US embassy cable - 10SANTIAGO15

Bachelet Shares Views on South American Leaders with A/S Valenzuela

Identifier: 10SANTIAGO15
Wikileaks: View 10SANTIAGO15 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Santiago
Created: 2010-01-15 12:57:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV ECON PINR CI CU BL BR AR PREL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO9347
OO RUEHAO RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS
RUEHTM
DE RUEHSG #0015/01 0151257
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O R 151257Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0535
INFO WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SANTIAGO 000015 
 
SIPDIS 
AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN PASS TO AMEMBASSY GRENADA 
AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PASS TO AMCONSUL QUEBEC 
AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PASS TO AMCONSUL RECIFE 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/01/15 
TAGS: PGOV, ECON, PINR, CI, CU, BL, BR, AR, PREL 
SUBJECT: Bachelet Shares Views on South American Leaders with A/S 
Valenzuela 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Paul Simons, Ambassador, Department of State, EXEC; 
REASON: 1.4(B), (D) 
 
1.  (C) Summary:  President Bachelet emphasized the need to 
understand the nuances of Latin America's leaders and their 
countries rather than lumping them into populist and pro-western 
camps.  During a January 12 lunch with A/S Valenzuela, Bachelet was 
relatively upbeat on Bolivia, reserving particular praise for 
Foreign Minister Choquehuanca and highlighting the many politically 
moderate Bolivians.  She frankly described the challenges facing 
Argentina, from its weak institutions and lack of robust democracy 
to its unsteady president.  Bachelet holds Lula in high esteem and 
feels that Brazil's leading presidential candidates are less 
impressive than their current leader.  End Summary. 
 
 
 
2.  (U) President Bachelet hosted a small lunch for A/S Valenzuela 
at the La Moneda presidential palace on January 12.  Foreign 
Minister Mariano Fernandez, Under Secretary Angel Flisfisch, 
Foreign Affairs Director General Roberto Ibarra, Chilean Ambassador 
to the U.S. Jose Goni, and presidential advisors Francisco Diaz and 
Marcos Robledo accompanied President Bachelet, while A/S Valenzuela 
was joined by the Ambassador, DCM, and Poloff (notetaker). 
 
 
 
Bolivia:  More Moderate than Many Realize 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
 
 
 
3.  (C) Consolidating the worldwide sense of hope inspired by 
President Obama will be the U.S.'s big challenge going forward, 
President Bachelet told A/S Valenzuela.  Some leaders, including 
Bolivia's Evo Morales get caught in a trap of opposing individual 
U.S. officials and agencies.   Similarly, there are many moderates 
in Bolivia, she said, implying that some in the U.S. don't realize 
this.  Bachelet cautioned against lumping all of Latin America's 
populist-leaning leaders together, emphasizing that Morales was 
very different from Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and that Morales had 
been fairly elected.  Foreign Minister Fernandez and Deputy Foreign 
Minister Flisfisch added that Morales' MAS party was likely to do 
well in April's local elections, further consolidating Morales' 
power. 
 
 
 
4.  (C) Bachelet had high praise for Bolivian Foreign Minister 
David Choquehuanca, who she said is more sophisticated than some 
other Bolivian leaders, and is "serene and capable."  Cultural 
differences are important in understanding Bolivia and its leaders, 
Bachelet emphasized, saying that while she had discussed economic 
growth with Choquehuanca, he has a different mindset and is more 
focused on quality of life than economic development for its own 
sake. 
 
 
 
Argentina:  A Challenged Country with an Unsteady President 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---------------------- 
--------------------- 
 
 
 
5.  (C) Bachelet was frank about her view of Argentina, saying that 
Chile's neighbor has problems with credibility as a country -- its 
democracy is not robust, and its institutions are not strong. 
Flisfisch added that Argentina's unusual federal system and 
Peronist ideology--which can lead to political paranoia--are 
additional obstacles to political and economic stability. 
Argentines tend to live from crisis to crisis, the President added, 
rather than pursuing stable, long-term policies. 
 
 
 
6.  (C) President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is emblematic of 
Argentina's problems, the Chileans agreed.  Kirchner is not 
anti-U.S. by nature, Bachelet asserted, but is convinced that the 
2007 "maletinazo" incident was a plot against her and will not 
listen to contradictory evidence.  (Note:  "Maletinazo" refers to 
an incident in which Venezuelan officials found nearly US $800,000 
in cash the suitcase of a U.S. citizen at a Buenos Aires airport. 
 
SANTIAGO 00000015  002 OF 002 
 
 
A U.S. assistant attorney alleged that the money was illegal 
contributions for Kirchner's campaign.  End Note.)    In general, 
Kirchner is prone to believing rumors and scurrilous press articles 
and has a tendency to make unfortunate public comments, Bachelet 
noted, recalling Kirchner's negative comments after A/S 
Valenzuela's recent trip to that country. 
 
 
 
7.  (C) President Bachelet highlighted that Chile had achieved a 
very positive relationship with Argentina despite the challenging 
political situation there and Kirchner's shortcomings.  Chile and 
Argentina have a number of bilateral agreements in place and during 
Kirchner's October visit to Santiago the two presidents shared the 
now-famous "Maipu hug" after recalling the historic friendship and 
heroism of both countries. 
 
 
 
Brazil:  Presidential Candidates Can't Hold a Candle to Lula 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---------------------- 
--------- 
 
 
 
8.  (C) Describing Lula as a "political fox," President Bachelet 
asserted that Brazil does not play a major role in most regional 
issues, despite press reports that consistently portray the country 
as an important regional mediator.  Bachelet views Brazil as more 
interested in playing on the world stage on issues including 
climate change and nuclear non-proliferation.  On the other hand, 
Brazil has consistently been a good ally to Chile, she asserted, 
describing President Lula as intelligent and charming.  Bachelet 
also offered her opinion of the leading Brazilian presidential 
candidates, neither of whom she believes share Lula's outstanding 
qualities.  She described opposition candidate Jose Serra as 
arrogant and Lula's favorite, cabinet chief Dilma Roussef, as 
distant and formal. 
 
 
 
Chile's Presidential Election:  Worries about a Pinera Presidency 
and Press Bias 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---------------------- 
------------------------------------ 
 
 
 
9.  (C) Turning to Chile's fast-approaching presidential election, 
Bachelet proffered the widely-held belief that there is general 
agreement about policy among the leading candidates, and so the 
candidates' behavior and personalities are more important than 
policy differences.  Nonetheless, she said that she was worried 
about a potential Pinera presidency, particularly because it would 
create a tremendous concentration of power (Note:  Pinera is a 
wealthy businessman and a number of his key advisors will likely 
come from the business community.  End Note.) 
 
 
 
10.  (C) Bachelet expressed frustration over the Chilean press' 
sensationalism and anti-Concertacion bias.  Every time the Frei 
campaign raises questions about conflict of interest questions 
surrounding Pinera's very large stock portfolio, the effort is 
painted as a "dirty war" by the largely right-leaning press, which 
tends to ignore the right's missteps. 
 
 
 
11.  (U) The Assistant Secretary cleared this cable. 
SIMONS 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04