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Cablegate: Bahia Summits, Part 2: Bringing Latin America And

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DE RUEHBR #1637/01 3551812
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O 201812Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3137
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 8822
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 7007
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 3228
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BRASILIA 001637

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/19/2019
TAGS: PREL ECIN KSUM MARR XM XL BR MX CU
SUBJECT: BAHIA SUMMITS, PART 2: BRINGING LATIN AMERICA AND
THE CARIBBEAN TOGETHER...AROUND CUBA

REF: A. BRASILIA 1636
B. BRASILIA SEPTEL "THE SURPRISE OF BAHIA: MEXICO
COZIES UP TO BRAZIL
C. BRASILIA 1301
D. BRASILIA 1405
E. BRASILIA 1534

BRASILIA 00001637 001.2 OF 003


Classified By: Ambassador Clifford M. Sobel, reason 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary. Ambassador Sobel met with ministerial level
contacts on December 18 and 19 who commented with varying
degrees of detail on the series of summits (Mercosul, UNASUL,
Rio Group, and Latin America/Caribbean--CALC) hosted by
Brazil in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia December 16-17 (Ref A).
Senior GOB officials stressed that Cuba was the dominant
issue and played down the anti-United States elements of the
summits that dominated the press headlines and commentary.
According to Defense Minister Nelson Jobim, the main purpose
of the Rio Group and CALC was to begin a process to
reintegrate Cuba into the hemispheric community and to send a
message to the new U.S. Administration on the need for an
overture on Cuba as an essential element of engaging the
region. Without such a gesture, Jobim said, the April Summit
of the Americas (SOA) would be "horrible." In a separate
meeting, Mexican Ambassador to Brazil Andres Valencia
Benavides (protect) also told Ambassador Sobel that an
overture on Cuba by the Obama Administration was "expected"
and that, without one, the rest of the SOA agenda would be
"contaminated." End summary.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Lula's Chief of Staff: Region "Can't Leave the United States
Behind"
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (C) In a December 18 meeting with Presidential Chief of
Staff Minister Gilberto Cavalho (held while President Lula
was meeting Cuban President Raul Castro in the office next
door), the Ambassador raised the Bahia meetings, asking about
Brazil's regional agenda in light of press reports that had
focused on anti-American comments by a few leaders at this
Lula-organized event. Carvalho stated that, while the GOB
policy has been to seek to diversify its trade relationships,
it remains undeniable that the United States is Brazil's
"major partner" and a person "would have to have something
wrong with his head" to think that Brazil or the region could
"leave the United States behind." Carvalho stressed that
Lula's and other GOB officials' remarks must be taken in the
context of the Bahia meetings, where the environment was
"conspiratorial" and Lula was trying to play a moderating
role. Brazil's problems with Ecuador and Bolivia have been a
learning experience, Carvalho said, and Lula now understands
better the position that the United States is in.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
All About Cuba...
- - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (C) On December 19, Central Bank President Henrique
Meirelles told Ambassador Sobel that the Bahia meetings were
"difficult" and complained that they were "all about Cuba,
Cuba, Cuba." In a separate meeting, however, Defense
Minister Nelson Jobim told the Ambassador that the Bahia
summits had gone well. UNASUL had approved the South
American Defense Council, while the CALC had helped solidify
relations with the region, and especially Mexico (septel).
Jobim dismissed as "nonsense" comments by Morales about
expelling U.S. ambassadors, but stressed that there was broad
confidence among regional leaders that the new U.S.
Administration should and would make a gesture toward Cuba.
"The key goal of Bahia," Jobim stated, was to send a message
that "to get (the hemisphere) together, we have to solve
Cuba." "Lula wanted to signal to the United States that
there is a way to have a strategic alliance with Latin
America," Jobim continued, and that involves the new
Administration making a gesture toward Cuba. Such a gesture
would start an "irreversible" process in Cuba and would then
allow other Latin countries to press Cuba.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
...And Regional Leadership
- - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (C) Jobim stressed that Lula had taken a risk in calling

