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Cablegate: Netherlands / Venezuela: Rather Concerned About

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTC #0042/01 0221154
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 221154Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3688
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0008

S E C R E T THE HAGUE 000042

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/13/2020
TAGS: PREL NL VZ
SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS / VENEZUELA: RATHER CONCERNED ABOUT
CHAVEZ

REF: A. MARCUS - MANN EMAIL 01/13/2010
B. THE HAGUE 7
C. 08 THE HAGUE 868
D. 08 THE HAGUE 510
E. 07 THE HAGUE 2012

Classified By: Ambassador Levin for reasons 1.4(b,d)

1. (S) SUMMARY: Recent allegations by Venezuelan President
Chavez that U.S. aircraft operating from Dutch air fields in
the Caribbean have violated Venezuelan airspace concern the
Dutch. For Antillean and domestic political reasons, the
Dutch Foreign Ministry sought assurances that U.S. use of the
Curacao and Aruba FOLs (Forward Operating Locations) was
limited to counter-narcotics surveillance as spelled out in
our FOL Agreement. On January 14, the Ambassador delivered
agreed points (Ref. A) to Foreign Minister Verhagen, who
expressed appreciation for the assurance and warned Chavez
could do a lot of harm. END SUMMARY.

2. (S) Dutch Concerns: At the request of the MFA, POL/ECON
Counselor met with Laurent Stokvis (WHA A/S equivalent), Marc
Werschuur (Venezuela desk officer) and Anton Schellekens
(advisor on Kingdom Affairs -- Antilles/Aruba specialist)
January 12 to discuss President Chavez,s recent assertions
of American aircraft in Venezuelan airspace. The Dutch
believe Chavez wants the FOLs shut down, and think two
important events are driving Chavez,s actions -- the renewal
of the FOL agreement (the Dutch believe the agreement is
renewed automatically unless a party objects a year before
the renewal date -- objection would need to be made by
November 2010), and the upcoming Antillean elections. The
Dutch believe Chavez is seeking to shut the FOLs down by
stirring parliamentary objection to renewal of the agreement
or promoting the election of an Antillean coalition opposed
to the FOL.

3. (S) Due to the publicity surrounding Chavez,s
allegations, Parliament has already sent to the MFA several
sets of questions concerning the FOLs ) what are they for?
What is the American military doing at the FOLs? Is the U.S.
using the FOLs to spy on Venezuela? Looking at the upcoming
Antillean election, Stokvis noted the opposition party
(supported by Venezuela) which opposes FOL operations is
running at 7 seats in the most recent polls. The government
party has 5 and a pro-independence party has 3. The other
two small parties in the ruling coalition register 0 seats.
If the opposition and pro-independence parties keep this
level of support and join in a coalition, renewal of the FOL
agreement could be placed in jeopardy.

4. (S) Stokvis stressed it was the firm intention of the
Netherlands to continue the FOL agreement, but things need
to go smoothly. The MFA, therefore, was looking for a way
to strengthen the government,s position (and that of the
current governing coalition in the Antilles). In the
upcoming parliamentary debate, the MFA will be asked have
you asked the U.S. if the FOL is only being used for
counternarcotics purposes as authorized by the FOL
agreement? To be able to answer that question, the MFA had
suggested a letter from the U.S. Ambassador to the Foreign
Minister (Reftel B). Subsequently, Washington, Post and the
MFA agreed oral assurances would be sufficient.

5. (S) During a January 14 meeting with Foreign Minister
Verhagen, Ambassador Levin said:

- There have been recent allegations of US aircraft, from
Antillean/Aruban FOLs, violating Venezuelan airspace. The
U.S. has categorically denied these allegations.

- I understand these allegations have prompted parliamentary
inquiry into operations at the FOLs.

- Please let me assure you, Mr. Minister, all operations
being conducted at/through the FOLs are in compliance with
the FOL agreement.

Verhagen responded with appreciation for the assurance.
Verhagen observed the Dutch are rather concerned about
Chavez. It appears Chavez is looking for a pretext for a
quarrel. He added that Chavez can do a lot of harm. For
example, he might make economic cooperation with the
Netherlands Antilles difficult by blocking transportation.
Noting Chavez,s recent statements (including those in
Copenhagen), as well as the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry,s
calling in the U.S. and GONL ambassadors in Caracas on
January 11, Verhagen concluded there is something else....

6. (C) During a January 21 meeting with the DCM, Stokvis
clarified the MFA,s concerns. The Dutch do not believe
Venezuela will invade Curacao, but the Venezuelans can

cause considerable problems, particularly to the Antillean
economy. Stokvis noted there were many family ties between
the islands and Venezuela. Finally, commenting on Chavez's
recent nationalization of a French supermarket, Stokvis said
a Dutch grocery chain also had an outlet in the country.

7. (S) COMMENT: The Dutch appreciate the U.S. willingness to
provide oral assurances about the FOL operations. They are
also looking for some way to dampen down Chavez,s rhetoric,
but they haven,t yet found the right mechanism. With
upcoming Antillean elections and the pending change in
constitutional status of the islands, the Dutch remained
worried about Chavez,s troublemaking. END COMMENT.
LEVIN

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