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Viewing cable 09SANTIAGO919, Introducing Marco Enriquez-Ominami: Chile's Surprise

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09SANTIAGO919 2009-12-02 17:05 2010-12-29 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Santiago
VZCZCXRO5540
OO RUEHAO RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS
RUEHTM
DE RUEHSG #0919/01 3361710
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O R 021710Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0351
INFO WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 SANTIAGO 000919

SIPDIS
STATE FOR WHA/BSC, WHA/CCA, INR/B, WHA/EPSC, S/P
STATE PLEASE PASS TO USTR KKALUTKIEWICZ, EBRZYTWA, JKEMP, CSMOTHERS
COMMERCE FOR DPAREKH, KMANN
LABOR FOR ILAB--CGAY
STATE PLEASE PASS TO FEDERAL RESERVE TOM CONNORS
TREASURY FOR BLINDQUIST
PENTAGON FOR OSD--MLENIHAN
AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN PASS TO AMEMBASSY GRENADA
AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PASS TO AMCONSUL QUEBEC
AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PASS TO AMCONSUL RECIFE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/12/02
TAGS: PGOV ECON PINR CI CU
SUBJECT: Introducing Marco Enriquez-Ominami: Chile's Surprise
Presidential Contender

REF: SANTIAGO 755; SANTIAGO 899; SANTIAGO 404

CLASSIFIED BY: Paul Simons, Ambassador, State, US Embassy Santiago;
REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (C) Summary: Thirty-six year old filmmaker and presidential
candidate Marco Enriquez-Ominami has a cinematic life story:
father martyred, raised in exile, young Marco returns to home full
of resentment, marries a TV star, and gets the backing of a
pro-Castro revolutionary-turned-millionaire to become an unexpected
political force. In his short political career, Enriquez-Ominami
has distinguished himself primarily by bucking the political
establishment and refusing to toe the party line while
simultaneously leveraging his establishment connections, including
the influence of his senator step-father and celebrity wife. End
Summary.



2. (U) This is the third in a series of profiles of the major
Chilean presidential candidates. Ref A introduces opposition
candidate Sebastian Pinera, Ref B highlights Concertacion candidate
Eduardo Frei. Chile's first round presidential election will be
held December 13 and the anticipated run-off will be on January 17,
if required (Ref C).



Revolutionary Family Ties

---------------------------------



3. (SBU) Marco Enriquez-Ominami's tragic childhood has all the
elements of a great Hollywood movie: love triangles, political
intrigue, violence, exile, and eventual reconciliation. Marco
Enriquez-Ominami Gumucio (then known as Marco Enriquez Gumucio) was
born June 12, 1973 in Concepcion, Chile to Miguel Enriquez, who was
the leader of the armed Marxist-Leninist group Movimiento de
Izquierda Revolucionario (MIR, the Revolutionary Leftist Movement),
and Manuela Gumucio, a journalist and author. His parents both
came from the Chilean elite: Gumucio's father was a senator and a
founder of the Christian Democrat party; the Enriquez family was a
well-established part of the Concepcion intelligentsia. The
relationship between Enriquez and Gumucio was a short-lived affair
that ended before baby Marco was born.



4. (SBU) After the coup in September 1973, a military decree
stripped baby Marco and his mother of their Chilean citizenship and
ordered their expulsion from Chile. Using UN refugee travel
documents, they sought asylum in France, where they remained until
1986. Miguel Enriquez remained in Chile and was assassinated by
Chilean intelligence agents in October 1974. In France, Gumucio
was a single mother who worked to support herself and her son.
Young Marco was raised largely by his grandparents, who were also
exiled in France. Gumucio eventually partnered with Carlos
Ominami, another MIR revolutionary who sought refuge in France, and
Ominami adopted Marco. (Marco Enriquez Gumucio changed his name to
Marco Enriquez-Ominami Gumucio in 2000.)



5. (SBU) Enriquez-Ominami returned to Chile in 1986 but had
trouble adjusting. He spoke no Spanish initially and was teased
and beaten up at school. Although he was more accepted over time,
he remained something of an outsider. As a young man, he had the
twin burden of his famous fathers, Enriquez, the revolutionary
martyr; and Ominami, a "baron of the Concertation" who served as
Minister of Economy when Enriquez-Ominami was in college.

SANTIAGO 00000919 002 OF 005


Enriquez-Ominami studied philosophy at the University of Chile from
1990-1995 and film direction in Paris in 1996. Enriquez-Ominami
has spoken of his youthful promiscuity and drug use, and friends
say that it was only upon becoming a father that he truly settled
down.



