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Cablegate: Brv Bogies: Golf Course Expropriations Cause a Stir

VZCZCXRO3712
RR RUEHAO
DE RUEHCV #2656/01 2442119
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 012119Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6130
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 6970
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 5757
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 1448
RUEHGE/AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN 0206
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 2324
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 0572
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 3180
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 2412
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 3754
RUEHDG/AMEMBASSY SANTO DOMINGO 0304
RUEHAO/AMCONSUL CURACAO 1007
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 0650
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 0052
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0975
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0488

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 002656

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PGOV VE
SUBJECT: BRV BOGIES: GOLF COURSE EXPROPRIATIONS CAUSE A STIR

REF: CARACAS 2624

1. (SBU) Summary: Opposition is mounting to the
expropriation decrees issued by Caracas Mayor Juan Barreto
for the Valle Arriba Golf Club and the Caracas Country Club.
A Caracas municipal councilman, Carlos Ciordia, published
maps on his website showing that the decrees also encompass
areas around the golf courses, including 22 embassies and
diplomatic residences, the DCM's residence, and the
Ambassador's future residence. Within the BRV, high-level
officials (including Vice-President Rangel) have disagreed
publicly with the decrees, though maintain that only a court
can determine their legality. On September 1, an editorial
in a leading Chavista newspaper criticized Barreto for his
methods, but not for the expropriations themselves. End
Summary.

-----------------------
Embassies expropriated?
-----------------------

2. (SBU) According to legal experts, the expropriated area
outlined in the Valle Arriba Golf Club decree is based on a
1931 zoning map, which does not reflect residential land
development since then. According to Caracas Municipal
Councilman Carlos Ciorda, the embassies of France, Iraq,
Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Mexico, Poland, and
Turkey are within the expropriated area. The DCM's residence
and the Ambassador's future residence are also within the
boundaries of the decree. In the Caracas Country Club decree
the demarcated areas also include the embassies or
ambassadors' residences of Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Korea,
Britain, Switzerland, Canada, Morocco, Peru, Chile, Belgium,
Holland and Spain. No foreign mission has made a public
statement on the measure.

--------------------
Internal BRV discord
--------------------

3. (SBU) High-level BRV officials were quick to distance
themselves from Barreto. On August 30, Vice-President Rangel
made a press statement in the name of President Chavez (who
was abroad), expressing that he "did not share the decision
adopted by the mayor" and that although private property was
not a "sacred right," Barreto's measures could be
unconstitutional. Rangel discarded intervention by the
Executive and said only a court could overturn the decree.

4. (SBU) An op-ed by VFM Mary-Pili Hernandez published on
August 31, accused Barreto of being a "radical" and asked:
"Didn't anyone talk to the mayor to clarify what the position
of the Executive is?" In turn, Barreto published a response
saying that the decision was only his, and wouldn't
"compromise our leader, President Chavez." Then he discussed
at length the expropriations, saying that they would be paid
for with money owed by other Caracas municipalities and that
the issue was really about "land distribution" and aimed at
the "landholders of concrete."

5. (SBU) On September 1, the lead editorial of Diario Vea, a
Chavista party-line daily, criticized Barreto's methods, but
not the expropriations themselves. The piece said Barreto's
political timing was off, and actually handed the
"counter-revolution" an advantage on a "silver platter." It
also criticized Barreto for thinking too narrowly and being
"precipitous," catering only to the poor sectors when instead
he should have first tried to win over the middle class. It
also doubted whether housing construction was the best use
for the land, instead suggesting that the golf courses could
be turned into public parks "open to the populace." The
op-ed capped off by suggesting that the Bolivarian revolution
needed a combination of "Chinese patience, Vietnamese wisdom,
Cuban maturity, and venezuelan revolutionary verve."

CARACAS 00002656 002 OF 002

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

6. (SBU) The use of old zoning maps and inclusion of
diplomatic missions and residences within the decree is a
sign of the mayor's sloppiness and improvisation. Public
outcry against the measure is yet another indication of
Venezuelans' respect for private property, and high-level
officials are keenly aware that being closely associated with
such policies carries negative ramifications. Again Barreto
was the only senior BRV official to stick his neck out on
this issue -- whether he was ordered to do so or is a loose
cannon remains to be seen. For now, Post is studying the
possible effects of this decree, but conventional wisdom is
that the expropriations won't materialize in an election year
due to strong public and BRV backlash. End Comment.

WHITAKER

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