Cablegate: The Abcs of the Venezuelan Government's Political

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




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) The Venezuelan government (GOV) has crafted a
targeted and generously funded political propaganda strategy
to convince Venezuelans and the international community that
Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution is the true democratic road to
prosperity and to divide, discredit, and demoralize
opposition efforts to challenge the Chavez regime. Chavez
terms any opposition to his government as a "Made in the USA"
corrupt, terrorist, coup-mongering plot to topple his
democratic government. His favorite punching bag is the U.S.
government and its senior officials, whom he regularly
derides for meddling in Venezuela's domestic affairs. The
GOV will likely continue its spending flurry to win the
hearts and minds of Venezuelans and the international
community, be it through political propaganda or through its
number of social projects to convert the poor and middle
classes to the revolution. The GOV has contracted lobby firm
Patton Boggs to improve President Chavez's image in the
United States. Nonetheless, Chavez's attempts to lobby the
U.S. government are unlikely to curry favor with Washington
as long as he insults and falsely accuses President Bush and
senior officials of idiocy and conspiracy to overthrow his
regime. The GOV has a competitive advantage in that Chavez
and his advisors have set a clear and consistent government
line. And, whether it is a "Bash U.S. Imperialism Day," or a
march in support of Venezuela's elderly population, the GOV
and its well-disciplined followers toe the revolutionary
line. End Summary.


2. (U) According to the American Heritage Dictionary
propaganda is "The systematic propagation of a given doctrine
or of allegations reflecting the views and interests by the
proselytizers of the doctrine." In the following study, the
term propaganda encompasses the instruments of misinformation
and disinformation.

GOV Plan - Big Bang for the Bucks

3. (U) Political propaganda, both favoring and opposing the
Chavez government, is commonplace in Venezuelan broadcast and
print media. The GOV has developed a targeted and generously
funded political propaganda strategy to convince Venezuelans
and the international community that Chavez's Bolivarian
Revolution is the true democratic road to prosperity and to
divide, discredit, and demoralize opposition efforts to
challenge the Chavez regime. Though precise figures on how
much the GOV spends on propaganda are unavailable, estimates
from private media owners run from an average of Bolivares 50
million to 65 million per day (around USD 30,000) for
domestic propaganda to about USD 1 million per day for the
GOV's domestic and international political propaganda
campaign. According to foreign and Venezuelan media, the GOV
signed a USD 1.2 million contract with lobby firm Patton
Boggs in September 2002 to improve President Chavez's image
in the United States. The GOV has confirmed the contract,
but not the amount. (Comment: Chavez's attempts to lobby the
U.S. government are unlikely to curry favor with Washington
as long as he insults and falsely accuses President Bush and
senior officials of idiocy and conspiracy to overthrow his
regime. End Comment).

4. (U) The Venezuelan state press agency, television, and
radio stations have openly become instruments of the GOV and
its affiliated parties. In February 2004 the president of
state television station Venezolana de Television (VTV)
publicly stated that VTV was not a state channel, but rather,
part of the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), President Chavez's
political party. GOV propaganda openly targets Venezuela's

lower and middle socio-economic strata, which represents
about 90 percent of the population.

5. (U) Government media regularly broadcasts
government-sponsored activities, e.g. the inauguration of a
new discount market (MERCAL) or the expansion of
Cuban-assisted medical program for poor neighborhoods (Barrio
Adentro), to underscore the diversity of its supporters.
However, when the government media cover opposition events,
they zoom in on participants resembling the white elite and
avoid images that reflect a diversity of class and color in
the opposition. Government media also alter images of
opposition rallies to make it appear that the turnout was
paltry, while it modifies footage of its own events to
exaggerate participation.

GOV Strategies

6. (U) In order to support its objective of strengthening
President Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution, the GOV has
three propaganda strategies:

--Convince the Venezuelan people and the international
community that Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution is the true
democratic road to prosperity.

