Cablegate: Ambassador Attends Post-Election Business Conference,


DE RUEHBU #2214/01 3191254
R 151254Z NOV 07




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Ambassador Attends Post-Election Business Conference,
Discusses Anti-Americanism, Military Cooperation in Mar del Plata


1. (SBU) During Argentina's major private sector conference,
November 7-8, former Brazilian President Cardozo subtly warned about
the need to control inflation, and Argentine business leaders
discussed privately with the Ambassador whether president-elect
Christina Fernandez de Kirchner will carry out needed policy
changes. Ambassador Wayne took advantage of this visit to Mar del
Plata to meet with local Fulbright scholar alumni to discuss how to
improve the U.S. image in Argentina. He also visited the Mar Del
Plata Naval Base, headquarters of Argentina's Atlantic fleet, and
held an off-the-record session with the owner and editorial staff of
Mar Del Plata's largest newspaper, La Capital.

--------------------------------------------- ------
Private Sector Conclave Mulls Cristina's Next Steps
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. (U) The 43rd Annual Institute for the Business Development of
Argentina (IDEA) conference, traditionally the largest single
gathering of private sector leaders in Argentina, drew a record 800
attendees to Mar del Plata for a 3-day conference. Ambassador
attended the November 7 opening dinner where former Brazilian
President Cardoso addressed the "plague" of inflation and recounted
Brazil's own successful efforts to deal with it. While Cardoso
never referred directly to burgeoning inflationary pressures in
Argentina, he made clear that this is an issue that the GoA would do
well to address via the full range of macro-policy tools at its
disposal. Ambassador also attended portions of the November 8
plenary session, where the head of Argentina's investment promotion
agency, Beatriz Nofal, stressed the importance of a prompt GoA
reconciliation with the Paris Club. She said Argentina is facing a
unique opportunity to move from a stage of economic development to
one of sustained growth, but she noted this will require renewed
Argentine access to competitive sources of international financing.
In that same session, IDB President Alberto Moreno reviewed the
Bank's new lending initiatives in Argentina, including a move to
support the development of a deeper mortgage lending market.

3. (SBU) Other key themes highlighted at the IDEA conference
included likely U.S. foreign policy priorities in the next
administration (addressed by former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
and current head of the Brookings Institute Strobe Talbott), the
linkages between Argentine institutional weaknesses and corruption,
and Argentina's energy supply problems.

4. (SBU) Businessmen took the opportunity of the meeting to
speculate whether and how quickly president-elect Christina
Fernandez de Kirchner would initiate needed economic policy changes
to control inflation, encourage investment and address energy
shortages. There was plenty of skepticism as well as hope in
private conversations with the Ambassador had but very little
concrete information among businessmen leaders.
5. (SBU) Sub-cabinet-level official Nofal was the most senior GoA
official in attendance, as Christina Kirchner was attending the
Ibero-American summit in Chile and her daughter's confirmation.
Media reports of the conference noted the lack of senior
minister-level GoA engagement at this forum and highlighted the
defensive response of Cabinet Chief Alberto Fernandez to criticisms
of GoA energy supply policies.

Mayor Daniel Katz

6. (SBU) At the IDEA colloquium, Ambassador had dinner with outgoing
Mar del Plata Mayor and national congressman-elect Daniel Katz and
his wife, Gabriela Bilevich. Katz had earlier been supportive of
President Bush's visit to Mar del Plata, the seventh largest city in
Argentina, for the 2005 Summit of the Americas. Katz, who is one of
the so-called "K Radicals" who has publicly supported Kirchner over
the past two years, was "excommunicated" from the Radical Party for
his decision to run for Congress on the Kirchner-aligned,
Peronist-led ruling Victory Front ballot. Katz expressed his
affection for the U.S and said he hoped to work closely to
strengthen bilateral ties.

