Cablegate: Mexico Rebuilding Ties to Venezuela, Slowly

DE RUEHME #3178/01 3011811
R 271811Z OCT 08

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 MEXICO 003178


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/21/2017

REF: A. MEXICO 000185
B. MEXICO 000886
C. LIMA 000663

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Charles V. Barclay.
Reason: 1.4 (b), (d).

1. (C) Summary. President Felipe Calderon has attempted since
taking office to repair ties with Venezuela, and the Foreign
Ministry has said that Mexico is slowly making improvements.
Nevertheless, several points of friction, such as the lack of
a Venezuelan ambassador in Mexico City, suspicions about
Venezuelan outreach activities in Mexico, and the
expropriation by Venezuela of Mexican assets have prevented
and probably will continue to prevent the relationship from
becoming truly warm. On the Bolivarian promotion front,
Venezuela is clearly conducting outreach activities in
Mexico, but to what appears to be little avail. Mexico does
not offer the kind of fertile ground for Bolivarian activism
as do some other countries in the hemisphere. A mistrust of
foreign interventionism and lessons learned from the 2006
presidential election probably will prevent the Bolivarian
movement from impacting significantly the Mexican political
or social scene. End Summary.

Mexico Working to Strengthen Ties

2. (C) President Calderon since taking office in 2006 has
sought to repair Mexico's tattered relationship with
Venezuela as part of his efforts to position Mexico to take a
stronger leadership role in Latin America and conduct
"respectful relations" with all nations (ref a). Despite
Chavez's initial refusal to recognize the legitimacy of
Calderon's victory in the contested 2006 presidential
election, the two countries reinstated full bilateral
ties--the Fox administration had revoked the Venezuelan
Ambassador's credentials and recalled its own ambassador in
Caracas--and Mexico has sought to maintain a cordial tone in
the conduct of its affairs with its southern neighbor. The
Calderon government responded relatively quietly even to
Chavez's contentious decision to nationalize Mexican cement
giant Cemex's Venezuela-based assets, expressing concern and
promising to protect Mexican interests abroad, but without
taking any retaliatory measures. The Foreign Ministry's
(SRE) Director for South America, Rafael Bernal Cuevas, told
Poloff on October 23 that Mexico's relations with Venezuela
have not recovered their pre-Chavez cordiality, but that they
are slowly moving in that direction. In her September
testimony before congress, Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa
also outlined steps Mexico had taken and continues to take to
improve relations with Venezuela.

A Few Bumps in the Road

3. (C) Despite the improvement in bilateral relations since
the Fox administration, Bernal outlined several points of
friction. He noted that Venezuela still had yet to replace
former Venezuelan Ambassador to Mexico Roy Chaderton after he
was named Venezuela's Permanent Representative to the
Organization of American States in April. Bernal said the
extended absence of an ambassador made the conduct of
bilateral relations in Mexico City "uncomfortable." He also
said that Mexico is not heavily involved in the Cemex
negotiations at Cemex's request, but is carefully monitoring
the progress of the talks.

4. (C) Like Venezuela, Mexico is also looking to assert its
leadership in the region, particularly in Central America.
Bosco Marti, the Director of SRE's Plan Puebla Panama Office,
complained to Poloff that Mexico could not compete with
Venezuela when it came to the kind of money it was tossing at
member countries through its ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative of
the Americas) initiative.

5. (S/NF) In response to Poloff's question about press
reports that Mexico would look to put an end to Miracle
Mission flights into the country, Bernal said that Mexico was
trying to regulate the program and codify it in official
bilateral channels, rather than allowing it to be negotiated

MEXICO 00003178 002 OF 004

and executed at the local level. One article had reported
that the Foreign Ministry wanted flights to be registered as
commercial airline and pass through appropriate security
measures upon landing in Mexico rather than entering with
"extraordinary permits," as had been occurring. Bernal made
discreet reference to Mexican concern about the ideological
component to the program, and said that at the very least,
Mexican patients were returning to Mexico with the message
that the Venezuelan government provided a service to them
their own government could or would not. Sensitive
collateral reporting suggests that the GOM as of September
was concerned that Miracle Mission patients received
pro-Venezuelan and anti-US briefings as part of their stay in
Venezuela. The GOM was reportedly worried that such patients
returned to Mexico more sympathetic to pro-Chavez themes and
were more likely to participate in associated marches or
rallies. Bernal mentioned the presence of Bolivarian groups
in Mexico, but noted that such groups exist throughout the
world and that, as a democracy, Mexico had to offer them
freedom of expression.

Venezuela Looking to Spread the Revolution

6. (C) Mexico City daily El Universal reported in October
2007 on a purported Venezuelan government document laying out
a 2007-2013 political and economic development plan which
included points on strengthening alternative movements in
Mexico to "break away from imperial domination" with the
larger goal of rallying "the masses" worldwide in "support of
the revolutionary process." In line with this strategic
objective, Venezuela is seeking to cultivate support at the
grassroots level in Mexico, primarily through social programs
and low levels of financial and logistical support.

Who Is Involved?

