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Cablegate: Argentina: Ambassador Meets with Anti-Corruption Activist

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #0714/01 1442102
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 232102Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1157
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1418
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 2075
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1254
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1107

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 000714

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PREL PGOV KCOR PHUM ELAB AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH ANTI-CORRUPTION ACTIVIST
LAURA ALONSO

1. (U) Summary. The Ambassador met with Laura Alonso, Executive
Director for Argentine NGO ""Citizen Power"" (Poder Ciudadano-PC) and
discussed its ongoing efforts to promote government accountability
and transparency at the federal and local levels. Alonso explained
PC's on-going efforts to investigate alleged campaign finance
irregularities in the October presidential elections and stated that
the NGO intends to file a lawsuit. She also discussed PC's work to
establish a network of mayors dedicated to promoting transparency
policies. The Ambassador congratulated Alonso for her recent
selection as an Eisenhower Fellow and for receiving the Vital Voices
Global Leadership Award last April for her role as a global leader
in the promotion of democracy, human rights, and legal reforms in
Argentina. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- ----------
Investigations into Election Irregularities for the FPV...
--------------------------------------------- ----------

2. (SBU) Alonso (protect) outlined PC's progress in investigating
alleged campaign finance irregularities in last year's presidential
elections. She stated that PC has gathered evidence of illicit
campaign contributions and underreporting of campaign spending. For
example, she claimed that the Kirchners' Victory Front (FPV) party
has not declared all expenses associated with its campaign events,
nor disclosed information on whether government resources were used
to finance the campaign. In addition, Alonso alleged that the FPV
has withheld information regarding campaign expenses and donors,
""including the donor behind valijagate."" Alonso indicated that PC
will file a complaint with federal criminal judge Maria Romilda
Servini de Cubria, who also has jurisdiction over electoral
investigations.

3. (SBU) Alonso indicated that she did not think much of Servini's
judicial objectiveness, and characterized Servini's judicial
interventions as ""terrible"". (Servini has been widely criticized
for her tendency to interpret the law in favor of whichever
administration is in power. In 2003, contrary to Argentine law, she
not only allowed the Peronist party to present two candidates in the
general elections -- i.e., Menem and Kirchner -- she also decided
that the FPV did not have to disclose the names nor total
contributions of private campaign donors.)

4. (SBU) Alonso asserted that as a Criminal Judge, Servini should
not have jurisdiction over cases involving electoral fraud.
Although some argue that Congress would have to pass a law in order
to establish a separate Electoral Court, Alonso believes that
Argentina's Electoral Code has already established a process by
which the Council of Magistrates should appoint judges exclusively
devoted to electoral matters. She indicated that PC has begun
preliminary research into the Council of Magistrates' ongoing delay
in nominating Judges to preside over electoral issues.

--------------
...and Recrear
--------------

5. (SBU) In addition to these investigations, Alonso noted that
National Deputy and recently elected President of the center-right
Recrear party, Esteban Bullrich, has hired PC to examine the party's
internal election structure and propose recommendations to improve
the process. (Reftel reports concerns by some over irregularities
in the small opposition party's recent internal elections.)

--------------------------------------------- ------
Investigation into Bullet Train Bribery Allegations
--------------------------------------------- ------

6. (SBU) PC is also investigating allegations into transnational
bribery associated with the GOA's decision to award the building of
a bullet train to the French-Spanish-Argentine consortium Alstom,
Alonso stated. She pointed out that now everyone is saying that
Alstom will build Cordoba city's new subway system despite the fact
that a public tender for the project has not yet been announced.
When the Ambassador asked if she raised these issues with the
Europeans, Alonso said it was very difficult to talk to the Spanish,
French, and German Embassies regarding the importance of
transparency in public tenders. The Ambassador noted that in the
past, the USG has worked to pressure the UK, Germany, and France to
investigate bribery cases using their adhesion to the OECD
Anti-Bribery Convention as leverage. He noted that U.S. companies
are at a competitive disadvantage with respect to their European
counterparts, since they are subject to the Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act and are therefore not allowed to engage in bribery to
win contracts. Alonso agreed.