--Divide, discredit, demoralize, and dismantle opposition
efforts to challenge the Chavez regime with allegations that
a coup-mongering, terrorist, and corrupt elite leads the

--Accuse any entity or government whose views or policies
challenge the Chavez government as conspiring against the
Chavez regime or of meddling in Venezuela's domestic affairs.

GOV Tactics

7. (U) The GOV's tactics are to:

--Hire lobby groups and media consultants in Venezuela and
abroad; tailor propaganda products to target audiences.

--Utilize print and broadcast media to advance objectives
both in country and abroad.

--Polarize Venezuelan society through the use of messages and
images, e.g., the poor, middle class, and dark skinned are
good people and they support the GOV; the evil are wealthy
and fair skinned (the "squalid, oligarchy") and they support
the opposition.

--Create adversaries (United States), and ideological "soul
mates," (Cuba), to appeal to Venezuelan nationalistic
inclinations and to the population's inclination to support
the underdog, e.g., Venezuela's revolutionary David to the
U.S. imperialist, neo-liberal Goliath.

--Link these external adversaries with the opposition, and
its friends with the Chavez revolution.

--Deflect the social and economic failures of President
Chavez's Fifth Republic by blaming them on the corrupt and
nefarious Fourth Republic, which Chavez claims he toppled
when he assumed office in December 1998.

--Discredit and demoralize opposition leadership and their
efforts to voice their opinions through constitutional and
electoral mechanisms.

--Milk the sovereignty card and link these alleged external
threats to the opposition.

--Invite/pay foreigners to visit Venezuela and testify in
favor of Chavez and his Bolivarian revolution, and to

lambaste the domestic and foreign policies of the foreigners'
respective countries.


8. (U) The following are some of the propaganda messages
GOV spokespersons and media repeat many times every day:

--Venezuela's confrontation is between an elite white
minority and a dark, poor majority, the latter who all defend
President Chavez.

--All members of Venezuela's popular and labor classes and a
growing number of the middle class support Chavez.

--Opposition members are coup-mongering terrorist fascists,
who are willing to betray their country to overthrow Chavez
with help from the United States.
--Chavez is the legitimate, legal, democraticallyelected
leader of a sovereign people's governmen.

--Chavez, unlike his corrupt predecessors, fights corruption
and believes in justice for all Venezuelan citizens.

--Freedom of expression in Venezuela is alive and well; there
is no persecution of those who oppose the GOV.

--The GOV is nationalistic; those opposing it are traitors.

--The U.S. wants to topple Chavez to seize Venezuela's oil.

GOV Propaganda Practices

9. (U) The following are examples of GOV propaganda

--Message Distortion and Image Alteration: VTV broadcasts
images of the September 11, 2001 attack on New York's Twin
Towers, compares this image with Venezuelan opposition
strikers, and emits the message, "The people (Venezuelan)
know who the terrorists are." VTV and newspapers carry
full-page ads that use altered footage to contrast huge
turnouts at GOV rallies with supposed paltry crowds in
opposition marches. The GOV projects images of "dark masses"
rallying behind Chavez, while its shots of opposition marches
zoom in on white, well-dressed elites, even though a range of
classes and colors attend opposition marches.

--Abuse of Authority/Cadenas: President Chavez frequently
delivers political propaganda through his national radio and
television broadcasts that all broadcast media must carry.
From December 1999, when Chavez assumed office, to April 30,
2004, he has used 578 hours to this purpose, reports leading
conservative national daily "El Universal."

--Smear Campaigns: GOV ridicules opposition private sector
leader Carlos Fernandez, labor leader Carlos Ortega, and
petroleum leader Juan Fernandez. GOV conducts illegal
wiretaps of their conversations and broadcasts/publishes them
in government media and juxtaposes the conversations with
violent images. The GOV launches particularly virulent
attacks on private media owners who oppose the Chavez
government and on civil associations, such as SUMATE, which
has helped the opposition's Democratic Coordinator (CD) in
technical and informational aspects for the presidential
recall petition drive. Chavez has accused millionaire
Venevision/Cisneros Group President Gustavo Cisneros of being
the pack leader of the private media's conspiracy against
him. He frequently calls the four leading private television
stations the "Four Horsemen (or Prostitutes) of the
Apocalypse," and he has conveyed instructions to his
followers during his weekly Sunday program "Alo Presidente"
and during his "cadenas" to attack certain media outlets that

have allegedly defamed the President.

