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Cablegate: Goh Says Farc Not a Terrorist Group, Attends Alba

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C O N F I D E N T I A L TEGUCIGALPA 000089

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/27/2018
TAGS: PTER PREL ECIN EPET MARR VE
SUBJECT: GOH SAYS FARC NOT A TERRORIST GROUP, ATTENDS ALBA
SUMMIT: PAYOFF FOR PETROCARIBE?

REF: A. TEGUCIGALPA 57 (NOTAL)
B. TEGUCIGALPA 84 (NOTAL)

Classified By: Ambassador Charles Ford, reasons (b, c & d)

1. Summary: During his January 16 visit to Honduras,
sources tell us that Venezuela President Hugo Chavez asked
Honduran President Zelaya to either remove the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) from any terrorist lists or
publicly acknowledge it as not being a terrorist
organization. As the GOH has no official "terrorist lists"
the announcement was made January 28 via a "leaked" press
article. We believe Chavez may have also asked Zelaya to
sign onto the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA)
or at least send a representative to the Sixth annual ALBA
Summit starting on January 25. Zelaya sent his outgoing
Foreign Minister Milton Jimenez, who claimed his mission was
to finalize Petrocaribe, but who sat in on all the ALBA
meetings and was acknowledged by Chavez as an official
observer. End Summary.

2. (C) According to sources within the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs (MFA), during his January 16 visit to Honduras (ref
a) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez asked President Manuel
Zelaya to either remove the FARC from any terrorist lists or
publicly acknowledge it as not being a terrorist
organization. We understood from our contacts that Zelaya
was asking the Ministries of Defense, Security and Foreign
Affairs to give him their opinions on this issue before he
made a final decision. The issue then went public before any
internal discussions could apparently be held. In an article
in the conservative El Heraldo on January 28, the headline
read "The FARC is not on any Honduran Terrorist Lists." In
the article, Vice Foreign Minister Enrique Reina is quoted as
saying the GOH has condemned all terrorist attacks, but that
in the case of Colombia, they regard the FARC as an internal
matter that the Colombians need to resolve. He added that
the GOH approaches the matter multilaterally and regionally,
through the joint security policy of the System for Central
American Integration (SICA). The article was followed by an
"urgent" diplomatic note sent to Embassy in which these
points were reiterated. The MFA Director of External
Affairs, Eduardo Rosales Ramirez, denied that these
pronouncements were made in response to a request by Chavez,
and confirmed that the MFA does not have its own list of
terrorist organizations, but bases its actions on both the UN
and USG lists. Rosales also accused El Heraldo (which is
owned by Jorge Canahuati, who is most closely aligned with
the Nationalist party) of maliciously creating a story to
damage the Zelaya administration.

3. (C) Sources tell us that when Chief of Defense Romeo
Vasquez Velasquez was asked his opinion on the issue, Vasquez
said that since the FARC does not threaten Honduras' borders,
it is considered an internal threat and not a terrorist
organization. But when approached directly on January 28,
Vasquez told A/DAO that "Your (the USG) terrorist list is our
terrorist list," adding that the HOAF does not work from the
UN lists and does not maintain its own list. Vasquez was
upset that the press had published the article, saying the
editors had done it purposely to stir up trouble with the
United States.

4. (C) Comment: Although flat out denied by MFA sources, we
still suspect that Chavez asked Zelaya to make a
pronouncement in support of the FARC in return for his
concessional Petrocaribe deal (ref b). In addition, we
believe Chavez asked Zelaya to send a representative to the
Sixth ALBA Summit if he was serious about getting a
Petrocaribe deal. So on January 25, FM Milton Jimenez flew
to Venezuela and participated in the summit as an official
observer. We doubt it is mere coincidence that Chavez did
not sign the draft Petrocaribe deal until the conclusion of
the ALBA summit, when he could have signed it during his
January 16 visit (ref B). End Comment.
FORD

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