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Cablegate: Santiago's Regional Leaders Discuss Metropolitan Challenges

VZCZCXYZ0005
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSG #0394 1202105
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 292105Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3187
INFO RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 0905
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 5554
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ APR BRASILIA 0287
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 3978
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3416
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1716
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 1849

UNCLAS SANTIAGO 000394

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL CI
SUBJECT: SANTIAGO'S REGIONAL LEADERS DISCUSS METROPOLITAN CHALLENGES
WITH AMBASSADOR SIMONS


1. (U) Summary: In meetings with the Ambassador on April 2 and 3,
respectively, the Mayor of Santiago listed public education as the
biggest priority for his municipality, while the Intendant of the
Metropolitan Region focused on public transportation (Transantiago),
traffic congestion and public security as primary challenges. End
summary.

A Low-profile Mayor Focuses on Education
----------------------------------------

2. (U) Ambassador Simons accompanied by EPOL Counselor and EPOL
Specialist called April 2 on the Mayor of Santiago Raul Alcaino, who
has held office since 2004. Mayor Alcaino is not running for
re-election. Alcaino has kept a low profile as Mayor, focusing
mainly on resolving the traditional problems of the municipality,
adopting the role of "efficient executive" rather than "charismatic
politician." His main concern is education and the proper
allocation of resources for public education. Alcaino is focused on
using culture and recreation to bolster education's attractiveness
to youth. The basic idea has been to foster among students a sense
of belonging to their schools and neighborhoods. His goal is to
provide children with a "dream worth fighting for". Alcaino wants
students to learn that they can "be more" when they receive their
education. Public education in Chile lacks sufficient resources and
has long been ignored; the sector needs a modernization plan that
involves both the Ministry of Education and the municipal schools'
administrative boards.

3. (U) Ambassador asked Alcaino his opinion on the polarization of
Chilean politics. Alcaino noted he was of the opposition coalition,
but that he has maintained a very good relationship with the central
government and has no doubt as to the technical and political
capabilities of the current administration. However he criticized
politics in Chile as "stuck 30 years in the past." Politicians do
not look to the future. There is a tendency to polarize
discussions, especially those that are value-based. Currently the
parties in the center are vulnerable to this polarization. The
Christian Democrats and National Renewal are key hinges in their
respective coalitions, but they are susceptible to these forces
which escalate the possibility of political divisiveness.

Recently Appointed Metropolitan Leader faces Transantiago
-------------------------- -----------------------------

4. (U) Ambassador Simons called on Metropolitan Region (RM)
Intendant Alvaro Erazo on April 3. A medical doctor, Erazo, was
recently appointed Intendant of the most populous region of the
country by President Bachelet in a cabinet shuffle in January. As
Intendant, he heads the Metropolitan Regional Government, made up of
6 provinces that incorporate 52 municipalities (including the
Municipality of Santiago). Until now, Erazo's public experience had
been mostly in the health sector. Ambassador Simons was accompanied
by E/POL Counselor and E/POL Specialist.

5. (U) Erazo listed the main challenges for his region as those of
any metropolis: public transportation; roadway infrastructure and
traffic congestion; and public security. In addition, because the
RM encompasses 18 rural municipalities, the recent drought affecting
southern and central Chile poses a serious challenge for the region
this year. He also mentioned Santiago's air pollution problem and
the related fallout from the disastrous implementation of the
Transantiago metropolitan transit plan. He stated that, without a
fully-functioning Transantiago that can attract individual drivers
away from their cars, it will be very difficult to make any
improvements in the RM air quality. The RM currently has 50
stations for checking car and truck emissions and improved norms and
regulations are being planned.

6. (U) When asked further about Transantiago, Erazo explained that
the public transit system is improving but that there is still much
to be done. He noted that, while travel times are still longer for
some, the new system is less expensive and safer than the previous
bus system. Two of the most critical components that are lacking
are items from the original Transantiago design that have not been
implemented yet, including exclusive bus lanes and the fleet
management software that should allow for better service intervals
and lowered rates of fare evasion. In addition, in order to
maintain a fleet of buses that are "cleaner" -- Erazo stated that
60% of the current fleet of 6,400 buses use clean but not
"super-clean" technology -- they need to install newer, and more
expensive, filters.
SIMONS

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