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Cablegate: Paraguay's Vice President Visits Senate to Explain

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASUNCION 001154

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE PASS TO USAID LAC/AA
SECDEF FOR OSD LTC DAN MCDONALD
NSC FOR SUE CRONIN
SOUTHCOM FOR POLAD DAN JOHNSON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR MARR KCRM BR AR VE CU
SUBJECT: PARAGUAY'S VICE PRESIDENT VISITS SENATE TO EXPLAIN
SECDEF VISIT

REF: A. ASUNCION 1121

B. ASUNCION 1108
C. ASUNCION 1075
D. ASUNCION 1048
E. ASUNCION 1026
F. ASUNCION 1012

Summary
-------
1. (SBU) Summary: On 9/7, at the "invitation" of Senate
President Carlos Filizzola (PPS), Vice President Luis
Castiglioni explained to Senate leaders in closed session the
reasons for the recent SECDEF visit to Paraguay. Castiglioni
reiterated that there was no secret agenda behind the visit,
such as plans to build a U.S. military base in Paraguay or to
increase the number of U.S. troops participating in exercises
here. He repeated his assessment that it is in Paraguay's
interest to seek closer ties with countries such as the U.S.
as a means to press Mercosur partners Brazil and Argentina
for greater concessions. Castiglioni also clarified plans to
open an FBI office in Asuncion. MEDRETEs being conducted in
rural areas of Paraguay are receiving excellent press
coverage, which has helped improve public opinion regarding
U.S.-Paraguayan military cooperation. Brazil's irritation is
a positive added benefit in the eyes of many Paraguayans.
End Summary.

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Vice President "Invited" to Appear
----------------------------------
2. (SBU) At the insistence of the generally pro-U.S.,
center-right opposition Beloved Fatherland Party (PPQ) (ref
B), Senate President Carlos Filizzola of the socialist
Country in Solidarity Party (PPS) "invited" Vice President
Luis Castiglioni to appear before the Senate to "explain" the
reasons for the recent SECDEF visit to Paraguay and to
clarify the GOP's position on Mercosur. After several days
of public wrangling over the propriety of such an invitation,
Castiglioni agreed to meet with Senate leaders in closed
session. On 9/7, he met for two hours with Filizzola, the
rest of the Senate leadership, Senators from the ruling
Colorado Party (ANR) and PPQ, several dissident Liberal Party
(PLRA) Senators, and the lone National Encounter Party (PEN)
Senator.

3. (SBU) Note: No Senators from imprisoned former general
Lino Oviedo's National Union of Ethical Citizens (UNACE) or
the main-line PLRA attended the session. The PLRA said it
had other commitments. Despite calling for the session, PPQ
Senators Ana Maria Mendoza de Acha and Arsenio Ocampos
Velazquez left before the it ended, apparently because it
went longer than expected. End Note.

No Secret Agenda
----------------
4. (SBU) During the meeting, Castiglioni reiterated that
there was no secret agenda behind the SECDEF visit, such as
plans to build a U.S. military base in Paraguay or to
increase the number of U.S. troops participating in exercises
here. He also reiterated that the GOP did not plan to break
ties with Venezuela or Cuba, despite U.S. concerns that Hugo
Chavez and Fidel Castro were attempting to exert greater
influence over the region (refs C, D, and E). As she left
the session, Mendoza de Acha told the press that
Castiglioni's explanation of the visit was "coherent," but
that the secrecy in which the visit was shrouded left doubts
in her mind as to whether Castiglioni was completely
forthcoming. She added that PPQ would like a written report
on the visit from the Vice President's office.

Irritated with Brazil and Argentina
-----------------------------------
5. (SBU) Much of the discussion during and after the meeting
focused on the GOP's position on Mercosur. Castiglioni
stressed that Paraguay had no plans to abandon Mercosur, but
that Brazil and Argentina's disregard for Paraguay's
interests continued to irritate the GOP. (Comment:
Castiglioni commented that Brazil and Argentina treated
Paraguay as if it were their "back yard," a criticism often
directed at the U.S. End Comment.) Castiglioni repeated his
assessment that it is in Paraguay's interest to seek closer
ties with non-Mercosur countries as a means to press Brazil
and Argentina for greater concessions, and stated that
seeking closer ties with the U.S. was part of that strategy.

FBI Here to Help
----------------
6. (SBU) Castiglioni's recent announcement that the FBI would
open an office in Asuncion led to further speculation and
misinformed public debate about U.S. intentions in Paraguay
and the region. During the 9/7 meeting, Castiglioni
clarified that the FBI office would be part of the U.S.
Embassy, and that Legal Attaches assigned to it would be here
to advise and train Paraguayan law enforcement officers, as
opposed to usurping Paraguayan authorities' police powers.

7. (SBU) Note: The DCM spoke to the press about this issue
the same day, noting that Castiglioni requested that we
establish a LEGATT office during his recent visit to
Washington, for purposes of increasing cooperation on
security matters and providing training for Paraguayan
authorities. The DCM further noted that Brazil also has law
enforcement officials attached to its embassy in Asuncion,
and that such law enforcement liaison is normal. End Note.

MEDRETEs Having a Positive Effect
---------------------------------
8. (SBU) U.S. military Medical Readiness and Training
Exercises (MEDRETEs) being conducted in rural areas of
Paraguay (refs A and F) are receiving excellent press
coverage, due in large part to the efforts of the Embassy's
Public Affairs Office (PAO). Coinciding with the VP's report
to Congress, PAO arranged for dozens of journalists from the
country's four major dailies and four television networks to
cover the Ambassador's visit to a MEDRETE in the Department
of Canindeyu in early August, and similar coverage of the
DCM's visit to a MEDRETE in the Department of Caazapa in
early September. Coverage of these successful exercises has
generated positive public opinion regarding U.S.-Paraguayan
military cooperation. As more people learn about the
benefits MEDRETEs deliver to the country's rural poor, press
reports and editorials are becoming increasingly positive,
and those who continue to criticize our bilateral military
cooperation are being put on the defensive. Brazil's clumsy
objections have boomeranged, with many Paraguayans seeing
Brazil's irritation as an added benefit.
KEANE

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