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Cablegate: Venezuelan Army Hosts U.S. Military Delegation

VZCZCXRO5192
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV
DE RUEHCV #0701/01 0942119
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 042119Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8308
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 000701

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

HQSOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
DEPT PASS TO WHA/AND AND PM

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/04/2017
TAGS: MARR MASS PGOV PM PREL VE
SUBJECT: VENEZUELAN ARMY HOSTS U.S. MILITARY DELEGATION

CARACAS 00000701 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: ACTING POLITICAL COUNSELOR DANIEL LAWTON
FOR REASON 1.4 (B) AND (D)

1. (C) SUMMARY. An eight person U.S. Army delegation attended
a March 26-30 Conference of American Armies (CAA) seminar on
Disaster Relief in Venezuela, the first U.S. military
delegation hosted in-country since 2003. U.S. participants
were generally well received. Failure to conduct the
exercise portion of the conference proved to be a major
organizational flaw in the multilateral event. The week-long
event provided a glimpse into how the Venezuelan Army (VENAR)
will approach the CAA once it assumes the Secretariat in
2008. END SUMMARY.

-----------
Background
-----------

2. (SBU) Founded in 1960 at the request of the State
Department, the Conference of American Armies (CAA) is
designed to promote interoperability, improve hemispheric
security, and strengthen Inter-American cooperation on an
army-to-army basis. The CAA is made up of twenty member
armies and five observer armies. It conducts a two-year
cycle of Specialized Conferences hosted by different member
armies which culminate in a Commanders' Conference organized
by the army hosting the CAA Permanent Executive Secretariat
(PESCAA). Member armies voluntarily rotate as hosts of the
PESCAA and coordinate all CAA activities in addition to
hosting the Commanders' Conference. The Brazilian Army
currently holds the PESCAA, and the Venezuelan Army will
coordinate the 2008-2009 cycle.

---------------------------------
Treatment of the U.S. Delegation
---------------------------------

3. (SBU) The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (BRV) hosted
the "Specialized Conference on Disaster Relief" of the
Conference of American Armies (CAA) March 26-30. The U.S.
Army delegation to the multilateral conference was generally
well treated by Venezuelan officials and did not report any
incidents of concern. The delegation included six conference
participants, the Commander of the MilGroup at Post, and an
Army Chaplain from Army South. Similar to the other member
delegations, the U.S. contingent received VIP treatment upon
arrival and departure from Caracas, escort officers (one of
whom spoke fluent English), housing in the Military Guest
House on the base Fuerte Tiuna, and a "cultural day" at
Margarita Island. Additionally, the visiting Army Chaplain
was not prevented from giving several outreach presentations
to religious organizations and the Embassy community outside
of the military base.

4. (C) The U.S. delegation perceived the Venezuelan officials
to be professional but distant. VENAR officers, for example,
did not exchange business cards or host the U.S. officers
out, as is customary. Similarly, the Chaplain requested a
meeting with his VENAR counterpart, but the request was
denied several days after the Chaplain's departure.

----------
Shortfalls
----------

5. (C) The VENAR failed to produce a scheduled, multinational
exercise as promised, CAA's first such attempt. (Note: The
exercise was supposed to simulate a disaster relief response
within Venezuela. End Note.) The details surrounding the
cancellation are unclear, although it appears to be the
result of time mismanagement coupled with the day-long social
trip to Margarita Island. The U.S. delegation expressed
disappointment over the cancellation as it would have allowed
them to collect lessons learned, gauge the planning
capabilities of the VENAR, and assist host country Uruguay in
the execution of the next CAA exercise planned for June.

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

6. (C) According to U.S. participants, the VENAR staged a
professional conference, despite the lack of an exercise.
VENAR officials refrained from making anti-American remarks
during the conference, and even mentioned U.S. relief efforts
in 1999 during the Vargas humanitarian crisis (although they
did not mention Chavez' decision to turn away the bulk of
U.S. military assistance). The participation of U.S.
delegates to the conference does not signal increased
American - Venezuelan cooperation on military issues;
however, it provided a window into how the VENAR will
approach hosting the CAA Permanent Executive Secretariat
during the 2008-2009 cycle.

7. (C) Despite the BRV's relentlessly hostile attitude toward
the United States, the VENAR did not try to exclude the U.S.
delegation from this conference and treated our participants
with respect. It is possible that they calculated that doing
so would have represented a break unacceptable to many other
conference participants. The VENAR appears to be trying to
present itself as eminently professional in the run-up to
assuming CAA executive secretary responsibilities. It
remains to be seen if the VENAR will try to press a
Bolivarian agenda once it takes on that role in 2008-2009.

BROWNFIELD

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