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Cablegate: Ambassadors Discuss Expulsion of Colombian Miners/Colombian

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0085
INFO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

id: 237713
date: 12/2/2009 18:09
refid: 09CARACAS1517
origin: Embassy Caracas
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination:
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FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0085
INFO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

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AMEMBASSY BERLIN PASS TO AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
AMEMBASSY BERLIN PASS TO AMCONSUL LEIPZIG
AMEMBASSY ATHENS PASS TO AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI
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AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PASS TO AMCONSUL RECIFE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2034/12/02
TAGS: PREL PGOV PREF CO VE
SUBJECT: Ambassadors Discuss Expulsion of Colombian Miners/Colombian
Venezuelan Bilateral Relations

CLASSIFIED BY: DUDDY, AMBASSADOR, DOS, AMB; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (C) Summary: On December 1, Ambassador met with Colombian
Ambassador to Venezuela Maria Luisa Chiappe at the residence of
Mexican Embassy Political Counselor Maria Elena Alcaraz, at the
former's request. Ambassador Chiappe confirmed reports that late
last week approximately 500 miners - mostly Colombian but also
including some Brazilians - who were operating illegally at a mine
in Venezuela's Amazonas state near the border with Colombia were
expelled by Venezuelan security forces into Colombia. She also said
that there were reports that approximately 1,000 miners working in
the same location had managed to evade the security forces and were
likely hiding out nearby, but required assistance from an
international body such as the Red Cross to ensure their health and
welfare. Regarding Colombian-Venezuelan bilateral relations,
Ambassador Chiappe expressed concern over the deleterious impact
that the current crisis has had on the previously robust trading
relationship. She also noted the deterioration of the security
situation along the border, alluding to the unfettered access of
many armed groups to the Venezuelan side of the border. End
Summary.

2. (C) As a result of not wanting to be seen entering the
U.S. Embassy, Ambassador Chiappe directed her request for a meeting
with Ambassador Duddy through mutual acquaintance Maria Elena
Alcaraz of the Mexican Embassy, who hosted the informal
conversation at her residence. Ambassador Chiappe began by
confirming reports that late the previous week, Venezuelan armed
forces helicopters descended on a mine near the border with
Colombia in the western part of Venezuela's Amazonas state. (Note:
while she did not specifically cite the date or location, other
information available to post indicates these events took place at
the Yacapana mine near San Fernando de Atabapo on September 26. End
Note.) Of the 1,500 miners reportedly working there, the security
forces expelled into Colombia approximately 500 miners who did not
possess legal status to either live or work in Venezuela.
Ambassador Chiappe affirmed that most of the miners were Colombian,
although some were Brazilian. The other 1,000 miners managed to
escape the security dragnet and flee into the surrounding
countryside, where most likely remained.

3. (C) Ambassador Chiappe expressed the view that Venezuela
had the right to deport foreigners who were living and working
illegally in the country, but also noted that the GOC expected the
GBRV to "respect the human rights" of any individuals subject to
forced repatriation. She highlighted the GOC's preoccupation with
the well-being of the miners who were hiding out, stating that an
International Red Cross team had tried to enter the area to check
on them, but were apparently denied access to the area. In the
current bilateral political environment, Ambassador Chiappe
observed, the GOC feared that the GBRV might attempt to accuse the
miners of being "paramilitaries," or of having some other nefarious
intent.

4. (C) Regarding Colombian-Venezuelan bilateral relations in
light of the ongoing dispute, Ambassador Chiappe identified trade
and insecurity along the border as the GOC's primary worries. She
confirmed widely circulated data that a precipitous drop in
cross-border trade had transpired in a short period of time, and
that this drop was particularly harmful to the Colombian
communities living near the border with Venezuela, who depended on
such trade for their livelihood. She also asserted that the
Venezuelan side of the border area had become a haven for armed
groups of all kinds, including but not limited to the FARC and ELN.
DUDDY

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