Thursday, December 2, 2010

Venezuela, Cuba the 'Axis of Mischief'

Venezuela, Cuba the 'Axis of Mischief'

CARACAS - Cuban intelligence services directly advise Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez in what a U.S. diplomat called the "Axis of
Mischief," according to a State Department cable released by the
WikiLeaks website.

Other releases by the group revealed U.S. anxiety at Chavez's "coziness"
with Iran, and concerns by Venezuelan Jews over what they see as
government prejudice against them.

Worries over Cuba's role in Venezuela, a top U.S. oil supplier, were
shown in a 2006 diplomatic message. "Cuban intelligence has much to
offer to Venezuela's anti-U.S. intelligence services," said the cable
posted on Wednesday.

During 12 years in office, the socialist Chavez has forged close ties
with Cuba's Castro brothers, subsidizing the communist island's economy
with cheap oil in return for thousands of doctors and advisers who
operate in Venezuela.

Former soldier Chavez has incorporated Cuban-style militias in the armed
forces and experts on Venezuela have long said Cuban intelligence
services train Chavez's security detail.

The leaked document implied Chavez trusts Cuban information almost more
than his own intelligence services.

"Cuban intelligence officers have direct access to Chavez and frequently
provide him with intelligence reporting unvetted by Venezuelan
officers," the report said.

"Sensitive reports indicate Cuban and Venezuelan intelligence ties are
so advanced that the two countries' agencies appear to be competing with
each other for the BRV's (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela's) attention."

The cable was part of a cache of more than 250,000 State Department
documents that WikiLeaks released either to media outlets or on its
website this week.

It did not reveal the sources behind the "sensitive reports." The
document was classified by diplomat Robert Downes, the U.S. Embassy's
then political counselor in Caracas.

It was titled "Cuba/Venezuela Axis of Mischief: The view from Caracas,"
in an apparent reference to former U.S. President George W. Bush's "axis
of evil" -- a term for three countries he accused of supporting terrorism.


Another in a clutch of Caracas embassy cables released by WikiLeaks
showed the vulnerability felt by Venezuela's Jewish community given
Chavez's political opposition to Israel, with which he broke relations
in 2009.

Chavez denies being anti-Semitic, but his fierce words against Israel
have been taken by some supporters as a green light for actions like
daubing walls with anti-Jewish slogans.

"They believe he has merged his anti-Zionist views with anti-Semitic
ones," the 2009 cable said, describing opinions of local Jewish leaders.
"The horizon is dark," it quoted one unnamed leader as saying of
religious freedom in Venezuela.

Another cable, from 2006 and also classified by Downes, dealt with
Chavez's blossoming friendship and "bilateral coziness" with Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"A shared hatred for the USG (U.S. government) is the driving force"
said the cable, describing "Chavez's ill-defined, left-wing,
anti-American ideology."

The cable said Venezuela's backing for a nation accused of supporting
terrorism and talking of eliminating Israel was a matter of "grave concern."

But rumors of Venezuelan cooperation with a suspected Iranian nuclear
arms plan "appear baseless" and "little more than conspiracy-mongering
by Chavez adversaries," it said.

Other cables, from 2009, said Venezuela's frequent talk of developing a
nuclear energy program was largely scoffed at by local physicists due to
the lack of domestic expertise and the enormous financing needed.

Chavez has since said Russia will provide it with a nuclear power plant,
but the skepticism remains.

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