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Cable sobre la inteligencia cubana en el gobierno de Venezuela

En 2009 La embajada de Caracas informa de que la inteligencia cubana influyó en las luchas por el poder dentro del gobierno de venezuela

ID: 241522
Date: 2009-12-23 19:44:00
Origin: 09CARACAS1595
Source: Embassy Caracas
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Dunno: 09CARACAS1491 09CARACAS1509 09CARACAS1537 09CARACAS1553
Destination: VZCZCXRO4498
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DE RUEHCV #1595/01 3571944
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 231944Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0199
INFO WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CARACAS 001595

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ENERGY FOR CDAY AND ALOCKWOOD
HQ SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
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USDOC FOR 4332 MAC/ITA/WH/JLAO
AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN PASS TO AMEMBASSY GRENADA
AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PASS TO AMCONSUL QUEBEC
AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PASS TO AMCONSUL RECIFE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/12/23
TAGS: ECON, EFIN, VE
SUBJECT: Venezuela: Banco Bicentenario Opens, But is the Banking
Episode Over?

REF: 09 CARACAS 1553; 09 CARACAS 1537; 09 CARACAS 1509
09 CARACAS 1491

CLASSIFIED BY: DUDDY, AMBASSADOR, DOS, AMB; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (C) Summary: President Chavez officially inaugurated Banco
Bicentenario on December 21, thus effectively re-opening three of
the eight banks the Venezuelan government (GBRV) has taken over or
shut down since November 20. The National Assembly also passed
changes to the banking law to triple the amount of deposit
insurance, with the new limit applied retroactively to depositors
in the two banks in the process of liquidation. If the episode of
interventions is indeed over, the GBRV will have increased its
share in the banking sector, gained an important foothold in the
insurance industry, and taken over a number of other companies,
particularly in the food processing and distribution sector. While
the exact origin of the episode remains unclear, it appears to have
resulted from a combination of a power struggle among GBRV
officials and insiders and the precarious financial situation of
the banks themselves. A major question mark remains Banco Federal,
a medium-sized bank owned by opposition businessman Nelson
Mezerhane. Chavez and Mezerhane recently traded barbs, with
Mezerhane claiming forces associated with the GBRV were conspiring
to bring down his bank and Chavez characterizing Federal as "having
had grave problems." End summary.



New Steps in an Ongoing Saga



2. (U) President Chavez launched a new state-run bank, Banco
Bicentenario, on December 21. Bicentenario is essentially the
union of Banfoandes, a pre-existing public bank, with Central,
Bolivar, and Confederado, three of the eight banks the GBRV has
taken over or shut down since November 20 (refs A-D). Depositors
in these four banks, who have not had access to their money since
November 30 (for Bolivar and Confederado) or December 4 (for
Central), can now transact business normally. Taking figures
provided by the Superintendency of Banks (Sudeban) for commercial
and universal banks, the banks composing Bicentenario represented
5.3 percent of the banking sector by assets and 9.5 percent by
deposits as of November 30 (the latest statistics available). The
extent to which depositors have withdrawn or will withdraw their
money remains to be seen, although there were no reports of long
lines at Bicentenario branches on December 21.



3. (U) On December 15 the National Assembly approved modifications
to the banking law that, among other things, will increase the
deposit guarantee offered by the Fund for Guarantee of Deposits and
Banking Protection (Fogade) from 10,000 bolivars (Bs; USD 4,650 at
the official exchange rate) to Bs 30,000, an amount requested by
President Chavez. This increase will apply retroactively for a
limited period of time to depositors in Canarias and and Banpro,
the two banks in the process of liquidation. Banks' contributions
to Fogade will also be raised from 0.5 to 1.5 percent of deposits
as maintained at the close of each semester. (Note: For these
changes to become law, President Chavez must sign the modified law
and it must be published in the Official Gazette. To the best of
our knowledge, it has not yet been published. President Chavez
recently said he might seek further changes to the law. End note.)



Is the Episode of Interventions Over?



4. (C) Whether this episode of interventions is over remains a
question mark. There are several other small banks and financial
institutions which fit the pattern of the eight banks intervened in

CARACAS 00001595 002 OF 003


the sense of being weak financially and having been taken over
recently by individuals allegedly close to the government. Two
pending purchases, that of Inverunion by Gonzalo Tiraldo and Banco
Federal by Jose Zambrano, have reportedly been rejected by Sudeban.
Most but not all financial sector analysts and participants Econoff
has contacted continue to believe the episode poses no systemic
risk to the sector given the small sizes and weak reputations of
the banks involved, in comparison with the strong fundamentals of
most of the larger banks. One dissenting voice is that of xxxxxxxxxxxx
reputation) and an outspoken critic of GBRV policies. xxxxxxxxxxxx
called Econoff December 17 to report that, according to information
he had received, several medium-sized or large banks (or their
owners) were putting dollar-denominated assets into collateral
accounts in Florida in return for emergency loans in bolivars.



