Cablegate: Ambassador Maisto Calls On Sre Officials

DE RUEHME #7055/01 3561915
R 221915Z DEC 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 007055



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/14/2016

REF: LA PAZ 3355


1. (C) Summary: During a brief visit to Mexico City December
13-14, USOAS Ambassador John Maisto met separately with
outgoing SRE Undersecretary for Latin America Jorge Chen
Charpentier and his successor, Geronimo Gutierrez Fernandez.
Chen offered a readout of the recent South American summit in
Cochabamba (reftel), at which Venezuelan President Chavez
quietly signaled his interest in more constructive relations
with the GOM, while publicly urging more rapid movement
towards South American integration. Chen also emphasized the
efforts of the Brazilians at the summit to encourage the
emergence of a South American union, presumably under
Brazilian leadership. Ambassador Maisto emphasized to both
interlocutors his perception that circumstances in the
Central American countries were ripe for progress and noted
that the USG looked favorably upon GOM involvement through
the "Puebla Process" in the pursuit of stability and
prosperity. Being new to the region, Gutierrez was in far
more of a listening mode than Chen, although he promised the
GOM's continued close cooperation in dealing with regional
challenges. End summary.

Chavez Vents in Cochabamba...

2. (C) In their December 14 meeting, outgoing SRE
Undersecretary for Latin America Jorge Chen recounted for
Ambassador Maisto his observations at the recent South
American summit in Cochabamba. He noted that due to last
minute changes in the seating arrangements, he had the
unexpected opportunity to exchange views with Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez. Chavez asked Chen to tell President
Calderon he hoped the two governments would be able to put
recent tensions behind them and focus on building a more
constructive relationship in the future. Nevertheless,
alluding at least in part to the Calderon presidential
campaign, Chavez expressed resentment that some in the
hemisphere were using images of Chavez against left-wing
candidates. Ambassador Maisto noted that the USG also sought
to engage more constructively with the BRV for a long time
through former FM Rodriguez, who never followed up on his own
expressions of interest in a high-level dialogue.

3. (C) Chen said that at the summit, Chavez had urged on his
fellow heads of state more rapid progress towards South
American integration, including the creation of a South
American Community secretariat. Chen concurred with
Ambassador Maisto that most South American governments feared
confronting Chavez, adding that the BRV appeared to be using
its membership in Mercosur to isolate Chile, which had been
the least receptive of the Southern Cone countries to
Chavez's overtures.

...While Brazil Flexes Its Muscles

4. (C) Chen recounted that during summit discussions, the
Brazilians sought to convince their counterparts that the
international system rapidly was evolving from a unipolar
system, dominated by the United States, to one with four
poles, including Europe and neighboring areas; North America
(including the Caribbean); the Far East; and South America.
Chen said that Brazil sought to provide political leadership
to the South American "pole," while Venezuela would provide
financial support. Among the priorities of the Brazilian-led
South American community would be energy integration,
democracy and human rights, and security and
counter-terrorism. Chen noted that the Brazilians defined
human rights in moral rather than political terms, presumably
in order to avoid alienating the BRV.

5. (C) Although Bolivian President Evo Morales, as the
summit host, had personally invited the GOM to send an
observer to the summit, Chen noted that some summit
participants -- particularly Brazil -- were less than
welcoming, presumably because of the GOM's close relationship
with the USG. He noted, however, that Nicaraguan
President-elect Daniel Ortega -- also in attendance as an
observer -- was afforded a warm welcome by all. Chen
expressed surprise that the OAS was never mentioned at the
summit and that although OAS SYG Insulza had been invited to
attend, he was not afforded an opportunity to address the

Cuba: The Transition Has Begun

6. (C) Chen told Ambassador Maisto that the European Union

MEXICO 00007055 002 OF 003

was increasingly concerned about post-Castro Cuba. He said
that in 2007, the EU and Latin American governments would
hold a series of preparatory talks in advance of the 2008
EU-Latin American Summit, and that these preparatory talks
could provide a key opportunity to discuss Cuba, as well as
possible EU financial support for Cuba's post-Castro

