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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08CARACAS1224 2008-09-02 20:33:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Caracas
Cable title:  

AMBASSADOR'S MEETINGS IN COLONIA TOVAR AND VALENCIA

Tags:   PGOV PREL SNAR VE 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 001224 

SIPDIS

HQSOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
DEPARTMENT PASS TO AID/OTI (RPORTER)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/01/2028
TAGS: PGOV PREL SNAR VE
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S MEETINGS IN COLONIA TOVAR AND VALENCIA

REF: CARACAS 1217

CARACAS 00001224 001.3 OF 002


Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR FRANCISCO FERNANDEZ,
REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)



1. (C) Summary. The Ambassador traveled August 29-30 to
Colonia Tovar and Valencia. Aragua State Governor Didalco
Bolivar and Colonia Tovar Mayor Esteban Bocaranda underscored
that tourist town Colonia Tovar's economic success is due to
private sector dynamism, not the small amount of government
spending the municipality receives. The Ambassador visited a
NAS-funded demand reduction baseball clinic August 30 in
Valencia and reinforced in comments to local media the
importance of bilateral counternarcotics cooperation. While
the Ambassador did not say anything new, President Chavez, on
the August 31 broadcast of his "Alo, Presidente" talk show
program, warned the Ambassador to "watch his words" or "start
packing his bags" (Septel). In a private lunch, Carabobo
State opposition gubernatorial candidate Henrique Salas Feo
told the Ambassador he expects the opposition will win only
five or six (of 22) governships (including his race) in
November's state and local elections. End Summary.



--------------------------


Colonia Tovar


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Ambassador attended on August 29 the 70th
anniversary of the Selva Negra hotel, the most prominent
hotel of Colonia Tovar, a popular tourist destination with a
large German population nestled in the mountains of Aragua
State. The German ambassador, Colonia Tovar mayor Esteban
Bocaranda, and Aragua State governor Didalco Bolivar, a
former Chavez ally, also attended. In his remarks to the
dozens of invited guests, Bolivar stressed that "leaders who
seek the votes of persons with private property should also
respect that private property after they get elected."
Bolivar praised Colonia Tovar for its private sector
dynamism, which he noted generated significant income with
minimal government spending.



3. (C) In a follow-on meeting with the four-time Colonia
Tovar mayor, Bocaranda told the Ambassador that he expects to
win a fifth term of office (a second consecutive term under
the 1999 Constitution) in November's state and local
elections. Bocaranda, a former Christian Democrat, is
running on his own municipal "Strawberry" party ticket and
was one of only a few opposition-oriented politicians to
unseat a pro-government incumbent in the last state and local
elections. Bocaranda noted that the BRV and Chavez's United
Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) are offering considerable
pre-election "give-aways" in an effort to boost the electoral
chances of his PSUV opponent. Four "Che Guevara" social
project trailers were conspicuously parked near the town
entrance.



4. (C) Bocaranda noted that the Colonia Tovar municipality
encompasses not just the well-known tourist town, but 61
villages in the surrounding countryside. He noted that some
of the 29 villages established informally over the last
several years still lack electricity and running water.
Bocaranda said these villages vote overwhelmingly
pro-government.



--------------------------


Valencia


--------------------------





5. (SBU) The Ambassador visited August 30 a NAS-funded demand
reduction baseball clinic in a working class neighborhood of
Valencia, Carababo State. The five-day "Baseball and
Friendship" program provides counterdrug counseling to
coaches, parents, and Little League players and also promotes
bilateral understanding through baseball. In on-site
comments to journalists at the event, the Ambassador
underscored the importance of the program (conducted in six
cities so far this year). He also reiterated the USG's
overall interest in renewing counternarcotics cooperation
with the Venezuelan government. Although the Ambassador
repeated statements he has made earlier, President Chavez
accused the Ambassador of "intromission" and threatened to
expel him from Venezuela if he did not "watch his words"
(Septel).



6. (C) Former Carabobo State governor and current opposition
gubernatorial candidate Henrique Salas Feo hosted the

CARACAS 00001224 002.3 OF 002


Ambassador for a private lunch at his Valencia home August


30. Salas Feo shared with the Ambassador the results of a
local (Pronostico) August poll which shows that he leads PSUV
candidate and government TV talk show host Mario Silva 50
percent to 24 percent. Salas also said his father, a former
Carabobo State governor and 1998 presidential candidate,
leads Mario Silva 61 percent to 21 percent. Salas Feo
suggested that the Comptroller did not declare him ineligible
to run because BRV officials realized that his father could
also run and win. Salas Feo, like Didalco Bolivar (Reftel),
believes Chavez is trying to wrest control from state and
local governments. He anticipates that after November the
biggest political conflicts will not be between Chavistas and
the opposition, but rather between the central government and
state/local governments.



7. (C) Salas Feo said he is campaigning on his record against
the poor record of the PSUV incumbent, Luis Felipe Acosta
Carlez. He avoids running against Chavez or Chavez's recent
26 decree-laws because he believes that would play to the
PSUV's strength. He said the PSUV, despite its internal
differences, gives any candidate a floor of 30 percent of the
electorate, while among the opposition, prominent politicians
enjoy more popular support than their respective parties. He
accused Acosta Carlez and Valencia independent mayoral
candidate Abdala Makled of facilitating the flow of illicit
drugs from Puerto Cabello. Running against them, he added,
involves real danger. Salas Feo blamed Zulia Governor Manuel
Rosales, whom he accused of acting like a "dictator," for
divisions among the opposition. Salas Feo expects the
opposition will win only five or six gubernatorial races in
November.

DUDDY