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Cablegate: Argentina: Kirchners Appoint Loyalists To

VZCZCXYZ0016
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #2267/01 3331111
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291111Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9793

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 002267

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM ECON AR
SUBJECT: Argentina: Kirchners Appoint Loyalists to
Key Congressional Positions

REF: BUENOS AIRES 2139

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: With the Ministers set, Cristina Fernandez de
Kirchner (CFK) and her husband, outgoing President Nestor Kirchner
(NK), are now filling key Congressional slots with loyalists.
Sources close to the Kirchners have publicly revealed that Senate
President Pro-Tempore Jose Pampuro, Senate Majority Leader Pichetto,
and Chamber of Deputies Majority Leader Agustin Rossi will all
retain their positions, and that former Governor and Kirchner ally
Eduardo Fellner will take over as Speaker of the House on December
10.

2. (SBU) In the Argentine government, the Congress does not provide
many checks or balances on Executive power. It does not exercise
oversight or control the purse strings the way the U.S. Congress
does, nor does it initiate much legislation. (Most bills are
proposed by the Executive Branch.) That said, the Kirchners'
Victory Front party (FPV) and allies' overwhelming victory in the
October polls gave them huge majorities in both Houses of Congress,
which virtually guarantees swift passage of legislation the
Kirchners deem necessary. The opposition is divided and already
spending much of its time and energy in internecine squabbles.
End Summary.

-------------------------------
CFK Has Strong Majorities in Both Houses
--------------------------------

3. (SBU) The Kirchners' Victory Front Party (FPV) and allies'
overwhelming victory in the October polls gave them substantial
majorities in both Houses of Congress (reftel). This will enable
CFK to swiftly pass legislation she wishes to introduce, unlike her
husband, who tended to rule by executive decree to spare himself the
need to craft working majorities in the Argentine Congress.
Although the final composition of the Congress has not yet been
determined, preliminary information from the Congress indicates that
the FPV and its allies will hold 51 seats in the Senate, which is
more than the two-thirds super majority the Kirchners would need to
pass constitutional amendments in the Senate, should they deem it
necessary. They would still have to negotiate with opposition
parties in the Lower House, however, as the FPV, with 160 seats, is
roughly 12 seats shy of a super majority. Although ordinary
legislation requires only a simple majority for passage,
constitutional amendments can be approved only with a two-thirds
super majority in both the Senate and the Chamber.

------------------------------
Eduardo Fellner: New Speaker of the House
------------------------------

4. (SBU) The majority-bloc Victory Front Party (FPV) informally
named Deputy-elect Eduardo Fellner as the new Speaker of the House
as of December 10, replacing Alberto Balestrini, who will become the
new vice-Governor-elect for Buenos Aires province. Deputy Carlos
Kunkel, a close Kirchner confidant, stated in a radio interview that
the appointment is assured, which would make Fellner third in line
for the Presidency. A lawyer by training, Fellner served as
Governor of Jujuy province for the last eight years and has been
both a national and provincial legislator.

5. (SBU) Fellner has openly supported President Kirchner since
2003. He is considered a Kirchner loyalist who will act in
accordance with the Casa Rosada's will. For example, Fellner
abandoned his intention to seek a third consecutive term as Jujuy
governor after the Kirchners asked him not to run given widespread
public opposition to reforming the provincial constitution that
would have eliminated term limits. The decision came in the wake of
a Kirchner-backed referendum on the same issue that was defeated in
the province of Misiones in October 2006.

-------------------------------------------
Pampuro, Pichetto, and Rossi to Stay in Key Positions...
-------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) In the same interview, Kunkel also revealed that current
President Pro-Tempore Jose Pampuro would stay in his current
position. Pampuro is second in line for the Presidency after
Vice-President Julio Cobos. The FPV has also officially announced
that Senator Miguel Angel Pichetto and Deputy Agustin Rossi would
retain their positions as, respectively, Seante Majority Leader and
Majority Leader in the Chamber of Deputies. According to
Congressional sources, Senator Pichetto will remain in his current
position for one more year.

------------------------------------------
...with Pampuro keeping an eye on VP Cobos
------------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Senator Pampuro was appointed as President Pro-Tempore in
February 2006, after he won a Senate seat in the 2005 legislative
elections. Pampuro had previously served as Nestor Kirchner's
Minister of Defense from May 2003 to October 2005, and was the Chief
of Staff for former President Eduardo Duhalde, with whom he had a
close personal relationship. There is speculation that
President-elect Cristina Kirchner wants Pampuro to monitor
Vice-President-elect Julio Cobos in order to keep Cobos' political
influence in check. (Note: Cobos is a "K-Radical", i.e., a member
of the Radical party who has aligned himself with Cristina
Kirchner.)

