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Cablegate: Public Diplomacy Best Practices: Countering

DE RUEHBU #1588/01 3261713
P 211713Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Public Diplomacy Best Practices: Countering
Anti-Americanism in Argentina

Ref: Reftel: (A) BA 000944; (B) BA 000533; (C) BA 001223; (D) BA
001547; (E) BA 001544

1. SUMMARY. The level of anti-Americanism in Argentina is the
highest in the Western Hemisphere. For the last two years, we have
been working hard to reverse our negative image, making this the
Mission's highest priority. We believe we have found a formula for
success through substantially increased media outreach, focused
attention on youth, and augmented involvement with NGOs and
community activities. We share below some of our best lessons
learned and most successful practices. We hope other posts can
share their best practices as well, as the United States faces
similar anti-American attitudes in many Western Hemisphere countries
and we have much to learn from each other. To maximize success in
all of these efforts, we need to keep the focus, in both Washington
and in the field, on innovative public diplomacy. To succeed, we
will all need more, and more consistently available, resources
devoted to these efforts. END SUMMARY.

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The Challenge: Anti-Americanism in Argentina

2. The level of anti-Americanism in Argentina is the highest in the
Western Hemisphere, according to a wide range of opinion polls taken
in recent years. The negative image of the U.S. stems in part from
the perception that America is a self-interested superpower that
acts unilaterally and at times belligerently on the world stage. Our
high negatives bear important ancillary costs. A number of top
government and political leaders, for example, have discovered there
is gold domestically in publicly bashing the U.S. from time to time.
These outbursts have often resulted in stalling momentum gained in
the bilateral relationship. Just last December and January, the
Mission endured the latest and most difficult iteration of this
pattern. More troubling is the fact that our low approval ratings
have persisted for six consecutive years (though we are beginning to
see our numbers head north again). It had been clear to us that that
anti-Americanism in Argentina could easily become reflexive and
color not just how Argentines view our policies but also our
culture, values, and the American people themselves.

3. To avoid such disastrous developments for long-term U.S.
interests in the region's third most populous country, we decided to
focus on building solid and intense relations with Argentina's media
and on investing particularly in youth with our programs and
outreach events. While we believe the U.S. election process has had
a tremendously positive effect on the U.S. image (as well as raising
enormous local expectations for the new president), the previous
prejudices continue to exist and need to be actively addressed. In
fact, we believe that our assertive outreach over the previous year
has helped us maintain positive images of the U.S. and of the
importance of bilateral relations in 2008 despite very severe public
criticisms from the Government of Argentina.

Media Outreach: Close Relations and Regular Releases
--------------------------------------------- --------

4. Capitalizing on the excellent rapport we have developed with the
Argentine media, we have been able to add a media component to
almost every program we undertake. We learned that the media
outreach aspect of any public Embassy event is central to its
success. Especially since we have improved and expanded our
relationship with television, radio and on-line media outlets, we
have been able to introduce a huge multiplier effect to our media
output. We have also used our improving relationship with the media
to bring together journalists, activities and themes we champion but
are not directly involved in. The result of this expanded media
outreach has included strong, accurate coverage of Argentine efforts
to combat trafficking in persons, the activities of the Mothers
against Paco (a cocaine derivative-see para 17), and our programs to
promote women's soccer, for example.

5. Our efforts to improve the Mission's relationship with the
Argentine media showed concrete results during the "suitcase-gate"
scandal and trial in Miami led to what some called the worst
bilateral crisis in fifty years. We were able to get our message
out quickly and accurately because of the trust we had built up with
the media. As a result, we were able to counter actively the more
egregious arguments being made by senior officials and GOA allies
against the U.S. Government's handling of the case. More broadly,
we have been able to place op-eds and related materials in the
leading media outlets' television/radio programs and newspapers on a
regular basis.

6. For over a year now, our mission has been issuing press
releases, often several a day, to reflect an intensely active
Embassy that is engaged with all segments of Argentine society. The
principal (but not sole) source of material for the press releases
comes from the Ambassador's schedule and includes every event that
can be portrayed for public consumption. This includes traditional

BUENOS AIR 00001588 002 OF 006

public diplomacy events, such as the Ambassador's and other Mission
officials' opening speeches at conferences, concerts, and art
exhibits, but goes far beyond, to include the Ambassador's meetings
with ministers, legislators, business and society leaders, and of
course the Head of State. We always make sure to secure the
agreement of the non-Embassy participants to be mentioned or have
their photo included in a press release following such encounters,
as a basic courtesy. To counter pervasive views of American
indifference to Latin American poverty, social justice and
engagement are emphasized in our press outreach, as the Ambassador
engages in a heavy schedule to visit and engage with social
development programs in Argentina, including Corporate Social
Responsibility programs by U.S. firms. Programs may or may not have
USG funding or another U.S. connection, or may be programmed by the
embassy as part of a visiting artist's tour.

