Cablegate: Ambassador's Visit to La Plata: A University Town and Home


DE RUEHBU #0609/01 1282137
R 072137Z MAY 08



E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (U) The Ambassador reaffirmed the USG commitment to strengthening
bilateral ties with Argentina and discussed investment, drugs, and
local issues during an April 30 meeting with Buenos Aires Governor
Daniel Scioli and series of meetings in the provincial capital. The
Ambassador visited a parish school serving disadvantaged children;
met with La Plata municipal leaders and officials from the
Universidad Nacional de La Plata and the Universidad Catolica de La
Plata; opened the U.S. Embassy sponsored photo exhibit "Landmarks of
New York"; and visited the La Plata Natural History Museum during
his first official trip to the capital of Buenos Aires Province. La
Plata's universities are the second largest employer after
government and have an influencial role in local policy making. END


2. (SBU) Scioli said he was looking to develop agreements with other
countries' states and provinces facing similar challenges in
generating jobs, protecting the environment, improving education.
The Ambassador agreed that international relations were no longer
the exclusive domain of national governments but increasingly
involved a growing range of subnational actors. The Ambassador
mentioned several state trade delegations coming soon to Argentina,
including missions from Alabama, Florida, and Texas.

3. (SBU) Scioli expressed great interest in the U.S. elections and
said he had attended Democrat and Republican conventions. As on
previous occasions, Scioli stressed to us his admiration and
sympathy for the U.S., claiming these feelings dated back to his
first job as a Frigidaire salesman. He noted that business and
sports had taken him frequently to the U.S., and once he entered
politics he continued looking to the U.S. for inspiration.

4. (SBU) Scioli, preoccupied throughout the lunch by the previous
day's disappearance of human rights activist Juan Puthod (who
reappeared several hours after the lunch ended), said he was struck
on a recent visit to Miami by Mayor Manny Diaz's presentation on
inroads they had made against crime, and he was particularly
impressed by the importance that Police Chief John Timoney gave to
rebuilding the trust and confidence of citizens to gain their
cooperation and participation in stopping crime. The Ambassador
noted that Baltimore had also made dramatic strides in curbing
violent crime and offered embassy assistance to identify best
practices and lessons learned there.

5. (SBU) Scioli's brother Jose Antonio, the Secretary General for
the provincial government, summoned some statistics to show the
Ambassador what the Scioli administration's law enforcement had
accomplished in the first four months of government with tips
provided by citizens calling in to a new, well-advertised hotline.
They had recovered 15,000 stolen vehicles, confiscated over 5,000
unregistered weapons, seized 159 kg of cocaine and 1,612 kg of
marijuana, leading to 7,864 arrests.

6. (SBU) Scioli noted his strong interest in improving highway
safety. He believed strongly in the utility of imposing heavier
sanctions on infractions, greater enforcement, and new legislation
to enhance vehicle registration and facilitate infrastructure
improvements. The Ambassador noted California's positive results
from higher fines as well as broader use of radar by highway
patrols. The Ambassador also offered embassy assistance in seeking
statistics and best practices from the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the U.S. Department of

7. (SBU) Scioli said investment promotion was high on his agenda,
even though his province already produced 40% of Argentina's GDP.
His government had recently enacted new incentives to attract
investment, and he was looking for public-private partnerships in
strategic areas such as the ports. The Ambassador pointed out that
AES and other energy generators and distributors were balking at
additional investment until tariffs were adjusted. Scioli said he
was impressed by the diversity of U.S. investments in Buenos Aires
province, and he was pleased by recent news of R.C. Johnson & Son's
intention to invest $65 million in an aerosol production plant in
Buenos Aires. He spoke of assistance from the Gates Foundation,
agreed in Miami recently, in developing the province's e-government
capacity, including a team that was arriving to install free
software in the health ministry for the management of medication
supplies. Scioli expressed interest in attracting foreign
investment to develop tourist infrastructure. He also asked for
assistance in identifying U.S. companies that could help the
province tackle its growing garbage problem, particularly with waste
treatment and incineration.


8. (U) The Ambassador was warmly welcomed by students wearing
colonial period costumes and a cannon salute on his visit to Colegio
San Vicente de Paul School, a private Catholic school serving
disadvantaged children in La Plata. The Ambassador met with dozens
of school children, visited a woodworking and metal workshop, and
made a book donation to the school's library. The school complex
has five schools, including a kindergarden, primary, secondary and
technical schools and together has 2,500 students, most of whom are
poor children from the neighboring community. The school also
provides free meals to over 1,000 children daily through its
"comedor" or kitchen meals program.

--------------------------------------------- ---

9. (SBU) The Ambassador met with two university leaders and visited
the La Plata Natural History Museum where he discussed expanding
exchange opportunities between the United States and Argentina,
intellectual property and scientific advances. University Nacional
de La Plata's (UNLP) Vice Rector Raul Anibal Perdomo and UNLP's
Museum of Natural History Director Dr. Silvia Ametrano hosted the
Ambassador and gave a brief private tour of the university's museum
which is currently closed for repairs. The UNLP is a leading
educational institution and currently has over 75,000 students
(Note: Current Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
and former President Nestor Kirchner are former alumni at this
liberal institution, the third largest in Argentina. The meeting
was held in the museum instead of the main campus). Both Perdomo
and Ametrano noted that UNLP has strong scientist-to-scientist
exchange programs with museums and other institutions worldwide,
including the Smithsonian, but specifically requested the Embassy's
assistance in securing intellectual property rights training for its
museum staff. Ametrano noted that the museum needs help in
registering its collection, exhibits and replicas, and has sought
UNESCO assistance in this endeavor. The museum's varied collections
are vast, and include one of the largest collections of dinosaur
reproductions in the world.

10. (U) Next to UNLP, the Universidad Catolica de La Plata (UCALP)
is La Plata's second largest university and the Ambassador met with
UCALP Rector Rafeal Breide Obeid to discuss the university's
curriculum, the U.S. Speaker Program, and cultural exchanges. The
Ambassador also answered questions about the state of
Argentine-American relations, anti-American perceptions in Argentina
and U.S. foreign policy with students from UCALP's Institute of
Argentine-North American studies (CESPAN). CESPAN was created in
November 2006 to reach out to post-graduate students in an attempt
to provide them with information about U.S-Argentine relations and
to develop deeper social ties with academic and cultural
institutions. The students were critical of U.S. foreign policy but
were well aware of the ambassador's and Mission's programs to change
the negative perceptions of Argentines about the United States
through outreach, community engagement, and increasing the number of
exchanges between the two countries.


11. (U) The Ambassador opened an Embassy-sponsored photo exhibit
titled "Landmarks of New York" in the Darda Rocha Cultural Center
which was attended by many of the city's dignitaries, including
mayor Pablo Bruera. A lawyer by training, Bruera was previously a
Provincial legislator before being elected mayor of La Plata in Fall
2007. In his meeting with the Ambassador, Bruera stated that the
city is having tremendous difficulties in disposing of provincial
garbage due to the closure of several garbage dumps but noted that
he recently returned from Boston where he met with city officials
and visited a U.S. recycling plant. Bruere had participated in a
several week program for young leaders at Harvard's JFK School. He
also mentioned that the city's problems included a lack of public
transportation and security for its citizens, but he was optimistic
that the city's garbage woes could be resolved without giving
specific details. The Ambassador closed the meeting by stressing
the importance of increasing cooperation through cultural exchanges
and offered the Sister Cities program as a prime example.


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