--Appealing to Nationalism/Culpability and Innuendoes:
Chavez employs traditional songs and jingoisms, featuring
popular actors and musicians to appeal to Venezuelan
nationalism. (Note: The opposition employs similar tactics.
End Note.) GOV propaganda blames the opposition for any and
all of the country's political and economic woes, blaming it
on the opposition's December 2002 national work stoppage.
GOV spots on the opposition's December 2002 - February 2003
national strike blend images of violence and food shortages
with the message, "Do these ends justify the means?" (In
Spanish, the word "medios" can signify "means" or "media.")
The play on words attempts to create an association between
the opposition media and the violence and food scarcities.

--"Chavismo Heavy" VS "Chavismo Light": The GOV uses
unfounded accusations, threats, and insults to discredit the
opposition and to convince his followers to continue their
support for him. He employs a similar tactic for any
perceived international support to the opposition, e.g. using
pro-GOV National Assembly deputies to allege on television
that there is a CIA-directed conspiracy to topple Chavez,
even assassinate him. The GOV employs lighter tactics to
attract the middle and working classes, women, and youth, all
groups that are either ambivalent towards Chavez or support a
leadership change. Promotional campaigns for Chavez's social
missions: Robinson, Rivas, Sucre, Cristo, and Vuelvan Caras
are form part of the GOV's tactics.

International Efforts

10. (U) Venezuelan Embassies and consulates are also tasked
with spreading the revolutionary message, specifically
through the promotion of a slick government documentary
titled, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," which was
produced by two Irish free-lance filmmakers who reportedly
said they were BBC employees when they sought to interview
Venezuelans concerning the April 2002 temporary alternation
in constitutional order to some, and coup attempt, to others.
The video has been shown at a number of theaters in major
U.S. metropolitan areas and at several prestigious U.S.
universities, including Harvard, Stanford, and the University
of California system, and most recently at the Lincoln Center
in New York. To date, there has been very little questioning
of the documentary's veracity in the U.S. media. The GOV
also has plans to place its political ads and broadcast VTV
programs throughout the hemisphere through regional cable
networks and it has invested over USD 55 million to turn VTV
into a regional
television network rivaling Brazil's "O Globo" by September

11. (U) The GOV's international efforts extend far beyond
the dissemination of videos and broadcasting and information
posted on Venezuelan Embassy websites.

--Through its extensive and expanding network of Bolivarian
Circles ("Circulos Bolivarianos"), the GOV spreads the gospel
of Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution. In the United States
alone, there are Bolivarian Circles in Florida, New York,
Washington, D.C., Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma, and California.
One of the Bolivarian circles organized a march in Times
Square on May 8 to say no to U.S. and French occupation in
Haiti and to U.S. intervention in Venezuela.

--The GOV is also using the Cuban Solidarity Network and the
Bolivarian Circle of Miami, whose director is Alvaro Sanchez
( to recruit U.S. university students to
join the GOV's "Ingles Barrio Adentro" program. Volunteer
students are being recruited to teach English in Venezuela in
the poor barrios of three cities - Caracas, Maracaibo, and
Barcelona - specifically in neighborhoods where Cuban medics
live and work for Chavez's Barrio Adentro health program.
According to recruiting information, local governments will
guarantee the safety of participating U.S. students, noting

the presence of thousands of Cuban doctors who are already
safely volunteering in these impoverished neighborhoods.

--The pro-Chavez Women's Bank ("Banco de Mujer") deploys
Venezuelan women to the United States to talk to audiences of
the glories of the Bolivarian Revolution and to lambaste the
U.S. government's hurtful neo-liberal policies that aim to
enslave the populations of developing countries.

--More recently, the Foreign Ministry has taken upon itself
to purge or sideline to insignificant positions Venezuelan
diplomats and other Foreign Ministry employees who refuse to
defend and promote the revolutionary line.

