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 09SANTIAGO524, CHILE'S SURPRISE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: HERE TO

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. #09SANTIAGO524.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09SANTIAGO524 2009-06-05 13:01 2010-12-29 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Santiago
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSG #0524/01 1561344
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051344Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5020
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION PRIORITY 4002
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 0935
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 1521
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ JUN 6185
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 6214
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO PRIORITY 4430
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 2407
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SANTIAGO 000524

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/BSC, INR--STEIN, INR/B
DEFENSE FOR OSD--LENIHAN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/04/2019
TAGS: PGOV SOCI ECON SNAR CI BO
SUBJECT: CHILE'S SURPRISE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: HERE TO
STAY OR A FLASH IN THE PAN?

REF: A. SANTIAGO 484
B. SANTIAGO 332

Classified By: Political Officer Jennifer Spande for reason 1.4 (b).

1. (C) Summary: Marco Enriquez-Ominami, a 35-year old
Socialist parliamentarian and former filmmaker, has burst
onto Chile's presidential scene in recent weeks. Known as
one of the "unruly" parliamentarians from the ruling
Concertacion coalition, Enriquez-Ominami is running against
his party (and the Concertacion's) official candidate:
former president Eduardo Frei. For a populace eager for
change from boring Chilean politics, Enriquez-Ominami offers
a fresh, young, charismatic face. However, his policy
positions -- which few of his supporters seem to know about
-- are wildly unpopular stances on controversial topics.
While a poll released June 3 shows him neck and neck with
Eduardo Frei (with Pinera leading them both), analysts are
reserving judgement until the more reliable Centro de
Estudios Publicos poll is released in mid-June. More style
than substance, Enriquez-Ominami is unlikely to emerge as a
serious presidential contender, but effectively captures the
zeitgeist of Chilean frustration with politics as usual. End
Summary.

A Dashing Young Rulebreaker with a Compelling Story
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. (U) A young and attractive filmmaker turned upstart
politician, Enriquez-Ominami symbolizes the break with
Chile's staid politics that many Chileans crave. Just 35
years old, Enriquez-Ominami is the son of iconic leftist
leader Miguel Enriquez, a founder of the violent Movimiento
Izquierdista Revolucionario (MIR). Miguel Enriquez was
dramatically killed in 1974 when he refused to surrender to
Chilean intelligence (DINA) agents, who were backed by
hundreds of heavily armed soldiers, tanks, and helicopters.
Marco's mother, journalist Manuela Gumucio, remarried. Her
new husband, Carlos Ominami, a Socialist leader, adopted
Marco at a young age.

3. (SBU) Enriquez-Ominami worked first as a filmmaker,
directing both television programs (particularly reality
shows) and movies. His wife, Karen Doggenweiler, is a
television presenter and actress; they have a young daughter.
Enriquez-Ominami made his way into politics on his father's
coattails, adding the hyphenated "-Ominami" to his name and
running for the lower chamber in the same region that his
father represents in the Senate. Both Ominamis were elected
in 2001 to represent the same area -- Carlos Ominami in his
second term as senator, and Marco Enriquez-Ominami in his
first term as deputy.

Poll Numbers' Meteoric Rise
---------------------------

4. (U) Enriquez-Ominami, who only announced his candidacy in
April, quickly overtook better-known leftist and independent
politicians to become the leading choice outside of
frontrunners Eduardo Frei and Sebastian Pinera, who are each
backed by one of Chile's two political coalitions. While
initially starting out with support in the 1-3% range
(similar to that of other minor candidates representing small
parties or splintering from their own coalition),
Enriquez-Ominami has become a phenomenon in recent weeks.
Several polls over the last few weeks have shown him with
between 10-15% support, whereas a poll released on June 3
showed that Enriquez-Ominami had as much support as official
Concertacion candidate Eduardo Frei. When asked to
independently name who they would vote for ("open list"), 13%
of survey respondents in the June 3 survey chose
Enriquez-Ominami, 15% chose Frei, and 31% chose opposition
candidate Sebastian Pinera. When asked to choose among a set
of presidential candidates ("closed list"), the young
parliamentarian received 26% support to Frei's 22% and
Pinera's 35%.

With Such a Great Image, Who Cares About Substance?
--------------------------------------------- ------



5. (U) The former filmmaker seems to enjoy the limelight as
much as he enjoyed life behind the camera. He and other
Concertacion parliamentarians earned the nickname of "unruly
ones" ("discolos") for their frequent failure to toe the
party line, not to mention periodic fist fights. Originally
meant as a disparaging remark, the group embraced the term,
the media attention it brought, and the identity of maverick
politicians who challenged the Concertacion establishment.
They have created their own website, taken polls
second-guessing Concertacion leadership, and hosted forums
for their own "discolo" Concertacion candidates for mayor.

