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Cablegate: Argentina: San Juan Governor Says State Can

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #1569/01 3222220
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 172220Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2482
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 001569

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PINR PREL PGOV ECON AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: SAN JUAN GOVERNOR SAYS STATE CAN
GUARANTEE RETIREMENT

REF: A. BUENOS AIRES 0980
B. BUENOS AIRES 0973
C. BUENOS AIRES 0963
D. BUENOS AIRES 0943 AND PREVIOUS
E. BUENOS AIRES 1521 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Summary: Ambassador Wayne and DCM Kelly met with
San Juan Governor and Peronist Party member (PJ) Jose Luis
Gioja on October 28, shortly before the Governor's travel to
the U.S. to observe the presidential elections. Gioja said
he maintains a positive dialogue with President Cristina
Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) and described her as less
"militant" than her husband, former president Nestor Kirchner
(NK) and more "reflexive and receptive." He remarked that
the PJ needs to make a strong effort to unite ahead of the
2009 national mid-term legislative elections and acknowledged
some concerns about the party's standing. Given the
fragmentation of the opposition, however, he noted the party
would need only 30 percent of the votes to win nationally and
maintain electoral majorities in both houses. Regarding
draft legislation to nationalize private pension accounts,
Governor Gioja asserted that the State, as the people's
defender, should administer the retirement system to
guarantee that Argentines receive some kind of social
security payment in their retirement. Gioja said he believes
the national budget, approved by the Chamber of Deputies on
October 16 and by the Senate on November 5, meets the needs
of San Juan and other smaller provinces. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Ambassador Wayne and DCM Kelly met with San Juan
Governor Jose Luis Gioja on October 28. A lifelong Peronist
(PJ) party member, Governor Gioja maintains good relations
with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) and her
husband and former President Nestor Kirchner (NK). Poloff
(notetaker) also attended.

-------------------------
Gioja's Views of Cristina
-------------------------

3. (SBU) Gioja said CFK did not handle the farm conflict well
(ref A), but believed the GOA had learned some tough lessons.
He noted that CFK had softened her abrasive manner when
addressing people and described the effort as positive. He
said that he maintains a positive dialogue with CFK, whom he
said is available to meet with him when he needs to speak
with her. He described CFK as less "militant" than NK and
more "reflexive and receptive."

-----------------------------------
PJ Party in 2009 Mid-term Elections
-----------------------------------

4. (SBU) The Governor expressed some concerns about the PJ's
standing but said he felt confident it would recuperate and
perform well in the mid-term legislative elections,
particularly in San Juan and Buenos Aires provinces.
Although the party is weakened by the dissidence of prominent
politicians such as former President Carlos Menem and San
Luis Governor and Peronist dissident Alberto Rodriguez Saa,
Gioja said he believed the rest of the PJ would be able to
overcome personality differences and unite ahead of the
mid-term legislative elections in 2009. He acknowledged that
it would be difficult for the PJ to garner support in
Cordoba, Santa Fe, Mendoza, and the city of Buenos Aires.
Given the fragmentation of the opposition, however, he noted
the party would need only 30 percent of the votes to win
nationally and would be able to maintain electoral majorities
in both houses.

----------------------------
Pension Nationalization Plan
----------------------------

5. (SBU) Referring to the GoA's plan (ref E) to nationalize
private pension funds (known locally as AFJPs), Governor
Gioja stressed that the State, as the people's defender,
should administer the retirement system, guaranteeing that
Argentines receive some kind of social security payment in
their retirement. He recalled his experience as a national
deputy in 1994 when the government moved to privatize the
system, a decision he perceived as the best course of action
at the time. However, he noted the system lacked sufficient
controls, and the country's 2001 financial crisis further
weakened it. The Governor predicted a healthy debate in the
Chamber of Deputies over the system with the legislation
passing, albeit with some minor changes. (Note: Indeed, after
16 hours of debate, the Chamber of Deputies approved the
draft legislation -- 163 votes in favor to 75 against -- in

the wee hours of November 7. The bill appears to include
only cosmetic modifications, adding minor controls on the use
of pension funds, such as a ban on investing overseas and
slightly stronger oversight by the bicameral Congressional
commission as well as vague language guaranteeing employment
of AFJP non-executive employees. Also, it mentions that the
GoA's Social Security Administration (ANSES) will not charge
any fee for managing the funds. The bill is slated to reach
the Senate floor November 20, and local press reports the
vote may happen the same day.)

6. (SBU) Gioja said he believes the national budget, approved
by the Chamber of Deputies on October 16 and by the Senate on
November 5, meets the needs of San Juan and other smaller
provinces. Recalling Argentina's 2001 financial crisis and
its deep impact on San Juan, he said he hoped the government
has learned some lessons in the process. He remarked that
the country needs to focus on moving forward and not keep
looking back.

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

7. (SBU) Governor Gioja was reelected in August 2007 with 60
percent of the votes. Gioja served his first term as
governor from 2003 to 2007. He was a national senator for
two consecutive terms (1995-2001 and 2001-2003) and was
elected Senate president pro-tempore in 2002. In 2000, he
was elected president of the PJ Bloc in the national Senate
and was reelected for the term 2001-2005, where he served
until assuming his gubernatorial post in 2003. In 1995,
during his first Senate term, he served as president of the
Federal Tax Co-participation Committee. He was a national
deputy for San Juan province from 1991 to 1995 and was
reelected for 1995 to 1999, but resigned later to assume a
seat in the national Senate. From 1987 to 1991, he served as
provincial deputy, was vice-president of the PJ bloc in the
province's Lower House, and chaired the Chamber's Mining,
Public Works and Water Resources committees. In 1976, while
he was working as the director of the Provincial Institute of
Housing and as a personal adviser to then San Juan Governor
Eloy Camus, Gioja was detained by military authorities and
imprisoned for several months, where he claims he was
tortured by Major Jorge Olivera. From 1973 to 1975, he
served as secretary general of the PJ youth party.

8. (SBU) Born on December 4, 1949 in San Juan province, Gioja
hails from a political family. He has five siblings, two of
which hold congressional seats: his elder brother, Cesar, is
a national senator, and his younger brother, Juan Carlos, is
a national deputy. Gioja received an engineering degree,
with a specialty in land surveys, from the University of
Cuyo. He is married; the couple has three sons and a
daughter.

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

9. (SBU) The meeting provided an excellent opportunity to
hear the views of a lifelong Peronist closely aligned to CFK.
An interesting and fairly candid interlocutor, the Governor
was warm and friendly with U.S. officials, expressing
enthusiasm over his week-long trip to the U.S. to observe the
presidential elections. In Washington, Gioja told the
Ambassador he was really enjoying his opportunity to see the
U.S. election process first-hand and to meet with a range of
congressional, administration, and academic experts. Upon
his return, Gioja told the press that, "There are positive
reactions to the President-elect because he fosters palpable
hope." According to San Juan press reports, the Governor
later added that "one must be honest and acknowledge that
Latin America is not the focus of the USG's attention."

WAYNE

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