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Cablegate: Chileans Generally Upbeat On Unasur Outcome

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3727
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3537
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RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 1049
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UNCLAS SANTIAGO 000853

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/BSC, WHA/EPSC, EEB/IFD, INR/IAA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM ECON VE BL CI
SUBJECT: CHILEANS GENERALLY UPBEAT ON UNASUR OUTCOME

REF: (A) SANTIAGO 852, (B) SANTIAGO 851
(C) SANTIAGO 846

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Political commentators we consulted over the past
two days tended to view the emergency UNASUR meeting as a positive
development, particularly the nudging of Bolivia toward a political
dialogue. They regard the UNASUR consensus as a Chilean foreign
policy success for having tamed the out-spoken Chavez and helped a
neighbor in need. UNASUR has been bolstered as well. However,
opponents of the Bachelet administration see the accord as a setback
for the OAS and its role in the hemisphere. END SUMMARY.

UNASUR Role Enhanced
--------------------

2. (SBU) The Editor of El Mercurio's online news service Sebastian
Campana described the summit as very brief, effective, and
to-the-point. He told us President Bachelet's prestige rose as a
result of her leadership and management of the summit, including
among her South American colleagues. He agreed with other
observers, that it was better for UNASUR to support Evo Morales than
to let Chavez unilaterally intervene, which is what would have
happened without the summit.

3. (SBU) Campana said the UNASUR leaders carefully tried to
"control" Chavez so that he would not divert the attention from what
they had come to do -- address Bolivia's crisis. He shared that El
Mercurio learned a few days ago that President Morales had called
President Bachelet and asked for the emergency summit. Upon hearing
this Chavez, "who cannot keep anything to himself," immediately
publicized the plan, which stole the limelight from Bachelet. He
noted that El Mercurio had decided to make UNASUR its second lead
story largely because UNASUR had a large Chavez component ("tenia
olor de Chavez"), which the paper did not want to highlight. (The
U.S. financial crisis was the lead story.)

4. (SBU) Campana said the event demonstrated a clear signal of

support by the South American leaders to the recently-created
UNASUR, validating the existence of the organization that in Chile
is not yet "legal," (i.e., Congress has yet to fund it). Campana
also felt that the successful UNASUR summit had marked the decline
of the OAS, an organization with a U.S. "apellido," or last name.

Containing Chavez Worked, Leaders Sought Consensus
--------------------------------------------- -----

5. (SBU) Journalist and international commentator Libardo Buitrado,
who covered the UNASUR meeting at La Moneda Presidential Palace,
told us there was a positive and "prone to proposals" atmosphere at
the event. Contrary to expectations, the leaders showed an
optimistic and serene attitude. Despite President Chavez's
incendiary language upon his arrival, the Chilean and Brazilian
Foreign Ministers helped influence and keep Chavez in line and to
prevent him from commenting irresponsibly to the press during or
after the event. In addition to Lula's strong role, Presidents
Correa and Lugo also contributed in a discreet way in setting a
peaceful atmosphere.

6. (SBU) Buitrago (a Colombian, but long-time resident of Chile)
downplayed the media's assessment of Uribe and Bachelet's greeting,
which was described as "cool." He said that there was no tension
between them and that Uribe was treated in the same manner as the
other visiting leaders. He added that for journalists covering the
event, this summit differed considerably from the Ibero American
Summit in Santiago last November, notably in terms of a better
atmosphere and organization.

Opposition: Critical OAS Left Out
---------------------------------

7. (SBU) The Chief of Political Studies at the RN party-affiliated,
center-right Instituto Libertad think tank, Jose Miguel Izquierda,
had a different view. He told us he is not supportive of the UNASUR
concept, and lamented that the OAS, which is the hemisphere's
institution to resolve such problems, appears to have been left
without a role. He added that the UNASUR members tend to share a
common ideology that is supportive of Evo Morales. He noted a clear
double standard: when Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada had similar
problems, none of these same countries came to his rescue.

8. (SBU) He felt the UNASUR event had bolstered Brazil's strategic
vision of regional leadership and helped lower tensions in Bolivia.
Morales both won and lost with UNASUR. He lost because the Bolivian
opposition is now more legitimate and will benefit from foreign
observers closely tracking developments. Now Evo would not be able
to dismiss the opposition. He won because the 12 member states
agreed not to recognize any change in regime that might emerge
through a government collapse or "civil coup."

Party Line: A Boost to Chilean Leadership
-----------------------------------------

9. (U) Former Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker described the UNASUR
meeting in a media interview as a great success, positive for the
region, and a boost to President Bachelet and Chile's foreign
policy. He said that Chile reacted quickly to a complex situation
in Bolivia and generated an impressive turnout of leaders on short
notice. President Lagos' former minister noted UNASUR produced a
clear message in support of democracy through political dialogue.


A Sigh of Relief
----------------

10. (SBU) Comment: Most Chileans are probably relieved President
Chavez was not the main story of the emergency summit, and Chile,
particularly Bachelet, came out well in their view. Clearly the GOC
was better prepared to deal with the maverick Chavez than during the
Ibero American summit, when the King of Spain uttered his famous
line. While there is concern over a lack of an OAS role, GOC
officials say they are planning for OAS involvement in Bolivia.

SIMONS

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