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09CARACAS283 2009-03-05 18:34:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Caracas
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1. (C) SUMMARY: One of President Chavez' July 2008 decrees
mandated the reorganization of Venezuela's animal and plant
health authority, SASA, into a new organization called INSAI
(the National Institute for Agricultural Health). This has
now taken operational effect with the first action, for
bureaucratic reasons, being to fire all of SASA's
approximately 2,000 staff members nationwide. Trade in
agricultural products, including from the United States,
could be at least diminished, and disease risk for the
domestic agricultural sector increased. New initiatives to
open trade are expected to go into dormancy. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) According to Dr. Franz Rivas (protect), a
veterinarian, consultant to leading livestock companies, and
former SASA Director, the changeover from SASA to INSAI has
been "a mess" and has halted the organization's operations;
even the entity's Caracas headquarters are essentially
vacant. COMMENT: This will have a negative impact on
Venezuela's ability to control disease in domestic
agriculture and imported products. New trade initiatives,
including the development of protocols with the United
States, are also going to be delayed at best. END COMMENT.

3. (C) The Embassy's APHIS Scientist received similar
information from his SASA contacts, noting that INSAI does
not have a budget, and thus cannot legally maintain staff.
According to contacts, it will take about two months for
funds to become available. To obtain a position in the new
INSAI, staff will likely need to work without pay for that
time, though future employment is not guaranteed. Further,
all open positions will require an interview and testing
before hiring. COMMENT: We do not know what type of
interview or test will be required, but given the increased
politicization of SASA over the last two years, we believe
that some expression of loyalty to the Bolivarian revolution
will be required. END COMMENT.

4. (C) COMMENT: It has been difficult to move forward on
protocols and other initiatives, though we have been able to
cooperate on technical issues such as disease prevention and
had noted some increased interest in developing science-based
trade agreements, as some BRV officials began to realize how
trade can help to build the domestic agricultural sector. A
lack of staff will delay our ability to move forward on
improving trade between our countries, and expected increased
revolutionary fervor in the new INSAI could very well harden
its position against cooperating with the United States.