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Cablegate: Chavez Disappoints in Paris: In Meeting With

VZCZCXYZ0005
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHFR #4549/01 3251852
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 211852Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1217
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 0466
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0537
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEILB/NCTC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

S E C R E T PARIS 004549

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR ZARATE, WHA FOR DEBORAH MCCARTHY

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/20/2017
TAGS: PTER PREL PINR FR CO
SUBJECT: CHAVEZ DISAPPOINTS IN PARIS: IN MEETING WITH
SARKOZY, OFFERS NO "PROOF OF LIFE" FOR BETANCOURT REPORTS
FARC PROMISES TO INCLUDE AMERICANS IN HOSTAGE RELIEF EFFORTS


Classified By: POL M/C Josiah Rosenblatt for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (S/NOFORN) SUMMARY. Venezuelan President Chavez's November
20 discussions with French President Sarkozy focused "99
percent" on the FARC hostages. Chavez's unfilled promise to
bring "proof of life" of Ingrid Betancourt disappointed the
French, and left the GOF with lowered expectations for proof
of life in the future. The French maintain their position
that they will consider pushing the Colombians for any
concessions at this time. France might re-evaluate the
utility of this position if proof is provided. Chavez stated
that FARC leader Manuel Marulanda promised that the three
kidnapped Americans would be included in any release of
hostages. Sarkozy took the opportunity to recommend to a
"quiet, articulate" Chavez that he improve relations with the
U.S. The presidents did not discuss Chavez's proposed
constitutional reform. END SUMMARY.


2. (S/NOFORN) On November 21, Political M/C met with Damien
Loras, Americas Advisor at the French Presidency to get a
read-out on Hugo Chavez's visit to Paris on November 20.
Loras reported that Sarkozy and Chavez discussed hostage
negotiations for "99 percent" of the hour-long meeting.
While Chavez was not able to provide proof of life for
Franco-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt as he had hoped,
the Venezuelan President told Sarkozy that he was certain to
have such proof by the end of the year. Chavez also reported
on conversations with and a letter from Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC) commander Manuel Marulanda.
Marulanda reportedly promised Chavez, in writing, that he
would provide proof of life by year,s end. Chavez noted
assurances from Marulanda that the three American hostages
would be part of any humanitarian exchange. Colombian
senator, Piedad Cordoba, who was also in Paris, told French
officials that they would be receiving a similar letter from
Marulanda in the next few days which the French agreed to
share with the U.S.

3. (S/NOFORN) According to Loras, Chavez asked Sarkozy if
the GOF would be willing to push Colombian President Uribe to
allow negotiations between Marulanda and Chavez on Colombian
soil. Sarkozy repeated that he was unwilling to consider
pushing the Colombians on any issue until proof of life is
provided. In the French estimation, said Loras, if the FARC
are serious, it is unimportant who the FARC sends to
negotiate; Marulanda is not the only possible negotiator.
Loras told us that the French tried to make the point that
the onus to act should currently rest with the FARC. Any
failed attempt at this moment to get the Colombians (or
others) to agree to some sort of concession would provide
grounds for the FARC to annul their agreed commitment to
provide proof of life. The French urged Chavez to keep Uribe
informed and to be transparent.

4. (S/NOFORN) After Chavez's prior press statement that he
thought he would have proof of life for his meetings, the
French were disappointed when he arrived empty handed, and
are now skeptical that proof will be provided by the end of
the year. However, Loras noted that Marulanda's promise to
provide proof of life by the end of the year is the first
direct commitment from Marulanda himself. In Loras,
estimation, if Marulanda cannot follow through, it would show
him to be unreliable or unable to control his troops. Loras
admitted that opinions within the GOF are split, but he
personally feels the absence of "proof of life" is evidence
Betancourt is no longer alive. Noting Sarkozy,s campaign
promise to leave no stone unturned to secure Betancourt,s
release and his continuing personal involvement, public
expectations are high. He also noted wryly that all the
attention has increased Betancourt's value to the FARC as a
hostage: "she is the most valuable French hostage of all
time."

5. (S/NOFORN) Even without proof of life, the French
continue to contend that Chavez has leverage over the FARC
(Loras mentioned specifically the FARC crossing the border
into Venezuela for food and medical care). Loras added that
the French may, at some point, ask Chavez to exert pressure
on the FARC in this regard. In the French view, Chavez is


aware that the FARC are playing a game with him. He does not
see the FARC as a friend. Loras also noted his judgment that
Chavez himself has no idea if Betancourt is alive or not, and
described Chavez as not having good knowledge of the FARC.


6. (S/NOFORN) When POL M/C commented on Chavez's
uncharacteristically quiet visit to Paris, with no public
statements or media appearances, Loras admitted that prior to
his arrival, the GOF had told Chavez through the Venezuelan
Ambassador in Paris that he would have to tone down his
rhetoric in France, or the French would cancel the trip.
Loras described Chavez as quiet, articulate and thoughtful;
he was not the uncouth loud-mouth he plays in public.
(Emboffs had previously been told by MFA contacts that Chavez
had a scheduled press interview on the evening of November
20. This interview never occurred, which might be an
indication that Chavez decided to restrict his appearances
for fear he might not be welcome again in France. No doubt
Chavez,s lack of proof of life also played a role in his
rather subdued visit to Paris.) Loras also clarified that
Chavez was not late to the Sarkozy meeting. In fact, Sarkozy
was late, forcing Chavez to wait in his vehicle for ten
minutes. Chavez, for his part, never showed up to his
meeting with French business leaders even though it was to be
held in his hotel.


Please visit Paris' Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm


STAPLETON

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

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