From Filmmaker to Politician: A "Discolo" is Born

--------------------------------------------- --------------------



6. (U) Enriquez-Ominami began his television and film career in
1998, working as the executive director for the production firm
Rivas y Rivas. In 2002, he directed his most well-known work, a
documentary called "Chile, the Heroes are Tired," which criticized
former leftist Chilean revolutionaries for having compromised their
ideals once they achieved power. He also became involved in
politics, working on his father's senatorial campaigns in 1993 and
1999, Ricardo Lagos' presidential campaigns in 1993 and 1999, and
municipal elections in 2004.



7. (SBU) Enriquez-Ominami made his own entry into politics in
2005, when he won a decisive majority in a Valparaiso district to
become a member of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of
parliament. His supporters proudly point to his charisma as the
reason why Enriquez-Ominami, running as a Socialist (President
Bachelet's party), was able to prevail in a district that has
typically been much more conservative. Detractors highlight that
he choose to run in the district that his famous and well-respected
father represents in the Senate, asserting that he essentially rode
his fathers' coattails into power. In September 2008, his victory
was tarnished when his campaign chief, Edgardo Lepe, was convicted
of fraud for misusing public funds to hire workers for the
campaigns of father and son. (Note: Enriquez-Ominami and his
father have said they were not aware of the scheme and neither has
been accused of any wrong-doing. End Note.)



8. (C) As a politician, Enriquez-Ominami takes pride in his
independence and non-conformity and is continually described in the
press as a "discolo," meaning unruly person. However, his failure
to toe the party line has often created hard feelings among his
compatriots. In Congress, he snubbed many of his congressional
colleagues, has occasionally been in shoving matches with enemies,
and regularly rejects the congressional dining hall in favor of
eating separately with the other discolos, a group his colleagues
refer to as "Marquito y su corte de los milagros" (Little Marco
and his elite circle). Enriquez-Ominami continued his own
presidential campaign even after his political party, the
Socialists, officially endorsed Eduardo Frei. (He resigned from
the party several months later and is now running as an
independent.) His congressional colleagues have responded in kind
to Enriquez-Ominami's offenses, declaring him a "bicho raro"
(wierdo) and never giving him the opportunity to preside over a
commission, on opporutnity that his other Concertacion colleagues
have had. Christian Democrat Senator and former presidential
candidate Soledad Alvear complained privately to Poloff that Marco
and his ilk never participate in the real work of Congress, they
just show up to complain about the work that everyone else has
done.



The Personality Behind the Politician: Tragedy, Films, and France

SANTIAGO 00000919 003 OF 005


--------------------------------------------- ----------------------
------------------



9. (C) Three things define Enriquez-Ominami: his tragic history,
his filmmaking expertise, and his French education.
Enriquez-Ominami has had a difficult time coming to terms with his
personal history. His resentment towards Chile has come to haunt
him in this campaign, as statements from 2003 have re-surfaced,
notably that the Chilean flag was "porqueria" (pig shit) and that
being born Chilean was a tragedy. In more recent years,
Enriquez-Ominami has combined the storytelling ability he developed
as a filmmaker with his family background to speak out effectively
and movingly about his remarkable personal story. Miguel
Enriquez's legacy seems to loom large in his son's life. Some
friends have said that Enriquez-Ominami competes with his
biological father's accomplishments, noting that he decided to
launch his political career at the age of 30 -- the age at which
his father died.



10. (C) Advisor and confidante Max Marambio describes
Enriquez-Ominami as "a product of his French education," noting
that he is liberal, self-critical, honest, and free-thinking. He
also seems to have picked up some of the typical French skepticism
of the U.S., frequently using the tag line "What is in the best
interests of the U.S. is not always in best interests of Chile."



11. (C) Enriquez-Ominami is hard-working and sleeps little, often
sending emails out as late as 2 a.m. and as early as 6 a.m. in the
same day, campaign advisors note. He is irreverent and audacious,
and admits his mistakes easily. Extremely personable, he does very
well in face-to-face interactions and in media interviews. Perhaps
because he is so people-oriented, he does not like to deliver bad
news or reprimands by person, instead sending them by email.



The Accidental Candidate

---------------------------------



12. (C) Enriquez-Ominami's success thus far has taken even the
candidate's closest advisors by surprise. Enriquez-Ominami
confidantes Max Marambio and Deputy Alvaro Escobar told Poloff
that, one year ago, the presidential candidate was fed up with
political life and had discarded the idea of running for
re-election in the Chamber of Deputies. He was seriously weighing
an offer from Duke University to be a visiting professor of film
when someone off-handedly suggested that he should leave his
political career in a blaze of glory: Why not run for president?
Advisors suggest that Enriquez-Ominami's campaign started as one
last opportunity to thumb his nose at the political system he was
so frustrated with, and its success took everyone--even the
candidate himself--by surprise. To this day, Marambio, Carlos
Ominami, Ciro Colombara and other close advisors admit that
Enriquez-Ominami's chances of actually becoming Chile's next
president are slim. However, they are pleased (and amazed) that
the campaign has come this far and rightly feel that they have
already had a great deal of success in changing the political
debate, particularly in bringing discussion of gay rights and civil
unions to the public square.

