Cable 50684, Presidenta electa Bachelet, reivindicando independencia
DATE: 1/25/2006 20:32
SOURCE: Embassy Santiago
DE RUEHSG #0170/01 0252032
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 252032Z JAN 06
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8311
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 1432
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 3029
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 2856
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 4439
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 4411
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 0990
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 3160
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 0020
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SANTIAGO 000170
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/24/2016
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, SOCI, PINR, CL
REF: A. SANTIAGO 00094
B. 05 SANTIAGO 02495
Classified By: Ambassador Craig Kelly. Reasons: 1.4 (b and d).
1. (C) Summary: President-elect Michelle Bachelet has gotten off to a quietly assertive start following her victory over Alianza opposition’s Sebastian Pinera in the January 15 presidential run-off election. Her initial public statements and meetings appear designed to show her intention to govern independently, while working closely with the Concertacion coalition party machinery. Bachelet has said she will name her cabinet no later than January 30. The Cabinet will be comprised of «»persons of experience and merit,»» and be equally divided between men and women. The president-elect has identified pension reform, the environment, public security and education as priority areas for the early days of her administration. End summary.
2. (C) The composition of Bachelet’s 18-member cabinet is a main topic of discussion in Chile. Most observers look to its composition as a sign of the direction Bachelet will take Chile once she assumes office on March 11. In public statements following her election victory, Bachelet reiterated her campaign pledge: She — and not the political parties — will choose her ministers. The president-elect has said the cabinet will be evenly divided between men and women, will include members with a certain level of experience in politics and the public sector, as well as fresh faces.»» Bachelet has not excluded ministers from past Concertacion governments from serving in her administration. But these past ministers will not hold the same portfolios in her government. There will be no repeats.
3. (U) During the week of January 23-27, Bachelet is scheduled to meet with the presidents of the four parties that make up the Concertacion. The party leaders are expected to provide her their «»wish lists»» for ministerial and sub-ministerial level positions. Some of the individuals who have been mentioned publicly and privately as candidates for Foreign Minister include Heraldo Munoz, Chilean PermRep to the UN Juan Gabriel Valdes, UNSYG Special Representative in Haiti Ricardo Lagos Weber, son of President Lagos and chief international relations advisor to Bachelet DC Senator Alejandro Foxley Marta Mauras, Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) Luis Maira, Chile’s Ambassador to Argentina and Jorge Schaulson, former PPD Deputy.
4. (C) In a lunch with Embassy officers on January 23, Party for Democracy (PPD) Deputy (and recently elected Senator for Santiago west) Guido Girardi expressed doubt that Bachelet would be able to select her cabinet truly independent of party pressure.»» Girardi said the strength of the parties, and the role they played in securing Bachelet’s victory, should not be underestimated. He claimed the Coalition already had decided to «»give»» the Christian Democrats (DC) 11 of the 18 ministerial positions, in order to maintain the DC’s support for Bachelet. This despite that party’s poor showing in the December 11 congressional elections (ref B).
5. (U) Bachelet has listed several domestic (and a few foreign policy) issues she intends to focus on after assuming office on March 11. These include:
–Increasing public security, including forming a new Ministry for Public Security
–Improving relations with Chile’s neighbors and Latin America
–Reform of the Foreign Ministry (including the creation of a deputy position for international trade)
–Strengthening of environmental protections, including the creation of a minister-level position for environmental affairs and,
–educational reform, with a focus on universal education for pre-school and elementary-level education.
6. (C) One week after Bachelet’s election victory, the mood in Chile is calm, with an air of expectation for her cabinet choices. Even some voters from the right are exhibiting a certain pride that conservative Chile has elected its first female president, and one who does not fit the traditional Chilean socio-religious mold. Embassy contacts in Bachelet’s camp remain open to Embassy approaches, but are — not surprisingly — increasingly busy and at times hard to reach.