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Viewing cable 05CARACAS90, ARCHBISHOP URGES MORE USG CRITICISM OF CHAVEZ

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05CARACAS90 2005-01-12 15:03 2010-12-10 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Caracas
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 000090

SIPDIS

NSC FOR TSHANNON AND CBARTON
HQ USSOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/04/2015
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM KIRF VE
SUBJECT: ARCHBISHOP URGES MORE USG CRITICISM OF CHAVEZ

Classified By: Mark Wells, Acting Political Counselor,
for Reasons 1.4(b).

-------
Summary
-------

1. (C) Venezuelan Archbishop Baltazar Porras, head of the
council of Catholic bishops of Venezuela, told Ambassador
January 6 the USG ought to be more outspoken in its criticism
of Hugo Chavez. Porras urged more international community
involvement to contain Chavez's regional aspirations, though
he admitted that political will to do so is minimal. He
asserted that Chavez will continue to dismantle democratic
civil society such as organized labor, the business sector,
and the church. The Archbishop lamented the GOV's subtle
campaign to sideline the church from its traditional work in
poor neighborhoods, the educational system, and the military.
End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- -----
Senior Church Leader Urges Engagement, Containment
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (C) At the invitation of the Papal Nuncio, the Ambassador
attended a lunch on January 6 with Baltazar Porras,
Archbishop of Merida and head of the Venezuela Council of
Bishops (CEV). Porras, one of President Hugo Chavez's
strongest public critics, told the Ambassador that there is
widespread perception among the opposition that the USG
softened its message against Chavez after the August 2004
referendum because of energy interests. Porras suggested
that the USG be more clear and public in its criticism of the
Chavez administration.

3. (C) Porras said the international community also needs to
work and speak out more to contain Chavez and the export of
his revolution. Porras said most regional governments have
deferred to Brazilian President Ignacio "Lula" da Silva to
handle Chavez because the two share leftist ideologies. Lula
has been unwilling to engage, however, which has stymied
regional efforts to contain Chavez, the Archbishop asserted.
Porras said the Europeans have been just as weak on Chavez,
especially since the departure of Spanish President Jose
Maria Aznar. The Archbishop said that both Latin America and
Europe need strong leadership from the USG.

-------------------------
Fighting Chavez Long Term
-------------------------

4. (C) Porras described Chavez as a "long-term problem." He
said Chavez will continue to dismantle civil society groups
necessary to foster democratic rule: organized labor, the
independent press, the business community, and the church.
The Archbishop cited as an example the GOV efforts to
penetrate the Catholic school system in Merida. GOV
officials insisted that the Catholics accept "community
representatives" on their school boards, and once accepted
these individuals began to push revolutionary "reforms."
Porras also noted reduced contacts with the military, which
had traditionally invited him to change of command ceremonies
but had not done so in more than three years.

5. (C) Porras offered to facilitate any USG efforts at the
community level to demonstrate that non-GOV entities -- the
church, the private sector, etc. -- can have a positive
impact on Venezuela's poor. He welcomed USG visits to church
social programs in poor neighborhoods. Porras warned that
the longer the USG waits, the more successful GOV will be at
undermining traditional democratic organizations. He
acknowledged an inherent conflict in his own analysis:
Chavez is a long-term problem but the longer it takes to
address, the stronger he becomes.

-------
Comment
-------

6. (C) Porras and the rest of the Catholic leadership have
kept low profiles since the referendum, the results of which
they grudgingly accepted. Chavez has targeted the church,
especially its leadership, which he sees as an ally of the
previous political regime. Chavez has a long-running
conflict as well with Porras, who was among the first to
accuse Chavez of authoritarian tendencies. Rivalries aside,
Porras is in touch with current domestic and international
thought on Venezuela. The Catholic social projects Porras
seeks to promote, while not on the scale of the GOV's
"missions," do have a history of solidarity with Venezuela's
poor that is not so easily undone, despite Chavez's efforts.

Brownfield
HAVEZ...