Cablegate: Port Louis: U.S. Election Programs Boost Mission's
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHPL #0388/01 3151104
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101104Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY PORT LOUIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4269
INFO RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0598
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 PORT LOUIS 000388
PARIS FOR ARS
AF/PD FOR CANYASO, TAYBAR, LALLISON AND PEHRNMAN; IIP/G/AF AMURPHY
AND FOR ARS JHULIN
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO KMDR SCUL PGOV PREL MP
SUBJECT: PORT LOUIS: U.S. ELECTION PROGRAMS BOOST MISSION'S
1. Nearly 11,000 miles separate Mauritius from the United States,
but distance did not dampen the fascination of Mauritians with U.S.
Elections 2008. Responding to the keen interest of its contacts and
the Mauritian population at large in the U.S. Presidential
Elections, Mission Port Louis organized a series of events, from
roundtable discussions, digital video conferences, talks at the
University of Mauritius, media outreaches to a "pop-in" brunch and
doubled the dissemination of information on the U.S. Elections with
IIP products and America.gov articles. These events have been
unparalleled occasions for Post to engage key audiences on U.S.
society and values, democratic practices and mutual understanding.
2. An Array of Approaches and Venues:
A. Ambassador's Media Roundtable Discussions:
The race to the White House in 2008 was followed with much interest
by Mauritians. The Public Affairs Section (PAS) planned a series of
programs on the U.S. elections and kicked off the calendar with a
Media Roundtable on the U.S. Elections with Ambassador Cesar Cabrera
on Wednesday, April 16 at the Embassy. PAS invited representatives
from two leading local dailies, Le Matinal and Le Mauricien, and
weekly L'express dimanche to participate in the program. The
Ambassador made a 30-minute introduction and gave the journalists an
insight into the U.S. Elections process. He then followed with
explanations on concepts such as political party rules, delegates,
the Electoral College, primaries, and conventions. The Ambassador
said that these elections are important and historical, with a
female candidate and an African-American candidate. The Ambassador
also added that Americans residing in Mauritius and the American
employees at the Embassy were encouraged to vote via absentee
Ambassador Cabrera was in Seychelles at the end of April on a
working visit during which he presided over a dedication ceremony
for the renovation of Grand Anse Praslin Clinic, funded by the U.S.
Government through the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. On
Tuesday, April 22, PAS organized a second roundtable discussion for
the Ambassador, this time with Seychellois journalists at the Hilton
Northholme Resort. The discussion focused on the intricacies of the
campaign then taking place in America.
B. Embassy Speaker Program- Talks on the U.S. Elections:
On April 28, the English Department from the Faculty of Social
Studies and Humanities of the University of Mauritius welcomed
Political and Economic Officer Quentin Barber for a presentation on
the U.S. Elections 2008. More than forty five undergraduate
students enrolled in the modules "20th Century American Literature."
"American Culture and Society," and "Introduction to American
Literature" listened religiously to Quentin Barber as he asserted
how this year's U.S. Elections have invigorated his faith in the
United States as an African-American and emphasized how these
elections will be a great step forward in the history of liberal
democracy and human rights regardless of the winner. At that point
in the campaign, skepticism was still perceptible in the audience as
to whether the United States of America was ready to have a
non-white as President.
By the end of October, the U.S. Elections had captured the
imagination and fascination of all Mauritians, and all eyes were
riveted on "Who was going to be the 44th President of the United
States of America". On October 29, the Faculty of Social Science
and Humanities of the University of Mauritius sponsored a talk on
the 2008 U.S. Elections on the theme: U.S. Elections 2008- What are
at stake? Public Affairs Officer Craig White was invited by the
Department of Communication Studies to join Vijay Makhan, a
politician and former Mauritian Secretary for Foreign Affairs and
Commissioner for the African Union to speak on this historic moment
in U.S. history. More than seventy students in political science,
media and communications and sociology attended the event.
