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Cablegate: Argentina's President Enjoying a Honeymoon with the Public

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DE RUEHBU #0083 0251155
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O 251155Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0112
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE

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SENSITIVE
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA'S PRESIDENT ENJOYING A HONEYMOON WITH THE PUBLIC

1. (SBU) Summary. A leading Argentine polling firm (Poliarquia)
found that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's (CFK) standing
rose by five points since she took office December 10, with 56% of
those polled rating her favorably, despite foreign policy missteps
in early weeks. This is far below the exceptional 80% positive
rating her predecessor Nestor Kirchner enjoyed a month after his
2003 inauguration, but Poliarquia's analysts believe CFK will keep
climbing in the months ahead. The Director of another major polling
firm, Manuel Mora y Araujo, told the Ambassador that the rise also
reflects two factors: 1) most Argentines don't pay attention to
foreign relations; and 2) anti-Americanism still strikes a popular
chord. End summary.

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A good start
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2. (SBU) Poliarquia conducted its latest national survey from
January 3 through January 11 in the largest urban centers of
Argentina, precisely where the President received her lowest support
in the October 28 elections, which she won with 45% of the vote
nationwide. Of those polled, 56% rated CFK favorably, an increase
of five points since her December 10 inauguration. Only 25% of the
respondents rendered a below-average assessment, whereas 12% of the
population surveyed had a negative impression of her. CFK's
negative image decreased six points during her first month in
office.

3. (SBU) Although her predecessor Nestor Kirchner received 80%
favorable opinions during his first month in power, Poliarquia's
analysts believe CFK's administration is paying a public relations
price for being viewed as an extension of her husband's
administration. Poliarquia foresees a possible climb in the
following months, after which she may come to a standstill or begin
to lose support, a common pattern showed by previous
administrations.

4. (SBU) The Ambassador met January 23 with Manuel Mora y Araujo,
who heads another major polling and consulting firm, as well as
serving as president of Di Tella University. He said the poll
results reinforce the notion that most Argentines don't give high
priority to foreign policy. Thus, CFK's
over-reaction to a court case in Miami and her husband's
questionable involvement in a Colombian hostage release did not
really register as negatives for many Argentines. Indeed, one area
where sadly many Argentines are quite willing to pay attention is
with conspiracy theories and criticism of the U.S, he said.

5. (SBU) Comment: CFK got off to a bumpy start in her first month
in office, most notably with the crisis in bilateral relations with
the United States triggered by her over-reaction to the damaging
allegations made by Venezuelan agents on trial in Miami. There were
some other ugly incidents along the way, such as labor leader Hugo
Moyano's heavy-handed attempt to bully her, and her husband's
ill-fated expedition to the Colombian jungle as a ""guarantor"" of
Hugo Chavez's hyped hostage release. CFK was also criticized for
spending half of her first month as president on vacation, holed up
in her country home in southern Argentina. Given these
circumstances, it is surprising that her ratings climbed at all, but
clearly the urban public is using other measures.

WAYNE

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