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10CARACAS49 2010-01-19 23:03:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Caracas
Cable title:  

EU-Venezuela Counternarcotics Agreement: More Optics Than

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1. Summary. The 3.3 million euro EU-Venezuela
counternarcotics cooperation agreement, signed on December 29, was
largely a political gesture toward the European Union, according to
the EU's cooperation director Marc Fiedrich. Because the agreement
was pending signature for a year, it will need to be updated
significantly to account for changes on the ground during that
period. Fiedrich expects implementation of the agreement by the
Venezuelan Anti-Drug Office (ONA) to be very slow. With regard to
the Venezuelan draft law on international cooperation (the "NGO
law"), Fiedrich assessed that the goal of self-censorship by NGOs
has already been achieved, even if the law is never enacted. End

A Political Gesture toward the Europeans

2. (C) On December 29, 2009, the European Union signed a
3-year, 3.3 million euro counternarcotics cooperation agreement
with the Venezuelan government (GBRV); the agreement requires a
GBRV counterpart contribution of 3 million euros. More than a
third of the funding is destined for equipment purchases,
specifically scanning equipment for the Caracas airport (Maiquetia)
and an incinerator. The rest is targeted at improving ONA's
database (Sinadro), a large-scale study on drug consumption, and a
"Venezuelan Observatory on Drugs" for reporting and drug prevention
efforts. The GBRV decided not to issue a press release on the
signing of this agreement.

3. (C) In a meeting with Polcouns on January 19, EU First
Secretary for Cooperation Marc Fiedrich said that the year-long
delay in the signing of the agreement was due to Venezuelan efforts
to negotiate standard EU agreement language on administrative
issues, including the arbitration process for disputes and the
termination process for agreements. He interpreted the GBRV's
decision to sign the agreement -- two days before the available
funds would have lapsed -- as a political gesture, since this was
the only cooperation agreement between the GBRV and the EU. He
discounted a GBRV interest in signing the agreement as a way of
demonstrating its international counternarcotics bona fides.

Outdated Agreement Needs Updating

4. (C) Because of the long lag time between the preparation
of the agreement and the signing, many elements of the agreement
were out-of-date, according to Fiedrich. For example, Fiedrich
said the agreement provided for three body scanners for the Caracas
international airport in Maiquetia, but he himself had seen body
scanners at the airport (although not in use). Similarly, while
the agreement included the purchase of an incinerator, he said the
press had reported that the GBRV already had one. (Note: ONA
inaugurated the first of ten incinerators in September 2009. End
Note.) Lastly, the agreement provided for a comprehensive drug
consumption study, but the GBRV had already conducted a study,
although he noted that it appeared to be a poorly prepared
assessment tool that relied solely on self-reporting of drug use.

5. (C) Fiedrich said ONA needed to update the agreement and
prepare a workplan, a process he feared would be prolonged,
especially since the ONA Director for International Relations,
Manuel Gonzalez, who is the point-of-contact for the agreement,
travels frequently. He also expected delays as different interests
in ONA vied to have their priorities reflected in the updated
agreement. He expressed concern that ONA's military orientation
did not lend itself to developing studies or demand reduction
programs. Fiedrich noted that the EU funds lapse after three years
if not committed.

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NGO Cooperation Law Already Achieving its Intended Effects

6. (C) Fiedrich noted that Roy Daza, the Chairman of the
National Assembly's Foreign Relations Commission, had listed the
"international cooperation law" ("the NGO law") as one of the
Commission's top priorities for this legislative year, although
Fiedrich recalled that Daza had said the same thing last year.
Fiedrich, who had been an important critic of the NGO law when it
was introduced last year, said the EU would certainly protest again
if the law were reintroduced. However, he thought the draft law
was already having its intended effect of causing Venezuelan NGOs
and foreign donors to "self-censor" the type of assistance programs
they participated in. Moreover, even if enacted, the law could not
be implemented in time to affect the September legislative
elections given the bureaucratic mechanisms that would need to be

New EU Ambassador

7. (C) The new EU Ambassador, Antonio Cardoso Mota
(Portugal), presented his credentials during the week of January

11. Cardoso previously served as the EU Ambassador in Peru.