C. Digital Video Conferences:
Digital Video Conferences (DVC) have always been an important part
of Post's outreach, so when ARS Paris offered a Five-Part DVC Series
on the 2008 U.S. Presidential Elections in December 2007, Post
seized the opportunity. PAS selected four out of the five DVCs on
offer and kicked off its DVC series on Monday, May 5, with: Covering
a Presidential Election. The DVC focused on election reporting,
including the covering of political parties and issues and the
voting process. Georges Kazolias, Instructor of Communications at
the American University of Paris, was the speaker for the program.
Academics and undergraduate students in political science were on
the guest list but audience was essentially comprised of Mauritian
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The second DVC was scheduled on Monday, September 8, 2008 a few days
after the Nominating Conventions and at a time when the U.S.
Elections were gathering momentum in the minds of Mauritians and
especially the local media. The theme of this DVC was "The U.S.
Nominating Conventions." It was led by two speakers, Stuart Haugen,
Vice President of Republicans Abroad in France, and Connie Borde,
Vice President of Democrats Abroad in France and also a
Super-Delegate for the U.S. Democratic Party. Parliamentarians,
politicians (including a presidential contender), academics,
undergraduate students in Political Science, journalists, and
Fulbright and Humphrey alumni constituted the audience.
Wednesday, October 22: only two weeks before Americans elected
their 44th President, as the fever of the U.S. Elections of 2008 was
reaching its peak, PAS welcomed another batch of participants to its
third DVC series- The Electoral College. The program was conducted
by Eduardo Cue, correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, and
Steven Ekovich, associate professor at the American University of
Paris' International and Comparative Politics Department.
Journalists, academics, Hubert Humphrey and Fulbright Alumni
attended the event. The Head of the Economic Directorate at the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Usha Dwarka-Canabady, who
recently attended an International Visitor Leadership Program on
"Women as Political Leaders" in the United States, also made it a
must to be part of the program, which participants unanimously
called "the best yet."
D. Mauritian politician- privileged observer of U.S. Elections under
the International Visitor Leadership Program
Mauritian media made much of the leader of the "Mauritian Socialist
Movement" (MSM) party, Pravind Jugnauth's participation in the
International Visitor Leadership Program "I-Vote 2008." Interviewed
several times by local newspapers and especially private radio
stations, Pravind Jugnauth stated that it was an extraordinary
experience to be able to observe the elections closely as a
participant in the program. He explained how the participants were
learning how the electoral system functions and how the elections
are organized. He also added in connection with the historical U.S.
Elections that the way in which elections are held in Mauritius must
also be reviewed.
The topic was also a major theme during a press conference held by
the President of the MSM shortly after the departure of Pravind
Jugnauth to the United States. Joe Lesjongard stated, "We are glad
that he is the only Mauritian invited to follow the presidential
elections in the United States...It is a big honor for the leader,
the party and the country...This invitation shows the great esteem
which our leader has at the international level."
E. Pop-in Brunch at Ambassador's Residence on D-Day:
In Mauritius, ten hours ahead of Washington D.C., the results of the
U.S. presidential elections of 2008 began to trickle in at dawn on
Wednesday, November 5. Ambassador Cesar Cabrera and Mrs. Helvetia
Cabrera hosted a "pop-in" brunch at their residence to mark an event
a former Prime Minister here called "a planetary upheaval." Over
100 guests, including politicians, diplomats, economic partners,
expatriates and the media marched into Macarty House in Vacoas
shortly before nine o'clock local time amidst a festive decor made
up of U.S. flags, a big screen tuned to NBC News, an annex room with
CNN Live, a welcome aroma of coffee (after a sleepless night for
some) and the sight of fresh croissants, fruits, and hot skillets
ready for pancakes and omelettes. After an historic 20 months of
rallies, debates, discussions and speeches, more than a hundred
guests made it a MUST to attend this event. A mock polling station
was also set up under the veranda. Guests voted with gusto. Macarty
House was a busy and noisy place with interviews, live coverage by
TV, radio, and newspaper reporters, comments and analysis from
guests echoing from all corners. The President of the Republic of
Mauritius, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, also honored the event with his
3. Unprecedented Media Outreaches:
Media across the world have reported every twist and turn of the
nail-biting race to the White House. Newspapers, radios and
televisions have covered this story on a scale never before seen for
a U.S. election. In addition, the U.S. elections 2008 have seen
more online activity than ever before. Mauritian media were
certainly on the front line all throughout the campaign and a day
before D-Day, telephone calls from newsrooms across the country
started pouring into the Public Affairs Section. As usual, Embassy
Port Louis welcomed requests for interviews with open arms.
