Cablegate: Codel Dodd Meets Argentine Fm Taiana


DE RUEHBU #0764/01 1552004
R 032004Z JUN 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Senator Chris Dodd and Representative Xavier
Becerra and the Ambassador called on Argentine FM Taiana May 29. On
Bolivia, Taiana expressed his worry about the potential for violent
conflict despite what he saw as Evo Morales's moderating influence
on his radical MAS support bases. He similarly expressed concern
about the Bolivian government's criticism of the U.S. On the U.S.,
Taiana said the region was hoping to engage on a broader agenda than
trade and security and noted hopes for renewed U.S. attention to the
region. Taiana said Argentina would continue to play a moderating
role in the region, and he hoped the newly-formed South American
Union would foster infrastructure development. The Ambassador
raised with Taiana the U.S. candidate for the IOM, the June 19-20
visit of G/TIP Ambassador Mark Lagon, and the June 3-5 FAO
conference in Rome. End Summary.


2. (SBU) Senator Dodd told FM Taiana he had just arrived from
Bolivia, where he had met with VP Alvaro Garcia Linares and
opposition leader Jorge Quiroga, and asked Taiana for his views on
Bolivia. Taiana, who has paid several recent visits to Bolivia,
noted he had been working with Brazilian and Colombian counterparts
to ease tensions in Bolivia. He said the GOA remained concerned
about the polarization of forces in Bolivia and its "ugly horizon,"
with prospects of violent clashes over political and constitutional
changes. He noted Bolivian anxiety over a range of scenarios,
including a state of siege, troop deployments and social
mobilization. Taiana said there were other worrying developments,
such as the tendency of congressional deputies to meet in regional
blocs rather than party blocs, suggesting that regional affiliation
was trumping ideology.

3. (SBU) Taiana expressed support for the historic shift of power
underway in Bolivia, noting that for the first time in five
centuries, the indigenous sector was in power. In such a situation,
he considered it natural and logical that the government would seek
to change the constitution to mark the end of a long period of
exploitation and the beginning of a period of political renewal. He
said Evo's Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) did not have enough
experienced members to staff the government, legislature and the
constituent assembly with adequately skilled people, and that MAS's
shallow pool of human resources quickly became apparent in the
quality of delegates to the constituent assembly, which appeared to
have been the lowest staffing priority for Evo. The government had
also been plagued by indecision and shifts in direction. The
initiative had shifted to those putting forward autonomy.

4. (SBU) Nevertheless, Taiana argued that recently Evo Morales has
acted as a moderating force trying to ride herd over radical bases
of support. For example, he said Evo had reduced the potential for
a violent confrontation over the May 4 referendum by ordering his
supporters not to go to Santa Cruz. Taiana said he thought Evo was,
by nature and because of his labor organizing experience, always
looking to negotiate. But Evo also needed to reconcile his radical
supporters' desire for a dramatic end to exploitation with the
imperative, dictated by global circumstances, of pursuing pragmatic,
progressive policies.

5. (SBU) Taiana said he thought, nonetheless, that the GOB needed to
show greater flexibility in dealing with the opposition and
negotiating constitutional changes. He discerned major differences
between the autonomy statutes of Tarija and Santa Cruz -- the former
was not a problem, whereas parts of the latter had been rejected by
the Bolivian Armed Forces (in what he considered a veiled threat)
because it would infringe upon national jurisdiction over road,
railroad, air space, and radio waves. Taiana said he thought fixes
to the law should be doable. The worst scenario, Taiana said, is
one in which Morales falls by non-democratic means.

6. (SBU) Taiana expressed serious concern about the GOB's heated
criticism of USAID and public rejection of U.S. "conspiracies"
against it. The government seems stuck on this perception. He
praised WHA A/S Shannon's positive statements about Bolivia and
claimed he had pointed these out to FM Choquehuanca.

U.S. Image and Bilateral Relations

7. (SBU) Senator Dodd noted the U.S. was 20 weeks away from
elections, and that the prospect of a new administration taking
office on January 20 offered a new window of opportunity for
reinvigorating relations with the region. In response to Senator
Dodd's queries regarding Argentine perceptions of the United States
and the MFA's views on how the U.S. and Argentina could improve
bilateral relations, Taiana noted that throughout the region, many
of the political and economic reforms initiated in the 1980s had led
to widespread disenchantment with the limited results that
democratic, free-market systems could offer for addressing the
region's enormous social needs. He said this had led to the rise of
"new political projects," particularly in Venezuela, where the
two-party system collapsed, but also in Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia,
Uruguay, and Paraguay, where 60 years of Colorado Party was just now
coming to an end. Taiana said these countries were re-thinking the
direction of economic policies and looking for a "new balance
between public and private endeavors." He clamed there were no
radical changes in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, even Ecuador and
Bolivia, and that it was clear the private sector should have the
lead role in generating wealth.

