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Cablegate: Le Duan: The Mostly Varnished Truth

VZCZCXRO4867
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1110/01 1650842
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 140842Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5645
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 3245
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 001110

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV SOCI PREL VM

SUBJECT: LE DUAN: THE MOSTLY VARNISHED TRUTH

Ref: 06 Hanoi 1814

HANOI 00001110 001.2 OF 002


Summary
-------

1. (SBU) The Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) recently sponsored
several events to commemorate the life of former CPV General
Secretary (GS) Le Duan. State-press has characterized Duan as a

SIPDIS
"bright example of revolutionary virtues," but topics such as his
sidelining of CPV luminaries Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap and his
economic and foreign policies from 1975 to 1986 remain "sensitive"
and off-limits, at least in the public realm. Our contacts
indirectly criticized Duan in alluding to the economic hardships
Vietnamese experienced during this time-frame. An important lesson
Vietnam's foreign policy makers reportedly have drawn from Duan's
stewardship of the country is that Vietnam should never get "too
close" to any one country. End Summary.

Remembering a "Revolutionary"
-----------------------------

2. (SBU) The Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) recently sponsored
several events to commemorate the life of former General Secretary
(GS) Le Duan, who would have been 99 years old last April (or in his
100th year in Vietnamese tradition). Several State press outlets
covered the Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) Department of Ideology and
Culture-sponsored seminar on the late GS's life. Participants in
this event included former Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet, HCMC Party
Secretary Le Thanh Hai, Party officials from Ca Mau, Binh Duong,

SIPDIS
Tien Giang, Danang and Ba Ria-Vung Tau, war veterans and Duan's
family members. Other CPV-organized events included the Ministry of
Culture and Information-organized exhibition, "Life and Career of
Former General Secretary Le Duan 1907-1986" in Hanoi and memorials
in Duan's home province of Quang Tri.

3. (SBU) In covering these events, the State press heralded Duan's
"bright example in revolutionary virtues," citing his formative
years in French colonial jails and his role as a founding member of
the Indochinese Communist Party and architect of the wars against
the French and Americans. After ascending to the position of GS in
1960, Duan is believed to have sidelined Ho Chi Minh, Vo Nguyen Giap
and other CPV leaders. However, the State press studiously avoids
any mention of this topic.

1975 to 1986: Lessons Learned
-----------------------------

4. (SBU) In covering the Duan commemorations, the press also alluded
to the "complicated global situation" Vietnam faced from 1975 to
1986. The late GS's hard-line policies and the associated economic
hardships remain "sensitive" topics in Vietnam, our contacts say.
No one dares to publicly criticize his decisions during this time
because some Party officials aligned with his way of thinking still
work in, or have contact with, the Party or GVN, they add. A
leading intellectual who was persecuted in the 1950's, but has been
recently rehabilitated, told Poloff that the main reason why
Vietnamese are reluctant to talk about Duan's time as GS from 1975
to 1986 is that, according to Vietnamese custom, it is
"inappropriate" to speak negatively about someone who has passed
away.

5. (SBU) The intellectual praised Duan's role as a revolutionary,
citing his dedication and patriotism, but in an indirect criticism
said it was a fact that many people suffered from 1975 to 1986
because of the stagnating economy. When the "renovation" policies
were inaugurated at the Sixth Party Congress in 1986, it was like a
"breath of fresh air" because the Party not only decided to open up
the economy but intellectual life as well, he added.

6. (SBU) A regular contact with close ties in the media and military
told Poloff that Duan's heavy pro-Soviet tilt in foreign policy --
after Vietnam's "liberation" in 1975 -- brought undo harm to the
country. Duan went "too far" in aligning Vietnam with the Soviets,
he said. For centuries, Vietnamese leaders have treaded carefully
in their dealings with China, and Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia --
which at the time was in China's camp -- brought war and more
devastation and left Vietnam diplomatically isolated. Duan's
"errors" are relevant today in that Vietnamese foreign policy makers
will not get "too close" to any one country, this contact explained.
The GVN's "friends with all," or omni-directional, foreign policy
stems largely from what went wrong during the last decade of the
Duan era, he added.

Comment
-------

7. (SBU) Interestingly, an exhibition last year at a local museum on
"Life Under the Subsidy Economy: 1975-1986" was unique for its

HANOI 00001110 002.2 OF 002


unvarnished critique of GVN socio-economic policies prior to Doi Moi
(reftel) and under Le Duan. But openness has its limits in Vietnam,
and the GVN likely will not undertake, or allow, a thorough and
balanced examination -- warts and all -- of Le Duan and policies any
time soon. This appears to fit the Vietnamese public just fine.
While many continue to laud Duan's role in the "revolution," they do
not seem to want "complicated issues" from Doan's tenure to be put
under a public microscope. End Comment.

MARINE

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