Viewing cable 07STATE154674
Title: DEMARCHE ON DEMOCRACY IN VENEZUELA

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
07STATE1546742007-11-09 16:02:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Secretary of State
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 STATE 154674 
 
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/01/2017 
TAGS: PGOV VE PHUM WHA EU
SUBJECT: DEMARCHE ON DEMOCRACY IN VENEZUELA 
 
REF: A. STATE 133106 
     ¶B. CARACAS 00002124 001.2 OF 002 
     ¶C. CARACAS 01483 
 
Classified By:  WHA A/S Thomas A Shannon for Reason 1.4(d) 
 
¶1. (C) Summary.  Department requests action addressees 
demarche host governments, at the highest appropriate level, 
to:  1) share our concerns about the anti-democratic changes 
in the proposed constitutional reform package; 2) highlight 
growing dissension within Venezuela and the increasingly 
repressive methods employed by the GoV; and 3) request that 
host governments join the voices of international concern 
regarding GoV lack of adherence to its commitments under the 
Inter-American Democratic Charter. Department also requests 
updates on any discussions on the constitutional reform issue 
as requested in reftel (State 133106).  End summary. 
 
¶2. (C) Amidst growing calls within and outside the government 
to modify or postpone the vote on the massive constitutional 
changes proposed by President Chavez, the Venezuelan National 
Assembly, comprised entirely of Chavez supporters, on 
November 2 approved the package.  The first group of changes 
would give the executive unprecedented powers (see reftel), 
including the ability for the president to run indefinitely. 
A second set of changes includes proposals to eliminate 
certain due process rights and freedom of information and 
expression during vaguely defined states of emergency or 
"special circumstances."  Within Venezuela, there is growing 
dissent, even among Chavez supporters, notably the small 
chavista party "Podemos" (We Can), whose National Assembly 
deputies chose to abstain rather than vote for the reforms. 
A large and energized student movement, launched during the 
government's crackdown on media freedom earlier this year, 
has mobilized protests across the country.  The Venezuelan 
Episcopal Conference has come out against the changes, and, 
together with the opposition and civil society, is appealing 
to Venezuelans to oppose this effort to restrict their 
freedoms.  Outside Venezuela, Human Rights Watch, Reporters 
without Borders, and the Inter-American Press Association all 
have expressed concern about the latest changes.  Barring 
unforeseen events, the package will be put to a vote in a 
referendum planned for December 2. 
 
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OBJECTIVES 
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¶3. (C) Action Request.  Department requests that posts 
approach our hemispheric and European partners, at the 
highest appropriate, level to: 1) share our concerns about 
the anti-democratic changes in the proposed constitutional 
reform package; 2) highlight growing dissension within 
Venezuela and the increasingly repressive methods employed by 
the GoV; and 3) request that host governments join the voices 
of international concern regarding GoV efforts to undermine 
democracy -- in disregard of its commitments under the 
Inter-American Democratic Charter. 
 
----------------------------- 
BACKGROUND AND TALKING POINTS 
----------------------------- 
 
¶4. (SBU) The following information is provided to action 
officers as background; while action officers may draw on it 
as necessary, they should NOT leave the points behind. 
 
-- As evidenced by the adoption of the Inter-American 
Democratic Charter on September 11, 2001, the Western 
Hemisphere has made tremendous progress in the areas of 
democracy and human rights. 
 
-- The constitutional changes proposed by the Chavez 
government constitute a huge step back for Venezuelan 
democracy and run counter to positive trends in the 
hemisphere. 
 
-- Key elements of the reforms undermine fundamental rights. 
 
STATE 00154674  002 OF 003 
 
 
They would give the executive unchecked emergency powers; 
expand the state's ability to seize private property; mandate 
that workers receive ideological instruction in their free 
time; 
limit if not eliminate foreign donor funding of NGOs and 
civil society; enhance control of the media; and make it the 
military's mission to fight the "empire." 
 
-- One of the most worrisome changes would eliminate certain 
due process rights and freedom of expression and information 
during vaguely defined states of emergency or "special 
circumstances."  The government would be able to detain and 
hold citizens without charging them and shutdown independent 
TV and radio broadcasts.  Human Rights Watch, Reporters 
without Borders, and the Inter-American 
Press Association all have condemned these proposed measures. 
 