PORT LOUIS 00000388 003 OF 004
On the day of the election, Radio Plus, the number one private radio
station in Mauritius, aired a recorded statement of the Embassy's
Consular Officer, Jason Hackworth, who was asked the number of
registered Americans in Mauritius and to explain how they cast their
vote. In its news program at noon, the same radio station conducted
a live interview aired from the Embassy with the Embassy's Deputy
Chief of Mission Virginia Blaser. She was asked to comment (in
French) on the "ambiance" prevailing at the Embassy in connection
with the U.S. elections. Virginia Blaser also spoke about the
historic aspect of this election.
In its news program (in French) on Tuesday, November 4 at 1630
hours, Radio Plus aired some "sound bites" recorded earlier at the
Embassy and comments, in French, from the Embassy's Deputy Chief of
Mission Virginia Blaser and Public Affairs Officer Craig White.
They described the "ambiance" prevailing at the Embassy in
connection with the U.S. elections and talked about the brunch
hosted the following morning at the Ambassador's residence for
politicians, diplomats and academics to observe the coverage and
results of the election.
Radio One, the second leading private radio station in Mauritius,
invited Craig White to participate in its regular live debate
program called "Controversy," on Tuesday, November 4 from 1645 hours
to 1800 hours. The moderator of the program, which was conducted in
French and Creole, was well-known journalist Finlay Salesse. The
other participant in the program was Roukaya Kasenally, lecturer in
Communication at the University of Mauritius. Craig White, who
spoke in French, was asked to share his views on the electoral
campaign and the candidates to the president's and vice-president's
posts and the stakes of this historic election. Along with
Kasenally, PAO White answered call-in questions from listeners as
Still on Election Day, the Embassy's Political and Economic Officer,
Quentin Barber, participated in the "Dossier" weekly program
broadcast live on MBCTV1 which was on the theme "U.S. Elections -
D-Day." The other guest participants in the program were
Jean-Claude de L'Estrac (Executive Director of La Sentinelle Media
Group and a former chief editor and former minister), Afsar Ebrahim
(Partner and Accountant at DCDM BDO Consulting/Audit firm), and Amal
Goorah (Executive Officer at Mauritius Telecom and a former student
at a U.S. university).
Political/Economic Officer Barber said that the excellent bilateral
relations between the United States and Mauritius will not change.
Barber thanked his hosts for the chance to "tell America's story,"
and made extensive comments on the bearing of American history and
culture on this historic election. During the program, MBC TV also
broadcast a statement by U.S. Ambassador Cesar Cabrera recorded on
Tuesday afternoon at the Embassy. Ambassador Cabrera said that
after the elections, whoever is elected as president, the U.S.
policy towards Mauritius will not change. The relationship has
always been consistent and there can only be improvements in ties
with Mauritius, a country which is an ally and friend. Ambassador
Cabrera mentioned the Third Country Fabric Exemption granted to
Mauritius by the U.S. recently under the Africa Growth and
Radio One again invited Craig White to participate (in French for
half an hour) in its special live program which began at 0700 hours
on Wednesday, November 5, as early election results from the night
before in the U.S. were just beginning to come in. The Public
Affairs Officer was asked to explain in broad lines the Electoral
College and elections process and to comment on the situation after
some of the early returns and early "calls" of Pennsylvania and
On the day of the "pop-in" brunch at the Ambassador's residence, a
leading newspaper story about the event at Macarty House stated that
politicians, diplomats and a big group of the 300 Americans residing
in Mauritius would observe live the counting of the votes in the
U.S. The article mentioned the "innovation" this year of a mock
election. Media presence at Macarty House was enormous on
Wednesday, November 5. Reporters circled Ambassador Cabrera for
comments and reactions after the proclamation of the final results.
