Keep Us Strong WikiLeaks logo

Currently released so far... 2497 / 251,287

Articles

Browse latest releases

Browse by creation date

Browse by origin

A B C D F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z

Browse by tag

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
QA
YE YM YI

Browse by classification

Community resources

courage is contagious

Viewing cable 06BUENOSAIRES1462, ARGENTINA: THE K-STYLE OF POLITICS

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Understanding cables
Every cable message consists of three parts:
  • The top box shows each cables unique reference number, when and by whom it originally was sent, and what its initial classification was.
  • The middle box contains the header information that is associated with the cable. It includes information about the receiver(s) as well as a general subject.
  • The bottom box presents the body of the cable. The opening can contain a more specific subject, references to other cables (browse by origin to find them) or additional comment. This is followed by the main contents of the cable: a summary, a collection of specific topics and a comment section.
To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.

Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #06BUENOSAIRES1462.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06BUENOSAIRES1462 2006-06-29 15:03 2010-11-30 16:04 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Buenos Aires
VZCZCXRO4935
PP RUEHCD RUEHGA RUEHGD RUEHHA RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHQU RUEHTM RUEHVC
DE RUEHBU #1462/01 1801546
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 291546Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5073
INFO RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHNA/DEA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNMRC/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 BUENOS AIRES 001462

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA TOM SHANNON, JOHN MAISTO, AND CHARLES SHAPIRO
NSC FOR DAN FISK
TREASURY FOR DAS NANCY LEE
USCINCSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/28/2016
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: THE K-STYLE OF POLITICS

REF: A. BUENOS AIRES 01090
B. BUENOS AIRES 01403
C. BUENOS AIRES 02974
D. 05 BUENOS AIRES 00141
E. 05 BUENOS AIRES 02835
F. 05 BUENOS AIRES 00115

Classified By: Ambassador Lino Gutierrez for Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).

------------------------
SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION
------------------------

1. (C) This cable is designed to examine President Nestor
Kirchner's unique operating and decision-making style that
has become known as the "K-Style." Given Kirchner's control
over all aspects of GOA policymaking, knowledge of Kirchner's
motivations and methods in arriving at decisions is essential
to understanding GOA actions.

2. (C) President Nestor Kirchner's personalistic, often
erratic operating and decision-making style defines current
Argentine policymaking and is characterized by an overarching
focus on the short-term and politically expedient
accumulation and maintenance of domestic political power.
Kirchner's domestic political style leaves no room for
dissent and utilizes divide-and-conquer tactics to weaken the
political opposition. While utilizing leftist, populist
rhetoric at times, in practice Kirchner has demonstrated that
his ideological leanings are always less important than the
practicalities of domestic politics. Studies show that
Kirchner's psychological profile includes a need to always be
in control, quick and decisive decision making, a constant
struggle against perceived enemies, and a tendency to respond
to challenges by lashing out, rather than negotiation.
Foreign policy in the Kirchner government is always
subservient to domestic political considerations. President
Kirchner is not skilled at international diplomacy and often
ignores basic protocol. Kirchner relies on an ever-shrinking
group of long-time advisors to make key decisions, many of
whom lack international, business and economic expertise.
END SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION.

--------------------------------
THE K-STYLE IN DOMESTIC POLITICS
--------------------------------

3. (C) President Nestor Kirchner's personalistic, often
erratic operating and decision-making style defines current
Argentine policymaking and is characterized by an overarching
focus on the short-term and politically expedient
accumulation and maintenance of domestic political power.
Close Kirchner insiders have described Kirchner's
decision-making process to Emboffs as one in which Kirchner
consults with a small number of trusted advisors, generally
one-on-one, and then makes all of the final decisions
himself. The Argentine political system places a great deal
of authority into the hands of the President, and President
Kirchner is a strong president even in the Argentine
historical context. As a result, the "K-Style" defines the
GOA policymaking process and gives the policy process a
short-term focus. As Legal and Technical Secretary Carlos
Zannini, a close Kirchner advisor, told the DCM, "The
President and I get up every morning, look at the morning
papers, and try to figure out how to survive the day."
Another long-time Kirchner associate, former Santa Cruz
Governor Sergio Acevedo told us that Kirchner focuses very
much on day-to-day issues, but always with the long-term
strategic goal of retaining political power. (COMMENT:
Kirchner's focus on retaining political power leads us to
discount speculation that Kirchner will step aside in 2007
and make his wife Cristina the presidential candidate. For
2011, assuming Kirchner's health holds, we would expect him
to either modify the Constitution to allow him to run for a
third term, or to pass the mantel on to his wife. END
COMMENT.)

