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Cablegate: Netherlands/Venezuela: Keeping Relations Good

VZCZCXRO3610
RR RUEHAO
DE RUEHTC #2012/01 3270751
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 230751Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0731
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0659
RUEHAO/AMCONSUL CURACAO 0286
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS 0591

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 002012

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/19/2017
TAGS: PREL NL VE
SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/VENEZUELA: KEEPING RELATIONS GOOD

REF: A. A. STATE 154174

B. B. STATE 133106
...


131245

2007-11-23

07THEHAGUE2012

Embassy The Hague

CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN

07STATE154174

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 002012

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/19/2017
TAGS: PREL NL VE
SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/VENEZUELA: KEEPING RELATIONS GOOD

REF: A. A. STATE 154174

B. B. STATE 133106
C. C. THE HAGUE 1994

Classified By: Michael Gallagher, CDA, for reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: On November 19, Charge delivered reftel A
points to Laurent Stokvis, Director of the Department of
Western Hemisphere Affairs, Anton Schellekens, Desk Officer
for Kingdom (i.e, Aruba and Antilles) Affairs, and Wendy
Engelberts, Desk Officer for Venezuela. Stovkis emphasized
positive relations with Venezuela. At the same time, he
explained that the trend in Venezuela also worries us, but
details are lacking to make any specific charges of human
rights violations. Post believes the Dutch will continue to
stress keeping relations good with Venezuela. END SUMMARY.

KEEPING RELATIONS GOOD
----------------------

2. (C) Reviewing reftel A points with Charge, Stokvis
responded our basic policy is keeping relations good.
Joint Dutch-Venezuelan naval exercises earlier this year were
a successful confidence building exercise. On a practical
level, executive branch to executive branch, cooperation is
good, except at the political level. Other Dutch agencies
just pick up the phone to resolve problems. The Dutch
don't have a sense that Venezuela has territorial ambitions
right now. Venezuela has not affected Caribbean tourism.
The Dutch are looking at these elements and for opportunities
to engage positively.

3. (C) Stokvis also stated the trend in Venezuela also
worries us, but details are lacking to make any specific
charges of human rights or Venezuelan Constitutional
violations. First, the Dutch don't know the exact content
of the proposed constitutional reforms. The government has
made proposed reforms, and the parliament approved a
counterproposal. It's important to have a clear idea of
what you're criticizing to avoid losing the argument with
Chavez, who will hold up different constitutions to rebut any
criticisms. The Dutch prefer to look at specific Venezuelan
actions rather than focus on controversial laws. At the same
time, Stokvis welcomed further specific information about
human rights violations, and asserted that the Netherlands
will comply with its human rights obligations. He also
expressed an interest in knowing about specific violations by
Chavez of the Venezuelan Constitution.

4. (C) Stokvis added that the Dutch are watchful of
Venezuelan actions, and all is clearly not well. Political
relations are not effective -- the Dutch embassy cannot get
meetings with the Venezuelan MFA. Schellekens said that
Curacao and Bonaire could face a refugee problem if there is
violence in Venezuela. Stokvis theorized that Chavez could
always try to escape a domestic political problems with an
attack on the islands.

CAUTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS CRITIQUES
---------------------------------

5. (C) Venezuela Desk Officer Engelberts earlier expressed
caution on criticizing the human rights situation in
Venezuela. Discussing reftel B points with POLOFF on
September 28, she noted that the Dutch were waiting to see
the results of the constitutional referendum on December 2 or
9. Engelberts acknowledged the Constitution would
concentrate powers with the central government, but it was
unclear how the reforms would affect local government. If
human rights were affected, the EU would react. The Dutch
raise human rights with every visit, but hadn't received
notifications of abuses or visits by human rights defenders
about Venezuela. Current polling suggests the people of
Venezuela may not support the new constitution, but Chavez
may include enough social reforms -- such as a shorter work
day -- to pull in the needed votes.

6. (C) In a conversation on August 30, 2007, Ms. Gertie
Mulder, head of the Dutch MFA's South America Division, said
Chavez was shocked by the reaction to his decision to close
Radio Caracas Television. She was encouraged by the decision
of the Venezuelan Supreme Court to permit cable broadcasts
from Miami. Venezuela has a tradition of media freedom.

DOWNPLAYING FRICTION WITH VENEZUELA
-----------------------------------

7. (C) Mulder also downplayed friction with Venezuela after
the Dutch press reported on Venezuelan President Chavez's
August 15, 2007 remarks suggesting that everything within 200

THE HAGUE 00002012 002 OF 002


miles of the Venezuelan coast belonged to Venezuela. (NOTE:
the Netherlands Antilles lie 40 miles from the Venezuelan
coast. END NOTE.) The MFA did not react publicly to
Chavez's remarks until Dutch legislator Hans Van Baalen
(Liberal Party) promised to make inquiry, and asserted that
Venezuela should stay away from our Falklands. On August
21, the MFA stated publicly that the Dutch ambassador in
Venezuela had been instructed to ask the GOV for
clarification of Venezuela's intentions. Asked about
Dutch-Venezuelan discussions, Mulder noted that the
Netherlands will continue to emphasize its good neighbor
policy. The Dutch characterized the press reports as
inaccurate -- Chavez had not included the Netherlands
Antilles when he gestured to purported Venezuelan possessions
on a map of the Caribbean.

8. (C) Similarly, on Venezuelan arms acquisitions, the
Netherlands does not see a threat. Mulder implied that the EU
Code of Conduct was an appropriate and adequate tool to
respond.

COMMENT
-------

9. (C) Although post will continue to engage MFA contacts,
parliament and NGOs about the human rights situation in
Venezuela, we do not expect the Dutch to publicly take a
tough line with Chavez barring extreme human rights abuses or
threats to Dutch economic and territorial interests in the
Caribbean. We found Stokvis generally more concerned about
keeping an even keel with Chavez than rocking his boat. With
respect to Venezuela, pragmatism prevails at the Dutch MFA.
That said, we welcome the opportunity to re-engage with the
MFA, especially if we have specific information regarding
violations of human rights and/or legal norms to share with
our Dutch colleagues. END COMMENT.
Gallagher

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