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Cablegate: Argentine President Kirchner Engages Constructively With

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #0225/01 0561316
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251316Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0295
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 1049

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 000225

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL OREP PTER KIRF PHUM KV IR VZ AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINE PRESIDENT KIRCHNER ENGAGES CONSTRUCTIVELY WITH
CODEL ENGEL


1. (SBU) Summary and introduction: Argentine President Cristina
Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) engaged enthusiastically for an hour in
her office February 21 with visiting U.S. Congressional delegation
headed by Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY), chairman of the House
Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, and the Ambassador. In the
very positive, upbeat meeting, the codel congratulated the President
on Argentina's economic recovery, and she drew attention to
employment gains and other positive social indicators. They
reviewed the potential for greater cooperation in areas such as
science and technology, including renewable energy. The codel
raised concerns about Iranian political activities in the region,
and the President promised to combat vigorously anti-Semitism and
other forms of discrimination and said she would fight terrorism
""out of conviction."" The codel urged passage of legislation
criminalizing trafficking in persons, and Rep. Engel made a pitch
for recognition of Kosovo's independence. CFK expressed her
admiration for the United States' bipartisan practices and her
desire to work to improve bilateral relations. The Casa Rosada gave
high-profile media attention to the meeting, and
Ambassador-designate Timerman told the Ambassador subsequently that
CFK was enthused about prospects for relaunching relations. End
summary.

2. (U) U.S. participants included Representatives Jerry Weller
(R-IL), Gene Greene (D-TC), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Virginia Foxx
(R-NC), and State DAS Joel Starr. GOA participants included Chief
of Cabinet Alberto Fernandez, Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana, and
Argentine Ambassador to the United States Hector Timerman.

------------------------------------
CFK on Argentina's Economic Recovery
------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Rep. Engel congratulated President Cristina Fernandez de
Kirchner (CFK) on winning the elections. He said that growing up in
a blue-collar family instilled in him the belief that government's
role is to improve the lives of working people. CFK's political
record demonstrated to him that she shared the same perspective.
Rep. Weller added that he was a big supporter of female
participation in political life, noting that he was married to Zury
Rios Sosas, a leading member of the Guatemalan Congress. CFK
described her election as Argentina's first democratically-elected
female President as ""eventful"", and noted that what was even more
""remarkable"" was Argentina's economic recovery from the 2001-02
economic crisis. She cited several GOA socio-economic achievements
accomplished during the administration of her husband, former
President Nestor Kirchner: 1) Argentina's unemployment fell from
24% to 7.5%; 2) salaried workers earned the equivalent of 34% of GDP
in 2003 and now earned 41%; and 3) the value of Argentina's exports
grew 67% in the last year. Rep. Hinchey commented that
congratulations are overdue for Argentina's economic success.

--------------------------------------------- --
CFK Desire to Expand Energy and S&T Cooperation
--------------------------------------------- --

4. (SBU) Rep. Weller and Rep. Hinchey both expressed the codel's
desire to build the US-Argentine relationship. Weller expressed
appreciation for GOA efforts to combat the drug trade and terrorism,
as well as its ongoing commitment to rebuild Haiti. Hinchey then
asked what the USG could do to improve the bilateral relationship.
CFK noted that when she was a guest at the 2004 Democratic National
Convention, she participated in a meeting for foreign visitors
hosted by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. According
to CFK, participants in the meeting concluded that the U.S. was not
paying enough attention to Latin America. CFK said she agreed with
that assessment.

5. (SBU) CFK said there were a number of areas where the U.S. and
Argentina could cooperate more, such as in the areas of science and
technology. She added that she had just created a Ministry of
Science and Technology. When Hinchey asked about Argentina's energy
situation, CFK stated that they are trying to diversify their energy
sources and move away from over-reliance on natural gas and oil.
This is another area for more U.S.-Argentine cooperation. Rep.
Greene noted that the U.S., like Argentina needs to diversify its
power sources. He stated that wind power has great potential in
southern Argentina, and that a number of U.S. companies are working
in this area. ""We know that decreasing the use of coal and
petroleum is better for the environment, and we need to focus on
developing natural gas, wind, and nuclear power,"" he stated. CFK
agreed.

--------------------------------------------- --------
CFK: LatAm will Reject Iranian Propaganda by Instinct
--------------------------------------------- --------

6. (SBU) Turning to Iran, Weller observed that no nation in the
Western Hemisphere has suffered more than Argentina from
Iran-sponsored terrorism and praised CFK for being a strong advocate

for the Jewish community. He raised the U.S. Congress's concern
over Bolivian President Evo Morales' February 18 announcement that
Iran will open a regional television station in Bolivia. He
cautioned that the channel could be used as a vehicle to broadcast
anti-Semitic propaganda.

