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Viewing cable 09LIMA637, AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH OLLANTA HUMALA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09LIMA637 2009-05-04 16:04 2011-02-20 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Lima
Appears in these articles:
http://elcomercio.pe/
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FM AMEMBASSY LIMA
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INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION PRIORITY 2333
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 6534
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RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 000637 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/01/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PE
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH OLLANTA HUMALA 
 
Classified By: Amb. P Michael McKinley for reasons 1.4b and d. 
 
1.  (C) Summary: I met one-...

id: 205404
date: 5/4/2009 16:16
refid: 09LIMA637
origin: Embassy Lima
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 
header:
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DE RUEHPE #0637/01 1241616
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 041616Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY LIMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0500
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION PRIORITY 2333
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 6534
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 8270
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 3833
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1380
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ MAY 5160
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO PRIORITY 9715
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 2515
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO PRIORITY 2355
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL PRIORITY


----------------- header ends ----------------

C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 000637 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/01/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR PE
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH OLLANTA HUMALA 

Classified By: Amb. P Michael McKinley for reasons 1.4b and d. 

1.  (C) Summary: I met one-on-one with Nationalist Party 
leader Ollanta Humala April 16 at his request.  Across 
two-and-a-half hours of discussion, Humala revealed perhaps 
more than he intended of his electoral strategy for regional 
and congressional elections in 2010 and for presidential 
elections in 2011.  He is clearly working closely with some 
of the most radical groups in Peru, even as he continues to 
project a moderate nationalist line on economic, 
international, and political issues.  Ollanta has also 
successfully raised his media profile in recent weeks, in 
part by joining a growing national consensus on what should 
be done about the VRAE region, where Sendero and drug 
traffickers hold sway.  I was struck by a growing 
self-confidence, a view echoed by at least one other veteran 
observer of the political scene.  I was also left with the 
impression that Ollanta remains ambivalent about fully 
abandoning radical alternatives.  He is open to suggestions 
on international travel and, for at least the third time in 
as many discussions over the past ten months, indicated his 
interest in visiting the US.  We should consider our options 
on supporting his travel should he formally make a request. 
End Summary. 

2.  (C) Ollanta was supposed to visit with his wife Nadine 
Herrera, international secretary of his party, and reputedly 
the radical political brains behind Humala.  Her father, 
however, is on his deathbed (and died April 24), and the 
meeting was one-on-one at the residence.  Humala, dressed in 
jeans and a polo shirt, was extremely relaxed, and without 
the coaxing we have seen previously from his wife, remarkably 
open on a number of topics. 

Bases, VRAE, and Drugs 
---------------------- 
3.  (C) An April 9 Sendero Luminoso attack had left 14 
soldiers dead in the VRAE.  Despite several attacks over the 
previous twelve months, this incident sparked a level of 
sustained national media and Congressional attention on the 
VRAE not seen for years.  Ollanta reflected that 
preoccupation, and said he saw his opening to speak with some 
degree of authority with both myself and the media because of 
his past as a military officer fighting Sendero in the 
Huancavelica area in the late 1980s. 

4. (C) Ollanta first raised his usual concerns about an 
American base in Pichari, a report he claimed to have seen of 
upcoming joint exercises involving 3,000 Colombians and 
Americans in Peru, and the numerous US naval ship visits 
planned for 2009.  I rebutted Ollanta's claims in greater 
detail than on previous occasions.  I did acknowledge the 
problems in perception we had encountered during the New 
Horizons humanitarian assistance exercises, and Ollanta 
pointed out it was difficult for the local population of 
Ayacucho (formerly the heart of Sendero) to see military 
forces as benign.  Locals saw the humanitarian projects as 
preparations for establishing a more permanent US presence in 
the area.  I told Ollanta what he should already should know: 
that USG support for infrastructure improvement in Peru was 
part of a decades-long tradition of American cooperation with 
Peruvian security forces, and that this assistance would 
continue. 

