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Cablegate: National Assembly Releases Flimsy Report On

VZCZCXRO9882
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHCV #1676/01 3402001
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 052001Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2251
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 001676

SIPDIS

HQSOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
DEPARTMENT PASS TO AID/OTI (RPORTER)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/05/2028
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL VE
SUBJECT: NATIONAL ASSEMBLY RELEASES FLIMSY REPORT ON
ALLEGED ANTI-CHAVEZ PLOT

CARACAS 00001676 001.2 OF 002

Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR FRANCISCO FERNANDEZ
FOR REASON 1.4 (D)

1. (C) Summary. The National Assembly (NA) released a report
calling on the Attorney General's Office (AG) to investigate
retired military personnel, independent media owners, and
businessmen for their supposed involvement in a conspiracy to
assassinate President Chavez. It accused the USG of
providing funds to destabilize Venezuela. The report also
urged Conatel, the telecommunications agency, to investigate
private media outlets for purportedly conducting a systematic
campaign to discredit Chavez and promote his assassination.
NA deputies implored the government to look into the
activities of the Embassy's five American Corners. The
report provides no real evidence but relies heavily on
hearsay, transcripts from recorded messages between member of
the opposition, and accusations that the free media is
employing subliminal messages. The NA has now shifted its
focus to proposing an amendment to the constitution that
would allow for Chavez's indefinite re-election. End
Summary.

-----------------------------------
NA Releases Findings on Chavez Plot
-----------------------------------

2. (SBU) The NA's "Special Committee to Investigate a Coup
and Assassination Attempt Against President Chavez," which
was formed in late September, released its findings in a
100-page report on December 2. The Committee was formed
after Mario Silva, an ardent Chavista talk show host,
broadcast a recording of alleged phone conversations between
Army MGEN Wilfredo Barroso Herrera, VADM Millan Millian, and
Air Force BGEN Eduardo Baez Torrealba. The alleged voices
spoke of seizing Miraflores using F-16s, state-controlled
television stations, and the Naval Headquarters. Silva also
named former Defense Minister Raul Isaias Baduel and
Globovision owner Alberto Federico Ravell in the supposed
plot.

3. (SBU) The report, which was placed on the back burner in
the lead-up to the November state and local elections,
focused on the alleged role of retired and active duty
military officers, prominent figures in civil society, and
the USG to discredit Chavez and thus justify a disruption in
the constitutional order of power and ultimately Chavez's
murder. The report relied heavily on the use of questionable
witness testimony and possibly illegally-recorded telephone
and text messages.

4. (SBU) Regarding the involvement of military personnel, the
report states that the GBRV's intelligence apparatus
"squashed" the plot mentioned by Silva but that further
threats remain. NA deputies urged the government to continue
its on-going investigation against the men named by Silva and
their possible associates.

5. (SBU) The report's other primary target was civil society
leaders, predominately private media owners. Miguel Henrique
Otero, owner of daily El Nacional, Marcel Granier, director
of Radio Caracas Television, Diego Arria, Baduel, Nelson
Mezerhane, head of Fedecamaras, Ravell, Rafael Poleo, editor
of the daily Un Nuevo Pais, and mayor-elect of Maracaibo
Manuel Rosales were named as the supposed leaders of the
civilian front to destabilize the Government of the
Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (GBRV) and promote the
assassination of Chavez.

6. (SBU) Specifically, these persons are accused of
discrediting Chavez and his government in the independent
media and business circles and in so doing justify his
assassination. The report lists instances where media
outlets purportedly call for Chavez's murder through cheeky
news headlines or the use of subliminal messages. It calls
on Conatel to investigate these instances and sanction the
networks if necessary. Likewise, it urges the Human Rights
Ombudsman to protect citizens "from discriminatory messages
that disrupt peace and social harmony." In its
recommendations the Committee advocated that the AG's Office
open an investigation against the individuals mentioned and
present criminal charges if warranted.

7. (SBU) The Committee also repeatedly made mention of the
USG's supposed efforts to finance destabilization projects
against the GBRV. The report named local NGO partners and
accused them of carrying out the "empire's" agenda. The
report called on the government to investigate the USG's
installation of five "virtual consulates (American Corners)
without the permission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."
According to the report, the USG fears the repercussions that
the Bolivarian Revolution could have in the region and around
the world, as motives for its purported actions against
Venezuela.

---------------------------------
Tascon: Report Doesn't Hold Water
---------------------------------

8. (SBU) According to the media, NA Deputy and expelled PSUV
member Luis Tascon, creator of the infamous Tascon List, said
the report "lacked substance" and requested that the
Committee be allowed more time to present evidence against
the supposed conspirators. He warned that the report would
be used against the NA because the arguments presented were
too weak. Nevertheless, the report was approved by all
deputies, with the exception of the Podemos party.

9. (SBU) After releasing the report, deputies from the
pro-government NA set out to formulate a proposal to amend
the constitution to allow for Chavez's indefinite reelection.
Chavez originally granted his PSUV party permission to take
up the issue via a signature drive. The NA, however,
recently agreed to assume the task. According to the
constitution, thirty parliamentarian are needed to approve
the measure, which will later be put to a popular referendum.

10. (C) Comment: The GBRV routinely employs a variety of
tactics to discredit its adversaries. In this instance, the
National Assembly has synthesized a series of politically
motivated charges without presenting any real evidence.
Moreover, this case is significant given that the government
has requested the formal investigation of several prominent
business, media, and civil society leaders. The GBRV's
release of private conversations in the public media is
particularly worrisome and confirms reports we've heard from
contacts that the government is actively conducting
surveillance on opposition members. End Comment.
GENNATIEMPO

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