Cablegate: Ambassador's Meeting with Fm Bielsa

Published: Mon 1 Nov 2004 05:05 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2014
REF: A. STATE 223883
C. STATE 232102
Classified By: Ambassador Lino Gutierrez, Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)
1. (C) Summary: Ambassador Gutierrez met October 29 with
Foreign Minister Bielsa to deliver a letter from Secretary
Powell congratulating Argentina on its selection to the UN
Security Council and to review other bilateral and regional
issues. The Ambassador expressed his satisfaction with the
strong state of bilateral ties and reiterated our continued
support for strengthening democracy and strong economic
growth in Argentina. The Ambassador also expressed
appreciation for Argentina's leadership role in Haiti and in
support of constitutional democracy in Bolivia. FM Bielsa
said Argentina was committed to Haiti for the long haul and
is considering sending additional troops. He said Haiti
would be a priority for Argentina when it assumes its seat on
the UNSC. On Venezuela, Bielsa believed the situation had
improved since the referendum, but noted he was still
concerned with Chavez's rhetoric and was closely monitoring
proposals to restrict the freedom of NGO's. On Cuba, Bielsa
said relations with the Castro regime had become distinctly
cooler recently as a result of the government's refusal to
grant a travel permit to Dr. Molina to visit her family in
Argentina. He said that if Senator (First Lady) Cristina
Kirchner did visit Cuba next year, she planned to meet with
the wives of the jailed dissidents (Panuelos Blancos).
However, he doubted the visit would happen since he expected
the Castro government would not permit the meeting with the
dissidents. The FM expressed his hope that a meeting with
Secretary Powell would prove possible in December. End
2. (C) Ambassador Gutierrez met October 29 with Foreign
Minister Raphael Bielsa to convey the letter from the
Secretary Powell congratulating Argentina on its selection to
the United Nations Security Council (reftel A). The
Ambassador, who was accompanied by the DCM and POLCOUNS, also
took the opportunity to review a wide range of bilateral and
regional issues of mutual concern. The MFA Director for
North American Affairs, Ambassador Vicente Espeche Gil also
sat in on the meeting. On delivering the letter, the
Ambassador stated we looked forward to working closely
Argentina on the Security Council and that we would be
contacting them soon, both here and with their Mission in New
York, to arrange for working level consultations on the range
of key issues facing the Council, especially security issues
such as counterterrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
3. (C) FM Bielsa assured the Ambassador of his willingness
to cooperate closely with us on Security Council matters.
Bielsa then said ""speaking of the Security Council,"" that for
Argentina, the situation in Haiti would be one of their top
priorities when they assumed their seat in January. Bielsa
(who recently returned from a visit to Haiti) said Argentina
was fully committed to Haiti for the ""long haul"" and that
this commitment included sending additional Argentine troops
to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti. Bielsa said
MINUSTAH was ""only the beginning"" of what needed to be a
concerted effort by the international community to develop a
comprehensive strategic plan to assist in Haiti's
reconstruction. He said there was an urgent need for ""clear
politics, sound management, money and more people"" if the
international effort in Haiti were to succeed. He said the
GOA was preparing papers on its thinking on Haiti and would
forward them to us.
4. (C) Reflecting on his recent visit to Haiti, Bielsa said
the situation was very worrying and very complex. He
stressed the need to take preventative measures against
violence which he believed originated from many sectors, both
political and criminal. The situation was exacerbated he
said by the total breakdown of capacity within the country.
What little infrastructure that remained was rendered useless
by the lack of maintenance. He described the actions of
Argentine troops in Haiti as ""heroic"" noting that medical
staff had treated over 3,000 patients since their arrival.
Bielsa said the deployment of Argentine troops to Haiti had
been unpopular domestically and that the government had been
accused of being the ""Marines of the U.S."" but that it was
important for Argentina to act responsibly and in concert
with its neighbors on hemispheric issues. The Ambassador
reiterated the thanks both President Bush and Secretary
Powell had expressed to the GOA for their assistance in Haiti
and stressed that this was an important example of what we
can accomplish together regionally.
