US embassy cable - 99CARACAS400

BIOGRAPHIC REPORT: MINISTER OF INFRASTRUCTURE LUIS REYES

Identifier: 99CARACAS400
Wikileaks: View 99CARACAS400 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Caracas
Created: 1999-02-08 21:43:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: EAIR ECPS EIND PGOV PINR PREL VE
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 082143Z FEB 99
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 3021
INFO AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 
AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 
AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN 
AMEMBASSY QUITO 
AMEMBASSY LIMA 
AMEMBASSY PORT OF SPAIN 
AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 
USINT HAVANA 
CIA WASHDC
USIA WASHDC 2117
DOT WASHDC
FCC WASHDC
FAA WASHDC
FAA MIAMI FL
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CARACAS 000400 
 
STATE FOR WHA/AND-CAKUETTEH, EB/TRA/AVP-SBENNET, 
     EB/TRA/AN-WWHITTEMAN, INR/B 
DOT FOR CAROLYN COLDREN 
FCC FOR LATIN AMERICA - JEANNE GELLMAN 
COMMERCE FOR 4331/IEP/WH/OSA-TWELCH 
     3134/USFCS/OIO/WH-RLENAHAN & ELENNY, ITA 
FAA WASHINGTON DC FOR AIA 1-CCAPESTANY & AFS 50-LJENSEN 
FAA MIAMI FOR INTERNATIONAL FIELD OFFICE FL//23, IAO-VTAMIRIZ 
 
E.O. 12958:  DECL:  02/08/09 
TAGS:  EAIR, ECPS, EIND, PGOV, PINR, PREL, VE 
SUBJECT:  BIOGRAPHIC REPORT:  MINISTER OF INFRASTRUCTURE LUIS REYES 
 
CLASSIFIED BY PERRY E. BALL, ECONOMIC COUNSELOR.  REASON:  1.5 (B) 
AND (D). 
 
 
1.  THIS IS A JOINT STATE-COMMERCE REPORT 
 
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SUMMARY 
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2.  (C) LUIS REYES WAS APPOINTED VENEZUELA'S MINISTER OF 
INFRASTRUCTURE BY PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ.  THE NEWLY CREATED 
MINISTRY OF INFRASTRUCTURE WILL OVERSEE MATTERS OF TRANSPORT, 
COMMUNICATIONS, AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT.  REYES WAS FORCIBLY RETIRED 
FROM THE VENEZUELAN AIR FORCE AS A LIEUTENANT COLONEL AFTER HIS 
INVOLVEMENT IN THE NOVEMBER 27, 1992, COUP ATTEMPT.  REYES IS A 
PERSONAL FRIEND OF CHAVEZ.  CHAVEZ'S COMMENT THAT "(REYES) IS AN 
HONEST MAN WITH GREAT MANAGERIAL ABILITY, AND AN UNYIELDING 
PATRIOT" INDICATES CONFIDENCE IN THE NEW MINISTER.  END SUMMARY. 
 
-------------------------------- 
MILITARY AND ACADEMIC BACKGROUND 
-------------------------------- 
 
3.  (C) BORN IN BARINAS IN 1953, REYES IS A PILOT AND AERONAUTICAL 
ENGINEER.  HE JOINED THE AIR FORCE IN 1970.  REYES WAS ONE OF FOUR 
VENEZUELAN AIR FORCE OFFICERS INVITED BY THE UNITED STATES AIR 
FORCE IN 1974 TO ATTEND AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE COURSE AT LACKLAND AIR 
FORCE BASE IN TEXAS, AND A ONE-YEAR UNDERGRADUATE PILOT TRAINING 
COURSE AT MOODY AIR FORCE BASE IN GEORGIA.  AFTER RETURNING TO 
VENEZUELA, REYES PURSUED UNIVERSITY STUDIES IN BARQUISIMETO, 
VENEZUELA, AND GRADUATED WITH AN UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE IN 
ADMINISTRATION.  HE BECAME A LIEUTENANT COLONEL IN 1982.  HE 
TRAVELED TO THE UNITED STATES IN 1988 TO ASSUME A POSITION IN THE 
DIRECTORATE OF INTERNATIONAL LOGISTICS OF THE VENEZUELAN AIR FORCE 
(FAV).  HE RETURNED TO VENEZUELA IN NOVEMBER 1991, THREE MONTHS 
BEFORE THE COUP ATTEMPT OF FEBRUARY 4, 1992.  AT THAT TIME, HE 
SERVED AS THE CHIEF OF INVESTIGATION ON A CASE INVOLVING A 
VENEZUELAN AIR FORCE GENERAL WHO WAS EVENTUALLY CONVICTED OF 
CORRUPTION. 
 
------------------------ 
RELATIONSHIP WITH CHAVEZ 
------------------------ 
 
4.  (C) PRESIDENT CHAVEZ'S CONFIDENCE IN REYES COMES FROM MANY 
YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP.  REYES AND CHAVEZ GREW UP IN THE SAME TOWN, 
ATTENDED THE SAME O'LEARY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, AND PLAYED BASEBALL ON 
CONTENDING TEAMS.  BOTH REYES AND CHAVEZ JOINED THE MILITARY -- 
REYES THE AIR FORCE AND CHAVEZ THE ARMY. 
 
