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Cablegate: Argentine Government Replaces Ag Secretary

VZCZCXYZ0009
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #1012/01 2062113
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY ADBB61CD MSI2856-695)
R 242113Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1616
INFO RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 001012

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D COPY - CHANGED PARA 7B TO 8

USDA FOR FAS/OA/OCRA/ONA/OGA/OFSO

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR ECON EINV PGOV ELAB PHUM PINR AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINE GOVERNMENT REPLACES AG SECRETARY

REF: (A) Buenos Aires 1009 (B) Buenos Aires 0991 (C) Buenos Aires
0890 and previous

1. (SBU) Summary: The GOA appointed Carlos Cheppi as the new
Secretary of Agriculture on July 23. Secretary Cheppi replaces
Javier de Urquiza in a widely expected change following the defeat
in the Senate of the variable export tax proposal of the government.
The new Agricultural Secretary is a widely respected expert on
agricultural issues who is seen as close to Planning Minister Julio
De Vido and who collaborated in the development of the agricultural
platform of former president Nestor Kirchner during the 2003
presidential campaign. In a sign that relations remain tense
between the GOA and the farm sector, the major farm organizations
were not invited to the inauguration ceremony. The appointment of
Secretary Cheppi is not expected to result in major changes in the
direction of agricultural policy by the GOA. End Summary

2. (SBU) The replacement of former Agriculture Secretary Javier De
Urquiza was widely expected following the extended farm dispute and
the defeat in the Senate of the government's variable export tax
proposal. De Urquiza was largely invisible during most of the
dispute as he was left out of the major decisions on agricultural
policy, starting with the implementation of the variable export tax
on March 11 through the subsequent negotiations with the farm
sector. While De Urquiza was considered close to the Kirchners,
most decisions were taken at a higher level (the position of
Agricultural Secretary is not a ministerial position in Argentina
and is under the Minister of Economy). Secretary of Internal
Commerce Moreno intervened heavily in the agricultural sector to
hold down domestic food prices, further undercutting his authority.


3. (SBU) Carlos Alberto Cheppi was president of the National
Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) from 2004 to 2008, where
he was widely respected for his efforts to strengthen the
institution. Cheppi first started working in INTA in 1983 and met
former president Nestor Kirchner while working in Santa Cruz
province in 1991. Local contacts report that he is a supporter of
biotechnology and other new productivity enhancing technologies. He
is viewed as close to Planning Minister Julio De Vido and in recent
years worked on high profile bilateral agreements to transfer
Argentine agricultural technology to Venezuela. He is a strong
proponent of government intervention in the market to achieve a more
equitable distribution of income. During the congressional debate
on the variable export tax, he gave extensive testimony strongly
supporting the government measure.

4. (SBU) Secretary Cheppi is assuming the position in a very
difficult time, with the role of the Secretary of Agriculture very
limited in the current government. Important functions such as
control over agricultural exports have been transferred to other
organizations, including the National Office of Commercial Control
for Agriculture (ONCCA) and the Internal Commerce Secretariat led by
controversial Guillermo Moreno. He will also have to rebuild
relations with the agriculture sector, which continues to have
numerous complaints with government policy despite the repeal of the
variable export tax. The farm groups are now pressing for a
reduction in current export taxes for medium and small farmers, and
they are also pushing for the government to revise restrictions on
exports aimed at keeping down the domestic prices of beef, dairy
products, corn, wheat and other products.

--------
Bio Note
--------

5. (U) Mr. Carlos Cheppi graduated as Agricultural Engineer at the
National University of Mar del Plata in 1981. He has a Master
Degree on Latin American Economic Development from the International
University of Andalucia.

6. (U) In 2004, Mr. Cheppi was appointed to his most recent
position as president of the National Institute of Agricultural
Technology (INTA, in Spanish) after being appointed Vice President
in 2003. In January 2000, he was appointed Director of Rural
Development for the Province of Buenos Aires. Between 1993 and
1999, he worked in various provincial government positions, and
management positions at INTA. He met former president Nestor
Kirchner while acting as outside director of the Agricultural
Council of Santa Cruz Province from December 1991 to September 1992.


7. (U) Cheppi first joined INTA in 1983, focusing on extension
services and rural development. He also worked in consulting
projects for the Ministry of Foreign Relations and international
organizations on extension, technology transfer, and rural

development. In addition, he is author of several publications, and
has participated as speaker in various conferences in Argentina and
other foreign countries.

-------
Comment
-------

7. (SBU) The appointment of Secretary Cheppi brings a respected
technical expert into this position, but is not expected to result
in major changes in the agricultural policies that led to the
dispute with the farm sector. The new Secretary will have to
rebuild relations with the farm sector which, even after the repeal
of the variable export tax, continues to have numerous grievances
with the GOA over many policies affecting the agricultural sector
that are not under his direct control. The decision of the
government not to invite representatives of the major farm
organizations to his inauguration ceremony will not make this task
any easier. He has a major challenge in front of him. End Comment

WAYNE

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