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Cablegate: Media Reaction; Us-Diplomatic Spat; 12/21/07

VZCZCXYZ0028
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #2378/01 3551804
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 211804Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9954
INFO RHMFISS/CDR USSOCOM MACDILL AFB FL//SCJ2//
RULGPUA/USCOMSOLANT

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 002378

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; US-DIPLOMATIC SPAT; 12/21/07

1. SUMMARY STATEMENT

Major opinion stories today are related to the implications of the
Antonini Wilson case and its impact on the US-Argentine bilateral
relationship.

2. OPINION PIECES AND EDITORIALS

- "Anger management II"

Liberal, English-language "Buenos Aires Herald" editorializes
(12/21) "Too much has already been said on the issue of Guido
Antonini Wilson's suitcase without an entire week of legislative
work being wasted by the repudiation of the US by both houses of
Congress on Wednesday. Why all this fuss about the 800,000 dollars
in the Venezuelan's suitcase... when it is common knowledge that
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has purchased five billion dollars
worth of bonds to shore up the Kirchner administrations... - why
should the US or anybody need to invent a smoking gun with that kind
of bunker-buster lying around for all to see? Instead of elevating
this cavalier movement of undeclared currency to an international
conspiracy, it is high time to demote the claim that the money was a
Cristina Kirchner campaign donation to what it really is: the
affirmation of a very dodgy Miami Venezuelan...

"President Cristina Kirchner herself said when first denouncing
these 'garbage' tactics that they resembled 'one of those US TV
series... in which you never know how much is true and how much a
lie.' Why not admit that she herself could not immediately
distinguish between the true and the false and that there is so much
more that is false than true about the whole affair that it is not
worth being made the basis of international policy...

"Instead of wandering off on anti-imperialist tangents, President
Cristina Kirchner needs to return to the basics of the Antonini
Wilson case if her campaign promises of an institutionally improved
version of the same model are to ring true - in other words, roll
back this case to its origins in August when one man was caught with
undeclared currency by correctly operating legal mechanisms (the
Customs). After all, her husband managed to avoid any serious
corruption scandals until the very last year of his presidency... -
she can ill afford not to face up to corruption directly in her very
first month."

- "Answers without a fuse?"

Ricardo Kirschbaum, leading "Clarin's" general editor, writes
(12/21) "The suitcase scandal has abruptly changed the Argentine
transition...

"The Nestor Kirchner administration had to face so many conflicts
that he acted without subtleties... In this new stage, we all expect
that this way of doing politics will change for better... The
promise of better institutional quality is attractive and badly
necessary.

"Nevertheless, the context has dramatically changed and the suitcase
scandal (which implied such obvious operations that denying them is
an insult to intelligence) has become a hot potato for the
administration. So much so that the Government should rethink how it
is handling the issue and what political level should act. In a less
concentrated political system, those paying the cost would have been
second-ranking government officials.

"In this case, the confrontation was faced by the President and her
Cabinet Chief, in addition to Nestor Kirchner, all of whom represent
the highest political level. Once again, they acted for themselves
and no 'fuses' were used. This is questionable."

- "A symbol of impunity"

Carlos Pagni, political columnist of daily-of-record
"La Nacion," writes (12/21) "The statement made by a former
government official that Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson was at the
(Argentine) Government's house two days after the Airport Police
intercepted a suitcase filled with 800,000 dollars that he attempted
to illegally introduce in the country has strong symbolic power for
Cristina Kirchner.

"In the event it is proved, the statement could transform her
husband into a Antonini's host and could subliminally support
allegations aired in Miami last week that those funds were intended
for the official election campaign.

"... The fact that Antonini could have served in August to support
the deals Chavez signed with his Argentine counterpart... is the
most scandalous piece of evidence of the impunity with which the
character moved about for 48 hours after his crime was uncovered.

"Public opinion, the ruling party and the opposition focused on
finding out whether those funds were earmarked for the current
president's election campaign. The interest in the issue is
understandable, particularly that of the USG. Washington could find
in this episode the joyful verification of its main allegation
against Chavez - the fact that he usually interferes in the domestic
affairs of several countries of the region...

"... Antonini Wilson's visit is insufficient evidence that his money
could have been intended for the president's election campaign.
However, it is a significant indicator of the cult of impunity that
some parts of the ruling party seemed to practice in this scandal as
well as a signal of the information deprivation frequently inflicted
by the Kirchners, which is hidden behind their obsession for
controlling everything that is said and done in the country."

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

WAYNE

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