samedi 11 décembre 2010

Câble sur la situation politique au Venezuela

L'ambassade américaine à Caracas considère le Venezuela comme un danger pour l'Amérique Latine.

Retrouverez l'intégralité du câble diplomatique ci-dessous.

Date:2009-06-16 13:23:00
Source:Embassy Caracas
DE RUEHCV #0750/01 1671323
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 CARACAS 000750 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/11/2019 


1. This message is the end of tour analysis of the political 
situation in Venezuela by Embassy Deputy Political Counselor 
Dan Lawton. 

2. (C) Summary. Despite President Chavez's professed 
allegiance to socialism, his political project lacks any 
consistent ideology. Instead, the Venezuelan president 
exercises an increasingly authoritarian playbook that ensures 
his unquestioned, indefinite leadership and concentrates more 
and more power in his hands. The Government of the 
Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (GBRV) aggressively defends 
its democratic legitimacy at the same time that it targets 
key opposition leaders, polarizes society along political and 
class lines, and hypes the existence of external and internal 
enemies to justify repressive measures. Chavez's preference 
for loyalty over competence, creation of parallel Bolivarian 
institutions, efforts to forge a one-party state, and 
chest-thumping nationalism also smack of creeping 
totalitarianism. Overall, Chavismo poses a serious threat to 
democracy not just in Venezuela but throughout the region, 
and it directly competes against U.S. influence in Latin 
America. Moreover, it is becoming ever more difficult to 
begin any dialogue with a GBRV increasingly consumed by its 
own solipsistic "revolutionary" fervor and outsized ambition. 
End Summary. 

--------------------------------------------- ------ 
One - There Is Only One Great, Indispensable Leader 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 

3. (C) President Chavez has carefully cultivated his own 
personality cult, such that for most Venezuelan voters, 
President Chavez embodies Chavismo. Outsized billboards and 
posters of Chavez dominate public buildings as well as the 
rallies and campaigns of his United Socialist Party of 
Venezuela (PSUV). Venezuelans can buy a wide range of Chavez 
paraphernalia from Chavez action figures to Chavez watches to 
a compact disc of Chavez singing Venezuelan folk songs. He 
dominates all state media, which also broadcast his Sunday 
"Alo, Presidente" talk show. Chavez regularly requires all 
local television and radio networks to carry his speeches 
("cadenas"); he has wracked up over 1200 such hours (50 days) 
on the air. He has not groomed any successor and he 
frequently rebukes even his most trusted advisors publicly. 

4. (C) In pursuing the elimination of presidential term 
limits, Chavez declared publicly numerous times that he is 
indispensable to his Bolivarian Revolution. While voters 
rejected his constitutional reform package in December 2007, 
he succeeded in winning public approval of the elimination of 
term limits for all elected offices in the February 2009 
referendum. Chavez has repeatedly stated that he plans to 
govern at least until 2020. A corollary to the Venezuelan 
president's protagonism is that there can be no Chavismo 
without Chavez. No Chavez supporter who has broken with 
Chavez has prospered politically. The formerly pro-Chavez 
Podemos party is all but broken after opposing Chavez's 2007 
constitutional reform package. Former Defense Minister Raul 
Baduel also spoke against indefinite reelection; he is 
currently sitting in a Caracas military prison awaiting trial 
on corruption charges. 

Two - Centralize Power 

5. (C) Chavez's "Socialism of the 21st Century" exalts the 
government's active role in the economy and vilifies 
capitalism, but in the minds of most Venezuelans, it remains 
a vague notion of a state bearing benefits. The thread that 
most consistently ties together Chavez's political project is 
the increasing concentration of power in his hands. Chavez 
has firm control over all the other branches of government. 
The opposition foolishly boycotted National Assembly 
elections in 2005, and currently only approximately 15 former 
government supporters do not automatically support Chavez in 
the 167-seat unicameral legislature. With few exceptions, 
the judiciary rules in favor of the executive branch, even in 
civil cases bereft of political implications. 

6. (C) Chavez is also squeezing state and local governments 
from above and below. He recently promulgated a law that 
allows the central government to take state control over 
ports, airports, and highways. The central government has 
done just that in states run by opposition governors. 

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Moreover, Chavez created an appointed position to take over 
virtually all the functions and budget of the opposition 
mayor of Caracas. The National Assembly is considering 
creating presidentially appointed regional vice presidencies 
that would undermine elected governors. The Venezuelan 
president also created community councils nationwide which 
are registered by and report directly to the Office of the 
Presidency. Chavez diverted 30 percent of state and local 
discretionary development funds to these community councils. 

