US embassy cable - 99CARACAS25

BIOGRAPHIC REPORT: JOSE VICENTE RANGEL: HUGO CHAVEZ'S NEW FOREIGN MINISTER

Identifier: 99CARACAS25
Wikileaks: View 99CARACAS25 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Caracas
Created: 1999-01-06 21:39:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PINR PREL VE
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 062139Z JAN 99
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 2695
INFO AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 
AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 
AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN 
AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 
AMEMBASSY LIMA 
AMEMBASSY PORT OF SPAIN 
AMEMBASSY QUITO 
USINT HAVANA 
CIA WASHDC
DIA WASHDC
SECDEF WASHDC
USCINCSO MIAMI FL
USIA WASHDC 2035
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CARACAS 000025 
 
STATE FOR INR/B 
 
E.O. 12958:  DECL:  01/05/08 
TAGS: PGOV, PINR, PREL, VE 
SUBJECT: BIOGRAPHIC REPORT: JOSE VICENTE RANGEL: HUGO CHAVEZ'S NEW 
FOREIGN MINISTER 
 
CLASSIFIED BY THOMAS A. SHANNON, POLITICAL COUNSELOR.  REASON: 1.5 
(B) AND (D). 
 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
JOSE VICENTE RANGEL: VENEZUELA'S NEW FOREIGN MINISTER 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
1.(U)  PRESIDENT-ELECT HUGO CHAVEZ FRIAS NAMED JOSE VICENTE RANGEL 
AS HIS FOREIGN MINISTER DESIGNATE.  THOUGH A LAWYER BY EDUCATION 
AND A JOURNALIST BY PROFESSION, RANGEL HAS A LONG AND STORIED 
CAREER IN VENEZUELAN POLITICS.  AS A LAW STUDENT, HE LED A STUDENT 
REVOLT AGAINST THE PEREZ JIMENEZ DICTATORSHIP AND WAS EXILED FOR 
HIS PARTICIPATION.  HE LATER RETURNED TO VENEZUELA AND SERVED FOR 
NEARLY 30 YEARS IN THE CONGRESS.  DURING THIS PERIOD HE HELPED 
FOUND THE LEFTIST NEWSPAPER, EL CLARIN, WON THE NATIONAL PRIZE FOR 
JOURNALISM, AND RAN UNSUCCESSFULLY FOR PRESIDENT THREE TIMES (NEVER 
GARNERING MORE THAN 5.2OF THE VOTE.)  EVEN NOW, THE SIXTY-NINE 
YEAR OLD LEADS AN ACTIVE PROFESSIONAL LIFE, PUBLISHING COLUMNS IN 
THE NEWSPAPERS EL DIARIO AND EL UNIVERSAL, AND HOSTING A POPULAR 
SUNDAY TELEVISION OPINION PROGRAM. 
 
------------------- 
THE FORMATIVE YEARS 
------------------- 
 
2.(U)  BORN IN CARACAS ON JULY 10, 1929, RANGEL FIRST EXPERIENCED 
POLITICAL TURMOIL IN 1935, WHEN HIS FATHER, A STAUNCH SUPPORTER OF 
DICTATOR JUAN VICENTE GOMEZ, WAS FORCED TO FLEE VENEZUELA FOR 
COLOMBIA UPON GOMEZ'S DEATH.  AT THE AGE OF SIXTEEN, WHILE 
ATTENDING SCHOOL IN BARQUISIMETO,  HE BECAME POLITICALLY ACTIVE 
AFTER LISTENING TO JOVITO VILLALBA OF THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLICAN 
UNION (URD) SPEAK. INSPIRED, HE JOINED THE YOUTH SECTION OF THE 
URD. 
 
