Cablegate: Argentina: Getting Past Square One with The


DE RUEHBU #0235/01 0571220
O 261220Z FEB 08





E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/22/2028


Classified By: DCM Tom Kelly for reasons b, d.

1. (C) Summary: With a seven-week period of bilateral
estrangement in our rear-view window, we have an opportunity
-- again -- to build a more constructive relationship with
Argentina. The warming trend in the bilateral relationship
continues. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her
government rolled out the red carpet for CODEL Engel and
PDDNI Kerr, and the circle of GOA luminaries making positive
statements about the United States is growing. Capitalizing
on this opportunity, however, will be no easy task.
Confidence must be rebuilt on our side and in Buenos Aires.
The GOA must demonstrate its commitment to a constructive
relationship, including through visits to the United States.
But concerted effort is also needed from our side, including
visits to Argentina by senior USG officials. The presence of
authoritative USG officials here, and the attendant positive
media coverage it creates, feed the Argentine need for
attention, directly attacking one of the main causes of
anti-Americanism here -- the perception that the USG does not
care enough about Argentina. The hard work will be worth the
effort if we can make a dent in anti-U.S. sentiment and
influence Argentina to stay out of the Bolivarian camp.
Making Argentina a more cooperative interlocutor and
receptive audience for U.S. ideas is achievable. End Summary.

An Austral Warming Trend

2. (C) Three weeks have passed since the GOA signaled an end
to its bilateral squabble with the USG via a highly
publicized meeting on January 31 betweQPresident Cristina
Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) and Ambassador Wayne. (The U.S.
Ambassador is the only Chief of Mission who has been received
privately by CFK; she has now received him three times since
her inauguration.) The change in how the United States is
treated and portrayed by Argentine authorities is striking.
As we had agreed beforehand, CFK insiders followed the
January 31 session with positive and conciliatory statements
from Cabinet Chief Alberto Fernandez, Foreign Minister Jorge
Taiana, and others. From January 31 on, the Argentines have
given prominent positive public play to each event involving
a USG visitor, including the two (CODEL Engel and PDDNI) that
occurred in the last week.

3. (C) The chorus of anti-U.S. recriminations has fallen
silent. In their place, we are hearing positive
pronouncements about our country. On February 20, for
example, after a meeting between the Ambassador and Minister
of Defense Garre, a hold-over from the first Kirchner
administration who had previously resisted close cooperation
with the USG, the Defense Ministry issued an upbeat
communique on its website noting that "the Argentine side
expressed gratitude for American assistance." The statement
then proceeded to detail several areas of successful
bilateral cooperation that helped to train and transform
Argentina's military.

4. (C) In the wake of the meeting three weeks ago with CFK,
the Ambassador has had friendly and productive meetings with
Cabinet heavyweights such as Cabinet Chief Fernandez, MOD
Garre, Foreign Minister Taiana, Economy Minister Lousteau,
and Justice Minister Anibal Fernandez (reftels A-E).

5. (C) More importantly, CFK herself has demonstrated her
continuing personal interest in ties with the USG by hosting
two meetings in her presidential office at the Casa Rosada
with U.S. visitors in rapid succession: a positive,
well-covered session with CODEL Engel on February 21, and
PDDNI Kerr, who had a productive meeting with her on February
25. Privately, Rep. Engel described the CODEL's 90-minute

meeting with CFK as "a home-run." The meeting was covered
intensively by the media, which characterized the event as a
"Gesture of Detente" and "Improvement in Bilateral Relations"
in leading daily headlines. PDDNI Kerr's meeting was equally
positive. CFK warmly thanked him for his "important" visit,
and repeated several times her commitment to the struggle
against terrorism (saying, for example, that her government
was "strongly committed to fight terrorism at home and
internationally" and that her commitment to counter-terrorism
was "absolute").

Argentina Is In Play

6. (C) The about-face is striking, because it comes on the
heels of a coordinated GOA effort, with the Kirchners and
other GOA all-stars front and center, to impugn the motives
of the United States in the Miami prosecution of Venezuelan
agents connected to the matter of Guido Alejandro
Antonini-Wilson's cash-filled suitcase. But the rhetorical
course-correction is not surprising. CFK spent much of the
latter half of 2007 telegraphing her intention to pursue
closer relations with the United States, holding three
meetings with Ambassador Wayne and spending a week in New
York City wooing investors and the media, as well as meeting
A/S Shannon. Just days before her inauguration, in a meeting
with the Ambassador, CFK expressed her admiration for the
United States and her desire to improve the bilateral
relationship. Her Cabinet Chief Fernandez and new Ambassador
to the United States Timerman argue forcefully that she wants
to change past GOA practices and maintain good relations with
the USG.

