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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06SANTIAGO2289
2006-10-31 19:45:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Santiago
Cable title:  

STAFFDEL MEACHAM -- NGO COMMUNITY HEALTHY AND VIBRANT IN

Tags:   PGOV  KPAO  PREL  PHUM  OVIP  CI 
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VZCZCXYZ0035
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSG #2289/01 3041945
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 311945Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0290
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 1568
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 3369
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 3284
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1156
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 4788
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 1617
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 0211
RUEHDG/AMEMBASSY SANTO DOMINGO 0183
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
						UNCLAS SANTIAGO 002289 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR H, WHA/BSC, IIP/G/WHA, WHA/PDA, INR/IAA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KPAO PREL PHUM OVIP CI
SUBJECT: STAFFDEL MEACHAM -- NGO COMMUNITY HEALTHY AND VIBRANT IN
CHILE

REF: SANTIAGO 2269

UNCLAS SANTIAGO 002289

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR H, WHA/BSC, IIP/G/WHA, WHA/PDA, INR/IAA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KPAO PREL PHUM OVIP CI
SUBJECT: STAFFDEL MEACHAM -- NGO COMMUNITY HEALTHY AND VIBRANT IN
CHILE

REF: SANTIAGO 2269


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Senior Senate Foreign Relations Committee Staff
Member Carl Meacham met with Chileans across the political spectrum
October 25-27 to discuss challenges facing Non-Governmental
Organizations (NGOs) in Chile. NGO representatives emphasized there
is freedom to operate and no onerous bureaucratic requirements.
Many noted, however, that securing scarce financing and responding
from the bottom up to growing citizen needs are among the NGOs' most
pressing issues.


2. (SBU) NGOs agree progress is being made, but much more is
possible. The GOC's executive branch seeks to expand citizen
influence in government decisions and NGO leaders want more dialogue
on how to achieve this objective. Many argue that the Congress'
over-reliance on party-affiliated foundations and think tanks limit
their Members' ability to respond to constituent wishes (Congressmen
and Senators have few advisors and personal staff). Moreover,
donations to non-profit organizations have been on the decline since
the implementation of a new law that increased the government's role
in distributing charitable contributions (30 percent of a tax
deductible donation goes to a GOC-controlled common fund that is
distributed to other charities.) END SUMMARY.


3. (SBU) During a packed three-day program (October 25-27), Senior
Latin America SFRC Staff Member Carl Meacham discussed the
challenges facing NGOs in Chile. Meacham met with Corporacion
Proyectamerica, Fundacion Jaime Guzman, Instituto Libertad y
Desarollo, Center for Justice Studies of the Americas (CEJA),
Fundacion Chile 21, Participa, and Fundacion Paz Ciudadana. Meacham
also met with Foreign Minister Foxley (reftel) and political party
leaders, notably Renovacion Nacional's Sebastian Pinera, Party for
Democracy (PPD) President Sergio Bitar, Christian Democratic
International Relations Chief Esteban Tomic and President Bachelet's
advisors for International Relations and Social Development.



4. (SBU) In addition to a dinner hosted by the Ambassador, Meacham
participated in several public outreach activities: sharing his
career experience with Chilean youth leaders, addressing think tank
analysts, engaging the press (radio and print) in a roundtable
discussion, and conducting an interview on the Embassy's radio
network.

NGOs Operate Freely, Compete for Funding
--------------


5. (SBU) Former Senator Antonio Viera Gallo, who now heads NGO
Proyectamerica, told Meacham that NGOs function without impediments
in Chile. While there are some conflicts between the government and
environmental NGOs (e.g., pending defamation charges), Viera Gallo
said there is no persecution of NGOs that hold views different from
those of the government. Viera Gallo acknowledged that many think
tanks and foundations have ties to political parties, but this
support is not automatic and that such NGOs do criticize the
government.


6. (SBU) Viera Gallo noted that NGOs can register as non-profit
"foundations" or "corporations" and receive tax exempt status. The
most pressing issue is financing. Many NGOs depend on foreign
funding or private contributions. Following the end of the Pinochet
dictatorship, millions of dollars in funding from the United States
and Europe dried up. Viera Gallo explained that many NGOs also rely
on government bid contracts, producing products or services for the
government. He said there are companies dedicated exclusively to
proposal writing.


7. (SBU) The former Senator noted that Chileans participate in many
organizations and volunteer groups, but tend not to make financial
donations. Viera Gallo described civil society as weak, largely
because of the excessive reliance on a strong executive branch, the
Catholic Church and private companies. He added that NGOs are an
Anglo-Saxon phenomenon, emphasizing that there are many in the
United Kingdom and United States, but few NGOs in France, Spain, and
Portugal.