------------------------------------
Civic Coalition is Largest Minority, But Can They Keep it Together?
------------------------------------

8. (SBU) The opposition Civic Coalition's (CC) relatively strong
performance in recent congressional elections has enabled the party
to establish itself as the largest minority in the Lower House.
However, the recent departure of eight dissident ARI deputies from
the coalition is putting the coalition's political cohesion, and
possibly its position as the largest minority, at risk. The dispute
between ARI and the Civic Coalition began after Coalition
Presidential Candidate Elisa Carrio decided to ally ARI, which is
traditionally center-left, with center-right members of the "Union
por Todos" party.

9. (SBU) Although there have not been any official announcements
yet as to who will head the coalition in each of the Chambers, the
rumor mill indicates that Adrian Perez will be the CC's Minority
Leader in the Chamber of Deputies and Senator-elect Maria Eugenia
Estensoro will be the Minority Leader in the Senate. ARI's current
Minority leader Eduardo Macalusse will likely continue to lead the
dissident ARI bloc. In addition, it is believed that the
Socialists, which are currently allied with the Civic Coalition, may
form an individual bloc, with Elisa Carrio's running mate Ruben
Giustiniani as Socialist party leader in the Senate.

10. (SBU) The Radical party's poor performance in the October
elections resulted in the party likely losing its position as the
largest opposition party in the Chamber of Deputies, if the Civic
Coalition is able to keep its members together. The Radical party
has announced that Deputy Oscar Aguad will replace Fernando Chironi
on December 10 as Minority Leader for the Radicals in the Chamber of
Deputies. Senator Ernesto Sanz will retain his position as Senate
Minority Leader for the Radicals.

-----------------------------------
K Loyalists to Head Key Budget and Constitutional Affairs
Committees
-----------------------------------

11. (SBU) The press has reported that Cristina Kirchner has also
decided that Senator Roberto Urquia will head the strategic Budget
Committee, replacing outgoing Senator and Chaco Governor-elect Jorge
Capitanich. Although Urquia won a Deputy seat in the October
elections, he will not take up the position in order to complete his
remaining two years in the Senate. An oil businessman from Cordoba,
Urquia maintains a good relationship with industry and has CFK's
trust. Previously, he served as mayor of General Deheza in Cordoba
province for three terms, and has also served in the Cordoba Senate
and the National Congress.

12. (SBU) It has also been reported that Senator Nicolas Fernandez
will replace CFK as chair of the Constitutional Affairs Committee,
despite FPV Majority Leader Miguel Pichetto's rumored efforts to
convince CFK that current Vice-Chairman Senator Marcelo Guinle
should replace her. He was most recently head of the General
Legislation Committee, and has been described as a man of
unconditional loyalty to the Kirchners. Fernandez is a lawyer by
training and was born in Puerto Deseado, Santa Cruz province. He
has served as an advisor to the main oil and gas labor unions in
Santa Cruz and maintains good ties with the unions.

-----------------------------
Rumors Abound for Other Top Senate Spots, Deputies Undefined
-----------------------------

13. (SBU) Our sources in the Congress have indicated that CFK is
considering San Luis Senator Daniel Persico as head of the
Infrastructure Committee and Formosa Senator Adriana Bortolozzi de
Bogado for the General Legislation Committee. The Radicals will try
to retain the chair in the Labor Committee, Rights and Securities
Committee, and Trade and Industry Committee, but nothing has been
confirmed thus far.
Our sources say they do not have any information on who will head
key committees in the Lower House as of December 10.

-------
Comment
-------

14. (SBU) Over the last four years, the Kirchners have methodically
worked to consolidate power, culminating in huge FPV victories in
the October elections. Political analysts have reported that the
Kirchners have personally identified who would head key

Congressional committees, with CFK filling in the key slots for the
Senate, and Nestor Kirchner taking the Chamber of Deputies. So far,
they have opted to appoint loyalists whom they trust will report
directly to them and help them implement the vaguely-defined "K
agenda." The Kirchners' lock on Congress virtually guarantees swift
passage of legislation (and places them in a strong position to pass
any Constitutional amendments) that the first couple deems
necessary. Now, more than ever, it seems that the legislative
agenda will be controlled by the Kirchners and a small inner circle
of advisors. END COMMENT.

WAYNE

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