7. When the Ambassador, the DCM, or other Mission personnel bring
disadvantaged youngsters to attend concerts of internationally
renowned U.S. rock stars, something the kids would not otherwise get
to do, press releases are sent and/or photos posted on the website.
Other embassy activities are publicized as well, such as the
Military Group's humanitarian mission to an orphanage in Salta or
senior officers' appearances at important events that advance
Mission objectives, such as "Globe" School activities or science
symposia. We also act as a conduit between the media and worthy
causes with which we may have no direct involvement. In almost
every case, even if the press attended the event, we send out a
release for any media that might have missed it. We arrange for
photos to be taken at all relevant events, so virtually every
release has a photograph. Placements are common. The result: the
public is better informed about the Embassy's positive agenda, a
great improvement on the past, in which the Argentine public had
little idea of what the U.S. Embassy did (and they more easily
believed "conspiracy theory"-based stories). We have received much
feedback expressing appreciation for our "hyper-activity."

Youth Outreach: Music, Sports and Visits to the U.S
--------------------------------------------- ------

8. One of Embassy Buenos Aires' major efforts during the last two
years has been outreach to young people. A key point of departure
in this endeavor is a program focused on the happening Buenos Aires
concert scene. In cooperation with promoters and managers, we have
arranged for young people from disadvantaged communities to attend
concerts by top American artists and to meet the performers
back-stage. Young musicians also participated in master classes,
some of which we helped organize. In some instances, we were able
to program the musicians to participate in community outreach
events, such as visits to drug rehabilitation clinics. Participants
have included world-renowned acts like Ozomatli, Toto, Bela Fleck
and the Flecktones, the Black-Eyed Peas, "reggaeton" stars Wisin and
Yandel, and classical violinist star Joshua Bell.

9. Hip-hop band Ozomatli's program was especially noteworthy, as
the band was able to connect with young audiences all over Buenos
Aires and Cordoba. The group managed seven appearances for groups
of disadvantaged youth from public schools, soup kitchens, and drug
rehabilitation centers. Ozomatli's visit, which was widely and
positively covered in the electronic and print media, including in
left-leaning media often hostile to the United States, enhanced the
Embassy's status as an engaged, forward-looking institution.
Programs like Ozomatli's have allowed the Mission to reach beyond
the usual audiences to critically important groups traditionally not
included in our programs.

10. American Public Diplomacy Envoy Michelle Kwan, the most
successful figure skater in U.S. history, visited Argentina to give
lectures on "Youth Leadership" in Buenos Aires, Parana, and Santa
Fe, and participated in repeated and widely covered media events.
Michelle met with members of the Special Olympics team, and spoke on
leadership and the ingredients for success to both the young
Argentine skaters and kids from low-income communities. Kwan
brought a message for young Argentines that practice and dedication
pays off in the long run. In one moving event, Kwan and the
Ambassador visited a drug rehabilitation clinic in the western area
of Greater Buenos Aires. She was introduced to an audience of
approximately 70 youngsters, ages 13-21, and provided a stirring and
convincing message of hope. Representatives of a local firm were so
moved by media stories about Kwan's presentation and visit that they
offered to provide employment to those who "graduated" from the
clinic. Kwan's program was an example of the Embassy's efforts to
show U.S. interest in assisting Argentines with serious problems,
and to help bring about positive change.

11. Using opportunities such as the Youth Ambassadors and Teacher
Ambassador Programs, Embassy Buenos Aires has been able to use the
lure of foreign travel and the possibility of future study in the
United States as a means to reach thousands of secondary school
students and teachers from all over Argentina (reftel A). Through

BUENOS AIR 00001588 003 OF 006

the Youth Ambassadors Program we send outstanding, but economically
disadvantaged, Argentine high school students to the U.S. to expose
them to U.S. society, culture, institutions, and citizens. This
program has received extensive media coverage and is now very well
known here. It has contributed to the increase in interest of
Argentine students in studying English, participating in volunteer
programs in their communities, and applying for future scholarships
to study in the U.S. The Teacher Ambassador Program allows us to
send Argentine English teachers to Austin, Texas, for two weeks of
training and interaction with American counterparts. These
opportunities to see the U.S. first-hand, which the Mission ensured
were widely publicized, received positive press coverage throughout
Argentina, and have brought considerable side benefits. In one
province, two enthused teacher ambassadors convinced the governor to
organize a special committee on U.S. exchanges and offer new

