Cablegate: Argentina: Codel Sanchez Discusses Anti-Tip and Cn Efforts


DE RUEHBU #2300/01 3401117
R 061117Z DEC 07




E.O. 12958:N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a meeting with Ambassador Wayne and U.S.
Representatives Sanchez and Bartlett, Argentine Interior Minister
Anibal Fernandez noted that anti-TIP legislation is still stuck in
the national Congress, but expressed confidence that it would pass
once President-elect Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner takes office.
He said GOA efforts against drug trafficking should focus on
dismantling trafficking rings, rather than the individual drug
addict. He also noted that while Argentina may not always see
eye-to-eye with the United States, these disagreements do not hinder
an otherwise positive relationship. As Fernandez takes the helm of
a beefed-up Ministry of Justice, we will want to further our
cooperation on security matters, as well as stress the importance of
judicial reform. In doing so, quiet diplomacy is the best means to
further cooperation, given the GOA's sensitivity to public
criticism. END SUMMARY.

Trafficking in Persons and Argentine Federal Legislation

2. (SBU) On November 19, visiting U.S. Representatives Loretta
Sanchez (D-CA) and Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), along with the
Ambassador, met with Argentine Interior Minister, Anibal Fernandez.
Fernandez began by noting that the United States and Argentina
cooperate well in the fights against terrorism, drugs, and human
trafficking. Rep. Sanchez asked Fernandez about GOA efforts to pass
anti-trafficking legislation. Fernandez explained that the
Argentine Senate passed a bill in December 2006 that would make
human trafficking a federal crime, in the case of minors, and would
consider an adult victim's consent to being trafficked when
determining whether trafficking has occurred. NOTE: The bill is
stuck in the Chamber of Deputies, because some, consistent with the
Palermo protocol, maintain that a person can not consent to his or
her own exploitation. Representative Sanchez pointed out that
Colombia had recently changed its TIP legislation to remove the
issue of consent as a consideration for adults.

3. (SBU) Fernandez attributed the fact that the bill has not yet
passed in part to the criticism in the State Department's 2007 TIP
report of GOA anti-TIP efforts. He also recounted his frustration
that a May 2007 meeting with Washington agencies on USG efforts to
combat human trafficking focused exclusively on a G/TIP officer's
criticism that the Senate bill did not adequately address the issue
of consent in Argentina's trafficking problem. He specifically
cited the G/TIP officer handing him an edited version of draft
Argentine legislation and saying, "That just isn't the way to do
things." Fernandez said this hurt him deeply because it was a law
in which he had a lot of personal interest. He admitted that the
Senate bill may not have been perfect, but argued that it could have
been strengthened later. He said the key is to make trafficking
illegal. Instead, the bill languished in the Chamber of Deputies,
and Congressional focus on national elections precluded further
progress in passing the law. In response to the Ambassador's
questions, Fernandez stated that he has discussed the matter with
president-elect Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) the previous
week, including the issue of consent, and he is confident that a
federal trafficking-in-persons law will be passed soon after she is
sworn in as president.

Fight against drugs and organized crime

4. (SBU) Turning to a discussion on counternarcotics cooperation at
the Ambassador's suggestion, Fernandez explained that all GOA law
enforcement agencies work closely with their USG counterparts. He
talked about the spread of cocaine derivative "paco" in poor
neighborhoods and went on to say that 45 percent of federal crimes
are drug-related, and that only 2.25 percent of these cases have
gone to trial. The remaining cases are pending trial. In addition,
it costs the GOA USD 5,000 to prosecute a case and USD 1,500 per
month to keep a prisoner in jail, which, in Fernandez's view, is a
waste of resources. Under the new CFK administration, Fernandez
explained that he will lead the Ministry of Justice, where he will
continue to work on this issue. (Note: Fernandez will be taking his
security portfolio with him to the Ministry of Justice, including
all of the security agencies formerly housed in the Ministry of

5. (SBU) Rep. Bartlett opined that greater emphasis should be
placed on drug education, and that the focus on the supply side of
the drug problem is a waste of money. He said that the world has
been attacking the sale and supply of drugs for fifty years and yet
drugs are still prevalent on the streets. Fernandez strongly agreed
with this assessment; still, both Fernandez and Bartlett maintained
that drugs should not be legalized. They also noted that abuse of
legal drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, and over-the-counter medicines
are some of the most serious drug problems facing our countries.
Fernandez stated that fighting drug-related crimes should focus on
the highest levels of organized crime, not busting drug addicts.

Fernandez explained that Argentina followed the U.S. lead in viewing
drug addiction as criminal, and codified this in its 1988-89 drug
act. However, this has resulted in an overwhelming caseload against
drug addicts, leaving the GOA with fewer resources for dismantling
drug trafficking rings. He also noted that the overburdened justice
system is part of the problem and bringing cases to trial takes way
too long.

Positive state of U.S./Argentine relations

6. (SBU) Fernandez began the conversation with a long presentation
on U.S.-Argentine relations. He said the relationship is "frank,
respectful, and mature," and that while there may be public
disagreements on certain issues, they do not hinder an otherwise
positive relationship. On the whole, Argentina has a history of
respect and friendship with the United States. He noted that
Argentina's democratic system is modeled after the United States,
with similar constitutions and a strong executive. Fernandez
acknowledged that relations reached a nadir during Argentina's
2001-02 financial crisis. Although Fernandez personally does not
blame the United States or the IMF for the financial crisis, he
asserted that both made it difficult for Argentina to recover. He
also reiterated the GOA view that President Bush did not help
Argentina when President Nestor Kirchner asked for U.S. assistance
in mediating with the IMF at the 2005 Summit of the Americas in Mar
del Plata. Fernandez believes that Argentina, the USG, and the IMF
should work together to find solutions that help Argentina while
still protecting U.S. and IMF interests. Rep. Sanchez said that the
United States wants to be supportive of its friends in Latin
America, but that leadership should ultimately come from within.

7. (SBU) Rep. Bartlett asked if the antipathy of the Argentine
people toward the United States is based on our use of power around
the world. Fernandez said that Argentines do not necessarily oppose
U.S. use of force and that it depended on the situation. For
example, Argentines have a very unfavorable view the current Iraq
war, but they widely supported our actions in Operation Desert Storm
in the early 1990s. Fernandez also pointed out that Argentines
generally respect Americans on a personal level, and that U.S.
tourists are generally treated well when visiting Argentina. Rep.
Bartlett said he was pleased that Argentine antipathy towards
current U.S. policy doesn't extend to tourists visiting the country.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: Fernandez is slated to move from the Interior
Ministry to the Justice Ministry when Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
assumes the presidency on December 10, but retain control of federal
police and other law enforcement agencies. His welcoming tone in
this meeting is another indication that we will continue to enjoy
productive access to Fernandez in his new capacity. He sees value
in strong and amicable U.S.-Argentine relations, and has worked with
us to further bilateral cooperation in fighting terrorism, drugs,
and human trafficking. As Fernandez takes the helm of the Ministry
of Justice, we will want to further our existing security
cooperation, as well as stress the importance of judicial reform.
In doing so, quiet diplomacy is the best means to further
cooperation with Fernandez, and indeed the rest of the CFK
administration, given their sensitivity to public criticism. On TIP
matters, Fernandez understands that comprehensive anti-TIP
legislation is a top U.S. priority, but would appreciate greater
U.S. understanding of internal political constraints. He clearly
believes that excessive G/TIP advocacy on the matter has been
counterproductive. The Embassy will continue to work with him and
others to get the best possible anti-TIP legislation passed. END

9. (U) This cable has been cleared by Representative Sanchez.


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