Cablegate: Argentina: Ambassador Wayne Visits Salta Province

DE RUEHBU #2732/01 3461431
R 121431Z DEC 06




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) SUMMARY: Ambassador Wayne traveled to Argentina's
Salta province November 30-December 1, to support
anti-narcotics efforts, public outreach and commercial
diplomacy. The Ambassador visited the DEA's Northern Border
Task Force office, and participated in a ceremony to deliver
drug dogs trained by the Task Force, met with the Governor to
discuss economic opportunities and the political scene,
toured the Binational center and announced the selection of a
Youth Ambassador from Salta, hosted a dinner of U.S.
visitors, met with business leaders, and visited a Coca Cola
bottling plant. Press coverage was extensive and positive.

Hotel Sheraton

2. (U) Ambassador Wayne was accompanied on this trip by the
Cultural Affairs officer, Poloff, the DEA Attach, DEA agent,
and the FSN press specialist. The Ambassador met with
General Manager Herman Reeling of the Hotel Sheraton Salta to
express support for this high-profit U.S. company. Reeling
said there is still a lot of work to do to strengthen tourism
in Salta, but that the provincial government was working to
improve tourism investment and promotion.

Dinner with U.S. visitors

3. (U) On November 30, Ambassador Wayne hosted a dinner for
former U.S. visitors and grant recipients to discuss ways to
improve exchanges. All of the guests said their experiences
visiting the U.S. had been positive and, in some cases, had
changed their perceptions of the U.S. Some guests lamented
that the Argentine system makes it difficult for high-school
students to study in the U.S., since course work completed in
a U.. high school is not recognized by most Argentine high
schools. The guests all felt that the recent efforts to
connect former U.S. visitors after they return to Argentina
was a great idea. The guests also agreed that visiting the
U.S. is the best way to learn about the U.S. and reduce
anti-U.S. sentiment. Several offered to help set up
additional exchanges.

FMC Lithium Corp.

4. (U) On December 1, Ambassador Wayne met with U.S. based
FMC Lithium Corporation President Oscar Lacher and Director
of operations Daniel Diaz to discuss the company's lithium
production operations in Salta. Lacher and Diaz explained
that access to cheap gas is one of the key factors that
allows them to remain competitive. FMC will soon connect to
a new gas pipeline being completed by the province. It will
replace 100 percent of the heavy fuel oil currently being
used and 60 percent of the diesel with natural gas. FMC said
that the Romero government is "one of the best in the
country" because of its support for private enterprises.
They stressed that Romero's administration has "never asked
for anything," implying clearly that the company has not been
required to pay bribes to the provincial government.

5. (U) Lacher and Diaz pointed out that according to a
university study from Buenos Aires, nine indirect jobs are
created from every one employee in the mining industry in
Argentina. They estimated that FMC, therefore, helps provide
jobs for 2000 people in Salta. They were, however, concerned
about environmental and political action groups criticizing
mining in Argentina. FMC said that they have two main
concerns over the future stability of Argentina: continuous
supply of energy and inflation. Rising inflation is the
biggest concern, as it has begun to hurt FMC's cost position
with competition in Chile and elsewhere.

6. (U) Lacher and Diaz asked Ambassador Wayne if he could
help request continued GSP status for Argentina. The 3.7
percent benefit is a major factor helping to keep FMC
competitive, especially since their main Chilean competitor
has a branch in the U.S.

Northern Border Task Force/Drug Dog Ceremony

6. (U) Ambassador Wayne visited the DEA funded Northern
Border Task Force (NBTF). Ambassador Wayne was greeted by
members of the NBTF and given a tour of the facilities by

BUENOS AIR 00002732 002 OF 003

Gendarmeria Nacional Comandante Principal Claudio
Domenichini, the task force commander. Comandante Principal
Domenichini and Salta Provincial Police Comisario Enrique
Cabrera also gave Ambassador Wayne a briefing of the drug
trafficking situation along the northern border of Argentina
and on the state of various DEA/NBTF operations.

7. (U) Following the tour of the NBTF, Ambassador Wayne
attended the delivery of six drug dogs trained by the NBTF to
officials of the Policia de Seguridad Aeropuertuario (PSA).
Salta Governor Romero and Aeropuertos 2000 owner Ernesto
Gutierrez, as well as various other provincial dignitaries,
attended this ceremony. The event was held at the
Gendarmeria Nacional Agrupacion in Salta. The dogs were
purchased by Aeropuertos 2000 buttrained by the DEA/INL
funded NBTF.

