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2004-05-12 21:50:00
Embassy Caracas
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L  CARACAS 001561 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/12/2014

and (d)


1. (C) The Ambassador met May 12 with VP Rangel and the
FonMin Perez to complain about GOV hostility towards the US,
including recent statements, the search of the Embassy
warehouse, and the removal of the MILGP from Ven bases. He
reiterated our total rejection of extraconstitutional actions
against the GOV. Rangel blamed the US for always criticizing
the GOV; apologized for the warehouse search; and reaffirmed
the decision to move the MILGP. He expressed frustration
with the statements and actions of opposition figures in the
US; concern about the paramilitary threat; and reiterated
that the GOV believed that the GOV, and the Ambassador, were
involved in the April 2002 coup attempt. End Summary.




2. (C) The Ambassador met May 12 with Vice President Jose
Vicente Rangel and Foreign Minister Jesus Perez. DCM also
attended. The Ambassador detailed US concerns about
bilateral relations and recent allegations that the US
supported alleged coup plotting:

--The GOV's decision to constantly attack the USG, since at
least August 2003, including personal attacks against the
President, the Secretary, and National Security Adviser Rice.

--The statements just May 11 by the GOV's ombudsman, German
Mundarain, that accused the State Department of involvement
with the alleged coup conspiracy of the 100 plus arrested

--The illegal May 10 search by the Guardia Nacional (GN) of
the US Embassy warehouse. We are particularly concerned by
statements by the lawyer of the warehouse owner that the GN
Major specifically asked which warehouse was the US Embassy's
so he could search it; and

--The May 7 letter from MOD Garcia Corneiro giving the DATT a
deadline of May 30 for the MILGP to vacate all Venezuela
military installations.

3. (C) Regarding the 100 plus alleged "paramilitaries" that
the GOV has detained, and whom the GOV claims are linked to
the Coordinadora (CD) and others in the opposition, the
Ambassador stressed that the US firmly supports democracy,
and rejects any extraconstitutional actions in Venezuela. In
terms of the Colombian paramilitary groups, the US has done
more than any other country besides Colombia to oppose them.
We consider such groups to be terrorists, just like the FARC,
and we are seeking the extradition of their leaders on
narcotics charges. We have no information on the persons
just captured by the GOV; should there be any link between
them and persons in the US, the US would cooperate in the
investigation if the GOV so requested.






4. (C) Rangel responded in a sweeping fashion that the GOV
had never attacked the US, but rather had counterattacked.
There were continuous statements by USG officials that
criticized the GOV and put in doubt its legitimacy, and the
GOV would not be silent. "We are a small country, but we
have our dignity." Most recently, during the Interamerican
Press Society meeting, A/S Noriega had sharply criticized the
GOV. Florida Governor Bush just did the same. It was
possible that there had been some exaggerations (by the GOV,
Rangel implied), but in almost every case the US started the
argument. Rangel said he had suggested to the US that both
countries put aside their microphones, but the US had not
done so. If the US made up information linking the GOV to
the FARC, the GOV would respond. If Senator Nelson attacked
the GOV, GOV Deputy Tarek Saab would return the favor.

5. (C) Regarding possible cooperation in the GOV
investigation of the Colombians, Rangel expressed
appreciation, and said that the DISIP (secret police) and DIM
(military intelligence) would share information with US

6. (C) On the warehouse search, Rangel said he would

reiterate -- he did so twice -- Venezuela Ambassador to the
US Alvarez' apologies to DAS Deshazo for the search. He
insisted that the GN did not know that the warehouse was
occupied by the US Embassy; had it known, it would not have
searched it. (Note: However, when the GN were told this by
warehouse employees, they went ahead anyway and searched the

7. (C) Rangel said that the GOV was not saying that there
was a link between the USG and the "paramilitaries" that the
GOV had captured (Note: One hour later, President Chavez said
there was a "vast international conspiracy" to overthrow the
GOV to control Venezuelan oil.) But it was a fact that
accused coup plotter Roberto Alonso was in the US and made
statements with impunity. Carlos Ortega and Carlos Fernandez
(leaders of the 2002 paro) and journalist Patricia Poleo went
to Miami to lead marches against Chavez. The Ambassador
interrupted that in the US., visitors also had freedom of
speech, these individuals had not committed crimes in the
US., and the GOV had not sought their extradition. Rangel
said that it was fine for the US to say that it does not
approve of extraconstitutional activity -- "but you know that
the US was involved in the April 2002 coup, members of the US
military group were involved, and we will soon reveal the
proof that you personally and the USG were involved." The
Ambassador rejected this categorically; Rangel threatened
that the GOV would reveal its proof as the US had requested.

8. (C) Rangel said that the removal of the MILGP from
Venezuelan military bases was based on the need to use the
space on these bases for other purposes. When he was MOD, he
ordered the MILGP off Venezuelan facilities but the orders
had never been executed. He said he believed it
inappropriate for any country's military to be housed on
Venezuelan facilities. The Ambassador stated that the
Venezuelan military had similar space on three US military
bases; Rangel said that the situations were different, the
Venezuelans had no space in the equivalent to Fuerte Tiuna,
which would be the Pentagon. In any case, when US generals
such as Gen. Hill and Gen. Meyer openly criticized President
Chavez, it is inappropriate to have US military on Venezuelan

9. (C) Rangel said he understood the US had a very clear
position on the "paramilitaries;" so did the GOV. He said
there were some 1,000 Colombian paramilitaries in the border
area; the 130 captured so far were just the "tip of the
iceberg." Those captured included some 20 whose ID cards
from Colombia said "reservist" or "professional soldier."
Powerful economic interests (Rangel did not elaborate when
asked) were behind this paramilitary effort, as were retired
and active duty Venezuelan military officers. Perez
interjected that the GOV remained concerned -- as he had
noted previously to the Ambassador -- about Venezuelans in
Miami who were plotting against the GOV; Rangel wound up by
stating that the GOV sought "serious relations" with the US.
The GOV would not accept anything else. If there had to be
permanent controversy between the two countries, so be it --
but the GOV was not locked into this position.




10. (C) Rangel was fairly wound up and insulting -- and yet
was more restrained than President Chavez was in his
subsequent TV speech on national security (septel).
Predictably, he was firm on the decision to remove the MILGP
from Fuerte Tiuna; he was apologetic about the search of the
Embassy warehouse -- but we still think the GOV at some level
carried out this action deliberately. Rangel appeared both
energized and enthusiastic about pursuing the "paramilitary"
issue, as is Chavez. Much of Rangel's presentation followed
the same points -- even used the same "tip of the iceberg"
language -- that Chavez used in his speech one hour later.

11. (C) We do not have enough information about the
supposed paramilitaries. Clearly, they are not Boy Scouts
and we should not dismiss the GOV claims out of hand. There
is at least one victim supposedly executed by these
"paramilitaries". Our working hypothesis is that they may
well be Colombian campesinos hired for an illegal purpose
here. But the timing is too good to be true for the GOV.
They are certainly using it as a pretext to round up enemies
and are flagging the paramilitaries as "proof" of US and
Colombian plans to destabilize Venezuela. In this
environment reparos have been relegated to minor news.
Rumors are once again circulating that the GOV is planning to

declare a State of Emergency.