5. (C) Ollanta dropped the subject, and instead discussed his 
efforts to play a constructive role during the week following 
the April 9 Sendero attack in Sanabamba.  By way of 
background, he noted that the VRAE would remain a near 
impossible area to control.  Virtually all the population (of 
200,000) was in some way tied to the drug trade.  Efforts to 
develop alternative crops would not work given the challenges 
of the terrain and the poor infrastructure.  The police and 
army personnel stationed there were completely corrupted, and 
unwilling to engage.  Ollanta reprised his call for creating 
a $200 million fund to buy the annual coca crop as 
alternatives were developed and the government provided 
social services and infrastructure.  He estimated that this 
would be a fraction of the cost of continuing to prosecute a 
war in the VRAE.  He stated that any efforts to prematurely 
eradicate coca production (at almost half Peru's total) would 
not only fail, but radicalize the population. When Ollanta 
pressed on his proposal to buy out the coca farmers, I 
suggested that this was an idea which had little support, and 
presumably for good reasons.  I strongly urged Humala to 
travel to Vienna and other capitals to develop a firmer 
appreciation of how the scourge of trafficking worldwide was 
tackled.  Humala was receptive, but asked how he could go 
about doing so. 

6. (C) In recent days, Ollanta had reached out to the 
government.  He had spoken twice with Prime Minister Yehude 
Simon and communicated a proposal to establish a multi-party 
commission to oversee development in the VRAE.  Ollanta had 
proposed one of his supporters to chair the commission, 
someone who knew the region and the issues.  Ollanta 
rationalized that it was he, and not the government, who had 
most to lose from this national unity response to the crisis. 
 If the commission failed to deliver in the VRAE, Humala's 
Nationalist Party image would be damaged nationally.  Simon 
had expressed interest, but then spoken to President Garcia. 
The answer back was "interesting idea", which Humala 
interpreted as a no.  He reiterated that he had made the 
offer as a patriot: the situation in the VRAE was serious. 

7. (C) In explaining his concern, Ollanta noted that recent 
human rights abuses claims against him were politically 
motivated, and as unlikely to prosper as previous accusations 
that he had supported his radical brother Antauro's coup 
attempt a few years ago.  The new incident had a woman 
claiming that an army commander code-named "Carlos" had 
cold-bloodedly killed her son during the first war against 
Sendero.  The murder had in fact taken place when Ollanta was 
no longer assigned to the region as an officer.  He discussed 
his days as an officer in the field, the importance of 
winning hearts and minds, and of Sendero violations he had 
witnessed.  (In a subsequent appearance on a television news 
show, Ollanta expounded at length on the situation in the 
VRAE.  Much of the time, he sounded remarkably moderate and 
concerned.) 

Politics 
-------- 
8. (C) I asked Humala about the current political scene. 
Ollanta indicated his desire to be constructive, but grew 
more pointed in his remarks when I asked him about electoral 
prospects.  He thought the Fujimori trial had hurt Keiko, the 
former president's daughter and standard-bearer.  Ollanta 
stated he remained a strong candidate for the future, and the 
tactics of his opponents and specifically President Garcia 
were to ensure Ollanta did not reach the second round of a 
presidential election, as he successfully did in 2006. 

9. (C) Ollanta had carefully studied the polling on why he 
had lost in 2006 (in quite some detail), calculating that the 
proliferation of candidates weakened his candidacy.  The 
emergence of the recently retired (and controversial) army 
commander Edwin Donayre as a potential presidential candidate 
was a perfect example.  "Someone is behind him", because 
Donayre would never be a serious candidate.  Ollanta did 
testily acknowledge Donayre could draw off votes that would 
otherwise go to the Nationalist candidate.  When I ventured 
to suggest, on the basis of my numerous contacts with Donayre 
over the previous year, that the general had the common 
touch, Humala was dismissive.  He said that the apparent 
affection soldiers exhibited for Donayre, was very much a 
product of military hierarchy.  Enlisted men took their cue 
from the behavior of their commanders, and responded 
accordingly.  Donayre was in fact a "clown," with little to 
offer, and a simplistic populist message.  (Note: Donayre is 
virulently anti-Chilean, a Quechua speaker, and rails against 
privilege. End Note.)  Humala also mentioned that on the 
left, NGOs and others had sought to encourage the leftist 
activist priest Father Marco Arana to run, convincing the 
latter he could have national appeal, but this was a forlorn 
exercise.  (Note: Arana is based in Cajamarca in the north, 
and his primary platform is fighting mining investments, 
especially foreign companies, in the name of impoverished 
local populations and the environment.  In a May 4 interview, 
he answered questions likening him to Paraguayan President 
Lugo. End Note.) 