7. (SBU) CFK indicated she was not aware of the potential TV
broadcasts but recalled that shehad served on the congressional
joint committee charged with investigating the terrorist bombings of
the Israeli Embassy in 1992 and the AMIA Jewish cultural center in
1994. She downplayed the concern over the possibility of the
Iranian TV channel being used to spread anti-Semitism propaganda,
saying that Latin American would reject this ""by instinct."" ""Latin
America has a lot of problems, but anti-Semitism is not one of
them,"" she insisted. She noted that Argentina had just hosted an
Arab-Latin American Summit and claimed that the Saudi Foreign
Minister told her he was ""amazed at how well Muslims, Jews, and
Christians exist in Argentina."" She noted that the Jewish people
have suffered throughout history, and that others have suffered
persecution as well, not just Jews. She assured the delegation that
she would ""guarantee"" that Argentina would never accept policies
that discriminate on the basis of religion, color, gender, or sexual
orientation. ""I am very passionate about this,"" she said, adding
that she did not believe anti-Jewish ideas could take root today in
Argentina and said Argentina would remain strongly committed in the
fight against terrorism. We do this not just because we have been
victims but out of conviction, she concluded.

8. (SBU) CFK noted that she was invited last year to speak at the
Venezuelan Jewish Community's 40th anniversary celebration and was
aware of their fear of pressure on them. Engel expressed his
appreciation for CFK's efforts to help the embattled Jewish
community in Venezuela. He indicated that he had also been invited
to visit Caracas, but had not yet accepted the invitation due to
conflicting advice on whether or not his visit would help or hurt
Venezuela's Jewish community.

----------------------
Trafficking in Persons
----------------------

9. (SBU) Rep. Foxx said that she is a conservative Republican but
also a champion of women's rights and a member of the Women's Caucus
in the U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. Congress was
strongly supportive of global efforts to combat trafficking in
persons, particularly education programs to prevent people from
falling prey to traffickers, assistance to protect victims, and
greater efforts to prosecute traffickers. In that last connection,
she understood the Argentine Congress was working on federal
anti-trafficking legislation, and expressed support for its prompt
passage and implementation. CFK acknowledged that it was a
legislative priority.

--------------------------
Venezuelan Agents in Miami
--------------------------

10. (SBU) Rep. Engel said he agreed with CFK that the U.S. had not
paid enough attention to Latin America, a region we neglect at our
own peril. He said he hoped we could work together on this, despite
the bad start because of the misunderstanding over the Miami court
case against four aliens charged with acting as unregistered agents
of a foreign power in the United States. The way the case was
publicly presented ""pained us,"" he said. The case would follow its
due course, he added, because that's the way our system works.
Whatever happens in that court case, he and his subcommittee would
regard Argentina as a partner and seek to work closely to strengthen
relations.

---------------------------------
Kosovo and the Malvinas/Falklands
---------------------------------

11. (SBU) Rep. Engel thanked the President for Argentine cooperation
in security issues, including the tri-border area,
counter-narcotics, and counter-terrorism, and then he raised Kosovo.
Acknowledging Argentina's sensitivities (related to its claim to
the Falklands/Malvinas), Engel noted that he had visited Kosovo
10-12 times. He took an interest in Kosovo because when he first
got involved in politics, Albanian-American constituents started
educating him about the extent of repression against ethnic
Albanians in the region. He had long supported Kosovo independence,
and he hoped we could address Argentine concerns so that it, too,
could help Kosovo.

12. (SBU) CFK said recognition of Kosovo independence was
problematic due to Argentina's need to avoid doing or saying
anything that could undermine its claim to the Malvinas/Falklands.
While the GOA could recognize and honor the U.S. position, its
overriding concern was to protect its claim to the

Malvinas/Falklands, which was ""enshrined in our constitution."" She
noted that the GOA had been trying to get HMG to family members of
Argentine troops killed in the 1982 war to charter a flight to the
islands to visit the tombs of their loved ones. She said HMG had
yet to grant this ""humanitarian gesture"" because of resistance from
the islanders.

--------------------------------------------- -----
Bilateral Relations and Argentina's New Ambassador
--------------------------------------------- -----

12. (SBU) CFK thanked Engel for his remarks regarding the Miami
court case, which she considered an unfortunate incident. She said
the codel's visit was ""a very important gesture,"" which she
appreciated and that she wanted to improve bilateral relations,
which is one of the reasons Hector Timerman would soon be
Argentina's Ambassador in Washington. Engel said he hoped to make a
positive contribution to the bilateral relationship. He said he
looked forward to working with Timerman. CFK said Timerman was a
close advisor and good friend, ""one of my most intelligent
appointments."" She credited Timerman for her first visit to Israel,
when she received a human rights award from the University of
Jersualem. CFK recalled that Timerman had been an exile in the
United States, became an American citizen, and eventually
relinquished that citizenship in order to take up responsibilities
as Argentina's consul general in New York City. She said he
remained deeply grateful to the United States and would work
diligently to help the bilateral relationship.

-------------------------
A Fan of the American Way
-------------------------

14. (SBU) CFK drew the meeting to a close with praise for the United
States. ""Don't forget -- Argentina's Constitution is a copy of the
U.S. Constitution,"" she said. Sadly, Argentina had lost its
bipartisan system when it ""exploded"" in the 2001 crisis. That
bipartisanship had never worked so well in Argentina as it has in
the United States. She said she greatly admired the civic spirit of
the United States, particularly the commitment, once an election was
over, to pull together behind the winner, and the willingness to put
country over party, national interests over partisanship.

15. (SBU) Comment: CFK had her media advisors give prominent
attention to the meeting, and it was widely and positively covered
locally. GOA Ambassador-designate Timerman told the Ambassador
February 22 that he had met later in the day with CFK and that she
was very upbeat about the meeting and about relaunching efforts to
improve bilateral relations with the U.S.

WAYNE

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