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Cablegate: Argentina: Highlights of Inaugural Address by the New

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #2327/01 3461732
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 121732Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9889
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 002327

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON PHUM AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: HIGHLIGHTS OF INAUGURAL ADDRESS BY THE NEW
PRESIDENT KIRCHNER

1. Summary and Introduction: At her December 10 swearing-in,
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) thanked her
husband/predecessor for getting Argentina back on its feet after the
devastating 2001-02 crisis. She vowed to deepen his center-left
economic programs to create jobs and reduce poverty, and offered to
push ahead with negotiating a "social pact." On foreign policy, CFK
called for international terrorism to be fought with full respect
for human rights, and she reiterated Argentina's claim to
sovereignty over the Falklands/Malvinas and gave a mixed message on
the dispute with Uruguay ("they are our brothers but our complaint
is just"). CFK also spoke eloquently of the need for government,
communities and parents to work together to strengthen public
education. Local reaction has generally been positive, but a key
union leader sent a verbal warning, several commentators criticized
her harsh words on the Uruguay dispute and noted that she had little
to say about public security, the public's top concern. End summary.


Argentina's First Elected Female President
------------------------------------------

2. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) took office as President of
Argentina on December 10, having been elected six weeks earlier with
45% of the vote to replace her husband, Nestor, as president.
Nestor Kirchner stepped aside after a four and a half year term
which followed a rapid succession of presidents in the wake of the
2001-2002 financial, economic and political crises that traumatized
the country. Nestor Kirchner retains, upon leaving office,
unprecedented levels of popular support (over 60%), due in large
part to the strong recovery of the Argentine economy since 2003.

3. The unusual husband-wife transfer of power made CFK's
inauguration a compelling drama, as many observers still try to
fathom Nestor Kirchner's decision earlier this year to decline a bid
for a likely, if not guaranteed, re-election in favor of his wife's
candidacy. The media claimed that up to 160 foreign delegations
were in attendance. The U.S. was represented by Secretary of Labor
Chao and the Ambassador. Foreign dignitaries included Colombian
President Uribe, French PM Fillon, Brazil's President Lula da Silva,
Chile's President Bachelet, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Ecuador's
Rafael Correa, Bolivia's Evo Morales and Spain's Crown Prince
Felipe.

Economy
-------

4. In her 40-minute inaugural address, delivered extemporaneously
from a bare outline, CFK praised the progress delivered by her
husband and vowed to deepen his center-left economic programs to
create jobs and reduce poverty. In praising her husband's
accomplishments, CFK cited his restructuring of Argentina's debt and
his settlement of IMF obligations. She lauded his efforts to create
jobs and reduce poverty and pledged to continue the battle until
poverty was fully eradicated.

"Social Pact"
-------------

5. Although in advance of the inauguration there had been much
speculation that CFK would use the occasion to shed light on her
frequently bandied promise to bring the government, business and
labor together to negotiate a "social pact," she did not offer much
detail. She reiterated her commitment to a diversified economy and
"accumulation with social inclusion," but in a much-quoted sentence
aimed at business and labor leaders, warned that she had not become
President just to watch out for business profits or to get caught up
in trade unions' infighting.

Foreign Policy
--------------


6. Praising "multilateralism," CFK made clear she hopes to end
Argentina's isolation and re-insert it into the international
community. "The need to reconstruct multilateralism is imperative.
A unilateral (sic) world is an unsafe and unfair world." Referring
to the international terrorist attacks on Argentina that left 29
dead in the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy and 85 dead in the
1994 bombing of a Jewish community center, she said the war on
terrorism should be pursued within a human rights framework.
Although she did not name the United States, at least one major
newspaper ("La Nacion") interpreted this as "criticism of U.S.
counter-terrorism policy."

7. Also in the foreign policy arena, she re-asserted Argentina's
"inalienable right" to the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. CFK welcomed
Uruguayan President Tabare Vasquez, but then accused him of
violating the bilateral treaty that governs usage of the waterway
that separates the two countries. The Uruguayans "are our brothers
but our complaint is just." She offered to help Colombia secure the
release of Ingrid Betancourt from her captors. She praised the
"Banco del Sur," which had once again been launched the night
before, this time with a signing ceremony that involved Venezuela's
Hugo Chavez, Brazil's Lula da Silva, Ecuador's Rafael Correa, and
Bolivia's Evo Morales, and a promise to conclude an agreement within
60 days (see Buenos Aires 2317 and Buenos Aires 2216). She praised
Mercosur as necessary for the growth of its members, given that
"food and energy will be the key of a future that is not so far
away."

Human Rights
------------

8. CFK revisited the issue of human rights when she claimed that
her husband had put an end to impunity by getting some amnesty laws
overturned, allowing the government to prosecute human rights
violations committed during the 1970s "Dirty War" period. She said
she hoped to see some convictions in these cases during her term but
noted that even the most heinous of human rights violations must be
prosecuted in full observance of due process. She led a standing
ovation in honor of the "Plaza de Mayo Mothers" and "Grandmothers,"
Argentina's most iconic human rights activists.

Education
---------

9. CFK repeated her view that progress could not depend on
government programs only but required social change as well. She
spoke at length of her commitment to improve the quality of
education. Recalling her parents' close supervision of her public
school education, she called on government, parents and communities
to work together to strengthen the system. She also mentioned
technology and research as key areas for competitiveness, and
stressed her commitment to focus on those fields, together with the
improvement of public education. (Note: CFK's emphasis on
education dovetails with her continued focus on the need to raise
Argentina's profile in science and technology, which is not
something that previous governments have emphasized.)

Institutions
------------

10. In reviewing her lengthy experience as a provincial and
national legislator, CFK urged legislators to assume their
responsibilities in formulating and debating intelligent policy
proposals and alternatives. She praised the executive and
legislative branches for their work in restructuring a new and
"honorable" Supreme Court and promised to extend judicial reform to
the rest of the courts in order to restore people's confidence in
justice.

11. In addition to the presidential swearing-in, the day's
televised events included the installation of her cabinet members,
roughly two-thirds of whom she inherited from her husband.

Comment
-------

12. The address was an impressive performance by CFK, who spoke
without a prepared text for over 40 minutes and touched upon many of
the issues most important to her: poverty reduction, human rights,
and education. Pundits immediately noted that she did not address
issues of great concern to many Argentines, such as crime, the
growing threat of inflation, and corruption. Several also took her
to task for her sharp criticisms of Uruguay. She did not announce
any major initiatives or new goals, but then again, she did not need
to, since she promises to continue with her husband's team and
policy direction. As if to underscore that CFK's hopes for a
"social pact" will not be an easy task, the leader of the largest
labor federation, the CGT's Hugo Moyano warned that if the
government did not defend the rights of the workers, the latter
"will be (picketing) on the opposite sidewalk." The press also
reported that 25 social activist ("piquetero") groups, led by the
radical-left "Polo Obrero" organization, were planning to block
streets in downtown Buenos Aires on December 12 and protest in the
Plaza de Mayo, across from the presidential office building, the
"Casa Rosada."

WAYNE

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