Viewing cable 05THEHAGUE1556, NETHERLANDS/VENEZUELA/ANTILLES: POTENTIAL DUTCH
|05THEHAGUE1556||2005-06-03 13:01||2011-01-20 22:10||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy The Hague|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 001556 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/02/2015 TAGS: PREL PBTS PINS MARR SNAR NL NA VE SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS/VENEZUELA/ANTILLES: POTENTIAL DUTCH FALKLANDS? Classified By: AMBASSADOR CLIFFORD SOBEL, REASONS 1.5(B) AND (D) 1.(C) SUMMARY: The Dutch are increasingly worried that Venezuelan President Chavez is actively seeking to reduce or eliminate Dutch influence in the Antilles, including by force if necessary. While some in the GONL argue that greater engagement with Chavez' government is necessary to reduce misunderstandings, others, including FM Bot, openly state that a Dutch/U.S. military presence in the region is a necessary deterrent to Venezuelan territorial ambitions. Post believes the Dutch would appreciate and benefit from high-level consultations on this issue at an early opportunity. See guidance request in para 6. END SUMMARY. Â¶2. (C) On June 1, Ambassador Sobel (accompanied by Embassy DEA representative and POLCOUNS) was invited to brief members of the Dutch MFA's Western Hemisphere Affairs department on his recent trip to the Netherlands Antilles. Following a detailed discussion of successful Dutch-U.S.-Antilles cooperation in combating illegal narcotics trafficking, Marianne Kappeyne van de Coppello (Director of the Western Hemisphere Department) raised growing Dutch concerns about Venezuelan intentions vis-a-vis the Antilles. Noting that Antilles Prime Minister Ys would be visiting the Netherlands June 6, she stressed that the Dutch worried that he was facing mounting pressure both from Venezuela directly and from members of his own government, including former deputy PM Cova, who favored a more pro-Venezuelan line. She expressed concern that a pro-Venezuelan, anti-Dutch/U.S. government could emerge from the January elections. Â¶3. (C) Kappeyne van de Coppello said that Venezuelan influence over certain groups in the Antilles was being used to undermine Dutch-Antilles-U.S. cooperation in the fight against drugs. She noted that the Dutch MFA had called in the Venezuelan Ambassador recently to protest recent remarks by Chavez reviving old Venezuelan territorial claims to the islands. Although the Venezuelan constitution, she noted, still formally considers the islands (including Aruba, Curacaou and Bonaire) to be part of Venezuela, until recently the Dutch have had no reason to worry about Venezuela's intentions -- but that is now changing. Given the Netherlands Antilles' dependence on Venezuelan oil, she added, Chavez has several means at his disposal for exercising leverage.. Â¶4. (C) As a first step, Kappeyne van de Coppello said the Dutch government planned to increase contacts with the Venezuelan government to reduce possible misunderstandings. Simultaneously, however, the Dutch would like to begin a dialogue with the U.S. on how to deal with the issue. Karel de Vey Mestagh, Kingdom Affairs Advisor for the MFA, suggested that a lowering of the U.S. profile in the area -- i.e., fewer ship visits, etc. -- could help reduce tensions. He was immediately contradicted, however, by Lucita Moenir-Alam, the Dutch Consul General-designate for Miami (and native Antillean who formerly worked for the Netherlands Antilles government in Curacao), who argued that the U.S. profile provided an essential deterrent. In response to a question from the Ambassador, Kappeyne van de Coppello stressed that the Dutch response to Venezuelan requests to reduce the degree of counternarcotics trafficking cooperation with the U.S. had been a crystal clear no. 5, (C) Later the same day, the issue was raised again in a meeting between Ambassador Sobel and Foreign Minister Bot. Bot was emphatic that the Dutch took Chavez' sabre rattling seriously, and stressed that only the Dutch and U.S. presence in the region deterred Venezuela from taking the near islands by force: if we left tomorrow, the next day they would be part of Venezuela. Even though 92 percent of Antilleans wished to remain part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, he said, a small group headed by former PM Cova wishes to sever this connection. This could lead quickly to the realization of Venezuelan claims, he added, as Venezuela would never tolerate an independent Antilles. Comparing Chavez to Simon Bolivar, Bot argued that he wishes to go down in history as a liberator and struggler against colonialism, and, unfortunately, Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire present the closest and juiciest opportunity for him to realize this vision. Bot disdainfully called Spanish PM Zapatero a fool for thinking that Europe should seek a more productive relationship with Chavez under these circumstances. Â¶6. (C) COMMENT AND GUIDANCE REQUEST: Justified or not, the Dutch are clearly worried that Venezuela is engaged in a serious campaign to reduce or eliminate Dutch influence in the Netherlands Antilles. If successful, such an outcome would have considerable negative implications for the U.S., particularly with regard to our ability to conduct counternarcotics and other missions in the region. At the moment, the Dutch are divided on how to deal with Chavez, and would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this and other regional issues at an appropriate level. Post believes the Dutch would be very receptive to an offer to engage in consultations on this issue in The Hague, Washington, or the Netherlands Antilles at an early opportunity. Post would appreciate guidance from WHA and EUR on whether they would support such consultations at this time and, if so, recommendations on format, timing, and location. END COMMENT AND GUIDANCE REQUES