Cablegate: Ambassador Meets with Argentine Opposition Senator


DE RUEHBU #0800/01 1632020
R 112020Z JUN 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: The Ambassador met June 6 with Argentine Senator
Maria Eugenia Estenssoro, prominent leader of the opposition Civic
Coalition (CC). Estenssoro offered her critical view of how the GOA
was managing the ongoing agricultural strike. In connection with
congressional consideration of new broadcast media legislation, she
requested information on the U.S. regulatory framework for media
companies, and the Ambassador undertook to have the Embassy provide
relevant research. She briefed the Ambassador on her work with the
International Women's Forum (IWF), and they spoke of the need for
more educational and cultural exchanges between Argentina and the
United States, and programs underway to facilitate broader access,
such as the recently announced Sarmiento Mann scholarships. End

Academic and Professional Ties to the U.S.

2. (SBU) Senator Maria Eugenia Estenssoro called on the Ambassador
June 6. Estenssoro described for the Ambassador her transition from
a career in journalism to working in civil society, ending up in
politics, where she is now a prominent activist in the Argentine
opposition Civic Coalition (CC) led by Elisa Carrio. After studying
journalism at Smith College, Columbia and Harvard universities, she
was "TIME" magazine's correspondent in Buenos Aires before moving to
Argentine newsmagazine "Noticias." She served as executive director
of "Endeavor," an NGO promoting the development of small business
and entrepreneurship with a model that she claimed was developed in
Argentina and later replicated elsewhere around the world.

Opposition Views on the Farming Crisis

3. (SBU) Estenssoro expressed sympathy for the agricultural sector
and its ongoing protest of what she described as the exorbitant
increase in export duties announced March 11. She said she was
concerned by the Kirchner administration's confrontational and
divisive approach to the ongoing farmer strike, particularly the
GOA's refusal to negotiate. She acknowledged that the opposition
and the Congress had been marginalized in the dispute. Estenssoro,
who just started her first Senate term in December 2007, said she
was frustrated that the Kirchner-dominated Congress was exceedingly
limited and had relinquished the capacity to play a useful role in
ending the crisis. She noted that she and other opposition leaders
had introduced in the Senate on March 28 a bill that would have
withdrawn the increase on agricultural export duties, but the bill
was spiked by the Senate leadership.

4. (SBU) In response to a question from the Ambassador, Estenssoro
said the prolongation of the agricultural crisis, growing anxiety
about inflation, and the incipient economic downturn would likely
bolster the opposition's chances in the 2009 mid-term congressional
elections. She acknowledged, however, that the opposition remained
divided, and that the Kirchners and their allies "understood power"
and were capable of outmaneuvering the opposition despite the
unfavorable circumstances.

Request for Information on U.S. Broadcast Policy
--------------------------------------------- ---

5. (SBU) Estenssoro, a member of the Senate Committee on Media and
Freedom of Speech, said she was very interested in vetting GOA
proposals for new broadcasting legislation (reftel). She requested
information on the U.S. regulatory framework for media companies,
particularly on how the USG is dealing with triple play and
convergence issues (she mentioned telephone, television, cable,
internet provides, utilities, content producers), and anti-trust
provisions. She was interested in learning more about the FCC, its
legal authority, principles, and how it grants licenses. She said
she was interested in how markets were delineated, and what she
called "incompatibility" restrictions (on ownership of multiple
media outlets in a single market).
The Ambassador undertook to have the Embassy's Information Resource
Center (IRC) gather information responding to her areas of

Women's Network

6. (SBU) Estenssoro briefed the Ambassador on her work as president
of the Argentine affiliate of the International Women's Forum (IWF),
which hosted in May a gathering of 500 IWF members from around the
world, active in business, politics, academia and culture. The
Ambassador and Estenssoro also spoke of the need for more
educational and cultural exchanges between Argentina and the United
States, and programs underway to facilitate broader access, such as
the recently announced Sarmiento Mann scholarships.
She also expressed interest in arranging a DVC for herself and her
congressional colleagues on these issues.

Biographic information:

7. (SBU) Estenssoro is currently serving her first term as a
National Senator, representing the City of Buenos Aires for the
Civic Coalition (CC). Estenssoro defines herself ideologically as
"progressive-liberal." Before taking her Senate seat in December
2007, Estenssoro served in the Buenos Aires City Legislature for the
2003-2007 term. Prior to that, she had won a seat in Congress as
National Deputy for the center-right led by former Economy Minister
Domingo Cavallo, but she declined to take her seat over ideological
disagreements with party leaders.

8. (SBU) As a journalist, Estenssoro worked in Buenos Aires in the
1980s for "TIME" magazine, and for Argentine newsweekly "Noticias"
in the 1990s. Estenssoro was Executive Director of Endeavor
Argentina from 1998 to 2000 (she is sill member of its Directive
Board), and was a member of the International Board of Transparency
International from 1999 to 2001. She has served on the
Administrative Council of NGO "Citizen Power" ("Poder Ciudadano"),
in the Political Action Network (RAP), and is President of the
Argentine Chapter of the International Women's Forum.

9. (SBU) Estenssoro received a bachelor's in literature from Smith
College, and did graduate work in journalism at Columbia and Harvard
universities. She has also studied at the Sorbonne. Estenssoro,
born in 1960, is single and has three children: Blas (19), Gaspar
(17) and Francisca (14). She was born in Bolivia, to a well-known
political family, and moved to Buenos Aires at the age of four. Her
great-grandfather is credited with discovering oil in Bolivia and
her grandfather founded the Bolivian national oil company, YPFB.
Her family also includes two former Presidents of Bolivia, Victor
Paz Estenssoro and Hugo Banzer. Her father, "Pepe" Estenssoro, was
a businessman who specialized in petroleum and worked in the
privatization of YPF during former President Menem's times.


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