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Cablegate: Gocr: Venezuelans Facilitating Arab Travel With

VZCZCXYZ0034
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0895 3192221
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 142221Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0273
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1138
RHMFISS/US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN JOSE 000895

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/AND, WHA/PPC, NEA AND CA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/20/2008
TAGS: PREL PTER PINR ASEC KCRM KFRD VZ CS
SUBJECT: GOCR: VENEZUELANS FACILITATING ARAB TRAVEL WITH
BRV PASSPORTS

REF: SAN JOSE 882 (NOTAL)

Classified By: DCM Peter M. Brennan for reason 1.4(d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Mario Zamora, head of the GOCR General
Directorate of Immigration (DGI, acronym in Spanish), told us
on October 30 that Costa Rica had seen a small (undefined)
number of non-Venezuelan-born Arabs traveling with real
Venezuelan passports, using Arab names. According to Zamora,
Venezuela is issuing "courtesy" passports to persons
affiliated with OPEC offices in Caracas. Zamora recognized
that this practice could mask or facilitate terrorist travel
to the U.S. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) Zamora told us that the DGI became aware of Venezuela
using passports as a political tool from Venezuelan refugees
seeking asylum in Costa Rica. Those who oppose Chavez have
trouble getting passports, which allows the BRV to limit
travel of the opposition. However, as part of the courtesies
that the Chavez government extends to OPEC members, the BRV
issues Venezuelan passports to personnel in the OPEC offices
in Caracas to help facilitate their travel in Latin America.
The idea is that a Venezuelan passport will not be
scrutinized as closely as, for example, an Iraqi passport,
according to Zamora.

3. (C) At this point, Zamora has not detected indications of
terrorist movement. However, he did not discount that the
"terror angle" was possible.

4. (C) COMMENT: We are passing along the information that
Zamora provided regarding Venezuelan passports, as well as
reftel on Zamora's readout on the fallout of Ecuador dropping
its tourist visa requirements, as anecdotal evidence of
potential areas of security concern for the U.S. We would
appreciate knowing whether Embassy Caracas can confirm this
use of BRV passports, and whether the BRV is extending this
"courtesy" to legitimate OPEC members or whether the
government is giving out passports more liberally. Zamora is
a credible and serious interlocutor on all
immigration-related security issues. If there is something
to this BRV passport gambit, we want to work with him to help
stop it. END COMMENT.
CIANCHETTE

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