BRASILIA 00001637 002.2 OF 003


for a change in Cuba policy by the United States, as his
leadership position in the region will diminish, while that
of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would rise, if no U.S.
overture on Cuba is forthcoming. He said that Chavez and
Bolivian President Evo Morales were opposed to any move
toward resolution of issues between the United States and
Cuba. Chavez had asserted in closed sessions that such an
overture would "pull a rug out from under him" because his
discourse is related Cuba. Without a gesture by the United
States, Jobim said, the April SOA would be "horrible," and
Lula would be forced to take a harder line on the issue so
that Chavez is not strengthened. The Ambassador asked
whether Raul Castro even wanted a gesture from the United
States. Jobim responded that "we won't know until later."
But he also said that Cuba's position on engaging the United
States is closer to Brazil's than to Venezuela's.

5. (C) In a December 19 meeting with the Ambassador, Mexican
Ambassador to Brazil Andres Valencia, just back from Bahia,
likewise described the summits as a GOB success, saying they
highlighted Brazilian leadership in the region and President
Lula's personal role as someone who "can talk to everyone."
Although the summits solved none of the outstanding problems
Brazil has with various neighbors, he said, neither did these
problems "blow up" in any of the meetings. Valencia reported
that "only a few" leaders were vocally anti-American, and he
described Lula's tone with regard to the United States as
conciliatory, noting that Lula had stated the region needed
to give the new U.S. Administration time to elaborate its
policies.

6. (C) Asked about Calderon's remarks regarding a possible
"Union of Latin American and Caribbean Nations," Valencia
said that it was purely Calderon's idea, and was not
discussed by other leaders at the meeting. Benavides
recognized that the pronouncement had raised questions about
the Organization of American States (OAS) and the SOA, which
would have to be dealt with over the next months. Trinidad
and Tobago was concerned about the implications of the Bahia
meetings for the success of the April SOA but he observed
that neither Trinidad and Tobago nor anyone else mentioned
the SOA during the meetings. For its part, Mexico hopes that
the new CALC forum will eventually become redundant as the
Rio Group grows in membership and significance, Valencia
said. Jamaica is planning to join the Rio Group, and they
are hopeful other CARICOM countries will, as well. Venezuela
had originally offered to host the second CALC, but Mexico
and Brazil both wanted to avoid having Venezuela lead the
follow-up process to Bahia. As a result, a CALC foreign
ministers meeting will be hosted by Jamaica in 2009, and
Mexico will host a Rio Group Summit in February 2010 that
will serve as a follow-up mechanism to the CALC. Venezuela
will host the next CALC in 2011.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
Regional Dynamics on Cuba...with Implications for the SOA
- - - - - - - - - - - -

7. (C) In the absence of any other concrete agreement--except
a decision to meet again--Cuba was the big issue on the
agenda in Bahia, Valencia said. It was Brazil that pushed
for the presidential-level meeting of the Rio Group to
endorse the decision to admit Cuba, Valencia said. Such a
meeting was technically not necessary. Only one country,
Peru, had dissented on holding the extra Rio Group meeting,
and Valencia was certain that Peruvian President Garcia was
the only leader who did not attend the Bahia summits for
political reasons, reportedly saying he was not going to sit
with dictators. Valencia described the sentiment on the need
for the United States to lift the embargo against Cuba as
"universal" among LAC leaders. The most important thing that
the new U.S. Administration can do to improve relations with
the region, Valencia said, is to address Cuba: "Everyone
expects it." The results of the Bahia summits with regard to
Cuba had complicated the scenario for the SOA. Without a
change on Cuba policy, Valencia said, the rest of the agenda
will be contaminated.

8. (C) Comment: Jobim's assertion that the purpose for the
CALC centered on resolving the Cuba issue is a bit of
revisionist history. Although from the time it was first
announced many contacts told us that Cuba would be an
underlying issue at the CALC, post contacts also repeatedly
told us that the meeting had no firm agenda and was a

BRASILIA 00001637 003.2 OF 003


political exercise aimed gathering the region without any
"outside" (i.e., non-Latin/Caribbean) influence (reftel C-E).
While the "exclusion" of the United States and Canada from
the CALC dominated press coverage and were widely criticized
here, the emergent challenge to the United States to change
our approach to Cuba has broad acceptance in Brazil and seems
more likely to be the enduring message from Bahia.
SOBEL

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