Examples of The Government Line

12. (U) The Chavez government's propaganda strategy has a
competitive advantage beyond its generous financing: Chavez
and his advisors have set a clear and consistent government
line. Whether it is a "Bash U.S. Imperialism Day," or a
march in support of Venezuela's elderly population, the GOV
and its well-disciplined followers tow the government's
revolutionary line. The under-funded, unfocused, and often
undisciplined opposition is at a clear disadvantage when it
comes to countering GOV propaganda (septel).

13. (U) Mega-fraud: In the heated fray over whether the
National Electoral Council (CNE) should or should not call
for a presidential recall referendum, the GOV has stepped up
its propaganda campaign against the opposition, both in
quantity and frequency of propaganda through television,
printed ads, billboards in television and print media and to
a lesser degree, on the radio. Using its message of
"mega-fraud," the pro-GOV political party command center
Comando Ayacucho has placed ads, including in private,
pro-opposition papers that point to supposed inaccuracies
(many of them distortions) in the opposition's presidential
recall drive, suggesting the opposition drive was a massive
fraud. Among the papers publishing these ads are
pro-opposition, conservative daily "El Universal," slightly
pro-Chavez and highly popular tabloid "Ultimas Noticias," and
pro-GOV tabloid "VEA." An MVR National Assembly deputy, Luis
Tascon, has a web page that encourages Venezuelans to verify
whether their name fraudulently a
ppeared in the opposition's presidential recall signature
drive held for four days during November-December 2003:
( or to denounce any other irregularity.
Opposition leaders insist the real purpose of the site is to
identify those who signed, screen them for GOV employment or
benefits and pressure them to recant.

14. (U) Full Frontal Attack against the Opposition: In one
VTV ad, while classical music plays in the background, a
cartoonist sketches a rose and a thorn and writes, "The
opposition, without the rose of love, and with a thorn of
hatred." In another VTV video clip, with the backdrop of
crowds in line to buy liquid fuel canisters (during the
December 2003- January 2003 opposition-led national strike, a
voice says, "The opposition unleashed terrorism on the
Venezuelan people and it led to hunger and unemployment.
Thanks to the new PDVSA (state oil company), PDVSA is for all
of us, all of us are PDVSA."

15. (U) Taking on Uncle Sam: Pro-GOV VEA dedicates a
generous number of its pages to discredit the U.S. government
(U.S. Iraq policy, domestic problems, etc.) and accuses it of
leading Venezuela's opposition. It also lobs darts at U.S.
Ambassador Shapiro through the use of insulting caricatures
or altered photos featuring the Ambassador as the head of the
opposition leadership, suggesting a cabal between the
Ambassador/USG and the opposition. Chavez has escalated his
attacks on the United States in his frequent speeches. He
claims that Venezuela's opposition is "Made in the USA," that
the USG masterminded and financed the April 2002 coup against
him. Chavez assures his audiences that U.S. troops are
stationed along the Colombia side of the border, waiting for

the opportune moment to invade Venezuela and topple his

16. (U) Alo Presidente - Chavez's Weekly Bully Pulpit: In
his weekly Sunday "Alo Presidente" program, which often lasts
five hours, President Chavez issues instructions and conveys
sub-textual messages to his followers; threatens and
discredits those who oppose him; and attacks foreign
interests he associates with the opposition, the U.S.
government being a favorite culprit. He has repeatedly
promised to unveil evidence proving U.S. involvement the
events of April 11, 2002, including U.S. naval and air
presence in Venezuelan waters.

