A/S SHANNON MEETS WITH ARGENTINE PRESIDENT KIRCHNER

Código Fecha Clasificación Origen
06BUENOSAIRES97 13 January 2006 Confidencial Embassy Buenos Aires

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C O N F I D E N T I A L BUENOS AIRES 000097

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/13/2016
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, MOPS, ENRG, EPET, AR
SUBJECT: A/S SHANNON MEETS WITH ARGENTINE PRESIDENT KIRCHNER

REF: A. 05 BUENOS AIRES 2835
B. BUENOS AIRES 36

Classified By: Ambassador Lino Gutierrez, Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1 (C) SUMMARY: In their first meeting since the troubled
Summit of the Americas at Mar del Plata last November (ref.
A), A/S Shannon, accompanied by Ambassador and POLOFF, met
January 12 with President Nestor Kirchner. The two discussed
Bolivia, Haiti, and the state of the bilateral relationship.
Kirchner pushed MERCOSUR as the primary instrument for
sub-regional integration. Unlike his Summit meeting with
President Bush, where Kirchner was alternately nervous,
defensive, and cold, Kirchner warmly greeted A/S Shannon and
set a positive tone throughout the meeting. MFA officials
appeared relieved that the bilateral relationship had
suddenly improved. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) Through the efforts of Minister of Planning de Vido,
post was able to set up a meeting between A/S Shannon and
President Kirchner. Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana, who met
with A/S Shannon earlier in the day (reported septel),
conveyed Kirchner’s invitation to a late afternoon meeting at
the Casa Rosada. Accompanied by Ambassador and POLOFF
(notetaker), Shannon met with Kirchner for about 30 minutes.
Taiana also attended the meeting with Kirchner.

Bolivia


3. (C) After the initial pleasantries, A/S Shannon said that
Argentina had played an important role in Bolivia’s turbulent
transition over the last two years. Kirchner said
Argentina’s goals in Bolivia were strategic. He said former
President Sanchez de Losada’s October 2003 ouster had been
followed by anarchy. "Mesa wasn’t a bad president," said
Kirchner, "but the contradictions accumulated." Kirchner
also thought current interim President Eduardo Rodriguez was
fine, but that he had had little real power. He thought Evo
Morales’ "big victory" last month could end Bolivia’s
political polarization.

4. (C) Looking ahead, Kirchner said it was hard to make
predictions about Bolivia’s future. He said he had met
Morales only a few times and did not know him well, but rated
his first steps as acceptable. He believed Bolivian culture
was very different - "very indigenous" - an aspect that
differed greatly from Argentina. (However, Kirchner
acknowledged that there were many "hard-working" Bolivians
living and working in Argentina, particularly in the northern
provinces.) Nevertheless, Kirchner said, Argentina was
committed to Bolivia’s success. The GOA’s objective was the
"consolidation of republican institutional government."
Kirchner said he would work with Brazil’s President Lula
towards this end. He also said MERCOSUR was the best
mechanism to work out problems in the sub-region.

5. (C) Kirchner also hoped to solve the "energy question" —
Argentina’s purchases of natural gas, the price of which
Morales will probably raise. "We get only 4.5 million cubic
meters a day from Bolivia, and we sell 18 million cubic
meters a day to Chile." In effect, Argentina was
"triangulating" gas. Kirchner said that any problems in the
supply from Bolivia would be offset by reducing sales to
Chile. (See ref. A for more details on Argentina’s energy
relationship with Bolivia.)

6. (C) A/S Shannon said we also wanted success in Bolivia,
but that the country would need a great deal of help. He
said both Argentina and Brazil had primary interests in
Bolivia, and our aim was to coordinate our policies to ensure
that Bolivia’s situation improved. Shannon said our
relations with Morales would not be easy, but that we were
waiting to see what kind of relationship he wanted with the
United States.

Haiti


7. (C) A/S Shannon underscored the importance of having
decided on a date for the Haitian elections and the need to
defend that date. He said many Haitian elites would prefer
for there to be no election at all. MINUSTAH, said Shannon,
will be unable to make real progress until the Haitians can
elect a new government. He said Argentina had played an
important role in Haiti. (Argentina currently has about 600
soldiers deployed as part of MINUSTAH.)

8. (C) Kirchner said that there was "permanent instability"
in Haiti and that we should try to avoid another cycle of
elections, instability, coups, and chaos. Shannon commented
that the key issue was personal security. Haitians in the
U.S., for example, were extremely productive and did quite
well. Taiana added that there had been recently 240
kidnappings within a one-month period. Taiana also noted
that there would be a January 20 meeting of Core Group Vice
Foreign Ministers in Haiti.

MERCOSUR


9. (C) Consolidation of MERCOSUR, said Kirchner, was very
important. In this regard, Argentina and Brazil had the most
important roles to play. It was their responsibility, he
said, to attract investment for the smaller partners.
Uruguay and Paraguay, Kirchner noted, had "asymmetric
economies." He compared MERCOSUR to the European Union,
which he said had consolidated very quickly. With the right
tools, MERCOSUR could play a similar role and the region
could function well.

Bilateral Relationship


10. (C) Kirchner said that apart from our disagreement on the
FTAA, he had "no problems with the United States." Kirchner
came as close as he could to an apology, saying that he had
been "too preoccupied with the (October 23) election" and
that he "should have paid more attention to the Summit." He
said that "we should never disagree publicly" in the future.
Kirchner said we should try to solve our problems behind the
scenes, saying that "95% of questions could be solved in
private." Nevertheless, Kirchner said he was happy to have
had President Bush in Argentina and that he had no desire to
distance himself from the United States. He wanted to deepen
the bilateral relationship. Kirchner even extended Q
invitation for President Bush to visit Argentina again.

11. (C) A/S Shannon said we were disposed to work with
Kirchner, and that Argentina’s success was key to the success
of the sub-region. Our support for Argentina in the IMF had
been based on this premise. Shannon said other countries
could learn from Argentina’s experiences in using economic
growth to fight poverty.

Comment


12. (C) After the visit, one can hear a sigh of relief on the
part of our GOA interlocutors and the general public. No one
felt comfortable with the state of relations after Mar del
Plata. The changing of the Bolivia equation has made both
sides more amenable to dialogue and cooperation. We should
not be under any illusions that Kirchner is going to reject
Chavez and sign the FTAA; but in a time of indigenous
ferment, Brazilian uneasiness about Haiti, growing Hemisphere
commercial interests vis-a-vis Europe, and the IMF debt no
longer an issue, it makes sense to deepen the dialogue and
look for common approaches. On Bolivia, we do not believe
Kirchner has a close relationship with Evo Morales, and
whatever personal ties that may exist could be undone over
Morales’ likely demand for higher gas prices and an increase
in the flow of illicit drugs from Bolivia. Finally,
Kirchner’s meeting with A/S Shannon sends a powerful internal
message to the GOA; that Argentina needs and wants a closer
relationship with the United States. This strong signal will
help us on our core interests.

13. (U) Reftels available at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/buenosaires.< /a>

GUTIERREZ