Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04CARACAS945
2004-03-19 21:36:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Caracas
Cable title:  

VENEZUELA ON THE VERGE OF A PURGE

Tags:  PGOV ELAB PHUM VE 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L CARACAS 000945 

SIPDIS


NSC FOR CBARTON
USCINCSO ALSO FOR POLAD
STATE PASS USAID FOR DCHA/OTI

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/17/2014
TAGS: PGOV ELAB PHUM VE
SUBJECT: VENEZUELA ON THE VERGE OF A PURGE

Classified By: Abelardo A. Arias, Political Counselor, for Reasons 1.4(
b) and (d).

-------
Summary
-------

C O N F I D E N T I A L CARACAS 000945

SIPDIS


NSC FOR CBARTON
USCINCSO ALSO FOR POLAD
STATE PASS USAID FOR DCHA/OTI

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/17/2014
TAGS: PGOV ELAB PHUM VE
SUBJECT: VENEZUELA ON THE VERGE OF A PURGE

Classified By: Abelardo A. Arias, Political Counselor, for Reasons 1.4(
b) and (d).

--------------
Summary
--------------


1. (C) The GOV appears to be engaged in a broad effort to
ensure loyalty and punish opposition using the list of
persons who signed the recall petition against President Hugo
Chavez. Since the beginning of March, reports have emerged
of GOV offices and state enterprises using signature data
from the National Electoral Council (CNE),accessible by
internet, to vet employees, new hires, and beneficiaries of
various government services such as identity cards. Threats
of dismissal against public employees are rife, though
specific cases are difficult to confirm. Labor
representatives are protesting loudly but hold out little
hope that the Attorney General and Human Rights Ombudsman
will intervene. The new push appears aimed at intimidating
people into retracting their signatures, reinforce the GOV's
theory of "megafraud," and, in the long run, cleanse the
bureaucracy of those who do not support President Chavez's
political agenda. End summary.

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The Threat Is Mightier Than the Pen
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2. (C) President Hugo Chavez made clear in October 2003 that
those who signed the opposition's petition to recall him
would be remembered "for 100 generations" and would have to
face the consequences of their actions. Reports abounded
during the November 28 - December 1 signature drive of
threats against public sector workers who intended to sign.
With the prospect of a signature appeals process on the
horizon, during which people can retract their signatures,
the GOV seems to be throwing out all the stops to force
signers to recant. Fifth Republic Movement (MVR) Deputy and
member of the pro-GOV campaign committee Willian Lara
reportedly urged party loyalists to "locate, counsel,
convince, organize, and transport to appeals centers" at
least 200,000 petition signers. This so-called "Victory
Plan" would be carried out by GOV vice ministers and other
high-level officials on the national, state, and local level.



3. (U) MVR Deputy Luis Tascon has posted the National

Electoral Council's (CNE) signature data on his website,
www.luistascon.com, purportedly for people to lodge fraud
complaints against the opposition. The website, however, has
become a ready resource for Chavistas to check the loyalty of
government workers and recipients of government benefits.
Another source for the petition data is the pro-Chavez weekly
tabloid "Temas." The newspaper has published supplements over
the past four weeks containing the more than three million
identity card numbers of persons who signed.

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The Wages of Signing
--------------


4. (C) Poloff met on March 17 with a group of labor leaders
of the Confederation of Workers of Venezuela (CTV) and
Unapetrol, comprised of ex-PDVSA workers, to hear an array of
complaints of threats and dismissals related to the
presidential recall referendum signatures. The labor
representatives showed poloff a list of several hundred
workers of the Guyana Corporation of Venezuela (CVG) that is
reportedly being used by a new office in the state-run
corporation charged with identifying petition signers. CTV
Executive Secretary Antonio Suarez told of a new hire at the
Ministry of Education who was told she could not begin work
until she went to the personnel office to file a complaint
against the opposition for allegedly "stealing" her
signature. A hospital director in Falcon State reported that
the GOV had circulated a list of health workers and their
family members who had signed the petition. The labor
repreasentatives also linked the dismissal of some 17

professionals of the Vargas State development corporation to
the signing of the petition. Workers unwilling to recant,
they assert, have also been denied vacations, food stipends,
and scholarships for their children as well. A March 15
press report also alleges that 200 Caracas Metro workers have
been fired.


