(C) VATICAN HOPES FOR BETTER U.S.-CUBA TIES, IN PART TO REIN IN CHAVEZ AND HIS ACOLYTES

Código Fecha Clasificación Origen
09VATICAN59 22 April 2009 Confidencial Embassy Vatican

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O P 221627Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1100
INFO USINT HAVANA PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY LA PAZ PRIORITY
USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY
EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY VATICAN

C O N F I D E N T I A L VATICAN 000059

E.O. 12958: DECL: 4/22/2029
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, KIRF, VT, CU, VE, BL
SUBJECT: (C) VATICAN HOPES FOR BETTER U.S.-CUBA TIES, IN PART TO REIN
IN CHAVEZ AND HIS ACOLYTES

REF: A. A) CARACAS 486
B. B) CARACAS 443
C. C) VATICAN 36
D. D) VATICAN 12

CLASSIFIED BY: Julieta Valls Noyes, CDA, EXEC, State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (C) Summary: The Holy See welcomes President Obama’s new
outreach to Cuba and hopes for further steps soon, perhaps to
include prison visits for the wives of the Cuban Five. Better
U.S.-Cuba ties would deprive Hugo Chavez of one of his favorite
screeds and could help restrain him in the region, according to
a Vatican official. This is highly desirable for the Vatican,
which is very concerned about the deterioration of Church-state
relations in Venezuela. To avoid similar downward spirals
elsewhere, the Vatican said Church leaders elsewhere in Latin
America are reaching out to leftist governments. The recent
attack on a Cardinal’s home in Bolivia may have been intended to
derail such quiet rapprochement. End Summary.

Cuba: Great News. What Will You Do Next?


2. (C) CDA and Acting DCM on April 22 called on the Holy See’s
official in charge of relations with Caribbean and Andean
countries, Msgr. Angelo Accattino, to review recent developments
in the region. As he had done previously (ref c), Accattino
warmly welcomed recent White House policy decisions on Cuba and
reviewed with interest the White House Fact Sheet on "Reaching
Out to the Cuban People" which CDA gave him. Accattino also
noted favorably Raul Castro’s comments that Cuba was prepared to
talk to the U.S. about all topics - although "after all, he has
no other options anymore." CDA said Castro would need to
reciprocate the moves from Washington with more than words - he
needed to take action on political prisoners or reduce the cost
of receiving remittances in Cuba.

3. (C) Accattino said the Vatican considered intriguing the
possibility of a swap of political prisoners in Cuba for the
"Cuban Five" in jail in the U.S. ADCM protested that their
circumstances were not parallel, as the Cuban Five were
convicted spies and the prisoners in Cuba were dissidents.
Accattino quickly agreed but said discussions that led to the
release of the dissidents were worth pursuing regardless. The
Holy See was also following the Supreme Court appeal by the
Cuban Five, to see how that might affect relations between the
U.S. and Cuba. As an interim measure, Accattino suggested that
the U.S. allow a jail visit by the wives of two of the five
Cuban spies. CDA again noted that the U.S. had taken the first
step, now the Cuban government needed to reciprocate in a
concrete way.

Venezuela: Chavez is Worried. So is the Church.


-

4. (C) The Cuba debate, Accattino said, had cast a long shadow
at the recent Summit of the Americas. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez
was clearly rattled by the thought that the U.S. and Cuba could
enter into a dialogue that excluded him, and this motivated his
"little scene" at the Summit. "Chavez is not dumb," and he was
playing to the other hemispheric leaders with his bombastic
approach to President Obama. The Holy See believes that the
U.S. and Cuba should pursue a dialogue both for its own sake
and/and in order to reduce the influence of Chavez and break up
his cabal in Latin America, Accattino said.

5. (C) The situation for civil society in Venezuela is getting
worse every day, according to Accattino. The asylum request by
Maracaibo Mayor Manuel Rosales in Peru was only the latest sign
of the narrowing political space in Venezuela. (Asked for
updates on the whereabouts or situation of the Venezuelan asylum
seeker Nixon Moreno from the Nunciature in Caracas, however,
Accattino answered a bit evasively.) The real concern,
Accattino said, is that Venezuela is turning into Cuba, while
Cuba may be ready to open up.

6. (C) Church-state relations are also deteriorating daily in
Venezuela, Accattino said. The Venezuelan Catholic Conference of
Bishops (CEV) did not check in with Rome before taking actions
or making statements like its highly critical April 6 communique
(ref A). The Holy See agreed with the CEV conclusions, and
would defend them — even when it believed "a less
confrontational approach would be more effective."

Bolivia: No More Venezuelas, Let’s Talk. But Who Attacked Our
Cardinal?


--------------

7. (C) Turning to the recent dynamite attack against the
residence of Cardinal Terrazas on April 15 in Bolivia, Accattino
said it had worried the Holy See greatly. There was property
damage, but thankfully no-one was hurt. It could easily have
been worse. The Vatican is reserving judgment, pending the
government’s investigation, on who was behind the attack. It
could have been radicals inside the government who want to
derail the recent rapprochement between the Church and the
state. The extreme right also could have been responsible -
trying to make it seem like the government did it - for the same
reason. Accattino said the Holy See considers either
explanation equally plausible at this point. Meanwhile, it will
keep talking to the government, because it has no choice.

Comment: Looking Out for the Church First


8. (C) The Holy See has consistently maintained that improving
U.S.-Cuba ties would greatly reduce the appeal of Hugo Chavez.
It is so alarmed by the continued downward spiral in its own
relations with Chavez, in fact, that Accattino said Church
leaders in Latin American countries with leftist governments are
rethinking their approach. Many episcopal (bishops) conferences
in the region had in the past been willing to criticize excesses
of these governments in an effort to protect civil society.
They may be pulling back from that activism and advocacy in the
short term, in order to protect their longer-term ability to
minister to the Catholic faithful without interference. That
attitude is what is behind the Church’s moves to improve
relations with the Morales government in Bolivia. It may also
explain Accattino’s ever-so-mild tone of criticism when
discussing CEV decisions in Caracas. As for Accattino’s polite
unwillingness to discuss the Nixon Moreno case, that may also be
telling, given his considerable interest in the topic last time
we spoke (ref c). End Comment.

NOYES