Cablegate: Argentina: President Celebrates Energy Investment In

Published: Wed 6 Aug 2008 01:27 PM
DE RUEHBU #1088/01 2191327
R 061327Z AUG 08
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Argentina: President Celebrates Energy Investment in
Salta Province during Ambassador's Visit
Ref: (A) Buenos Aires 1058
(B) Buenos Aires 1053
1. (SBU) Ambassador attended the inauguration of a GE-manufactured
electricity-generating turbine, where President Fernandez de
Kirchner gave the keynote address, during a July 28-29 trip to the
distant northwestern province of Salta. The President's message
emphasized the positive impact of the GoA's "Energy Plus" policy,
designed to increase domestic energy production by promoting new
investment in the sector. Ambassador also met with provincial
governor Juan Manuel Urtubey (Ref A), as well as representatives of
the local baseball league. He visited Wal-Mart's new local store,
attended a food distribution at a local preschool Wal-Mart sponsors,
and toured the headquarters of an anti-narcotics task force
supported by the DEA. The visit received extensive and positive
local press coverage. End Summary.
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President Credits New Turbine to "Energy Plus"
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2. (SBU) Ambassador traveled to the northwestern province of Salta
July 28-29, principally to attend the inauguration of a
newly-installed, GE-manufactured turbine at a thermoelectric power
generation plant near the capital city. The $35 million turbine is
expected to generate 102 MW, increasing production at the plant by
40%. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK) gave the
keynote address, and Planning Minister Julio De Vido and Interior
Minister Florencio Randazzo attended, as did Governor Urtubey and
Walter Barrionuevo, Governor of neighboring Jujuy.
3. (U) CFK called the new turbine "the spearhead for growth and
development" in the region, stressing that "this is not an isolated
accomplishment, but one that takes place in the framework of state
policy" designed to encourage such investment, a reference to the
GoA's "Energy Plus" policy, which allows incremental new generating
capacity to charge private industrial users higher rates that closer
to international market norms. According to a press release from
Argentine-owned Pampa Energy, the company which installed the
turbine, this was the first private-sector investment in Argentina
under "Energy Plus." CFK also noted the fact that the power plant
was 30% owned by the GoA and 10% owned by plant employees, arguing
that growth is "not just for investors, but also for workers."
4. (SBU) The speech was very upbeat - CFK even joked about whether a
gift of silver candelabra from Pampa Energy was a subtle reference
to "energy problems" in Argentina. Several business and finance
figures present, who have been very critical of CFK in past
conversations with Emboffs, made positive comments about the speech
- both its content and its style - to the Ambassador.
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Baseball, Wal-Mart, Anti-Narcotics Task Force and Press
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5. (U) Ambassador also met with several representatives of Salta's
thriving baseball league, which has several levels from children up
to adults. The baseball reps emphasized that, unlike other in Latin
America countries where baseball was introduced by expat Americans,
the league in Salta was homegrown, founded by locals inspired by
Babe Ruth. They cited difficulties in maintaining good sports
facilities, with three fields currently under threat of removal for
public works or because of a private sale. Obtaining quality
equipment is also a challenge: they cited a shipment of equipment
that was blocked by Argentine customs authorities for unknown
reasons, and noted that the local Wal-Mart store didn't carry
baseball equipment. Ambassador offered to help try to solve
problems with Customs if the issue arose again, and promised to take
their request to Wal-Mart or other U.S. importers. The officials
invited Ambassador, and other Embassy employees, to return to Salta
in November for a planned Pan-American baseball tournament, and
requested assistance in finding baseball coaches who would offer
clinics in Salta.
6. (U) Wal-Mart has been operating in Salta since March of this
year, under the local name of "Chango Mas" (roughly, "more in your
shopping cart"). The store is about 20% smaller than the Wal-Marts
found elsewhere in Argentina, and employs 161 staff. Ambassador
suggested that Wal-Mart stock baseball equipment, and local
management welcomed the idea. After a brief store tour, many of the
employees, carrying boxes of food and supplies, accompanied
Ambassador to a preschool supported by the company. This school
cares for over 200 children up to 5 years old, and though a public
institution supported by the Salta government, its operation is
largely dependent on the aid it receives from Wal-Mart.
7. (SBU) Ambassador also paid a brief visit to the Northern Border
Task Force, a combined national Gendarmeria and Salta Police unit
which receives substantial support from the DEA Country Office.
Ambassador complimented the unit on their recent activities,
including the 360 kilos of cocaine seized and the 38
smuggling-related arrests made in 2008. The visit was the day after
the Gendarmeria's 70th anniversary celebration, and the task force
had several representatives at a well-attended commemorative public
display in the Salta government's downtown cultural center.
8. (U) The Ambassador delivered a strong message of public-private
cooperation during his visit. Three television channels and two
radio stations covering most of the local audience aired interviews
with him, and the province's two main newspapers ran stories
featuring his visit the next day. The national press, meanwhile,
also mentioned that he attended the turbine inauguration ceremony
presided over by the President and that he praised the work of
General Electric and its cooperation with local partners.
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