tractors, and
used the opportunity to rant against U.S. imperialism. While
many flooding victims applauded Chavez’ assistance, he also
drew criticism, most notably from the opposition mayor and
prefect from the area, both who did not participate in the
visit. In El Alto March 11, Chavez and Morales signed four
agreements on political, commercial, and energy integration.
Morales and Chavez spoke to approximately 2,500 social sector
members, with Chavez focusing on South American unity and
antipathy towards the United States. He called President
Bush a "political cadaver" and claimed the CIA and U.S.
embassies in the region are working to kill him and Morales
and to foment coups in Latin America. Morales, in
comparison, was more cautious in his discourse, making only a
couple of references to the "empire" or "external enemies."
Most daily papers carried the Chavez visit as a second or
third page story; Sunday’s paper, however, contained a
12-page GOB-paid insert touting the benefits of a tripartite
People’s Trade Agreement, Cuban literacy programs, and Cuban
and Venezuelan disaster assistance. All in all, Chavez’
reception in Bolivia was mixed and Morales’ tone was
cautious, making this visit less notable than previous Chavez
forays to Bolivia. End summary.


CHAVEZ BUYING SUPPORT IN THE BENI


2. (SBU) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez visited Bolivia
March 10-11 to show solidarity with Bolivia’s flooding
victims. Chavez brought disaster assistance to the Beni
department March 10, and used the opportunity to rant against
U.S. imperialism. A trucked-in crowd of several thousand
people waving the wiphala (Bolivia’s indigenous flag) and the
flags of Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, and Venezuela met
Chavez at the airport. The Venezuelan president donated two
helicopters, 40 tractors (via Iranian cooperation), and
supplies, as well as 5 million bolivianos (around USD
625,000) for post-disaster reconstruction. In a speech
described by the press as overtly political, Chavez said
"those who want to go to hell, go for capitalism; those who
want to build the kingdom of God here on earth, let’s follow
socialism." He said that the Morales government and the
people of Latin America should fight against the "traitors"
that gave Bolivia’s natural resources to multinationals in
the past. The Venezuelan president said neoliberalism and
imperialism fall "like a thousand hurricanes, like a thousand
floods" on Bolivia and the region. "The revolution is
multiplying," he said, "and that’s what the empire fears."
He called President Bush’s plan to send doctors to the region
"ridiculous" given the Venezuelan and Cuban medical aid to
date. Chavez also suggested the creation of a South American
armed forces. Cuban Popular Assembly President Ricardo
Alarcon highlighted his country’s assistance in the form of
doctors.

3. (SBU) While many flooding victims applauded Chavez’
assistance, he also drew criticism from the political
opposition and local government officials. In his speech,
Chavez referred to Bolivia’s "internal enemy," stating that
some media outlets and "oligarchs" oppose him and Venezuela’s
"supposed political interference." The opposition responded
publicly, asking Morales to put an end to Chavez’
interference. Neither the prefect (governor) of Beni nor the
mayor of Trinidad attended the donation ceremony. Prefect
Ernesto Suarez said he was not invited and cited Venezuelan
military officials’ "abuse" of local government officials and
civic leaders. Suarez also declared Chavez "persona non
grata" and said that while his department is grateful for the
help, "we won’t lose our dignity." Several mayors from Beni
rejected the tractors because they were donated by Venezuela.


LESS THAN A WARM EMBRACE FROM EL ALTO


4. (SBU) In El Alto, Chavez and Morales signed four
agreements March 11 on political, commercial, and energy
integration. One provided that Bolivia will join Banco del
Sur, an initiative started by Venezuela and Argentina that
Ecuador and Brazil may also join. Another provided for
Bolivia’s inclusion in Opegasur (Organization of Southern
Countries Producing and Exporting Gas); yet another promised
to further the implementation of the Bolivarian Alternative
for the Americas (ALBA) and an April 2006 People’s Trade
Agreement (TCP) with Venezuela and Cuba (ref A). The final
agreement scheduled a regional summit of presidents and
social movements to be held in Cochabamba June 4.

