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Cablegate: Canadian-Venezuelan Relations at a Low Point

VZCZCXRO6493
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHCV #1090/01 2311856
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191856Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3579
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 0080
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 0015
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 001090

SIPDIS

HQSOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
DEPARTMENT PASS TO AID/OTI (RPORTER)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/18/2029
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM VE
SUBJECT: CANADIAN-VENEZUELAN RELATIONS AT A LOW POINT

CARACAS 00001090 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Acting Political Counselor Darnall Steuart,
for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).

1. (C) Summary: In a meeting with Ambassador Duddy August
18, Canadian Ambassador to Venezuela Perry Calderwood said
that Canada's bilateral relations with Venezuela were as bad
as they had ever been. In addition to disrupting Canada's
Diplomatic pouches, not issuing license plates, and making it
more difficult to receive timely visas, Venezuela blackballed
Canada's petition to join the Inter-American Tropical Tuna
Commission because of Canada's position on Cuba in the
Organization of American States. Calderwood also discussed
Canadian representation of Israel in Venezuela, which began
shortly after President Chavez expelled the Israeli
Ambassador and broke relations in January 2009. Calderwood
sees President Chavez's recent legislation and measures as an
effort to consolidate power before his popularity collapses
under serious governance problems. End Summary.

------------------------------------------
VENEZUELA BLOCKS CANADIAN IATTC MEMBERSHIP
------------------------------------------

2. (C) Calderwood said that Canada had hoped to join the
Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) in June.
Letters of no objection are required from all 16 members
before a new member can join the IATTC. Calderwood said the
Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (GBRV)
refused to send its letter for several months; all other
members sent in letters. During the June meeting, which
Canada attended in the hope the Venezuelan letter would
arrive, the GBRV called a second secretary at the Canadian
Embassy in Venezuela to say that the GBRV would not allow
Canada to join the IATTC because of Canada's position on Cuba
in the Organization of American States.

3. (C) While this kind of political retaliation was
unexpected, Calderwood said, the bilateral relationship has
been difficult for some time. There has not been a
Venezuelan Ambassador to Canada for three years. Calderwood
has little access to the GBRV, and the Canadian Embassy has
had its Diplomatic pouch delivery disrupted on two occasions.
The Embassy has been unable to acquire Diplomatic license
plates, and a new policy, of which they were informed by
phone, stipulates that Diplomatic carnets must be returned
before a new Diplomatic visa for the replacement officer will
be issued. That policy, Calderwood said, has been
implemented unevenly. The Canadian Minister of State for the
Americas would like to visit Caracas in September if he can
expect to meet Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro; this visit
would be the first for a senior Canadian official in ten
years.

-------------------
REPRESENTING ISRAEL
-------------------

4. (C) According to Calderwood, days after Chavez expelled
the Israeli Ambassador and broke relations in January 2009,
the Israeli government asked the Canadian government at very
senior levels to represent Israeli interests in Venezuela, as
it does in Cuba. Since then, the two countries have worked
out a Memorandum of Understanding to allow Canada to accept
Israeli visa and passport applications in Caracas, which will
then be sent to the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa for processing.
Canada also provides assistance to Israeli citizens in
Venezuela, and relays official messages between the two
countries. To date these messages have dealt exclusively
with the need for each countries' former representatives to
return their respective Diplomatic carnets. Calderwood
understands that Spain has been asked to represent Venezuelan
interests in Israel. Canada has expanded its relationship
with the Jewish community in Venezuela, and Calderwood notes
that overt anti-Semitism from the GBRV seems to have subsided
in the wake of the strong international response following
the attacks on the synagogues earlier this year.

---------------------------
RACING TO CONSOLIDATE POWER
---------------------------

5. (C) Calderwood thinks that the recent flurry of
legislation and the closure of 34 media outlets is part of a
GBRV effort to consolidate power in the executive before
Chavez's popularity declines. He said the problems of
governance, such as crime and inflation, are beyond Chavez's
capabilities to solve. Chavez knows his popularity will run
out, Calderwood said, so he's doing everything he can now to
ensure that he will stay in power.

6. (C) Comment: Canadian representatives in Venezuela have
been active in promoting human rights and discretely
providing venues for groups opposing GBRV policies to speak
with other Diplomats. Some of the diplomatic difficulties
mentioned by Calderwood could be a result of inefficiency
rather than deliberate harassment, and are shared by many
foreign missions. Overall their experience mirrors that of
the U.S. Embassy. It is unclear if the blocking of Canada's
membership in the IATTC is a short-term delay, or an
indication of how Venezuela will deal with Canada on future
issues. President Chavez appears sensitive to international
opinion, but apparently a good relationship with Canada is
not a priority.

DUDDY

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