Wikileaks Cables: US Embassy Helping Cubans Get to Miami from Venezuela

In cables written by the U.S embassy in Caracas and published recently by Wikileaks, the U.S government revealed that it is aware that Venezuela is not capable of providing Iran with uranium, and that its embassy in Caracas is helping Cubans get to Miami from Venezuela, among other things.

By Tamara Pearson - Venezuelanalysis.com
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Merida, December 2nd, 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – In cables written by the U.S embassy in Caracas and published recently by Wikileaks, the U.S government revealed that it is aware that Venezuela is not capable of providing Iran with uranium, and that its embassy in Caracas is helping Cubans get to Miami from Venezuela, among other things.

The 13 cables from the US Caracas embassy are part of the just 593 cables posted so far by Wikileaks, which over the next few months, hopes to post 251,287 confidential U.S embassy cables.

The Caracas cables focus on Cuba-Venezuela cooperation and the Cuba supported health mission in Venezuela, and also deal with Venezuela’s relations with Iran and Russia and its capacity for nuclear energy, as well as the Jewish community in Venezuela and the nationalisation of banks.

The cables are reports written by the US ambassador in Venezuela or a member of his staff, to Washington, and are largely analyses of various national issues, sourcing private Venezuelan media, anecdotal evidence, and certain “expert” contacts the embassy has within the Venezuelan health and science sectors.

Nuclear energy, Russia, and Iran

Cable 09Caracas728, created 11 June 2009, quotes an unnamed nuclear physicist who claims that Venezuela is unable to assist countries such as Iran with developing atomic bombs and that the nuclear cooperation with Russia signed on 4 May 2009 is “pure political theatre as Venezuela is incapable of cooperation with Russia on the development, design, construction, and operation of nuclear reactors” and that there is “no exploration of exploitation of uranium, ongoing or planed, in Venezuela.”

The physicist, according to the US embassy cable, says there has been no “meaningful” studies on uranium deposits in Venezuela since 1976, but that there might be some small deposits in Merida and Trujillo states. He says the three laboratories in Venezuela which could potentially measure uranium concentrations all have either “broken equipment or no nitrogen” and therefore could not participate in any such studies.

Cable 09Caracas26, created 8 January 2009, makes similar points but says that “scientists” don’t discount the possibility that the Venezuelan government would buy a nuclear power plant from Russia, if it could get the financing.

This follows a 2006 cable (06Caracas958) that expressed concern about Venezuela’s “support” or cooperation with Iran, a country that according to the US cable “supports terrorism”.

Such support by Venezuela “alarms nations such as France, that have tended to make light of our concerns about Venezuela’s antidemocratic tendencies and militarization. We can exploit this alarm,” said the cable.

The cables reveal that the US government has monitored a total of 57 Iranian technical officers who supposedly work in organisations related to mining and geology in Venezuela, as part of what Telesur referred to as “vigilance on diplomatic relations between Iran and Latin America”.

The US has told press it would “monitor” Iran-Venezuelan energy agreements in light of its own sanctions against Iran.  Venezuela has been increasing its cooperation with Iran since 2004 in areas such as agriculture, housing, and gas and petroleum, and in October this year Venezuela and Russia signed a plan for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Venezuela.

In response, Phillip Crowley, spokesperson for the US State Department, said, “This is something that we will observe very very closely”.

Venezuela-Cuba cooperation and health missions

Various cables from the US embassy in Caracas provide alleged details about the “bad conditions” that a few Cuban doctors are working under in Venezuela, and their attempts to leave their posts and seek asylum in the United States.

Cable 10Caracas187, created 12 February 2010 claims that there has been increased harassment of “Cuban Medical parolees” since December 2009, citing as its source “recent media coverage” and “anecdotal evidence”. It claims that the Cuban doctors inflate their patient numbers and are “required to conduct political work”.

The US cable says those Cubans on “medical parole” are harassed at the airport and have to pay large bribes to get on flights to Miami. According to the cable, in 2009 237 Cubans applied for parole. There are currently 29,255 Cuban health specialists in Venezuela.

Cable 09Caracas442, created 6 April 2009, is also about Cuban medical personal “fleeing” Venezuela, who apply for “parole” in the United States. It says that in 2006 and 2007 the US embassy in Caracas “facilitated travel to Miami...through the issuance of transportation letters authorising Cubans to board US bound aircraft”.