7. (C) For his part, Undersecretary Gutierrez intimated that
maintaining stability in post-Castro Cuba ranked higher among
his concerns than seeing a prompt transition to democracy.
He argued that Raul Castro's appointment as Acting President
was carried out in accordance with the Cuban constitution and
that he therefore enjoyed legitimacy within the Cuban legal
order. Gutierrez argued that when Fidel definitively passes
from the scene, the USG should afford his successor a window
of opportunity -- even if brief -- to demonstrate whether or
not the successor would seek to undertake democratic reforms,
adding that the new government's attitude toward reforms
would quickly become apparent. Ambassador Maisto underlined
that the Cuban regime first had to have an internal dialogue
with Cubans on the island.

OAS Finishing a Difficult Year

8. (C) Ambassador Maisto noted that 2006 had been a
difficult year at the OAS, due in part to the challenges
posed by the BRV and also to the large number of closely
contested elections in the hemisphere this year. Maisto
noted in particular the difficult negotiations over a draft
BRV resolution praising its conduct of the recent elections,
explaining that the Canadians and the USG had worked together
to ensure that such an excessively laudatory resolution would
not be adopted.

9. (C) Maisto emphasized to both interlocutors the difficult
circumstances under which the OAS had carried out its
election observation mission in Venezuela. He noted that the
BRV waited until the last possible minute -- 60 days before
the election -- to invite the OAS to send a mission, and that
60 days did not provide enough time to conduct a thorough
mission. He said Chavez had "played the OAS like a fiddle:"
by inviting OAS observers at the last possible minute, he
ensured they would have as little influence as possible over
the conditions of the election, while being present to
witness that the Election Day mechanics complied with minimum
standards. Maisto concluded that the OAS's experience in
Venezuela demonstrated that the rules governing election
observation missions needed to be changed. He added that in
the future, he hoped the OAS would do a better job of
post-election follow-up, to ensure that the recommendations
of election observation missions were implemented.

Central America Ripe for Progress

10. (C) Ambassador Maisto told both Chen and Gutierrez that
the USG believed present circumstances provided the best
opportunity in years for progress in Central America, adding
that the USG favored Mexico's engagement in the region. He
noted that the USG and GOM shared the same interests in the
region -- stability, democratic consolidation, and economic
and social development -- and that he hoped the two
governments would continue to cooperate in pursuit of these
goals. Chen noted that while he looked forward to further
USG-GOM cooperation in Central America, he believed that GOM
support for certain aspects of the Plan Puebla-Panama --
particularly the proposed construction of an oil refinery in
Central America -- appeared to be waning.

11. (C) Gutierrez largely concurred with Chen, noting that
Plan Puebla-Panama enjoyed far more support outside of Mexico
than within. He explained that many in the GOM doubted that
the proposed oil refinery would be economically viable for
Mexico, given declining Mexican oil production. Ambassador
Maisto encouraged Gutierrez to work with post to see whether
USG financial support -- such as through the Trade and
Development Agency -- might be available to facilitate the

Comment: The Tone May Change, But Not the Substance
--------------------------------------------- ------

12. (C) Although Gutierrez is new to the region, in his
prior position overseeing GOM relations with North America,
we found him to be a quick study, pragmatic, and sensitive to
USG interests and concerns. For his part, both during and
after the campaign, President Calderon called for greater
emphasis in Mexican diplomacy on relations with Latin
America; accordingly, the months ahead are likely to bring

MEXICO 00007055 003 OF 003

GOM efforts to smooth over differences with other governments
in the region, particularly Venezuela and Cuba. Nevertheless,
while the Calderon administration is likely to conduct its
diplomacy in the region with more subtlety and sophistication
than its predecessor, we expect its basic pro-democracy and
free market orientation to remain. We can count on the
Calderon administration to remain a key -- if possibly more
discreet -- ally in the region as we seek to promote
democratic consolidation and economic development. End

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