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Viewing cable 09SAOPAULO310, THE "OBAMA ADVANTAGE" AT 100-PLUS DAYS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09SAOPAULO310 2009-05-22 14:02 2011-02-16 00:12 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Consulate Sao Paulo
VZCZCXRO1117
RR RUEHRG
DE RUEHSO #0310/01 1421411
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221411Z MAY 09
FM AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9232
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0381
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE 4369
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO 9152
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 3512
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3759
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 2913
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 2759
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ 4111
RUEHLU/AMEMBASSY LUANDA 0025
RUEHTO/AMEMBASSY MAPUTO 0157
RUEHDG/AMEMBASSY SANTO DOMINGO 0206
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 0082
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC 3273
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHDC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SAO PAULO 000310 
 
SIPDIS 
SENSITIVE 
 
STATE TO IIP FOR BRUCE WHARTON 
STATE PASS TO FSI FOR DGALINDO, CDEGNAN 
ASUNCION FOR SMCINTOSH 
SANTO DOMINGO FOR DSEARBY 
LUANDA FOR ADRESSEL 
NOUAKCHOTT FOR HFABRIKANT 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV KPAO PINR OIIP KIRC ECON EFIN EINV ETRD BR

SUBJECT: THE "OBAMA ADVANTAGE" AT 100-PLUS DAYS 

REFS: 
A. Sao Paulo 55 
B. Maputo 398; 
C. Sao Paulo 182; 
D. Sao Paulo 208; 
E. Sao Paulo 309; 
F. 07 Sao Paulo 895 

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED--PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY 

1. (U) Summary: President Obama's popularity translates into an "Obama Advantage" that post has used to gin up outreach efforts and build reporting contacts. A post-generated Obama PowerPoint has proven to have far greater longevity than we had anticipated, and we continue to get speaker requests, from community groups to graduate schools. The talk has also been used by other posts. President Obama is a multi-faceted figure whose story appeals to a wide variety of groups, some of them (like intellectuals) constituencies that have tended to be critical of the United States. Looking forward, our challenge is to keep the Obama momentum going and, at the same time, to develop cogent responses to questions about the financial crisis, which increasingly surfaces as a topic of audience concern. End Summary. Combined Obama-Outreach/Reporting 

2. (U) Beginning with the presidential inauguration, post launched a 100-Day "Obama Outreach" campaign designed to leverage President Obama's popularity among Brazilians. A post-designed PowerPoint that combined a hard hitting recap of the history of U.S. race relations with a poignant retelling of President Obama's multicultural origins -- based on his autobiography -- formed the foundation of our efforts (Ref A) and has been used by other posts (Ref B). (Posts that might want to draw on the Obama presentation can get English, Spanish and Portuguese translations from ConGen Sao Paulo (XXXX)). 

3. (U) Armed with this presentation, Conoffs carried out a series of trips radiating outward from Sao Paulo, hitting schools and community organizations and doing media interviews in interior cities (300-700,000 population) and working contacts for reporting. During the first 100 days, we estimate that we reached over 4,000 people in eleven formal public presentations.

4. (U) Just as important as the PD aspect, our outreach visits enable us to do significant reporting on other issues, including: Afro-Brazilians (Ref C), regional economic conditions (Ref D), the Landless People's Movement (septel), and indigenous land issues (Ref E). As our initial campaign draws to a close, several conclusions emerge. Obama Still Going Strong 

5. (U) We had expected interest in President Obama to tail off as the normal presidential honeymoon cycle wound down. This has not taken place. Interest in President Obama remains as strong as ever and events organized around him regularly attract enthusiastic, overflow crowds. On a recent visit to Campo Grande in Mato Grosso do Sul state, Poloff offered to give a talk at a local university. With just one day's warning, 150 students showed up. On another occasion, a 20-person evening event mushroomed to an audience of 300 plus. 

6. (U) Beyond big crowds, the President possesses his own Brazilian dynamic. His story is now the subject of a course being given at a local high-end bookstore and his autobiography is being used by a Sao Paulo think tank that organizes reading circles for scores of gifted students from the city's impoverished neighborhoods (favelas). Both of the President's books are prominently featured in local bookstores as are biographies of the President and First Lady. Obama's Bond with Brazil 

SAO PAULO 00000310 002 OF 003 

7. (SBU) President Obama is popular in many countries, but the Brazilian reaction has been particularly strong in this multi-racial society. No less than four candidates in last fall's municipal elections changed their names to Obama. Several groups stand out for their response to the President, and constitute key targets of our outreach. 

These are: 

--Afro-Brazilians: It would be difficult to over-estimate Obama's importance for Afro-Brazilians, in whom he inspires a mixture of admiration and envy. His election struck a chord in Brazil's collective conscience about the state of its own race relations. Brazil prides itself as a racial democracy. Nonetheless, in reality, Afro-Brazilians remain marginalized and under-represented in the highest echelons of Brazilian politics and society (Ref F). As Mauricio Pestana, editor of the Afro-Brazilian magazine, "Raca"(Race), told Poloff last January, Obama's election was a bittersweet moment for him. At the same time that the U.S. had elected President Obama, the most recent Brazilian electoral cycle featured no Afro-Brazilian candidates for governorships or the mayorships of major cities. In our outreach presentation, we mention that African-Americans constitute about 13-14 percent of the U.S. population (vs. 50 percent in Brazil). This almost always stimulates reflection by Brazilians as to when they will "elect their own Obama." 

--Youth: The story of the President's rise and the key role that education played in that process works well with school and community groups. At a presentation to underprivileged youth at the Martin Luther King Center in Campo Grande, an NGO that provides free preparation courses for university entrance exams, the center's directorate adapted the President's "Yes, we can," campaign slogan as a motto for their students, stating that the young people in the 100+ person crowd had to adopt an Obama-like dedication to work and study, that anything would be possible. 

--Intellectuals: The President possesses a definite "high culture" appeal. Brazilian intellectuals constitute a key group that has often been critical of the United States. President Obama's status as a twice-published author and the compelling themes in his books make perfect raw material for discussions about race, inclusion and communication in a multi-cultural society. 

--Educators: President Obama's story provides a hook into promoting U.S. History/U.S. Studies. His biography lends itself to a "warts 'n all" retelling of the United States' own struggles with race and inclusion that ends on a redemptive high note with the President's election. Brazilians, as citizens of the hemisphere's second largest multi-racial democracy, can find much to reflect on. 

8. (SBU) The above by no means exhausts the limits of an Obama presentation's appeal and, in fact, we are still exploring other ways to deploy the President's personal story. Despite the Obama Advantage, Challenges Ahead 9. (SBU) While the President continues to get rave reviews, as time has gone on, we have received more pointed questions about the financial crisis. Usually, they revolve around the idea that the United States is being "hypocritical" in its bailout policies, doing things (increasing the amount of money in circulation, using the state to support banks and auto companies) for which it has criticized other countries. 

Comment: 

10. (SBU) The "Obama Advantage" constitutes a big positive for the U.S. in Brazil. It gives us an "in" with a wide variety of groups and is a key enabler for contact-making. It also fits in well with the goals of the U.S.-Brazil Joint Action Plan Against Racism 

SAO PAULO 00000310 003 OF 003 

(JAPR). Going forward, there remains some risk that the President's sky-high personal popularity might not transfer over to the United States. Our challenge is to show how President Obama's success story is rooted in the U.S. experience and how the proposals he is putting forward to deal with the financial crisis reflect his desire to work in tandem with close allies to restore growth and prosperity. End Comment. 

11. (U) This cable was coordinated/cleared by Embassy Brasilia. 

WHITE