Community Outreach

12. To counter the all-too-prevalent Argentine image of the U.S. as
an uncaring hegemonic empire that cares little for disadvantaged
communities or social justice, Embassy Buenos Aires has dramatically
increased its efforts to show our society's compassionate side. We
have, for example, publicly highlighted the work of community-based
NGOs, started our own Community Action Program (CAP), introduced a
well-publicized award to an anti-trafficking-in-persons activist,
and publicly recognized a slum-resident mother fighting drug
addiction. We have also involved the more than 500 U.S. firms in
Argentina in a competition for awards in corporate social
responsibility (CSR). We organize visits to U.S. company CSR
projects, and then publicize their good works (para 18).

13. In April 2008, the Buenos Aires NGO Fair (reftel B) brought
together 60-plus NGO representatives from across Argentina at the
Ambassador's residence to meet with 40 representatives from
embassies, international and domestic companies, and foundations.
The common goal was to form ties that would lead to socially
beneficial projects and public-private partnerships.

14. Following two lively presentations on NGO development, the
invitees participated in a two-hour Fair in which funding sources
hosted booths, which were then visited by the NGOs. Both the NGOs
and business community were extremely happy with the event. The
Mission ensured that the Fair was widely and positively covered by
the media, which helped show that the Embassy cares about the people
of Argentina.

15. The Community Action Program (CAP) is designed to get the
Ambassador and other Mission personnel out into the community
(schools, charitable institutions, community organizations), where
they make donations (books, computers, other materials), interact
with young people, community leaders and journalists, and project a
different image than the one most people expect of American
diplomats. In the last two years, the Ambassador has visited NGOs,
public schools, and homeless shelters in many under-privileged areas
of the city of Buenos Aires and the provinces, donating a total of
approximately $23,000 in books, computers, appliances and
educational materials. Press releases are generated for visits when
CAP recipients are amenable, and events have received wide radio,
TV, and press coverage. In all cases, photos and stories about the
CAP donations are prominently displayed on the Embassy website.
Feedback from elites and slum dwellers alike has been very
positive--many have said they were impressed that we would even
venture into these areas.

16. We have been able to effect significant change with some of our
efforts. For example, the International Women of Courage (IWOC)
Award presented this last year to Susana Trimarco de Veron (based on
a Mission-drafted nomination) generated lasting change on the issue
of Trafficking in Persons (TIP). The IWOC award granted in 2007 to
Susana Trimarco de Veron for her efforts to combat TIP could easily
be considered the single most influential public diplomacy project
of recent years in Argentina.

17. After the wave of favorable publicity that ensued after Ms.
Trimarco received her award from Secretary Rice, plans to pass new
anti-TIP legislation and better fight the problem moved forward
quickly in Argentina. We used traditional diplomacy to influence
the government, keeping our public diplomacy on the issue very
active. Susana opened an internationally recognized foundation in
her home province of Tucuman (which the Ambassador attended to
bolster media attention), and the top soap opera on national
television in 2008 was based on her story. CNN International
broadcast a piece across the globe that emphasized the award and
Susana's relationship with the Embassy as key to the progress made
in Argentina on the issue. Other inspiring citizens have received
increased public recognition and support as a result of Embassy
media outreach and honors, such as Maria Rosa Gonzalez, a woman from

BUENOS AIR 00001588 004 OF 006

the slums who has waged an uphill but brave battle to help young
people - including two of her own sons - addicted to "paco," a
cocaine-derivative similar to (and as devastatingly pernicious as)

Commercial Public Diplomacy

18. Embassy Buenos Aires also visibly supports corporate social
responsibility. U.S. companies are important contributors to the
Argentine economy, with more than 500 U.S. firms active in the
country. Embassy Buenos Aires has worked hard to highlight the
positive CSR efforts U.S. companies have initiated to help support
communities in an attempt to demonstrate our commercial ties and the
positive impact US firm have nationally and locally. The
Ambassador's schedule regularly includes events to highlight good
corporate citizenship, which we emphasize in our regular press
releases, including visits to children's meal centers in slum areas.
To call more public attention to the good works of U.S. firms, the
Embassy conducted its inaugural CSR Awards event in December 2007,
in which the Ambassador honored the Embassy's five nominations for
the Secretary of State's Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE). The
event took place at the Ambassador's residence and was attended by
numerous public and private officials, business contacts, and, of
course, prominent members of the media. A second edition of this
event is planned for the 2008 nominees.