4. (C) Kirchner's domestic political style leaves no room
for dissent and utilizes divide-and-conquer tactics to weaken

BUENOS AIR 00001462 002 OF 005


the political opposition. Kirchner is quick to silence any
opposition to his policies from within his movement, as when
he recently expelled congresswoman Maria del Carmen Alarcon
from the presidency of the Lower House Agricultural Committee
and from Kirchner's Victory Front (FPV) after Alarcon
criticized the GOA beef policy (See Reftel A). Kirchner has
also proven adept at co-opting members of the opposition and
exploiting divisions within opposition parties. Through the
skillful use of his fiscal powers, Kirchner has been able to
draw in the majority of the Radical Civic Union (UCR)
governors, and many UCR mayors (See Septel on deteriorating
provincial finances and Kirchner's use of fiscal power for
political aims). He has also been able to co-opt the
political leadership from the now defunct center-left Frepaso
and most of the Peronists formerly aligned in opposition to
Kirchner with former President Eduardo Duhalde. Kirchner has
exploited divisions within the UCR by heavily courting
Mendoza Governor Julio Cobos, long-time rival of UCR
President Roberto Iglesias, even encouraging rumors that
Cobos may be Kirchner's running mate in 2007. Kirchner also
does not accept criticism from those outside of the political
arena, attacking the press, the Catholic Church and business
leaders that have been publicly critical of the GOA.

5. (C) While utilizing leftist, populist rhetoric at times,
in practice Kirchner has demonstrated that his ideological
leanings are always less important than the practicalities of
domestic politics. As Acevedo recently told us, President
Kirchner has no true ideology. For example, the issue of
human rights and his political affiliations in the 1970s were
non-issues in the 20 years of Kirchner's political life as
Mayor of Rio Gallegos and Governor of Santa Cruz province.
Acevedo said Kirchner's recent support for the Mothers of the
Plaza de Mayo and a renewed focus on human rights crimes
committed under the last dictatorship was driven by his need
to develop a core base of support within the left wing of the
Peronist movement. Kirchner was also a big proponent of the
1990s privatizations at the time they occurred, but has since
vehemently attacked them. This does not mean that Kirchner
does not have left-wing sympathies, but rather that these are
completely subordinate to his personal political interests
and ambition (See Reftel B). Kirchner's left-wing sympathies
have not stopped him from forming alliances of convenience
with center-right Peronist leaders, such as Luis Barrionuevo
of Catamarca, Cordoba Governor Jose Manuel de la Sota, or the
largely conservative Peronist political machine in Buenos
Aires province.

6. (C) Kirchner's style of policymaking has become more
pronounced after the October 2005 elections and November 2005
cabinet changes left Kirchner firmly in charge of all aspects
of GOA decision making (See Reftel C). Prior to the October
elections, Kirchner had to consider former President
Duhalde's opinion in making major decisions. Kirchner's
resounding victory in Buenos Aires province in the elections
left him in control of the Peronist Party (PJ) and banished
Duhalde from the center stage of the political scene. Before
Kirchner's November cabinet changes, Kirchner also had to
contend with his independent-minded Minister of the Economy,
Roberto Lavagna, in making economic policy decisions, and
with then-Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa, who occasionally
exhibited an independent streak. Their replacements, Felisa
Miceli and Jorge Taiana are loyal soldiers who follow
presidential orders. For example, recently Miceli was give a
copy of a communique that had been issued to a news agency by
the Casa Rosada with Miceli's comments criticizing a recent
speech by Lavagna before Miceli had actually spoken. As
leading pollster Roberto Bacman told Poloff, "Never since the
return to democracy (1983) has Argentina had a President that
was also the Minister of the Economy."