Three - Hype External and Internal "Enemies" 

7. (C) Chavez insists on depicting the United States (which 
he habitually refers to as "The Empire") as Venezuela's 
enemy. Although most Venezuelans are not anti-American, 
Chavez's radical foreign policy plays to his base of firm 
supporters and serves as a convenient rallying cry during 
Venezuela's frequent elections. Although he holds virtually 
absolute power in Venezuela, Chavez tries to reframe public 
perceptions by depicting himself as David fighting Goliath, 
usually the United States, but also occasionally Spain, 
Colombia, or Israel. Chavez and other senior GBRV leaders 
have tempered this script somewhat since the election of 
President Obama. They tend to praise the President and 
Secretary personally, while quickly adding that "imperial" 
political power continues to be exercised in the United 
States by big business, the military establishment, and the 

8. (C) Although domestic opposition to Chavez is weak and 
disunited, Chavez and senior GBRV officials regularly accuse 
it of plotting to overthrow or assassinate the Venezuelan 
president in coordination with the United States. The GBRV 
does not produce proof or in most cases actually pursue 
charges; such allegations conveniently serve to circle the 
wagons within Chavismo, to prevent across-the-aisle political 
dialogue, and to discredit the opposition. The GBRV 
regularly reminds voters that large sectors of the opposition 
participated in the short-lived 2002 coup to give greater 
credence to current "threats." Chavez also accuses the 
opposition of doing the USG's bidding, calling them 
"pitiyanquis." Moreover, government supporters regularly 
accuse opposition-oriented press outlets of "media 
terrorism," essentially building the case for continued 
government harassment of the vestiges of independent media. 

Four - Polarize 

9. (C) Railing against the "oligarchs," Chavez exploits class 
divisions in stratified Venezuela for political gain. By 
playing almost exclusively to the over 70% of Venezuelans who 
are poor, Chavez has maintained a reliable electoral majority 
(with the exception of the 2007 constitutional referendum 
vote when many Chavistas abstained). He is not only 
channeling government resources to the economically 
disadvantaged, but also prioritizing the GBRV's role in the 
economy at the expense of the private sector. Such policies 
squeeze the middle class and are feeding a growing brain 
drain of professionals, sectors of society traditionally 
associated with the opposition. They also increase citizens' 
economic dependence on the GBRV. 

10. (C) Politically, Chavez tolerates no middle ground. 
Although increasingly large numbers of voters consider 
themselves politically neutral, most Venezuelans still 
habitually self-identify themselves as either with "the 
process" or against. Moreover, the GBRV has a good idea 
where most voters stand. Those that signed the 2004 recall 
referendum soon found themselves on the infamous "Tascon 
List" by which the GBRV discriminated in terms of government 
jobs, contracts, and other benefits. In his speeches, Chavez 
frequently cites mentor Fidel Castro, bellowing in stark 
terms, "With the revolution, everything; outside, nothing." 
After its most recent registration drive, the PSUV claims 
over seven million members. Local analysts believe the PSUV 
party list is becoming the "reverse Tascon List" -- if your 
name is not on it, you cannot expect to get government 
services (at least not without paying intermediaries). 

Five - Insist on Democratic Credentials 

11. (C) Senior GBRV leaders insist that "participatory" 

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democracy is superior to "representative" democracy. They 
contend that real democracies give priority to "social 
rights" and argue that concepts such as checks and balances 
and institutional autonomy are discredited "bourgeois" 
concepts. Chavez also regularly stresses that he has held 
national elections almost yearly since he was first elected 
in 1998, blurring any distinction between being elected 
democratically and governing democratically. Anxious to 
preserve their democratic legitimacy at home and abroad, 
Chavez and senior GBRV officials lash out immediately and 
disproportionately to any criticism of GBRV abuses. They 
traditionally dismiss any criticism as interference in 
Venezuela's domestic affairs and insult or try to discredit 
any government or organization that faults the GBRV (without 
ever engaging on the substance of the critique). The GBRV 
forcibly expelled a Human Rights Watch leader and a member of 
the European Parliament when they publicly took issue with 
the GBRV's human rights record while in Caracas. 

Six - Reward Loyalty Over Competence 

12. (C) The single most important common characteristic of 
Chavez's ministers and other senior officials is their 
unquestioning loyalty to the Venezuelan president. He tends 
to rotate a small coterie of firm supporters through senior 
positions, simultaneously rewarding his inner circle while 
preventing them from accruing either real expertise or an 
independent power base. A substantial portion of Chavez's 
appointed officials participated in his failed 1992 military 
coup. Moreover, Chavez retains loyalists despite their poor 
administrative or electoral track records. He named 
Diosadado Cabello, who last year lost his re-election for the 
Miranda Governorship, to be Minister of Infrastructure and 
Telecommunications. Chavez appointed Jessie Chacon 
Information Minister after he lost the mayoral race in the 
Sucre borough of Caracas. By contrast, Chavez's PSUV 
temporarily expelled Henri Falcon, the then widely hailed 
competent mayor of Barquisimeto, only to quickly reinstate 
him after it became obvious that Falcon would win the 
governorship of Lara State in 2008 with or without the PSUV's 

