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Viewing cable 06PARAMARIBO343, INCREASED VENEZUELAN ACTIVISM IN SURINAME HAS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06PARAMARIBO343 2006-06-09 18:06 2011-01-31 15:03 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy Paramaribo
VZCZCXRO4185
RR RUEHAO RUEHCD RUEHGA RUEHGD RUEHHA RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL
RUEHQU RUEHRD RUEHRG RUEHRS RUEHTM RUEHVC
DE RUEHPO #0343/01 1601855
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 091855Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY PARAMARIBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8408
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0009
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 1554
RUEHBR/USDAO BRASILIA BR
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 PARAMARIBO 000343 

SIPDIS 

NOFORN 

SIPDIS 

DEPT FOR WHA/CAR-LLUFTIG, WHA/PDQEDETTER, APRUITT 
DEPT FOR INR - RCARHART 
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD 

E.O. 12958: DECL: DECL: 06/09/2016 
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON ENRG KCRM MARR SOCI SCUL VE
NS 
SUBJECT: INCREASED VENEZUELAN ACTIVISM IN SURINAME HAS 
MIXED SUCCESS 

REF: A) PARAMARIBO 175 B) PARAMARIBO 286 C) PARAMARIBO 155 
D) 05 PARAMARIBO 723 E) 05 PARAMARIBO 414 F) 05 PARAMARIBO 
527 G) 05 PARAMARIBO 687 H) 05 PARAMARIBO 783 

Classified by Ambassador Marsha E. Barnes, reasons 1.4 (b) 
and (d). 

1. (C) Summary: Venezuela's profile in Suriname is on the 
rise thanks to economic initiatives such as PetroCaribe, a 
joint Cuban-Venezuelan health care assistance program, and 
a steady public relations campaign by its Embassy over the 
past year. Despite this heightened engagement, Venezuela's 
activism is not blindly well received, however, as some 
recognize the more obtrusive edges of PetroCaribe or are 
otherwise disappointed by supposed largesse. Local media 
also carry unvarnished views on conditions in Venezuela 
with some regularity. By positioning himself as defender 
of the less developed countries in the hemisphere, GOV 
President Hugo Chavez strikes a chord with many Surinamers 
who bristle at perceived outside interference by larger, 
richer countries in their affairs. Surinamers, though, 
typically center their passion against the Dutch and not 
the U.S. Venezuelan activism here will likely further 
increase, and if Chavez ramps up aid to Suriname, his 
ability to influence may well follow; NDP opposition party 
leader Desi Bouterse is already a fan. End Summary. 

---------------------------------------- 
ECONOMIC TIES: PETROCARIBE AND FISHERIES 
---------------------------------------- 

2. (C) Venezuela's most high profile initiative in Suriname 
is the PetroCaribe agreement. Implementation, however, 
appears further off than officials from both sides are 
publicly claiming (See ref A). Some GOS officials are 
concerned that it will lead to increased political 
indebtedness to Venezuela, according to Terrence Craig, 
Head of the Americas Desk at the Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs (MFA). The Finance Minister is reportedly 
uncomfortable with the increased debt levels resulting from 
PetroCaribe's financing scheme and a GOS proposal to use 
its proceeds to create a social fund designed to provide 
low interest home mortgages. The director of the state oil 
company, Staatsolie, has serious reservations about the 
role his enterprise is expected to play, as it would be 
positioned to be a storage and transport facility, 
undermining its business model to grow as a supplier. 

3. (C) In its impatience to complete the PetroCaribe deal, 
Venezuela is refusing to renew a 1986 fisheries agreement 
that expired in June 2005 until a PetroCaribe delivery 
schedule is finalized, according to Craig. Specifically, 
the GOV is declining to sign a fuel clause allowing low 
cost Venezuelan fuel for Surinamese fishing vessels until 
Suriname commits to PetroCaribe's final steps. Craig said 
the GOS is dismayed at this negotiation tactic even as the 
GOS seeks to restructure the fisheries agreement to make it 
more beneficial for Suriname, which, according to critics, 
has received very little from the deal. 

4. (U) The GOV paid for 15 Surinamese import companies to 
attend the South American Conference on Trade and 
Investment held in Caracas from May 15-19, aimed to explore 
commercial opportunities and ease interregional South 
American trade. An additional 45 companies were invited to 
attend at their own expense. 