3.(U)  AFTER HIGH SCHOOL, HE ENROLLED IN THE UNIVERSITY OF THE 
ANDES IN MERIDA TO PURSUE A DEGREE IN LAW, BUT LATER TRANSFERRED TO 
THE CENTRAL UNIVERSITY OF VENEZUELA IN CARACAS.  HE DID NOT, 
HOWEVER, COMPLETE HIS STUDIES.  IN 1953, ALONG WITH CHEITO HERRERA 
OROPEZA, LUIS HERRERA CAMPINS (FUTURE PRESIDENT AND SOCIAL 
CHRISTIAN PARTY LEADER), AND EDUARDO GONZALEZ, RANGEL LED A STUDENT 
PROTEST AGAINST THE CORRUPTION OF THE PEREZ JIMENEZ GOVERNMENT. 
THE PROTEST LED TO RANGEL'S OWN EXILE TO CHILE AND SPAIN.  HIS 
EXILE HAD A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON HIS LIFE IN TWO AREAS. 
POLITICALLY, HIS TIME IN EXILE HARDENED HIS POSITION AGAINST 
CORRUPTION AND HIS VIEWPOINT ON GOVERNMENT.  PERSONALLY, HE MET AND 
MARRIED ANA AVALOS, A CHILEAN SCULPTRESS, TO WHOM HE IS STILL 
MARRIED (WITH TWO CHILDREN) AND TO WHOM HE CLAIMS TO WRITE A NEW 
POEM EVERY DAY.  RANGEL RETURNED TO VENEZUELA IN 1958 FOLLOWING THE 
FALL OF PEREZ JIMENEZ AND WAS APPOINTED TO THE MUNICIPAL COUNCIL OF 
THE FEDERAL DISTRICT, AND THEN WAS ELECTED TO THE CHAMBER OF 
DEPUTIES. 
 
----------------- 
POLITICAL TURMOIL 
----------------- 
 
4.(U)  RANGEL'S POLITICAL ACTIVITIES INCREASED IN THE SIXTIES.  IN 
1962, AS A MEMBER OF THE URD, HE WAS NAMED PRESIDENT OF THE 
COMMISSION ON INTERNAL POLICY OF THE CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, AND WAS 
REELECTED TO THE CHAMBER IN 1963.  WHEN RAUL LEONI OF DEMOCRATIC 
ACTION (AD) BECAME PRESIDENT IN 1964, LEONI, JOVITO VILLALBA OF THE 
URD, AND ARTURO USLAR PIETRI OF THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC FRONT (FND) 
AGREED TO FORM A NATIONAL POLITICAL FRONT - CALLED "WIDE BASE" -TO 
INSURE THE GOVERNABILITY OF VENEZUELA.  RANGEL VEHEMENTLY DISAGREED 
WITH URD'S PARTICIPATION IN THE FRONT AND LEFT THE PARTY. 
 
5.(C)  RANGEL BEGAN HIS FORMAL ASSOCIATION WITH SOCIALISM AT THAT 
TIME AND ALONG WITH SOME OTHER EX-URD LEADERS FORMED THE 
NATIONALIST POPULAR VANGUARD (VPN).  DURING THIS PERIOD, RANGEL 
DEVELOPED A WORKING RELATIONSHIP WITH GUERILLA ORGANIZATIONS.  HIS 
OVERT POLITICAL ACTIVITIES WERE SEEN BY HIS ENEMIES AS A FRONT FOR 
CLANDESTINE ORGANIZATIONS.  IN 1966, WISHING TO UNIFY THE DISPARATE 
LEFTIST PARTIES, HE JOINED THE REVOLUTIONARY PARTY OF NATIONALISTIC 
INTEGRATION (PRIN).  THE LOFTY UNIFICATION GOALS WERE NEVER 
ACHIEVED AND THE PARTY COLLAPSED AFTER THREE YEARS.   DURING THIS 
PERIOD, RANGEL MET AND BECAME FRIENDS WITH LUIS MIQUILENA (NEWLY- 
APPOINTED MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR IN THE CHAVEZ CABINET.)  THE TWO 
FOUNDED THE NEWSPAPER, EL CLARIN, WHICH WAS THE MOUTHPIECE OF THE 
VENEZUELAN LEFT. 
 
------------------------------------ 
PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRATIONS UNFULFILLED 
------------------------------------ 
 
6.(U)  THROUGH IT ALL, RANGEL MAINTAINED HIS POSITION IN THE 
CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES.  IN 1973 AS THE MOVEMENT TOWARD SOCIALISM 
PARTY (MAS) CANDIDATE, AND WITH LUIS MIQUILENA AS HIS CAMPAIGN 
MANAGER, HE RAN FOR PRESIDENT.  UNFORTUNATELY FOR RANGEL, HIS 
CANDIDACY NEVER STRUCK A CHORD WITH THE PEOPLE, AND HE FINISHED A 
DISTANT FOURTH (4.3) BEHIND WINNER CARLOS ANDRES PEREZ (48.7). 
UNDAUNTED BY HIS SHOWING IN THE 1973 ELECTIONS, HE RAN AGAIN FOR 
PRESIDENT UNDER THE MAS FLAG IN 1978 (THIRD PLACE WITH 5.2) AND 
AGAIN IN 1983 (FOURTH PLACE WITH 3.3) AS THE NEW ALTERNATIVE PARTY 
(NA) CANDIDATE. 
 