8. (SBU) The professionalism of the task force and the close
federal-provincial cooperation in this operation were
impressive. It was also clear that the illicit narcotics
problem from Bolivia is serious and seen as growing by local
law enforcement and elected officials.

Lunch with Governor Romero

9. (U) Ambassador Wayne was honored with a military salute
at the offices of Governor Juan Carlos Romero, who warmly
welcomed Ambassador Wayne to Salta. Salta city Mayor Miguel
Angel Isa presented the Ambassador with the key to the city
of Salta. Official press covered the salute and presentation
of gifts in the Governor's office.

10. (U) Governor Romero hosted Ambassador Wayne to lunch on
his private estate just outside the city. Other lunch guests
included Victor Manuel Brizuela, Minister of Government and
Justice/Head of the Cabinet; Rodolfo Urtubey, prosecutor;
Gustavo Cinosi, Executive Director of the Sheraton Pilar; and
Dr. Abel Cornejo, First Circuit Federal Court of Salta Judge.
Governor Romero outlined the four main areas he has focused
on during his time as governor: energy, infrastructure,
agriculture, and tourism. He said that he increased public
services and tax collection in Salta, and reduced the
province's debt. He has also worked to increase legal and
judicial security for companies in Salta, to increase
investor confidence.

11. (SBU) Governor Romero said that he is against price
controls, and has not used the tactic in Salta. He explained
that he has focused on building infrastructure and reducing
the province's reliance on the Federal Government. He
criticized the federal coparticipation system, which has
served to increase provincial debt to the Federal Government
since the 2001 crisis. Salta, he said, feels more
independent because it has nearly no debt to the Federal
Government. He would like to see more investment in Salta,
and cited a few examples of industries that have really
benefited from investment recently: organic sugar farming,
wine exports, and lemon oil and lemon extract (used in Coca
Cola). Romero said that he has gotten a reputation for
privatizing, so he created a new enterprise with Salta's
public bus system: he created a large provincial
organization to manage the fiscal and managerial aspects of
the bus system, and contracted the operations out to private
companies. He explained that this way the government can
control the quality, and the bus companies can focus on
providing service without the burden of budgeting and
management. He admitted that his government is investing a
great deal in this project, but that the service is really
very good.

12. (SBU) The Ambassador raised with the Governor the
interest of Walmart opening a store in Salta. The Governor
said he would be very happy to have a Walmart investment in
his province. He said he would be happy to receive the CEO
and work out access for the group, which he had heard might
be encountering problems in accessing land. Governor Romero
said he took pride in encouraging U.S. investment in his

--------------------------------------------- --------
Visit to BNC and Youth Ambassador Press Announcement
--------------------------------------------- --------

13. (U) Ambassador Wayne toured the Binational Center of
Salta and met with its Executive Director Victoria Hannawy,
Academic Director Claudia Liliana Corimayo, and other staff.
The Ambassador also met the Youth Ambassador selectee, Andrea
Rodriguez, and two English teachers from Salta who had
participated in the PAS-sponsored TIEC (Texas International
Education Consortium) program. Ambassador Wayne made a press
statement announcing Andrea Rodriguez's selection as a Youth

BUENOS AIR 00002732 003 OF 003

Ambassador, and addressed a crowd of BNC students.
Ambassador Wayne spent a few minutes handing out lanyards to
the students, taking photos with Andrea Rodriguez and BNC
staff members, and chatting with the students about their
English classes and plans to visit the U.S. Press coverage
of this event was extensive and positive and included the
city's largest TV station, newspaper, and radio.

Coca Cola

14 . (U) The last official activity of this trip was a
visit to a Coca Cola bottling plant run by the Guerrero
Group, a third-generation family company. Director General
Ronaldo Guerrero gave a briefing on the history and
operations of the company, and then explained the company's
extensive social responsibility activities. These activities
ranged from helping to build schools, to working with youth
organizations like Junior Achievement, to environmental
preservation projects. The Guerrero Group operates in four
northern provinces: Salta, Tucuman, Jujuy, and Catamarca.
They have social responsibility projects in each of these
provinces as well. Ambassador Wayne was given a private tour
of the bottling plant, and a plaque commemorating the visit.
The Guerrero family was very honored to host Ambassador
Wayne, as it was the first visit from a U.S. Ambassador to
this company. Press coverage of the visit was positive.

© Scoop Media

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