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Cablegate: Argentine Authorities Stay in Attack Mode,

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #2346/01 3501905
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 161905Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9911
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1625
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 002346

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL SNAR CJAN KJUS ASEC KPAO VE AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINE AUTHORITIES STAY IN ATTACK MODE,
IMPUGNING USG MOTIVES IN PROSECUTING VENEZUELAN AGENTS

REF: (A) BUENOS AIRES 2345 (B) BUENOS AIRES 2336 (C)
BUENOS AIRES 2331

1. (SBU) Action Request: Embassy requests clearance of
proposed talking points in paras 7-14 for use in
backgrounding the media in response to GOA allegations.

2. (SBU) Summary and introduction: Following extensive
positive media coverage on December 14 and 15 of the
Ambassador's December 14 statement to the press (ref A),
President Fernandez de Kirchner's (CFK) chief of staff,
Alberto Fernandez, renewed the GOA's attacks on the USG for
implicating CFK in the case of three Venezuelans and one
Uruguayan arrested in Miami December 11 on charges of
operating as unregistered foreign agents. In remarks
broadcast on December 15 and in a signed communique (text
below) published December 16 in newspaper of record "La
Nacion," Alberto Fernandez questioned the timing of the
arrests, U.S. delays in responding to Argentina's request for
the extradition of Alejandro Antonini-Wilson, and Antonini's
role as witness for the prosecution. End summary.

GOA Rejects USG Overtures to Cool Dispute
-----------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Shortly after the Ambassador's mid-day statement to
the press on December 14 (available on the embassy's
website), the media began reporting his "attempt to lower the
decibels" in the bilateral crisis, giving prominent coverage
to his statement that it was one of the suspects in the case
(Franklin Duran), not the USG, who had said that the "valija"
money was intended for CFK's campaign. Also widely broadcast
and published were the Ambassador's explanation of the
independence of prosecutors in the U.S. justice system and
the transparency of criminal trials.

4. (SBU) Unfortunately, the GOA failed to seize the
opportunity to cool its anti-USG rhetoric. Instead,
Presidential chief of staff Alberto Fernandez -- the
Cabinet's top Minister, and the government official
considered closest to CFK -- responded December 15 by
reiterating GOA assertions that the U.S. prosecution of four
unregistered foreign agents was revenge for the creation of
the Chavez-inspired Banco del Sur and for Argentine temerity
in pressing Colombian President Uribe to negotiate with the
FARC for the release of Ingrid Betancourt, and, more broadly,
part of a U.S. plot to undermine solidarity among Latin
American nations.

5. (SBU) Over the air, Fernandez said, "We can only be upset,
because what was done was a formidable procedural trap to
prevent Antonini-Wilson from" being extradited to Argentina.
"The investigation in Argentina made progress, many people
gave testimony, and the extradition of Antonini-Wilson was
requested in order to find out the origin and destination of
the money. And the U.S. systematically declined to send him,
they never gave an answer, and said they were giving course
to paperwork that took so long, showing little willingness to
cooperate with the Argentine judiciary. As time went by, we
discovered the U.S. was not investigating the origin or the
destination of the money, but was worried about what they
refer to as the entry into their country of foreign
operatives without due authorization. And now, as a result
of their investigation, Antonini-Wilson is not a suspect
anymore, but a victim of extortion who must be protected.
The outcome is that he has become a privileged witness, so it
is very unlikely he will be sent back to Argentina."

GOA: "Excuses and Impunity"
----------------------------

6. (SBU) Fernandez also published a communique under the
headline "Excuses and Impunity" in paper-of-record "La
Nacion" in which he repeats and expands on the GOA's charges
against the USG. The references to "Noriega" refer to former
WHA Assistant Secretary Noriega, whose article critical of
the Kirchners' handling of the Antonini-Wilson affair was
published in "La Nacion" on December 14. Post's informal
translation of the Alberto Fernandez article follows:

BEGIN INFORMAL TRANSLATION:

To say the world has changed substantially in the last years
is, at this stage, an irrefutable truth, as it is to say that
Latin America today is undergoing a transformation of great
magnitude. The drawing together of a regional bloc based on
the idea -- put forth marvelously by Lula -- that it is not


possible to think of one's own development without thinking
at the same time of the progress of neighboring countries on
the continent has invigorated the movement of a region that
for years, as a consequence of a well-advertised disunity,
has been delayed.