------------------ 
THE CAP CONNECTION 
------------------ 
 
7.(U)  RANGEL AND CARLOS ANDRES PEREZ (CAP) HAVE A STRONG AND 
IRONIC POLITICAL CONNECTION, TIED TO TWO SCANDALS.  IN 1980, CAP'S 
POLITICAL ENEMIES WANTED HIM REMOVED FROM THE SCENE.  HAVING JUST 
COMPLETED HIS TERM AS PRESIDENT, CAP WAS THEN SENATOR-FOR-LIFE. 
DURING HIS PRESIDENCY, THE GOVERNMENT HAD BOUGHT A REFRIGERATED 
FISHING BOAT -- THE SIERRA NEVADA -- FROM NORWAY AT AN INFLATED 
PRICE.  BECAUSE THIS MISMANAGEMENT OCCURRED DURING CAP'S 
PRESIDENCY, HIS ENEMIES WANTED HIM HELD LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE 
MALFEASANCE, AND SOUGHT TO IMPEACH AND REMOVE HIM FROM THE SENATE. 
CONGRESSIONAL IMPEACHMENT ACTION FELL ONE VOTE SHORT.  THE ONE VOTE 
WAS THAT OF JOSE VICENTE RANGEL, WHO ABSTAINED, AND SAVED CAP'S 
POLITICAL CAREER.  RANGEL EXPLAINED HIS ABSTENTION BY SAYING "THE 
SIERRA NEVADA DEAL WAS UNDOUBTEDLY IMMORAL", BUT NOT AN IMPEACHABLE 
OFFENSE. 
 
8.(C)  QUESTIONS WERE RAISED ABOUT RANGEL'S ABSTENTION AND THE 
ACQUITTAL OF CAP.  RANGEL'S POLITICAL ENEMIES CLAIMED THAT CAP 
DIRECTLY PAID OFF RANGEL.  A MORE SORDID VERSION HAS ALSO 
CIRCULATED.  ACCORDING TO THE STORY, RANGEL'S WIFE WAS INVOLVED 
WITH A WELL-KNOWN GUERILLA IN ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES.  IN EXCHANGE FOR 
HIS ABSTENTION, THE STORY GOES, CAP INTERVENED AND STOPPED HER 
PROSECUTION. 
 
9.(U)  NINE YEARS LATER, RANGEL, WORKING AS AN INVESTIGATIVE 
JOURNALIST HELPED UNCOVER THE SCANDAL THAT LED TO CAP'S IMPEACHMENT 
AND IMPRISONMENT.  RANGEL DISCOVERED THAT DURING CAP'S SECOND TERM 
AS PRESIDENT (1988 - 1993,) 250 MILLION BOLIVARES (APPROX. $16 
MILLION) WERE SECRETLY AND ILLEGALLY FUNNELED THROUGH THE 
SECRETARIAT OF THE PRESIDENCY TO FINANCE THE FORMATION OF 
NICARAGUAN PRESIDENT VIOLETA CHAMORRO'S SECURITY FORCE.  IN THE 
COURSE OF PASSING THE MONEY, THE BOLIVARES WERE EXCHANGED FOR 
DOLLARS AT A VERY FAVORABLE RATE, SUPPOSEDLY ALLOWING CAP TO SIPHON 
OFF A LARGE SUM OF MONEY.  ALTHOUGH, CAP MAINTAINED HIS INNOCENCE, 
THIS TIME NOBODY CAME TO HIS RESCUE AND HE WAS REMOVED FROM OFFICE. 
 
--------------- 
SEMI-RETIREMENT 
--------------- 
 
10.(U)  IN THE LATE EIGHTIES, RANGEL RECEIVED MORE ATTENTION 
FIGHTING INSTITUTIONAL CORRUPTION.  DURING THE LUSINCHI PRESIDENCY, 
RANGEL REPORTED THAT THE MILITARY PLANNED TO PURCHASE OBSOLETE OR 
DAMAGED EQUIPMENT AT INFLATED PRICES.  HE WAS DETAINED AND 
INTERROGATED TWICE BY MILITARY INTELLIGENCE (DIM), IN AN ATTEMPT TO 
INTIMIDATE HIM.  THE ACTIONS BY DIM ONLY INSPIRED HIM TO PRINT MORE 
STORIES.  IN THE END, HOWEVER, NO PROOF WAS EVER UNCOVERED TO 
SUPPORT RANGEL'S ALLEGATIONS, AND THE MILITARY BOUGHT THE 
EQUIPMENT. 
 
