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Viewing cable 09CARACAS1417, CHARGING OPPOSITION LEADERS AS SPIES,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09CARACAS1417 2009-11-05 19:07 2010-11-30 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Caracas
VZCZCXRO0404
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHCV #1417/01 3091924
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051924Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3936
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CARACAS 001417

SIPDIS

HQSOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
DEPARTMENT PASS TO AID/OTI

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/04/2029
TAGS: PGOV KDEM VE
SUBJECT: CHARGING OPPOSITION LEADERS AS SPIES,
PARAMILITARIES, AND TAX EVADERS

REF: CARACAS 1389

CARACAS 00001417 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR ROBIN D. MEYER,
FOR REASON 1.4(D)

1. (C) Summary: Over the past week, President Chavez and
his supporters have stepped up attacks against two opposition
governors, Cesar Perez Vivas (Tachira) and Henrique Capriles
Radonski (Miranda). Chavez is blaming Perez Vivas for
several highly-publicized violent incidents along the
Colombian border (septel), alleging that he has ties to
Colombian paramilitary groups. The Comptroller General
agreed to investigate corruption charges against Capriles
brought by Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela
(PSUV), which could result in a 15-year disqualification from
public office. PSUV youth members and National Assembly (AN)
Deputies have called for investigations of a number of other
opposition figures on allegations of corruption and
espionage. These attacks are akin to the smear campaign
Chavez waged before the past two elections to discredit or
disqualify particularly popular or vocal opposition figures.
End Summary.

---------------------------------------------
CHAVEZ ALLEGES PEREZ VIVAS' PARAMILITARY TIES
---------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) On November 3, Chavez publicly linked Tachira
Governor Cesar Perez Vivas with violence along the border
with Colombia, alleging that paramilitaries tied to the
Governor had been responsible for the November 2 killing of
two members of the Venezuelan National Guard. Chavez
announced that Perez Vivas "is committed to the paramilitary
plan and we cannot permit it... heed the consequences. There
was one person who went running for Peru, (Perez Vivas) is
going to have to do the same." (Notes: Since Perez Vivas'
election in 2008, Chavez has repeatedly claimed he was linked
to the Colombian paramilitaries. Manuel Rosales, former
Maracaibo Mayor and 2006 Presidential candidate, sought
political asylum in Lima in April 2009 after being charged
with corruption. End Notes.) Chavez also suggested that the
opposition Mayor of Tachira's capital city, San Cristobal,
Monica de Mendez, should respond before a tribunal, just like
the Governor." In a press conference in San Cristobal the
same day, Vice President and Minister of Defense Ramon
Carrizalez echoed Chavez's comments and said the Governor has
"one foot in jail" and pledged he would fight against Perez
Vivas' "dirty war."

3. (SBU) Perez Vivas responded November 4 that the charges
were part of a "file" the GBRV had fabricated, with the
assistance of Cuban intelligence services, to discredit him.
He asserted to the local press that the central government
was blaming paramilitary groups for the recent deaths in
Tachira to "protect Colombian guerrillas" that had taken
refuge in the area. He added that Chavez was trying to
remove him from power, asserting that the GBRV "doesn't have
a way to eliminate me ... so they are in their laboratories
looking for what they can fabricate to blame me."

--------------------------------------------- -----------
National Assembly Investigates the Opposition as "Spies"
--------------------------------------------- -----------

4. (SBU) On November 3, the AN approved a proposal
submitted by AN Vice President Saul Ortega to investigate
travel to Colombia by key opposition leaders, alleging that
they have been involved in espionage against Venezuela. The
named individuals are: Miranda State Governor Henrique
Capriles Radonski, Tachira State Governor Cesar Perez Vivas,
former Ambassador Milos Alcalay, former Chacao Mayor Leopoldo
Lopez, Mayor of Greater Caracas Antonio Ledezma, former
student leader Yon Goicochea, and exiled opposition leader
Manuel Rosales. Ortega asserted that the opposition's "unity
table" had been in Colombia in the past few months and days
and that the former head of Colombia's Administrative
Department of Security (DAS) had said they were plotting
against the Venezuelan government.

--------------------------------------------- ----------
Comptroller Pursues Corruption Charges against Capriles
--------------------------------------------- ----------

5. (SBU) On October 27, the General Comptroller
("Contraloria General") accepted corruption charges brought
against Miranda State Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski.

CARACAS 00001417 002.2 OF 002


The charges were levied on August 26 by the PSUV based on
Capriles' tenure as Mayor of Baruta municipality (part of
greater Caracas) between 2000-2008. The PSUV alleged
"financial irregularities" involving several companies owned
by Capriles and his family, including purported tax evasion
related to the sale of two plots of land valued at USD 1.8
million. PSUV representatives claimed October 27 that
Capriles would have to present himself before the
Comptroller's Office the following week. (Note: These
"administrative" charges are distinct from the legal case
brought against Capriles for his alleged involvement in
violence outside the Cuban Embassy during the 2002 coup
against Chavez. Although the latter case could be reopened,
post is not aware that any legal steps have been taken to do
so. End Note.)

6. (C) Lawyer Rafael Chavero told Poloff on November 2 that
the next step would be for the Comptroller to begin an
administrative investigation into the case against Capriles,
which could result in a determination of an "administrative
irregularity." He said that if Capriles was found
responsible, the Comptroller General could "disqualify"
("inhabilitar") Capriles for up to 15 years without the need
for any court decision. He noted that this power has been
used extensively by the GBRV in the past -- most famously to
disqualify over 200 candidates in advance of the 2008
municipal and gubernatorial elections -- and called it a
"fundamental tool used (by the GBRV) to remove political
adversaries from the game."

------------------------------------------
...AND POSSIBLY AGAINST LEDEZMA AND GARCIA
------------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Several youth members of the PSUV urged the
Comptroller's Office on October 30 to open an investigation
into Mayor of Greater Caracas Antonio Ledezma's trip to
Brazil. According to the state-owned media, the trip cost
USD 20,000. The PSUV representatives asserted that an
investigation was necessary "to explain to the country where
these resources were taken from, in order (for Ledezma) to
carry out political tourism... throughout Latin America and
Europe." Ledezma has claimed the funding for his mid-October
trip to Brazil, Spain, and France came from private sources
(reftel).

8. (SBU) PSUV officials claimed October 27 to also have
corruption evidence against opposition political party
"Podemos" founder and AN Deputy Ismael Garcia. Although
Garcia enjoys immunity from prosecution as an AN Deputy, that
immunity could be lifted through a vote in the AN.

-------
COMMENT
-------

9. (C) Of all the charges, those against Perez Vivas appear
to be the most threatening, given the increased tensions with
Colombia and Chavez's pledge that the Governor could be
forced into exile. The charges against Capriles, one of the
opposition's most popular figures, smack of political revenge
due to Capriles' long-running rivalry with his predecessor
and Chavez ally Diosdado Cabello and his repeated calls for a
corruption investigation into Cabello's gubernatorial
administration. Disqualifying Capriles from running for
public office in the foreseeable future could both derail his
political career and intimidate other opposition officials.
CAULFIELD