--------------------------------------------- --------

Turning Around the U.S. Image: Views from the Seaside
--------------------------------------------- --------

7. (U) Ambassador hosted a lively November 8 breakfast roundtable
discussion with nine local Fulbright Scholars from a broad range of
academic, teaching, and artistic disciplines. The scholars came
prepared to discuss how the U.S. image in Argentina could be
improved and how they could further this effort by acting as
good-will ambassadors. Ambassador opened the session with a review
of polls that show that anti-American sentiment in Argentina is
among the highest in Latin America and invited the participants to
give their suggestions of how to address this. Many felt that the
negative U.S. image stems from popular association of U.S. interests
with those of the IMF, which the average Argentine blames for
instigating the nation's devastating economic crisis of 2001/2. In
addition, they felt that President Kirchner's incessant negative
comments about the United States in the press have been damaging.
All believed that more personal contact with Americans was needed
and that increasing exchange programs, like the Fulbright program,
was critically important. The scholars said that their time in the
United States has positively influenced how they teach U.S. culture,
government, and history. They suggested that by increasing teacher
exchange programs, many more Argentine students will be exposed to a
positive view of the United States.

8. (U) In addition, the group felt exchange programs work to
destroy negative stereotypes. Referring to the fact that, in
Argentina, Americans are seen as self-centered, arrogant and cold,
and Argentines change their opinion of Americans once they get to
know them, the group advocated for short- or long-term exchanges,
either in the United States or in Argentina. Several commented on
the importance of programs for high school-aged young people, since
attitudes towards the United States are being formed at this time.
One described an innovative exchange research program between
Argentine and U.S. high school students who are emailing each other
with questions about each other's culture, government, and history.

9. (U) The group also suggested that the embassy secure positive
press for U.S. support of NGO projects, particularly in the area of
health or education. Ambassador Wayne explained that the embassy is
currently trying to obtain more resources to support teacher
training and the distribution of English language teaching materials
as well as increased youth exchanges All participants were grateful
the Ambassador was interested in their opinions, and stated that
they would email the Embassy's public affairs officers with
additional suggestions.

Mar del Plata Naval Base

10. (SBU) Ambassador and Embassy Naval Attache visited the Mar Del
Plata Naval Base, headquarters of the Argentine Atlantic Fleet and
the only submarine base in Argentina. Ambassador and Attache was
greeted with full honors by Rear Admiral Delfor Ferraris, Commander
of the Atlantic fleet; Captain Daniel Alberto Enrique Martin,
Commander of the submarine force; and Captain de Frigata Gustavo
Piccardo, Director of the Submarine and Divers School. Captain
Martin led a tour of the ARA Salta, a type 209 submarine built in
Germany, and of the base's submarine and divers school. No training
classes were in session during the visit and it appeared that the
submarine and diving school is underutilized. Admiral Ferraris
expressed interest in conducting exercises while the aircraft
carrier USS George Washington is passing through Argentine waters on
May 5-6.

Off-the-Record Press Event at La Capital

11. (SBU) Ambassador engaged in a frank, off-the-record discussion
with La Capital owner Florencio Aldrey Iglesias and three of the
paper's editorial staff. The century-old newspaper is the biggest
and most influential in Mar del Plata. Aldrey also owns the daily
La Prensa in Buenos Aires and runs seven local radio stations and a
cable TV channel. Aldrey said that he has complete trust in the
Governor-elect of Buenos Aires Province, current Vice-President
Daniel Scioli, who recently won 48% of the provincial vote. At the
same time, he voiced his disappointment in Mayor Katz, whom he
charged had abandoned his city to run for a National Deputy position

on the Kirchner administration's Victory Front ticket. The group
discussed two key issues facing Mar del Plata - the sale and
consumption of the inexpensive cocaine processing derivative drug
known as Paco and rampant crime. The beach resort city, which
doubles in size from 500,000 to one million during the Argentine
summer months of January through March, struggles to provide work or
services for the temporary workers who remain after the season. The
city is growing quickly without adequate urban planning, and the
police force has not received adequate resources or training to
handle the population surge and growing drug problem.

12. (U) Ambassador discussed La Capital's headline story that day
about Interpol' arrest warrants for six Iranians in connection with
the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish community center.
Aldrey expressed satisfaction with the Argentine judicial system's
efforts to bring justice to those responsible for the AMIA attack.
Participants also discussed the poor U.S. image in Argentina, and
the persistent allegation that the USG is trying to control the
waters of South America. Aldrey was hopeful that U.S.-Argentine
relations will improve under the new administration, noting the good
opportunities for cooperation and collaboration. La Capital
journalists expressed concern about the stability of democratic and
economic institutions in an incoming Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
administration, noting that "absolute power corrupts absolutely."


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