Search

 

Cablegate: Opposition Party "Podemos" Asks for U.S

VZCZCXRO4864
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHCV #1194/01 2571133
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 141133Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3690
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 001194

SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/24/2029
TAGS: PGOV KDEM VE
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION PARTY "PODEMOS" ASKS FOR U.S.
ASSISTANCE TO COUNTER CHAVEZ
CARACAS 00001194 001.2 OF 002

Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR ROBIN D. MEYER,
FOR REASON 1.4(D)

1. (C) Summary: At the Podemos party's request, the
Ambassador met September 9 with National Assembly (AN)
Deputies Ricardo Gutierrez, Juan Jose Molina, and Ismael
Garcia. They argued that the 2010 AN elections were the
"last chance for democracy" in Venezuela in light of
President Chavez's dismantling of democratic institutions and
increasing pressure on independent media outlets.
Nevertheless, they were unable to present a platform or
strategy to broaden the opposition's appeal among voters, and
instead asked that the United States intervene to help
Podemos counter Chavez. As the only opposition party with AN
representation, Podemos faces an uphill battle to retain its
seats under the new electoral rules -- and its unique
position as the "voice of the opposition" in the AN. End
Summary.

---------------------
BACKGROUND ON PODEMOS
---------------------

2. (C) Podemos, the "We Can" party, was co-founded in 2002
by Garcia as a break-away from the Movement Towards Socialism
(MAS) party, when MAS began to oppose Chavez. In 2007,
Podemos split with Chavismo over the merging of the parties
into the single United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
Garcia subsequently announced that Podemos represented a
"third way" between the opposition and the PSUV, and the
party continues to claim that it adheres to a socialist
ideology and that its leaders are longstanding defenders of
the 1999 Constitution. Along with Garcia, Molina and
Gutierrez (who is considered the party's strategist) are the
most high profile of the six Podemos Deputies in the AN.
Garcia and Gutierrez frequently point to their leftist
"revolutionary" credentials, having served previously as
Chavez's campaign manager and as a member of the Venezuelan
Communist Party, respectively. Podemos remains a relatively
small party, with its geographic electoral base largely
concentrated in tiny, densely-populated Aragua State, and to
a lesser extent in Bolivar State. Some previously
pro-government dissidents may see Podemos as a future home.
(Note: Chavista-turned-dissident AN Deputy Wilmer Azuaje
told Poloff that he planned to join Podemos. End Note.)
Despite its small size, it has enjoyed disproportionate
public attention as the "voice of the opposition" within the
AN. On behalf of Podemos, Garcia has adopted a prominent
role as a spokesman of the opposition and its "unity table"
initiative to create a unified electoral and political
strategy to counter Chavez in the 2010 legislative elections.

-----------------------------------
2010 THE LAST CHANCE FOR DEMOCRACY?
-----------------------------------

3. (C) The Deputies began by detailing what they see as
Chavez's systematic destruction of democratic structures in
Venezuela and the subjugation of state institutions to the
executive. They highlighted the GBRV's closure of radio
stations and intimidation of the media, and contended that
the 2010 AN elections were the only remaining democratic
space available to the opposition and their "last chance for
democracy." The Deputies noted their participation in the
opposition's "unity table" effort but largely dismissed its
effectiveness as a counter to Chavez.

4. (C) The Deputies acknowledged the need to offer the
public an alternative path to Chavismo in the run-up to AN
elections, but were largely at a loss to provide a positive,
concrete platform. Garcia suggested that Podemos would
support the idea of a "unity ticket" for AN elections, an
issue that has bogged down the unity table's efforts to
prepare itself for the balloting. (Note: A unity ticket
would compel the parties to register and run effectively as a
single combined party, akin to the PSUV. Several of the
large opposition parties have objected to the idea, arguing
it would undermine their individual party structures and
confuse voters. End Note.)

5. (C) The Podemos Deputies suggested that the political
climate in the coming year might be favorable for the
opposition. They cited the likelihood that Chavez would push
ahead with a controversial new Labor Law ("Ley de Trabajo"),
which could produce a significant backlash among already
mobilized workers. They also noted that a rumored rise in
gasoline prices could create significant social unrest.
Moreover, the Deputies noted that the creeping failure of the
Chavez government to provide public services due to growing
budgetary restrictions and corruption could translate into
opposition support at the polls. When the Ambassador pointed
out that polls indicate Chavez's enduring popularity, the
Deputies discounted the polls' accuracy, arguing that poll
respondents were too intimidated by a perceived lack of
privacy protections to answer negatively to questions about
Chavez or his administration.

----------------------------
ASKING FOR U.S. INTERVENTION
----------------------------

6. (C) The Deputies highlighted Chavez's increasing ties to
Iran and noted the discontent of many Venezuelans with the
level of Cuban involvement in Venezuela, including in the
ports. They even alleged the involvement of Cuban and
left-wing Spanish advisors in drafting the AN legislation
being proposed by the Presidency. The Deputies repeatedly
pointed out that while Chavez may be personally popular,
polls indicated that as many as 80 percent of respondents
reject the Cuban model.

7. (C) As he has repeatedly done in the past, Garcia
pointedly asked what the United States, through the National
Endowment for Democracy (NED) or other USG channels, could do
to help Podemos. Molina and Garcia suggested that U.S.
support could be used for Podemos to build an internet- or
cable TV-based communications network to counter the closure
and intimidation of other media outlets. The Ambassador
emphasized that the United States is not intervening in
Venezuela, to which Garcia responded, "Yes, but now is the
time to begin."

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. (C) Although the Podemos Deputies delivered much the
same message as they have before, there was an element of
panic in their appeal to the Embassy for assistance. This
urgency may derive from their sense both that Venezuelan
democracy is approaching a particularly vulnerable stage and
that their party, notwithstanding its present prominence,
faces a significant new challenge to its survival as a result
of the new electoral law. Their appeal to the United States
was framed in terms of the potential risk to U.S. interests
from Cuban and Iranian involvement in Venezuela. End Comment.
DUDDY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 


UN: Bachelet Alarmed By Number Of Palestinian Children Killed In Latest Escalation

UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet today expressed alarm at the high number of Palestinians, including children, killed and injured in the occupied Palestinian territory this year, including in intense hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza last weekend... More>>

Save The Children: One Year Under Taliban Rule, Girls Are More Isolated, Hungry, Sad: New Report
One year since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, an economic crisis, crippling drought and new restrictions have shattered girls’ lives, excluding them from society and leaving them hungry...
More>>

Palestinian Ministry of Health: Developments In The Health Situation During The Israeli Aggression On The Cities & Governorates Of The Gaza Strip
For the second day in a row, the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip continues by targeting overcrowded residential areas and neighborhoods, as the death toll rose to 13 citizens, including a 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman... More>>


Somalia: ‘We Cannot Wait For Famine To Be Declared; We Must Act Now’
Rising acute food insecurity in Somalia has caused more than 900,000 people to flee their homes in search of humanitarian assistance since January last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned... More>>

UN: American West Faces Water And Power Shortages Due To Climate Crisis
Two of the largest reservoirs in the United States are at dangerously low levels due to the climate crisis and overconsumption of water, which could affect water and electricity supply for millions in six western states and Mexico, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned on Tuesday... More>>



Singapore: UN Experts Call For Immediate Moratorium On Executions For Drug Offences

UN experts* today condemned the execution of Nazeri Bin Lajim, a 64-year-old Malay Singaporean national convicted of drug offenses and urged the Government of Singapore to halt plans to execute individuals on death row for drug related charges... More>>