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Cablegate: Codel Shelby Discusses Bilateral Relationship, Tip, And

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DE RUEHBU #0425/01 0951914
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R 041914Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0637
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE USD FAS WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 6854
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1768
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 7053
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 1108
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 6746
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ APR SAO PAULO 3671
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 2446

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 000425

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV GTIP PTER KTFN ECON OREP AR
SUBJECT: CODEL Shelby discusses bilateral relationship, TIP, and
Terrorism with Argentina's Justice Minister

Ref: (A) Buenos Aires 173 and previous

-------
Summary
-------

1. (SBU) During a March 25 meeting with Justice Minister Anibal
Fernandez, a delegation of four U.S. Senators and one
Representative, led by Senator Shelby (R-AL), noted U.S.
Congressional interest in Argentina's efforts to combat terrorism,
terrorism financing, and money laundering, particularly in the
tri-border area. They also inquired about the status of Trafficking
in Persons (TIP) legislation. Fernandez emphasized the improving
bilateral relationship, thanked the USG for its support of the GoA's
pursuit of Interpol Red Notices related to the 1994 AMIA bombing,
noted that Argentina is still a potential target for terrorist
attacks, and predicted the Argentine Congress would pass the TIP law
within 20 days. End Summary.

------------------------------------------
Focus on Terrorism, Trafficking in Persons
------------------------------------------

2. (U) Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), ranking member of the Senate
Banking Committee, Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), Senator Bob Corker
(R-TN), Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), and Congressman Bud Cramer
(D-AL), capped a successful visit to Buenos Aires with meetings on
March 25 with Minister of Justice, Security, and Human Rights,
Anibal Fernandez, Central Bank President Martin Redrado, and
representatives from U.S. financial institutions operating in
Argentina (see septels).

3. (SBU) Senator Shelby started off highlighting the importance of
building bilateral ties and thanked the Minister for giving the
CODEL the important opportunity to learn more about Argentina.
Other CODEL members echoed these sentiments, with Senator Gregg
commenting that many in Congress viewed Argentina as the lynchpin to
South America, so it was imperative for the U.S. and GoA to continue
good relations. Shelby noted U.S. Congressional interest in the
Tri-Border Area (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay), and sympathized that
it was a difficult area for the three countries' governments to
control. Senator Shelby expressed interest in Argentina's efforts
to combat money laundering and terrorism finance, and acknowledged
the difficulties involved in distinguishing between legitimate
financial flows and those going to finance terrorism.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Fernandez: Secret of Good Relations is ""Respect""
--------------------------------------------- ----

4. (SBU) Fernandez emphasized the improving bilateral relationship,
calling it increasingly solid and mature, based on mutual respect,
with each side being candid about areas of disagreement but also
coordinating closely on issues of mutual interest. He contrasted
this with relations in the 1990s, when then-President Menem
characterized U.S.-Argentine relations as ""carnal."" Fernandez
commented that the current GoA leadership had always disliked that
characterization, and it had also proven untrue over time. By
example, despite the ""nice words"" of that period, Fernandez noted
that U.S. companies were under-represented in multinational company
bids for early 1990s GoA privatizations, largely because they
refused to pay bribes to Menem's government. (Comment: Similar
reflections have been made to Ambassador and Econoffs by Planning
Minister De Vido and Internal Commerce Secretary Moreno, praising
U.S. company track records of playing by the rules in Argentina and
encouraging expanded U.S. investment.)

5. (SBU) Now, Fernandez argued, these over-the-top phrases have been
replaced by a more honest relationship, with each side defending its
own interests. He said the secret to a good relationship is
respect, and the USG and GoA are now open about their disagreements
with each other's policies or actions. For example, he noted that
the GoA had strongly opposed the invasion of Iraq, but had raised
its objections in the appropriate forum (UN) and had not attempted
to build or support opposition to the action. Interestingly, he
said, it is under this more open and honest relationship that U.S.
companies are increasingly winning Argentine government contracts
(as an example, Fernandez pointed to Motorola's winning an important
contract to provide radio communication systems to Federal Police
forces in Argentina). He added that U.S.-Argentina cooperation is
becoming so normal that the Argentine press no longer treats his
meetings with the Ambassador as a big news event; they are now part
of the regular working agenda.

--------------------------------------------- ---
Interpol Red Notices, Terrorism, Tri-Border Area
--------------------------------------------- ---

6. (SBU) Fernandez expressed appreciation for USG efforts to support
the GoA's successful pursuit of Interpol ""Red Notices""
(international capture notices) for five of the eight current and
former Iranian government officials and Lebanese national (and
senior member of Hizballah) Imad Fayez Mughniyah, indicted in the
July 18, 1994, terrorist bombing of the Argentine-Jewish Mutual
Association (AMIA). Fernandez noted that after Mughniyah was killed
in a car bomb blast on February 12, Hizballah had threatened
retaliation against Israeli interests worldwide. He said the GoA
sees Argentina as a likely target, so considers counter-terrorism
efforts a high priority.

7. (SBU) Nevertheless, Fernandez pointed out that the GoA has to be
cautious when discussing terrorism, terrorism financing, and the
tri-border area (TBA), in order not to antagonize or stigmatize
Muslims in Argentina. The Argentine Muslim population is relatively
small and moderate, he argued, and has excellent relationships with
other communities in Argentina, including the Jewish community.
Fernandez also argued that it is incorrect to speak in general terms
about problems in the TBA since there are no supra-national laws
applying to the region and since each of the three countries faces
distinct challenges. He called it more appropriate to avoid
generalizations and to attribute specific TBA problems to specific
TBA countries. (Comment: Argentina is often lumped in with Brazil
and Paraguay on TBA issues, even though the majority of questionable
TBA financial transactions are believed to take place in Paraguay.
This was likely Fernandez' attempt to differentiate Argentina from
its neighbors when it comes to money laundering and, especially,
terrorism finance. End Comment)

8. (SBU) Fernandez reassured the CODEL that the GoA is serious about
its counter-terrorism efforts. He said Argentine intelligence and
law enforcement forces were working closely with USG counterparts,
and emphasized that the GoA's objective was to analyze any
activities, including financial movements, whose aim could be to
facilitate or finance terrorism. On that note, he said the
government was currently ""obsessed"" with the issue of terrorism
finance, and was in the process of making dramatic changes to its
oversight of financial transactions. The goal, he said, was to
ensure that all suspicious transactions are fully analyzed and
investigated.

---------------------
TIP Law Expected Soon
---------------------

9. (SBU) Fernandez said he hoped and expected the Argentine Lower
House (the Senate has already passed this version of the bill) would
pass the TIP law within 20 days, and he noted that under the new
law, a notable advance is that the federal government will have
jurisdiction over TIP, instead of individual provincial governments.
Nevertheless, he spent most of the discussion on TIP recounting in
great detail his dissatisfaction with the role of the State
Department's G/TIP officer, who insisted at a lunch hosted by FBI
Assistant Director of International Operations (during Fernandez'
visit to Washington last year) that the law pending before the
Argentine Congress was inadequate. He blamed this USG official's
involvement for delaying the passage of TIP legislation. (Comment:
This has become a frequent refrain of Fernandez. G/TIP and Post
have raised a number of shortcomings in this version of the bill, as
have a number of Argentine members of Congress and the NGO
community. It is these latter two groups, however, exercising their
prerogatives in the democratic system, which have ""delayed"" passage
in their attempts to obtain a more comprehensive bill. Post has
reported details in past cables. See Reftel.)

10. (U) CODEL Shelby cleared this message.
WAYNE

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