According to the cable, in October 2007 Venezuelan immigration officials began to crack down on this and to refuse the Cubans permission to board flights to Miami.

Another cable claims that now its necessary for Cubans to pay large sums of money, in one case, US$ 4,600, to bribe Venezuelan immigration officials, but doesn’t explain how the so called “underpaid” Cubans, as the cable describes them, obtain such money.

The cables also refer to “YY visa foils” which the US embassy issues and which apparently make it hard for the Venezuelan government to detect that the person is a Cuban medical worker. One cable concludes that the US embassy, “continues to meet the demand of Cuban medical personnel hoping to flee Venezuela rather than face the prospect of returning to Cuba”.

Cable 06Caracas2367, sent 10 August 2006, about Cuban president Fidel Castro’s illness at the time, argues, “In the event of Castro's permanent departure from the scene, the mercurial Chavez may become even more unpredictable.” The cable suggests Chavez might deploy Venezuelan military to guarantee a “Castroite successor” and says the “Embassy believes this would be an apt moment to warn the BRV against intervening in Cuba during its transition." BRV stands for Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

When referring to possible internal civil conflict in Cuba, the US cable says, “but the presence, or even threat, of a Venezuelan force in Cuba would have important implications for Cuba and for us.”

Other cables express concern over future interventions or nationalisations by the Venezuelan government. Cable 09Caracas1595, created 23 December 2009 responds to the news of the inauguration of the bicentenary banks, comments on the Venezuelan government’s increased share of the banking sector as a result, and tries to analyse whether the “episode of interventions” is over.

Cable 09Caracas1181, issued 9 September 2009 is about the state owned company Bolipuertos that is in charge of Venezuela’s ports but that “contacts in shipping circles...tell us that the Cubans are active in the ports as “advisors” The cable speculates on the possibility of the government nationalising stevedoring and customs agent services.

Mainstream media’s use of Wikileaks to attack Venezuela

A 30 November Aporrea article argues that “international news agencies” have “taken advantage of these cables to once again attack the Venezuelan government, have taken the atrocities that the US embassy has written as true and even as the actual opinion of Wikileaks”.

Headlines by private national and international press include “Cuba-Venezuela, axis of naughtiness, says cable” (El Universo), “Wikileaks: Chavez lost with Peru election results” (Diario Gestion), “Secret Cuban services are widely deployed in Venezuela” (EFE), “Cuban spies all over Venezuela”, (El Nuevo Herald), with a lot of press emphasising the so called “deep involvement” of Cuba in Venezuela (BBC).

The Miami Herald also published an article today saying “U.S Embassy staff and nuclear scientists paint a dismal picture of Venezuela’s nuclear program, according to cables”.

Venezuelan response

While there has been no official government response to the cables so far, as the government concentrates on emergency measures for heavy rain victims, Venezuelan Aporrea journalists have referred to the cables about the health mission as “completely manipulated reports” that “contribute to the objective of the disintegration [of the health missions]”.

Venezuelan government news agency AVN has also criticised the de-contextualisation by the media, in particular El Pais of Spain, and El Universal of Venezuela, which “use the Wikileaks cables to continue their campaign against the Bolivarian Revolution”.

On Tuesday Venezuela’s foreign minister Nicolas Maduro, referring to the Wikileaks in general, said, “The way the United States looks down on the whole world has become naked to its allies and its enemies... also naked is ...an international system of spying in order to influence in the most important decisions in the world.”

The Uruguayan foreign minister, Luis Almagro, also questioned what he called “spying” by the U.S through its embassies in Latin America, and in light of the US cables published by Wikileaks that judge the Venezuelan government, said, “We’re good friends of Chavez and we will continue to be,” adding, “any form of spying is illegal.”

Finally, tonight president Chavez, while visiting a new housing complex for heavy rain victims, responded to the US cables from Caracas, saying, “You see, the [US government] is scared by the presence of Cubans here.”

“The Cubans have been to the end of the world to help those in need, even when their country is blockaded by the [U.S]... and the [opposition] here says the Cubans should leave,” he added.

In September 2008 Venezuela and the US expelled each other’s ambassadors over the U.S’s involvement in Bolivia’s affairs. Just following that, president Hugo Chavez accused U.S embassy official John Caulfield of clandestinely meeting with Venezuelan opposition leaders and opposition television channel Globovision.

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