Cablegate: (C) Carlos Reutemann, Argentina's Reluctant


DE RUEHBU #1008/01 2471506
P 041506Z SEP 09



E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/04/2039


Classified By: CDA Tom Kelly for reasons 1.4 (b) & (d).

1. (C) Summary: Peronist dissident -- and presumptive 2011
frontrunner for his party's presidential nomination --
Senator Carlos Reutemann from Santa Fe province shared his
views with the CDA on the 2011 presidential race and the
post-midterms strategy of President Cristina Fernandez de
Kirchner (CFK) and her husband, former president Nestor
Kirchner (NK). Reutemann, who rejected an offer to run for
the presidency in 2003, avoided addressing his own
presidential aspirations, preferring to speak at length about
how NK is creating "a minefield" for Argentina's next
President and predicted that it would be difficult to "return
to normality" once the Kirchners leave office. Reutemann
criticized the CFK administration for misinterpreting the
results of the June midterms in which the Kirchner-allied
Victory Front (FpV) alliance suffered an electoral defeat
(ref A). The Senator mused that the more the press
emphasizes the Kirchners' loss -- i.e., that 70% did not vote
for the government -) the more the Kirchners react. He
added that the Kirchners are seeking to regain the political
initiative following the FpV's electoral defeat, citing
recent political victories as reenergizing NK. Informal but
reserved, the pro-American Reutemann is by all accounts a
different breed of Argentine politician. Despite the
enthusiasm among many in the PJ ranks for his candidacy in
2011, the Senator appears ambivalent about running and
assuming the presidency in the aftermath of the Kirchners.
End Summary.

The Reluctant Candidate

2. (C) CDA Kelly met August 27 with Peronist dissident, Santa
Fe Senator Carlos Reutemann, who was accompanied by his
longtime aide, national deputy-elect Celia Arena. Reutemann,
67, who is referred to as "Lole" by friends and supporters,
is well-known in Argentina for his former career as a Formula
One racing champion. In 2008, the laconic Reutemann was one
of the first Peronists to break ranks with President Cristina
Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) and her husband, former president
Nestor Kirchner (NK), during the government's extended
conflict with the farm sector. In recent weeks, Reutemann
has been headline news as speculation raged over his
potential 2011 presidential candidacy. In 2003, Reutemann
declined then-President Eduardo Duhalde's offer to make him
the PJ candidate for President, offering only the cryptic and
now legendary remark, "I saw something I didn't like," as his
explanation for bowing out.

3. (SBU) This year, immediately before the June 28 elections
(ref A), Reutemann said he intended to run for president in
2011, but since then he has avoided comment about such
aspirations. At the same time, he has publicly rebuked
those, like former President Eduardo Duhalde, who are
pressing him to run. During an August 24 radio interview,
Reutemann publicly expressed exasperation with what he
perceived as behind-the-scenes machinations by Duhalde and
others to force his hand. Usually cool and taciturn,
Reutemann unleashed some choice expletives, saying he "could
not give a damn" about the country's future and "they can
take that candidacy and shove it up their a--." In the June
midterms, Reutemann was re-elected to his third Senate tour
after narrowly beating Santa Fe Governor Hermes Binner's
candidate, socialist Ruben Giustiniani by 1.37 points (42.07%
to 40.7%).

On the 2011 Presidential Race: Not Exactly Raring to Go
--------------------------------------------- -------

4. (C) Describing himself as "not the traditional political
type," Reutemann avoided directly addressing his presidential
aspirations while providing several reasons not to run. He
said that NK is creating "a minefield" for Argentina's next
President, citing the nationalization of the private pension
plans and the GOA's agricultural export tax policy. He added
that NK has the capacity to cause "significant damage" before
the next President assumes office. Reutemann predicted that
it will be challenging to demobilize rabble-rousing piquetero
social activists Luis D'Elia and Emilio Persico in national
politics, on whom he claimed the Kirchners are increasingly
reliant (ref B). Reutemann described Buenos Aires province
as "a mess," remarking that it will be difficult "to return

to normality" once the Kirchners have left office. To make
matters worse, he continued, Argentines want "a savior to
come and fix everything in 24 hours."

5. (C) Deputy-elect Arena saw the future as less dire. She
noted that although there will be economic issues to address,
a newly elected president should have legislative support to
overturn much Kirchner-era legislation. As an example, she
noted that if the controversial audiovisual bill gets
approved, it will take over two years to implement, giving
the next presidential administration time to annul it.
(Note: After a 90-day public hearing period, CFK sent the
revised audiovisual bill to Congress on August 27. The
legislation, which among other changes would reduce the
licenses that one media organization can hold from 24 to 10,
is criticized by the opposition and media for limiting
freedom of expression -- ref C.)

6. (C) As to other presidential contenders, Reutemann said
that the PJ is looking for an independent Peronist as an
alternative. Nonetheless, he maintained that the current
political situation, as well as the 2011 presidential race,
represented a "final battle between Duhalde and NK." CDA
pressed Reutemann on this point, observing that Duhalde's
unpopularity made it seem unlikely that he would actually be
a presidential candidate. At best, he could aspire to be a
kingmaker, and not necessarily the predominan tone at that.
Deputy Elect Arena agreed with this anaylsis, but Reutemann
dmurred, cautioning that Duhalde should not be counted out as
a potential candidate.

