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05BUENOSAIRES260 2005-02-04 20:07:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Buenos Aires
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BUENOS AIRES 000260 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/02/2015



Classified By: Ambassador Lino Gutierrez for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (SBU) Summary: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived
in Buenos Aires on February 1 for a whirlwind "working visit"
following his appearance at the World Social Forum in Porto
Alegre, Brazil last week (Ref A). Employing the same antics
he had performed last week in Brazil, Chavez used his visit
to Buenos Aires as a platform to reiterate his anti-American,
anti-free trade and anti-globalization message in
long-winded, impromptu narratives. Media coverage of the
visit was mixed and the GOA was clearly less than pleased
with Chavez's rhetoric and avoided holding a joint press
conference. The Ambassador will reiterate U.S. concerns
regarding Venezuela with Kirchner's Chief of Cabinet, Alberto
Fernandez, at a lunch on Friday, February 4. Embassy report
on the economic substance of the visit is contained in
septel. End Summary.

2. (U) Upon arriving in Buenos Aires, Chavez was met at the
airport by droves of "piqueteros" and activists, led by the
group Barrios del Pie, who followed him relentlessly
throughout the day. Chavez warmly received his supporters
and even declared himself one of them. The crowds followed
Chavez from the opening ceremony for the first Petrosur
service station, a jointly-established state
Venezuelan/Argentine service station, to the port to witness
the first food-for-oil cattle shipment. Following a speech
at the Petrosur gas station Chavez spent nearly 20 minutes
signing autographs, T-shirts and posters.

3. (U) Chavez played to the cameras at every opportunity,
repeating his commitment to cementing strategic South
American political alliances and denouncing the U.S.
free-trade initiatives and the IMF. Apart from his usual
anti-US, anti-globalization rhetoric, Chavez also highlighted
his speeches with references to "his general," referring to
Juan Domingo Peron, and claimed to "feel" Evita's presence.
Referring to Kirchner, Chavez called him part of "his gang,"
emphasizing their shared problems, visions and futures. The
press noted that during his official press conference, Chavez
took 90 minutes to answer four questions. Similarly, Chavez
improvised for over 40 minutes at the Casa Rosada after
discarding his prepared speech in an effort to "save time."

4. (U) While generally portraying the visit as a meeting of
friends, coverage of the Chavez visit has been mixed. The
leading Buenos Aires newspaper, La Nacion, published a
critical commentary on February 3 analyzing Chavez's calls
for regional integration and strategic alliances. The
editorial stated that while regional integration is a worthy
task in Latin America, it cannot come at any cost. Regional
integration should focus on the promotion of fundamental
liberties, democracy and human dignity and points out that
the anti-democratic tendencies of the increasingly
authoritarian Chavez administration are not the ideal role
model. It calls into question the legitimacy of the new
jointly-run state oil company and suggests that regional
integration should be undertaken through the development of
the private sector. The article further criticizes Chavez's
current land expropriation project and cites it as a clear
example of why Argentina must be wary of deepening ties with
Venezuela. While Chavez has visited Kirchner in Buenos Aires
five times, this most recent visit is the first to generate
notably negative reactions in the press.

5. (C) Comment: Several local analysts have pointed out the
less than opportune timing of Chavez's arrival, with
Argentina in the midst of its debt restructuring road show
and in need of support from the U.S. Kirchner's quiet
responses to Chavez's riling speeches visibly reflected the
discomfort the GOA felt with the Venezuelan leader's
presence. Under Secretary for Foreign Policy Roberto Garcia
Moritan told Embassy officer that even the muted press
coverage did not accurately reflect the tone of the visit.
MFA officials went to considerable lengths before and after
the visit to emphasize the strictly commercial nature of the
visit. Garcia Moritan pointed out that the GOA had been
careful to avoid connecting itself with Chavez's more
flagrant comments and for that reason Kirchner did not
accompany Chavez on the majority of his public appearances
nor hold a joint press conference at the end of the visit.
He said the GOA had told Chavez prior to his arrival not use
his visit as a platform for anti-American comments, and that,
when he did, they told him the GOA was not happy with what he
had done. Despite the GOA's frustration with Chavez's
behavior, Garcia Moritan said the GOA prefers to pursue a
strategy of constructive engagement rather than isolating
Chavez, which the GOA believes would only aggravate the

6. (C) Garcia Moritan noted another factor influencing the
position of the GOA is the Argentine dependence on Venezuelan
fuel oil, which they receive through a trade agreement at
preferential prices. (Note: Following the trade agreement
signed by Chavez and Kirchner in April of 2004, both
governments touted the importance of bilateral trade. In
reality, however, economic ties are limited. Even following
the purchase of Venezuelan fuel oil in 2004, it remained in
53rd place as a source of Argentine imports; Argentina
comprised a mere .05 percent of Venezuela's exports in 2003,
Ref B.)

7. (C) Ambassador Gutierrez has a lunch scheduled with
Kirchner's Chief of Cabinet, Alberto Fernandez, on February
4, at which he will again underscore our concerns about
developments in Venezuela.

8. (U) The reftels cited in this cable, and other Embassy
Buenos Aires reporting, can be found at our classified
SIPRNET site at< /a>