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Viewing cable 06CARACAS219, CUBA/VENEZUELA AXIS OF MISCHIEF: THE VIEW FROM

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06CARACAS219 2006-01-30 19:07 2010-11-30 21:09 SECRET Embassy Caracas
VZCZCXRO6607
PP RUEHAO
DE RUEHCV #0219/01 0301912
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 301912Z JAN 06
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2920
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 5901
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 5109
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ PRIORITY 1580
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 9782
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 1652
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS PRIORITY 0351
RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON PRIORITY 1276
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0396
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID PRIORITY 3007
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0300
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 0532
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE PRIORITY 0769
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO PRIORITY 3525
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0525
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 0971
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO PRIORITY 3222
RUEHMU/AMEMBASSY MANAGUA PRIORITY 0914
RUEHAO/AMCONSUL CURACAO PRIORITY 0543
RUEHMI/USOFFICE FRC FT LAUDERDALE PRIORITY 2777
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA PRIORITY 0420
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 06 CARACAS 000219 

SIPDIS 

SECRET NOFORN 

SIPDIS 
SIPDIS 

HQSOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD 
FOR FRC LAMBERT 

E.O. 12958: DNG: CO 01/26/2021 
TAGS: PGOV PREL VE
SUBJECT: CUBA/VENEZUELA AXIS OF MISCHIEF: THE VIEW FROM 
CARACAS 

REF: A. A: HAVANA 00118 
B. B: HAVANA 00697 
C. C: TD-314/63777-05 LIMITED DISTRIBUTION 
D. D: IIR 6 902 9698 06 

Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR ROBERT R. DOWNES FOR 1.4 (D) 

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

1. (S//NF) As noted in REF A, the Venezuelan relationship 
with Cuba continues to intensify. Thousands of personnel 
sent by the Cuban Government are involved in the Venezuelan 
health sector and other BRV social missions. Cubans 
cooperate extensively with Venezuelan intelligence services. 
Cubans may also participate heavily in the BRV's efforts to 
naturalize foreigners and provide documentation for citizens, 
according to various reports from Embassy contacts. Cubans' 
roles in the military are less clear but probably are also 
less significant. 

2. (C) Venezuelans' views of individual Cubans are mixed. 
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez appears to be trying to 
promote the involvement of Cubans in Venezuelan society, 
although he has proceeded slowly and carefully. Anti-Chavez 
politicians have barked up the wrong tree by decrying Cuban 
communism and sovereignty violations, issues that simply do 
not resonate with poor Venezuelans. While the economic 
impact of Cubans working in Venezuela may be limited, Cuban 
intelligence has much to offer to Venezuela's anti-U.S. 
intelligence services. End Summary. 

---------------- 
How Many Cubans? 
---------------- 

3. (S) Although the numbers of Cubans sent by the GOC to 
work in Venezuela are significant, the exact figures are 
difficult to establish. Embassy officers have noted regular 
flights of Cubans--or Venezuelans returning from official 
visits to Cuba--at Caracas's Maiquetia airport. According to 
a DOD analysis of flight activity, an average of about 350 
people arrive on three to five commercial or military flights 
from Cuba to Venezuela per day. Most of these flights land 
at Maiquetia, but Barcelona and Maracaibo are also common 
destinations. Post cannot determine how many Cubans are on 
the flights or how many passengers stay in Venezuela 
permanently. Airport officials spirit passengers through the 
building without stopping in customs or immigration. ONIDEX, 
Venezuela's National Office of Identification and 
Immigration, reports that it naturalized only 12 Cubans out 
of a group of 22,664 persons naturalized in December 2005. 
Whether or not they enjoy Venezuelan citizenship, however, 
thousands of Cubans have Venezuelan documentation. In 
addition to the over 20,000 Cubans involved in the Venezuelan 
health sector (see below), less reliable reports indicate 
that thousands more are active in the Venezuelan interior. 
Manuel Rosales, the opposition Governor of Zulia State, told 
the DCM in October 2005 that 20,000 Cubans resided in Zulia 
alone. Former National Assembly deputy Pedro Pablo Alcantara 
(Accion Democratica) told us in October that Lara State had 
the most Cubans per capita in Venezuela. He claimed more 
flights from Havana arrived in Barquisimeto, Lara than in 

CARACAS 00000219 002 OF 006 


Caracas. Complicating the matter further are some 30,000 
Cuban exiles in Venezuela, the Cuban exile NGO Net for Cuba 
estimates. 

