Cablegate: Staffdel Quilter's Visit to Argentina (August 16-21)


DE RUEHBU #1721/01 2421655
R 301655Z AUG 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: Buenos Aires 1681

1. (U) This message was cleared by HCFA Staffer Peter Quilter.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: (HCFA Staffer Peter Quilter visited Buenos Aires
August 16-21, 2007, and met with Argentine political analysts,
pollsters, and politicians to get their views on the political
panorama for the October 28 presidential elections. A spokesperson
for Roberto Lavagna's campaign discredited early polls showing
Cristina Kirchner as the strong front runner, stressing that real
voting intentions could not be measured sooner than thirty days
prior to the elections. From Buenos Aires Mayor-elect Mauricio
Macri's camp, National Congressman Federico Pinedo briefed on what
he described as the current crisis of the political system and the
various problems Kirchner's administration is facing, both
domestically and internationally. He said Macri will likely make a
presidential run in 2011. ARI National Congressman Fernando Sanchez
voiced his belief that a new lineup in the Lower House following
October elections could be key for new political realignments
against the Kirchners, and also raised his concerns regarding a
Cristina Kirchner administration. Political analyst Ricardo Rouvier
talked about President Kirchner's reported post-Casa Rosada
intentions to build a new political movement, based on his current
"Victory Front" electoral machine, and doubts about the First
Couple's capacity to continue micromanaging the country. The AMIA
portion of Staffdel Quilter's visit was reported reftel. End

3. (U) House Committee on Foreign Affairs (HCFA) Staffer Peter
Quilter was in Buenos Aires from August 16-22, for an overview of
domestic politics and regional issues in the run-up to presidential,
gubernatorial and legislative elections on October 28. He met with
a variety of elected officials, party representatives and political
analysts. EmbOffs accompanied Quilter on his meetings.

Roberto Lavagna: no polls and more action

4. (SBU) Quilter met with presidential candidate Roberto Lavagna's
spokesman Alejandro Rodriguez and Coordinator for Policies Adrian
Nador on August 17. Lavagna was Kirchner's first finance minister
and is now running as the candidate of the opposition Radical (UCR)
party. Openly disagreeing with polls that show Cristina Kirchner as
the first round winner for October's elections, Rodriguez recalled
past provincial elections, such as Misiones and Tierra del Fuego,
where none of the pollsters correctly forecast the opposition's
victory. He relayed what he called "off the record" conversations
with different pollsters who indicated a decrease in Cristina
Kirchner's voting intention (32-34%), thus forcing a second round,
and asserted that the real voting intention could not be ascertained
more than thirty days prior to elections. (Note: Recent polling
shows Cristina at 45-49%. End Note.)

5. (SBU) Rodriguez and Nador said Lavagna's increasing support among
voters was a result of his efforts to travel all over the country
and get to know people. They said that Lavagna is focusing on three
important areas during the campaign: higher public security, higher
and better employment and tax breaks for small- and medium-sized

6. (SBU) Although they complained about the insufficient and
sometimes erroneous media coverage their campaign events receive,
they expressed their optimism about Lavagna's prospects.

Macri Looking at the Presidency in 2011

7. (SBU) National Congressman Federico Pinedo, a member of the
Foreign Relations Committee in the Lower House and a recognized
leader of the PRO Bloc, a coalition between Mauricios Macri's party
"Compromiso para el Cambio" and Ricardo Lopez Murphy's party,
"RECREAR," explained the weakness of the political system since the
2001-02 crisis. Pinedo stressed the need for new political leaders
and the systemic problem of the budget dependency of the mayors,
which forces a direct relationship with the Presidency and not to
the provincial Governors.

8. (SBU) In assessing the slate of presidential candidates for
October elections, Pinedo said he considered Roberto Lavagna as the
center-progressive candidate with the remnants of the Radical party,
and described Elisa Carrio as a crusading firebrand, who cannot
break the 14 percent voting intention ceiling. Pinedo derided
front-runner Cristina Kirchner as someone who has psychological
problems, is always in a bad mood, and has problems getting along
with others. "Off the record", Pinedo stated that Macri's people
had made every possible effort to discourage Lopez Murphy's
presidential candidacy and back Lavagna to lead an opposition
coalition for October elections. He also defined Ricardo Lopez
Murphy as a very minor candidate because of his low approval ratings
(around 4 percent).
9. (SBU) Pinedo characterized Kirchner's administration as
"populist, and will turn its back on the longer-run to reap
short-term benefits instead." He said Kirchner had isolated himself
from "the universe", and internationally had good relations only
with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. However, he expressed
confidence that Brazil would stand in the way of Chavez's campaign
to become spokesman of the continent. Pinedo also said that some
cabinet ministers, like Foreign Minister Taiana, were afraid of
Kirchner, and were limited in the authority they had in their daily
work. Asked about Cristina's alleged interest in better
international relations, Pinedo stated Cristina had traveled more
than Nestor Kirchner but that her purported international relations
team (Current New York Consul General Hector Timmerman or the
Argentine Ambassador to France (Eric Calcagno) was middling. (The
press has speculated about a possible foreign policy position for
current Ambassador to Spain, Carlos Bettini, but nothing about

