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Cablegate: Chavez: Death to the U.S. "Empire"

VZCZCXRO9409
RR RUEHAG RUEHCD RUEHDF RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHMC RUEHNG
RUEHROV RUEHTM
DE RUEHCV #0336/01 0462203
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 152203Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7852
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHZI/WHA IM POSTS COLLECTIVE
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 000336

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

TREASURY FOR KLINGENSMITH AND NGRANT
COMMERCE FOR 4431/MAC/WH/MCAMERON
NSC FOR DTOMLINSON
ENERGY FOR CDAY, DPUMPHERY, AND ALOCKWOOD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON ENRG VE
SUBJECT: CHAVEZ: DEATH TO THE U.S. "EMPIRE"

1. (SBU) Summary: President Chavez lashed out (again) at
the United States on February 14 and threatened to
nationalize supermarkets not abiding by government price
controls. Responding to Under Secretary Burns' comments last
week on U.S. foreign oil dependence, Chavez downplayed the
importance of the United States as a consumer of Venezuelan
oil and said that if the United States did not want to buy
his oil, he would sell it elsewhere. He commented that he
"missed" Secretary Rice, and that President Bush's upcoming
visit to Latin America in March would unleash anti-American
protests, proclaiming "death to the empire and death to its
leaders!" He also announced proposed legislation that would
criminalize hoarding and price speculation. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- ------------
Chavez: If They Don't Want Oil, We Will Sell it Elsewhere
--------------------------------------------- ------------

2. (SBU) President Chavez used the occasion of a meeting
with pensioners at a military base on February 14 to deliver
his first nationally televised speech in 10 days. Chavez
responded to Under Secretary Burns' reported statements on
February 7 during a press conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil,
that energy had distorted the power of some states we find to
play a negative role in the world -- Venezuela and Iran --
and that the less the United States depends on oil from such
states, the better. Chavez lashed out in typical fashion,
denying Venezuela's dependence on U.S. oil consumption. "So
the United States little by little wants to make itself
independent from oil coming from places like Venezuela.
That's their problem. If they don't want to buy oil, tell us
and we won't sell it to them," said Chavez. He continued
that Venezuela had enough other clients to purchase its oil
and that Venezuela doesn't depend on the "American empire"
for anything.

---------------------------------
Chavez Responds to the Secretary
---------------------------------

3. (SBU) Chavez responded publicly for the first time to
Secretary Rice's comments about Venezuela during her

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congressional testimony of February 7. Chavez noted with
irony that he "missed" the Secretary and that it had been
several days since she had paid him any attention. As he
occasionally does for dramatic effect, Chavez switched into
his heavily-accented English to ask "how are you
Condoleezza?" before continuing in Spanish, "Condoleezza said
that I was destroying the economy of the country, this
indicates that there is an economic plan against Venezuela."
He continued that the U.S. "economic plan" against Venezuela
did not rule out political, military or paramilitary plans.
"The empire never rests, especially a desperate empire such
as this," asserted Chavez.

-------------------------------------
Death to the Empire and its Leaders!
-------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Chavez qualified President Bush's upcoming visit to
Latin America March 8-14 as an "offensive." He opined that
the purpose of the President's Latin American trip was to
isolate Venezuela. He qualified the visit as a positive
development, because "it would give more force to the
anti-imperialist battle." Chavez commented that Bush's visit
would be greeted with protests and concluded with an emphatic
"Death to the Empire! Death to the leaders of the empire!"

--------------------------------------------
Chavez Threatens to Nationalize Supermarkets
--------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) On the domestic front, Chavez threatened to
nationalize supermarkets and other food providers that did
not abide by government-controlled pricing. Over recent
weeks, food shortages have developed and prices for basic
foodstuffs have climbed above government-regulated prices.
"A store sells meat above regulated prices, so we will
intervene and give them to community councils to manage,"
said Chavez. He dared the private sector to "give me the
first excuse to nationalize the first meat store,
supermarket, or food distributor." Chavez warned he could
sign the nationalizations into decree in a matter of hours.

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He added that he had been patient thus far, and that the
message had been delivered to producers, intermediaries and
the stores that the BRV would nationalize any company that
violated the rights of the people, the Constitution and the
law. "So prepare yourselves," concluded Chavez. He also
announced that a proposed decree-law against hoarding was
published in the Official Gazette on February 14. The
decree-law would provide that producers and establishments
that speculate or hoard products would face criminal
penalties.

-------
Comment
-------

6. (SBU) Chavez' latest tirades in response to comments made
by the Secretary and Under Secretary for Political Affairs
again show that he is increasingly thin-skinned to any hint
of criticism, and underscores his predilection for engaging
in personal insults and exchanges. Chavez may also be
increasingly insecure and paranoid. Internationally, he is
obviously peeved and concerned by the President's upcoming
Latin America trip, especially the visits to Brazil and
Uruguay, where he believes he has important influence.
Domestically, he faces mounting criticism with respect to
food shortages and ineffective price controls. Chavez'
nationalizations have targeted strategic sectors --
electricity, telecommunications, and oil. A contact who
manages a major supermarket chain told EconOff on February 15
that if Chavez feels that food security in Venezuela is
threatened, major supermarkets and food distributors may find
themselves swept into the nationalization campaign. End
Comment.


BROWNFIELD

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