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Cablegate: Bolivarian Influence in Puno

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPE #2000/01 1581921
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 071921Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY LIMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5742
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 1660
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 4711
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 7373
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0440
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ JUN MONTEVIDEO 9185
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 1253
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 1310
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS LIMA 002000

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

USEU PASS TO MCKINLEY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CU PE PGOV PINR PTER SNAR VE
SUBJECT: BOLIVARIAN INFLUENCE IN PUNO

REF: A. 2006 LIMA 2253

B. LIMA 1709
C. LIMA 1841

Sensitive But Unclassified, Please Handle Accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: The southern highlands region of Puno has
emerged as the focus of Venezuelan proselytizing in Peru,
with the Venezuela-funded "Bolivarian Alternative for Latin
American and the Caribbean (ALBA)" center representing the
latest evidence of deepening ties. While Regional President
Hernan Fuentes claimed ALBA would increase access to
education and health care for Puno's poor, ALBA's director
Marcial Maidana said the center would also seek to project a
"Bolivarian homeland" from Puno outward to the rest of Peru.
UPP congressional representative from Puno, Aldo Estrada,
told us Venezuela's goal was to undermine the central
government in Lima and to promote leaders sympathetic to
Bolivarian revolution. Estrada said Fuentes had created a
Bolivarian party in April and received promises of $3 million
from Caracas to aid campesino political organizations. If
these still sketchy reports are true, Venezuelan money and
influence are seeking to fill the vacuum left by the absence
of state institutions in Peru's southern highlands. End
Summary.

--------------------------------------
Medicine, Scholarships, and Propaganda
--------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Following its clamorous interventions during the
2006 national elections, Venezuela appears to be continuing
its political work in Peru -- somewhat more quietly now.
According to recent press reports, 43 Peruvian-Cuban
Friendship Houses (CAPC) -- funded by the Venezuelan
government and linked to the Cuban Institute of Friendship
with the People, an agency of the Cuban government -- have
opened in Peru within the last year. The CAPCs aim to bring
unions, students, and social organizations together to form a
political base opposing capitalism and imperialism and to
indoctrinate Peruvian citizens on the achievements of the
Cuban and Venezuelan revolutions. The houses also offer
social programs -- scholarships, adult reading programs, and
free eye exams -- but the primary purpose is to generate
public support for Cuba and Venezuela. In the midst of a
nationwide campaign, however, Puno has emerged as a focal
point of Venezuela's proselytizing efforts in Peru.

3. (SBU) Located on Peru's southern border with Bolivia in
the altiplano highlands, Puno is one of Peru's poorest and
most isolated provinces: 60 percent of the largely indigenous
population lives in poverty. Hernan Fuentes, running on the
"Avanza Pais" ticket, won Puno's regional presidency in
November 20006 with slightly more than 18 per cent of the
vote. (Ulises Humala, brother of Ollanta Humala, was Avanza
Pais' presidential candidate in 2006.) Soon after being
declared the winner, Fuentes organized the "Festival of
Solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution." During his
January 2007 inauguration, attended by Cuban Ambassador Luis
Delfin and Venezuelan Charge Virly Torres, Fuentes promised
to deepen the regional government's cooperation with
Venezuela, Cuba, and China in order to help small and medium
businesses and to increase access to education and health
care for Puno's poor. The Venezuelan charge said her
government would provide scholarships, business loans, and
cultural centers to support social development in the region.

4. (SBU) Since that time, Fuentes has moved to deepen ties
with Venezuela. In January, he opened a free optometry
clinic in the city of Puno, staffed by Cuban doctors and
funded by Venezuela. In February, Fuentes and Torres met
with students in Puno to select candidates for
full-scholarships to universities in Cuba and Venezuela. In
April, Fuentes announced plans to build a free medical clinic
on the border with Bolivia, to be funded by Venezuela. In
May, Regional President Fuentes, accompanied by Cuban and
Venezuelan diplomats, opened the "Bolivarian Alternative for
Latin American and the Caribbean (ALBA)," also reportedly
funded with Venezuelan money.

5. (SBU) Fuentes has publicly underscored that his plans for
social development are part of a larger movement that
includes spreading the message of Bolivarian revolution.
When the ALBA center opened, director Marcial Maidana said
the goal was to improve public health care but also to create
"an axis of Bolivarianism" that would extend throughout Peru
and unite local interests opposed to the expansion of U.S.
influence. Fuentes has said scholarships are only available
to those students who understand the benefits of Cuban and
Venezuelan socialism. Andres Alvarado, a government official
from Mazamori (Junin), told Emboffs that scholarships offered
by Cuba and Venezuela in his region came with a price.
Alvarado said the Cubans and Venezuelans sought to
indoctrinate and radicalize students, and those who travel
overseas, "never come back the same."

------------------------
Humalaism without Humala
------------------------

6. (SBU) Union for Peru (UPP) President Congressman Aldo
Estrada (representing Puno) and APRA Congressman Louis
Negrerios told poloff recently that Fuentes' program was a
kind of "Humala-ism without Humala." They said Humala may be
a spent force but his party continued to be a vehicle to
funnel cash to frustrated groups in the countryside. Estrada
alleged that Venezuelan officials had promised to give $3
million in cash for campesino confederations in Puno, which
came with no strings (other than that it had to be used to
increase political support for socialism) attached. Estrada
maintained that senior Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP)
operatives picked up the money at the Venezuelan Embassy in
Lima, skimmed 20 percent off the top, and delivered bags of
cash directly to local leaders. Estrada said he had warned
Fuentes that his Bolivarian ties were costing him the support
of local politicians and that the Bolivarian political party
he had recently created could violate Peruvian law.

7. (SBU) Former APRA congressman Carlos Armas, who in 2006
founded an NGO that works in Puno, echoed Estrada's
conclusions. Armas told us he had met with more than 100
Puno representatives over the past year, and that none had
any affiliation with a national party. Armas described
people in Puno's countryside as feeling an inchoate
frustration that, while bereft of ideology, was extremely
susceptible to radical discourses. The political allegiance
of these groups, he explained, was up for grabs, and
Venezuelan cash was an effective tool to win sympathy for
goals the electorate only partially understand. Armas added
that Venezuelan influence in Puno was of less concern than
the revived Aymaran nationalism that sought to carve, by
violent means if necessary, an independent homeland from Peru
and Bolivia.

-----------------------
Puno: Latent Radicalism
-----------------------

8. (SBU) Summary: Reports about Venezuelan and Cuban
activity in Puno, often elusive and lacking in specificity,
sometimes seem more rumor than fact. Congressman Estrada,
for example, did not know the names of the alleged PNP bag
men or other basic information. Whatever the true extent of
Venezuelan involvement, it seems clear that the vacuum left
by the absence of state institutions in Peru's impoverished
southern highlands makes a ripe target for radicalism of all
stripes. Following its narrow victory in the 2006 national
elections, the Garcia government understands the nature of
the challenge. Whether it can deliver in time to reduce and
eliminate the threat of future radicalism, however, is
another question. Poloff is currently in Puno meeting with
local leaders and community organizations to gain a
first-hand perspective of Bolivarian and other influences in
the region. End Summary.
STRUBLE

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