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Cablegate: Argentine Political Class Welcomes Obama Victory;


DE RUEHBU #1542/01 3122044
O 072044Z NOV 08



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) Summary: Argentine reaction to the victory of
President-elect Obama was uniformly positive and welcoming.
In a congratulatory message to President-elect Barack Obama
(reftel), Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner
(CFK) called Obama's win "a major the fight
against discrimination and for equal opportunity". Foreign
Minister Jorge Taiana and Argentine Ambassador to the United
States Hector Timerman interpreted the electoral win as a
return to multilateralism in foreign affairs. Leading
opposition leader Elisa Carrio described the victory as
"extraordinary", while Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri
hoped Obama "leads the world to restore growth." Members of
the Argentine Congress noted that the election of a new U.S.
President created an opportunity to strengthen U.S.-Argentine
relations. Leaders of the opposition, however, expressed
doubts that CFK can capitalize on the opportunity. End

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2. (U) The results of the November 4 U.S. presidential
elections were front page news in Argentina on November 5 and
6. On November 5, the Office of the Presidency released to
the press the text of a congratulatory message from President
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to President-elect Barack
Obama (ref A). The letter was published in the November 6
edition of the English-language daily, "The Buenos Aires
Herald." Leading dailies "Clarin", "La Nacion", and other
press carried excerpts of the letter in their November 6
editions. In addition to congratulating Obama for achieving
"a major the fight against discrimination and
for equal opportunity", CFK's congratulatory message likened
the U.S. civil rights movement to the armed struggle of the
guerilla groups Montoneros and the People's Revolutionary
Army (ERP) during the 1976-83 military dictatorship. "When I
read the account of the lynching of three students in
Mississippi, I recognized the feeling of community with the
youths that were starting to rebel in our own country. The
same ages, the same generosity, the same tragedy." (Note:
Both CFK and her husband, ex-President Nestor Kirchner, are
known to have sympathized with the armed Montoneros.) In the
letter, CFK also indicated that Latin America continues "to
fight...for social equality" and urged President-elect Obama
to adopt a multilateral approach to address today's
challenges "to eradicate poverty, discrimination and
inequality in our societies." She added, "as you pointed out
during your campaign, this requires...more dialogue between
the peoples and their leaders."

Lula or Cholula?

3. (U) Under the November 6 headline, "Lula or Cholula"
(Lula or Star-Struck Fan), "Critica" -- the new
left-of-center daily known for its sharp criticism of the
Kirchner administration -- compared CFK's congratulatory
message with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's
letter. According to "Critica", CFK's effusive letter to the
President-elect was nothing more than a star-struck fan
letter, whereas Lula's response was more sober and
policy-oriented. "Critica" noted that Lula's letter
indicated that Obama's election "...has occurred during a
particularly favorable moment in U.S.-Brazil relations. It
also occurs during a moment of complex challenges for the
international order, intensified by the gravity of the
financial crisis which directly affects millions of people
the world over." "Critica" also published remarks Lula made
on November 5 outlining Brazilian priorities vis-a-vis the
United States which includes a more active policy towards
Latin America that focuses on investment and development in
the poorest countries of the hemisphere; an end to U.S.
subsidies to domestic agricultural producers; and lifting the
U.S. embargo on Cuba. In contrast, "Critica" noted that
among Argentina's top priorities with the United States is
securing market access for beef and citrus products.

--------------------------------------------- ---
Taiana and Timerman: A Return to Multilateralism
--------------------------------------------- ---

4. (U) On November 5, Critica also published the reactions
of Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana to Obama's electoral win.
Taiana stated that Obama's electoral victory is "proof that
the era of neo-liberal economics and unilateral foreign
policy which has caused the current economic crisis has come
to an end....This global paradigm has run its course and the
world needs to take a different tack based on
multilateralism....There needs to be dialogue with the
participation of different actors such as emerging countries
like Argentina."

5. (SBU) In a separate, private meeting on November 6 with
visiting Senior Professional Staff Member of the House
Foreign Affairs Committee Peter Quilter, Taiana called
President-elect Obama "inspiring" and "impressive", adding
that it was "important that Obama realizes the positive
impact he has on the world." Taiana also acknowledged that
Obama is taking office during a particularly complicated
moment in world history given the severity of the global
financial crisis.

6. (U) In an interview with "Clarin" published on November
6, Argentine Ambassador to the United States Hector Timerman
stated that "the United States is a better country and the
world a better place" as a result of the elections. He
likened the victory to "the liberation of a nation,"
observing that Obama is not only the first President
supported by ethnic minorities, but also "the first global
President," referring to his upbringing in Indonesia and his
family ties to East Africa. He characterized President-elect
Obama as "a representative of a new generation of Americans
whose influence transcends race...He is an American leader,
not just an African American leader." Timerman also
predicted that U.S. relations with Latin America would
improve under an Obama administration, and that Obama would
adopt a more multilateral approach to foreign affairs.

Comments from the Peanut Gallery

7. (U) Leading opposition figure (and presidential runner-up
in 2007) Elisa Carrio of the Civic Coalition told the press:
"That a black man can become President of the United States
is extraordinary for humanity, demonstrating true hope for
the world's future, and reveals the profound virtues of
democratic and republican system, even in times of darkness
and crisis." (Note: Carrio's political discourse frequently
calls for the strengthening of the republic in Argentina.)
Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, leader of center-right
PRO, said he hoped Obama "leads the world to restore growth
and calm the panic that has taken hold over the last few
weeks" over the financial crisis. Radical Party (UCR) leader
and Senator Gerardo Morales told the press he "hopes that the
new government understands (Latin America's) potential and
implements adequate policies (to promote) commerce and
integration. Issues such as immigration, energy, drug
trafficking, among others, are not minor ones, and should be
addressed seriously." Former finance minister Roberto
Lavagna (who finished third in the 2007 presidential
election) praised the U.S. democratic process and the high
voter turnout for the elections without mentioning Obama.

8. (U) Kirchner ally, Senator Sonia Escudero, who traveled
to the U.S. for the elections, said Obama would begin a new
dialogue with Latin America and Argentina. She asserted that
Argentina must "build a relationship with the new
administration" and anticipated "clear support from the Obama
administration" now that Argentina is in the process of
dealing with its remaining debt. She also stated that the
GOA will continue to push to open the U.S. market for
Argentine agricultural products. Members of the opposition,
such as Deputy Pedro Azcoiti of the Radical party, Deputy
Federico Pinedo of the center-right PRO party, and Deputy
Fernando Iglesias of the center-left Civic Coalition, all
noted that this was an opportunity for the CFK administration
to build closer ties with the United States, but Pinedo and
Iglesias were doubtful that the Kirchner administration could
capitalize on the opportunity. While Azcoiti and Pinedo
maintained that Latin America would not be a White House
priority, Pinedo noted that Obama's win is a "setback for the
anti-American rhetoric of Chavez, Morales, and Castro, which
the Kirchners have sympathized with. There will be less room
for negative remarks...and anti-Americanism. This will be a
substantial change for the region." Iglesias echoed this
sentiment, saying that the election was an opportunity for
the CFK administration to abandon fiery, "anti-imperialist"
rhetoric which is no longer relevant."

9. (SBU) Comment: Across the board, Argentina's political
class welcomed the November 4 election results, heralding
them as historic, and saluted the U.S. democratic process.

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