5.  (C) REYES WAS AN EARLY CONSPIRATOR WITH CHAVEZ.  REYES TOLD THE 
EL UNIVERSAL NEWSPAPER THAT HE VIVIDLY RECALLS A DISCUSSION HE HAD 
WITH CHAVEZ ON DECEMBER 17, 1977, AFTER RETURNING FROM THE U.S.  HE 
SAID THAT CHAVEZ AND HE TALKED ABOUT HOW CORRUPTION HAD DISTORTED 
THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ARMED FORCES.  FOLLOWING THIS DISCUSSION 
REYES INCORPORATED HIMSELF IN CHAVEZ'S CONSPIRACY.  BEGINNING IN 
1982, REYES WAS PUT IN CHARGE OF COORDINATING THE FAV'S ACTIONS IN 
THE THEN FUTURE COUP ATTEMPTS. 
 
------------------------------- 
INVOLVEMENT IN "THE CONSPIRACY" 
------------------------------- 
 
6.  (C) REYES DID NOT PART IN THE FEBRUARY 4, 1992, COUP ATTEMPT. 
INSTEAD, AS THE PERSON CHARGED WITH COORDINATING THE FAV'S ACTIONS 
IN THE COUP ATTEMPT, REYES MANAGED TO PREVENT THE FAV FROM RISING 
AS A COUNTER-INSURRECTION FORCE.  REYES EXPLAINED, "(SINCE) THE 
CONTINUITY (OF THE MILITARY) HAD BEEN BROKEN,...WE DECIDED TO 
NEUTRALIZE THE AIR FORCE AT THAT TIME."  REYES WAS ARRESTED AND 
DETAINED ONE AND A HALF MONTHS AS A RESULT OF HIS INACTION DURING 
THE FEBRUARY 4 COUP ATTEMPT.  AFTER HIS RELEASE, REYES BECAME ONE 
OF THE LEADERS OF THE NOVEMBER 27, 1992, AIR FORCE-LED COUP 
ATTEMPT.  HIS PARTICIPATION WAS MARKED BY FLYING A F-16 AT MACH 1 
SPEED OVER THE CITY OF CARACAS.  THE FLIGHT REPORTEDLY BROKE 
WINDOWS IN MANY PARTS OF THE CITY.  REYES SAID HE BROKE THE SOUND 
BARRIER TO FRIGHTEN THE ENEMY FORCES.  THE COUP ATTEMPT FAILED AND 
REYES WAS IMPRISONED FOR 14 MONTHS AT FORT TIUNA, THE MILITARY 
HEADQUARTERS IN CARACAS.  REYES REMAINED ALLIED TO CHAVEZ'S 
MOVEMENT AND WAS LATER APPOINTED AS CHAVEZ'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 
COORDINATOR IN LARA STATE IN 1998. 
 
-------------------- 
NEW RESPONSIBILITIES 
-------------------- 
 
7.  (C) REYES WILL HEAD UP THE MINISTRY OF INFRASTRUCTURE, WHICH 
WILL CONSOLIDATE THE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATION (MTC) 
AND THE MINISTRY OF URBAN DEVELOPMENT (MINDUR).  THIS "SUPER- 
MINISTRY" WILL BE CHARGED WITH ALL MATTERS PERTAINING TO AIR, LAND, 
AND WATER TRANSPORT, ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE, PUBLIC HOUSING, 
TELECOMMUNICATIONS, AND "WHITE ELEPHANT" PROJECTS (PROJECTS LEFT 
UNFINISHED BY PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATIONS).  INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS 
PERTAINING TO OTHER MINISTRIES WILL ALSO BE CENTRALIZED IN THE 
MINISTRY.  REYES PLANS TO DIVIDE THE MINISTRY'S RESPONSIBILITIES 
AMONG THREE SECRETARIATS, ONE EACH FOR TRANSPORT, COMMUNICATION, 
AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT.  HE ALSO INTENDS TO INCREASE THE 
RESPONSIBILITIES OF INDEPENDENT AGENCIES RELEVANT TO THE FUNCTIONS 
OF THE MINISTRY.  REYES SAID HE ACCEPTED THE POSITION AS MINISTER 
OF INFRASTRUCTURE BECAUSE OF THE "PERSONAL CHARGES GIVEN TO HIM BY 
THE PRESIDENT."  REYES HAS ALREADY MADE A GOOD IMPRESSION ON THE 
BUSINESS COMMUNITY, WHICH WELCOMED HIS VIEWS ON DECENTRALIZATION OF 
THE MINISTRY AND INCREASED MARKET LIBERALIZATION AS A "PLEASANT 
SURPRISE." 
 