Cultural Programs

19. Thanks in part to Embassy-provided media coverage, Speaker Tom
Wolfe was treated like a rock star during his May 2008 visit to
Buenos Aires (reftel C). The well-known writer put the United
States at the center of the city's leading cultural and popular
event of the year - the Buenos Aires International Book Fair, an
event that attracts more than 1.2 million people. Wolfe drew the
largest audience for any event during the three-week fair. In
speeches at the Book Fair, literary fora, in press conferences and
multiple television interviews, he urged journalism students and
editors to fulfill their democratic responsibility to focus on
reporting the truth. Thanks to a carefully planned and executed
program and press schedule, his positive message about journalism
and U.S. culture dominated the cultural scene for weeks. Coverage
of Wolfe's activities in Buenos Aires reached millions of Argentines
through broad newspaper, wire service, and television coverage. But
to make sure we reached other audiences, we also invited an
Argentine-U.S. NASA astronaut to Book Fair events and hosted more
than 500 for a U.S. Big Band music concert.

2008 Elections Events

20. We try to use contemporary events that have the potential to
capture the Argentine public's imagination to tell our country's
story. This year's case in point is the just-concluded presidential
elections, which the Argentine media covered obsessively. We used
the presidential campaigns to develop a number of different events
that had broad public appeal (reftel D)

21. In an event that attracted international television news
coverage, the Buenos Aires Consular Section invented a surefire
"best practice" this year when it came up with the idea of giving
Amcits a way to physically cast their absentee ballots at the U.S.
Embassy during a "Voting Party" the morning of October 8. Amcits
had a chance to spend quality time with their Ambassador, drink
Starbucks coffee, and eat American food. Jazz music, red, white,
and blue decorations, and wonderful weather made for the festive
atmosphere. The Ambassador and DCM cast their ballots to a drum
roll. The event attracted over 800 Amcits and 21 media outlets,
international and local. Amcits participated in dozens of
interviews about their democratic expression.

22. All top local electronic media carried the story throughout the
day, as did the print press the following morning. Thanks to
Ambassador Wayne's good humor vis-a-vis a hard-hitting local
political satire show, we continue to receive good coverage from
this tough customer and, in this case extended public exposure of
the event later in the week to non-traditional and younger
audiences. The event reached millions across the globe as well,
because CNN International broadcast a piece on the event that played
around the world.

23. Embassy Buenos Aires' election night event (reftel E) also drew
wide, positive media coverage, in part because post made it easy for
the electronic media to attend the event and report it live. The
election night party attracted the widest and most positive media
coverage of any Embassy event held in Argentina in recent memory.
The celebration of democracy at its best included a straw poll by
Argentine citizens, remarks by the CDA, a mock debate by

BUENOS AIR 00001588 005 OF 006

(well-informed Argentine graduate students posing as) Obama and
McCain, and contests to guess various electoral outcomes. The
impact in Argentine television, radio, Internet, and press media was
substantial, allowing us to transmit a message of optimism about
American democracy and the future of the bilateral relationship to
an estimated potential audience of 10 million Argentines.

24. Our election outreach efforts involved all Embassy sections.
Our Election Speaker Program totaled 43 presentations on U.S.
Elections at universities, high schools, NGOs and bi-national
centers throughout Argentina to over 2,000 Argentines, mostly
students. Many of the presentations were covered by local media,
which carried our message to a much wider audience. Twenty-three
FSOs and other embassy staff participated in the program.

English Teaching

25. We decided to make English teaching a priority area because it
will have a long-term positive impact for Argentina's young people
and, we believe, on their attitudes towards the U.S. (reftel A). We
decided to target poorer students with good grades and an interest
in English. Named after an Argentine and a U.S. Educator who worked
together in the 1800s, the Sarmiento-Mann program provides small
grants to enable students from public high schools to study English
at bi-national centers throughout Argentina. The program began with
60 scholarships at five centers (in 2007), growing in 2008 to 160
scholarships in nine centers. In the coming year, Post will invest
250,000 dollars in ECA funding to expand the program to provinces
throughout all of Argentina. To focus public attention on the
program, the Ambassador, DCM, PAO and other Mission personnel often
make appearances with young Sarmiento-Mann scholars during their
travel through Argentina, discussing the virtues of the program with
the local media. We team this program with our Youth Ambassador and
Teacher Ambassador programs and draw ties between them all and
opportunities offered by the Fulbright Program.