10. (SBU) Quilter asked about the reasons Macri's party would not be
competing for the Presidency. Pinedo responded that Macri had
floated the idea of his candidacy and contracted public opinion
surveys. The results, according to Pinedo, were highly negative
among voters. Macri had decided not to risk alienating or
disappointing the City voters who had supported him for Mayor.
However, Pinedo reaffirmed Macri's intention to eventually run for
President and said his party is already starting to work on
political agreements with Governors for the 2011 elections. Pinedo
strongly asserted that his party is not competing against the
Peronists, but against the Kirchnerists.

11. (SBU) Finally, Pinedo discussed the current deep anti-U.S.
sentiment in Argentina, explaining that most Argentines feel there
is little the U.S. offers Argentina. He offered that this
perception may be a result of what he described as Washington's poor
Latin American agenda. While making clear that he was not a
supporter of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, he noted that, in the
region, the U.S. was losing ground to Chavez's populist tactics and

--------------------------------------------- -----
Fernando Sanchez: the Lower House's new composition may be key
--------------------------------------------- -----

12. (SBU) Quilter met with Congressman Fernando Sanchez, a young and
talented politician who is a protg of presidential candidate Elisa
Carrio (ARI), whom he replaced in Congress after her resignation
earlier this year.

13. (SBU) Sanchez emphasized his perception of a decline in the
Kirchners' political power. He called the corruption scandals
"obvious" and stated they were promoted by internal administration
disputes. During his short time in Congress, Sanchez said he
noticed a growing feeling of discontent with the administration,
noticeable even among those in the President's Frente para la
Victoria (FPV) bloc. He said he was beginning to see a reluctance
to vote for some of the President's bills. He said the Peronist
leaders do not like Kirchner because he even betrayed those that had
originally supported him (Sergio Acevedo, former Governor in Santa
Cruz, Gerardo Conte Grand, former PJ Congressman and Interior
Vice-Minister for a short term in 1992, and other members of the
former Kirchernist faction "Grupo Talcahuano").

14. (SBU) On Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Sanchez said he was
serving as Carrio's advisor when he first met her in Congress and
could observe her in action. He said the First Lady was
bad-tempered, very intolerant, and not very nice. He noted her
intelligence and her ability to persuade but said that trait was not
in evidence of late. He defined her prospective administration as
"enigmatic" and said he held out little hope of her changing the
current government style.

15. SBU) Nevertheless, Congressman Sanchez expressed his confidence
that a change in the makeup of the Lower House, following October
election, could provide the nucleus for a political realignment in
that chamber against the Kirchners. He noted that a similar
realignment occurred during former President Menem's administration.

16. (SBU) Sanchez stated his belief that the recent spate of
corruption scandals will not have much overall impact on public
opinion and will not surpass the perception of corruption during
Menem's era.
Asked about whether there had been any possible political
motivations regarding the pending criminal and civil charges filed
against his political mentor and presidential candidate Elisa
Carrio, Sanchez responded affirmatively, although he never
criticized the work of the court and mentioned all the procedural
steps had been made in a timely manner. Carrio was facing charges
of libel and slander for statements she made in connection with the
murder of a fishing company owner in Patagonia. (Carrio was
acquitted of the charges on August 27.)

--------------------------------------------- ---Ricardo Rouvier:
Kirchner as the builder of a new political movement
--------------------------------------------- ----

17. (SBU) Political analyst and sociologist Ricardo Rouvier, who
was hired by the Kirchner administration, among others, to conduct
opinion polls and provide advisory services, stated that although
his latest polls showed a minor decline in Kirchner's and Cristina
Fernandez de Kirchner's image, Cristina's voting intention remained
quite stable.

18. (SBU) Rouvier said the Kirchners had a love-hate relation with
Peronism. They had belonged to the Peronist youth in the 1970s but
Peron, in a famous political rally in 1974 in the Plaza de Mayo,
literally expelled the leftist Peronists from the Plaza. They feel
Peronism still owes them something. Rouvier said he believes
President Kirchner will be working on the construction of a new
political movement -- based on his Frente para la Victoria group
(FPV) -- after December. This will be something similar to the
project President Alfonsin had in mind during the 80's when he
talked about the "third historical movement."

19. (SBU) Rouvier also expressed his doubts that the Kirchners had
the necessary "psychological strength" to maintain their
micromanagement of the country. He said, however, that the
Kirchners represent the most interesting political offer for
October, mainly due to the construction of their political movement
(FPV) that supersedes the old traditional parties.


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