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Cablegate: Argentina: Ambassador Focuses On Social Issues in Tucuman


DE RUEHBU #2123/01 2991909
R 261909Z OCT 07




E.O. 12958: N/A




1. (U) In an October 19 visit to Argentina's northwestern province
of Tucuman, the Ambassador met with local members of the media. He
toured an American-owned citrus company that has a progressive
Corporate Social Responsibility project to educate off-season
workers. The Ambassador was also a keynote speaker in the
inauguration of an anti-trafficking in persons (TIP) foundation
(reftel BA 2095). The Maria De Los Angeles Foundation was founded
by anti - TIP crusader Susana Trimarco. The Ambassador discussed a
variety of social programs addressing education and child mortality
rates with Tucuman provincial governor, Governor Alperovich. At the
local bi-national center, the Ambassador donated Digital Video
Conference (DVC) equipment and hosted an energetic round-table
discussion with local youth leaders. End Summary.

Meeting with Journalists

2. (U) The Ambassador invited three leading representatives of the
local media for an off-the-record session: Carlos Abrehu and
Federico Menamen, chief editors of the largest and most influential
newspaper in the province, La Gaceta; and German Valdez, a
radio/television host and former Embassy IV. The journalists
welcomed the frank conversation, explaining it is not common for
them to find important public figures willing to listen to them. The
Ambassador told them meeting journalists is one of the activities he
most enjoys while traveling in Argentina, as they are among the
best-informed actors in society. La Gaceta is nearing its 100th
anniversary and is one of few family-owned newspapers left in
Argentina. It has a reputation of objectivity and high professional
standards. It sells some 50,000 newspapers every day and over 65,000
over the weekend.

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3.(U) The journalists outlined the main hurdles facing democratic
institutions in the province, pointing mainly at the consequences of
a steady process of social deterioration, which results in
increasing crime and drug addiction among young people. Mr. Menamen
recalled that when he would cover stories in low-income
neighborhoods 20 years ago he could mingle with the local residents
and even sip mate with them, while these days his reporters tell him
they are scared to set foot there.

4.(U) The journalists, echoing their counterparts in every province
the Ambassador has visited, mentioned the lack of a strong
opposition both at the provincial and national level, as one of the
main institutional weaknesses in Argentina. They also queried the
Ambassador on the state of bilateral relations and the upcoming
elections in the United States, saying they will be very interested
in following the upcoming elections in the United States.

Citromax Lemons

5. (U) Citromax General Manager Lucas Fornaciari and his Assistant
General Manager Fernando Carrera gave the Ambassador a tour of part
of their production and processing facilities, including a lemon
nursery and a lemon grove, and explained the achievements of
Citromax's Corporate Social Responsibility Program. Citromax is an
American company that has been based in Tucuman for 30 years.
Argentina is the largest exporter of lemons in the world and
Citromax is the third largest lemon farm in Argentina. It is also
one of the region's leading employers. Citromax has an impressive
corporate social program in which employees are able to receive
medical care and occupational training during the off season. This
plan was implemented with the cooperation of the provincial
government and has been adopted by the National Labor Ministry as a
pilot for a broader program. They also provice scholarships to keep
children of employees in secondary school and have started a
community scholarship program for employee dependents.

Meeting/Lunch with Governor Alperovich

6. (U) The Ambassador attended a lunch with Governor Alperovich, his
wife (National Deputy Beatriz Rojkes de Alperovich), and members of
his Cabinet. The Ambassador congratulated Governor Alperovich on
his recent reelection, noting that the Governor had won with 78
percent of the vote. Alperovich suggested that his political
success is due to the fact that he is a businessman, not a
politician. He explained that his administration has worked to
address security, education, and public health issues. He noted
that his administration purged the provincial police force of 1,000
corrupt officials, and is increasing training in order to
professionalize the force. For example, the province has recently
established a special investigation unit for homicide and complex
crime. Earlier in the year, the province created a special unit for
the investigation of sex crimes and human trafficking, he added. He
noted the problem of increased drug flow through Argentina, and
expressed interest in working with the USG Northern Border Task
Force aimed at enhancing U.S.-Argentine counter narcotics

7.(U) Turning to education issues, Alperovich told the Ambassador
that his administration has focused on increasing secondary school
attendance, and that his second term will concentrate on improving
the quality of education. In the first four years of his
administration, over 1,500 new classrooms have been built and
secondary school attendance rates increased 50-60 percent. In an
effort to prevent truancy and delinquency, the Ministry of Education
has also developed extra-curricular sports programs targeted at
children from low-income households. The day before the
Ambassador's visit, the provincial Ministry of Education signed an
agreement with Intel to jointly train provincial teachers in how
best to use Information and Communication Technologies to enhance
classroom activity.

8. (U) National Deputy Rojkes de Alperovich, the wife of the
governor, noted provincial successes on public health issues. At
the height of Argentina's economic crisis in 2001, Tucuman had one
of the highest infant mortality rates in Argentina, with 26 out of
1000 infants dying mostly from malnutrition. Tucuman's Ministry of
Health developed a program to ensure that all women receive prenatal
care from the moment they discover that they are pregnant. In
addition, the province began an immunization program to inoculate
all children under the age of five from a variety of diseases. As a
result of the program, Tucuman now has one of the lowest infant
mortality rates in Argentina, with 11 deaths per 1000. Once the
children turn five, they enter the public school system, where they
continue to get health and education benefits.

9.(U) Turning to the provincial economy, Governor Alperovich noted
that the Inter-American Development Bank has allocated USD 5 million
to build irrigation infrastructure in Tucuman. He explained that
the province has 600,000 hectares of arable land, but that only
100,000 hectares have access to a reliable irrigation system. He
indicated that the IDB project would increase the amount of land
available for cultivation by 50 percent. Agriculture accounts for
75 percent of jobs in Tucuman's rural areas and the project will
spur rural employment, he said.

Ambassador and Tucuman Youth Discuss Leadership
10. (U) ATICANA, one of the largest (1100 students) and oldest
(established 1955) bi-national centers in Argentina, was the setting
for an engaging session on leadership principles between the
Ambassador and young leaders in Tucuman. The secondary and
university-level group was composed of the winners of a national
"Journalist for a Day" contest, participants of ATICANA's Youth
"Transformational Leadership" program and English students. Former
IV Ana Maria Ferullo opened with a briefing on the principles of the
Transformational Leadership curriculum. The Ambassador and students
then exchanged views on the distinction between authority and
leadership and that both were needed to lead effectively. The young
participants also expressed an interest in scholarships to study in
the United States. During this session, the Ambassador also donated
a digital video conference system to ATICANA. The event was well
attended by local media and received a separate, favorable write-up
in Tucuman's main paper, La Gaceta, the following morning, alongside
coverage of the Ambassador's other activities. Separately, in a
private meeting with the ATICANA Board, the Ambassador was briefed
on the English teaching program, run by a staff of 30 people, and
ATICANA's special visa support program.


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