-- Other proposed reforms would further undermine the 
separations of powers; abolish presidential 
term limits; eliminate the autonomy of the central bank and 
allow the executive to manage state finances; 
allow the executive to create regional vice-presidents and 
"community councils," whose authority will supersede that of 
elected governors and mayors; and transfer sovereignty from 
the electorate to hand-picked community councils consolidated 
within a new branch of government under executive control. 
 
-- Within Venezuela, there is growing dissent, even among 
Chavez supporters, notably the small chavista party "Podemos" 
(We Can), whose National Assembly deputies abstained rather 
than vote for the reforms.   The student movement is 
re-energized and mobilizing protests across the country. The 
opposition, civil society, and the Venezuelan Episcopal 
Conference are appealing to Venezuelans to oppose this effort 
to restrict their freedoms. 
 
-- The GoV response, aimed at silencing critical voices, is 
increasingly harsh. GoV supporters have disrupted student 
marches to provoke confrontations and violence. Two students 
were killed in the Western state of Zulia in a drive-by 
shooting perpetrated by Chavez supporters.  The electoral 
authority has barred certain informational and 
anti-constitutional reform spots from airing on TV.  In late 
October, security forces raided a printing press, which was 
developing informational materials for opposition parties. 
On November 4, President Chavez publicly instructed security 
forces, cabinet ministers, and local mayors to thwart the 
student protests.  President Chavez has repeatedly lashed out 
against Catholic Church leaders. 
 
-- Article 3 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter sets 
forth the "essential elements of representative democracy": 
"respect for human rights and 
fundamental freedoms, access to and the exercise of power in 
accordance with the rule of law, the holding of periodic free 
and fair elections... the pluralistic system of political 
parties and organizations, and the separation of powers and 
independence of the branches of government." 
 
-- Venezuela must be reminded of its commitments under the 
Democratic Charter and other international instruments. 
Secretary Rice has noted repeatedly that democracy is not 
 
SIPDIS 
just about free and fair elections, though that is a 
necessary condition. Democratically elected governments must 
govern democratically. 
 
-- Recently, Canada and El Salvador joined the United States 
in expressing concern and underlining the importance of these 
commitments at a September 6 OAS Permanent Council meeting. 
 
-- Due to concerns about the steady deterioration of 
democracy, threats to civil liberties, and the proposed 
changes to the 
constitution, Venezuela has been excluded from the Community 
of Democracies Ministerial, which will be 
held in Mali later this month.  The only other country in the 
hemisphere left out was Cuba. 
 
-- Amending a nation's constitution is a solemn exercise. GoV 
control of the electoral authority, vast resources, and 
intimidation tactics raise serious concerns about the 
 
STATE 00154674  003 OF 003 
 
 
fairness of any future referendum on the reforms.  Venezuelan 
citizens should be able to participate in a free and 
transparent process and to express their views on the merits 
of the proposal without fear of retribution. 
 
 
Of note to posts on NGO funding and media freedom: 
 
--  One of the less known amendments would prohibit certain 
NGOs and civil society groups from receiving foreign donor 
support. This amendment to Article 67 would "prohibit 
financing for associations with political purposes or which 
participate in electoral processes." The language, clearly 
aimed at groups such as the electoral and civic watch-dog NGO 
Sumate, is ambiguous enough to allow for a broader 
application. 
 
--  Another change to that same article would limit the "use 
of public spaces and access to media in electoral campaigns." 
 
¶5. (SBU) The following points are for Embassy Madrid, Paris, 
and Vatican respectively. 
 
-- For Madrid: Secretary Jimenez's meetings with opposition 
leaders, civil society, and members of the dissident Podemos 
party during her October 31 visit sent an important signal. 
We encourage Spain to express concern about the rapid 
deterioration of democracy and to continue to support civil 
society. 
 
-- For Paris: We encourage President Sarkozy to take 
advantage of Chavez's upcoming visit to impress upon him 
Venezuela's democratic obligations and to voice concern about 
the substance of the reforms. 
 
-- For Vatican: On October 17, the Venezuelan Episcopal 
Conference (CEV) issued a strongly worded statement raising 
its concerns about the threat to fundamental freedoms. We 
understand members of the CEV will travel to Rome to meet 
with the Pope the week 
of November 5.  We encourage the Vatican to urge other 
Episcopal conferences to speak out in support of the CEV. 
 
¶6. (U) Department appreciates prompt delivery and reporting 
of demarche response. Department requests that all posts use 
the SIPDIS caption in their response. Please direct any 
questions to Lourdes Cue at 202-647-4984 or via email at 
Cuelc@state.sgov.gov 
RICE