Conservative Think Tank Leery of NGOs Independence
-------------- --------------


8. (SBU) Fundacion Jaime Guzman's Legislative and Public Policy

Advisors Beatrice Corbo and Nicolas Figari expressed concerns about
the independence of NGOs affiliated with the ruling Concertacion
government. The two advisors stated that NGOs on the left are well
organized and receive financing from Europe, notably France and
Belgium, and to a lesser extent Mexico. They noted that Members of
Congress have limited staff, which has increased their reliance on
party-affiliated think tanks and foundations for information and
analyses. While Concertacion-affiliated NGOs are often invited to
comment on the GOC's legislation at Congressional hearings,
Fundacion Jaime Guzman is seldom invited.









































9. (SBU) While there is more transparency than 10 years ago, Corbo
and Figari cautioned that there is a perception of widespread
corruption, as demonstrated by the recent Chiledeportes scandal in
which administrators allegedly funneled funds to Concertacion
electoral campaigns. They also expressed disappointment over a new
Donations Law, which has had the effect of discouraging private
donations to non-profit organizations (affecting more NGOs on the
right, than the left). Under the law, 30 percent of a private
donation is earmarked for a government's common fund, and not the
intended recipient.

Government Seeking to Increase Citizen Participation
-------------- --------------


10. (SBU) In Meacham's meeting with Francisco Estevez, Director of
the Social Organizations Division at La Moneda, Estevez noted that
President Bachelet wants to expand the participation of civil
society in decision making -- one of her top campaign promises. As
part of this effort, Estevez highlighted a $1.8 million fund for
strengthening social development organizations. The GOC assigns
sums of money to NGOs involved in development projects based on a
competitive bid process.


11. (SBU) Estevez cautioned that reforms aimed at increasing citizen
participation take time and are difficult to implement. He stated
that Chile has a strong executive with a top-down framework
emanating from Pinochet's 1980 constitution. Compared to other
countries, Chile is behind in revising its constitution, he said.
Chileans do not have the right to hold plebiscites, referendums, and

there is no ombudsman, but this could change under the Bachelet
administration.


12. (SBU) When Meacham raised the issue of declining donations to
non-profit organizations, Estevez defended the government's new law
on donations. Estevez argued that it is not fair, for example, that
a company makes a tax-deduction donation that benefits only one
entity when there are more needy recipients. The 30 percent
allocation to a common fund and distribution by the government is
more beneficial to society. To justify the new law, he added that
Chilean firms pay only about one-tenth the income taxes of their
U.S. counterparts.

Being Non-Partisan in a Partisan World
--------------


13. (SBU) Gonzalo Vargas, Executive Director of Fundacion Paz
Ciudadana, said that while his NGO receives approximately 80 percent
of its funding from private sources, its Board of Directors is a
mixture of all major parties in Chile. His NGO is non-partisan, but
many perceive it to be right-leaning (it was founded by El Mercurio
owner Agustin Edwards). When the government selected one of his
senior assistants to become the new Under Secretary overseeing the
Carabinero police, several pundits expressed surprise given his
organizations rightist credentials. Vargas credited Paz Ciudadana's
five-year effort in convincing the government to quantify and
publicize levels of common crime in Chile.


14. (SBU) Vargas also criticized the new Donation Law, arguing it
hurts well-known organizations such as the Municipal Theatre and the
Catholic Church-affiliated Hogar de Cristo. Vargas supported the
idea that donors should be able to provide full funding to the NGO
of their choice without government direction.



Raising Awareness with Consultative Processes
--------------


15. (SBU) Executive Director Andrea Sanhueza described Corporacion
Participa as an independent NGO with no political party affiliation.
It has a budget of approximately USD$1 million budget per year, 70
percent of which comes from foreign sources (USAID, Canada, Holland,
UK) and 30 percent from local financing (competitive government
contracts). Participa spends much of its time raising public
awareness through workshops and organizing forums for the public to
examine proposed legislation. The NGO recently established a
consultative process (financed by the GOC and Inter-American
Development Bank) that formalized input from local residents on how
to improve the port city of Valparaiso. Sanhueza indicated that
Chile has improved incorporating views from civil society, but there
is still more to be done.

Lagos-Affiliated Foundation Training Young Leaders
-------------- --------------


16. (SBU) Executive Director Maria de los Angeles Fernandez
explained that 15 years ago then-Presidential hopeful Ricardo Lagos
created Fundacion Chile 21. A temporary institution became a
permanent and respected foundation with ties to Brazil, Uruguay,
Argentina, and Europe, notably France and Germany. Through its
legislative and international studies, Chile 21 seeks to meet
growing demands from Chile's citizenry, which is increasingly well
educated. Fernandez noted that Chile 21 recently hosted for the
first time Chile's Army Commander, offering a "meeting space" for
such events. The foundation has trained some 55 youth leaders, 15
of whom now have positions in the Bachelet government.
Fernandez agreed that there is no culture of philanthropy in Chile
and that a major concern of NGOs is financing.

Successful Visit and Outreach Activities
--------------


17. (SBU) Comment: Consistent across the political spectrum,
Chilean NGOs highlighted the need for greater citizen participation
from below with less political party influence. They also promoted
better coordination to ensure their democracy serves a larger mass
of Chilean citizens.


18. (SBU) Utilizing his flawless Spanish and knowledge about the
country, Carl Meacham impressed his Chilean audiences and advanced
our interest in promoting mutual understanding and strengthening
civic society within Chile. Post very much appreciated Meacham's
willingness to participate in public outreach activities with
Chilean youth leaders, political analysts, and media, which
highlighted the perceptions of Chile from a U.S. Congressional
vantage point.


19. (U) Carl Meacham cleared this message.

KELLY