Cablegate: Thousands of Colombians Yell "No More Chavez!"
DE RUEHBO #2872/01 2472152
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 042152Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0523
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RUCNFB/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
UNCLAS BOGOTA 002872
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PHUM VE CO
SUBJECT: THOUSANDS OF COLOMBIANS YELL "NO MORE CHAVEZ!"
1. A group calling itself "No More Chavez" launched protests
across Colombia and around the world on September 4 against
the Government of Venezuela. Protesters demanded that
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stay out of Colombia,
grouped him with the terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC), said "Latin America has had enough," and
urged Venezuelans to "wake up" and halt his "dictatorship."
The largest marches in Colombia were in Bogota, where Poloff
saw a couple thousand participants, and in Cali, where a
national news station estimated 5,000 participants. Media
outlets reported smaller demonstrations in other cities. The
Venezuelan Ambassador spoke out against the protests in the
local media. End Summary.
CHAVEZ INSULTS SPARK ORGANIZERS
2. Colombians across the country gathered to march against
the Government of Venezuela on September 4. The name of the
organization behind the marches and the principal chant was
"No More Chavez!" The lead promoter, Alejandro Gutierrez,
claimed in the media that No More Chavez organized protests
in 100 cities worldwide, including 30 in Colombia and 18 in
the United States. The idea for the protests began when four
youth groups were offended when President Hugo Chavez called
Colombians "traitors" and invited them to join his Bolivarian
revolution in his weekly television show "Hello President."
The organizers used Facebook (the page has nearly 200,000
fans), Twitter, YouTube, and other websites, and claim that
over one million people worldwide joined the protest network.
Juan David Lacouture created the Facebook page, which refers
to Chavez as a "totalitarian communist, militarist and
demagogue who has failed to deliver on his promises, violated
fundamental rights, meddled in the affairs of other Latin
American countries, threatened Venezuela's economy and
democracy, illegally silenced opponents, and destabilized
global oil prices." Rodrigo Obregon, director of the
"Wounded Colombia" Foundation, also helped organize the
BOGOTA DEMANDS CHAVEZ STAY OUT OF COLOMBIA
3. The anti-Chavez rally in Bogota was peaceful and somewhat
dispersed, as there were three meeting points in the city.
Only about 500 participants had joined at the noon start
time, but Poloff watched the number swell to a couple
thousand three hours later. The most common chant and
(white) T-shirt slogan was "No More Chavez!" The protesters
also called Chavez a "narcoterrorist," "fascist,"
"socialist," "dictator," and "demented." Many of the banners
grouped Chavez with the FARC, or demanded that Chavez stay
out of Colombia (e.g., "No More Deaths - No More FARC - No
More Chavez," "Chavez Go Home," "Shut Up Chavez," and "Chavez
Demobilize"). One large banner read, "To Hell with the
Sukhois," referring to Venezuelan military aircraft that
Chavez has threatened to use against Colombia. The rallyists
also urged Venezuelans to "wake up" and said "Latin America
Has Had Enough" of Chavez. Some individuals carried
pro-Uribe signs and one held a large American flag in the
central rally location. Poloff also saw a group of Hondurans
participating and waving Honduran flags. A more
extremist-looking group of about 40 protesters wearing black
and representing a group called the Third Force (Tercera
Fuerza) linked Chavez to the Colombian far-leftist Polo Party.
4. Although youth predominated, there were protesters of all
ages and of several nationalities. In addition to the formal
protesters, there were hundreds of supportive onlookers along
the rally route and many passing vehicles honked their
approval. Poloff did not observe any pro-Chavez individuals
or hear any remarks criticizing the rally. The press
described one group of anti-Uribe demonstrators that briefly
engaged the anti-Chavez rallyists without incident. A
sizeable number of police patrolled the rally's periphery.
PROTESTS IN OTHER COLOMBIAN CITIES
5. Media reports indicate that the protests in the rest of
Colombia have also been peaceful. The largest march thus far
has been in Cali, where Caracol TV reported that more than
5,000 protesters marched to the Central Administrative Plaza.
The protest dispersed shortly thereafter as they lacked
permission from the city government to enter the plaza.
Protests in Medellin, Barranquilla (about 500 individuals),
Cucuta, and other cities were reportedly much smaller, with
only "dozens" in some locations.
VENEZUELAN AMBASSADOR BLAMES AMERICAN EMPIRE
6. Venezuela's Ambassador to Colombia, Gustavo Marquez, told
a local radio station on September 4 that the marches
represent a "campaign of hate," are an attempt to "divert
attention from core issues," and are an act of disrespect to
"polarize opinion." He went on to claim that the marches
served the "American Empire that seeks to divide us." Chavez
had earlier called the marches "stupid."