17. (U) Attacking Former Supporters: VTV routinely airs
three-minute clips that combine outdated/out of sequence
images with current events to denounce opposition members,
political parties, or civil society groups. One example is a
video of the Metropolitan Police chief, who once supported
Chavez, allegedly testing a number of weapons in Europe to
prove to Venezuelans that the police chief was an arms
trafficker who was probably plotting violence against the
President in February 2004. The video footage, however, was
from two years ago, when the police chief was still a Chavez

18. (U) Kinder, Gentler Chavismo: In his effort to attract
the middle and working classes, youth, and women, groups that
tend to either favor some sort of leadership change or
support the opposition, the GOV has issued a number of soft
and friendly "unifying" ads that appeal to these groups. The
Ministry of Communications and Information uses the new
slogan "Venezuela ahora es de todos" (Venezuela is now for
all of us) and the colors of the flag to appeal to
patriotism. Another ad features a woman who, thanks to a GOV
micro-credit, has established a successful weaving business.
Half-page ads have appeared in dailies "El Universal,"
"Ultimas Noticias," and "VEA" and on VTV in 45-second

Opportunity Knocks, with a Catch

19. (U) Chavez's numerous social missions come with a
catch; the recipients must be loyal to the Chavez revolution.
In one GOV ad, the GOV announces that, starting on February
12, it will publish lists of people who have signed up for
the latest government social program "Vuelvan Caras" (Turn
Around), which aims to reduce unemployment. This ad has
appeared in "Ultimas Noticias." On February 19, the GOV
started publishing the cedula numbers of Venezuelans who
signed in the opposition's recall petition and urged people
to scrutinize the list and denounce to the GOV if their name
had been fraudulently used. There are numerous stories of
Venezuelans who lost their privileges or chances for
employment once they have signed the opposition's
presidential recall petition; others say they declined to
sign because they did not want to lose their benefits.

20. (U) Using Children for Political Proselytism. Chavez
has used on at least three occasions children and youth to
broadcast eloquent, memorized speeches in favor of the
Bolivarian revolution and its leader. Many compare this
tactic to Castro's in Cuba.

21. (U) Possible Use of Foreign Media and Fake Polls. The
following electronic December 3, 2003 "Washington Post"
article was e-mailed to dozens of Venezuelan journalists in
December 2003, immediately following the opposition-led
presidential recall referendum petition drive. The article
distorts the possible results of the drive and suggests the
opposition did not collect enough signatures to hold the
recall. The article's poor English was the first clue that
something was amiss, and the "Washington Post" journalist who
supposedly wrote the article (follows) confirmed to U.S.
Embassy Caracas that the article was a fake, the result of a
sophisticated hacking job of The Washington Post web page and

e-mail system. Similar incidents have occurred with "Chicago
Tribune" and "New York Times" articles. Whether these
e-mailed articles were the work of the GOV or its
sympathizers is uncertain; however, they certainly serve the
GOV's interests and the tactic is a one commonly employed by
the Cuban government, according to private media sources.

Begin Article: Confusion in Venezuela -- Opponents of Chavez
Surprisingly Claim Various Amounts of Signatures to Trigger
Recall Referendum. The results of the recollection of
signatures that took place last weekend throughout the
country, has become a contest off figures. "El Nacional," a
national daily newspaper, opened last Tuesday, with 3.8
million signatures, the Coordinadora Democratica, followed
with 3.6, Sumate, a social organization, added its own
opinion offering 3.4 and Salas Romer, leader and presidential
candidate of Proyecto Venezuela, a leading political party,
expressed the amount of 3 million signatures. On the other
hand, the officialist Comando Ayacucho, announced in a press
conference that took place the same day, that the
recollection did not meet the required figure of 2.4 million
signatures needed to recall mister Chavez. The number stated
was 1.9 million. End Article.

22. (U) In February, March, and April 2004, the GOV
referred to three polls, allegedly one by famed pollster
Alfred Keller, and the other two by a group called North
American Opinion Research, to demonstrate that most of
Venezuela's business community no longer trusted its leaders,
and preferred to support Chavez and that Chavez's popularity
had increased substantially. Keller refuted the first poll's
existence and attributed it to the GOV's disinformation
campaign. In February, U.S. Embassy Caracas and a number of
interlocutors were unable to find any organization called
North American Opinion Research. However, when the second
North American Opinion Research poll appeared in daily
tabloid "Ultimas Noticias," its editor gave Embassy a copy of
the poll. The poll had no names, contact information
included; the editor told emboff that North American Opinion
Research was not as Chavez asserted, a U.S. polling firm, but
rather some sort of local endeavor. Zeta, a liberal-leaning,
pro-opposition weekly political events magazine, wrote that
the poll was a fraud, and noted that the use of the word
North American to describe a U.S. firm was uncustomary in the
United States, while Venezuelans did often use the word North
American to refer to the United States. (Comment: The fact
that the firm has an accent over the "i" in Opinion, also
makes it doubtful that a U.S. firm is the source of the poll.
End Comment.)