------------------------------------------
GOA Allies in the Fight Against Corruption
------------------------------------------

7. (SBU) The Ambassador then asked who have been PC's key allies in
the GOA in the fight against corruption. Alonso noted that PC has
worked closely with Manuel Garrido, Federal Prosecutor in charge of
administrative investigations. She indicated that PC has worked
with Garrido to submit a grant proposal to the Inter-American
Development Bank to develop an archive of the Prosecutor General's
administrative investigations over the last 40 years.

8. (SBU) The Ambassador asked for Alonso's views on the GOA's
Anti-Corruption Office (ACO). She indicated that PC had a better
institutional relationship with the ACO's Policy Division. She
expressed regret that the long-time director of the ACO's Policy
Division, Nicolas Raigorodsky had moved on to the Ministry of
Health, but noted that she had a strong working relationship with
the new Director, Nestor Baraldi, given that he is a former PC
member. She opined that the ACO's Investigation Division was
""paralyzed"".

9. (SBU) When PC does not get much traction from the federal
government, they turn to working with local officials and the
private sector, Alonso stated. For example, PC has reached an
agreement with 15 city mayors in BA province to develop a network of
mayors dedicated to government transparency and citizen
participation. It has presented a concept paper to the EU in the
hopes of obtaining a grant to expand the network. PC is organizing
a meeting for this network in June or July, and hopes to attract an
additional 15 mayors from the province.

10. (SBU) PC is working with the mayor of a city in Buenos Aires
province who wants to hold a transparent, international public
tender for trash collection. According to Alonso, the city has been
under a lot of pressure from Hugo Moyano, head of the General
Worker's Confederation (Confederacion General de Trabajadores-CGT)
and truck-drivers union, and his son Pablo Moyano to keep the
contract in the hands of the local truck-drivers union. In an
attempt to make the public tender a more legitimate process, the
city has signed an agreement with PC to organize public town hall
meetings and develop on-line mechanisms to consult the public for
their views on the matter. PC is in similar discussions with BA
city mayor's Mauricio Macri, but no agreement has yet been reached,
Alonso stated.

-------------------
Upcoming PC Reports
-------------------

11. (SBU) When the Ambassador asked about PC's other activities,
Alonso noted that in addition to conducting Transparency
International's Global Corruption Perception Index, she hopes to
conduct a similar index measuring Argentine perception of corruption
in their own country. She stated that this would help quantify
local concern over corruption and mitigate criticism that discredits
the index for only taking into account foreign perceptions. In an
attempt to make corruption a more salient issue among Argentines,
Alonso indicated that PC will also conduct a study of corruption in
soccer clubs. The NGO is working on a report that examines GOA and
Congressional efforts to increase transparency over the last ten
years.

12. (SBU) Alonso noted that PC also hopes to participate in the
Publish What You Pay Coalition's ""Extractive Industries Transparency
Initiative"" by conducting a small study on Argentina normative
framework. In late October, Alonso has been invited to serve as a
panelist to discuss transparency in media communication at the 13th
International Anti-Corruption Conference in Greece.

--------------------------------------------- ------
Alonso -- Vital Voices Leader and Eisenhower Fellow
--------------------------------------------- ------

13. (SBU) The Ambassador congratulated Alonso for her recent
selection as an Eisenhower Fellow and for receiving the Vital Voices
Global Leadership Award in April for her role as a global leader in
the promotion of democracy, human rights and legal reforms in
Argentina, particularly her pioneer advocacy for recognizing the
right to transparency as a human right. Alonso thanked the
Ambassador, and said that she looks forward to observing the U.S.
electoral process first-hand during the two-month Eisenhower
fellowship. She noted that that the Vital Voices award helped to
highlight media attention to PC's fight against corruption. She
said that the award ceremony itself was an opportunity to meet other
remarkable leaders, adding that Corporate America's commitment to
philanthropy is ""impressive"". While in Washington, Alonso met with
organizations specializing in NGO sustainability, including one
called Virtual Ventures that has applied for a USAID grant to assist
three NGOs, including PC, in their efforts to achieve
sustainability.

14. (SBU) Alonso and the Ambassador also discussed the upcoming
Vital Voices Summit for women leaders from latin America which will
be held in Buenos Aires in October. Alonso suggested that the
Embassy host an event in June with potential Argentine corporate
sponsors to drum up local financial support for the summit. The
Ambassador offered to consider the possibility.

WAYNE

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