Cablegate: Weekly Media Wrap-Up: President Bush in Latin America;
RR RUEHIK RUEHYG
DE RUEHFR #1027/01 0751348
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161348Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5679
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
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TAGS: OPRC PREL KPAO FR
SUBJECT: WEEKLY MEDIA WRAP-UP: PRESIDENT BUSH IN LATIN AMERICA;
FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN HIGHLIGHTS; SARKOZY -- IMMIGRATION AND
NATIONAL IDENTITY. MARCH 16, 2007.
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Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.
1. (SBU) In a week dominated by President Chirac's address to the
nation (March 11), domestic politics led the national agenda,
whether questions about Chirac's legacy, centrist presidential
candidate Bayrou's rise in the polls, or the essence of French
identity. On the international front, President Bush's trip to
Latin America provided ample fodder for ruminations about America's
diminished place in the world, and juxtaposed President Bush's
"measured" behavior with Venezuelan President Chavez's
"immoderation." End Summary.
FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
2. (SBU) Right-of-center Le Figaro (March 12) carried the headline,
"Chirac Salutes the 'Magnificent France,'" and underscored that
"Abroad, commentaries waver between praise and lack of interest."
According to Le Figaro, the United States' "lack of interest is
almost surprising, concerning a man that the U.S. said to have hated
and adored," and noted that "George Bush was the first to react" on
the international scene to President Chirac's announcement. In
Catholic La Croix's editorial (March 12), Francois Ernenwein wrote
that "Chirac's biggest coup after twelve years in office was his
resistance to George W. Bush's warlike ambitions in Iraq..."
3. (SBU) Left-wing Liberation's front page (March 15) featured the
headline, "If I Were to Win," featuring an interview with centrist
UDF candidate Francois Bayrou. Not surprisingly, the editorial by
Laurent Joffrin commented on the interview in negative terms, saying
that "Voting for Bayrou is like a leap of faith... he is especially
adept at being vague. What would happen if he won? He has no idea.
With whom will he govern? We will see when we get there... What
will be his platform? It depends... In short, Francois Bayrou has a
program but its implementation is an enigma..."
4. (SBU) Philippe Gelie (March 15) wrote in right-of-center Le
Figaro that "to watch the unfolding of the French presidential
campaign from the U.S. is like discovering an anachronistic, vaguely
dangerous country that has an opportunity for change that it may
once again let slip away. Whatever the political bias of the
publication, the perception of France is striking... The U.S. press
sees Sarkozy as a man who wants to 'wake up France...' while Bayrou
appears to be a 'neither-nor' type of candidate... who, if he had
been American, would have voted for Reagan in the 1980s and Clinton
in the 1990s."
SARKOZY'S PLANS -- IMMIGRATION AND NATIONAL IDENTITY
5. (SBU) All media commented on presidential candidate Nicolas
Sarkozy's announcement that he would create a Ministry of
Immigration and National Identity if elected. Left-wing
Liberation's editorial entitled "Insult" charged that "to promise a
Ministry of Immigration and National Identity is to offend
republican values... By setting identity and immigrant in
opposition, the Interior Minister has broken with the French
tradition of integration to promote assimilation. In other words,
the choice is to espouse the French identity or pack up and leave!
Sarkozy has shown that he is even ready to anticipate the
programmatic desires of the far right."
6. (SBU) Left-of-center Le Monde's unsigned editorial (March 15)
noted that "for the third year in a row the number of asylum
requests for France has gone down... The danger is that this drop
may tarnish the image of France that places the defense of Human
Rights at the forefront of its values." Catholic La Croix (March
15) devoted its headline to the issue of French national identity
and the editorial by Dominique Quinio asked "How does a French
presidential candidate regard national identity? With his plans for
a Ministry in charge of immigration and national identity, Nicolas
Sarkozy has runs the risk of prompting people to think that a
national identity can only be had in opposition to immigrants...
Before being threatened from the outside, French national identity
is already flawed from the inside... The issue of identity cannot
be avoided." The editorial in right-of-center Le Figaro by Yves
Threard, however, accused those criticizing Nicolas Sarkozy's
suggestion to create an immigration ministry of simply taking
advantage of the opportunity to label Sarkozy as a "neo-fascist."
"Not only does Sarkozy have the courage to plainly present his plans
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but he also points to one of the most significant issues facing our
PRESIDENT BUSH IN LATIN AMERICA
7. (SBU) Right-of-center Le Figaro (March 13) reported that by going
to Mexico for the last leg of President Bush's trip to Latin
America, the White House made a "safe choice" but "Felipe Calderon
is dealing with an American president whose hands are tied by
Congress and whose approval ratings have dropped to their lowest
point..." Left-wing Liberation devoted two full pages to the
"Bush-Chavez American-style Duel." "During his entire trip,
President Bush made it a point never to speak the name of Chavez and
ignored his verbal attacks... which served to overshadow the
meetings that Bush had with his Latin American counterparts, but
during this trip, the American president has been as measured and
parsimonious as Chavez has been immoderate."
8. (SBU) State-run France Inter radio's Bernard Guetta told
listeners on March 14 that "George Bush was able to get hands-on
proof of the resentment that Latin America has towards the U.S.
because of what it sees as the American Administration's
indifference to its problems... Divisive issues such as the 'wall'
... and the fight against drug trafficking remain... In the
meantime, the Middle East will continue to be the focus, and Latin
America as a whole will continue to receive less aid from the U.S.
than Egypt alone."
9. (SBU) The "Question of the Day" in Catholic La Croix (March 14)
asked David Recondo, researcher at Sciences Po-CNRS and expert on
Latin America, "What is the real influence of Hugo Chavez in Latin
America?" Recondo responded that the "countries that are the most
influenced by Chavez are also those that depend the most on
international aid... The poorest factions of society are also the
most swayed by Chavez's anti-Bush stance... In the end, Chavez's
influence is quite limited... But one can also say that America's
influence is quite limited since September 11, 2001. George Bush's
trip to Latin America is intended to create the illusion that the
U.S. has a major interest in Latin America, while it is clear that
its priorities are elsewhere."
10. (SBU) Left-of-center Le Monde (March 15) focused on the
differences between Mexican presidents Vicente Fox and Felipe
Calderon and their approach to President Bush. "Mr. Calderon spoke
with a candor that is unusual for a Mexican leader since the free
trade agreement was implemented in 1994." A separate piece by
left-of-center Le Monde's Washington correspondent pointed out that,
on the issue of immigration, the "Republicans are divided." The
article claimed that immigration "may be one of the only topics
where President Bush and the new majority in Congress see eye to