Wikileaks cable: US sought to intentionally stoke Chavez’ “paranoia” with aircraft carrier deployment

William R. Brownfield, US Embassy in Caracas, “Carrier Visit To Benefit Us Policy Toward Venezuela,” 23 March 2006:

Post supports Southcom’s planned “Partnership of the Americas” maritime surge to the Caribbean to be led by the aircraft carrier U.S.S. George Washington. The deployment will help us to counter President Hugo Chavez’ courtship of Caribbean countries and his attempts to pit them against the United States. The ship visit will provide benefits to participating nations that offer a stark contrast to the Venezuelan Government’s failures to provide concrete help against drug trafficking and to promote sustainable economic development. Finally, the deployment advances U.S. interests by feeding into Chavez’ increasingly paranoid behavior and by creating conditions in which the Venezuelan leader could make a mistake.
[…]
Chavez sees conspiracy theories behind most U.S. actions. The involvement of his perceived allies in the region may constrain his ability to paint the deployment as a U.S. invasion. He is likely, however, to paint it as a dry run or an attempt to gather intelligence for a future attack. Timely notification that the Ambassador will visit the George Washington may contribute to Chavez’ paranoia. Planned port calls of the destroyer U.S.S. Stout to Curacao, the cruiser U.S.S. Monterey to Aruba, and the frigate U.S.S. Underwood to Trinidad and Tobago will play a useful role, as well.

If Chavez takes the bait, the deployment will expose the international community to apocalyptic statements and Venezuela-centric views of the region that make Chavez appear at best silly and at worst clinically paranoid in the eyes of many observers. He will alienate himself if he publicly suggests participating countries are collaborating in the U.S. military’s alleged machinations against him. The deployment is also consistent with Post’s broader strategy to force Chavez to react to the USG rather than allowing him to define the bilateral relationship.

Making Chavez feel temporarily isolated may provoke additional BRV missteps. Venezuelan diplomats lash out at their foreign counterparts when they are outnumbered on a particular issue. In addition, Chavez has shown an increasing tendency to provoke international leaders other than President Bush when he feels snubbed (REFTEL). Because Chavez fancies himself a regional leader, seeing much of the Caribbean participating in a U.S. military deployment will get his goat.
[…]
Any Chavez attempts to portray regional states as “colonies” of the empire will further undermine the Bolivarian President’s credibility.

This was some incredibly cynical and disturbing psy-ops on the part of the US.

(Related story here.)

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