8. (SBU) Taiana said there is a tradition of "autonomy" from the
U.S. in Argentina. He said he thought the U.S. image in Argentina
had been tarnished by its perceived support for former president
Carlos Menem, now discredited and held in contempt by a majority of
Argentines. Taiana cited two other factors adversely affecting U.S.
image: U.S. actions in Iraq and perceived lack of U.S. support for
Argentina on the Malvinas/Falklands question. The key to correcting
this is more regular exchanges, official and non-official. These
need to be between all branches of government and many parts of
civil society.

9. (SBU) Regardless of who wins the U.S. election, Taiana said there
would be an opportunity for the USG to take a more proactive role in
Latin America, where he thought there were high hopes for a major
initiative along the lines of the Alliance for Progress. He said
the region was hoping for an agenda that was broader than just trade
and security. Senator Dodd thanked Taiana for his comments, noting
that unfortunately Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales get the lion's share
of media attention but that other Latin American voices needed to be
heard. He urged the GOA to be a voice for reason and moderation in
the region, and he hoped that Latin America would be receptive to
undertaking a new relationship with the United States.

10. (SBU) Rep. Becerra encouraged the GOA to speak out as its voice
could make a difference for good in the region and in U.S.-Latin
American relations. He praised the cooperation the U.S. was getting
from Latin American partners in countering terrorism. He noted that
other Latin American countries looked to Argentina for leadership,
and he said it was important for the USG and GOA to treat each other
as friends and affirm that friendship.

Argentina's Moderating Influence

11. (SBU) Taiana said the GOA saw its role in the region as a
moderating one. He noted the GOA did not dwell publicly on its
differences with the USG over Iraq or other issues, and he cited the
GOA's contributions to reducing tensions between Ecuador, Colombia
and Venezuela after the March 1 killing of FARC leader Raul Reyes.
Taiana said he thought there was an inevitable breach between the
USG, which considered the GOC's March 1 actions legitimate
self-defense, and Latin America, which viewed "preemptive strikes"
as unacceptable. He said Latin America was intent on preserving the
"tools of non-aggression" that it had developed, such as its
jurisprudence and traditional insistence on the sanctity and primacy
of territorial sovereignty. Taiana said the GOA was also trying to
play a helpful role in Bolivia, where it was hoping to stave off a
descent into chaos.

12. (SBU) Taiana said he was worried that Colombia's internal
conflict had "regionalized," adversely affecting neighbors who did
not want to be drawn into that conflict. He was deeply concerned
about the poisonous relationship between Uribe and Correa. In
response to a question from Senator Dodd, Taiana said it was
difficult to predict the implications of the death of FARC commander
Marulanda because the FARC was such an opaque organization. He
thought Uribe had been successful in chasing and cornering the FARC
but argued that Uribe's progress did not prove there was a military
solution to the problem. He noted the FARC had maintained a strong
presence in some regions close to Colombia's center, and that
Uribe's demand for surrender was not the way to advance a peace
process. This was why the GOA was publicly pressing for
humanitarian measures, such as the release of hostage Ingrid

South American Integration

13. (SBU) Senator Dodd noted President Cristina Fernandez de
Kirchner's (CFK) recent participation in the May 16-17 EU-LAC Summit
in Lima and the May 23 South American Summit in Brasilia. Taiana
said the South American Union (UNASUR) should be viewed as the
logical counterpart to other sub-regional groupings such as the
Central American and Caribean leaders enjoyed. He said the South
Americans met by themselves for the first time ever in 2000 when
Brazil's then president Fernando Henrique Cardoso convoked the first
summit. Taiana thought UNASUR could be particularly helpful in
coordinating South American infrastructure development, such as
roads and bridges and energy grids that cross national boundaries.
He said the GOA would take care to ensure that the development of
sub-regional groupings did not leave Mexico out in the cold. He
said CFK had recently visited Mexico twice, and Argentina was
expecting a visit from President Calderon this year.

14. (SBU) The Ambassador used the opportunity to urge GOA support
for the candidacy of Ambassador William Swing to be elected Director
General of the International Organization for Migration (ref A).
The Ambassador informed Taiana that the USG was planning to release
on June 4 its annual Report on Trafficking in Persons (TIP), and
that G/TIP Ambassador Mark Lagon would visit June 19-20. He also
described some TIP assistance DHS/ICE was providing to Argentine
judges, prosecutors, and police. Finally, the Ambassador also
raised the June 3-5 FAO High-Level Conference in Rome on World Food
Security (ref B).

15. (U) This cable was cleared by codel after departure.


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