------ 
Health 
------ 

4. (C) The BRV created Mision Barrio Adentro (Inside the 
Neighborhood Mission) to provide basic health care for 
disadvantaged neighborhoods in December 2003, shortly after 
signing a bilateral agreement with Cuba to swap oil for 
medical services. As of mid-2005, about 21,000 Cuban 
physicians, nurses, and support staff along with some 6,000 
Venezuelan personnel staffed the mission, according to the 
Ministry of Communication. Mission clinics are small, 
two-story hexagonal structures that also house two to three 
doctors. The BRV provides the clinics' equipment and 
reduced-cost medicines. Through Barrio Adentro, the BRV 
identifies patients eligible for Mision Milagro (Miracle 
Mission), which flies Venezuelans to Havana for cataract 
surgery. Anecdotal reporting suggests the care Cuban doctors 
provide is often lacking and that many "physicians" are 
actually medical students. The BRV has recently begun Mision 
Barrio Adentro II, a network of more advanced diagnostic 
centers and inpatient clinics to be administered and staffed 
mostly by Venezuelans. 

5. (C) Notwithstanding the 90,000 to 100,000 barrels of oil 
Venezuela provides Cuba per day on barter terms, Cuban 
doctors earn relatively little. According to press reports, 
Cuban doctors receive salaries of up to USD 400 per month, a 
figure slightly lower than local averages. A Cuban physician 
told Post's medical advisor, however, that he received room, 
board, and toiletries but that the Cuban Government was 
"holding" his salary until he finished his two-year tour. 
Some Cuban doctors have "deserted" and fled. A European 
diplomat told polcouns in mid-January 2006 that the number of 
Cuban asylum requests received by EU missions in Venezuela 
had increased over the past few months. A local legislator 
with extensive contacts in poor neighborhoods told us in 
November 2005 that Cuban doctors complained bitterly that the 
Cuban regime held their families hostage while the doctors 
relied on local donations to survive. In contrast, according 
to REF B, the GOC receives from Venezuela between USD 1,000 
to 5,000 for each Mision Milagro cataract operation, which is 
comparable to the roughly USD 3,500 that a Venezuelan private 
clinic would charge for the procedure. 

------------ 
Intelligence 
------------ 

6. (S//NF) Sensitive reports indicate Cuban and Venezuelan 
intelligence ties are so advanced that the two countries' 
agencies appear to be competing with each other for the BRV's 
attention. Cuban intelligence officers have direct access to 
Chavez and frequently provide him with intelligence reporting 
unvetted by Venezuelan officers. Venezuela's Directorate of 
Intelligence and Prevention Services (DISIP), moreover, may 
be taking advice from Cuban intelligence on the formation of 
a new intelligence service (REF C). Cuban intelligence 
officers train Venezuelans both in Cuba and in Venezuela, 
providing both political indoctrination and operational 

CARACAS 00000219 003 OF 006 


instruction. They also may work in other Venezuelan 
government ministries, unconfirmed sensitive reporting 
suggests. 

-------- 
Military 
-------- 

7. (C) Post has received no credible reports of extensive 
Cuban involvement in the Venezuelan military, despite the 
Venezuelan Armed Forces' attempts to imitate Cuban military 
doctrine and uniforms. According to DAO reports, Cubans 
train and advise Chavez' military security detail. 
Anti-Chavez military officers have told us that Cubans hold 
liaison and personnel exchange positions within the 
Venezuelan military formerly held by European and other Latin 
American officers. Moreover, a few Venezuelan military 
officers--along with some from the Foreign Ministry--undergo 
ideological training in Cuba. Chavez has also sent a 
military team to Cuba construct a complex of 150 houses, 
according to press reports. 