Seven - Repress Selectively 

13. (C) The GBRV picks its political victims carefully, 
making examples of sector leaders. Such calibrated 
repression has so far avoided any significant public backlash 
while at the same time created a climate of fear in civil 
society and fostered self-censorship in the media. Examples 
abound. The GBRV recently pressed corruption charges against 
Maracaibo Mayor and 2006 consensus opposition presidential 
candidate Manuel Rosales; Rosales fled to Peru where he was 
granted asylum. The GBRV jailed Carlos Ortega, the leader of 
the largest opposition trade union confederation. He escaped 
from military prison in 2006 and was also granted asylum in 
Peru. The GBRV closed the only critical free-to-air 
television network in 2007 and is threatening to do the same 
to opposition-oriented cable news network Globovision. 
Prominent electoral NGO Sumate has been subject to numerous 
government investigations. Chavez and other senior GBRV 
officials have blasted prominent Catholic Church officials 
for defending democracy, and pro-Chavez thugs briefly 
occupied the Cardinal's residence in downtown Caracas. 

Eight - Create Parallel Structures 

14. (C) Over the last ten years, the GBRV and its supporters 
and allies have created new bodies and institutions in an 
effort to undermine and outflank organizations that it could 
neither control nor co-opt. Domestically, the GBRV and its 
adherents have spawned pro-government NGOs, business groups, 
labor unions, television and radio networks, and even a 
socialist spin-off of the Catholic Church. Chavez's social 
programs ("misiones") generally sidestep and starve long 
established government ministries of resources. 
Internationally, Chavez is endeavoring to establish 
multilateral organizations that both magnify Venezuela's 
influence and combat purported "U.S. imperialism." From the 
GBRV's perspective, ALBA, Petrocaribe, UNASUR, and the Bank 
of the South are tools with which to supplant or weaken the 
OAS, IMF, and the World Bank. 

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Nine - Party Equals State 

15. (C) Since creating the United Socialist Party of 
Venezuela (PSUV) in 2007, President Chavez has been trying to 
forge a one-party state. Chavez uses government resources, 
especially state media, and pressures the over two million 
government employees to support the Venezuelan president, 
PSUV candidates, and his referendum proposals during 
elections. The National Electoral Council (CNE) staffs PSUV 
registration drives. Chavez demanded that all pro-government 
parties join the PSUV, but three parties, the Communist Party 
(PCV), Patria Para Todos (PPT), and the Podemos party, 
declined. Podemos later joined the opposition in 2007. The 
PSUV declined to support any PPT or PCV gubernatorial and 
mayoral candidates in the 2008 state and local elections and 
neither party now exercises any meaningful local power. 
Moreover, the National Assembly is seriously considering an 
electoral law that would almost certainly expand the PSUV's 
absolute legislative majority and diminish the influence of 
the PPT and PCV after the 2010 parliamentary elections. 

Ten - Monopolize Nationalism 

16. (C) Calling himself the heir to Venezuelan founder Simon 
Bolivar, Chavez asserts exclusive claim to Venezuela's 
forefathers and national symbols. He regularly cites Bolivar 
and other national heroes out of context, insisting that they 
were early socialists. One of Chavez's stock stump speech 
messages is that his Bolivarian Revolution liberated 
Venezuela from being an American colony and will make 
Venezuela a world power in coming decades. In contrast, 
Chavez and his supporters depict the opposition as 
unpatriotic, stateless, or paid U.S. agents. Chavez's own 
exaggerated demonstrations of patriotism conveniently 
distract public attention from local problems or demonstrate 
incontrovertibly that he can do what he wants. In 2006, 
Chavez added a star to the Venezuelan flag and flipped the 
horse on the national seal to make it run left, not right. 
In 2007, he eliminated three zeros from the currency and 
changed its name from "bolivars" to "strong bolivars." He 
also added the prefix "People's Power" to all ministries and 
ordered all Venezuelan clocks changed by thirty minutes to 
create a unique Venezuelan time zone. In 2008, he suggested 
that he would exhume Bolivar's body to prove that he was 
poisoned (He has not done so yet). 


17. (C) The increasingly authoritarian nature of Chavismo, 
not to mention its habitual and politically convenient 
vilification of the United States, pose considerable 
challenges to any effort to improve bilateral ties. Chavez 
and other senior GBRV officials publicly express interest in 
greater dialogue with the USG, but the reality is that to 
date, the GBRV has been reluctant to create meaningful and 
easily accessible channels of communication, let alone engage 
substantively on issues that should be of common interest. 
The GBRV also makes it clear that it will not accept or look 
past any USG criticism, however well-founded or required by 
congressionally-mandated reports or testimony. Facing no 
checks on his power at home, Chavez craves international 
attention and influence abroad. Whether it is funneling arms 
and money to the FARC, sending suitcases of money to the 
Kirchner campaign in Argentina, or exporting elements of 
Chavismo to ALBA countries, to name just a few prominent 
examples, Chavez's outsized ambition backed by petrodollars 
makes Venezuela an active and intractable U.S. competitor in 
the region. 

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