6. (SBU) The young parliamentarian and his attractive wife
have been a media sensation since launching his campaign. At
a June 3 lunch in honor of visiting Senate Foreign Relations
Staffer Carl Meacham, Chilean pollster Carlos Huneeus
suggested that a flattering April profile of the couple in
the Chilean daily La Tercera had essentially created
Enriquez-Ominami's candidacy. While other analysts felt that
this was overstated, it is clear that Enriquez-Ominami has
suddenly been getting more than his fair share of media
attention. A study released on June 3 found that in April
only 6% of media coverage was about Enriquez-Ominami. By
May, however, the three candidates received roughly equal
amounts of media attention, even though Enriquez-Ominami had
much less support (4-14%) than the other candidates and was
not considered a serious contender. Not only did
Enriquez-Ominami receive a lot of coverage, media reports
about him were more likely to be favorable: 23% reports
about Enriquez-Ominami were judged to be favorable compared
to 15% for Pinera and just 9% for Frei. (Note: 60-70% of
media coverage for each candidate was deemed to be neutral.
End Note.) Some have called him "the Chilean Obama."

7. (U) Enriquez-Ominami appeals to the large segment of
Chileans who are bored by politics and long for new faces
(Ref A). However, with President Bachelet enjoying the
highest approval rating of any Chilean president since the
return to democracy, many of these citizens don't really want
to see policies changed. When asked why they support
Enriquez-Ominami, 43% of respondents in the June 3 poll
listed his youth, while other top answers were equally vague:
"He has new ideas", "He'll give opportunities to new
people", "I like him", and "I believe in him." In contrast,
Pinera and Frei supporters offered a mix of responses that
included experience, specific skills, proposed policy
changes, and personal characteristics.

Behind the Image, Controversial Positions
-----------------------------------------

8. (U) If Chileans were to investigate the positions that
the unruly socialist espouses, they would find them to be
extremely unpopular: legalizing gay marriage, giving Bolivia
access to the sea, privatizing the state-owned copper
company, and legalizing marijuana. While few supporters seem
to have scratched under the surface of the Enriquez-Ominami
campaign, his positions have nonetheless had an impact on
other candidates. This week both Frei and Pinera announced
their support for civil unions for gay couples -- a
remarkably progressive position in a conservative Catholic
country which only recently legalized divorce and does not
allow abortion under any circumstances.

What's In It For Him?
---------------------

9. (C) It is not clear why Enriquez-Ominami decided to enter
the presidential race, nor what -- if any -- end game
strategy he has in mind. Given his youth and unconventional
positions, it is hard to imagine him as a serious
presidential contender. In a conversation with Poloff,
Christian Democrat politician Jorge Navarette speculated that
Enriquez-Ominami may have decided to run for President
because he was bored with his position in the Chamber of
Deputies and wanted a "heroic" way to leave politics.
Alternatively, Navarette suggested, he may have hoped to earn
enough support to fulfill other political ambitions --

perhaps a spot on Concertacion's senatorial slate.

10. (SBU) At this point, Enriquez-Ominami's candidacy seems
to have taken on a life of its own, with poll numbers
generating media which generate still higher poll numbers.
The unruly Socialist has announced that he is forming his own
list of parliamentary candidates, but so far seems to have
had little success in attracting many serious candidates.

Comment
-------

11. (C) Enriquez-Ominami is the talk of the town. In this
early period in the presidential race -- where more attention
is focused on which parliamentary candidates are running in
which districts, and campaign teams are still finalizing
policy positions, it is hardly possible to have a discussion
about presidential politics that does not center around this
dark horse candidate. Yet it is not yet clear that the
"Marco phenomenon" will last. Concertacion frontrunner
Eduardo Frei is a tired candidate who has put forward few new
ideas. His poorly-managed campaign invites younger
challengers. Radical party (PRSD) leader Jose Antonio Gomez
also rose impressively from obscurity to some measure of fame
(and poll popularity) in February and March before
disappearing from the public eye following his defeat in the
April regional primary (Ref B).

12. (U) Astute observers are careful to note the myriad
limitations of the polls conducted in the last few months --
from geographic areas not sampled to reliance on landlines
(which exclude poorer individuals) to the inclusion of
unregistered voters -- and are breathlessly awaiting the
release of the Centro de Estudios Publicos (CEP) poll in
mid-June. Far more rigorous than the others but conducted
only twice a year, the CEP poll is Chile's gold standard.
The release of this year's June CEP poll will be like Chile's
"Super Tuesday," one analyst said, with political parties and
candidates using the data to assess their chances of victory
and deciding whether to remain in the race.
SIMONS