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Cablegate: President Asks Potus to Release Files On Poison

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DE RUEHMN #0197/01 1021330
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O 111330Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8099
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHAAA/THE WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L MONTEVIDEO 000197

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DEPT FOR WHA/BSC (KBEAMER)
NSC FOR GTOMASULO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/08/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM PINR UY
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT ASKS POTUS TO RELEASE FILES ON POISON
WINE CASE

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires a.i., Robin H. Matthewman
for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)

1. (C) Summary and Action Request: The Foreign Minister
delivered to the Ambassador on April 2 a letter from
President Vazquez to President Bush requesting his assistance
in the further declassification of USG documents related to
the poisoning death of Cecilia Fontana de Heber in September
1978, during Uruguay's period of military rule. Post has
forwarded the letter to WHA/BSC for delivery to the NSC.
Embassy requests guidance for an interim response to the GOU.
End Summary and Action Request.

2. (SBU) Begin unofficial translation.

Montevideo, March 27, 2008

Mr. President:


I have the pleasure to contact Your Excellency in order
to make you aware that my Government finds itself devoted to
the task of clarifying all of the episodes of human rights
violations which occurred in my country during the period of
the military regime, about which exists substantial
information that originates from the declassification of
Department of State files.

My Government hopes to count on the cooperation of the
United States of America in the clarification of all the
cases of disappearances and human rights violations in that
painful period of the history of Uruguay which took place
between 1973 and 1985.

In that regard, please allow me to request the
cooperation of Mr. President in the adoption of the measures
necessary so that the documents which would permit the
clarification of the death due to poisoning of Mrs. Cecilia
Fontana de Heber, a political crime which occurred on the 6th
of September, 1978, as well as the documents related to our
country during the aforementioned historical period, be
unsealed in their totality. A portion of these documents were
partially declassified at the beginning of this year by the
Department of State.

I avail myself of this opportunity to reiterate to Your
Excellency the assurances of my most high and distinguished
consideration and personal esteem.


(Signed)
Dr. Tabare Vazquez
President of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay

End unofficial translation.

Background
----------
3. (SBU) In August 1978, Senator Carlos Julio Pereyra
(Chairman of the House of Representatives), Senator Mario
Heber and Representative Luis Alberto Lacalle (later
President of the Republic), each received a bottle of white
wine wrapped in blue paper from an unknown source. The three
democratically-elected congressmen belonged to the National
(Blanco) party. As was discovered later, the three wine
bottles contained a powerful poison. While none of the
congressmen touched the wine, Mrs. Fontana de Heber (the wife
of Senator Heber) drank some of it and subsequently died. The
perpetrators of the crime were never identified. When the
Frente Amplio party assumed power in 2005, it promised to
account for all human rights abuses committed during the
dictatorship period. Since then, the Blancos have complained
that the FA has only pursued cases connected to its members
and its sympathizers.

4. (C) A similar letter to POTUS and FOIA requests were made
by a group of Uruguayan deputies last year regarding the
poison wine case. The State Department declassified some
documents related to the case. The CIA did not, citing
concerns about the compromise of sources and methods. Many
Uruguayans remain unsatisfied with the USG response and are
convinced that the USG possesses useful information about the
death of Mrs. Heber.

Comment

-------

5. (C) The GOU is under political pressure to account for
all the human rights abuses committed during the 'dirty war'
period. We believe that, in this particular case, the Heber
relatives understand that the USG does not have any
information on the perpetrator of this thirty year old crime.
However, in this incipient campaign season, other political
actors are finding the repeated requests for USG information
to be a convenient way to put political pressure on the
Frente Amplio government, for whatever reason. This is
probably the driving force behind President Vazquez letter to
President Bush.

6. (C) Uruguay's far-leftist groups regularly resort to human
rights as an anti-U.S. rallying cry. Even mainstream press
coverage here tends to reinforce the assertion that leftists
are the only "true" defenders of human rights. Meanwhile,
declassified U.S. documents from the period around the
Uruguayan dictatorship have been used to fuel the fire. For
instance, Venezuela's Telesur continually broadcasts
accusations that the U.S. sponsored "Plan Condor," while it
flashes snippets of declassified documents as "proof."
Embassy believes that it is in the U.S. interest to respond
quickly, and if possible responsively, to Vazquez' letter as
a way to counter some of these accusations. End Comment.
Matthewman

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