7. (C) Reutemann noted that the PJ needs to have an internal
election to nominate a candidate, but that "the rules of the
game" are not clear yet. He explained that in past
elections, the party has picked candidates differently. For
example, he explained the PJ used a party primary to select
Carlos Menem as its presidential candidate in 1989, a
congressional consensus to pick Duhalde in 2002, and a party
congress in 2007 for CFK. (Note: In 2003, courts kept the PJ
from holding a caucus or primary. Since Peronists could not
agree on a candidate, three different Peronist candidates, NK
among them, ran in the first round of general elections. NK,
backed by Duhalde, came in second, but first-place winner
Menem declined to take the race to the second round, thereby
handing NK a victory with only 22% of the vote.) Reutemann
explained that even though NK is no longer PJ party president
(he resigned the day after the FpV's midterms defeat), the
Kirchners can still play a decisive role in picking the next
PJ presidential candidate, given their influence over Buenos
Aires Province Governor Daniel Scioli, the new party
president. The Kirchners also have a staunch ally in Hugo
Moyano, secretary general of the General Workers
Confederation (CGT) and the PJ's second vice-president,
Reutemann added. In addition, Reutemann noted the government
retains the economic power and is "betting on an economic
revival this year."

8. (C) As for the aspirations of the country's PJ Governors,
Reutemann said it would be an uphill battle for Scioli to
refloat his presidential candidacy, given that he is so
closely tied to NK. Reutemann thought that, despite popular
belief, Chaco Governor Jorge Capitanich (the PJ's first vice
president, who is seen by some as a potential Kirchnerista
presidential candidate) is eyeing a second run at the
Governorship and not the presidency. He shrugged
non-committaly when the CDA asked about the presidential
prospects of other PJ governors, such as Salta's Urtubey, San
Juan's Gioja, and Chubut's Das Neves.

A Government in Denial

9. (C) Reutemann remarked that the Government has
misinterpreted the June midterms and the message of their
electoral defeat. As an example, Reutemann referred to
recent remarks by NK and Senate FpV bloc leader Miguel
Pichetto that the June midterms indicate the people want the
government "to deepen the model" and "to continue with the
same direction." Reutemann mused that the more the press
emphasizes the Kirchners' loss -- i.e. that 70% did not vote
for the government -) the more adversely the Kirchners

...And Seeking a Rebound

10. (C) Reutemann asserted that the Kirchners want to regain
the initiative after the FpV's loss in the June midterms. He
cited as recent examples: congressional approval of a
one-year extension of numerous legislative powers delegated

to the Executive Branch, GoA acquisition of the concession to
televise soccer games (ref E), and the submission to
Congress, after a 90-day public review, of the controversial
audiovisual bill (ref C). He said such victories reenergize
NK, who returns to the center of the ring to "pound his
chest" and seeks "to discipline" the country's influential
governors. He added that NK is angry with the farm sector,
which he suspects of "coup mongering" and of using the
conflict to better position themselves in government. He
noted that the farm sector now has three national deputies in
Congress. In addition, he said Argentine Agrarian Federation
(FAA) President Eduardo Buzzi wants to be Governor of Santa
Fe Province while Entre Rios province FAA leader Alfredo
D'Angeli is angling for the Entre Rios Governorship.

UNASUR Conference in Bariloche

11. (C) Reutemann asked the CDA for his views on the August
28 UNASUR Conference hosted by Argentina in Bariloche. The
CDA relayed that WHA DAS Chris McMullen visited Argentina
just before the summit to address GOA concerns regarding the
USG's Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with Colombia on
the use of its military bases ahead of the conference (ref
D). Drawing from guidance, the CDA noted the DCA's focus on
assisting the GOC with its internal security problems and on
non-intervention and sovereignty. He added that the U.S.
Congress had earlier capped the number of U.S. troops
stationed in Colombia at any given time at 800, and that the
average number of troops on the ground is 250.

Views of the United States

12. (C) Reutemann, who relayed that he is planning upcoming
travel to the United States, said he is a fan of the United
States. He knows it well, having travelled all over the
country to participate in Formula One races (he won races in
Long Beach and Watkins Glen). Tweaking his compatriots, he
said that Argentines in polls consistently express highly
negative opinions of the United States, yet at the same time
identify the United States as the country they most want
Argentina to emulate. Reutemann opined that NK, as
President, fueled anti-Americanism by exploiting it for his
political benefit. He added now the CFK administration wants
to strengthen relations with President Obama's
administration, but seems unsure about how to do so. CDA
replied that such an interest on CFK's part provides an
opportunity to improve bilateral relations.

Bio Data

13. (SBU) Reutemann's political career started after he
retired from Formula One racing in 1982. In 1991, former
President Carlos Menem backed his nomination for Santa Fe
governor. Reutemann served as Santa Fe governor for two
terms (1991-1995 and 1999-2003) and as national senator
(1995-1999 and 2003-2007), where he served as the Foreign
Affairs Committee President. Since 1991, he has held a
number of PJ party positions and was a member of the
constitutional reform convention in 1994. Born in the city
of Santa Fe on April 12, 1942, the Senator is married and has
two daughters.


14. (C) Informal in style, low-key, and reserved, Reutemann
is by all accounts a different breed of Argentine politician.
He also openly admires the United States. Despite the
enthusiasm among many in the PJ ranks for his candidacy,
Reutemann appears conflicted about running and worried about
the challenges that will face Argentina's next president.
(The other leading 2011 presidential contender, Vice
President Julio Cobos, recently shared the same misgivings
with CDA -- ref F.) History may repeat itself, with
Reutemann again seeing something he does not like.
Alternatively, his reluctance to announce a presidential bid
may simply reflect an instinct for self-preservation. He has
been quoted to say that Nestor Kirchner is "sinking the
Peronists" and their chances of winning in 2011. He may also
be calculating that a premature announcement will
unnecessarily expose him to protracted fire from Kirchner and
other presidential aspirants.

© Scoop Media

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