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Cablegate: Venezuela: Cuban Assistance to Confront Electricity Crisis

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id: 247099
date: 2/3/2010 22:02
refid: 10CARACAS139
origin: Embassy Caracas
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 09CARACAS1318|09CARACAS1367|10CARACAS35
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RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/03
TAGS: EPET EINV ENRG ECON VE
SUBJECT: Venezuela: Cuban Assistance to Confront Electricity Crisis

REF: CARACAS 35; 09 CARACAS 1367; 09 CARACAS 1318

CLASSIFIED BY: Darnall Steuart, Economic Counselor, DOS, Econ;
REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (SBU) The evening of February 2, President Chavez announced the
arrival of Cuban Minister of Technology and President of the
Cabinet of Ministers Ramiro Valdez in Venezuela [NOTE: According to
USINT Havana, Valdez is the Cuban Minister of Communication. END
NOTE]. He reportedly was sent to lead a technical commission to
resolve Venezuela's electricity crisis (see reftels). The
government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (GBRV)
previously has announced its intention to transition to a
distributed electricity system modeled on Cuba's, i.e., a network
of small generators distributed around the country. Venezuela
plans to double its distributed generation capacity from 1,000 MW
to 2,000 MW (NOTE: Venezuela's peak electricity demand to date in
September 2009 surpassed 17,000 MW). This might alleviate some
problems experienced in the rural areas of Venezuela, but would not
impact large population centers, such as Caracas or Maracaibo.

2. (SBU) Venezuelan blogs are speculating that Valdez actually has
a different mission in Venezuela, i.e., to use his technical
expertise to assist the GBRV clamp down on dissident voices finding
expression through the Internet and new media, such as Twitter.
[NOTE: Daily statistics on Venezuela's electricity sector,
including the daily decrease in the water levels in the Guri dam
reservoir, are publicly available on the internet from the
Venezuelan Interconnected Systems Operations Office (SEN by its
Spanish acronym). END NOTE]

3. (C) The press also reported that the Government of Brazil
announced that it would send a senior level technical assessment
team to Venezuela this week to help develop a solution to
Venezuela's impending electricity crisis. In contrast, EconOffs
recently learned from a local businessman that a U.S. citizen
engineer present in Venezuela to help repair the Guri hydroelectric
turbines had shown his daughter a non-disclosure agreement that he
had had to sign to keep his nationality and purpose in Venezuela a
secret.

4. (C) COMMENT: A GBRV move to enlist Cuban assistance to affect a
short-term solution to the impending electricity crisis in
Venezuela is logical, especially given Electricity Minister and
former Venezuelan Ambassador to Cuba Ali Rodriguez' continuing
close relations with Havana. In reality, given the enormity of the
electricity crisis, Venezuela likely needs all the help it can
secure. Short of rainfall or massive electricity rationing,
however, no local industry analyst believes Venezuela will avoid a
collapse of Guri by early summer. Thus, the possibility raised in
the blogosphere that the Cubans might not only be here to lend
their electrical expertise but also their expertise in protecting
potentially embarrassing government information, i.e., factual data
on the deterioration of the electrical sector, represents a concern
that the GBRV may take new measures to dampen social discontent by
restricting access to public information. END COMMENT.
DUDDY

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

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