--------------------------------------------- ----- 
POLITICAL RELATIONS SOLID, BUT DIFFERENCES REMAIN 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 

5. (SBU) Political ties between the GOS and GOV can be 
considered solid, but neither side sees the other as a 
primary partner. Craig said deepened political cooperation 
still awaited the renewal of a formal bilateral 
consultation mechanism that has been defunct since 2002. 
In public statements on his country's political relations 
with Suriname, GOV Ambassador to Suriname Francisco 
Simancas emphasized Venezuela's backing of Surinamer Albert 
Ramdin's successful drive to become Assistant Secretary 
General of the Organization of American States (OAS) along 

PARAMARIBO 00000343 002 OF 004 


with help provided to Suriname in its bid to join the 
Community of South American Nations. Pending topics of 
discussion include Suriname becoming a signatory to the 
CARICOM-Venezuela cooperation agreement, the establishment 
of a direct flight between Paramaribo and Caracas, and the 
proposal to build a city square in honor of Simon Bolivar 
in Paramaribo. 

6. (U) Suriname and Venezuela appear to be at direct odds 
concerning the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), 
which Suriname supports and Chavez actively opposes. 
Surinamese President Ronald Venetiaan said late in 2005 
small economies have less luxury to engage in debate that 
delays successful integration than countries with large 
domestic markets like Venezuela (and Brazil and Argentina). 

7. (C) Ideologically, the populist politics of President 
Chavez resonate with the long ago leftward leanings of many 
in Suriname's current leadership who still view 
strengthening South-South relations favorably. Entering 
the fold of Chavez's Bolivarian Alliance, though, is not 
on the GOS agenda. Chavez does have an ideological ally in 
Desi Bouterse, the leader of Suriname's single largest 
opposition party, as well as a former military dictator, 
murder suspect (See ref C) and convicted narcotics 
trafficker. Bouterse, who sent Chavez a personal letter of 
congratulations after the 2004 referendum, has a large 
poster of Chavez hanging prominently in his office with the 
quote Against Imperialism for a Free Venezuela, seen 
recently in a front-page newspaper photo. 

8. (C) A Bouterse confidant privately claimed just before 
the May 2005 election that if Bouterse's NDP party were to 
win, he would align Suriname more closely with Chavez. 
Bouterse supposedly made a number of trips to Venezuela to 
secure financial support for his 2005 election campaign, 
despite an outstanding Interpol warrant for his arrest. 
Fears of possible Chavez support to Bouterse and his party 
in the run up to Suriname's next election may drive the GOS 
to accommodate Chavez more than it might otherwise, lest it 
lose its already slim parliamentary majority. 

--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
HEADLINES FOR FREE EYE CARE PROGRAM AND DISASTER ASSISTANCE 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 

9. (U) A joint Cuban-Venezuelan program to provide free eye 
treatment and surgery for low income Surinamers has been 
garnering positive headlines for both countries since it 
began in October 2005. (See ref D). The Venezuelan Embassy 
provided key financial and logistical support in the 
initial stages of the program, although with the recent 
opening of a Cuban Embassy, it is not clear that Venezuelan 
role will continue. 

10. (U) During Suriname's recent flooding disaster, a GOV 
delegation arrived to great fanfare to assess needs then 
left the next day without making a commitment. Eventually, 
the GOV donated 20,000 barrels of fuel for planes, 
helicopter, and boats. It also reportedly plans to donate 
14 tons of humanitarian supplies, including rice, 
children's clothing, medicine, tools, school supplies, and 
an electric pump. 

--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
HITS AND MISSES OF VENEZUELAN PUBLIC RELATIONS CAMPAIGN 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 

11. (SBU) Through public relations and cultural outreach, 
the GOV has been raising its profile and spreading Chavez's 
message in Suriname, especially since the arrival of public 
relations coordinator and former Al-Jazeera employee 
Herminia Fernandez one year ago. (See ref E). Upon her 
arrival last year, Hernandez said the GOV would conduct 
journalist training, but to our knowledge, no significant 
formal trainings have taken place. There are increased 
numbers of press releases and newspaper articles covering 
or promoting Venezuelan positions, projects, and events. 
One paper ran a GOV press release in February justifying 
the Venezuelan vote against the IAEA resolution concerning 
Iran's nuclear program. 

PARAMARIBO 00000343 003 OF 004 



12. (U) The Venezuelan Embassy's largest print propaganda 
effort is a glossy 2-4 page color English language 
newspaper dubbed The Venezuelan Emblem. It features 
articles praising Chavez and his policy achievements and 
criticizing the U.S. and Chavez's domestic political 
opponents. It also highlights Venezuelan activities in 
Suriname, such as optimistic predictions for the closing of 
the PetroCaribe deal. The Embassy sponsors a 30-minute 
Spanish language radio and TV program bi-weekly on four 
local broadcasters named Venezuela Presente, which covers 
political, economic, and social news with a Venezuelan 
slant. 

