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Cablegate: U.S. Fourth Fleet Stirs Concern in Argentina

VZCZCXRO6696
RR RUEHRG
DE RUEHBU #0961 1961918
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141918Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1524
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 1780
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1823
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 5217
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 2323
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 1111
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 0170
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 2461
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO 3729
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 000961

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MARR PREL KPAO AR
SUBJECT: U.S. Fourth Fleet Stirs Concern in Argentina

1. (SBU) Summary: Argentine government officials expressed serious
concern about the U.S. Fourth Fleet last week, but were reassured by
Assistant Secretary Shannon and other U.S. messages. GoA concern
had been fed by assertions made by President Chavez at the Mercosur
Summit held June 30-July 1 in Tucuman, Argentina, but were
apparently driven home by Brazilian President Lula's expressions of
concern. End Summary

2. (SBU) On July 9, an informal advisor to Argentine Cabinet Chief
Alberto Fernandez told Ambassador that President Cristina Fernandez
de Kirchner (CFK) was very concerned about the creation of the U.S.
Fourth Fleet. He said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had ranted
and raved about the dangers and intentions of the U.S. fleet at the
last Mercosur Summit held in Tucuman, Argentina July 1, including
claims that the fleet contained the same ship inventory as our fleet
in the Persian Gulf, that the U.S. intended to enter hemispheric
rivers and territorial waters, and that the fleet was formed to gain
control of natural resources such as oil in Venezuela and now in
Brazil. The Ambassador gave the advisor U.S. background notes on
the Fourth Fleet, the interview on the fleet which Admiral Stavridis
had given while visiting Argentina and an op-ed which Ambassador
Sobel had just published in Brazil. The advisor passed them that
same day to GoA Cabinet Chief Fernandez, who reportedly shared some
of the material with President Fernandez de Kirchner. Post public
affairs officer also arranged to place in the July 10 edition of
center-right daily La Nacion an op-ed by Admiral Stavridis on the
Fourth Fleet.

3. (SBU) However, on July 8, Argentine Vice Foreign Minister
Victorio Taccetti told the Argentine press that the government would
use the July 10-11 visit of Assistant Secretary Shannon to raise its
worries about the fleet. The issue was carried prominently in local
media. Taccetti subsequently told the Ambassador that he had been
ordered to express this concern and that the government was raising
the issue, not because Chavez raised it, but because Lula had made a
strong pitch in Tucuman about the danger of the fleet's formation.
Ariel Basteiro, a Kirchner-allied socialist member of the Chamber of
Deputies, reportedly introduced a draft resolution criticizing the
Fourth Fleet. (Post is seeking a meeting with Basteiro to brief
him.)

4. (SBU) Assistant Secretary Shannon subsequently explained to
President Fernandez de Kirchner, Cabinet Chief Alberto Fernandez,
Foreign Minister Taiana, and others (septels) the U.S. rationale and
the facts about the Fourth Fleet's mission and composition. All
appeared to accept the explanations. A/S Shannon also discussed the
issues extensively with the press, and his remarks were given wide
coverage. No GOA sources offered differing accounts or expressed
continuing worries about the fleet.

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

5. (SBU) While we cannot assure there will not be further critical
commentary or reporting on the Fourth fleet, we clearly did good by
our cause in responding rapidly and authoritatively to fears being
kindled by Lula and Chavez. One top Foreign Ministry official told
the Ambassador that he thought Lula was trying to use this concern
to rally folk around his South American Defense council initiative.
Another Argentine commented that he was struck by the effectiveness
of our communications and the degree of willingness to accept our
explanations: "A couple of years ago you would have had a few
pro-government leftists out in the streets protesting the Fourth
Fleet, instead you had Shannon covered in all the papers. That is a
change." End Comment.

WAYNE

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