VENEZUELANS COME "A-COURTIN'" TO CURACAO

Identifier: 
06CURACAO336

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CURACAO 000336

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 4/7/2016
TAGS: PREL, MARR, NA, AA, NL
SUBJECT: VENEZUELANS COME "A-COURTIN'" TO CURACAO

CLASSIFIED BY: ROBERT SORENSON, COM, AMCONSUL CURACAO, STATE.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

MESSAGE DELAYED IN TRANSMISSION
1. (C) Summary. A high level Venezuelan Navy delegation led by
CNO VADM Luis Chirinos Medina met with RADM Frank Sijtsma,
Commander of Dutch Forces in the Caribbean, April 3. Sijtsma
characterized the meeting as a "good step" in furthering naval
cooperation with Venezuela in a follow up conversation with COM.
Among the results of the meeting were:
-- Venezuelan agreement to send observers to Caribbean Lion:
-- Venezuela will "try" to participate in Caribbean Lion,
perhaps providing a tanker;
-- the revival of a cooperative agreement on information sharing
between coast guards (previously held up by the Dutch MFA);
-- an agreement to undertake a joint naval exercise this fall;
and,
-- enhancing navy-to-navy cooperation, including possible
officer exchanges.
Also raised on the margins was continuing Venezuelan distrust of
the US Forward Operating Location with complaints that U.S.
flights are frequently entering Venezuelan air space and concern
over the presence of the USS George Washington in the region .
Sijtsma claimed to have fended off complaints about the carrier
and told the Venezuelans that if they have information about
intrusions into Venezuelan airspace from aircraft from the FOLs,
they should raise them. COM commented that if there were
complaints about U.S. flights, it would be more appropriate to
raise them at the US Embassy in Caracas. End Summary.
2. (C) A high level Venezuelan Navy delegation led by CNO VADM
Luis Chirinos Medina and accompanied by two other admirals,
three captains as well as Venezuelan foreign affairs advisor
Ambassador Palacios, formerly stationed in The Hague. Dutch
Ambassador Neyerheis from Caracas and Dutch MFA representative
Karel de Vey Mestdagh also participated. Sijtsma characterized
the meeting as a good step forward and opined that it was
advantageous to try to cooperate with the Venezuelan navy and
coast guard.
Understandings Reached
------------------------------------
3. (C) The Venezuelans agreed to send observers for Caribbean
Lion who will be on one of the Dutch vessels. In addition, the
Venezuelans will "try" to participate in the exercise as well.
Sijtsma thought it very possible that the Venezuelans would
provide a tanker (currently in dry dock) for the exercise which
would provide cheap fuel. At this late stage, Sijtsma felt that
a tanker still could be easily incorporated into the exercise.
4. (C) A previously negotiated information sharing agreement
between their mutual coast guards was dusted off and will be
revived. Sijtsma noted that the agreement had been moribund for
a couple of years due to Dutch MFA insistence not to move
forward on it. In addition, the Venezuelans discussed a document
on intensified naval cooperation they were drafting. It was
agreed that this document when completed could provide a
blueprint for further discussions on enhanced cooperation. The
Venezuelans also raised the possibility of officer exchanges,
but Sijtsma was doubtful that this would be doable. Finally, it
was agreed that planning would begin on a joint bilateral naval
exercise in the autumn which would include a Dutch ship visit to
one of the ports previously closed to them.
"They hate the FOLs"
------------------------------
5. (C) Sijtsma said that on the margins of the meeting the
Venezuelans reiterated their vehement dislike for the U.S. FOLs
and felt they were aimed at Venezuela with counter-narcotics as
only a side mission. As "proof" of this, the Venezuelans claimed
that there were frequent overflights of Venezuelan territory.
Sijtsma underscored the important counter-narcotics role of the
FOLs, but offered to investigate Venezuelan overflight
complaints IF provided details. Sijtsma underscored to COM that
it "would not be good" if US planes were indeed routinely
violating Venezuelan airspace. COM responded that this was not
our policy. The one incident of which he was aware actually
involved crossing into Venezuelan FIRS and not territory, but
agreed that any claimed intrusion into Venezuelan airspace by
aircraft flying from the FOL should be investigated. COM added
that if the Venezuelans had a complaint about U.S. aircraft it
would be more appropriate for them to raise this directly with
our Embassy in Caracas which Sijtsma acknowledged. Also raised
on the margins was the Venezuelans concern about Partnership of
the Americas and the presence of the USS George Washington.

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Sijtsma indicated he dismissed the concern without further
comment.
6. (C) Comment: As for the Venezuelans, they will continue to
try to get the U.S. military out of Curacao and enhance their
economic leverage . Keeping our activities at the FOLs clearly
within the confines of the agreement and maintaining
transparency with the Dutch should help ensure continued Dutch
support for the FOLs. Local support for the FOLs remains strong.
Over time the "success" of this meeting may well have a hollow
ring for the locals as it may revive concerns about Dutch
steadfastness. Perceptions of the cooperation (or lack thereof)
with Partnership of the Americas will likely not be missed by
our interlocutors here who will draw the conclusion that the
Dutch paid for this "success," by supposedly distancing
themselves from the US. We should not be drawn into a bidding
war with Venezuela for local affection, but, with a new
Netherlands Antilles government now settling in, we will need to
engage more fully on broader areas of cooperation and interest
to them.
SORENSON