Other American officers, including the Deputy Chief of Mission and
the Regional Security Officer, were also interviewed for different
That afternoon in its news program in French, Radio Plus reported
again on the elections results brunch organized in the morning at
the Ambassador's residence and aired brief recorded statements from
the Ambassador and some guests (which had been already aired in its
live special program on the election results in the morning). The
other radios also reported on the event and various reactions during
PORT LOUIS 00000388 004 OF 004
their news programs.
In its evening news programs on Wednesday night, MBC TV broadcast
footage of the brunch. MBC TV reported that "a nice group of
personalities," including the President of the Republic, Sir Anerood
Jugnauth, were present at this special election morning. The
footage also included short statements from Ambassador Cesar
Cabrera. Ambassador Cabrera said that it was a historic election
and a message of hope. He added that there will not be any change
in the excellent ties already existing between Mauritius and the
U.S. Electoral Commissioner Irfan Rahman (who helped count the mock
votes during the breakfast) said that the fact that the official
presidential results were known so fast should inspire Mauritius.
Ambassador Cabrera was again interviewed on Friday, November 7 by
weekend newspaper L'express dimanche which dedicated eight pages to
U.S. Elections 2008.
Post also saw a considerable amount of coverage in the weekend
newspapers for November 8 and 9, from news reporting to the "people
Almost all American officers were involved at one time or another
with the media from Monday, November 3 to Wednesday, November 5.
This was THE opportunity for the Public Affairs Section to engage
with the Mauritian population, and the PAS made the most of it. The
Public Affairs Section organized and presented a media briefing for
the American potential interviewees, and prepared a kit with
possible Qs & As for all American Officers, drawing heavily from
America.gov. As a result, American officers were well prepared to
step briefly into the spotlight.
An entire list of webchats was sent to Post's contacts and posted on
the Embassy's website and the Virtual Presence Post (VPP) website
for Seychelles. Transcripts were sent after the webchats were held.
For each and every single program including talks at the University
of Mauritius, infopacks with articles on the Elections and IIP
publications "The Long Campaign: US Elections" "USA Elections in
Brief", "The Electoral College", "The Candidates" were cautiously
prepared. Polls and Think Tanks sent through the AF/IRC List Serve
were forwarded to all American Officers and a few LES Staff from the
Political/Bilateral Sections. On the day of the election brunch,
PAS provided an Election Kit ordered from GPS Manila, which included
buttons/stickers for both parties.
The programs organized by Post during the long and intense electoral
campaign have been acclaimed by a diverse, passionate and fascinated
audience. Embassy Port Louis reached out to politicians,
journalists, students, alumni and social groups as never before. In
fact, never has a U.S. election captured so much of the attention of
the Mauritian population. Its historic cachet was certainly a
determining factor in the success of all the events set up by Post.
Long-term relationships have been renewed and new ones established.
However, what marked these special U.S. Elections 2008 programs was
the outstanding outreaches initiated by the whole Mission to the
local media. This endeavor allowed Post to disseminate key Mission
goals such as the promotion of democratic practices, U.S. society
and values and mutual understanding. The involvement of almost
every single American Officer at Post in this mission has set up
avenues for future and more enriched collaborations between Embassy
Port Louis and the Mauritian media.
All sections of the Embassy invested considerable energy in the
programs held in the context of the U.S. Elections 2008 The Public
Affairs Section certainly had a lot on its plate during the
electoral campaign, both prior to D-Day and after the polls gave
their verdict. U.S. Elections 2008 has allowed Mission Port Louis
to set the pace for enhanced outreaches with a multitude of
audiences and is now an energized team more than determined to think
Public Diplomacy. The PAS is grateful for the support we received
that made these events possible.