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Cablegate: Argentine Congressional Leadership Meets With

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #0244/01 0581621
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271621Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0337
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 1060

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 000244

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL OREP ECON IR AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINE CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP MEETS WITH
CODEL ENGEL

REF: (A) BUENOS AIRES 0225 (B) BUENOS AIRES 0226

1. (SBU) Summary and introduction: Codel Engel had a warm
and productive meeting with Argentine Vice President (and
Senate President) Cobos and other congressional leaders.
They discussed Iran, energy, Argentina's economic recovery,
the environment, and the positive feelings following their
meeting with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
(CFK). The codel conveyed concern about Iranian activities
in Bolivia, congratulated Cobos on the country's economic
recovery, looked forward to cooperation on energy and the
environment, and highlighted the close connection formed
during the previous day's meeting with the President.
Argentine representatives reaffirmed their commitment to
fighting terrorism, their position on Iran, and also noted
the past five years of economic growth, and encouraged
codel members to depart with this picture of a revived
country. End summary.

2. (SBU) VP Julio Cobos, Senate Leader of the Victory Front
(FPV) bloc Miguel Pichetto, and Sen. Horacio Lores, and
President of the Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Fellner and
Deputy Agustin Rossi met in a Senate office building on
February 25 with Rep. Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House
Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Rep. Jerry Weller,
Rep. Gene Green, Rep. Maurice Hinchey, and Rep. Virginia
Foxx.

Positive Meeting with the President
-----------------------------------

3. (SBU) Senate President Cobos welcomed the codel,
commenting that the visit had raised great interest within
the GOA and Argentine Congress. He looked forward to
exchanging views on bilateral relations, common interests,
and international policy, and asked about the previous
day's meeting with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
(CFK).

4. (SBU) Rep. Engel said the codel's meeting with the
president was a frank and substantive conversation that
brought to light many similarities and resulted in a
personal connection. He hoped that the visit would pave a
new road for closer relations, as the United States and
Argentina share much in common -- being large, diverse, and
composed of people from all over the world -- and are
natural allies and friends.

Presence of Iran
----------------

5. (SBU) Rep. Weller stated that the codel was united in a
bipartisan desire to improve relations, and expressed his
gratitude for the GOA's partnership on counter-narcotics,
terrorism, and Haiti. He expressed concern about Bolivia
permitting the building of an Iranian television station to
broadcast propaganda.

Trafficking in Persons (TIP)
----------------------------

6. (SBU) Rep. Foxx said she was pleased to learn that the
Argentine Constitution was modeled after the US
Constitution. She congratulated Argentina's Congress on
its daily work for the people of the country, and
encouraged the legislature to pass the TIP legislation
currently under consideration. Rep. Foxx said the issue
was of great interest to the U.S. Congress.

Argentina's support in the war on terror
----------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Sen. Pichetto recalled a previous codel two years
ago led by Sen. John McCain, which resulted in a rich
exchange of ideas related to international trade and human
rights. He voiced the Legislature's interest in deepening
relations with the U.S. Congress and sharing information
between Congressional committees on topics such as
narcotics, TIP, and terrorism. Ambassador Wayne and
Argentine Ambassador Timerman would play key roles in
building this relationship. Regarding support for the war
on terror, Pichetto reminded the codel of recent
legislation passed by the Argentine Congress criminalizing
terrorism and the money laundering that funds it. He also
reiterated the point made by former President Kirchner in
his speech at the United Nations last year criticizing Iran
for its failure to cooperate in the investigation of the
1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, and reminded everyone
that Argentina's president did not go to Venezuela when
President Ahmadinejad visited.

Argentina's economic recovery
-----------------------------

8. (SBU) Deputy Rossi discussed the country's turbulent
recent past. Five years ago, he recounted, a president
stepped down before the end of his term, 60% of people
lived below the poverty line, and 24% were unemployed.
From that institutional and social crisis, Argentina was
able to rebuild to its current state, creating over 3.4
million jobs in four-and-a-half years and lowering poverty
levels. The GOA rebuilt the institution of the presidency,
developed an independent Supreme Court, and ensured that
Congress would vote on laws following its convictions
rather than external influences. He stated that the
current situation reflects the hard work of government,
businesses, and the public, and that the Legislature wanted
to unite with other countries who want to work for a more
equal world.

Energy
------

9. (SBU) Rep. Green congratulated the GOA on the country's
economic growth and affirmed the cooperation that already
exists between the two countries. He discussed his
experience watching Texas diversify to satisfy its energy
needs and noted that reasonably priced energy was critical
for driving future economic growth. With that in mind, he
looked forward to cooperating with Argentina on energy
matters.

10. (SBU) Sen. Lores said he was a member of the Energy
Committee in the Argentine Senate, and came from a province
(Neuquen) that produced 50% of the gas, 20% of the oil, and
15% of the hydroelectric power in the country. He said he
was not a member of the majority, but supports the
legislative changes it is making and is optimistic about
the future given the strong recovery of the past five
years.

11. (SBU) Rep. Hinchey also congratulated the GOA
representatives on the country's social and economic
improvements and voiced his concerns with respect to
energy. He commented that the United States has far less
oil in reserves than what it uses on a daily basis, and
believed that Argentina faced a similar situation. For
this reason, and also because of environmental concerns, he
stressed the importance of renewable energy sources,
particularly solar energy. He said his district
established a Solar Energy Consortium bringing together
universities and private companies. He thought the United
States and Argentina could learn much from one another and
establish similar partnerships.

Building ties between the U.S. and Argentina
--------------------------------------------

12. (SBU) Rep. Engel reminded the GOA representatives that
a presidential election would soon take place in the United
States, and that, regardless of the person/party elected,
there would be policy changes. He stated his intent to
discuss Latin American policy with whomever was in office.
At the same time, there was much that could be done by both
legislatures to facilitate deepening relations. Rep. Engel
also affirmed that points of disagreement between
administrations, such as Argentina's financial and energy
relationship with Chavez, did not preclude a closer
relationship between the USG and Argentina.

13. (SBU) VP Cobos agreed that strengthening U.S. -
Argentine relations was extremely important, and said the
country was also working to strengthen regional relations
through MERCOSUR. The issues raised in the meeting, such
as energy, the environment, etc., go beyond the borders of
the two countries. Argentina is making concerted efforts
to promote energy projects to meet the growing demand of
industry and raise standards of living. The GOA is
instituting a rational energy use plan, supplementing it
with alternatives, including biodiesel, wind, and solar.
He hoped future U.S. administrations will also work to
strengthen bilateral relations, looking deeper at Latin
America so that a cooperative effort can be made to address
domestic and global issues.

14. (U) Codel Engel cleared this cable.

KELLY

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