For sure, this state of affairs disturbs those who have
hegemonic designs on the region. To name just a few aspects
that show how those hegemonic forces have suffered reverses:
the loss of control of Venezuelan or Bolivian energy
resources, the sight of Argentina and Brazil freeing
themselves from the IFIs' manipulation of their economies,
the revelation of the inadequacy of their policies that have
not been able to free thousands of persons illegally deprived
of their freedom by irregular forces in Colombia.

What is striking is that now, against this backdrop, the
United States government is using spurious means, such as
those that have recently been revealed, with the goal of
disturbing the region and triggering a crisis in the good
relations that we (in the region) enjoy.

Among these methods stand out the formidable display by the
Department of Justice of the Republican government of the
United States of America that, with the pretext of
investigating the irregular entry of foreign agents into its
territory, hopes to make the international community believe
that the BRV was sending illegal contributions to (Cristina
Kirchner's) campaign. (Footnote: In the United States,
despite what they say, district attorneys and the FBI belong
to the Executive Branch and therefore do not act
independently of the Attorney General. Recently, Alberto
Gonzalez resigned that position for having "punished"
district attorneys who were not disposed to "twist"
investigations for political purposes.)

Contrary to what Roger Noriega (former Assistant Secretary of
State for Latin America) wrote in these same pages a few days
ago, those maneuvers that he ponders so much, far from
facilitating that the truth be known, have only managed to be
twisted into protecting the main suspect.

We know that a few months ago a U.S. citizen born in
Venezuela tried to smuggle into Argentina the amount of
$800,000. We know this because it was the Argentine Airport
Police that detected the suitcase stuffed with money. We
know this because it was Argentine Customs that reported the
infraction to the competent court. And we know this,
finally, because it was the Argentine justice system that
investigated the incident, summoned the person who attempted
to smuggle the money into the country to testify to the
court, and sought his extradition from the United States of
America.

Maybe what Noriega should be calling for is that his country,
instead of proceeding as it did, make possible once and for
all that the accused account for his responsibility before
the Argentine courts. Otherwise, he is endorsing a procedure
that, on top of its harmful political consequences, converts
the accused into a victim and transfers him to the world of
impunity of protected witnesses thus keeping Argentine
justice from clarifying what happened.

Beyond the "security" that U.S. authorities have perfected in
favor of the accused, the news of the procedure spreads
doubts of a political nature that by any logic should not
exist. How do you explain that if the money was destined to
the government's candidate, it was that same government that
ruined the possibility of achieving that goal? Why would
President Chavez, who was arriving the next day on an
official mission to Argentina with diplomatic prerogatives,
have chosen to send money to Argentina by irregular means in
care of a questionable character, subjecting him to the
"risk" of searches? How do you explain that those who were
long-time business partners of the accused all of a sudden
become Venezuelan agents extorting him?

Contrary to what Noriega thinks, when President Fernandez de
Kirchner characterizes what has happened as a "garbage
operation," she is not neglecting her vocation to find out
the truth but warning of the impunity that the main suspect
thereby acquires.

Maybe if he were extradited to Argentina, we could know for
sure the origin and destination of that money. But that
won't be possible, because what happened in the North has
aborted all possibility of getting that. Now, the person who

was investigated for smuggling and money laundering has been
converted into the victim of a government that was extorting
him. Now it's more important to find out what these three
"foreign agents were doing in Florida, even though they had
been living there for years (???) (sic), than it is to find
out if what happened on August 4, 2007, was planned somewhere
with the purpose of derailing relation between Argentina and
Venezuela, putting the squeeze -- by means of a fallacy -- on
the leadership of both countries.

Maybe it's time in this globalized world for the hegemonic
power to back off from its intent to "discipline" Latin
American countries at any cost. If international relations
are based on mutual respect, "intelligence operations" like
this one are not exactly the way to go about it. Relations
become more solid when members of the community of nations
treat each other as equals. And for that, nobody should
offend the intelligence and good name of another only with
the intention of protecting a suspect who, maybe if he were
forced to talk in Argentina, would provide the evidence that
"should not" be known.

END INFORMAL TRANSLATION.

Proposed USG Press Line
-----------------------

7. (SBU) Given the extensive media coverage over the weekend
to Fernandez's accusations, media reports that there will be
another arraignment in Miami December 17, and the fact that
FM Taiana has summoned the Ambassador to the MFA on December
18, the Embassy expects an onslaught of media inquiries and a
GOA version of the protest/response to the Ambassador.
Embassy therefore requests Department clearance of the
following proposed talking points for use as background press
guidance, as well as any additional guidance the Department
and other agencies can provide.