--------------------------- 
THE "MINI-MINISTRO'S" GOALS 
--------------------------- 
 
8.  (C) REYES DOES NOT WANT TO BE KNOWN AS "SUPER-MINISTRO," BUT 
PREFERS THE TITLE OF "MINI-MINISTRO."  HE BELIEVES IN 
DECENTRALIZATION OF THE MINISTRY'S FUNCTIONS AND WANTS TO CREATE A 
SMALLER, MORE EFFICIENT MINISTRY.  HE SAYS DECENTRALIZATION IS A 
GOOD WAY TO RID A LARGE BUREAUCRACY OF CORRUPTION.  ONE OF REYES' 
PRIMARY GOALS IS TO SECURE FAA CATEGORY I FLIGHT SAFETY STATUS FOR 
VENEZUELA.  AIRPORTS THAT DO NOT MEET REQUIRED STANDARDS WILL BE 
CLOSED DOWN.  REGULATIONS WILL BE ENFORCED AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS 
RESPONSIBLE FOR AIRPORTS WILL HAVE TO COMPLY.  REYES DOES NOT LEAVE 
OUT THE POSSIBILITY OF PRIVATIZING AIRPORTS. 
 
9.  (C) REYES CONSIDERS THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS SECTOR TO BE A 
STRATEGIC SECTOR.  HE WANTS TO CONTINUE OPENING THE SECTOR, AND 
MOVE UP THE DATE FOR TERMINATING THE NATIONAL TELEPHONE COMPANY, 
CANTV'S, MONOPOLY.  AT AN INVESTMENT MEETING HELD IN MID-JANUARY, 
REYES PLEDGED TO REVAMP THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS REGULATORY AGENCY, 
CONATEL, TO MAKE IT LESS DEPENDENT ON A SINGLE INDIVIDUAL.  REYES 
HOPES TO ATTRACT PRIVATE SECTOR INVESTMENT VIA CONCESSIONS TO 
REVISE THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS FRAMEWORK (SEPTEL). 
 
10.  (C) REYES WANTS TO HAVE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS PROVIDE PROPER 
UPKEEP OF PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION; HAVE THE URBAN DEVELOPMENT 
SECRETARIAT CONSTRUCT MORE PUBLIC SPACE (RATHER THAN JUST PUBLIC 
HOUSING); ATTRACT PRIVATE INVESTMENT FOR ROAD CONSTRUCTION; AND 
REACTIVATE THE VENEZUELAN MERCHANT MARINE BY HAVING PRIVATE 
COMPANIES TAKE ON VENEZUELAN FLAG VESSELS.  HE IS A REALIST WHEN IT 
COMES TO WHITE ELEPHANT PROJECTS.  HE ATTRIBUTES THE STATUS OF 
THESE PROJECTS TO THE OVER-AMBITION OF PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATIONS, 
WITH NO REGARD FOR THE ACTUAL FUNDING AVAILABLE.  REYES INTENDS TO 
COMPLETE SOME PROJECTS, BUT ONLY AS MANY AS THE BUDGET PERMITS. 
REYES SAID THE MOST FEASIBLE PROJECTS TO FINISH WOULD BE THE 
HIGHWAY FROM SAN FELIPE TO PUERTO CABELLO, THE BYPASS NORTH OF 
BARQUISIMETO, AND A SECTION OF THE HIGHWAY LEADING FROM CARACAS TO 
THE EASTERN REGION OF VENEZUELA. 
 
---------------------- 
REYES AS AN HONEST MAN 
---------------------- 
 
11.  (C) THERE IS LITTLE INFORMATION AVAILABLE ON REYES' PERSONAL 
CHARACTER.  HOWEVER, PRESIDENT CHAVEZ CHARACTERIZED HIM AS AN 
"HONEST MAN" WHEN HE WAS APPOINTED.  A SENIOR EXECUTIVE IN A 
VENEZUELAN COMMERCIAL AIRLINE TOLD EMBOFF THAT SEVERAL VENEZUELAN 
MILITARY OFFICERS WHO KNOW REYES UNIFORMLY DESCRIBED HIM AS 
"STRICT, HONEST, AND INTELLIGENT."  THE EXECUTIVE ALSO REPORTED 
THAT REYES SAID TO HIM, "I REALLY NEED YOUR HELP...I NEED AN HONEST 
OPINION ABOUT AVIATION ISSUES," BECAUSE HE EXPECTS TO BE APPROACHED 
BY NUMEROUS INDIVIDUALS REPRESENTING SPECIAL INTERESTS. 
 
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COMMENT 
------- 
 
12.  (C) REYES' APPOINTMENT WILL BE AN IMPORTANT PART OF CHAVEZ'S 
ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN SINCE THE MINISTRY OF INFRASTRUCTURE WILL 
ABSORB THE MTC, WHICH IS WELL-KNOWN FOR ITS INEFFICIENCY AND 
CORRUPTION.  REYES' ACCESS TO CHAVEZ AND HIS HONESTY PROVIDE THE 
CREDIBILITY HE WILL NEED TO CHANGE THE OLD WAYS OF DOING BUSINESS 
IN THE NEW MINISTRY. 
 
 
MAISTO 

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