5. (C) The Ambassador said our bilateral relations with
Argentina in general, and on specific issues in particular,
were strong. He assured Bielsa of continued USG support for
the strengthening of democracy and for strong economic growth
in Argentina noting we were watching closely the ongoing debt
restructuring efforts. The Ambassador referred to the recent
meeting between Assistant Secretary Noreiga and Deputy
Foreign Minister Taiana in Washington as an example of how we
were working to increase cooperation between our countries on
both bilateral and multilateral issues. The Ambassador also
welcomed the upcoming visit to Washington by MFA Under
Secretary for Foreign Policy Roberto Garcia Moritan for the
November 22 pol-mil talks as another example of our
increasing cooperation. The Ambassador said that the request
for a meeting between Bielsa and Secretary Powell had been
submitted but that the schedules for both were already very
complicated during the proposed December timeframe.
(Comment: Bielsa quickly indicated his availability during
the first week of December again demonstrating his keen
desire for a meeting.) When asked about the possible
ramifications of next week's presidential elections, the
Ambassador underscored the constancy of U.S. strategic
interests in the region.
6. (C) Turning to other regional issues, the Ambassador
thanked Bielsa for his efforts in supporting the
constitutional government in Bolivia. The Ambassador
underscored our concerns about human rights and the future of
democracy in Venezuela, noting the DCM had recently met with
the MFA Under Secretary for Latin American Affairs Dario
Alessandro to raise the potential arrest warrants for SUMATE
leaders and the proposed restrictions on foreign funding for
NGO's supporting human rights (reftel B). Bielsa responded
that he believed the situation in Venezuela was better than
it was before the referendum but that the GOA was closely
monitoring the NGO situation. He said that he had sent
instructions to Argentina's mission in Caracas to maintain
its dialogue with all segments of Venezuelan society and that
the GOA would continue to work quietly but firmly behind the
scenes in support of democracy. The Ambassador emphasized
that President Kirchner occupies a special position with
Chavez and is in a position to exert a very positive
7. (C) On Cuba, Bielsa said relations with the Castro regime
had gone into a deep freeze in recent months adding that
Castro's refusal to grant a travel permit to Cuban scientist
Hilda Molina and her mother to visit her son and his family
in Argentina had become a major stumbling block. He said the
GOA was doing all it could to secure travel permits for
Molina and her mother and had difficulty understanding why
Castro was so opposed. He added the Molina problem had
become a ""bottom line, non-negotiable"" issue for the GOA and,
barring a resolution, made a proposed visit by First Lady
(and Senator) Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to Cuba
unlikely. Bielsa said, however, that if the First Lady did
travel to Cuba, it would be contingent on her being allowed
to visit with dissident spouses (the so-called ""ladies in
white"") which he did not think likely. (Comment: Bielsa did
not even mention the possibility of a visit by President
8. (C) Turning to security issues, Bielsa asked the
Ambassador how the GOA was doing in cooperating with the U.S.
on border security in the Tri-border region. The Ambassador
said we had received excellent cooperation from all branches
of the Argentinean security services. Bielsa commented that
there were different views of the problems in the Tri-border
region reflecting the different optics of those concerned,
e.g. the tourism, commercial and security sectors. However,
Bielsa stressed that the GOA was ""very attentive"" to our
security concerns in the Tri-border area.
9. (C) On other security issues, the Ambassador informed
Bielsa of the invitation to observe multilateral maritime
exercises in support of the President's Proliferation
Security Initiative in Key West, Florida in November (reftel
C). He thanked Bielsa for his previous support of the PSI.
Bielsa thanked the Ambassador for the invitation to send
observers calling it ""fantastic.""
10. (C) Comment: Bielsa was positive and forthcoming on all
the issues we raised with him. Of particular import was his
unequivocal statement that Argentina would be in Haiti for
the long haul and is considering sending additional troops.
Also of considerable interest were Bielsa's comments on the
cooling relationship with Cuba. His commitment that a
potential visit by the First Lady to Cuba was contingent on
Cuba's allowing her to meet with dissidents was especially
welcome and represented new policy ground for the GOA.
11. (C) The conversation with Bielsa demonstrated clearly
that the GOA is prepared to move forward in a substantive
manner on increased cooperation with the U.S. as set forth in
the proposed action agenda discussed recently in the meeting
between Assistant Secretary Noreiga and Deputy Secretary
Taiana. Bielsa's eagerness to meet with the Secretary also
is a strong indication of his desire to move our bilateral
cooperation to a new level. End Comment.
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