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Cablegate: Argentina: Farmers and Goa Launch Massive Rallies

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #0973/01 1982306
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 162306Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1537
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 000973

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV EAGR ECON EINV ELAB PHUM AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: FARMERS AND GOA LAUNCH MASSIVE RALLIES
TO INFLUENCE SENATE VOTE

REF: BUENOS AIRES 0963

1. (SBU) Summary: Argentine farmers and pro-government
forces staged massive rallies in Buenos Aires on July 15
seeking to influence the Senate vote on the controversial
export tax regime (reftel) scheduled for the following day,
July 16. The farmers' protest drew a crowd of 225,000 to
250,000 near the Embassy, and the pro-government rally drew
85,000 to 95,000 to the plaza in front of the Congress.
Former President Nestor Kirchner (NK) was the key-note
speaker at the pro-government rally, spending the first half
of his speech reviewing his administration's accomplishments
and the second half attacking the leaders of agricultural
organizations. Entre Rios Governor Sergio Urribarri and
Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli also spoke, focusing on
the need to support President Cristina Fernandez de
Kirchner's (CFK) drive to improve income distribution and
social justice. At the farm rally, leaders from the four
major agricultural organizations addressed the crowd, but
their headline speaker was well-known protest leader Alfredo
De Angeli of the Argentine Agrarian Federation (FAA) in Entre
Rios province. Both rallies were peaceful. Although the
turnout for the pro-farmer rally was more than twice as large
as the government-staged rally, the show of public support
for the "countryside" is unlikely to alter the outcome of the
Senate vote, which is still expected to approve the
government's proposal without modification. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The concurrent farm protest and pro-government
rallies gathered large crowds on July 15, the day before the
Senate was scheduled to vote on the controversial export tax
regime. Argentine press is attributing to "unofficial state
sources" estimates that the farm protest near the Embassy
drew 225,000 to 250,000 attendees while 85,000 to 95,000
people attended the pro-government rally in front of the
Congress. The unusually mild weather contributed to the
massive turnout for both rallies, which snarled traffic for
hours in Buenos Aires.

--------------------------------------------- -----
Nestor's Plea: Help Cristina Transform the Country
--------------------------------------------- -----

3. (SBU) Standing on a podium emblazoned with the banner,
"Defending the Argentine Dinner Table," former President
Nestor Kirchner (NK) delivered the pro-government rally's
keynote address. He began his 25-minute speech by
contrasting the widespread despair when he took office in May
2003 with today's recovery. He touted his administration's
claimed accomplishments, such as reducing poverty from 60 to
20 percent, generating 4 million jobs, and ending 30 years of
impunity for human rights abuses during
the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. During the second half
of his speech, NK focused on the agricultural export levies
and the need to redistribute wealth and income. He claimed
solidarity with agricultural producers while attacking the
leaders of agricultural organizations, accusing them once
again of sponsoring the 1976-83 dictatorship and conspiring
against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK). He
also took aim at speculators and investment pools and
asserted that the
middle class would never find solidarity with the oligarchy.
NK concluded with an appeal for everyone to respect and honor
whatever Congress decides on the export tax.

4. (SBU) NK was preceded by Entre Rios Governor Sergio
Urribarri and Buenos Aires governor Daniel Scioli, each of
whom dwelled on the need to support CFK's drive to improve
income distribution and social justice. According to the
press, NK ordered Scioli and Urribarri at virtually the last
minute to speak to the crowd. In his remarks, Scioli noted
that as a former vice president he was well-acquainted with
the responsibilities of that position, interpreted as a
warning to Vice President Julio Cobos to vote for the
Executive bill if the Senate should reach a tie. Cobos was
noticeably absent at the pro-government rally.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Farmers' Plea: Argentina Needs to Support its Farmers
--------------------------------------------- --------

5. (SBU) At the farmers' rally, leaders from the four major
agricultural organizations spoke, but their headline speaker
was the ubiquitous and highly-recognizable Alfredo De Angeli
of the Argentine Agrarian Federation (FAA) in Entre Rios
province. Standing on a podium with the banner "For a

Country that Brings Federal Democracy and Dignity for All",
De Angeli claimed the rally was a turning point in Argentine
participatory democracy and he exhorted Argentines,
particularly youth, to continue participating to strengthen
Argentina's democracy. He reminded senators they would have
to answer to their constituents on how they voted. He added
that "people came today not because of agricultural export
levies but to see the country united." He called on the GOA
to develop a sensible agricultural policy in consultation
with governors, mayors, legislators, farmers and all people.

6. (SBU) The farm protests' other speakers included Luciano
Miguens of the Argentine Rural Society (SRA), Coninagro
President Fernando Gioino, Argentine Rural Confederation
(CRA) leader Mario Llambias, and Eduardo Buzzi of the FAA.
Miguens noted the GOA's justifications for the tax increase
had shifted several times, and suggested the incoherence of
the GOA's argument was suspicious. Another SRA leader told
television reporters that, even if the Senate approves the
bill, there are still serious constitutional problems with
the bill, indicating the farmers will take their dispute to
court. CRA Leader Mario Llambias brought the rally to a
close by thanking those who attended for "betting on the
countryside" and said that "all the provinces were present."

7. (SBU) In addition to farmers and producers from rural
areas, the farm rally drew large numbers of urban supporters
as well as left-leaning protest groups never previously
identified with the farmers. Some familiar faces among the
crowd included the runner-up in the 2007 presidential race,
Elisa Carrio of the Civic Coalition (CC), and conservative
Ricardo Lopez Murphy, who won only 1% of the vote in the 2007
presidential election but remains a standard bearer for the
center-right, and television reporters mobbed Jose Manuel de
la Sota, the former governor of Cordoba and prominent
dissident Peronist leader who emphatically called on the
Kirchners to change their tack. Also, in attendance were
members of the newly-formed dissident faction of the General
Workers Confederation (CGT) and several left-wing picket
movements.

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) Wanting to get the upper hand, NK scheduled the
pro-government rally to run simultaneously with the farmers'
protest. Nonetheless, the government ended up losing the
public relations battle as the farm protest's greater
attendance -- more than twice that of the government's rally
-- demonstrates. Not only did more people attend the farm
protest, but those attendees largely made it there on their
own, as opposed to the government crowd, which by its banners
and organizations was clearly mobilized by labor unions and
Kirchner-allied mayors at GOA expense. It is fairly
well-documented that Kirchner rally organizers provide free
transportation, food and cash to convince people to attend.
The show of public support for the "countryside" is
nonetheless unlikely to alter the outcome of the Senate vote,
which is still expected to approve the government's proposal
without modification. Although congressional approval will
add some legitimacy to the government's tax increase, it does
little to mollify farmers or address their concerns with the
exorbitant export duty rates. The agricultural sector and
the political opposition have made clear that they will take
their objections to court, the next battleground. End
Comment.
KELLY

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