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Cablegate: Argentina: Political and Economic Analysts Discuss Cfk

VZCZCXYZ0004
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #0242/01 0581510
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271510Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0334
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 6723
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1711
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0084
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ FEB QUITO 1058
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 1045
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 000242

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON OREP AR VE BR CU
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ANALYSTS DISCUSS CFK
REGIME PRIORITIES WITH CODEL ENGEL

1. (SBU) Summary: Representative Eliot Engel and Delegation met
February 21 with noted Argentine political and economic analysts to
discuss bilateral relations, views on the Cristina Fernandez de
Kirchner (CFK) administration, and regional issues, including
relations with Brazil, Venezuela, and Cuba. Analysts noted that CFK
is not ideologically driven (in particular reference to relations
with Venezuela), and that they expect her to follow most of her
husband's economic and political policies. Regionally, CFK looks to
position Argentina between Brazil and Venezuela but, while CFK may
be more interested in foreign policy than her domestically-focused
husband, she too lacks experience in the area. Domestic challenges,
such as inflation and public security, will absorb much of CFK's
attention, but economic and fiscal challenges will force her to
focus more on the international arena, as her administration tries
to deal with the related issues of energy shortages, the need to
attract investment, and access international financial markets. End
Summary.

2. (U) Representatives Eliot Engel, Maurice Hinchey, Jerry Weller,
Gene Green, and Virgina Foxx, accompanied by Ambassador, met
February 21 with noted Argentine political and economic analysts.
The analysts were Rosenda Fraga, Jorge Castro, Diana Mondino,
Alejandro Catterberg, and Nicolas Ducote.

BILATERAL RELATIONS
-------------------

3. (SBU) Rosenda Fraga, one of Argentina's preeminent political
analysts, said that anti-American sentiment in Argentina is
substantial, but is much like French public opinion of the United
States. In the case of France, he argued, public disdain for
America does not impede France from being a NATO ally -- nor should
it keep the U.S. and Argentine governments from working together.
Chairman Engel suggested that perhaps some portion of the
anti-Americanism arises from the close U.S.-Argentina relationship
during the Carlos Menem administration (1989-1999), a government
vigorously repudiated by CFK and former President Nestor Kirchner
and now largely discredited by the Argentine public.

DOMESTIC CONCERNS
-----------------

4. (SBU) Alejandro Catterberg, with the political consulting and
polling firm Poliarguia, stated that the main concern of the
Argentine public is personal security, followed by employment and
inflation. He noted that while CFK's public ratings are high, they
are not as high as her husband's were at the outset of his
administration, and he suggested that her public support will begin
to decline, making her less popular during mid-term elections in
2009. To counteract this, Catterberg said, the Kirchners are
rebuilding the structure of the Partido Justicialista (PJ),
consolidating their control of it under the leadership of former
President Nestor Kirchner. This will provide CFK with more
political power, but less public support, according to Catterberg.


5. (SBU) Nicolas Ducote, Director of CIPPEC (Center for Implementing
Public Policy), echoed the concerns of Catterberg regarding the
concentration of power in the executive branch. This is tempered
somewhat, he noted, by the growth and influence of civil society
groups focused on good governance, transparency, and strengthening
democratic institutions.

DOMESTIC ISSUES DRIVE INTERNATIONAL ENGAGEMENT
--------------------------------------------- -

6. (SBU) Rep. Jerry Weller wondered whether public opinion supported
CFK being more of an internationalist than her husband, former
president Nestor Kirchner. The general consensus of the analysts
was that, while CFK was more interested than her husband in
international issues and Argentina's role in the world, she is not
an "internationalist." In fact, they agreed, she is relatively
inexperienced in the global arena. The analysts also noted that
Argentines are currently focused on domestic issues, particularly in
light of the very fresh memories of the 2001-2002 economic crisis.
That said, the analysts thought that necessity rather than public
opinion (e.g., energy shortages and the need to attract investment)
will push CFK to be a more active participant in regional and
international issues.

7. (SBU) Economist Dr. Diana Mondino noted that Argentina's
phenomenal growth over the last five years had occurred "despite the

actions of the government," attributing the economy's performance to
positive external factors such as high commodity prices. While the
Argentine economy is 40% larger than in 2002, she said, the
education system is failing, and the vast majority of exports are
commodities. In short, Argentina's gains are not sustainable. Rep.
Maurice Hinchey asked whether Argentina is investing in alternative
energy, given the energy shortages in the country. Nicolas Ducote
explained that such investments are difficult given an uncertain
investment climate and domestic policies fixing the prices of fuel
and electricity below market prices.

ARGENTINA'S REGIONAL ROLE
-------------------------

8. (SBU) Jorge Castro, a strategic planning expert, expressed his
opinion that the Kirchners should not be placed in the same
ideological camp as Hugo Chavez or Evo Morales. CFK's relations,
with Venezuela, in particular, will be pragmatically driven and
focused on economic and commercial issues. Castro and Fraga agreed
that the GoA sees itself filling the gap between Brazil and
Venezuela and trying to benefit from that dynamic. They also said
that an interesting relationship to watch will be that of Brazil and
Cuba. They believe that Raul Castro will be more focused on
domestic issues -- now that he has the reins of government -- and
will seek to attract investment, at the same time trying to distance
himself somewhat from Chavez in Venezuela. Brazil, they said, will
begin to exert more influence on Cuba in this scenario.

9. (U) This cable was cleared by CODEL Engel.

KELLY

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