---------------------------------------------
KIRCHNER'S PSYCHOLOGICAL PROFILE SETS K-STYLE
---------------------------------------------

7. (C) According to recent studies, Kirchner's psychological
profile includes a need to always be in control, quick and
decisive decision making, and a constant struggle against
perceived enemies. Kirchner does not delegate policymaking,

BUENOS AIR 00001462 003 OF 005


making all of the important decisions himself. Kirchner only
consults with a narrow group of long-time advisors, who are
part of Kirchner's inner circle primarily because of their
loyalty, not their technical abilities (See Reftel D). He
often does not even consult or give warning to top GOA
officials before making major policy statements in their
respective areas of responsibility. According to Central
Bank officials, for example, Central Bank President Martin
Redrado found out that the GOA was going to use nearly 10 USD
billion in Central Bank reserves to pay off the IMF when
Kirchner publicly announced it. Casa Rosada insiders have
described Kirchner as prone to making quick, sometimes even
rash decisions. For example, Kirchner reportedly made a snap
decision to institute a six-month ban on beef exports after
learning that the price of beef had risen a significant
amount the previous day in the country's most important beef
market. Kirchner has lashed out at has perceived enemies,
both domestic and foreign, throughout his presidency.
Kirchner's targets have included the IMF, the U.S., the
media, the Catholic Church, the Argentine military, the
foreign and domestic business community, supermarkets,
foreign gas stations, anything that happened in the 1990s,
former Presidents Carlos Menem, Fernando de la Rua and
Eduardo Duhalde. Kirchner often targets unpopular groups or
individuals as a means to increase his own public approval
ratings.

8. (C) When confronted with a problem, Kirchner's first
instinct is to go on the offensive, rather than negotiate,
upping the ante if his initial efforts fail to win the
desired result. When Kirchner faced resistance from the
business and agricultural sector on his efforts to control
inflation earlier in the year, Kirchner instituted a ban on
the export of beef and appointed the unorthodox Peronist
economist Guillermo Moreno to run the GOA's anti-inflation
efforts through bullying and threatening individual producers
to lower their prices. When Uruguayan President Tabare
Vazquez did not respond well to Kirchner's insistence that
Uruguay halt the construction of two paper plants on the
Argentine border to conduct additional environmental studies,
Kirchner's rhetoric encouraged the residents of the affected
province to step up their blockade of the bridges connecting
the two countries, resulting in millions of dollars of lost
trade and tourism income for Uruguay. Faced with rising gas
prices in early 2005, Kirchner called for a national boycott
of Shell Oil and sent thousands of piqueteros to blockade
Shell Oil gas stations until they agreed to lower their
prices.

9. (C) Kirchner has a reputation for taking slights or any
perceived lack of respect from others personally, but is also
known for quick changes in temperament. Acevedo told the DCM
that once then-Governor Kirchner became enraged with his
Deputy Energy Minister for making a statement regarding Santa
Cruz energy policy he did not personally approve. Kirchner
called the Deputy Minister into his office and proceeded to
scream at him at the top of his lungs, ultimately effectively
throwing him out of his office physically. Everyone in the
provincial government leadership expected the Deputy Minister
to be fired. Kirchner did not speak to him for two weeks,
until he unexpectedly called him asking for some trout for a
dinner that Kirchner was hosting. Acevedo said this
individual had a reputation for knowing where to get the best
trout in Rio Gallegos. The Deputy Minister complied with the
request, and two days later Kirchner invited him for coffee.
Kirchner greeted him warmly, thanked him for the trout, and
proceeded to chat with him for a long period, as if the
previous incident had never happened, to the shock of
everyone else present, including the Deputy Minister. In the
end, the Deputy Minister was not fired, and Kirchner did not
raise the issue again.

10. (C) Kirchner's health condition exacerbates, and perhaps
helps define, Kirchner's emotions and psychology. President
Kirchner has reportedly suffered from irritable bowel
syndrome for many years. According to the American Medical
Association, the psychological effects of this condition
leads those who suffer from it to be "often rigid, methodical
persons who are conscientious, with obsessive-compulsive

BUENOS AIR 00001462 004 OF 005


tendencies." Kirchner also reportedly works himself to
exhaustion and needs to take frequent vacations to recover.
The AMA further states "Psychologic and social stresses are
often present in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, and
may be related in a temporal sense to the exacerbation of
symptoms." This may account for Kirchner's lack of attention
to protocol that involves long ceremonies or tight schedules,
where Kirchner would not have quick access to a bathroom.

