Cablegate: Media Reaction - Venezuela's Agreement to Assist Bolivia
DE RUEHSG #2129 2842035
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 112035Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0143
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 2674
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 3330
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1116
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ OCT LIMA 4745
UNCLAS SANTIAGO 002129
STATE FOR IIP/G/WHA, INR/R/MR, WHA/BSC, WHA/PDA, INR/IAA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC PREL KMDR KPAO PGOV VE BR PA PE CI
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION - VENEZUELA'S AGREEMENT TO ASSIST BOLIVIA
BUILD MILITARY BASES NEAR ITS BORDER
1. Summary: Chile's media has reported extensively about the
Venezuelan-Bolivian military agreement, which has generated
considerable critical public commentary by several Congressmen.
Government Ministers and members of the Socialist Party continue to
downplay the military pacts. End Summary.
2. Press reporting on October 11 highlighted Foreign Affairs and
Defense Ministers Alejandro Foxley and Vivianne Blanlot appearance
yesterday with the Senate Foreign Relations and Defense Committees
and with the Houses Foreign Affairs Committee to explain the
government's position on the Bolivia-Venezuela Complementary
Agreement of the Basic Technological Cooperation Agreement.
3. The Ministers said the government knew of the agreement since
May. Foxley called for calm because his ministry has been closely
monitoring the developments regarding the agreement and would
"continue to rigorously observe" this matter, underscoring that
"there is absolutely no threat to Chile's security." Blanlot said
the agreement is "not a surprise and not grounds for special
concern." She said it is a "sovereign decision" for which Chile has
no reason to intervene.
4. The media reported that the Ministers admitted that the
agreement's article related to Armed Forces cooperation raises
doubts to the true scope of the cooperation. Specifically because
it could pave the way for Venezuela to militarily assist Bolivia in
an eventual conflict with a border country. Blanlot, however,
downplayed the concern regarding the construction of military bases:
"these are issues that must be thoroughly discussed with Bolivia at
the right time." "We have at least 12 agreements that have a
similar depth to this one, but this agreement has received an
exceedingly alarmist connotation," said Blanlot.
5. Prominent Congressmen raised concerns about Venezuela's military
cooperation pact with Bolivia. Senator Sergio Romero (RN) warned
that "Chile cannot remain indifferent to Venezuela's "military and
political intervention in Bolivia." Roberto Muoz (PPD), Chairman
of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee cautioned: "The
concerns are valid because Venezuela is "participating in a third
country building bases that could be used on any occasion.... This
is not humanitarian assistance, it is military strategy." Jorge
Tarud (PPD), Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee said:
"No country in Latin America contributes financially to the
construction of military bases in another nation."
6. For the first time, the leading dailies quoted President
Bachelet on the Venezuela-Bolivia agreement: "We see this as a
sovereign decision, but we assume that any decision of this kind is
not against the interest of anyone.... The information I have at
hand (shows the agreement) is within the norm for defense
cooperation among countries."
7. On October 11, conservative, influential newspaper-of-record "El
Mercurio" (circ. 129,000) ran an editorial entitled, "Ambiguous
Military Commitments" that states:
"The difference in this case is the Venezuelan President's history
of transgressions, in practice and international law, Bolivia's weak
institutions, and its growing dependence on Venezuela.... Everyone
expects the two presidents to explain the scope of the agreement, to
act with transparency, and have entities verify its concrete
application. These are the minimum terms to bring tranquility in
the region and for the correct understanding among governments....
It is in the interest of all countries involved that presidents of
Bolivia and Venezuela clarify the scope of the agreement."