7. (C) Clearly, there is still hard work to be done to build
mutual confidence and establish a basis for sustained "good"
relations. To maintain and reinforce the recent positive
momentum, we need more engagement, not less -- by both sides.
The GOA certainly needs to demonstrate its commitment to
this effort. But it is important to remember that we also
have much to gain if things go well.

8. (C) The foreign policy orientation of the fledgling CFK
government is very much in play. Moreover, in our view, the
prevailing winds in the region favor our efforts to help
Argentina evolve into a constructive partner. Hugo Chavez
(whom CFK will visit in early March to ink an oil-for-food
deal -- septel) is being portrayed in the local media as
increasingly on the defensive, and Fidel Castro's withdrawal
from the Cuban political scene is being covered here as the
end of a radical era. In contrast, neo-left politicians like
Lula (who just visited Buenos Aires to sign a number of
bilateral agreements) and Chile's Michelle Bachelet are
well-regarded here as pragmatic leaders who are making
progress on social justice while maintaining good relations
with Washington. We read the tea leaves to indicate that CFK
much prefers to follow Lula's path than Chavez's, and wants
to diversify Argentina's good relations in the world.

9. (C) At the same time, there are countervailing forces that
could push the new president in another direction.
Influential figures within her government, such as Planning
Minister Julio de Vido, espouse a close embrace of Chavez's
Bolivarian project. Although de Vido's primary motive for
tilting towards Chavez may be pecuniary, a Bolivarian
approach to foreign policy would sit well with CFK's poor and
working class political constituency, and probably appeal at
a certain level to the Peronist/populist instincts of CFK and
her husband. Nestor Kirchner himself was never as
comfortable with the United States as his wife has proven to
be. For example, he never received this Ambassador or
publicized contacts with us, whereas CFK has met the
Ambassador six times and played each meeting positively and
prominently in the media. While Nestor Kirchner is still a
powerful decision-maker, he is by most reports ceding foreign
policy to CFK.

10. (C) In our view, the government's left-leaning,
nationalistic heritage does not necessarily lead to chronic

confrontation with the United States. CFK seems more
interested in governance and the longevity of her family's
political prospects than in gratuitous Yankee-bashing.
Without U.S. engagement, however, our opportunity to develop
a more constructive relationship with Argentina could be
squandered. We need to stay on the field to win the game.

Why Visits Help Educate and Show Interest

11. (C) Engagement means, among other things, senior-level
visits in both directions. This is true for symbolic and
practical reasons. Like other geographically isolated
countries, Argentines keep track of who visits them and who
doesn't. The GOA's infatuation with the travel plans of
Assistant Secretary Shannon reflects a deep-seated,
society-wide insecurity about Argentina's relative importance
in the world. Argentines obsess over the perceived
indifference of other countries to their interests and
concerns, especially that of the United States. Visits to
the region by senior USG officials that seem to hopscotch
over Argentina are always noted in the press and the
corridors of power.

12. (C) CFK clearly shares this fixation. She told the
Ambassador late last year that she faults the USG for not
paying sufficient attention to Latin America (read:
Argentina) over the past few years, and repeated that
analysis to CODEL Engel on February 21 (ref F). This is not
new, or confined to CFK and her constituency. It is a widely
shared perception in Argentina that the United States has
only rarely sustained positive interest in the Southern Cone.
(At a recent lunch with prominent local analysts,
businesspersons, and media figures for PDDNI Kerr, this was a
recurrent theme -- and none of them were government
supporters.) High-level visits can be used to demonstrate
our good intentions and sincere desires for stronger
relations. For example, Secretary Chao's December visit to
CFK's inauguration helped us to rebut accusations of a U.S.
conspiracy against the GOA during the furor over the Miami
court case.

13. (C) Just as importantly, visits help GOA officials to
learn. CFK and her husband know little about the way that
our society and political system function. This holds true
for most of their closest advisors and the Argentine
political establishment writ large as well. The recent
bilateral crisis, for example, reminded us how few of them
(including those in the "pro-U.S." camp) really understand
the extent of our justice system's independence. To our
great advantage, Argentina is now headed by a President who
wants to learn more about our country -- evinced, for
instance, by the manner in which she pumps visitors for
information about the U.S. presidential race. (Though she
initially favored another woman candidate, it was clear by
February 21 that she had absorbed much about all three
leading candidates, and in both of her meetings with USG
visitors in recent days she made positive comments about all
three and about the vitality of our electoral process.)
Alberto Fernandez told the Ambassador that he recently
recommended that CFK accept Gordon Brown's invitation to
travel to London for a gathering of international political
party leaders precisely because it would be an excellent
opportunity for her to learn more about the global scene
through direct contact with other world leaders.

