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Cablegate: Gbrv Strategy On Colombia-Dca Dispute Becoming

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id: 234175
date: 11/10/2009 20:46
refid: 09CARACAS1444
origin: Embassy Caracas
classification: SECRET
destination: 09CARACAS1144|09CARACAS1207|09CARACAS1430|09CARACAS1443
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 001444

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/10/2029
TAGS: PREL PINS MARR MCAP MOPS VE
SUBJECT: GBRV STRATEGY ON COLOMBIA-DCA DISPUTE BECOMING
CLEARER

REF: A. CARACAS 1443
B. CARACAS 1430
C. CARACAS 1207
D. CARACAS 1144

Classified By: Acting Pol Counselor Rolf Olson, for reason 1.4 (d)

1. (SE) Summary: Following President Chavez's November 8
urging that the Venezuelan public "prepare for war" to defend
the country against anticipated Colombian-U.S. cross-border
aggression (Ref A), the Venezuelan government (GBRV) and its
local allies issued a series of supportive and similarly
bellicose statements that nonetheless affirmed that Venezuela
is the aggrieved party in this dispute. Vice Foreign Minister
Francisco Arias Cardenas, the most senior GBRV official to
speak publicly on November 9, sought to steer the narrative
away from a bilateral showdown between Colombia and
Venezuela. He focused instead on the threat posed by "the
elephant in the china shop" -- the United States -- and
asserted that the quality of future Colombia-Venezuela
relations would "hinge on the status of the bases." In
response to the Colombian government's (GOC) stated intention
of taking the matter to either the U.N. or the OAS, Arias
instead demanded that the GOC address fellow members of
UNASUR in order to provide "the security guarantees the other
members have demanded." The shape of the GBRV strategy on
this subject is becoming clearer: portray Venezuela as the
victim, cite the U.S. as the ultimate source of conflict, put
the onus on Colombia to withdraw its support for the DCA as a
way to forestall regional conflict, and attempt to do all
this in a forum that would likely be friendlier to GBRV
arguments. End Summary.

2. (SE) On November 9, the Chavez administration and its
local supporters issued statements defending President
Chavez's November 8 rhetoric regarding a possible war with
Colombia. The President of the Foreign Relations Commission
in the National Assembly (AN), Roy Daza, stated that the
threat posed by the "North American military bases" in
Colombia "obliged" Chavez and all Venezuelans "to take
appropriate measures" in response. Fellow AN Deputy Iris
Varela affirmed that Colombia had already committed "acts of
war" ("ataques de guerra") against Venezuela through support
of paramilitary groups along the border. The ruling United
Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) called on its members to
"join the militia" ("convertirse en milicianos") to defend
"against a U.S. attack from the occupied bases in Colombia."
The Chavez-allied Fatherland For All party (PPT) echoed these
sentiments: "We are convinced this Colombia-based strategy is
aimed at disrupting and destroying the united advance of our
peoples and our governments." (Comment: The statements of the
PPT spokesman, Simon Calzadilla, were disappointing since
just days earlier he had participated as one of four PPT
deputies in a cordial meeting with Embassy Poloffs, in which
Poloffs had explained the DCA and what its provisions did and
did not contain. Calzadilla had seemed satisfied by this
explanation at the time, and in fact had asked: "Why haven't
you explained this so well before? This doesn't seem like
such a big deal when it is laid out in detail." End Comment.)
The country's Communist Party (PCV) struck a similar chord,
arguing that "it is the United States that is fostering this
war. Such a war would be convenient for the Empire, not for
the Colombian or the Venezuelan governments."

3. (SE) The GBRV's Foreign Ministry added its voice to the
mix by issuing a rebuttal to the GOC's November 8
Presidential statement, blasting it as "immoral" and
"hypocritical." Referring to Colombia's March 1, 2008 attack
on FARC camps in Ecuador, the statement accused the GOC of
committing "the only act of war registered in the recent
history of our continent." While ridiculing Colombia for
having "ignored the regional bodies responsible for this
subject" in previous opportunities, the statement relayed the
GBRV's willingness to discuss the issue in an international
forum, citing the South American Defense Council (SADC) as
one possible venue.

4. (SE) Vice Foreign Minister for Latin America Francisco
Arias Cardenas has been the most senior GBRV official to
speak publicly since President Chavez's November 8 remarks.
In separate media interviews on November 9, Arias placed
blame initially on President Uribe for having played politics
with regional security: "The call to war was made by Uribe in
order to win a new term." But Arias also emphasized that the
GBRV ultimately assigned blame to the U.S.: "We are neither
looking for a war provoked by Venezuela, nor for a war
provoked by Colombia or the Colombians." Arias added: "The
true provocation and cause of such a war would be" the DCA
itself, by virtue of the U.S. presence on the bases. Signing

CARACAS 00001444 002 OF 002


the DCA with the U.S. was, Arias added, "like bringing an
elephant into a china shop." He asserted that the quality of
the Colombia-Venezuela relationship would "hinge" on the
issue of the bases. ("La relacion depende de las bases
militares.") In response to the GOC's stated intention of
taking the matter to multilateral bodies such as the U.N. or
the OAS, Arias instead demanded that the Colombian government
"should respond to UNASUR in order to provide the security
guarantees that the other member countries demand." (Note:
Per Refs C and D, Chavez publicly portrayed the August UNASUR
deliberations on the DCA issue in Bariloche as a victory, and
in mid-September challenged President Obama to meet with
UNASUR leaders to explain the DCA. Additionally,
GBRV-friendly Ecuador currently holds the rotating Presidency
of UNASUR. End Note.)

5. (SE) Comment: The GBRV appears to have chosen its
strategic path as this issue appears headed for some sort of
international hearing. First, reiterate that Venezuela is the
aggrieved party in this dispute, and is only preparing itself
for a conflict brought on by others. Second, assail the U.S.
as the dark force behind Uribe's ill-advised policies, and
use the USG's own documents as proof of "the Empire's plans."
(Ref B) Third, take advantage of the region's distinct
aversion to armed conflict; this involves putting the onus on
Colombia to renounce its support for the DCA as the most
neighborly action possible, as well as the easiest way to
forestall a potential military confrontation. And fourth, if
possible, have the public debate on this subject take place
in an environment that is more likely to have GBRV allies
echoing these arguments, such as UNASUR/SADC. End Comment.
DUDDY

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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