-------------- 
Other Sectors? 
-------------- 

8. (S//NF) Cuban involvement in other agencies and missions 
is harder to confirm. Cubans have been heavily involved in 
ONIDEX, according to various unconfirmed sources. A local 
academic with a background in electoral systems told poloff 
that Venezuelans trained in Cuba helped expand the national 
electoral registry by over two million voters through Mision 
Identidad (Identity Mission) in 2003. He added that the 
Venezuelan process to receive an identity card was a carbon 
copy of the Cuban process. Anti-Chavez military officers 
told us in July 2005 that Cubans helped run ONIDEX and 
reported that an active duty army colonel was running an 
operation to print identity cards for Cubans. According to 
an Embassy employee with access to secure areas of Caracas' 
Maiquetia airport, Cubans hold supervisory positions at the 
airport's auxiliary terminal. Cubans also have established 
and continue to service the airport's biometrics equipment, 
according to sensitive reports. Some anecdotal sensitive 
reporting further suggests Cuban officials had a Venezuelan 
officer dismissed for resisting their attempts to take 
temporary operational control over a section of the airport 
during a visit of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. 

9. (C) Ruben Flores, the editor of a rancher newspaper, 
told poloff in early 2005 that Cuban involvement in the 
agricultural sector was second only to that in the health 
sector. Such a claim may be exaggerated, but Cubans are 
likely involved to a great extent. According to the 
Agricultural Attache, Cuban officials hold senior positions 
in the Ministry of Agriculture and also operate in the 
Venezuelan interior. Citing technical experts in the 
Ministry, Flores told us in January 2006 that Cuban officials 
were helping design Venezuela's "Planting Plan 2006," which 
would prescribe the crops to be sown in each region. Jaime 
Perez Branger, head of the company that owns cattle ranch and 
nature preserve Hato Pinero, told us in January that Cubans 
advised the BRV on agricultural productivity and on setting 
up cooperatives in such missions as Vuelvan Caras. (Vuelvan 
Caras, or "About Face," is a BRV program offering six months 

CARACAS 00000219 004 OF 006 


of job training, after which participants form cooperatives, 
often in the agricultural sector.) Venezuela, South 
America's only net importer of agricultural products, is also 
setting up Cuban sugar mills in Venezuela in the wake of 
Cuba's failing sugar industry. 

10. (C) Industry contacts have told the Agricultural 
Attache that Cubans helped design and manage Mision Mercal, 
the BRV's subsidized grocery program. An Arthur D. Little 
consultant told us in February 2005 that a Cuban vice 
minister of commerce works with Mercal full-time. Flores 
told poloff in January 2006 that ALIMPORT, Cuba's agency that 
handles all food imports, was advising the BRV on food 
distribution. Venezuela finances some of its own food 
imports through a Havana branch of the Industrial Bank of 
Venezuela, and Chavez' brother Adan Chavez, the Venezuelan 
Ambassador there, may profit illicitly from the loan process, 
according to DAO reporting (REF D). 

-------------------------- 
Venezuelan Views of Cubans 
-------------------------- 

11. (SBU) Cuban citizens' resentment of Venezuelans (REF A) 
is not completely mutual. Some Venezuelans, including many 
who experienced the infiltration of violent Cuban 
revolutionaries during the 1960s, do dislike Cubans. The 
average Venezuelan's view of Cubans, however, is more 
nuanced. Some poor Venezuelans admire Cubans involved in the 
missions for providing free services. Others, while 
disapproving of their political system, appreciate Cuban 
culture displayed by individual Cubans, especially those 
among the exile community. 

12. (SBU) Chavez appears to be trying to promote a friendly 
image of Cubans. Cubans have appeared increasingly on public 
television, including on Chavez' "Alo Presidente" show. 
Images of crossed Cuban and Venezuelan flags have also begun 
to appear in Caracas. The polling firm Datanalisis reports 
that Chavez' recent attempts to "sell" the Cuban political 
model may have increased Venezuelans' rejection of the Cuban 
regime from May 2005 (63 percent) to October 2005 (81 
percent). (Embassy note: Whether Chavez' promotion of Cuba 
is paying off or backfiring is unclear. Answers to 
Datanalisis' question, "what do you think of Venezuela taking 
the Cuban regime as a model," may reflect a growing sense of 
nationalism and uniqueness among Venezuelans--consistent with 
Chavez' calls for a "new socialism"--rather than a rejection 
of Cubans. Indeed, almost half of the Chavez supporters 
polled, who would seem least likely to oppose Cuba, responded 
negatively.) 

