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Cablegate: Venezuela Oversteps in Presidential Race

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

UNCLAS LA PAZ 003518

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON BL
SUBJECT: VENEZUELA OVERSTEPS IN PRESIDENTIAL RACE

1. Summary: In a diplomatic stumble, Venezuelan Charge
d'Affairs Rafael Valero hailed Evo Morales as the
anti-imperialist candidate and criticized Podemos rival Tuto
Qurioga as the puppet of multinationals and the U.S. in a
press conference on November 23. Public reaction to
Venezuelan "interference" in Bolivia's election was quick and
overwhelmingly negative, culminating in a November 24
demonstration in front of the Venezuelan Embassy here.
Valero's comments may not permanently damage Morales, but
they played into the polarizing strategy of his rival. End
summary.

2. Venezuelan Charge d'Affairs Rafael Valero met on camera
with the media on November 23 to respond to a series of
letters written by Podemos candidate Tuto Quiroga to
Venezuelan president Chavez warning him against continued
interference in Bolivian affairs. Valero, working himself
into an angry lather, said Bolivians either were "with Bush
or Chavez," adding that, "if Evo Morales is anti-imperialist,
then long live Evo Morales." He called Quiroga a lackey of
the imperialist empire (us) and multinational interests.

3. Public reaction to Valero's statements was quick and
overwhelmingly negative. Analysts publicly described them as
"intolerable" and "excessive." The Ministry of Foreign
Affairs (MFA) responded within hours, blaming Valero for
"clear interference in internal matters that does not become
a foreign diplomat in our country." The MFA further stated
that it had summoned Valero in order to warn him about the
inappropriateness of his actions.

4. Quiroga was quick to respond, calling Valero's appearance
an "enormous error" and "clear proof" of Chavez's policy of
interference. Even MAS vice-presidential candidate Alvaro
Garcia Linera said Valero's declaration was "unacceptable,"
and "reaffirmed" that the MAS opposes "all external
interferences in internal matters on the part of any
Embassy." A November 25 editorial in left leaning daily La
Prensa added to the criticism, noting Venezuela's refusal to
purchase Bolivian soy, its support for an energy ring
excluding Bolivia, and the absence of a Venezuelan ambassador
here since 2003. It also mentioned that during Quiroga's
previous term as president (2001-02), he led the regional
reaction in support of Chavez when a civil-military coup was
attempted against him.

5. (U) Over one hundred people protested in front of the
Venezuelan Embassy on November 24, burning a Venezuelan flag.
On the defensive, Venezuelan Labor Minister Maria Cristina
Iglesias, from Cochabamba, called Valero's statement
"personal" and commented that "it can't stain or cloud the
affection, love or respect that the Venezuelan government
feels for the people of Bolivia, its government and its
circumstances."

6. (U) Comment: Valero's misstep ultimately may not effect
the outcome of the election, but it plays into Quiroga's
strategy of polarizing the race and hopefully convincing new
middle class recruits to the MAS (EVO) to think twice before
voting. End comment.
GREENLEE

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