Cablegate: Media Reaction - Chavez and the Ibero-American Summit
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RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 3894
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SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION - CHAVEZ AND THE IBERO-AMERICAN SUMMIT
1. Summary: The verbal flap between King Juan Carlos of Spain and
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dominated news about the
Ibero-American Summit in Santiago. Foreign Minister Foxley's public
statements after the Summit reflected the GOC's discontent with
Chavez, emphasizing the need for tolerance and respect for others.
Both President Bachelet and Foxley lamented the outburst and
dismissed Chavez's offer to subsidize low-priced oil to help
Santiago's new, troubled public transportation system. Taking a dig
at Chavez, the Foreign Minister noted that Chile maintains a
strategic alliance with Spain and values its example in social and
commercial areas. Editorials criticized Chavez's grandstanding and
influence. End Summary.
2. "El Mercurio," conservative, influential newspaper-of-record
(circ. 129,000, November 11-12) reported that Foreign Minister
Alejandro Foxley stood by Spain in this incident, underscoring that
Chile has more in common with Spain than with Venezuela. "We signed
a strategic cooperation alliance in multiple areas with Spain...and
a free trade agreement, which is a higher level of alliance," said
Foxley, adding that Spain is a strategic ally. Foxley referred the
personal verbal attacks as "regrettable." "The King of Spain is a
very important figure of Spanish democracy and I want to express a
very deep solidarity with the King, with President Rodriguez
Zapatero, and with former President Aznar.... We will stand by
them," said Foxley.
3. On November 13, "El Mecurio" reported: The incident between
Chavez and the King of Spain has brought to the forefront again
questions about Bachelet's leadership skills and her ability to deal
with difficult situations. The general view is that things got out
of hand and that Bachelet should have put a stop to Chavez, and the
King, who was a guest.
Meanwhile, Former Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jose Vicente Rangel
labeled the incident as one "between a respected leader (Zapatero)
and one who truly defends Latin Americans (Chavez)," over Jose Mara
Aznar, "a sinister individual and Bush lieutenant in the Iraqi
Senators and Congressmen from all political parties, except from the
Socialist and Radical parties, plan to propose resolutions against
Venezuela. One will ask the Executive Branch to reject Chavez'
"intervention and insults," another will request President Bachelet
not to travel to Venezuela or Cuba.
Government-spokesman Ricardo Lagos Weber said, "In Chile we
understand diversity as a situation in which there is deep
respect...for the way in which things are done."
4. On November 11, "El Mercurio" reported: President Bachelet
expressed her dislike over the verbal confrontation between the King
of Spain and Hugo Chavez. Although she did not mention either one
by name, she called for respect. "Chiefs of state and government
must respect diversity, differences, and express themselves with
respect. That is how we do things here...with respect and not by
insulting others, because that does not set the foundations for
5. Conservative, independent "La Tercera" (circ. 101,000, November
10-11) and "El Mercurio" reported: Hugo Chavez upon arriving in
Santiago criticized the summit's slogan -- "social integration" that
President Bachelet proposed -- stating that "social transformation"
would be a more appropriate term. Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley
remarked that Chile has undergone "a deep social transformation,"
and proof of that is that the country has cut poverty from 45% to
13%. "I would invite any head of state, including Chavez, to study
in detail the successful social transformation that Chile has
carried forth in democracy," said Foxley. The Foreign Minister
highlighted that these accomplishments were done "In democracy with
full freedom of the press, with a strong and respected opposition."
Chavez also called Bolivia's claim for access to the sea as "just"
6. On November 11, "La Tercera" reported: Chavez offered to sell
Chile oil 40% cheaper to help finance Chile's transportation system.
President Bachelet dismissed the assistance, saying that it was not
feasible because the transportation system is in private hands. But
she also sent Chavez a message. "I hope that this matter is
resolved in the budget discussion in the Chilean Congress, because
it is a domestic issue" said Bachelet. Foxley also rejected
Chavez's offer. "We don't want subsidies and are not used to being
told what to do from abroad," he said, and invited oil producing
countries, such as Venezuela, to lower the price of oil rather than
offer subsidies. "That would be true solidarity," said Foxley.
Editorials: Critical of Chavez, Silence of Latin Left
7. On November 12, "La Tercera" carried a column by international
commentator Patricio Navia entitled, "Why Don't You Speak Up?"
"The timely intervention of Spanish head of state Rodriguez Zapatero
reflects the deep ideological differences on the left and the lack
of leadership among the leaders of the moderate left, including the
Chilean President. It also shows that despite of everything, Chavez
still sets the agenda.... The Socialist President (Zapatero)
demanded respect... while the other presidents of the moderate left
chose not to get involved. This untimely silence says a lot about
Chavez's influence. It shows that leftist presidents in Latin
America are afraid of upholding their view if this means crossing
Chavez's path, which allows Chavez to monopolize the left in the
continent.... Regardless of what Bachelet wants, Chavez stole the
limelight once again and his histrionic ways underscored the great
vacuum of leadership within the continent's leftists."
8. On November 12, conservative, afternoon "La Segunda" (circ.
33,000) ran an editorial entitled, "The Chavez Factor at the
Ibero-American Summit." Quote:
"Although the applause and opinions in the halls show an overall
criticism of the Venezuelan leader, we missed - with the exception
of Alan Garca -- an official complaint from the other delegations.
It seems some are already far too committed with Chavez' donations
and that others are unwilling to run the risk of becoming a target
of his rage. But Chavez did not receive explicit support either,
aside from that of President Ortega and Vice President Lage."
9. On November 13, "El Mercurio" carried an editorial entitled
"After the Summit." Quote:
"Latin America has today two very important assets to accelerate its
path toward development. With the exception of Cuba, it has
democracy, high economic growth rates... and political and economic
freedom, which are creating unprecedented changes and opportunities
for people. This should lead to greater integration...and cannot be
undermined by the nationalist and populist policies that Chavez and
his allies want to impose on countries with equal or more democratic
worth, or by altering the search for consensus in inter American
10. On November 13, "La Tercera" carried a column by Bolivian
analyst Sergio Molina. Quote:
"At this point no one knows the results of the official Summit....
Chavez, on the other hand, prefers his own agenda, a good scandal
and some inflammatory remarks.... The incident had a high cost in
Chile, but other millions of Latin Americans watch television and
will choose what represents them best. Understanding that is the
secret of Chavez's success."