TV Propaganda

23. (U) VTV and the new government educational and cultural
channel Vive TV use images from private channels to convey
aggression on the part of the opposition against the alleged
large mass of people who support Chavez. It also regularly
airs one to five-minute segments that accuse the opposition
of conspiring to kill Chavez and his democratic Bolivarian

revolution. Comando Ayacucho airs ads to attract undecided
voters, using Venezuelan folk or classical music in the
background and soft, easily digestible messages that assure
these voters that they too may join the benign, pretty
revolution and benefit from its resources.

Print Propaganda

24. (U) Pro-GOV group "The Committee to Defend the
Constitution" issues communiques that list a number of
possible plans by the opposition to mount a coups d'etat.
Its full-page, color communiques often appear in "VEA" and
"Ultimas Noticias." The GOV's ideological organ, the
Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement (MBR-200) and the Farmers'
Bolivarian Front (Frente Bolivariano Campesino) along with a
pro-Chavez mayor issued a communique in support of Chavez and

denouncing alleged fraud against the Chavez regime in Cojedes
state. A number of new print media endeavors have emerged,
some local, others national, which support the GOV's
revolution. All of them serve to discredit supposed
opposition leaders and many attack U.S. imperialism and
interference in Venezuela's domestic affairs.


25. (U) Examples of pro-GOV billboards:

--La revolution bolivariana avanza a paso de vencedores."
"The Bolivarian Revolution advances at the pace of the

--"Venezuela ahora es de todos." Venezuela now belongs to
all of us." (Ministry of Information and Communications).

--"Chavez es el pueblo". "Chavez is the people." (shots of
Chavez embracing an elderly woman; listening to a young girl
who is wearing a red beret; laughs with a member of one of
Venezuela's Indian tribes.

Other Mechanisms

26. (U) U.S. Support. A number of U.S. celebrities and
black leaders have visited Miraflores and the Vice
President's office: Danny Glover and a group of TransAfrica
members; boxing promoter Don King; Catholic lay missionaries;
and Roger Toussaint, president of the New York Metro and
Transport Union. The union leader came to Venezuela to
express his "..concern over State Department declarations
and his rejection of USG interference in the referendum and
in other GOV business." Don King's visit was unforgettable
after he mistook his cues and, instead of his singing "Chavez
will not leave," he chanted "Chavez will leave."

27. (U) Propaganda on Line. The GOV liberally uses
cyberspace to spread its war on the oligarchy, neoliberalism,
the United States government, and the proposed Free Trade
Area of the Americas (FTAA). A sample of the numerous sites

--State press agency, Venpres:

--State Television Channel, Venezolana de Television (VTV):

--State Radio Network, Radio Nacional de Venezuela:


--Una Sola Patria:



--Red Bolivariana:

--Revista Rebelin:

--Radio Progreso:

--Bolivarian Circles of Miami:

--Radio Miami:

--Venezuelan Analysis: The first Venezuelan news web site in


28. (U) The Chavez government is likely to continue
investing substantial amounts of cash to win the hearts and
minds of Venezuelans and the international community, be it
through political propaganda or through its number of social
projects to convert the poor and middle classes to his
revolution. Though some of the GOV's propaganda promotes the
image of a beautiful and peaceful revolution, other messages
are foul-mouthed and aggressive. And, while some of his
social programs appear to have drawn support from segments of
the lower social strata, and some hit a responsive
anti-American cord among traditional leftists, some (not all)
of this support will last only as long as the cash flows.
(Drafted: PAS: Victoria Alvarado.)



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