10. (C) I spoke about the global economic crisis, the impact 
on Peru, and suggested there seemed to be a general 
international consensus on how to respond.  I added that 
Presidents Chavez and Morales were rather isolated in railing 
against measures that even Russia and China were prepared to 
support.  Humala said that just because he saw himself in the 
leftist international bloc did not mean he agreed with 
everything his regional allies said or did. 

11. (C) This led to a discussion about how Humala interacted 
with his party and Congress.  Humala noted that he had only 
gone to Congress two or three times since losing the 
presidential election.  He managed his Nationalist Party 
congresspersons directly, however.  When they were first 
elected in 2006, he had had to be a "military general" in 
order to forge a common voice.  He met with the caucus 
weekly, and it was not a simple task: mixing professional 
lawyers with indigenous representatives was a challenge. 
They would sit at different ends of the table.  As things 
gelled, he relied on more informal mechanisms, but he stayed 
on top of whatever was happening in Congress. 

12. (C) I asked about how the Nationalist Party dealt with 
more radical political groupings in Peru.  Ollanta, without 
hesitating, responded that he dealt with them directly.  In 
fact, two days previously he had met in Lima with far-left 
labor leader (Mario Huaman), and the leaders of Patria Roja 
(Alberto Moreno) and the MNI.  They had discussed the 
strategy for the 2010 regional and local elections.  I 
expressed surprise, and asked how this coalition-building 
squared with the more moderate image Ollanta was trying to 
project.  After correcting me by noting he was moderate on 
national political and economic issues, Humala said he was 
the one in the driver's seat.  He was the one with political 
legitimacy; he was the one with leadership capability; he was 
the one with a national program.  The other actors had none 
of the above.  Moreno had won less than a quarter of one 
percent of the national vote in 2006.  Moreover, these 
groupings were riven by internal dissent and looking  to use 
political power to secure positions.  (Note: The implication 
was that they had lost their way. End Note.)  Most 
critically, they did not understand that the key raison 
d'etre for a political party was winning power.  Everything 
else flowed from winning elections. 

13. (C) I asked what this motley coalition of radicals did 
for a coherent national message, and mobilization of support. 
 Humala indicated that these groups were already active in 
radicalizing populations, and it was, in effect, better to 
have them inside the tent rather than outside.  He discussed 
their potential role in places like Pasco, Junin, Cajamarca, 
and in the south.  He also sought to help them where 
appropriate: a group representing workers in the sierra had 
been in touch asking for money to help their members stay 
afloat in a deteriorating economic situation.  When it came 
to the national platform, however, it was he and the 
Nationalist Party that would decide what policies were. 
Humala had no doubt he could control the messaging of the 
coaition. 

14. (C) I closed by noting that working with radicals 
nonetheless had implications, and would not be appealing to 
the wider political spectrum Humala sought to attract. 
Humala surprisingly took this on board and said he would take 
a closer look at what Patria Roja was doing in Lima.  (Note: 
Our indications are that Patria Roja and Sendero are looking 
to work in universities again. End Note.) 

International and Travel 
------------------------ 
15. (C) Humala asked me what he thought about recent changes 
in Cuba.  I responded that it appeared that Raul Castro was 
tightening his grip, possibly for change in the future. 
Humala commented that Cuba's was an "extremely hermetic" 
government.  He thought the dismissal of Perez Roque and Lage 
had been handled in a rough fashion.  He added that there 
were a number of people below their level who had also been 
dismissed summarily, and regretted it.  (Note: It was hard to 
read where Ollanta was taking this point. End Note.) 

16.  (C) In addition to asking about how to go about 
arranging travel to UN offices and Europe (I suggested 
Ollanta talk to relevant diplomatic missions), Humala made a 
strong pitch for travel to the US.  He did not have a date in 
mind but wanted to be sure that if and when he applied for a 
visa he would not be embarrassed (by a turndown, presumably). 
 I promised to look into the possibility at the right time. 
Ollanta also asked how he could be in touch with the 
Democratic Party.  His request was inchoate but repeated: he 
wanted to have contact with the party in the context of 
developing transparent relations with the United States.  He 
also repeated previous assurances that he wanted to maintain 
open channels with the mission in Lima. 
MCKINLEY 

=======================CABLE ENDS============================