13. (U) Venezuela's relatively large cultural center is 
popular among Surinamers and a significant part of the 
GOV's public diplomacy outreach. The center offers 
inexpensive Spanish language, dance, and art lessons, and 
often hosts art exhibitions, sport competitions and film 
festivals. The Venezuelan Embassy in Suriname also has a 
newly designed website, www.suriname.gob.ve, to promote its 
efforts. The website houses biographies of the Ambassador 
and DCM. 

14. (U) The GOV suffered a public relations setback when 
local media reportedly widely on a Surinamese delegation's 
nightmare experience at the August 2005 World Youth 
Festival in Caracas. (See ref F). Delegates returned home 
bitterly complaining to the press of horrible logistics 
failures and the propagandist and pro-Chavez political 
nature of the conference, saying they felt duped and 
misinformed. Despite their bad experience, Suriname's youth 
representatives are not adverse to further offers of 
training and travel. For example, out of the ashes of the 
festival, grew an exchange program between the Venezuelan 
state of Carobobo and Suriname. 

15. (SBU) Other public diplomacy setbacks for Venezuela 
include the occasional sharp editorial enumerating the 
failures of President Chavez's government in print media 
(See reftel G), and a documentary-style series on Venezuela 
with quite negative factual commentary on the country's 
social and economic situation on local TV. 

---------------------------------------- 
LAW ENFORCEMENT AND MILITARY COOPERATION 
---------------------------------------- 

16. (C) There is very limited cooperation between the GOV 
and GOS in the law enforcement realm. Our police and 
prosecutorial contacts complain of a lack of Venezuelan 
aggressiveness in combating the flow of narcotics through 
the region, and some see Venezuela as the region's weakest 
law enforcement link. 

17. (C) Military cooperation between the two countries 
remains limited to exchanges and training, but is 
expanding. Pilot training on Casa 212 aircraft to members 
of the Surinamese air wing is planned for later this year. 
The first Surinamer graduated from the Venezuelan Military 
Academy in 2005 and Suriname has another spot this year. 
The GOV offered a Coast Guard development assistance 
program for two years in a row, but the GOS deemed the GOV 
plan inappropriate for Suriname because it was based on 
Venezuela's own civil authority system. (NOTE: A U.S. 
military delegation also recently visited Suriname for 
consultations on possible USG assistance in developing a 
Coast Guard or other maritime enforcement presence. The 
Dutch have held discussions on and off with Surinamese over 
the last several years regarding establishment of a Coast 
Guard. End Note.) 

18. (C) Venezuala's armed forces took center stage during 
Suriname's 30th independence anniversary in November 2005 
with paratroopers parachuting into the middle of the main 
ceremony. (See ref H). Chavez was supposedly scheduled to 
attend, as he had in 2000, but canceled at the last minute. 
Surrounding the festivities, Venezuelan Defense Attache 
Orlando Alvardo Osorio decorated the Commander of the 
Surinamese Armed Forces, Colonel Ernst Mercuur, with the 
Venezuelan army's second highest honor for his service and 

PARAMARIBO 00000343 004 OF 004 


professional achievements. 

19. (U) In December 2005 parliamentarian Ruth Wijdenbosch, 
a senior member of President Venetiaan's NPS party, in 
speaking about her opposition to Suriname's signing an 
Article 98, said that if Suriname were to lose U.S. 
military assistance, she would push for closer ties with 
Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina to replace U.S. 
cooperation. 

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

20. (C) By positioning himself as a hero of independence 
and a leader willing to stand up to bigger, richer 
countries, Chavez appeals to Surinamers, many of whom 
resent their former colonial power, the Netherlands, and 
would like to see more Chavez-style rhetoric and actions 
employed against it. This admiration for Chavez is more 
visceral than intellectual. Suriname is likely to remain 
receptive to increased Venezuelan engagement, hoping that 
it will lead to cheap oil and assistance, both financial 
and materiel. Surinamers are not uniformly unsceptical, 
however, and the case of PetroCaribe shows that Venezuela 
may face some resistance from those leery of deals with 
strings attached. Under the current government, it is not 
likely that Suriname's increased engagement with Venezuelan 
will mean a detoriation of relations with the U.S. Given 
the close ties of Bouterse, the leader of the largest 
single party, the government may feel a need to watch its 
flank and take a more flexible approach to ties with the 
GOV. 

BARNES