5. (C) Unapetrol President Horacio Medina said threats had
been renewed against PDVSA employees who signed. PDVSA
President Ali Rodriguez said during a press interview on
March 15 it "could not be discounted" that a persecution
campaign was underway in that state-owned oil company.
Medina said a list at one PDVSA site in Caracas identifies
employees who signed as "traitors to the nation." Some 834
active employees and 1,200 contractors have been identified.
Medina said they knew of 34 employees who have gone to the
Attorney General's office to complain. The lists reportedly
identify some 5,000 retired PDVSA workers, whose continued
pension payments have been threatened, according to the labor
representatives.


6. (C) The harassment is not limited to the GOV and state
enterprises. Pro-Chavez western Venezuela regional daily
"Diario Panorama" Human Resources Manager Francisco Ferrer
(protect),whose family has minority shares in Panorama, told
IO March 13 that the GOV had asked Panorama to provide it
with a list of Panorama employees and to cross-check the list
with the list of presidential referendum recall petitioners.
Francisco found that about 75 percent of Panorama's employees
signed the petition. He fears that the GOV will press
Panorama to "convince" its employees to recant their
signature or face unemployment. While Panorama President
Esteban Pineda is openly pro-Chavez (most interlocutors,
including Ferrer, think Pineda's loyalty is driven by
monetary interests, not by ideology),Ferrer opposes the
Chavez government.

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Litmus Test For GOV Services
--------------


7. (C) The labor representatives cited several additional
examples of pressure tactics in government services. They
said, for example, identity cards, which are necessary to
vote, are often inexplicably delayed for people that signed
the recall petition. Foreigners, they claimed, were
receiving express naturalization on the condition they not
participate in a presidential referendum. They said the
enrollees in the GOV's unemployment program "Mision Vuelvan
Caras" ("Mission About Face") are routinely cross-checked
against the Tascon website. The wife of a driver in the
Embassy was told she was not eligible for a slot in a public
university because she had signed the petition. There have
been allegations in the press that passports are also being
withheld from signers, but anecdotal evidence indicates this
problem is routinely circumvented by paying higher prices to
facilitators.

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Labor Groups Make Symbolic Stand
--------------


8. (C) The labor representatives noted that Labor Minister
Maria Cristina Iglesias turned the table on them during the
signature drive, arguing that anti-Chavez private companies
threatened their employees into signing. This latest round
of threats, the labor representatives said, has primarily
targeted contractors and untenured workers, who have been
ostensibly fired due to "restructuring." Organized labor's
response has thus far been limited to public denunciations.
They hope to bring some cases before the Attorney General and
Human Rights Ombudsman, though they believe that both
institutions are subordinated to GOV politics and will not
intervene.

--------------
Comment
--------------


9. (C) These firings and harassments complement the large
fines assessed this week against opposition media, and the
arrest warrant for opposition Baruta mayor Enrique Capriles.
To be effective, the GOV's intimidation campaign needs to cow
enough signers while not drawing a backlash of resentment
during the appeals process. We think it is likely,
therefore, that the firings of mostly small pockets of
workers will continue. Obsessed with regime survival and
willing to trample labor rights, the GOV may achieve some
short-term goals with its strategy. First, forcing recanters
to file complaints with prosecutors supports President
Chavez's allegations that the opposition fraudulently
collected the signatures. Second, the GOV will need to erase
as many signatures from the opposition's petition as possible
if there is an appeals process. Third, it will make the
bureaucracy more loyal, and more pliable, in the long run.
SHAPIRO


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2004CARACA00945 - CONFIDENTIAL