5. (C) Banco Federal remains a major question mark. As reported
previously (ref A), Federal, a medium-sized bank accounting for 3
percent of the sector by assets, is considered weak by several
experts, has been subject to several runs, and reportedly even
received an emergency loan from the GBRV. Adding to the intrigue,
Federal's owner, opposition businessman and minority owner of
opposition TV station Globovision Nelson Mezerhane, recently traded
barbs with President Chavez. In an interview published in local
daily El Mundo December 17, Mezerhane claimed "active laboratories"
that included "people with ties" to the GBRV had disseminated
rumors about Federal's health in an attempt to instigate runs.
Chavez lashed back in a December 19 broadcast, characterizing
Federal as a bank "that has had grave problems," ordering an
investigation into what Mezerhane said, and cautioning that "the
time in which public institutions help private banks like Federal
is over." In an interview published December 20 in local weekly La
Razon, opposition economist Jose Guerra claimed former Vice
President and GBRV insider Jose Vicente Rangel was seeking to bring
down Federal, partly out of bitterness at the fall of his business
associate Pedro Torres (who led the group that owned three of the
intervened banks).



What Initiated the Episode in the First Place?



6. (C) With over a month having passed since the initial
interventions, a number of theories have sprung up to explain why
the GBRV chose to act in the way it did and at the time it did.
Many observers believe President Chavez ordered the initial
interventions as the culmination of a power struggle taking place
among GBRV officials and presumed insiders. Theories on the
protagonists in this presumed power struggle abound, however. We
have heard variations such as Diosdado Cabello vs. Ricardo
Fernandez and Jesse Chacon; Ali Rodriguez and representatives of
the traditional left vs. Ricardo Fernandez and members of the
military clique; and President Chavez vs. selected inner circle
members and insiders with their own political projects. An
intriguing tangent is that an alleged report by Cuba's intelligence
service plays a role in several of these explanations. Other
observers believe the GBRV's hand was forced by the terrible
financial situation at the intervened banks, with President Chavez
preferring to take action before the problems worsened and well
before parliamentary elections scheduled for September 2010.
Whatever the origins of the episode, our contacts credit President
Chavez with seeing the interventions as an opportunity to trumpet
anti-corruption credentials by sending the message, as one of our
contacts put it, of "I put bankers in jail."



Changes in the Financial Sector and Business Landscape

CARACAS 00001595 003 OF 003


7. (C) The intervention episode has to date led to several changes
in the financial and business landscape that are worth noting.
First, the GBRV has increased its share in the banking sector by at
least five percentage points. With the opening of Banco
Bicentenario, public banks will comprise roughly 20 percent of the
sector by assets and 25 percent by deposits. Second, the GBRV has
acquired an important foothold in the insurance sector with the
associated takeover of Seguros La Previsora and intended formation
of state-owned Bolivariana de Seguros (ref B). (Note: As of June
2009, La Previsora was the fourth largest insurance company in
Venezuela with market share of 8.3 percent. End note.) Many
contacts, including xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxbelieve the GBRV will consolidate the insurance accounts
of key public companies in Bolivariana de Seguros and leverage this
position to exert greater control over private medical services
providers. Finally, GBRV takeover of Ricardo Fernandez's companies
in the food and food distribution sectors will further the shift
toward GBRV control in those sectors. (Note: It is still unclear
from GBRV statements if the takeover of Fernandez's companies will
be temporary or permanent. We would not be surprised if it were
the latter. End note.)



Comment



8. (C) As we suspected when it began on November 20, much about
this episode remains obscure. We are not surprised that there are
conflicting explanations for how the episode started, though it
seems clear internal power struggles played a key role. What is
still a mystery to us is why the GBRV has not yet used this episode
as an excuse to take over Banco Federal, thus taking an important
asset from Nelson Mezerhane. While we would have expected the GBRV
to have taken it over several weeks ago if it indeed it was going
to, the exchange of barbs between Mezerhane and Chavez certainly
keeps the possibility alive. Perhaps the GBRV has not moved to
take Federal because it fears systemic implications: in a clear
reference to Federal, respected economic consultancy Sintesis
Financiera wrote in a recent report that "concerns will rise and
markets will destabilize if interventions reach larger banks owned
by individuals perceived to be at odds with the government." There
could certainly be other explanations, however. End comment.
DUDDY