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Cablegate: Argentina: Opposition Ucr Party Convention

VZCZCXRO3476
PP RUEHCD RUEHGA RUEHGD RUEHHA RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHQU RUEHTM RUEHVC
DE RUEHBU #1978/01 2441739
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 011739Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5747
INFO RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNMRC/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 1710

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BUENOS AIRES 001978

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA TOM SHANNON, JOHN MAISTO, AND CHARLES SHAPIRO
NSC FOR DAN FISK
TREASURY FOR DAS NANCY LEE
USCINCSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/01/2016
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: OPPOSITION UCR PARTY CONVENTION
HIGHLIGHTS PARTY WEAKNESS

REF: BUENOS AIRES 01901

Classified By: CDA, a.i., Michael Matera, Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Although the August 25-26 national
convention of the Radical Civic Union (UCR) confirmed that
the UCR would remain an opposition party, it also
demonstrated the UCR's weakened state because the most
significant party leaders failed to attend. Calls by UCR
Congressman Federico Storani to expel the Radicales K from
the party were rejected by other party leaders -- so it
appears that there will not be a formal split for the time
being -- although the convention solidified the de facto
division of the party. Other elements in the party are
opposed to former President Raul Alfonsin and other party
leaders' proposal for the UCR to support former Economy
Minister Roberto Lavagna for President next year. Party
leaders did not decide on candidates for the 2007 elections
at the convention, but did grant UCR Party President Roberto
Iglesias the power to negotiate electoral accords with
Lavagna and other political parties. In the days since the
convention, GOA and UCR leaders have exchanged sharp public
criticism. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Although the August 25-26 national convention of
the Radical Civic Union (UCR) confirmed that the UCR would
remain an opposition party, it also demonstrated the UCR's
weakened state because the most significant party leaders
failed to attend. (For more on the current state of the UCR,
see reftel.) National UCR party leaders at the convention in
the city of Rosario rejected President Kirchner's call to
join his ""concertacion"" and stated that the UCR would remain
an opposition force. However, the show of unity was
overshadowed by the absence of the most important UCR
leaders, most notably the Radicales K -- comprising the
majority of the UCR Governors and the most important UCR
Mayors -- who avoided the gathering on Kirchner's orders.
Calls by UCR Congressman Federico Storani to expel the
Radicales K from the party were rejected by other party
leaders, so it appears that the party will not formally split
for the time being, although the convention solidified the de
facto division of the party. Socialist Congressmen Hermes
Binner and Ruben Giustiniani, who are in alliance with the
UCR in Santa Fe province, attended the convention, although
other Socialist leaders subsequently publicly stated that
their attendance did not signify that the Socialist Party
(PS) has an alliance with the UCR on a national level.

3. (SBU) On the other side of the party, National Senator
Rodolfo Terragno refused to attend because of his opposition
to former President Raul Alfonsin and other party leaders'
proposal for the UCR to support former Economy Minister
Roberto Lavagna for President next year. Both Terragno and
UCR General Secretary Margarita Stolbizer advocate developing
a new party platform before endorsing candidates and favor
endorsing a UCR member for President, rather than a Peronist
opposition candidate like Lavagna. Party leaders did not
decide on candidates for the 2007 elections at the
convention, but did grant UCR Party President Roberto
Iglesias the power to negotiate electoral accords with
Lavagna and other political parties.

4. (SBU) In the days since the convention, GOA and UCR
leaders have exchanged sharp public criticism. Kirchner held
a public event with Mendoza Governor and leading Radicales K
member Julio Cobos and portrayed the UCR leaders still in the
opposition as representing negative aspects of Argentina's
past. Alfonsin countered Kirchner's attacks by contrasting
Alfonsin's record fighting for human rights during the
military dictatorship to Kirchner's support for Menem's
reelection and now-much-criticized privatization campaign in
the mid-1990s.

5. (C) COMMENT: The Rosario convention marked what looks
like the beginning of the end of the UCR as a national
political force. In theory, the end of Argentina's
traditional party system provides the opportunity for a more

BUENOS AIR 00001978 002 OF 002


rational political system to develop. Both of the
traditional parties -- the UCR and the Peronist Party (PJ) --
have practiced a clientelistic-style of politics that has
prevented new parties from consolidating since the return to
democracy in 1983. Third parties that gained traction for a
short period of time, such as the UcDe in the 1980s and
Frepaso in the 1990s, largely disappeared after being coaxed
into alliances with one of the traditional parties. The
traditional parties have lacked ideological coherence, as
left-wing and right-wing elements have coexisted under the
same party logo. However, despite President Kirchner's
rhetoric to the contrary, Argentina does not appear to be any
closer to developing a rational system of center-right and
center-left parties. Kirchner's poaching of the UCR and
other minor parties have netted him both left-wing and
right-wing leaders, and the remaining opposition is spread
across the ideological spectrum. The health of Argentina's
democratic system is the main loser in this political
development, as the opposition has become even weaker as a
result. END COMMENT.

MATERA

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