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Cablegate: Media Reaction; Arrest of Foreign Operatives in Miami;

VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #2347/01 3510824
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 170824Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9915
INFO RHMFISS/CDR USSOCOM MACDILL AFB FL//SCJ2//
RULGPUA/USCOMSOLANT

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 002347

SIPDIS

STATE FOR INR/R/MR, I/GWHA, WHA, WHA/PDA, WHA/BSC,
WHA/EPSC
CDR USSOCOM FOR J-2 IAD/LAMA

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO OPRC KMDR PREL
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION; ARREST OF FOREIGN OPERATIVES IN MIAMI;
12/14/07


1. SUMMARY STATEMENT

All local papers widely report that Argentine President Cristina
Fernndez blasted as "garbage" allegations aired in a US court that
four men accused of being Venezuelan agents had tried to smuggle
$800,000 into the country to finance her election campaign.

2. OPINION PIECES AND EDITORIALS

- "Queen's evidence"

Liberal, English-language "Buenos Aires Herald" editorializes
(12/14) "President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner took 'shooting the
messenger' up to the highest level yesterday when she accused the US
of 'garbage' tactics in charging that the 800,000 dollars in
Venezuelan businessman Guido Antonini Wilson's notorious suitcase
impounded by Argentine Customs last August was in fact a donation
for her campaign. She thus seems to be assuming that the US operates
on the basis of the same degree of overlap between the government
and the judiciary as Argentina... But if the move was indeed an
attempt to pressure the new president against befriending Venezuela,
it was improbably counterproductive ineptitude for a world
superpower - since Cristina Fernandez was generally considered to
have a far cozier attitude towards the US than her predecessor (and
husband) Nestor Kirchner with the constant comparisons between
herself and Hillary Clinton and with her excellent ties to the New
York Jewish community, why antagonize her gratuitously? Insofar as
the timing of the revelations can be suspected of being
political..., it works out in the president's favor because airing
this August scandal before she was safely elected and inaugurated
would have been infinitely more damaging.

"In any case all this bluster about US conspiracies does not explain
the still unanswered questions as to the destination of Antonini
Wilson's suitcase - we must follow the money. The statement of a
suspected Venezuelan agent cited by a US prosecutor in no way proves
that the money was intended for Cristina Kirchner's campaign... -
when the scandal first erupted last August, this newspaper was far
more inclined to indicate pro-Chavez picket groups here as the
intended beneficiaries than the government itself. But one thing is
for sure - if the money was indeed earmarked for Cristina Kirchner,
then it reached its intended destination because it is now in the
hands of the state and the Kirchners have made it crystal-clear that
they are the state.

"Over and above the truth about the suitcase, the Kirchner campaign
massively abused state funds both at home and abroad - this (and the
total lack of accountability whereby Venezuela and Argentina can
give and receive vast sums of money) should be the real scandal."

- "An operation based on concrete deeds"

Ricardo Kirschbaum, general editor of leading "Clarin," writes
(12/14) "The most important thing is getting to know whether
Antonini Wilson acted as a double agent (who appeared as pro-Chavez
while working for the USG) or whether he changed his mind in Miami
and decided to cooperate with the FBI to unveil a network of
Venezuelan spies.

"... The scandal affected Chavez but it affected Cristina Kirchner
much more... The (Argentine) Government does not have much
maneuvering margin with Chavez. It needs him as a last instance
lender since it has resorted to him many times and has always found
a generous and rapid response. This, in addition to other
coincidences, keeps the Government close to the Venezuelan. Cristina
was supposed to distance herself from Caracas more than her husband
Nestor. The US could have wanted to affect this relationship.
Cristina has reacted infuriated, but what will happen when her rage
faints away remains to be seen...

"Now, Antonini Wilson's suitcase had money from PDVSA and it was
earmarked, as it is said now, for Cristina's election campaign. If
this was so, why wasn't the money sent through diplomatic pouch to
avoid impertinent conclusions? Or was the money earmarked for some
other purposes to be distributed here and in Uruguay?.. The suitcase
was impounded by the Argentine customs, but this is part of this
novelesque and not naove intelligence operation that was made public
at the most favorable political moment."

- "Washington emphasizes 'this is a judicial issue'"

Daily-of-record "La Nacion" reports (12/14) "The US political power
having influence in Latin America must have been aware of what lied
ahead for days or even weeks. It must have walked on a very fine
line between a too high peak of tension with the new administration
of Cristina Kirchner and running the risk of wielding undue
influence on investigators and justice.


"Sean McCormack, spokesperson of the US Department of State, told
the media: 'We were aware of the case, but that was all our
involvement, and I must underline, in the event I was not
understood, that this is an operation of the US Department of
Justice and the FBI.' 'This is not about US-Argentine relations; it
has to do with the enforcement of US legislation in US territory.'

"Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas
Shannon said yesterday that the suitcase scandal 'is a police case.'
'Our Department of Justice has an ongoing investigation against
several individuals due to a violation of (US) law...'

"... Michael Shifter, VP, Inter-American Dialogue, explained that
the re-emergence of the Antonini case 'could provide evidence that
Chavez has been actively funding Latin American campaigns... and
this could imply a significant change.'"

To see more Buenos Aires reporting, visit our
classified website at:
http://www.state.sqov.gov/p/wha/buenosaires

WAYNE

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