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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09CARACAS1487
2009-11-20 20:51:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Caracas
Cable title:  

VENEZUELA: REVIEW FOR SUSPENSION OF TITLE III OF THE LIBERTAD ACT

Tags:   CU  ECON  EINV  EPET  ETRD  ETTC  HURI  PREL  VE 
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USDOC FOR 4332 MAC/ITA/WH/JLAO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/11/20
TAGS: ECON, ETRD, ETTC, PREL, EINV, EPET, HURI, VE, CU
SUBJECT: VENEZUELA: REVIEW FOR SUSPENSION OF TITLE III OF THE
LIBERTAD ACT

REF: STATE 115416; 2006 CARACAS 1096; CARACAS 1022; CARACAS 1181
2007 CARACAS 694

CLASSIFIED BY: DUDDY, AMBASSADOR, DOS, AMB; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (U) Post's response to Reftel A questions follow.



2. (C) Has the host country, in post's opinion, worked to
promote the advancement of democracy and human rights in Cuba?



Post sees no evidence that the Government of the Bolivarian
Republic of Venezuela (GBRV) has undertaken policies or actions to
advance democracy or human rights in Cuba over the past six months.



3. (C) Has the host country made public statements or
undertaken other government actions, such as resolutions in the
national assemblies condemning human rights abuses in Cuba; or
actions in support of civil society in Cuba through host country's
diplomatic missions or other fora?

In the last six months, the GBRV has not made any public statements
or undertaken any government action to condemn human rights abuses
in Cuba or support civil society there. On the contrary, President
Hugo Chavez and the GBRV provide significant financial assistance
to Cuba and repeatedly praise its government. Chavez often
expresses admiration for Fidel Castro, calling him a father and a
mentor, and has described Cuba as a "revolutionary democracy."

Chavez openly criticizes the United States for denouncing human
rights abuses in Cuba. He is also a frequent critic of the US
embargo on Cuba. In 2009, during the Summit of the Americas,
Chavez refused to sign a final document that did not address Cuba's
exclusion from multilateral organizations in the Western
Hemisphere. In multilateral fora, the GBRV consistently votes with
Cuba and against the United States.

In 2008, the Venezuelan National Assembly passed resolutions
condemning the US embargo on Cuba and calling for the release five
Cuban spies jailed in the United States. On November 15, 2009,
President Chavez held a ceremony with family members of the "Cuban
Five" and decorated them as heroes who are "unfairly detained" by
the US.

4. (C) Have there been any high-level diplomatic visits
between Cuba and the host country in the past six months?



High-level diplomatic visits between Cuban Officials and the GBRV
are common. President Chavez has visited Cuba at least three times
in 2009. On August 14, 2009, President Chavez travelled to Cuba to
visit Fidel Castro on his 83rd birthday. In April 2009, President
Chavez, accompanied by Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and Energy
and Petroleum Minister Rafael Ramirez, travelled to Havana to
prepare for a summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples
of Our Americas (ALBA). President Chavez and Energy Minister
Ramirez also visited Cuba in February 2009. The GBRV has stated

that President Chavez plans to attend the next ALBA summit in
Havana in December 2009.



At the ministerial level, in May 2009, Tourism Minister Pedro
Morejon attended the International Tourism Fair (FITCUBA) in
Havana. In April 2009, Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez spoke at the
final plenary session of the Non-Aligned Movement Coordination
Bureau, and in February 2009, Rodriguez spoke at the commemoration
of the 10th anniversary of the Bolivarian Revolution.



Cuban officials also visit Venezuela frequently. In April 2009,


Cuban President Raul Castro, Vice President Ricardo Cabrisas,
Culture Minister Abel Prieto, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez,
Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca and
Francisco Soberon, President of the Cuban Central Bank, attended
the seventh ALBA summit in Venezuela.



On November 15, 2009, Ricardo Alarcon, President of Cuba's National
Assembly, participated in a ceremony in Caracas to decorate the
"Cuban Five." On October 23, 2009, Cuban Vice Minister for Health
Joaquin Garcias joined a celebration of the Miracle Mission's one
millionth eye operation. On October 14, 2009, Cuban Vice Public
Health Minister Marcia Cobas attended the inauguration of a
National Medical Genetic Center in Guarenas, Miranda state.



In addition to the highly-publicized visits documented above, Post
believes that contact between the two governments is regularized,
and that Venezuelan and Cuban officials frequently hold other
unpublicized meetings.



5. (C) What is the nature of investments (and names, if
known) that host country businesses have in Cuba?



The Venezuelan government has made substantial investments in Cuba,
particularly in the petroleum sector.



As reported in Ref B, PDVSA and the state-owned Venezuela
Industrial Bank have offices in Havana. In December 2007,
President Chavez personally inaugurated the Cienfuegos oil refinery
after PDVSA entered into a joint venture with the Cuban Petroleum
Company (CUPET) to operate the refinery; the anticipated production
is 65,000 barrels of petroleum products per day.



In July 2008, the GBRV agreed to build additional oil refineries in
Cuba, and in September 2008, the Cuban government announced that
Venezuela would provide financial support to repair an oil pipeline
connecting the city of Matanzas with the Cienfuegos refinery. In
December 2007, PDVSA built 100 homes for the elderly and disabled
near the Cienfuegos refinery through the Petrocasa program. PDVSA
and CUPET have agreed to conduct joint petroleum exploration
studies in the Gulf of Mexico and other areas in Cuban territory.



