US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was very curious about the personal traits of Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and the way she worked alongside her husband, the late former President Néstor Kirchner.
This curiosity led to a request by the department's Bureau of Intelligence Research to ask for a more complete profile of the so-called "first couple."
On December 31, 2009, the bureau, identified as the INR / OPS, sent a cablegram to the US Embassy in Buenos Aires asking for information on Fernández for the report. Among the queries that were asked concerned her "health and mental state," "her political vision," and her work routine. The request for this information came just days after a visit to Buenos Aires by then recently designated Under Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela. An Embassy dispatch, which was approved by Valenzuela, described the Argentinean government in harsh terms "for its intolerance when it comes to receiving criticism." About two weeks after his visit, the Intelligence Operations Bureau sent its cablegram explaining that Clinton wanted to analyze "the interpersonal dynamics between the governing tandem."
"We have a much more solid understanding of Néstor Kirchner's style then we do of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and we would like to develop a more well-rounded view of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's personality," reads the cable of December 31, 2009.
Compiling profiles of this type is one of the tasks undertaken by the INR / OPS and is part of US diplomacy. In this case, the queries fall under three categories. The first section is entitled "Mental state and health."
"How is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner managing her nerves and anxiety? How does stress affect her behavior toward advisors and/or her decision making? What steps does Cristina Fernández de Kirchner or her advisers/handlers, take in helping her deal with stress? Is she taking any medications? Under what circumstances is she best able to handle stresses? How do Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's emotions affect her decision-making and how does she calm down when distressed?"
The cable questionnaire went on to ask about Kirchner's health. "What is the status of Néstor Kirchner's gastrointestinal illness? Does it continue to bother him? Is he taking any medications? Long known for his temper, has Néstor Kirchner demonstrated a greater tendency to shift between emotional extremes? What are most common triggers to Néstor Kirchner's anger?"
The second and third categories in the cable deal with the president's political views and how she and her husband tackle their jobs. "When dealing with problems, does Cristina Fernández de Kirchner take a strategic, big picture outlook, or does she prefer to take a tactical view? Does she view circumstances in black and white or in nuanced terms? Does she share Néstor Kirchner's adversarial view of politics or does she attempt to moderate his heavy-handed political style?
"How do Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Néstor Kirchner divide up their day? On which issues does Cristina Fernández de Kirchner take the lead and which issues does she leave to Néstor Kirchner?"
Some of the cablegrams between the US Embassy in Buenos Aires and Washington illustrate the good relations President Kirchner and his predecessor wife had with the Bush administration and with then-Under Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Thomas Shannon. Relations appeared to grow tense around March and April of this year, and particularly with Valenzuela at the helm.
So much trust was placed in Shannon that Fernández agreed to help the United States in its relations with Bolivia. One cablegram cautions that that they must "be careful so that it doesn't appear there is 'a political operation' against the government" that could raise President Evo Morales' suspicions."
US Ambassador Wayne stated that Fernández confided that "Evo isn't an easy person," explaining that Argentina was having problems getting natural gas supplies from Bolivia. "We all have to be patient, she told us," Wayne wrote.
In another cable, the US Embassy, using angrier terms, complains about Fernández's failed trip in the summer of 2009 to Central America to help deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya return to power. She went against the advice of her own Foreign Ministry. "This episode is another illustration of the Kirchners' ineptitude in foreign policy," the cable states.