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Cablegate: Media and Gov Make Hay Out of General Hill

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L CARACAS 001331

SIPDIS


NSC FOR CBARTON

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/21/2014
TAGS: KPAO PGOV PINR PM PTER VE
SUBJECT: MEDIA AND GOV MAKE HAY OUT OF GENERAL HILL
STATEMENTS


Classified By: Victoria A. Alvarado, IO; Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)

------
Summary
-------

1. (C) Leading Venezuelan national dailies, "El Universal"
and "El Nacional," printed articles April 3 and 4 that
distort parts of General James Hill's March 24 and April 1
statements on Venezuela to the U.S. House and Senate Armed
Forces Committees. Both newspapers' articles were based on
an article that ran in the Bogota newspaper "El Tiempo." The
Venezuelan version had General Hill saying things about
Venezuela and President Chavez, which in fact, he did not
say. President Chavez then decried USG interference in
Venezuela's sovereignty and Vice President Rangel issued a
scathing statement condemning Hill's alleged statements. IO
met with the papers April 12 to clarify General Hill's
remarks. The next day "El Universal" published a
clarification of the article, noting the inaccuracies of the
article. The media appears to have embellished Hill's
statements to discredit Chavez. The fact that the Venezuelan
Embassy has a copy of Hill's actual remarks and the GOV did
not check the veracity of the articles with us suggest that
GOV officials took advantage of the media's distorted
statements to condemn U.S.G. intentions towards Venezuela.
End Summary.

-------------------------------------
Private Print Media Take the Low Road
------------------------------------

2. (C) Leading Venezuelan liberal pro-opposition daily "El
Nacional" (circulation around 120,000) and leading
conservative daily "El Universal" (circulation about 130,000)
printed on April 3 and 4, respectively, articles that clearly
distorted parts of General Hill's March 24 and April 1
statements before the U.S. House and Senate Armed Forces
Committees. Both articles referred to an April 2 article on
Hill's hearings that appeared in Bogota paper "El Tiempo."
However, the two Venezuelan dailies modified parts of the "El
Tiempo" article, making it appear that General Hill had made
certain comments about Venezuela and President Chavez that
were not attributed as such in "El Tiempo."

3. (C) The "El Nacional" headline read, "General Hill
Accused Chavez of Decimating Citizens' Rights." The El
Universal" headline blared, "General Hill Accused Chavez of
Being a Radical Populist." Both headlines were inaccurate;
General Hill did not/not make specific reference to Venezuela
or its president when he commented on the loss in citizens'
rights or the phenomenon of radical populism in some of the
region's nations. (Comment: Though one could conclude that
Venezuela and Chavez, along with some other countries and
their leaders were on General Hill's mind when he made these
remarks, these two pro-opposition papers appeared to have
embellished Hill's words to fit the papers' and the
opposition's apparent interests to discredit Chavez and drive
an even bigger contentious wedge between the U.S. and
Venezuelan governments. End Comment.)

--------------
What Hill Said
--------------

4. (U) March 24 House Hearing:

--The security picture in Latin America and the Caribbean has
grown more complex over the past year. Colombia's
considerable progress in the battle against narcoterrorism is
offset by negative developments elsewhere in the region,
particularly in Haiti, Bolivia, and Venezuela.

--These traditional threats are now complemented by an
emerging threat best described as radical populism, in which
the democratic process is undermined to decrease rather than
protect individual rights. Some leaders in the region are
tapping in deep-seated frustrations of the failure of
democratic reforms to deliver expected goods and services.
By tapping into these frustrations, which run concurrently
with frustrations caused by social and economic inequality,
the leaders are at the same time able to reinforce their
radical positions by inflaming anti-U.S. sentiment. (Note:
This segment of General Hill's remarks does not/not make
direct reference to either Venezuela or President Chavez.
End Note.)

--Venezuela remains an oil-rich nation that provides some 13
percent of oil imported into the United States. The domestic


political situation continues to be exceedingly complex, and
the prospects of the presidential recall referendum are still
in considerable doubt. Venezuelan society is deeply
polarized and will continue to be so, as long as the
government of Venezuela continues along an authoritarian
path. Well-organized street protests numbering in the
hundreds of thousands occurred on a frequent basis over the
past year. (Note: El Universal and El Nacional reported
accurately on this segment. End Note.)

5. (U) April 1 Senate Hearing:

--The security picture in Latin American and the Caribbean
has indeed grown more complex over the past year, as events
in Haiti, Bolivia, and Venezuela amply illustrate.
Deep-seated frustrations over the failure of democratic and
free-market reforms to improve the standard of living for all
citizens are significantly challenging many of the region's
governments. This frustration is exacerbated by endemic
corruption and by the insidious impact of society of the
threats I addressed last year -narcoterrorism, urban gangs
and other illegal armed groups, arms and human trafficking,
and support to international terrorism.

--Question (Senator Bill Nelson): Does this committee need
to take note of any of the terrorist and narcotrafficking
that is going on in Colombia that might be seeping into
Venezuela?

--Response (General Hill): The borders of all the countries
that border Colombia are porous. The most porous of those
borders is the Venezuelan border. An the Colombians have let
it be known in strong terms at the presidential level and at
the military level that the Venezuelans need to do more on
the other side of the border, and they need to.

