US embassy cable - 05LIMA1259 (original version)

PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS FLORES-ARAOZ TELLS AMBASSADOR HIS HAT IS IN THE RING (original version)

Identifier: 05LIMA1259
Wikileaks: View 05LIMA1259 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Lima
Created: 2005-03-15 17:33:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PREL ETRD PE
Redacted: This cable was redacted by Wikileaks. [Show redacted version] [Compare redacted and unredacted version]
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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