Cablegate: Argentina: San Juan Welcomes Ambassador


DE RUEHBU #0857/01 1752006
R 232006Z JUN 08



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Argentina: San Juan Welcomes Ambassador


1. During Ambassador's June 12 - 13 visit to San Juan, provincial
authorities emphasized their desire to work with U.S. interests to
explore mutually beneficial relationships. Ambassador had extensive
meetings with San Juan Governor Jose Luis Gioja, San Juan
Vice-Governor Dr. Jose Ruben U$ac, and San Juan Deputy Ruperto
Godoy, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the National
Chamber of Deputies. These meetings highlighted possibilities for
working together in the energy, agriculture, tourism, and mining
sectors and opportunities for cultural exchanges. Ambassador
focused on shared cultural values between the U.S. and Argentina in
visits to a kindergarten and a museum that honors San Juan
native-son, former Argentine President, Domingo F. Sarmiento.
Ambassador emphasized current ties between San Juan and the U.S. as
well as the corporate social responsibility programs of U.S.
companies in San Juan in visits to Clorox Corporation and Wal-Mart.
The Ambassador was a featured guest at gala concert celebrating the
446th anniversary of the founding of the city of San Juan and toured
the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ischigualasto National Park, the
site of the world's oldest dinosaur fossils. The visit received
extensive and very positive media coverage. End Summary.

San Juan Seeks to Work Together: Energy, Agriculture, Tourism,
Mining, Democracy
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. San Juan Governor Jose Luis Gioja welcomed the Ambassador to San
Juan by noting San Juan's long history of good relations with the
U.S., as evidenced by the works of former President Sarmiento. He
acknowledged that Sarmiento's emphasis on public education,
democracy, free trade and freedom of speech in Argentina arose in
part out of his experiences in the U.S. Governor Gioja said he
seeks to build on this history and respond to the forces of
globalization by increasing cooperation with USG agencies and U.S.
private sector. The Ambassador congratulated Gioja on being
reelected in August 2007 by a substantial margin and on the results
of a recent poll that showed him as the most popular governor in the
entire country. Ambassador explained that he looked forward to
paying tribute to President Sarmiento during his visit and was eager
to hear the ideas of the people of San Juan for working together
with U.S. interests.

3. Gioja explained that rivers in San Juan province provide great
opportunities for energy production. The first major hydroelectric
project in San Juan, the Caracoles Dam, is scheduled to open next
year and will be operated by American firm, AES. A second major
hydroelectric project, Punta Negra, is also being developed. The
Governor mentioned that the province would appreciate any assistance
the Ambassador could provide in securing USG support for the
financing of the project by the Inter-American Development Bank.

4. Gioja emphasized the importance of the wine industry in San Juan
while also explaining that agricultural producers have diversified
production, and that frozen grape juice is a particularly important
product in the province. Ambassador noted that the U.S. is San
Juan's number one export market for frozen grape juice and Gioja
readily agreed. Gioja further commented, however, that he believes
U.S. tariffs on frozen grape juice are "a problem" and asked for the
Ambassador's assistance in reducing the U.S. tariff on frozen grape
juice. Ambassador acknowledged Gioja's concern, but also explained
that tariffs present a difficult and sensitive topic and that
reduction of tariffs would be tied to larger multilateral and
international trade negotiations.

5. Gioja emphasized the potential for tourism in San Juan and
encouraged Americans to visit the province for tourism and cultural
exchange. He noted that San Juan intends to send an exhibit to the
U.S. in 2010 promoting the Valle de la Luna/ Ischigualasto World
Heritage site. He responded positively to the Ambassador's
statement that the Embassy is committed to promoting cultural
exchange programs and that Americans are visiting Argentina in
record numbers. Gioja appeared surprised and pleased to hear the
Ambassador describe the advances the Embassy consular section has
made in simplifying the U.S. visa process for the Argentine public.

6. Gioja explained the "political decision" he made several years
ago to promote the mining industry in the province. The mining
industry has experienced strong growth over the last several years
and Gioja said he thinks there are opportunities for close
cooperation between U.S. interests and San Juan in the mining area.
He did not address concerns expressed by some environmentalists that
mining activities are adversely effecting the environment in San
Juan and instead referred to the decision to promote the extraction
of resources from the land as being in the tradition of Sarmiento.

7. Gioja noted San Juan's strong democratic institutions and
traditions and the commitment of his government to working together
with the military and all parts of Argentine society to strengthen
further democracy in San Juan. In referring to the present dispute
between the Argentine federal government and the agriculture sector,
he acknowledged Argentina is experiencing some problems right now,
but said these problems are nothing compared to the problems the
country faced in 2000 - 2001. He described the current situation as
normal for Latin America and compared the situation to a Boca -
River soccer match. Separately the Vice Governors acknowledged to
the Ambassador that the strike was causing significant disruption of
trucking, both for supplies coming into the province--e.g. fuel--and
for exports of its products.