7. (C) Analysts from the Mexican National Intelligence Center
(CISEN) told Poloffs on October 2 that they have identified
some 500 serious Bolivarian activists--all Mexican
citizens--across the country, which are often in contact with
each other and tend to be linked to larger social movements.
CISEN noted that many Bolivarian sympathizers are tied back
to the Red de Solidaridad con Cuba, which has been active for
decades but which has appropriated Chavez's rhetoric in order
to freshen its own discourse. In addition to the Cuban
support networks, a chapter of the region-wide Bolivarian
Continental Coordinator operates in Mexico, and other
pro-Venezuela activists are linked to the Worker's Party (PT)
and different student groups operating out of the National
Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). XXXXXXXXXXXX a
confirmed to Poloff that most pro-Venezuelan student groups
are run from the political science and philosophy
departments, from which hailed Lucia Morett, the Mexican
student who survived the bombing of Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader Raul Reyes' Ecuadorian camp
in March. He also noted that in a school with a population
over 300,000, political ideologies of every persuasion are
bound to be represented.

8. (S/NF) Minister Counselor Jaime Acosta and Political
Officer Paola Holguin from the Colombian Embassy in Mexico
City told Poloff that Venezuela has a considerable presence
in Mexico, noting that a number of legislators (who they did
not name) openly support Chavez. Sensitive collateral
reporting indicates that Venezuelan officials also have
regular contact with members of the Democratic Revolutionary
Party (PRD), specifically Ruth Zavaleta and members of the
New Left Faction, the New Alliance Party (PANAL) and the
Workers Party (PT).

Who Is (Maybe) Not

9. (S/NF) After Chavez's public endorsement of 2006
presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador did
nothing but tarnish the PRD leader's campaign, many Mexican
politicians are wary of cozying too much up to the Venezuelan
president. CISEN told Poloff that it has no evidence, for

MEXICO 00003178 003 OF 004

example, that Venezuela currently is providing direct funding
to Mexican political candidates, nor to they think it is
likely in the runup to the 2009 legislative and gubernatorial
elections. The analysts believe that most political leaders
have learned from 2006 not to risk their candidacy by
accepting Chavez's support, either overtly or covertly.
Sensitive collateral reporting also indicates that the
Venezuelan Embassy has been unsuccessful in building rapport
with Lopez Obrador, who has reportedly decided not to
establish a relationship with the GOV so as not to risk his

10. (C) CISEN is looking for close links between Venezuela
and the more radical, violent groups in Mexico. CISEN has
yet to uncover concrete links between the Popular
Revolutionary Party (EPR) and Venezuela, but continues to
investigate given the ideological affinity between them.

What Is Offered

11. (C) As it has throughout the hemisphere, Venezuela seeks
to woo Mexicans via social handouts to impoverished groups
and modest financial support to its like-minded Mexican
cohorts. CISEN reported that the Venezuelan Embassy in
Mexico is providing small donations to pro-Bolivarian
organizations, mostly for operating expenses such as vehicles
and propaganda. CISEN suspects, however, that the Embassy
also provides funding for members of these organizations to
travel to Bolivarian Congresses of Latin American leftist
groups, such as the event Morett attended in Quito prior to
leaving for Reyes' camp (ref b).

12. (C) Venezuela's ability to implement large-scale or
effective social programs in Mexico seems limited, at best.
CISEN said that Venezuela has established two medical clinics
in northern Mexico, including in Nuevo Leon State, but they
have yet to open for business. Moreover, CISEN reported that
only a handful of Mexicans have participated in Venezuela's
"Miracle Mission," which offers low-cost eye surgery to
Mexicans in Venezuela. El Universal reported on October 20
that some 509 Mexicans have received treatment, which is in
sharp contrast, for example, to the tens of thousands of
Peruvians who have partaken (ref c) in the program. CISEN
opined that, unlike some of their poorer and smaller Latin
American neighbors, Mexico offers significantly more social
support. The Health Secretary, for example, published
figures indicating that between January and July 2008, over
26,000 Mexicans have received eye surgeries through Mexico's
own programs. CISEN noted that Cuba also provides a literacy
teacher training program in Michoacan, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and
Tabasco and scholarships for Mexican students to study in
Cuba, but that the Venezuelan and Cuban Embassies seem to
operate quite independently on most matters in Mexico.

13. (S/NF) Venezuela's efforts are being further
circumscribed by resource limitations and GOM trepidation.
Sensitive collateral reporting indicates that as of early
October, the Venezuelan Embassy was finding it virtually
impossible to undertake pro-Bolivarian activities in
Mexico--such as holding events or hosting
delegations--because of lack of funding from the Venezuelan
government. The Mexican government is also less than
receptive to Venezuela's outreach efforts. The attempt to
more strictly regulate the Miracle Mission program in Mexico,
for example, probably reflects GOM suspicion as the
Venezuela's goals for and conduct of the program.


14. (C) Calderon and the Foreign Ministry still appear
committed to strengthening Mexico's ties with Venezuela as
part of a strategy to position Mexico in a leadership role in
the region and maintain friendly relationships with all its
neighbors. Nevertheless, due to the ideological gap between
Calderon and Chavez and several points of minor--but still
significant--irritation, relations will probably continue to
be less than warm. Chavez's tardiness in appointing a new
ambassador to Mexico, for example, certainly has rankled the
protocol-obsessed SRE, and has hampered progress on bilateral

MEXICO 00003178 004 OF 004

issues in Mexico City.

15. (C) Venezuela is conducting outreach activities in
Mexico, but to what seems to be little effect. Mexico does
not offer the kind of fertile ground to Bolivarian activism
as compared with some other countries in the hemisphere. A
mistrust of foreign interventionism and lessons learned from
the 2006 presidential election probably will prevent the
Bolivarian movement from having much influence in the Mexican
political or social scene. Post will continue to watch for
signs that Venezuela is increasing ties to some of Mexico's
more dangerous radical groups, in particular the EPR.
Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at and the North American
Partnership Blog at /

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