Cablegate: Argentina: Ambassador Discusses Harvard Trip, Dow


DE RUEHBU #0495/01 1081545
R 171545Z APR 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: The Ambassador met April 15 with the mayor
of Bahia Blanca, Cristian Breitenstein, who had recently
returned from a brief course of study at Harvard University.
Young, dynamic and pro-American, Breitenstein identified
priorities for his first full term in office, including
expanding the city's role in the global marketplace based on
shipping port traffic and significant foreign direct
investment, including that from Dow Chemical, which is
celebrating 50 years of doing business in Argentina. The
Ambassador said that he saw opportunities for cooperation
with Bahia Blanca on initiatives such as youth programs and
corporate social responsibility, and noted the pending visit
of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington as a chance to
highlight the relationship. End Summary.

2. (U) Background: Bahia Blanca, home to one of Argentina's
major ports, is a city of over 300,000 people in the
southwest of the province of Buenos Aires. The port has been
a key factor in the city's significant economic growth over
the past five years. There are currently seven daily flights
between Buenos Aires and Bahia Blanca. The city is home to
three universities, several museums, and major Dow Chemical
plants for production of ethylene and polyethylene. It is
also the birthplace of San Antonio Spurs star Manu Ginobili,
a national sports hero for his exploits in the NBA.

3. (U) Breitenstein began his mayoral career by serving out
the last two years of his predecessor's term following the
former mayor's premature departure due to corruption charges.
As Chair of the City Council, he was next in the line of
succession. He was on a one year leave of absence as chair
studying in Germany at the time and received a call from the
presidential palace, the Casa Rosada, to return to Argentina
and take over mayoral duties in Bahia Blanca. He has since
been reelected and is now serving his first full term in
office at the age of 35. He gave the impression of a dynamic
young leader on the way up the ladder but also very
pro-business and pro-U.S. He noted too that Bahia Blanca
voted heavily for the opposition in the last election.

Harvard, Boston, and the US

4. (U) Breitenstein explained that he had recently returned
from a short study course at Harvard. He said he found great
value in the Harvard course, having had the time to network
with other mayors and ministers, in addition to meeting the
Dean of the university. He enjoyed Boston, took in a Celtics
game, and looked forward to an upcoming trip to Jacksonville,
Florida, which is a sister city of Bahia Blanca.

Mayor's Priority - Continued Economic Growth

5. (SBU) The Mayor explained that his number one priority is
continued growth through expansion of Bahia Blanca's role in
the global economy. He expects continued foreign direct
investment from countries such as France and Germany and
ongoing growth in port traffic. Dow Chemical in particular
has made significant investments locally, and will be
celebrating its 50th year of doing business in Argentina on
April 16. He said the Spanish energy company Repsol is
currently working out the details of building a liquid
natural gas regasification plant, and that private interests
will soon begin funding an expansion of Bahia Blanca's
airport so that it may expand the number of flights to and
from Buenos Aires, currently at seven flights a day. Grain
company Louis Dreyfus is also a large investor in the city.

Youth and Volunteer Programs

6. (U) Breitenstein stated that in addition to the Ginobili
Foundation, Bahia Blanca has hundreds of youth and volunteer
organizations, ranging from sports clubs to social work. He
said that basketball was especially popular, calling Bahia
Blanca "the Harlem of South America," with many children
playing the sport very proficiently and from a very young
age. The Mayor noted with pride that 10 percent of the
population was involved in some type of social service
organization, and that volunteering had been an integral part
of the city's culture long before the crisis in 2001.
Ambassador promoted educational exchanges with the United
States as a valuable opportunity for young people in Bahia
Blanca, and offered post's resources to improve cultural
understanding between the youth of Argentina and the U.S.
The Ambassador also reviewed post efforts to boost and
support corporate social responsibility efforts in Argentina,
particularly those of U.S. companies.

Sister Cities

7. (U) In response to Ambassador's query about size and scope
of sister-city relationships, the Mayor responded that Bahia
Blanca currently had such ties with a number of cities around
the globe, including Cienfuegos, Cuba; Dalian, China; Fermo,
Italy; Jacksonville, Florida; and Talcahuano, Chile among
others. Breitenstein saw these as a way "to show Bahia
Blanca to the world and the world to Bahia Blanca," as well
as spur economic growth. He will soon be visiting
Jacksonville and seeks ways to leverage these ties which span
the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Ambassador noted that
Bariloche, a major adventure sports destination in Argentina,
is taking advantage of the sports medicine knowledge of
sister city Aspen, Colorado through medical exchanges.

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