8. (SBU) Extradition: The U.S. has processed this request in
accordance with its treaty obligations and established
procedures -- contrary to statements made by GOA officials
that the U.S. delayed, ignored, or blocked Argentina's
extradition request for Antonini-Wilson. We advised GOA
officials -- including at the September 4 meeting when
Argentina presented the State Department with the extradition
request -- that these requests frequently take considerable
time largely to ensure the rights to "due process" under our
legal system. The U.S. has a track record of acceding to
foreign requests to bring people to justice when the requests
are properly prepared. We note that the U.S. has several
extradition requests (including for murder charges) pending
with Argentina that the Argentine authorities have been
working on for several years without resolution.

9. (SBU) Extradition continued: The GOA has not pursued its
extradition request vigorously. Since it presented the
extradition request to the USG on September 4, there has been
no Argentine contacts with the USG on the status of the
extradition request. We have received nothing from the GOA
presenting additional evidence, and no request for an update
on the case. (Background: This absence of follow-up has not
been for lack of opportunity. GOA has passed up several
opportunities with top USG officials to ask about process on
the extradition request. Those meetings include: CFK's
September 26 meeting with WHA A/S Shannon in New York, CFKs'
meetings with Ambassador Wayne on September 20 and November
30; FM Taiana's September 28 meeting with the Secretary in
New York and his September 20 meeting with Ambassador Wayne;
Interior Minister Anibal Fernandez's meetings with Ambassador
Wayne on August 27, October 24 and November 19; Presidential
Chief of Staff Alberto Fernandez's non-action on Ambassador
Wayne's months-old request for a meeting.)

10. (SBU) Focus of U.S. investigation: The U.S.
investigation and charges were related to the actions
undertaken in the U.S. by certain non-Argentine individuals
violating U.S. laws. This was not an investigation of any
laws broken in Argentina.

11. (SBU) Origins of this case: We are reminded that when
the case of the $800,000 first became public, President
Kirchner said, "I don't cover anything up. When something
happens, the people find out as they should, and we take the
corresponding measures." Moreover, the newspapers reported
that Alberto Fernandez asked for an apology from Venezuelan
officials.

12. (SBU) U.S. cooperation on law enforcement issues: The
U.S. enjoys excellent cooperation with the GOA on the full
range of law enforcement issues. These issues include cases
involving drug trafficking and trafficking in persons,
counter-terrorism and working to ensure the safdety and
security of our citizens in air travel. A good recent
example of cooperation to our mutual benefit was the U.S.
case of Ernesto Guillermo Barreiro, who was deported by the
U.S. to Argentina, where he was wanted on charges of
suspected violations of human rights. Another was the AMIA
case, in which the USG cooperated closely with the GOA in an
effort to bring to justice those accused of killing 85
Argentines.

13. (SBU) Independence of Judiciary: The charges made by GOA
officials challenging the independence of U.S. federal
prosecutors are incorrect. There are numerous cases,
historically, of prominent public officials being brought to
justice for various crimes. These run the gamut from cases
related to Watergate under Richard Nixon, the impeachment of
Bill Clinton, former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger,
and the more recent case of the chief of staff of the Vice
President of the United States, Scooter Libby. These cases
demonstrate clearly that the judicial system acts
independently of the executive branch.

14. (SBU) Charges that U.S. Intended to Undermine CFK
Government: We would simply point out the numerous instances
of senior USG officials congratulating CFK on her election
and expressing our desire to expand the many areas of
cooperation we now enjoy. These include President Bush,
Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, Assistant Secretary of State

SIPDIS
for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon, and Ambassador
Wayne. We had every expectation of opening a new chapter in
our relationship and are disappointed by the comments we have
seen from GOA officials attributing this case to a deliberate
USG plot. If the USG had wanted to undermine CFK, it
certainly would not have waited until December. The USG
became aware of Franklin Duran's allegations that the
$800,000 were intended for the CFK campaign when Duran
uttered them during an August 23 meeting with other
co-conspirators. If the USG had had some ulterior political
motives, wouldn't the USG have made this allegation public
before the Argentine presidential elections and the
Venezuelan national referendum?

WAYNE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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