CHAVEZ THREATENS TO EXPEL CHARGE’ D’AFFAIRES

Código Fecha Clasificación Origen
09CARACAS44 14 January 2009 Secreto Embassy Caracas

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VZCZCXRO6696
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV
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ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 141506Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2411
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUCNFB/FBI WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE PRIORITY
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 000044

SIPDIS

HQSOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
DEPARTMENT PASS TO USAID/OTI (RPORTER)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/13/2034
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, VE
SUBJECT: CHAVEZ THREATENS TO EXPEL CHARGE’ D’AFFAIRES

CARACAS 00000044 001.2 OF 002

Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR FRANCISCO FERNANDEZ,
REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

1. (S) Summary. President Chavez threatened to expel Charge’
Caulfield if the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of
Venezuela (GBRV) can prove that he met recently with
opposition leaders in Puerto Rico. State media outlets
accuse the Charge’ of meeting with Globovision Director
Ravell and leaders from three opposition parties to plan a
strategy to defeat Chavez’s proposed amendment to eliminate
term limits. The Charge’ attended a wedding in Puerto Rico
and did not meet with any Venezuelans there; Embassy
spokesperson stated that fact in response to press queries.
While attending the wedding reception, Charge’ was tipped off
by USG officials that he was possibly under surveillance in
San Juan by Venezuelan agents. Chavez is once again trying
to frame an upcoming domestic elections as a contest between
the United States ("empire") together with its Venezuelan
allies ("pitiyanquis") against his Bolivarian revolution.
While Chavez’s traditional electoral strategy may be wearing
thin, many pundits believe Chavez continues to use the United
States as a foil to rally his base. End Summary.


Another "American Plot"


2. (SBU) On January 10, President Chavez accused opposition
activists of meeting in Puerto Rico to prepare a strategy to
oppose his proposed referendum to eliminate term limits for
all elected offices. He also said that an American official
may have participated in the meetings. "I do not yet have
the proof, but if that’s the case, I would expel him from the
country." (Note: President Chavez ordered the expulsion of
Ambassador Duddy on September 11, 2008, in solidarity with
the Bolivian government’s decision to expel the U.S.
Ambassador there. End Note). Chavez made this most recent
threat during a January 10 broadcast to highlight the
transfer of technical control of the Simon Bolivar satellite
from China to Venezuela.

3. (SBU) State media outlets, including VTV, Avila TV, and
the newspaper VEA, subsequently published more specific
accusations. An obviously tipped-off Avila TV crew
approached Primero Justicia leader Julio Borges, COPEI leader
Luis Ignacio Planas, and Un Nuevo Tiempo leader Omar Barboza,
and Globovision director Alberto Federico Ravell while they
were temporarily detained in immigration secondary after
returning to Maiquetia Airport from Puerto Rico the night of
January 10. The opposition politicians declined to answer
questions, but when an Avila TV journalist accused Ravell of
being a paid propagandist, Ravell threatened the journalist
on camera. President Chavez, in his Alo Presidente broadcast
on January 11 claimed that Ravell was angry because the
reporter had exposed the fact that Ravell and his companions
had met with the USG, and that the USG was behind the
opposition’s efforts to rally voters against the referendum.

4. (SBU) State media are highlighting the "angry Ravell"
footage and what they claim is an e-mail from Ravell to
opposition leaders inviting them to meet with "major league"
American advisors to develop a three-million-dollar campaign
against the indefinite re-election amendment. The text notes
that "our friend from the embassy will leave a day earlier."
Charge’ had seen Ravell the night before at a social function
and both mentioned their upcoming visits to Puerto Rico, but
made no plans to get together. State media reporting
specifically states that the meeting was set up to include
Charge’ Caulfield.

5. (SBU) During his January 11 "Alo, Presidente," broadcast,
Chavez spoke at length about opposition efforts to prevent
passage of an amendment to allow indefinite reelection for
all elected officials. He also said the government is
investigating the possible participation of an American
diplomat in the Puerto Rico opposition meeting. During his
January 12 press conference, Information Minister Jesse
Chacon noted that the Charge’ departed Maiquetia airport on
January 7, one day before opposition leaders. He added that
the proposed amendment is an issue for Venezuelans alone and
that U.S. officials should abstain from interfering in
Venezuela’s domestic affairs.

CARACAS 00000044 002.2 OF 002


The Back Story


6. (SBU) The Charge attended a wedding in Puerto Rico and did
not meet with any Venezuelans there. In response to press
queries, Embassy spokesperson stressed that the Charge’s
visit to Puerto Rico was a private one and had nothing to do
with Venezuela. PJ leader Julio Borges told the local media
that the opposition politicians met in Puerto Rico with
Chilean advisors who had experience running a successful
campaign against a referendum on indefinite reelection there.
Ravell told PAS Counselor that the ostensible e-mail
invitation running in state media is apocryphal

7. (SBU) No one from the Venezuelan government contacted the
Embassy to ask about the Charge’s private trip to Puerto
Rico. Upon return to Venezuela, Charge’ called Foreign
Minister Maduro’s Chief of Staff Temir Porras, but was only
able to speak to an assistant. Charge’ told the assistant
that allegation of a clandestine meeting in Puerto Rico was a
lie and noted that Charge’ routinely met with government and
opposition leaders in Venezuela and did not need to do so in
Puerto Rico.

8. (SBU) After hyping the story for three days and
threatening the Charge’ with expulsion, Chavez made no
mention of Charge’ during his seven-and-one-half hour January
13 address to the National Assembly. Chavez did issue a
general admonishment to the diplomatic corps to stay out of
Venezuelan national affairs. He also repeatedly attacked the
opposition and criticized the opposition leaders’ ("the
Fantastic Four") meeting in Puerto Rico.


Comment


9. (S) President Chavez is again trying to frame a domestic
election as a contest between the United States (the
"empire") and its Venezuelan allies, pitiyanquis, and his
Bolivarian revolution. Chavista paranoia continues to run
deep even when it is GBRV officials themselves who are
concocting and alleging an American conspiracy. While
pollsters tell us that Chavez’s allegations of U.S. plots do
not really resonate with most Venezuelans, others pundits
insist that Chavez is still able to rally his base with such
rhetoric. Chavez should already be aware, as a result of
surveillance by his agents in San Juan, that the Charge’s
visit to that city was strictly personal.

10. (C) Chavez and other senior GBRV officials also appear to
be trying to warn foreign diplomats and opposition
politicians to stay clear of each other. Chavez is equating
any opposition with treason. That opposition leaders feel
compelled to strategize outside of Venezuela and that the
GBRV advertises that it is monitoring their activities speaks
to the creeping totalitarianism in Venezuela.

CAULFIELD