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Cablegate: Likely Chavez Rants in Argentina and Bolivia

VZCZCXRO3897
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV
DE RUEHCV #0444/01 0611841
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 021841Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7979
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 000444

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

HQSOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR AID/OTI (RPORTER)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/01/2025
TAGS: PREL ETRD VE AR
SUBJECT: LIKELY CHAVEZ RANTS IN ARGENTINA AND BOLIVIA

REF: BUENOS AIRES 000384

CARACAS 00000444 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: ACTING POLITICAL COUNSELOR DANIEL LAWTON,
REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

1. (S) Summary. President Chavez announced February 28 that
he will visit Argentina and Bolivia starting on March 9-10,
the same time that the President is visiting Brazil, Uruguay,
and Colombia. Chavez is publicly criticizing the President's
upcoming visit to Latin America and is helping organize
anti-American protests in and outside Venezuela. The
Venezuelan president can be expected to deliver further
rhetorical attacks on the President and on U.S. foreign
policy to try to divert public and media attention from the
President's Latin America visit. We anticipate that Chavez
will try to trumpet the Bolivarian Alternative" to free trade
(ALBA) and Venezuelan aid to the region, criticize the World
Bank, IMF and "savage capitalism", misconstrue U.S. interest
in ethanol, as well as accuse the U.S. of "imperialism" in
Iraq and Iran. While most of Chavez' comments are not likely
to merit any response, the President's party may find targets
of opportunities to counter Chavez. End Summary.

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"This is Our House"
-------------------

2. (U) Since the White House announced the President's March
8-14 visit to Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, and
Mexico, President Chavez has regularly criticized the
President's upcoming travel to the region, calling it a
"failure in advance" and "an effort to divide South America."
Chavez announced in his February 28 radio address that he
will visit Buenos Aires and La Paz at the same time that the
President is in Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia, but denied
his travel was a "conspiracy to sabotage" the President's
visit. "Some want us to leave South America," Chavez
continued, "but this is our house." Chavez invited
Venezuelans to attend a "peaceful" march against the
President's visit. Pro-Chavez organizations announced March
1 that they will organize a "Bush Out of Our America" rally
in Caracas' Bolivar Plaza on March 8 and an
"anti-imperialist" march on March 12.

3. (U) During his February 26 radio broadcast, Chavez
predicted that the President would be confronted by protests
on his trip like the violent protests against then
Vice-President Nixon faced during his 1958 visit to
Venezuela. He suggested the President would be met with
"repudiation," but "hopefully the protests would not be
violent." During his March 1 "Alo, Presidente" television
broadcast, Chavez claimed that the President chose his travel
dates because the USG thought Chavez would be in the Middle
East, based on disinformation the BRV fed the CIA. He
chatted via telephone with Bolivian President Evo Morales and
jokingly suggested that both of them host the President for a
summit in La Paz.

4. (S) Chavez is in a position to try to make his prediction
of protests come true. Venezuela's embassies abroad actively
promote, fund, and guide left-wing Bolivarian circles of
persons sympathetic to Chavez' anti-American foreign policy.
Chavez has almost certainly asked Venezuelan embassies in the
region to generate protests against the President's visit,
just as his government organizes such protests at home.
According to sensitive reporting, the BRV is providing direct
support to organize anti-American protests in Buenos Aires
while Chavez is there.

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The Chavez Songsheet
--------------------

5. (SBU) With the caveat that predicting the behavior of the
intemperate and mercurial Venezuelan president is never easy,
we expect Chavez will once again try to secure international
media attention through personal attacks on the President and
other senior USG officials. During his February 28 radio
broadcast, Chavez referred to the President as "the biggest
genocidal killer in history" and called the Deputy Secretary
a "war criminal" and an "assassin." Chavez may even accuse
the President of planning to assassinate him and/or invade
Venezuela. Chavez frequently refers to the President by any
number of insulting and offensive names such as "the little
gentleman," "the drunkard," "Mister Danger," and following
his infamous performance at the UN General Assembly, "Satan."


6. (SBU) ALBA vs. FTAA: Chavez can also be expected to
promote his "Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas" (ALBA)
and denounce regional free trade agreements with the United
States. Chavez claims ALBA is a viable new system of
integration based on "People's Trade Agreements," and
"complementarity," instead of competition, but in reality
ALBA's appeal to member-states Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua
is Venezuelan foreign aid. While in Buenos Aires, Chavez
will almost certainly crow that he helped "bury" the Free
Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) when he attended the Summit
of the Americas in Argentina in 2005. In Bolivia, Chavez
will likely highlight Venezuela's flood relief as tangible
proof of the BRV's Latin "solidarity."

7. (SBU) Viva Socialismo: The Venezuelan president continues
to argue publicly that capitalism and key international
financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank are in
crisis. During his on-air February 27 telephone conversation
with Fidel Castro, for example, Chavez claimed that the IMF
"cannot pay its salaries and is selling gold bars." In
Buenos Aires and La Paz, he plans to promote the
soon-to-be-establshed Bank of the South (BancoSur) as a more
socially responsible alternative to the IMF. He can also be
expected to promote his as yet vaguely-defined "Socialism of
the 21st Century" and highlight his recent decisions to
expropriate majority stakes in Venezuela's largest
telecommunications company (CANTV), the electricity sector,
and the mixed associations working in Venezuela's oil belt
("faja").

8. (SBU) Energy: Chavez appears irked at the fact that the
United States is seriously considering alternative energy
sources, including ethanol, which he clearly understands
could enhance the U.S.-Brasil relationship. Venezuela
exports over 50% of its oil to the United States, it's
geographically natural and long-standing biggest buyer.
Chavez has also falsely asserted that Venezuela has readily
available markets to sell its oil to countries other than the
United States. On February 27 and 28, the Venezuelan
president asserted that it takes 20 million hectares of corn
to produce a million barrels a day of ethanol for one year
and suggested that producing ethanol would create food and
water shortages (Note: Interestingly, Venezuela has agreed
with Cuba to construct 11 ethanol plants in Venezuela).
Chavez said March 1 that he plans to discuss his ideas for a
gas pipeline running between Venezuela, Bolivia, and
Argentina.

9. (SBU) Iraq and Iran: Chavez is likely to reassert that the
United States is waging an "imperial war" in Iraq. After
Saddam Hussein was hanged, Chavez fondly recalled his
meetings with the former Iraqi dictator and suggested that
the USG may be plotting to hang him. The Venezuelan
president has personally led BRV efforts to forge a close
alliance with Iran and has welcomed President Ahmadinejad to
Venezuela two times in less than six months. Chavez alleges
without proof that the USG is planning to attack Iran and the
BRV continues to parrot Iran's claims that its nuclear
program is for peaceful purposes only.

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

10. (C) Much, if not most, of Chavez's prospective comments
are likely to be so outlandish that the President's party may
not want to dignify them with a response. Chavez is often
his own worst enemy in that regard, just as his remarks to
the UN General Assembly in 2006 helped doom Venezuela's
efforts to secure a UN Security Council seat.

BROWNFIELD

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