13. (SBU) Despite the increasing publicity, signs of 
Cuban-Venezuelan partnership in Caracas are not as ubiquitous 
as they apparently are in Havana, and Cubans generally keep a 
low profile. Chavez' sense of self-importance may partly 
explain why Cuba figures less prominently. The "Bolivarian 
Alternative for Latin America" is not a synonym for 
Cuban-Venezuelan cooperation in Venezuela because Chavez 
pitches it as a movement he has launched throughout the 
hemisphere. Chavez features call-ins from Castro during his 
public appearances, such as a mid-January 2006 sendoff for 
Venezuelans going to study medicine in Cuba. Nonetheless, 
Chavez does not part with the spotlight for long. His weekly 

CARACAS 00000219 005 OF 006 


"Alo Presidente" broadcasts routinely run longer than five 
hours. 

---------------------------- 
The Opposition Has Failed... 
---------------------------- 

14. (C) Some of Chavez' opponents appear to be trying to 
inflame a prejudice against Cubans that is uncommon among 
Venezuelans. They rant about "Cuban invaders" and 
"sovereignty violations" that resonate little with the 
Venezuelan poor. Opposition politicians also berate Chavez 
for attempting to introduce Cuban communism, although few 
Venezuelans believe he will do so. Former opposition 
National Assembly deputy Carlos Casanova (Socialdemocrata) 
told poloff the public's response to the opposition was "look 
around, this isn't communism, chico!" Still, over-the-top 
critiques can impede focused criticism. Asked how the 
opposition could exploit opposition to Chavez' oil "loans" to 
Cuba, Accion Democratica's former international relations 
secretary Alfredo Coronil replied to poloff that Cuba was 

SIPDIS 
planning to intervene in Africa after Venezuela, brushing 
aside poloff's remark that Cuba could hardly still afford 
adventurism on a Cold War scale. 

15. (C) The political opposition does little to exploit 
alleged medical malpractice in Mision Barrio Adentro or to 
report on returning Mision Milagro patients' impressions of 
Cuba. In fact, much of the opposition remains ignorant of 
how such missions work because it does not reach out to poor 
neighborhoods for the most part. One anti-Chavez retired 
military officer, however, told poloff in June 2005 that 
groups of Venezuelan doctors had begun treating people in 
poor areas with the support of certain pharmacies. The scope 
of the initiative is unclear. 

----------------------------------- 
...But Finally Getting the Picture? 
----------------------------------- 

16. (U) Primero Justicia (PJ) has been the only political 
party to criticize Chavez consistently for his handouts to 
other countries. Promising additional programs to 
redistribute oil wealth, PJ presidential candidate Julio 
Borges has asked the BRV to explain why ordinary Venezuelans 
are not receiving the money sent to Cuba, according to press 
reports. With the closure of the Caracas-La Guaira bridge, 
other elements of the opposition are also beginning to 
contrast BRV gifts abroad with problems at home. An internet 
blog site has displayed the amounts spent on foreign 
infrastructure next to photos of the crumbling bridge. 
During its assembly in mid-January 2006, the Venezuelan 
Episcopal Conference criticized grants and loans the BRV had 
awarded overseas. 

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

17. (C) The economic impact of Cubans in Venezuela is mixed 
but limited. (Venezuelan subsidies to Cuba, on the other 
hand, could eventually pose greater problems for the BRV 
(SEPTEL).) By helping the BRV pad its voter rolls and 
naturalize suspicious immigrants, Cubans are doing jobs that 

CARACAS 00000219 006 OF 006 


Venezuelan government personnel could and would do in their 
absence. Cuban doctors, however, are treating communities 
mostly unreached by Venezuelan health services. Venezuela 
continues to purchase costly conventional weapons systems 
despite the influence on paper of Cuba's "asymmetric" warfare 
doctrine. 

18. (S//NF) The impact of Cuban involvement in Venezuelan 
intelligence could impact U.S. interests directly. 
Venezuelan intelligence services are among the most hostile 
towards the United States in the hemisphere, but they lack 
the expertise that Cuban services can provide. Cuban 
intelligence routinely provides the BRV intelligence reports 
about the activities of the USG. Cuban dissemination of 
ideological propaganda in Venezuela is less of a threat. 
Chavez, the revolution's most effective proponent, still 
appears to be involving Cubans in public discourse and BRV 
projects with some discretion.