11.(U)  RANGEL HAS SPENT HIS RECENT YEARS HARD AT WORK, WRITING A 
WEEKLY COLUMN IN EL DIARIO AND EL UNIVERSAL AND HOSTING A POPULAR 
TELEVISION OPINION PROGRAM.  IN AUGUST 1992, RANGEL'S MOST 
INTERESTING BROADCAST WAS NEVER AIRED.  SEVEN MONTHS AFTER HUGO 
CHAVEZ'S UNSUCCESSFUL COUP ATTEMPT, RANGEL VIDEOTAPED A PRISON 
INTERVIEW WITH CHAVEZ.  A MILITARY JUDGE PROHIBITED THE BROADCAST 
OF THE SHOW AT THE LAST MINUTE.  RANGEL COUNTERED THIS MOVE BY 
INVITING JOURNALISTS INTO HIS HOME FOR A PRIVATE SCREENING OF THE 
VIDEO, PLAYED AT THE SCHEDULED AIR TIME OF HIS SHOW. 
 
12.(C)  RANGEL ENJOYS MAINTAINING A HIGH PROFILE AND HAS BEEN 
CALLED THE MOST SEEN AND HEARD JOURNALIST IN VENEZUELA.  LIKE HIS 
GOOD FRIEND AND POLITICAL COUNTERPART LUIS MIQUILENA, RANGEL HAS 
NURTURED HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH CHAVEZ IN THE YEARS SINCE THE COUP 
ATTEMPT.  HE SEES IN CHAVEZ A KINDRED SPIRIT WHO UNDERTOOK A 
QUIXOTIC STRGGLE AGAINST A CORRUPT GOVERNMENT SYSTEM.   FOLLOWNG 
CHAVEZ'S RELEASE FROM PRISON IN 1994, RANGEL SED HIS NEWSPAPER 
COLUMNS AND HIS TV PROGRAM TO ROMOTE CHAVEZ'S CAMPAIGN FOR THE 
PRESIDENCY.  HIS SUPPORT FOR CHAVEZ' HOWEVER, IS NOT BLIND OR 
SYCPHANTIC.  HE HARSHLY CRITICIZED CHAVEZ FOR HIS FAMUS "FRY 
ADECO HEADS IN OIL" THREAT, AND USED HISNEWSPAPER COMMENTARY TO 
LECTURE CHAVEZ ON THE IMORTANCE OF USING PUBLIC OFFICE TO PROMOTE 
POLITICAL CHANGE, NOT TO CONDUCT VENDETTAS AGAINST POLITICL 
ENEMIES.  RANGEL ONCE TOLD POLOFF, "CHAVEZ IS OT THE IDEAL 
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, BUT HE IS TE ONLY ONE WE HAVE." 
 
13.(C)  RANGEL'S SELECTIONAS FOREIGN MINISTER WAS A SURPRISE.  HIS 
NAME HAD BEEN FLOATED FOR THIS POSITION, BUT HE HAD RULED OT ANY 
PARTICIPATION IN THE GOVERNMENT, SAYING HE DID NOT WANT TO GIVE UP 
HIS PRIVILEGED, INDEPENDENT POSITION AS A JOURNALIST.  IT WAS ALSO 
RUMORED THAT HE HAD HEALTH PROBLEMS AND DID NOT FEEL UP TO THE 
RIGORS OF WORK AS FOREIGN MINISTER.  NEVERTHELESS, HIS LOYALTY TO 
CHAVEZ, AND HIS FORTHRIGHT NATURE WERE ENOUGH TO CONVINCE CHAVEZ TO 
INSIST THAT HIS MENTOR ACCEPT THE FOREIGN MINISTER POSITION. 
 
14.(C)  RANGEL'S LACK OF PRACTICAL INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE IS NOT 
SEEN BY VENEZUELAN COMMENTATORS AS A HINDERANCE.  HIS APPOINTMENT 
WAS GREETED POSITIVELY BY FOREIGN MINISTER BURELLI AND OTHERS, ALL 
OF WHOM REMARKED ON RANGEL'S LONG PUBLIC CAREER AND HIS REPUTATION 
FOR INTEGRITY. 
 
 
MAISTO 

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