SANTIAGO 00000919 004 OF 005


Max Marambio: The Wealthy and Controversial "Friend of Fidel"
Behind Marco's Campaign

--------------------------------------------- ----------------------
--------------------------------------------- --------



13. (C) In a life studded with celebrities and fascinating
characters, Enriquez-Ominami's chief campaign financier and
political advisor, leftist revolutionary-turned-millionaire Max
Marambio, is the most interesting of all. As a young man, Marambio
joined the MIR and led Salvador Allende's presidential bodyguard
team. He lived in the Cuban embassy in Santiago for 10 months
following the coup, before fleeing first to Switzerland and then to
Cuba, where he studied political science at the University of
Havana and trained with the Cuban special forces. He participated
in secret Cuban military and commercial missions to Angola,
Lebanon, Korea, Central America, and Europe, allegedly including a
role in hiding Fidel Castro's personal fortune. In the late
1970s, he began a joint venture food company with the Cuban
government which eventually became International Network Group, a
holding company which generates US $80 million in profits in Cuba
each year from food products and tourism.



14. (C) Marambio, who told Poloff he was a "close personal friend"
of Fidel Castro, was also a friend of Miguel Enriquez but passed up
several opportunities to meet the revolutionary's son. When
Marambio and Enriquez-Ominami finally met seven years ago, a close
friendship soon developed: Marambio attended Enriquez-Ominami's
lavish wedding (making a splash with his helicopter arrival) and
years later became godfather to Enriquez-Ominami's daughter.
Although not initially involved in Enriquez-Ominami's presidential
campaign, Marambio became the key player in July, just as the
campaign really took off. Today, Marambio is using his large
personal fortune to finance Enriquez-Ominami's campaign and is the
candidate's closest political advisor. Despite pouring his time,
talent, and considerable effort into the campaign, Marambio told
Poloff he has no political ambitions of his own--he is too busy
with his extended family, his business, and his two-month-long
annual vacation in Italy to take a government position.



Marco's Not-So-Secret Weapon: His Wife

--------------------------------------------- ----------



15. (C) While Marambio is the power (and money) behind the throne,
Enriquez-Ominami's wife, TV star Karen Doggenweiler, is his most
visible supporter. Doggenweiler, who married Enriquez-Ominami in
2003, is one of Chile's most well-known and beloved celebrities,
far eclipsing her husband in terms of name recognition and respect.
Compared to Eva Peron for her star power (though not for prior
political involvement), Doggenweiler has hosted a number of
national television programs, from a morning talk show to a
boot-camp reality show. Enriquez-Ominami and Doggenweiler have two
children: 14-year-old Fernanda, Doggenweiler's daughter from a
previous relationship; and 5-year-old Manuela.



16. (C) Observers inside and outside the campaign believe that
Doggenweiler's presence is responsible for much of her husband's
political success thus far. Christian Democrat leader Soledad
Alvear asserted that 75% of Enriquez-Ominami's support is from
people who are really backing his wife, while campaign advisor Ciro

SANTIAGO 00000919 005 OF 005


Colombara suggested that Doggenweiler's ability to connect with
rural and small town voters may be the deciding factor in whether
or not her husband makes it past the first round election and to
the runoff. Following criticism that she was capitalizing on her
continued TV presence to help her husband, Doggenweiler recently
took a four month leave of absence from work to focus on
campaigning.



Comment

-------------



17. (C) As a presidential candidate, Marco Enriquez-Ominami has
been hard to take seriously. Only 36 years old, his scant time in
public office has been spent disparaging the political system, and
his major qualifications are his charm, his evocative
double-barrelled name, and the beautiful and widely admired woman
by his side. He hardly seems to be a leader that stereotypically
responsible, sober Chileans would rally around. Thus,
Enriquez-Ominami's incredible rise has taken everyone by surprise,
even the candidate's own backers. Yet for voters who are tired of
Concertacion rule but feel that a vote for conservative candidate
Sebastian Pinera is a vote for Pinochet's legacy, supporting
Enriquez-Ominami is a way to vote for change while remaining a
progressive. While he is a long shot to win the presidency this
year, he has effectively stirred up the 2009 presidential campaign,
which otherwise has been dominated by long-standing political
figures from the center-left and center-right. Assuming he does
not make it to the second round in the December election, the
question is what role, if any, will he play in Chilean politics
going forward. After 20 years in power, the center-left needs
revitalization, but it remains to be seen if this charismatic but
mercurial figure with no party backing and little political
experience will be an effective force in shaping those changes.
End Comment.
SIMONS