-----------------------------------
FOREIGN POLICY NOT KIRCHNER'S FOCUS
-----------------------------------

11. (C) Foreign policy in the Kirchner government is always
subservient to domestic political considerations. Kirchner,
at least initially, took a hard line on the paper mills
dispute with Uruguay -- despite the damage to Mercosur and
regional relations -- because of the strong Argentine public
concern about the paper mills, particularly in
ruling-party-run Entre Rios province that is on the opposite
side of the river from the plants. Kirchner's explicit and
harsh criticism of the U.S. during his speech during the
Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata can only be
understood in the context of dismal public perceptions of the
U.S. and Kirchner's desire to appeal to his leftist political
base (See Reftel E). Kirchner's hardball tactics during
negotiations over Argentina's private sector debt and his
criticism of foreign companies that run major enterprises
that were privatized in the 1990s do not earn him any support
from foreign investors, but are popular with the Argentine
public. Likewise, Kirchner cut Argentine gas exports to
Chile in 2005 to cover shortages in the internal market
despite the existence of valid contracts between Chile and
local gas suppliers.

12. (C) President Kirchner is not skilled at international
diplomacy and often ignores basic protocol. Kirchner's
gaffes with foreign dignitaries are legendary. In June 2004,
Kirchner left Russian leader Vladimir Putin waiting at the
Moscow airport for a meeting that never happened, reportedly
because Cristina Kirchner wanted to spend more time shopping
at their previous stop in Prague. The GOA claimed that "bad
weather" had delayed their takeoff when weather reports
showed sunny conditions in Prague. Later that year,
President Kirchner failed to attend a state dinner he was
supposed to host for visiting Vietnamese President Tran Duc
Luong. In like fashion, Kirchner failed to attend a
reception in honor of the State visit of Queen Beatriz of
Holland in March of 2006. Kirchner also never receives new
Ambassadors, as state protocol would dictate, relegating this
responsibility to Vice President Daniel Scioli.

13. (C) Kirchner relies on an ever-shrinking group of
long-time advisors to make key decisions, many of whom lack
international, business and economic expertise (See Reftel
D). No one from the Foreign Ministry is part of Kirchner's
inner circle of advisors, and very few of Kirchner's close
associates had overseas experience before Kirchner became
President (See Reftel F). As a result, Kirchner often
receives poor advice on international issues, such as when
Legal and Technical Secretary Carlos Zannini reportedly
convinced Kirchner that taking a tough line publicly on
counter terrorism would, in the eyes of the USG, compensate
for being critical of the U.S. in other areas and opposing
the FTAA at the Summit of the Americas (See Reftel E).

------------------------------------
COMMENT -- IMPLICATIONS FOR THE U.S.
------------------------------------

14. (C) Kirchner's peculiar operating and decision-making
style defines Argentine policymaking, and in the coming year,
may lead to more challenges in the U.S.-Argentine
relationship, as Kirchner focuses on shoring up his
center-left political base for the 2007 elections. Given
poll numbers that show Argentines have the least positive
view of the U.S. out of all nations in the region, the U.S.
will be a convenient target for Kirchner. As during the 2003
presidential campaign, Kirchner will likely portray himself

BUENOS AIR 00001462 005 OF 005


as the lone true defender of Argentina in the world
community. The Casa Rosada has reportedly already begun an
effort to link Roberto Lavagna to the U.S., for example by
encouraging press articles that the U.S. approved and is
sponsoring a potential Lavagna campaign for President.

15. (C) Kirchner has a history of using international
disputes, like the paper mill conflict with Uruguay, to gain
domestic popular support. We have been told by our British
colleagues that relations between the U.K. and Argentina are
at their lowest point in 15 years because Kirchner has chosen
a confrontational attitude with the U.K. on the Falkland
Islands dispute, thereby making political use of an issue
that is at the core of Argentine national identity. As
leading political analyst Rosendo Fraga told Poloff, "This
year, Kirchner will use the U.K. and Uruguay as targets, and
next year, it will be the U.S." Kirchner has been described
to us by his close associates as someone who constantly
focuses on the costs and benefits of his political decisions.
During a recent trip to Spain, Kirchner criticized the
U.S.'s "absence" and lack of significant assistance to the
region. Former Minister Lavagna told the Ambassador that
Kirchner did this in order to counter the image that he had
been too forthcoming with Spanish multinationals during the
trip. As the 2007 presidential campaign approaches, we
cannot rule out occasional anti-U.S. diatribes by Kirchner in
order to placate his leftist supporters.

GUTIERREZ