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Cablegate: Hugo Chavez, Ollanta Humala and the Tuna Can

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DE RUEHPE #3271/01 2711209
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 281209Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY LIMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6984
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION PRIORITY 1811
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 5120
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 7602
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 3105
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0812
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ SEP 4537
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO PRIORITY 9316
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 1478
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO PRIORITY 1510
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 003271

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/27/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PE
SUBJECT: HUGO CHAVEZ, OLLANTA HUMALA AND THE TUNA CAN
CONTROVERSY

REF: LIMA 02957

Classified By: Political Counselor ...

id: 123940
date: 9/28/2007 12:09
refid: 07LIMA3271
origin: Embassy Lima
classification: CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
destination: 07LIMA2957
header:
VZCZCXYZ0013
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPE #3271/01 2711209
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 281209Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY LIMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6984
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION PRIORITY 1811
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 5120
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 7602
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 3105
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0812
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ SEP 4537
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO PRIORITY 9316
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 1478
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO PRIORITY 1510
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL PRIORITY


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C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 003271

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/27/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PE
SUBJECT: HUGO CHAVEZ, OLLANTA HUMALA AND THE TUNA CAN
CONTROVERSY

REF: LIMA 02957

Classified By: Political Counselor Alexis Ludwig for reasons 1.4(d)

1. (C) Summary: Following press reports that tuna cans
labeled with pictures of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and
nationalist leader (PNP) Ollanta Humala were being
distributed in towns devastated by the August 15 earthquake,
the public response was severe: Chavez and Humala were
seeking to profit from tragedy (Ref). The cans then vanished
from public view, and speculation grew that they must have
been media fabrications or that Humala's supporters had
scrambled to destroy the evidence. Recently, however, a
close contact in Congress gave two sample cans to poloff and
claimed they were a hoax instigated by Ollanta's jailed
brother Antauro Humala designed to smear Ollanta's name.
Whatever the case, the tuna can controversy highlights
continuing intrigue amid Peru's political opposition. End
Summary.

ALBA-core Tuna
--------------
2. (SBU) A week after the August 15 earthquake in southern
Peru, the conservative tabloid El Expreso reported that
Ollanta Humala supporters in the outskirts of Pisco and Ica
had delivered thousands of tuna cans labeled with photos of
Humala and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. A media
firestorm ensued, criticizing the cans as a gross attempt to
profit politically from a humanitarian tragedy. After the El
Expreso report, photos of the cans appeared in a handful of
media reports, but otherwise they vanished.

3. (SBU) The vanishing cans led to speculation that they
never actually existed, except perhaps in doctored photos, or
that Humala's Nationalist Party supporters had quickly
destroyed all evidence. El Expreso later reported that tuna
cans with the labels removed had appeared near Pisco as
Humalistas scrambled to contain the public relations damage.
Some GOP contacts reported hearing that Humala supporters had
shred all leftover labels. Both Humala and Chavez government
officials sought to distance themselves from the scandal with
denials and counter-accusations that either the US or
Peruvian government was involved.

The Cans Re-Discovered
----------------------
4. (C) Recently, however, a close Embassy contact gave Poloff
two sample tuna cans, proving, at the very least, that they
exist. The can labels, identical to those published in the
media, read: "In the Face of Looting, Roadblocks,
Desperation, and Chaos; Solidarity with our Compatriots", and
combine criticism of the government's response to the
earthquake with praise for Humala and Chavez. The Embassy's
tuna can source is independent Congressman Gustavo Espinoza,
who was elected in 2006 under the PNP banner but then
immediately broke his ties with Ollanta. Espinoza, a vocal
critic of Ollanta's links to Venezuela, has since become a
political operator for Ollanta's jailed brother and political
rival Antauro Humala, even sponsoring legislation that sought
to grant him amnesty.

An Humala Family Feud?
----------------------
5. (C) Espinoza told us Antauro had produced the tuna cans in
an effort to smear Ollanta's name. The two brothers have
feuded publicly since Ollanta sought to distance himself from
the more radical Antauro during the presidential campaign.
In late 2006, Antauro publicly called Ollanta a "damned
traitor" ("traidor de mierda"). One Antauro supporter told
us that Antauro's 2005 armed rebellion against the central
government had helped create Ollanta, "and now we will
destroy him." A PNP Congressman publicly echoed the family
feud theory, blaming the cans on "a congressman that used to
belong to (Ollanta's) party and is now looking to discredit
us."

Comment:
--------
6. (C) Amidst the volley of accusations and
counteraccusations, the discovery of the infamous tuna cans

raises as many questions as it appears to answer. While it
is possible that the cans reflect an imperfectly considered
propoganda campaign on the part of Chavez and his friends in
Peru, this would suggest a gang that can't shoot straight.
The Antauro Humala "opposition within the opposition" theory,
alternatively, would mean that a struggle for the outsider
mantle, invaluable in Peru's political arena, is already
underway. Whatever the case, the tuna can controversy
highlights the intrigue or infighting in Peru's active
anti-systemic camp. End Comment.
MCKINLEY

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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