In April of 2006, PDVSA and the Cuban company Internacional
Maritima S.A. signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to create
TransALBA, a jointly owned petroleum transportation company. In
2009, TransALBA acquired two 72,700 ton tankers to transport crude
oil from Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela to the Cienfuegos refinery in
Cuba. TransALBA is considering the purchase of a third tanker that
can access shallow Central American ports. Also in 2006, the
Venezuelan Ministry of Infrastructure and the Cuban Ministry of
Transportation formed Astilleros de Maracaibo y el Caribe
(ASTIMARCA) in a joint venture to repair PDVSA oil tankers.



On July 29, 2009, the GBRV published a decree in the Official
Gazette creating Puertos del Alba, a state-owned company charged
with "modernizing, renovating, equipping, and constructing" ports
in Venezuela and Cuba (Ref C). Cuba's Grupo Empresarial de La
Industria Portuaria (ASPORT) has a 49 percent share in Puertos del
Alba and will allegedly act as the company's business development
arm (Ref D).



In June 2008, the Greater Caribbean Telecommunications Company, a


joint venture between Cuba's Telecommunications Signal
Transportation Company and Venezuela's Telecom, outlined progress
made on a project to connect Cuba and Venezuela via fiber optic
cable on the ocean floor. The Greater Caribbean Telecommunications
Company originally planned to lay the first cable by the end of
2009. On November 3, 2009, the Cuban News Agency reported that the
installation of the cable is now scheduled for 2010, with
operations beginning in 2011.



In July 2008, the GBRV announced the formation of Aceros del ALBA,
a steel company jointly owned by Venezuela (49 percent) and Cuba's
Acinox S.A (51 percent). The company, located in Venezuela's
Monagas state, was expected to produce 500,000 tons of steel a
year.



In addition to the agreements listed above, the GBRV and the Cuban
government have entered into MOUs to study the feasibility of joint
ventures in tourism, music production, film works and agriculture.
While Venezuelan private sector companies also operate in Cuba,
Post does not have a full listing of these companies or details of
their operations.



6. (C) Are there any bilateral trade agreements or other
cooperative agreements between the host country and Cuba?



Cuba and Venezuela signed an Integrated Cooperation Agreement (ICA)
in October 2000. Under this agreement, Venezuela promised to
supply 53,000 barrels per day (b/d) of crude oil and petroleum
products to Cuba in exchange for medical and other assistance; this
commitment was subsequently increased to 92,000 b/d. Although Cuba
is also a member of Petrocaribe, a multilateral agreement in which
member countries buy Venezuelan oil and refined products at
preferential rates, it receives oil through the ICA. According to
PDVSA's statistics, Cuba received an average of 93,300 barrels of
Venezuelan oil per day in 2008.



In exchange for heavily subsidized oil, Cuba provides medical
assistance and supports a variety of social programs in Venezuela.
In 2009, under the ICA, Venezuela and Cuba completed approximately
680 projects in the areas of health, sports culture, education,
energy, science, technology, and medicine. According to one
Embassy contact, Venezuela spent an estimated USD 5.6 billion on
Cuban medical training, vaccines, and equipment in 2008, although
the lack of transparency makes it difficult to estimate the value
of these services with accuracy.



In December 2008, during the ninth annual meeting of Cuba-Venezuela
Mixed Commission, Petroleum and Energy Minister Ramirez said that
the two countries had completed 72 projects at a cost of USD 1.35
billion. In the eighth meeting of the Cuban-Venezuelan Mixed
Commission, representatives signed agreements for 76 projects,
primarily in the area of food and agricultural industry.
Agreements were also signed for communications, sports, health,
education and transportation projects, but neither government
revealed any details about the projects. According to a PDVSA
press release in January 2008, the 76 projects required an
investment of USD 1.3 billion.



Between January and November 2007, Venezuela and Cuba signed over
42 bilateral commercial agreements. Post estimates these promises
of joint cooperation are worth an estimated USD 5.72 billion (Ref
E).


7. (C) Are there any exchange programs between the host
country and Cuba, including, but not limited to: scholarships for
host country nationals to study in Cuba; Cuban-paid medical travel
for host country nationals; and Cuban doctors working in the host
country?

In October 2009, President Chavez announced that Cuba would send an
additional 1,111 doctors to revitalize Barrio Adentro, Venezuela's
flagship medical services program for the poor (Ref F). Besides
Barrio Adentro, Cuban doctors are involved in several other medical
and social programs in Venezuela, including Mission Milagro (to
provide eye surgery for the poor) and Deportes Barrio Adentro (to
support sports in poor neighborhoods). According to one Embassy
contact, there are currently 30,000 Cuban medical professionals in
Venezuela. (Note: This estimate is unverifiable. End Note.)

In December 2008, during the ninth meeting of the Cuban-Venezuela
Mixed Commission, Energy and Petroleum Minister Rafael Ramirez said
that there were 1,400 Cuban agricultural technicians working in
every state in Venezuela, 6,000 Cuban sports trainers assisting
athletes in 335 municipalities, and more than 4,000 Venezuelan
professionals enrolled in 49 different postgraduate programs in
Cuba, including an undetermined number of Venezuelan students
studying medicine.
DUDDY