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|Tags:||PGOV PREL ETRD PE|
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LIMA 001259 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/11/2015 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, ETRD, PE SUBJECT: PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS FLORES-ARAOZ TELLS AMBASSADOR HIS HAT IS IN THE RING Classified By: Ambassador Curt Struble for Reason 1.4 (B, D) 1. (C) SUMMARY. At a meeting with the Ambassador on 3/11, Congress President Antero Flores-Araoz said he would be a candidate for President in 2006. Flores described the ideal electoral coalition as one including: the APRA Party; a repentant leftist gravitating toward moderation, like Lambayeque Regional President Yehude Simon; and elements of the center. Flores said he had not discussed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) ratification strategy with President Toledo, and said FTA approval could get tricky as it got closer to the Presidential election. He said he thought APRA Party leaders had a core commitment to investment-friendly policies. Flores thought that ProPeru, President Toledo's plan to give a $30 monthly subsidy to Peru's poorest citizens, was not viable, but he acknowledged it might be difficult for members of Congress to vote against a program with so much populist appeal. END SUMMARY. --------------------------- THE NEW LEGISLATIVE SESSION --------------------------- 2. (C) At a breakfast meeting at the Residence, the Ambassador inquired first about the status of major legislative initiatives (ratifying the Law of the Sea treaty, constitutional reforms, reinstating the Senate) and prospects for passage in the current session. Flores-Araoz said that on the Law of the Sea, there was no progress to note, and the approach favored by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gustavo Pacheco of submitting the treaty to a referendum makes passage in the Congress untenable. Flores said he had told the executive branch to do a public affairs campaign on this issue, as was done prior to the recent reforms in the pension law (Decree Law 20530). The public needed to better understand the costs and benefits associated with the Law of the Sea. 3. (C) On a constitutional amendment to reinstitute the Peruvian Senate (disbanded during the Fujimori regime), Flores said he hoped to call for a vote by July. He said that at a minimum some mechanism was needed so that two separate votes are taken before a law is passed; in theory, this requirement exists now in the unicameral Congress, but as President of Congress, he can waive it any time he wants. Recreating the Senate would help bring about transparency, and avoid 12th-hour, dark-of-the-night abuses that have occurred in the past. ------------------------ THE FREE TRADE AGREEMENT ------------------------ 4. (C) The Ambassador laid out his view of likely progress on the FTA, with negotiations ending in June, meaning that consideration in the Peruvian Congress would take place no earlier than November. He asked if Flores had discussed ratification strategy with President Toledo. Flores said he had not. He had hoped the matter might be brought before the Congress by July. Flores commented that FTA approval would become tricky the closer one got to the Presidential election (March/April 2006), but was non-committal on a specific timetable for consideration. 5. (C) The Ambassador asked Flores if he thought APRA party leaders were sincere when they voiced commitment to investment-friendly policies, given the party's anti-capitalist traditions. Flores said they may not have been sincere at first, but they were now -- it was like someone who experimented with make-up, and ended up liking the look of it. APRA's leaders on the whole were good people. Ambassador noted that the heartland of APRA's constituency, the northern and central coast, had benefited immensely from export opportunities stemming from trade liberalization. Flores agreed, and said that was why there was a core of sincerity in their commitment to free trade. --------------------- PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS --------------------- 6. (C) The Ambassador asked Flores' opinion on the need for electoral coalitions and how these would evolve. Flores said he did not agree with those (NOTE: referring to the leader of his Unidad Nacional group, Lourdes Flores Nano, but not specifically naming her; END NOTE) who dismissed forming coalitions with unlike partners -- he felt that any successful coalition would have to have a broad political base. 7. (C) Flores said he would anticipate the Ambassador's next question, i.e., would he run for President? The answer was yes. He was 63 years old and felt now was the time to make a run if he ever intended to. He could not envision returning to the Congress and running for President in another five years; it would be too much to ask of his wife. If he failed in this attempt, he would be content to go back to his law firm. 8. (C) Asked what a perfect electoral coalition would look like, Flores said APRA must be a part of it, because they had a solid base of 25 to 30 percent of the electorate, and the closest thing to a political machine in Peru. A repentant leftist like Lambayeque Regional President Yehude Simon would be a plus, as well as elements more toward the center, like the PPC (Popular Christian Party) or AP (Accion Popular). Flores noted, however, that an approximation with AP did not mean acceptance of party leader Victor Andres Garcia Belaunde, who was a clown, and not close to the measure of his uncle, former President Fernando Belaunde Terry. (NOTE: Ambassador has heard similar comments about Garcia Belaunde from Yehude Simon, who considers him untrustworthy. END NOTE.) Flores thought that a primary election within Unidad Nacional was a possibility, but that was putting the cart before the horse, and inter-party alliances should be negotiated first. ----------------- BURDENS OF OFFICE ----------------- 9. (C) Flores lamented the burdens of the Congressional Presidency, claiming that he had to do three jobs instead of one. There was such disunity and lack of discipline in the parties that he had to do the political work of the President and the Prime Minister to get their members of the Congress in line. An example was the insistence by members of Toledo's Peru Posible that in response to ongoing anti-mining demonstrations in Huaraz, a Congressional report on the Barrick Mining Company's operation should be released to the public. Flores said the report was two years old, out-of-date, and would only serve to inflame the situation. Flores was not completely negative about Toledo's performance, however. He said Toledo had done a good job, not interfering as things flowed in the right direction. Flores-Araoz also praised the quality of Toledo's cabinet. ------- PROPERU ------- 10. (C) The Ambassador asked how Flores thought the Congress would deal with ProPeru, the President's plan to give a $30 monthly subsidy to Peru's poorest citizen. Flores said the proposal was not viable, and he considered it an appeal to populism, looking toward the upcoming election. If the program were to be implemented, he said, it should be run by Caritas (the Catholic relief services confederation) and not by the government. The Ambassador observed that it might prove difficult for members of Congress to vote against an initiative with so much innate popular appeal. Flores acknowledged this was the case, which was why he had not publicly opposed it, but rather stated conditions it would have to meet to work. ------- COMMENT ------- 11. (C) Flores-Araoz's presidential candidacy is a long-shot, but not out of the question. The same is true of the proposed constitutional amendment to recreate the Senate, as provincial legislators largely view it as likely to increase Lima's political domination (the senators would be elected on single national lists), while polls indicate the public rejects adding 40-50 senators and their staffs to the government payroll. We agree with Flores that APRA is serious about its commitment to investment promotion in theory, but note that the Apristas from Garcia on down often do not understand what this means in practice. Flores-Araoz has been an effective President of Congress, insuring that the opposition-controlled legislature generally has a constructive relationship with the Executive. STRUBLE
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