5. (SBU) Morales and Chavez spoke to approximately 2,500
social sector members in El Alto; representatives from
Venezuela, Cuban, and Ecuador were in attendance. Chavez
spoke for more than an hour, focusing on South American unity
and antipathy towards the United States. He called President
Bush a "political cadaver" and claimed the CIA and U.S.
embassies in the region are working to kill him and Morales
and to foment coups in Latin America. Chavez criticized the
capitalist and neoliberal model, calling countries aligned
with Bush oligarchies. He also accused U.S. officials of
buying Bolivian military officials for the ultimate defense
of the United States. With respect to U.S. assistance and
President Bush’s Latin American tour, Chavez said "it seems
the United States has just discovered that there are poor
people in Latin America" and that the region doesn’t need its
"false charity." Chavez bragged that Caracas, La Paz, and
Buenos Aires are the "central axis" of South American
integration. Chavez also threw in a few gratuitous "Gringos,
go home" comments and expressed homage to Fidel Castro,
mispronouncing the indigenous cheer of "jallala a Fidel"
("long live Fidel" in Aymara).

6. (SBU) Morales, in comparison, was cautious in his
discourse, making only a couple of references to the "empire"
or to "external enemies." Regarding President Bush’s Latin
American tour, Morales noted that Bush has been met by
protests and urged Bolivians to unite with the rest of their
Latin American homeland. He said that we will see "many
Cubas" in the future and described Chavez and Castro as the
"two commanders of liberating forces." Morales said his term
in office has not been easy because "internal and external
enemies want to marginalize us, sometimes use us." He
lamented the difficulty in "liberating" people from the
neoliberal and capitalist model and highlighted the June
summit as an opportunity to unite "governments identified
with their people and not the empire." Morales also
profusely thanked the international community (without naming
specific countries) for their disaster assistance. Finally,
Morales addressed allegations of corruption within his
Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party and called on party
loyalists to report those who corruptly obtained positions in
his government.


NO PRESS? LET’S BUY THAT, TOO


7. (SBU) Most daily papers carried the Chavez visit as a
second or third page story. Sunday’s paper, however,
contained a 12-page insert paid by the GOB touting the
benefits of TCP-ALBA, Cuban literacy programs, and Cuban and
Venezuelan disaster assistance. The insert reported that via
its "Yes I can" literacy campaign, Cuba has donated 30,000
TVs, 30,000 VHS machines, manuals and books, and 127 Cuban
teachers to the program. Cuban "experts" claim a total of
342,766 participants to date, with 87,147 of those having
graduated. The insert also touted Cuba’s and Venezuela’s
"immediate response" to flooding in Bolivia. The article
claimed Venezuela has donated USD 15 million in disaster
assistance, including 100 tons of food, medicines, bottled
water, tents, water tanks, generators, inflatable boats, and
an all-terrain vehicle. It also reported that Cuba sent more
than 100 doctors to rural, flooded areas, for a total of
1,800 doctors in country.


COMMENT: A LUKEWARM RECEPTION


8. (C) All in all, Chavez’ reception in Bolivia was mixed and
Morales’ tone was cautious, making this visit less notable
than previous Chavez forays to Bolivia. Only 2,500 people
received Chavez in El Alto— a very low number for any type
of rally there— and many were annoyed by the fact that
Morales and Chavez arrived almost two hours late. Attendees
told Emboff that they were bused in by MAS officials and were
provided food throughout the day. While Morales took a few
jabs at the United States, he and Vice President Alvaro
Garcia Linera appeared visibly uncomfortable during Chavez’
more radical discourses. If not for Venezuela’s significant
disaster assistance at a time of great Bolivian need, Chavez’
visit would have been a near non-event. End comment.
GOLDBERG