The Alba House Threat

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C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 000663

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

Classified By: POL/C ALEXIS LUDWIG FOR REASONS 1.4 (B)

¶1. (C) Summary: The primary purpose of the so-called “ALBA
houses” established within Peru during the last year is to
spread Bolivarian propaganda via programs like the Venezuelan
“Miracle Mission” that provides eye surgeries to poor
Peruvians. The most sober reports suggest there are between
nine and fourteen houses, mostly in southern Peru, that are
little more than offices where patients go to coordinate
their trips to the Venezuelan-Cuban eye center in Copacabana,
Bolivia. Although the Venezuelan government has openly
supported the ALBA houses with the Miracle Mission, it is not
yet clear that Caracas has actually funded the houses
themselves. The government’s primary concern is that the
ALBA houses have a hidden agenda beyond social work to
undermine the Alan Garcia administration by promoting
violence and a Venezuelan-style Bolivarian revolution. End
Summary.

ALBA House Mission: Propaganda Via Social Work

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¶2. (C) According to various Embassy and media sources, the
primary mission of the so-called “ALBA houses” established in
Peru within the last year is to coordinate the Venezuelan
“Miracle Mission” that provides eye surgery to poor
Peruvians. According to ALBA’s Peruvian website
(www.alba-peru.net), Cuban and Venezuelan-sponsored medical
teams have tested nearly 43,000 people during several trips
to Peru since late 2006, and sent nearly 15,000 for surgery
at a medical center in Copacabana, Bolivia. Additionally,
dozens from northern Peru have been sent directly to
Venezuela for surgery. (Note: The caravans of Peruvians
heading south for eye treatment can be good business; one
border town mayor told poloff he hoped to pave a key access
road in order to encourage returning patients to visit his
town. End Note.) The ALBA houses have also started
coordinating the Cuban “Yo Si Puedo” (Yes I Can) literacy
program, according to a media report. The director of Peru’s
ALBA houses Marcial Maydana has publicly admitted that these
programs include pro-Venezuelan ideological content and
reportedly said he hopes to build “an axis of Bolivarianism”
in Peru. (REF A) Another ALBA Peru leader described the
houses as part of the international bloc that promotes Hugo
Chavez.

Counting the ALBA Houses
————————

¶3. (C) The most sober media reports say there are between
nine and fourteen ALBA houses in Peru, mostly located in the
south. (Note: Some less reliable newspapers have alleged a
network of hundreds. One source told poloff that some people
put an ALBA sign on their door hoping to attract Venezuelan
aid. End Note.) Most of these houses are reportedly
registered as “civil associations” with the GOP, although
they were not established in coordination with GOP officials
like a normal government-to-government aid program. In
addition to the ALBA houses, a prominent Peruvian magazine
reports the existence of 24 Venezuelan and 66 Cuban
friendship houses. Although we have little specific
information to explain how these friendship houses differ
from ALBA houses, if at all, we speculate they are primarily
propaganda centers.

Touring an ALBA House
———————

¶4. (C) Poloff in June 2007 toured the original ALBA house in
the southern region Puno: the house was essentially an office
located in a decaying building near the center of town. The
house lacked basic furnishings but was decorated with photos
of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. (REF B) Embassy contacts in
Cusco, including one whose cousin received eye surgery in
Bolivia, similarly described the main ALBA house in Cusco as
little more than a room where the Miracle Mission coordinates
with potential patients.

The Venezuelan Connection
————————-

¶5. (C) Venezuelan organization and financing for the miracle
mission is open knowledge, and ALBA Peru leaders have
publicly expressed their affinity for Hugo Chavez; but to
date we have only sketchy evidence showing direct Venezuelan
support for the houses. ALBA Peru President Maydana has said
publicly that he attended the Fifth ALBA Summit in Venezuela
in April 2007, one month before he inaugurated the first ALBA
house. At the inauguration — which was attended by key
Venezuelan diplomat Virly Torres — Maydana reportedly
promised to build roads and provide financing to small
businesses, prompting one ALBA leader to speculate publicly
that Maydana must have funding from somewhere. (Note: These
promises have not materialized. End Note.) Other evidence
includes a check recently discovered in an ALBA house and
connected by Peruvian intelligence to the Venezuelan Embassy
in Bolivia, according to a press report.

¶6. (C) Meanwhile, Venezuela’s Ambassador has repeatedly
asserted that the Venezuelan friendship houses — he rejects
the use of the term “ALBA” in their connection — have been
established spontaneously by Peruvian sympathizers of the
Bolivarian ideal, but receive no financial support from
Caracas. One Embassy congressional contact that knows
Venezuelan diplomat Torres told poloff that Torres is less
interested in ALBA than in promoting the Bolivarian
Continental Coordinator (CCB), a network of radical leftist
groups throughout Latin America reportedly organized by the
FARC and the GOV. (REFS C & D. Note: Membership in ALBA and
the CCB probably overlaps. End Note.)

ALBA Houses Hidden Agenda: Military Training? Bolivarian
Revolution?
——————————————— ———–

¶7. (C) The GOP’s main worry is that the ALBA houses have a
hidden agenda to undermine President Alan Garcia’s government
and promote a Venezuelan-style Bolivarian revolution.
Congressman Rolando Sousa, head of a preliminary
congressional investigation of Venezuelan influence, told
poloff that he has evidence that at least two ALBA houses–in
Junin and Huancayo–have provided paramilitary training to
Peruvians. (REF C) The government has also blamed ALBA houses
for stirring up anti-government protests; indeed, at least
two individuals openly associated with the Cusco ALBA house
helped organize protests in February (REF E). The GOP has
made similar allegations against the Venezuelan and Cuban
friendship houses: Vice President Luis Giampietri accused one
of giving paramilitary training, and Peruvian intelligence
reports leaked to the media claimed another is used to
coordinate violent actions during protests. (Note: We have
not yet seen evidence backing these claims. End Note.)

Comment: ALBA Houses Only One Pillar of Venezuelan
Interference
——————————————— ———

¶8. (C) Venezuelan involvement in the ALBA houses via
sponsorship of the Miracle Mission is clear, regardless of
the level of direct financial support to the houses.
Primarily a social work and propaganda effort, however, the
ALBA houses are probably not the greatest challenge Garcia
faces from Venezuela. Of greater potential concern are
Venezuelan Diplomat Virly Torres’s outreach to social
movements and efforts to organize the left, as well as the
CCB and its alleged links to terrorist groups. (Although all
these efforts probably overlap.) In response to concern
about Venezuela, Peru’s Congress in March formed a commission
to investigate subversive activity that will reportedly have
the power to subpoena financial records and compel witnesses
to testify. (REF C) The results of this investigation should
help clarify the extent of Venezuelan subversive activities
via the ALBA houses or through other means. End Comment.
MCKINLEY