DOD-led Embassy Outreach Activities

26. While many other posts in WHA have more opportunities to
utilize DOD efforts than we do in Argentina, we look for
opportunities to chip away at prejudices against the U.S. military
and militaries in general, given the bad memories from Argentina's
military government that still prevail here. In October, for
example, the Defense Attach's Office conducted a Humanitarian
Airlift Mission to deliver clothing, toys, and money to the small
indigenous town of Santa Victoria del Este, in the extreme northeast
region of Salta, a few miles from the Paraguay/Bolivia/Argentina
border. The donations were made to an order of Catholic missionary
nuns called the "Hermanas Franciscanas Misioneras de Santa Teresa
del Este," who work day and night providing food and shelter to the
numerous transient indigenous of the area. A special DOD flight
brought a monetary donation to repair radio equipment the nuns use
to broadcast public service announcements, educational information,
and spiritual support to the surrounding population. In another
case, a visiting U.S. ship delivered an ambulance as a gift from a
U.S. Rotary Club to a rural Argentina town. In a third case, the
Milgroup bought furnishings for a new anti-drug NGO in one of the
capital's most dangerous districts.

27. In addition to social outreach, we have used ship visits to
great PD effect. In May, Ambassador Wayne escorted senior officials
from the Ministry of Defense, Armed Forces, and Congress to visit
the aircraft carrier USS George Washington. Included in the group
were the President of the Chamber of Deputies' Defense Commission,
the Chief of Staff of the Navy, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force,
the Under Secretary of Technical Military Affairs from the Ministry
of Defense, and the mayors of two nearby coastal towns, Bahia Blanca
and Punta Alta. The group flew 150 nautical miles out, and landed
on the aircraft carrier using one of the carrier's transport
aircraft. While on board the George Washington, the Ambassador and
his guests observed an ongoing exercise with the Argentine Navy
which included Argentine ships and aircraft. Additionally, the
group was given an air demonstration by the various aircraft aboard
the carrier and received a briefing from the Carrier Strike Group
commander. The Argentine television and newspaper journalists who
accompanied the visit to the carrier broadcast and printed
extensive, positive stories on the visit, focusing on the
cooperation between the U.S. and Argentine navies occasioned by the
carrier visit. The Argentine officials and journalists who came on
the trip have since had consistently positive interaction with the

Stating the Obvious

28. All of the above mentioned 2008 Embassy programs have been
successful because they have been driven by very clear guiding

BUENOS AIR 00001588 006 OF 006


-- Never stray from a positive agenda. All messages focus on the
positive side of the issue. Messages are designed to convey the
utmost respect and friendship, regardless of how difficult the issue
or deep the disagreement may be.

-- Listen to the audience, identify common positive values, and
tailor messages to those values to maximize receptivity. Messages
need to be shaped so that what is intended by the sender is heard by
the receiver. For example, press releases about U.S. democracy
focus on what the Argentine audience most prizes about our political
system -- our strong, stable institutions -- with less emphasis on
the freedom U.S. citizens value relatively more. Programs should
focus on the social issues that are of concern to the audience.
Supporting local "heroes" earns a warm reception and non-USG
"Champions" often bring added credibility to a theme.

-- Respect the press, uphold press freedom principles, and respond
to queries with the best answer available. Building trust takes
time and effort. Transparency and open, regular communication are
powerful democratic messages and an open embassy is perceived by
journalists to be a friendly embassy. At the same time,
disagreement is something that democracies uphold, so it is
important to offer to talk things through while accepting the
journalist's right to disagree. Always strictly enforce and
repeatedly remind journalists about ground rules. Be clear on the
price paid when violations occur, and exact that price when they do

-- Use all sources available, from rock stars and sports heroes to
Nobel Prize winners and U.S. companies, to carry the positive agenda
forward. If you can be part of a local coalition, working for a
U.S. priority, you will have a better chance of succeeding.

-- Be active and be seen.

What Next?

29. Post has no higher priority than combating the high levels of
anti-Americanism in Argentina. As this cable indicates, we are
already contesting these insidious attitudes on several fronts. At
the same time, we recognize that there are many other innovative
public diplomacy strategies that could work here, and we hope that
other missions will also share their best practices.

30. We will continue to reach out to Argentine society on a number
of fronts. For example, we plan to expand our efforts to bring the
Argentine media and worthwhile causes together, regardless of the
extent of our contribution to or day-to-day involvement in the
organization. In this way, we will provide added value as the
conduit between the media and causes that deserve media attention.
We will also increase our use of "sports diplomacy" in this
sports-crazy country. We plan to greatly increase our English
teaching program, especially in the provinces of Argentina, which
have traditionally not benefited from such programs. Finally, we
hope to sharply expand our use of video technology to make our
website and other outreach efforts better targeted and more
appealing to Argentine audiences.


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