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Cablegate: Argentine President Helps Broker Chavez Meeting

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #1166 2321449
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 191449Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1812
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS IMMEDIATE 1855
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV IMMEDIATE 0088
RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 001166

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

FOR DRL/SEAS RICKMAN AND PAIKEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KIRF VE AR BZ
SUBJECT: ARGENTINE PRESIDENT HELPS BROKER CHAVEZ MEETING
WITH JEWISH LEADERS

REF: A. CARACAS 1142
B. BUENOS AIRES 990
C. CARACAS 969

1. (SBU) Summary: Argentine President Cristina Kirchner (CFK)
and her Ambassador to Washington, Hector Timerman, appear to
have played a role in setting up Hugo Chavez's August 13
meeting in Caracas with Jewish leaders, as confirmed by
Timerman's participation in the meeting. CFK's involvement
appears to have been prompted by her June 25 meeting with
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder. Argentine
Jewish groups applauded Chavez's meeting but called for
concrete follow-up by the BRV to combat anti-Semitism and
restrain Iran's President Ahmadinejad. End summary.

2. (SBU) In an August 14 telcon, Argentine Ambassador to the
United States Hector Timerman confirmed to Ambassador Wayne
press reports claiming that Argentine President Cristina
Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) helped to broker the August 13
meeting in Caracas (ref A) between Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez and a delegation of Jewish leaders headed by Ronald
Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress (ref A).
Timerman, who participated in the meeting, indicated that the
idea for the meeting came out of Lauder's June 25 meeting
with CFK in Buenos Aires. Since then, Timerman and the
Venezuelan Ambassador in the United States had worked to
arrange the meeting with CFK's active support. According to
Timerman, Chavez designated an official to serve as a liaison
with the Venezuelan Jewish community. When the Jewish
leaders asked Chavez to use his relationship with the Iranian
government to express concern with President Ahmadinejad's
anti-Israel rhetoric, Timerman stated that Chavez claimed to
have told Ahmadinejad that it was wrong to call for the
destruction of Israel. Timerman told the Ambassador that
Chavez also committed himself to signing a statement with
Argentina and Brazil to fight anti-Semitism. (Note:
Director for the Latin American Jewish Congress Claudio
Epelman, who was also present at the meeting, told poloff on
August 15 that the signing would take place on September 6 in
Brazil.) Finally, Timerman reported that the Venezuelan
Foreign Minister made many positive public statements after
the meeting. Although the Jewish News Agency (JNA) quoted
Timerman as saying "the Venezuelan Jewish community enjoy the
same rights that ordinary Venezuelan citizens do," he
acknowledged to the Ambassador that "we will have to see if
Chavez follows through."

3. (U) According to local press reports quoting Argentine
real estate mogul and World Jewish Congress Treasurer Eduardo
Elsztain, the Jewish leaders also raised with Chavez the
possibility of Venezuela reestablishing diplomatic ties with
Israel, including the appointment of an Ambassador to Tel
Aviv. The 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA was not
discussed, according to press reports quoting Timerman.

4. (SBU) In response to inquiries by poloff, Epelman
expressed "satisfaction" with the meeting and indicated that
the World Jewish Congress, the Latin American Jewish
Congress, the Delegation of Argentine-Israeli Associations
(DAIA), and the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA)
worked together to lobby CFK, asking her to weigh in with
Chavez to improve his relationship with the embattled
Venezuelan Jewish community. Recalling Special Envoy for
Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism Gregg Rickman's June
29 - July 6 visit to Venezuela and Argentina (refs B and C),
Epelman noted that many in the Jewish community shared
Rickman's concerns. He pointed out, however, that some
Jewish groups, primarily the Simon Wiesenthal Center, were
not in favor of the meeting.

5. (SBU) Local press reports, however, indicated that the
Wiesenthal Center considered the meeting "a step in the right
direction," although the Center called for Chavez to follow
up with "concrete actions" to fight anti-Semitism. The
Center's Director for International Relations Shimon Samuels
praised CFK's and Lula's commitment to help Venezuela's Jews
reestablish dialogue with their own government, saying that
it "demonstrated that their commitment against hatred and
intolerance is not just rhetoric but concrete." Timerman
claimed that CFK's role in facilitating the meeting
demonstrates that she "is the principal defender of human
rights in the region."
KELLY

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