US embassy cable - 09VATICAN59 (original version)

(C) VATICAN HOPES FOR BETTER U.S.-CUBA TIES, IN PART TO REIN IN CHAVEZ AND HIS ACOLYTES (original version)

Identifier: 09VATICAN59
Wikileaks: View 09VATICAN59 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Vatican
Created: 2009-04-22 16:27:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PGOV KIRF VT CU VE BL
Redacted: This cable was redacted by Wikileaks. [Show redacted version] [Compare redacted and unredacted version]
O P 221627Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1100
INFO USINT HAVANA PRIORITY 
AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 
AMEMBASSY LA PAZ PRIORITY 
USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 
AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 
AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 
AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 
EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY VATICAN 
C O N F I D E N T I A L VATICAN 000059 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  4/22/2029 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, KIRF, VT, CU, VE, BL 
SUBJECT: (C) VATICAN HOPES FOR BETTER U.S.-CUBA TIES, IN PART TO REIN 
IN CHAVEZ AND HIS ACOLYTES 
 
REF: A. A) CARACAS 486 
     B. B) CARACAS 443 
     C. C) VATICAN 36 
     D. D) VATICAN 12 
 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Julieta Valls Noyes, CDA, EXEC, State. 
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 
 
1. (C) Summary:  The Holy See welcomes President Obama's new 
outreach to Cuba and hopes for further steps soon, perhaps to 
include prison visits for the wives of the Cuban Five.  Better 
U.S.-Cuba ties would deprive Hugo Chavez of one of his favorite 
screeds and could help restrain him in the region, according to 
a Vatican official.  This is highly desirable for the Vatican, 
which is very concerned about the deterioration of Church-state 
relations in Venezuela.  To avoid similar downward spirals 
elsewhere, the Vatican said Church leaders elsewhere in Latin 
America are reaching out to leftist governments.  The recent 
attack on a Cardinal's home in Bolivia may have been intended to 
derail such quiet rapprochement.  End Summary. 
 
Cuba: Great News. What Will You Do Next? 
---------------------------------------- 
 
2. (C) CDA and Acting DCM on April 22 called on the Holy See's 
official in charge of relations with Caribbean and Andean 
countries, Msgr. Angelo Accattino, to review recent developments 
in the region.  As he had done previously (ref c), Accattino 
warmly welcomed recent White House policy decisions on Cuba and 
reviewed with interest the White House Fact Sheet on "Reaching 
Out to the Cuban People" which CDA gave him.  Accattino also 
noted favorably Raul Castro's comments that Cuba was prepared to 
talk to the U.S. about all topics - although "after all, he has 
no other options anymore."  CDA said Castro would need to 
reciprocate the moves from Washington with more than words - he 
needed to take action on political prisoners or reduce the cost 
of receiving remittances in Cuba. 
 
3. (C) Accattino said the Vatican considered intriguing the 
possibility of a swap of political prisoners in Cuba for the 
"Cuban Five" in jail in the U.S.  ADCM protested that their 
circumstances were not parallel, as the Cuban Five were 
convicted spies and the prisoners in Cuba were dissidents. 
Accattino quickly agreed but said discussions that led to the 
release of the dissidents were worth pursuing regardless.  The 
Holy See was also following the Supreme Court appeal by the 
Cuban Five, to see how that might affect relations between the 
U.S. and Cuba.  As an interim measure, Accattino suggested that 
the U.S. allow a jail visit by the wives of two of the five 
Cuban spies.  CDA again noted that the U.S. had taken the first 
step, now the Cuban government needed to reciprocate in a 
concrete way. 
 
Venezuela: Chavez is Worried. So is the Church. 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
4. (C) The Cuba debate, Accattino said, had cast a long shadow 
at the recent Summit of the Americas.  Venezuela's Hugo Chavez 
was clearly rattled by the thought that the U.S. and Cuba could 
enter into a dialogue that excluded him, and this motivated his 
"little scene" at the Summit.  "Chavez is not dumb," and he was 
playing to the other hemispheric leaders with his bombastic 
approach to President Obama.  The Holy See believes that the 
U.S. and Cuba should pursue a dialogue both for its own sake 
and/and in order to reduce the influence of  Chavez and break up 
his cabal in Latin America, Accattino said. 
 
5. (C) The situation for civil society in Venezuela is getting 
worse every day, according to Accattino.  The asylum request by 
Maracaibo Mayor Manuel Rosales in Peru was only the latest sign 
of the narrowing political space in Venezuela.   (Asked for 
updates on the whereabouts or situation of the Venezuelan asylum 
seeker Nixon Moreno from the Nunciature in Caracas, however, 
Accattino answered a bit evasively.)  The real concern, 
Accattino said, is that Venezuela is turning into Cuba, while 
Cuba may be ready to open up. 
 
6. (C) Church-state relations are also deteriorating daily in 
Venezuela, Accattino said. The Venezuelan Catholic Conference of 
Bishops (CEV) did not check in with Rome before taking actions 
or making statements like its highly critical April 6 communique 
(ref A).  The Holy See agreed with the CEV conclusions, and 
would defend them -- even when it believed "a less 
confrontational approach would be more effective." 
 
Bolivia: No More Venezuelas, Let's Talk. But Who Attacked Our 
Cardinal? 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
 
7. (C) Turning to the recent dynamite attack against the 
residence of Cardinal Terrazas on April 15 in Bolivia, Accattino 
said it had worried the Holy See greatly.  There was property 
damage, but thankfully no-one was hurt.  It could easily have 
been worse.  The Vatican is reserving judgment, pending the 
government's investigation, on who was behind the attack.  It 
could have been radicals inside the government who want to 
derail the recent rapprochement between the Church and the 
state.  The extreme right also could have been responsible - 
trying to make it seem like the government did it - for the same 
reason.  Accattino said the Holy See considers either 
explanation equally plausible at this point.  Meanwhile, it will 
keep talking to the government, because it has no choice. 
 
Comment: Looking Out for the Church First 
----------------------------------------- 
 
8. (C) The Holy See has consistently maintained that improving 
U.S.-Cuba ties would greatly reduce the appeal of Hugo Chavez. 
It is so alarmed by the continued downward spiral in its own 
relations with Chavez, in fact, that Accattino said Church 
leaders in Latin American countries with leftist governments are 
rethinking their approach.  Many episcopal (bishops) conferences 
in the region had in the past been willing to criticize excesses 
of these governments in an effort to protect civil society. 
They may be pulling back from that activism and advocacy in the 
short term, in order to protect their longer-term ability to 
minister to the Catholic faithful without interference.  That 
attitude is what is behind the Church's moves to improve 
relations with the Morales government in Bolivia.  It may also 
explain Accattino's ever-so-mild tone of criticism when 
discussing CEV decisions in Caracas.  As for Accattino's polite 
unwillingness to discuss the Nixon Moreno case, that may also be 
telling, given his considerable interest in the topic last time 
we spoke (ref c).  End Comment. 
 
 
NOYES 


Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04