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Cablegate: Earthquake Relief: A Boost to Peru-Chile

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INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION PRIORITY 1788
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 5025
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 7559
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RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO PRIORITY 1461
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS LIMA 002957

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SNAR PINR BO PE
SUBJECT: EARTHQUAKE RELIEF: A BOOST TO PERU-CHILE
RELATIONS, BLACK EYE FOR VENEZUELA

REF: LIMA 2860

1. (SBU) Summary: The August 15 earthquake has provided an
unexpected boost to the Garcia administration's relations
with key regional allies while raising public suspicion about
the motives behind Venezuelan aid. Chile in particular has
deftly used its high-profile relief effort to quiet the
flare-up over the longstanding bilateral maritime dispute.
Colombia, Brazil, and Bolivia all stepped in with supply
shipments and high-level visits -- to positive public
relations effect. Venezuela, by contrast, has been forced to
claim that tuna cans bearing images of President Chavez were
fakes and to protest accusations that it was seeking
political advantage in tragedy. End Summary.

Chile-Peru: Co/"(Ucted boost to the Government of Peru's
relations with key neighbors -- Chile in particular. The
week before, headlines had featured the most recent flare-up
of the supposed maritime border dispute between the two
countries, complete with Chile's temporary recall of its
Ambassador in protest. Soon after the earthquake, Chile had
once again become Peru's friend and partner, and the hastily
returned Chilean Ambassador the coordinator-in-chief of
Chile's emergency relief effort. This effort included at
least two plane loads of emergency supplies and a high-level
GOC delegation, led by presidential spokesman Ricardo Lagos
Weber, to highlight Chilean goodwill. In response, President
Garcia publicly acknowledged Chilean support, and on August
22 traveled from Pisco to the Chilean border to inaugurate
the newly built customs post there. In public remarks from
the border, Garcia called for both countries to look "beyond
our legal challenges" in order to create a region where
goods, people and cultural influences flow freely.

Regional Partners Step Up
-------------------------
3. (U) Colombia and Brazil also responded rapidly to the
crisis with aid and high-profile shows of support. In
addition to providing tons of fo36mASQL/2EOelevision images showed President Uribe touring the area
alongside his friend Garcia. Brazil likewise sent tons of
supplies, and Foreign Minister Celso Amorim left scheduled
meetings in Lima to meet Garcia and tour Pisco. Even
Bolivia's Evo Morales traveled to Pisco August 25 to deliver
an aid shipment amid declarations of solidarity with his
Peruvian brothers.

Tuna Cans and Venezuela's Black Eye
-----------------------------------
4. (SBU) Cuban assistance has reportedly been targeted and
effective, if not directly coordinated with the GOP. Cuba
has sent at least two field hospital teams that have offered
high-impact quality service, according to observers. At one
camp where a U.S. Medrete team had been sent to provide
services, a CubaN&team had already been set up. The Cuban
team said that they followed the orders of the Cuban
Ambassador and did not coordinate with Peru's Ministry of
Health, as the Americans did.

5. (SBU) As for Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez promised
early and publicly to deliver 120 tons of supplies, and
reportedly delivered two planeloads several days after the
earthquake. But subsequent developments have overshadowed the
quick and enthusiastic start. Emboffs on site in Pisco noted
that Venezuelan planes remained in place for more than 24
hours, as virtual backdrops for repeated photo opportunities,
while those of other countries, including the U.S., landed
and took off again in earnest substantive effort. More
damning still were media reports that aJvQ:QQ'V ala. Pictures of the offending can appeared in
several major dailies, unleashing a barrage of accusations
that Venezuela was seeking political advantage in Peru's
suffering. Whatever the veracity of these reports -- and

there is widespread speculation that the pictures were faked
-- both Chavez and Humala were forced on the defensive and
have issued vehement denials. According to late August news
reports, Chavez accused the U.S. of planting the story in
order to undermine Venezuela's image in Peru.

Comment: The Politics of Earthquake Relief
------------------------------------------
6. (SBU) While the earthquake was first and foremost a
humanitarian tragedy, it has had inescapable political
consequences, domestic and regional. On the domestic front,
President Garcia scored early points by immediately
dispatching key Ministers and traveling himself to Pisco to
assume command of the rescue operation on site (ref). Since
that time, there has been grumbling that the cabinet has
inadvertently gummed up the effectiveness of the initial
humanitarian response. Whatever the case, the sensitive
politics of post-earthquake Peru speak powerfully for a
quiet, well coordinated relief effort that aims for real and
long-term results rather than immediate public relations
gains.
McKinley

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