US Intelligence Spied on Dominican Military Attaché, pro-Chavez Group in Dominican Republic, Diplomatic Cable Reveals

A 2005 diplomatic cable sent by US Ambassador Hans Hertell highlights the extent to which the George W. Bush administration was concerned about the government of late President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, going to such lengths as to compile profiles on Dominican citizens involved in the Bolivarian Society of the Dominican Republic, a pro-Chavez group. The cable begins by detailing that although Dominican/Venezuelan relations were cordial and former President Leonel Fernandez praised Chavez in public, Fernandez had confessed to Ambassador Hertell in private that he believed Chavez' politics were "mistaken" and "obsolete," joking to the ambassador that Chavez was "Castro with oil."

Despite President Fernandez criticizing Chavez in private with the American ambassador, it appears nonetheless that the US government remained concerned. This concern was propagated by conservative Dominicans opposed to Fernandez praising Chavez in public. The cable details that: "Conservative political contacts warn us privately that Chavez exerts undesirable influence on President Fernandez and will damage U.S. interests in the Dominican Republic."

Mejia Abreu with Fidel Castro
US scrutiny fell on the Dominican Republic's ambassador to Venezuela, Jose Miguel Mejia Abreu [no relation.] The cable details that Mejia Abreu was "a regular intermediary with Chavez and the Venezuelan authorities." The use of the word "authorities" may differ from "officials," indicating that there were police matters at stake. There is a large Dominican diaspora in Venezuela, and foreign nationals naturally have the right to ask for consular assistance when arrested in a foreign country. 
Beyond the fact that Ambassador Mejia Abreu interacted regularly with Chavez in matters involving the authorities, the US cable reveals that he had links to United Left, a group which the confidential document claims was defunct and that Ambassador Hertell describes as a "radical movement." Further, the US worried that Mejia Abreu enjoyed extensive contacts in North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, and China. It becomes apparent that US intelligence built a profile of the Ambassador, and the cable doesn't hide the fact that the State Department tried to determine if Mejia Abreu was of the same ideological ilk as Chavez. 

Though the cable does not mention it, Mejia Abreu detailed in a 2013 interview with el Listin Diario that he was multiple times arrested in the 70s, spending at one point almost three years in prison, for membership in the MPD -- Dominican Popular Movement -- an at-the-time banned organization which had cells throughout the nation, so-called "clandestine revolutionary commands." If US intelligence was aware of Abreu Mejia's ties to the MPD, then perhaps it naturally led them to ponder if similar groups were still active on the island. And indeed, in his 2013 interview with el Listin Diario, Mr. Mejia Abreu claims that he still remains the president of United Left.

The President of the Bolivarian Society of the Dominican Republic [BSDR,] retired Army Major General Hector Lachapelle Diaz, a private Dominican citizen, was mentioned in the US cable. The fact that the US embassy in Santo Domingo is compiling classified cables wherein individuals who have no ties to the US are mentioned, only goes to show the level of surveillance which foreign nationals have to fear when becoming involved in matters that could potentially involve/affect US interests. 

The classified document highlights that although there existed no agreements for information-sharing between the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, the two nations' militaries enjoyed "close ties at senior levels," with the at-the-time commander of the Dominican elite military anti-terrorism unit having trained in Venezuela. This close relationship was compounded by the fact that Venezuela is one of only four countries to post a resident foreign defense attaché to the Dominican Republic. 

Eyes on the camera
The Dominican attaché to Venezuela, Brigadier General Eufemio Torres Mejia, was under such close surveillance that US intelligence even knew with whom he socialized; Ambassador Hertell reported that Torres Mejia did "not socialize with other foreign country attachés in Venezuela, preferring to associate almost exclusively with Venezuelan military." 

Despite his long military tenure, it is extremely difficult to find a picture of Mr. Torres Mejia. He was recently present at a pledge-of-support rally for Luis Abinader, the main political foe of his former party. Even at the rally, the man knew how to keep a low profile, despite being a guest of honor.

When it comes to foreign espionage, it is much more difficult for US intelligence services to spy on foreign leaders inside of the US. However, US laws don't apply in foreign countries; thus, a CIA agent -- who is constrained by US law from operating on US soil -- can simply follow around a senior citizen exercising democracy in his country, as is the case with Mr. Lachapelle Diaz. More worryingly, it becomes apparent that private citizens, having private conversation in settings which they believe are private, can be subjected not only to tracking on the part of the US, but that those conversations can be transcribed for posterity by the might of the US Department of State. 

More worryingly, the Dominican Republic is a friendly nation to the United States, for US intelligence to spy on the social activities of Dominican military officials in their foreign capacities denotes a lack of trust that may in the end simply build more anti-Americanism than it does American goodwill.

Source: Wikileaks [Warning to US personnel: public disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents' classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.]