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Cablegate: Media Reaction: Farc Falls From Front Page As

VZCZCXRO5147
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHCV #0015/01 0042204
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 042204Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0387
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 000015

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT PASS TO AID/OTI RPORTER, WHA/PD PSAMPSON
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV VE CO
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: FARC FALLS FROM FRONT PAGE AS
BLAME GAME HEATS UP

REF: A. BOGOTA 0005
B. CARACAS 0007
C. 07 CARACAS 2410
D. O7 CARACAS 2398

CARACAS 00000015 001.2 OF 002


SUMMARY
--------

1. (SBU) Days before Christmas Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez stated that a mission to liberate three FARC-held
hostages ("Operation Emmanuel") would commence December 28th.
As of January 4, the hostages remain captive, international
observers have left Colombia accusations of blame are flying
and news headlines highlight other stories.

2. (U) Newspapers and newscasts still give updates on
Operation Emmanuel, but the focus has turned from optimism
and guessing when the three may be freed to reporting on whom
is accusing whom for the mission's failure. Most news outlets
also are covering speculation that a child left at a
Colombian orphanage is the son of hostage Clara Rojas.
However, the story has slipped from front-page,
above-the-fold coverage as issues such as Chavez, amnesty
for political prisoners and the introduction of the new
"Bolivar Fuerte" monetary system take its place.

----------------------
DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH?
----------------------

3. (SBU) Chavez and his supporters have (predictably) blamed
Colombian President Uribe for the mission's failure, citing
the FARC assertion that they were unable to return the
hostages due to Colombian military activity. According to the
Associated Press, Chavez accused Uribe of lying about many
aspects of the mission and said that Uribe "placed a bomb" on
the operation by suggesting the FARC no longer had the son of
Clara Rojas in their custody. Even U.S. film director Oliver
Stone (invited by Chavez to take part in the rescue
operation) weighed in, telling the AP that the FARC have no
reason not to release the hostages and that the failure to
secure freedom falls on President Uribe. "Shame on Colombia,"
he said. "Shame on Uribe."

4. (SBU) The neutral daily "El Nacional" reported that the
Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana said the mere act of
participating in the attempt was valuable for his country,
even though the FARC did not release the hostages. He also
denied press statements that former President Nestor Kirchner
saw himself as trapped between Chavez and Uribe and said that
Kirchner "does not reject" the idea of returning to Colombia
to help free the hostages.

5. (U) According to the AP, Chavez told the hostages,
families that he still has a channel open with the FARC and
that "the operation hasn't been stopped." A report in the
opposition-oriented daily "El Nuevo Pais" supports this by
quoting unidentified "intelligence sources" who stated the
hostages could be freed by the end of this week. The
Secretary General of the Organization of American States,

SIPDIS
Jose Miguel Insulza, also seemed to support this notion in
articles published in the neutral El Nacional and
pro-government daily "VEA" by stating that it is still
possible the hostages will be released and thus
the mission should not be branded a failure.

6. (U) On its website, as reported by several papers such as
the English-language, pro-government "Daily Journal", the
FARC stated that Colombia had sabotaged the process by
conducting military operations in the area designated for the
hostage handover.

-------------------
AN ORPHAN OR NOT?
-------------------

7. (U) Local media also gave prominent coverage to Uribe and
Luis Carlos Restrepo, Colombia,s high commissioner for
peace, who defended Colombia, stating that the government
made every effort to accommodate Chavez, and the FARC,s
demands. Uribe said a main reason for the failure was that
the FARC did not have all of the hostages it claimed. The
son of Clara Rojas, he stated, may in fact be a child
(identified as Juan David Gomez) left at a Colombian
orphanage more than two years ago and currently living in a

CARACAS 00000015 002.2 OF 002


Bogota foster home. According to "El Nacional," blood
samples from Clara Rojas, mother and brother (Clara de Rojas
Gonzalez and Ivan Gonzalez) have been taken to compare their
DNA to the child,s to confirm the boy is Rojas, son.
(Several papers also had articles on the DNA testing process
and how DNA can determine lineage.)

------------------
A TARNISHED CHAVEZ
------------------

8. (SBU) Despite Venezuelan government attempts to depict
Uribe as the bad guy, this failure has tarnished President
Chavez, image in most local media in Venezuela and around
the world. Many media outlets report on political parties
and the families of Venezuelan hostages asking why Chavez has
not spent any time trying to get his countrymen released from
the FARC. People are publicly questioning Chavez,
commitment to his own country and accusing him of mere
grandstanding. A recent editorial in "El Nacional" stated
the operation was a farce and accused the president of being
a showman.

9. (SBU) Overall, reporting and public opinion has gone from
mostly cautiously optimistic to disillusioned and even
cynical, with many news outlets stating that Chavez has
embarrassed himself and others in an attempt to garner
positive news coverage for himself and be seen as a hero.

DUDDY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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