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Cablegate: Media Reaction - Chile's Abstention in Unsc Vote

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSG #2185/01 2901916
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 171916Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0195
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1128

UNCLAS SANTIAGO 002185

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR IIP/G/WHA, INR/R/MR, WHA/BSC, WHA/PDA, INR/IAA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO PGOV PREL VE CI
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION - CHILE'S ABSTENTION IN UNSC VOTE


1. Summary: October 17 dailies highlighted claims that former
Christian Democratic (DC) party Congressmen Gutenberg Martinez
influenced President Bachelet's decision to abstain in the UNSC vote
for a Latin American candidate. Martinez had warned that voting for
Venezuela would mark a "before an after" in the relations between
the DC and the government. The opposition argued that the President
lacked leadership. Three dailies ran editorials on the President's
handling of foreign policy, criticizing her the delay in making a
decision, lack of initiative to promote a consensus candidate, and
failure to discuss her decision with all political parties. End
summary.

2. Following are excerpts of reactions and editorial commentaries
in Chilean dailies:

3. DC Congressman Gabriel Acensio: "Gutenberg Martinez won here.
It is clearly a decision taken under the pressure of Martinez'
statement."

4. PS Senator Jaime Gazmuri: "I understand the President's reasons
to abstain.... (But) There were attitudes expressed in the
Concertacion that should not occur again. I am talking about
Gutenberg Martinez' statements regarding to a before and after."

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5. PS Carlos Ominami: "We must draw our conclusions... especially
on the 'before and after,' which was a very violent questioning of
the President's prerogative."

6. PS Senator Alejandro Navarro: "Even abroad this decision will
be read as a sign of weakness."

7. PS Marco Enriquez-Ominami: "With this decision, Chile's foreign
policy of integrating the continent falls to pieces."

8. UDI Pablo Longueira: "This shows lack of leadership.... If he
(Gutenberg Martinez) had not said there would be a before and after
if the government favored Venezuela, the President would have voted
differently."

9. PS Senator Jaime Gazmuri: "We have to learn to live in a
conflictive neighborhood with governments and people who are
different from us, who are internally legitimate, and who want to be
our friends. But instead, we systematically attack those people."


10. Former Foreign Affairs Minister Hernn Felipe Errazuriz said
that although the decision would be viewed as a sign of indecision
abroad, in terms of domestic policy the decision was prudent and
practical, because it "discourages divisions due to Chavez'
intervention."

11. RN Senator Sergio Romero: "Bachelet's abstention shows lack of
leadership.... All polls showed that except for a small
minority...no one wanted to favor Venezuela."

12. Communist Party Secretary General Guillermo Teillier said
Chile's abstention is a "serious setback" and the result of the
"pressure exerted by the U.S. government and its internal allies to
stop Latin America from expressing its autonomy and independence in
the international organization." The PC also held the DC
accountable.

13. Saul Ortega, President of Venezuela's legislature: "We respect
the government's decision, but the DC acted as faithfully as a
trained dog with the U.S. .... Chile will have to assess how its
democracy can benefit from a neo fascist party such as the
DC...which has its hands tainted with the ousting and blood of
Salvador Allende, and today again it sings with imperialism." His
assessment of Bachelet was very different. "Bachelet did what she
had to do as a ruler. We still consider her a friend."

14. On October 16, conservative, afternoon "La Segunda" (circ.
33,000) ran an editorial entitled "A Domestic Policy Decision."
Quote:

"The negative part of this chapter is the image we have shown of how
Chile conducts its international relations. The debate revealed a
conflict between different sectors of the Concertacion and the
government on diplomacy...and demonstrated that we are, to some
extent, making the same mistake we accused Kirchner of committing,
which is conducting foreign policy based on short-term internal
political considerations."

15. On October 17, business and financial "Diario Financiero"
(circ. 30,000) carried an editorial entitled "Chile's Abstention in
the UN." Quote:

"Chile's decision to not vote for Venezuela was correct. There is
no doubt that it would have been a contradiction within Latin
America unity to legitimize someone who is the main cause of
division, insecurity, and conflict on the continent.... One
question is what was the purpose of delaying the decision...and
another is why didn't the government look for a candidate that would
represent it more fully, if it did not like Guatemala's bid because
it was too close to the U.S. and too far from the continent? These
questions...show that Chile should play a different role in the
international context and that its foreign policy is far from
optimum."

16. On October 17, conservative, influential newspaper-of-record
"El Mercurio" (circ. 129,000) ran an editorial entitled "Chile's
Abstention." Quote

"In general it is a bad sign when a foreign policy issue becomes a
domestic policy problem, which was the case with Chile's vote in the
UNSC and Venezuela's bid.... By definition, a state policy entails
consensus or at least wide support among public opinion. This was
not the case, and therefore abstention was better than favoring
Venezuela.... But the President never discussed the vote with the
opposition and only informed the coalition parties shortly before
the announcement of the decision. No one questions the President's
prerogative to make a decision, but the sole exercise of this
prerogative does not constitute state policy."

KELLY

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