DE RUEHBU #1542/01 3122044
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 072044Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2440
INFO RUCNMER/MERCOSUR COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 001542
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PREL PGOV KPAO OPDC AR SUBJECT: ARGENTINE POLITICAL CLASS WELCOMES OBAMA VICTORY; SEES IT AS OPPORTUNITY FOR STRONGER BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP
REF: BUENOS AIRES 1539
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 milestone...in 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 summary.
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 milestone...in 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. KELLY