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Cablegate: Media Reaction - Ibero-American Summit Aftermath


DE RUEHSG #1846/01 3241043
R 201043Z NOV 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: The Chilean press continues to collect opinions among
experts and international commentators about the impact of the clash
between the King of Spain and Chavez. The overall consensus is that
Chavez' primary goal is to disrupt relations among nations in the
region to his own advantage and that the Venezuelan President is
rude, offensive, and unwilling to comply with established rules.
The commentators also agree that other leaders in the region should
speak out against Chavez, but do not because they are afraid of the
Venezuelan leader's influence and losing access to his cheap oil.
Analysts also concur that Chavez has unquestionably hurt the region,
by undermining future summits and dialogue. Others argue that that
those countries that are working wholeheartedly to overcome
underdevelopment, such as Chile, have no business dealing with
individuals such as Chavez. End Summary.

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2. On November 18, conservative, influential, newspaper-of-record
"El Mercurio" (Sunday circ. 260,100) quoted Sergio Abrue, former
Uruguay Foreign Minister: "What is significant here is that there
is a head of state, such as Chavez, who tries to impose a model that
creates division and conflict wherever he goes.... Chavez is
incontrollable and does not respect any type of formality."

3. Inigo Saenz de Ugarte, Spanish daily Publico said: "Latin
America has changed and someone should have warned the President of
Chile that several countries, headed by Venezuela...use the media in
these Summits to launch their aggressive messages. They are
fighting an ideological war.... The government of Chile failed to
foresee a situation that was bound to happen sooner or later...and
it did not put a stop to Chavez' unruliness.... Bachelet was like a
referee who let the game continue until she realized the players
were breaking each others bones. She did not interfere, did not set
the boundaries, and in the end was overtaken by events."

5. Carlos Figueroa (former state minister of Chile) said: "The
summit incident has been blown out of proportion, because it
involved the King of Spain, who showed he is as human as anyone else
and becomes enraged with the Chavez and Ortega's nonsense.... I
would respectfully advise the President (Bachelet) to keep a more
distant official relationship with Chavez."

6. Milos Alcalay, former Venezuelan Ambassador to United Nations
stated: "The Presidents (of the region) are too tolerant with
Chavez.... They should tell Chavez -- paraphrasing the Spanish King
-- to 'shut up.'"

7. An Opina survey on the King-Chavez incident at the
Ibero-American summit revealed that: 45.3% graded President
Bachelet's handling of the incident between 1 and 4 (D and F).
Asked if Chile should oppose Chavez or remain neutral, 66.4% said
"neutral" and 21% said "oppose"; 39.2% said the King of Spain's
reaction to Chavez had been "appropriate" and 39.7% said President
Bachelet should have reprimanded Chavez.

8. On November 18, "El Mercurio" reported that discontent in
Venezuela is growing and increasingly evident among the students who
are demonstrating every day. Orlando Ochoa, PhD in economics from
Oxford University, said that a 30% inflation rate, shortages of
basic products, price controls, and a nearly one-third drop in oil
production assures a bleak future for Venezuela. "Venezuela is the
land of corruption, consumerism, black market, and shortages. That
is the 21st century socialist revolution paid for by oil," stated

9. Ivan Carratu, former Venezuelan Military Attache to the United
States, stated Chavez's primary goal is to destroy democratic
institutions in other countries in the region. Carratu says that
Venezuela's military association with Belorussia, Russia, Algeria,
Cuba, China, North Korea, and Iran, and his decision to manufacture
rifles can be understood in the limelight of Chavez' efforts to
establish the South America Treaty Organization. He stated these
associations are accompanied by efforts to influence other
countries, primarily through Venezuela's Foreign Service, adding
that Chavez will become uncontrollable once he acquires 800-kilomter
range Scud missiles from North Korea.

Scathing Editorials

10. On November 18, conservative, independent "La Tercera" (Sunday
circ. 222,084) carried a column by Ascanio Cavallo entitled, "Chavez
Notices Chile." Quote:

"Chavez' purpose was to polarize the Summit, which is the same as
destroying it. The Venezuela Commander does not feel comfortable
with multilateralism where he has to be one more among his
counterparts. He wants control. That is why he destroyed the
Andean Community, has Mercosur in agony... and wants to replace the
OAS. And now that we are familiar with Chavez' script -- unexpected
arrivals, hostility against the hosts, taking over the limelight,
attacks and insults, interfering in domestic issues -- Chavez has
become a worrisome guest.... Chavez is pushing the continent toward
a division of two blocks and has had as much progress as
setbacks.... It is not clear if the President's diplomacy and
multilateralism will be able to resist the pressure. The first test
will be in six months at the European and Latin American Summit in
Lima. After what happened in Santiago, all foreign ministries will
be wondering whether the King of Spain and Zapatero will be willing
to attend the same plenary with Chavez or furthermore, whether the
Europeans in general will want to."

7. On November 18, "La Tercera" also carried a column by Mario
Vargas Llosa entitled "The Commander and the King." Quote:

"The incident at the Ibero-American summit says more about
Venezuela's strong man, of the ties between Latin America and Spain,
than dozens of essays.... The most obvious lesson from this
psychodrama is that there still is an outdated, barbarian, ignorant
and demagogic Latin America and that these meetings are a waste of
time and money for those democratic and modern societies that aspire
to create an Ibero-American Summit. This aspiration is impossible
while there are Latin American countries that have rulers such as
Chavez, Ortega or Evo Morales, not to mention Fidel Castro.... The
fact that individuals such as them were freely elected to office
denotes the political ignorance and democratic fragility (of our

Of course there is another more decent, honest, democratic, and
hard-working Latin America. It was present at the Summit, invisible
and mute.... They often keep quite because they are afraid of
becoming victims of the violence and insults of these bullies, who
can also instigate domestic radical groups.... Why are they
quiet... if they are infinitely more respectable and deserving of
being heard? It is not only because some are bribed by the
petrodollars that Venezuela disburses....

Are there other lessons from which to learn? It is more convenient
for democratic countries such as Spain to prioritize establishing
ties with countries that stand for civility, legality, and freedom
that can assure long-term cooperation, rather than maintaining ties
with those that represent the antithesis of what Spain is today.
Neither Cuba nor Venezuela deserves to be Spain's friends.... It is
possible that the King violated protocol. But he brought much
happiness to many Latin Americans and millions of Venezuelans. The
proof is that I have written this column listening to the new dance
and song that is now playing in Venezuelan colleges entitled, 'Why
don't you shut up."


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