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Cablegate: Argentine Reaction to Rescue of Farc Hostages in Colombia

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #0932 1852155
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 032155Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1489
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 1773
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1427

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 000932

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON PHUM AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINE REACTION TO RESCUE OF FARC HOSTAGES IN COLOMBIA

REF: BUENOS AIRES 0014

1. (U) Summary: Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
(CFK) welcomed the news of the July 2 rescue of 15 FARC hostages.
Although her initial public reaction July 2 stopped short of
praising Uribe for the GOC's successful operation, the following day
the GOA announced she had called Uribe to say the liberation of the
hostages was progress for "democracy, peace and freedom in the
sister Republic of Colombia." Opposition leader and Buenos Aires
mayor Mauricio Macri congratulated Uribe effusively, as did Elisa
Carrio of the opposition Civic Coalition. Press pundits noted that
the dramatic rescue operation was a reminder of Nestor Kirchner's
participation in the failed December 2007 rescue effort led by Hugo
Chavez (reftels). "La Nacion" ran an op-ed on page one under the
headline: "The mistake of trusting more in Chavez than Uribe." End
summary.

CFK Hails Betancourt's Release
------------------------------

2. (SBU) At a July 2 public appearance, CFK remarked on Betancourt's
release, calling it a "victory of life and liberty, the most
important values," she said. She ignored the rescue of the other
hostages and did not mention the Uribe government at all, but
reminded her audience of her "commitment with the cause" of securing
Betancourt's release. In her December 2007 inaugural address, CFK
had made a plea (with Uribe present in the audience) to redouble
efforts to secure Betancourt's release. She met with Betancourt's
mother later that day, and by the end of that month her husband
Nestor had embarked on the unsuccessful "bungle in the jungle" led
by Chavez to "guarantee" the release of FARC hostages (reftels). In
her July 2 remarks, CFK said, "I send greetings to her mother, dear
Yolanda (Pulecio), and to Ingrid. I believe much in God, and I also
believe in signs."

3. (U) FM Jorge Taiana announced July 2 his "profound joy and
satisfaction" for the release of the 15 hostages. "With Ingrid
Betancourt's family we enjoy a special relationship of friendship
and affection." The following day, he announced that CFK had called
Uribe to say the liberation of the hostages was progress for
"democracy, peace and freedom in the sister Republic of Colombia."
Taiana said he had called his Colombian counterpart as well to say
that the GOA would continue to condemn kidnappings and call for the
immediate and unconditional release of kidnapped hostages
everywhere.

Opposition Vocal in its Support for Uribe
-----------------------------------------

4. (U) Mauricio Macri, Mayor of Buenos Aires and a leader of the
center-right opposition, immediately praised Uribe for securing the
release of Betancourt and the other hostages, noting it demonstrates
"an important step in (Colombia's) struggle for the defense of
democracy." He also added that the welcome news brings an end to
the dramatic detention of Betancourt and the other hostages and
brings relief and tranquility to Latin America's citizens who value
liberty, peace, and human rights."

5. (U) Elisa Carrio, leader of the center-left opposition Civic
Coalition, expressed "joy" over Betancourt's release and said "it
was great news for the region that it was the Colombian state that
ran the rescue operation."
6. (U) Center-right daily "La Nacion" ran an analysis by leading
columnist Joaquin Morales-Sola on page one under the headline: "The
mistake of trusting more in Chavez than Uribe." Morales-Sola
claimed that CFK had repeatedly told others that Uribe was
indifferent to the plight of Betancourt and that it was to his
electoral advantage to let Betancourt remain captive. Morales-Sola
recalled CFK's cold, dismissive treatment of Uribe at the March
summit in Santo Domingo of Rio Group leaders, and he concluded that
"CFK took it upon herself to take up the cause of the kidnapped
Colombian politician, but she did very little to resolve the
situation by helping Uribe, the only person on the planet who could
determine a strategy and establish a way to secure the freedom of
Ingrid Betancourt."
Comment
-------
7. (SBU) CFK may have been prompted to call Uribe July 3 by the poor
press reviews she got for the previous day's ungenerous
acknowledgement of the GOC's breathtaking success in rescuing the
hostages. It's encouraging that, upon reflection, she ultimately
extended the well-deserved congratulations.
WAYNE

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