--Question (Senator Bill Nelson): Are we seeing any of the
kidnapping that has been in Colombia start moving over into
Venezuela? Response (General Hill): Sir, there's always
been not only FARC but ELN and AUC presence in the Venezuelan
side of the border, and they go back and forth with
essentially impunity into Colombia. And kidnapping does, in
fact, take place on both sides of the border.

--Question (Senator Bill Nelson): In these upcoming
elections in the Dominican Republic that we're worried about
some questions of honesty in the elections, do you have a
force structure that you can call on if chaos were to erupt
there, or, for example, in Venezuela, where the interests of
Americans were suddenly threatened, that you would be able to
get your hands of the assets to respond to that?

--Response (General Hill): We very quickly put in a Marine
fast team into the embassy in Haiti, in a matter of hours, to
bolster the Marine force defending the embassy in Haiti. We
were able to put in marines and follow-on forces from the
French and the Chileans within a matter of 24 hours into
Haiti. There's no doubt in my mind that we can respond in
may area in the United States administration wants to do
that. (Note/Comment: Neither the GOV nor the Venezuelan
media appear to have picked up on this potentially explosive
question and response. The Chavez government could easily
distort General Hill's response and claim that Hill's message
confirms Chavez's accusations that the U.S. is considering a
military intervention in Venezuela. It is possible the GOV
is keeping it under its sleeve for a more opportune moment.
End Note/Comment.)

---------------
GOV Lashes Back
---------------

6. (U) Though President Chavez did not enter into the
details of General Hill's most recent statements, he
lambasted Hill during his April 4 "Alo Presidente" program
for once again interfering in the internal affairs of
sovereign Venezuela in a manner that was not only improper,
but also demonstrated Hill's ignorance of Venezuela. The
same day, Vice President Rangel, who appears to have "bought"
the opposition-leaning papers' versions of what Hill said,
issued a scathing statement condemning Hill's alleged
statements. Rangel's main points:

--Hill has a militarized vision of the region, drawn from the
School of the Americas' - the bastion of the U.S. national
security doctrine and a center that forms military dictators
and torturers - concept of Latin America.

--Hill told the U.S. Senate that Chavez "uses his position


and support to gradually decimate the rights of Venezuelan
citizens. This degrades democracy." (Note: Hill did not
refer specifically to Venezuela or Chavez when he made this
comment. End Note.)

--Hill's lack of knowledge of the region led him to confuse
the region's struggle for social change with what Hill terms
"a radical populism that is becoming a danger to hemispheric
security."

--According to Hill, the popular outcry for a better form of
life and the search for solutions to the crisis, which is
caused by unjust political, social, and economics systems, is
an attempt against hemispheric security. This is the old
language of the cold war; the characterization as subversive
any social change the U.S. cannot handle.

--The capricious definition of populism, which is nothing
other than profound social change, a new economic model, and
popular participation, leads to the typical demonizing of
neo-liberal ideology, whose anachronistic leaders are the
heart of the power in Washington.

--The GOV does not have an authoritarian bone in its body and
these remarks constitute an unacceptable insolence on the
part of a foreign military chief against Hugo Chavez, an
impeccably, democratically elected leader, which contrasts
with the origin of President Bush's mandate.

--The GOV's actions do not degrade democracy; rather the
irrational opposition's systematic acts of terror and attacks
against the Constitution indeed degrade democracy. Further,
the U.S. President's aggressive international policies and
absolute disdain for the United Nations are the object of
outright world rejection.

--------------
Embassy Action
--------------

7. (C) On April 6, IO wrote to the editors of the papers,
clarifying what Hill had indeed said and urging the editors
to confirm with the U.S. Embassy USG officials' statements.
IO then met with "El Nacional" editor Patricia Spadero and
"El Universal" Vice President Alcides Rojas April 12 to
convey our concern over the papers' misrepresentation of a
USG official's statements and to note that this
misrepresentation could serve to boost the GOV's assertions
that the pro-opposition media distort the truth to dupe the
populace. Both papers agreed that parts of their articles
were inaccurate. Rojas pointed out, however, that the
coversheet list of "El Tiempo" articles that Reuters wire
service had sent to El Universal had titled the article in
question, "Populismo Venezolano Amenaza la Region: Estados
Unidos," ("Venezuelan Populism Threatens the Region"), while
the title of the article itself was "Populism Amenaza la
Region: Estados Unidos," with no specific mention of
Venezuela or any other country.

8. (U) On April 12, El Universal published a clarification
of its previous article on General Hill, recognizing that
parts of the article were inaccurate. Also on April 12, an
official from Venezuelan Embassy's press section called our
press office to inquire whether the U.S. Embassy had issued a
clarification that "El Universal" had used. In response to
our press assistant's reply that we had not issued a
statement and her offer to send the Venezuelan Embassy
General Hill's remarks, the Venezuelan press officer said
that the Embassy already had a copy.

-------
Comment
-------

9. (C) The pro-opposition media fell into the temptation of
discrediting President Chavez by manipulating the words of a
senior USG official. Similarly, the GOV, rather than
attempting to verify the accuracy of the papers' articles on
General Hill's remarks with the U.S. Embassy, GOV officials
deliberately took advantage of the papers' distorted
statements to once again condemn U.S. government intentions
towards Venezuela. The fact that the Venezuelan Embassy
alleges it has General Hill's words, supports this
assessment. In Venezuela's polarized society, where the
political stakes are rising by the day, we can expect more of
this behavior.
SHAPIRO

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