Provincial Legislature - - Interest in Exchanges
------------------------ -----------------------

8. San Juan Vice-Governor Ruben Unac hosted the Ambassador in a
brief visit to the Provincial Legislature. Unac also recognized the
forces of globalization and emphasized that the people and the
provincial government of San Juan are eager to explore opportunities
for working together with U.S. interests. The provincial
legislators in particular emphasized an interest in cultural
exchanges between local legislators and their U.S. counterparts.
The provincial legislators expressed a strong desire to visit the
U.S. and learn more about how state and local legislators in the
U.S. confront local issues. The Ambassador expressed enthusiasm for
this idea and referred to the legislature of his home state of
California as an interesting example of how disparate interests in a
state legislature can work together with a strong governor to effect
legislative changes that can influence the entire country.

Paying Tribute to Sarmiento - - Past and Present
----------------------------- ------------------

10. The Ambassador visited San Juan, in part, to pay tribute to the
legacy of Domingo F. Sarmiento, a former Governor of San Juan
Province, former Argentine Ambassador to the United States, and the
seventh President of Argentina. Sarmiento is considered the father
of the Argentine public education system and one of his initial
efforts to promote public education in Argentina was a program to
bring teachers from the U.S. to Argentina. The Ambassador visited a
public kindergarten named in honor of Sarah Chamberlain Eccleston,
one of the first U.S. teachers to come to Argentina under
Sarmiento's program. He met with the head mistress of the school,
listened to a teacher explain the story of Sarah's work in
Argentina, enjoyed a dance program by the students and then talked
with 200 well-behaved kindergarten students. The visit to the
kindergarten received extraordinarily positive press coverage in the
local newspapers.

11. The Ambassador also visited the Sarmiento family home where the
former President was born. The home is now a museum dedicated to
telling the story of Sarmiento's life. The Ambassador received a
tour of the museum from the director accompanied by several local
politicians and members of the media. The tour emphasized
Sarmiento's positive influence on Argentine history and highlighted
his strong ties to the U.S. As part of the museum visit, the
Ambassador had an opportunity to speak to the media about the shared
cultural values between the U.S. and Argentina that are reflected in
Sarmiento's words and deeds. The museum visit also received
extensive positive coverage in the local media.

Company Visits -- Jobs and Corporate Social Responsibility Programs

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

12. The Ambassador visited two American companies operating
successfully in San Juan, accompanied by Vice Governor U$ac, Deputy
Godoy, and Minister of Production Raul Benitez. The first visit
was to Clorox Corporation. Oakland, California-based Clorox, has
been operating in Argentina since 1985. At its San Juan facility,
Clorox produces home cleaning and disinfecting products,
insecticides, air fresheners, laundry additives, cleaning utensils
and automotive care products. Clorox executives provided an

insightful tour into the well-managed facility and explained how
recent new investments in San Juan had led to increased production
capacity and approximately 20 new jobs at Clorox. Clorox produces
all of its aerosol products for the world in San Juan.

15. The second company visit was to a Wal-Mart Super-Store. In
2006, Wal-Mart invested $10 million to build a hypermarket and a
mall featuring 50 retail stores in San Juan. The company initially
hired 250 "Sanjuaninos" and in April 2007, opened its San Juan
location - - its fourteenth store in Argentina. Prior to opening
the store, Wal-Mart worked with the provincial government to
identify local producers that could be included in Wal-Mart's Global
Supplier Program. The Ambassador visited Wal-Mart and heard
testimonials from several companies based in San Juan describing how
inclusion in Wal-Mart's Global Supplier Program increased their
sales, allowed them to begin exporting and improved their
operational and quality standards. At the conclusion of the
meeting, Minister of Production Benitez told the Ambassador he hoped
to replicate Wal-Mart's model with other companies in the province.

16. Both Clorox and Wal-Mart have active corporate social
responsibility programs functioning in San Juan. To highlight and
learn more about these programs, the Ambassador visited "comedores"
sponsored by both companies. A comedor is a community dining hall
where local children can come after school to enjoy milk, a snack
and a safe environment. Clorox sponsors a comedor that has a
reading room and serves 120 local children; a crowd of nearly 200
people greeted the Ambassador there with cakes and hot chocolate.
Wal-Mart provides food, milk and volunteers to a comedor that serves
120 children from 75 families and ten pregnant women living in the
area. Approximately 150 people greeted the Ambassador at the
Wal-Mart-sponsored comedor where the Ambassador served hot chocolate
to the children and enjoyed a cake they had made for his visit.

San Juan Anniversary

17. The Ambassador attended a gala concert featuring local folk
music in honor of the 446th anniversary of the founding of the city
of San Juan. The Ambassador was accompanied by Governor Gioja and
members of his cabinet and was named a distinguished guest of honor
by the Mayor of the city. The following morning the Ambassador
accepted the invitation of Vice-Governor U$ac to take a helicopter
tour of the Ischigualasto National Park in the "Valley of the Moon"
in the north of the province. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage
site, the location of the world's oldest dinosaur fossils, and the
central component of San Juan's plans for promoting tourism to the

Wide and Favorable Media Coverage

18. San Juan is a small province not accustomed to the visit of
someone like the Ambassador of the United States. The Ambassador
was accompanied throughout the day by local politicians and
dignitaries as well as every major media outlet in the region. The
Ambassador's visit was the lead story in the local papers for
several days and the day after the visit the first five pages of the
major local newspaper were dedicated exclusively to documenting
every aspect of the Ambassador's trip.


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