The Most Promising Areas of Focus

14. (C) On the practical level, despite this Mission's
renewed access to every level of the Argentine government,
there are a number of concrete policy areas in which
Washington-based agencies and their leaders need to engage,
including via the personal contact that visits make possible:

-- (C) Finance: Achievement of a closer economic
relationship, which CFK has told us she wants, will not

happen without a Paris Club deal to normalize the GOA's debt
to official creditors. That in turn will require Treasury's
engagement with CFK's capable young Economy Minister Martin
Lousteau. A Paris Club deal would be a critical first step
towards an economically resurgent Argentina's broader
reinsertion into global capital markets. This, in turn, will
lessen Argentina's reliance on Venezuela to help place new
Argentine debt, a reliance that comes with Bolivarian
political and ideological strings attached. It could also
help Lousteau, who is engaged in an internal tug-of-war with
less market-friendly forces on many issues critical to the
500 U.S. companies doing business here, establish his primacy
within the GOA on economic policy.

-- (C) Defense Cooperation: The Ministry of Defense is more
friendly to us now than it has been at any time since MOD
Garre took office two years ago. The Army chief, who
previously kept his distance from the United States, has
reached out to us for contact. Argentina's Navy and Air
Force are eager to work with us. To capitalize on this
attitudinal shift, we need high-profile U.S. military leaders
like Southcom Commander Stavridis (scheduled to visit in May)
to come to Argentina. His visit could help us bring the
military relationship to another level, advancing the ball on
issues like Argentine participation in exercises, exchanges,
and regional security cooperation. Such a visit could also
keep U.S. military suppliers in the race for important
contracts like 3-D radars. MOD U/S Forti told the Ambassador
last week that he hopes to get MOD Garre to the United States
in the months ahead.

-- (C) Law Enforcement and Intelligence: Cooperation in this
area was a bright spot in the bilateral relationship, even
during the most difficult periods of the first Kirchner
administration. The worrying freeze in cooperation that took
place during the period of estrangement is over, and our
cooperation is returning to normal. We need senior-level
visits, such as the planned trip by Deputy FBI Director
Pistole in May, to advance U.S. interests in intensified
counter-terrorism work, and to resume our valuable
partnership with the GOA to bring the Iranian-sponsored
perpetrators of the 1994 AMIA bombing to justice. We also
need to get leading GOA law enforcement officials to the
United States for bilateral consultations.

-- (S) Intelligence: Argentine intelligence officials highly
value their relationship with U.S. counterparts, as PDDNI
Kerr's visit amply demonstrated. During a dinner with the
PDDNI February 23, the GOA's Deputy Director of Intelligence
recounted with pride that his service has shared high-value
information with us and worked closely with us in support of
U.S. goals. The PDDNI's visit reinforced our superb working
relationship with Argentina's service (the National
Intelligence Service -- SIDE), and we need to keep developing
it through continued cooperation.

-- (SBU) Science and Technology: CFK has repeatedly cited
this as an area where she hopes to expand contact and
cooperation with the United States.

15. (C) Visits by high-level U.S. and GOA officials to each
other's country on these and other areas will advance our
long-term interest in a friendly relationship with a
populous, fast-growing country with considerable talent and
resources. As importantly, such travel advances key U.S.
interests in specific policy areas -- normalization of
financial relationships between developing economies and
creditors, amicable military-to-military ties, and
cooperation on regional counter-terrorism issues -- that
matter to our country's security interests.

16. (C) Finally, travel by prominent USG and GOA officials to
each other's countries directly addresses one of the main
causes of anti-Americanism here -- the perception that the
USG does not care enough about Argentina. The positive media
coverage created by such visits makes Argentines at all
levels of society feel relevant in the world and taken into
considerations by our powerful country. This cannot help but

chip away at this society's collective animus towards out
nation, which stems to a large extent from its collective
insecurity about itself.

Let's Make It Work

17. (C) Events over the past two years remind us that
relations with the GOA are not easy. Nonetheless, we have a
real opportunity to reach a more positive equilibrium in the
bilateral relationship. In his January 31 meeting with CFK,
the Ambassador deployed Department-cleared talking points
that featured the proposal that both sides would demonstrate
interest in the relationship by engaging each other,
including via visits in each direction. As reported in ref
A, CFK agreed, and expressed interest in a steady stream of
high-level visits. We therefore have a deal in place with
the GOA on travel in both directions. The Argentines need to
hold up their end of the bargain. Cabinet Chief Fernandez
told the Ambassador February 21 that he had identified March
8-12 for travel to the United States. Foreign Minister
Taiana, MOD Garre, and Economy Minister Lousteau also intend
to travel to the United States soon. We should remain
committed to our part in this effort, especially after
several weeks of positive interaction with the GOA.

© Scoop Media

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