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French press review 13 April 2015

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The French press hails the windfall of the Indian Rafale fighter jets deal, and tips Hillary Clinton to become the first female US commander-in-chief after she announced her bid for the White House. Obama and Castro are on course for a historic diplomatic breakthrough that could end a 53-year cold war between Cuba and the US.


Ex-American First Lady Hillary Clinton is the star of the day. The papers subject her to renewed scrutiny after she launched her bid Sunday to become the first woman to win the White House.

Barack Obama's former secretary of state is the Democratic Party’s natural candidate, according to Le Monde. The paper says that having freed her hands from the constraints of political responsibility since 2013, Hillary has dwarfed possible challengers in a crushing manner.

She seeks the White House 23 years after her husband's first run for president, points out Le Figaro. The right-wing publication brands her the queen who dreams to become president.

Libération dedicates its front page to the woman it declares a first lady running to fill the shoes of her husband. For the left-leaning publication, despite her extraordinary destiny the 67-year-old needs to soften her iron lady reputation and recoup her image battered by airings of the past.

More recently she has endured heavy criticism and punches from the Republican-dominated Senate over her perceived jet-set image, the controversial use of her private email for official business during her tenure as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013 and that her family's charitable foundation accepted millions of dollars from foreign governments.

As she put an end to the pantomime surrounding the worst-kept secret in US politics, the Republican Party’s attack dogs wasted no time to denounce Clinton for leaving a trail of secrecy, scandal and failed policies that can't be erased from voters' minds.

Senator Rand Paul, who announced last week he is running for president, released what is perhaps the first attack ad of the 2016 cycle, saying Clinton "represents the worst of the Washington machine: the arrogance of power, corruption and cover-up, conflicts of interest and failed leadership with tragic consequences."

Hillary enjoys a 60 per cent approval rating from Democratic voters, according to website RealClearPolitics, and has received a blanket endorsement from US President Barack Obama, who defeated her seven years ago. That, according to Le Monde, makes her the favourite to become the next US president and the first American woman to become commander-in-chief.

Several French papers also welcome the summit meeting between Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro.

Le Monde interprets Obama's "Cuba is not a threat to the United States" as the clearest signal yet that the White House and Castro are ready to turn the page. It reports that the US state department has already made a strong case for the removal of Cuba from the US list of countries supporting terrorism.

For Le Figaro, the reconciliation with Cuba is an expression of Washington's determination to remain the key player in South America. One major question remains, according to L'Humanité, and that is the essential issue of the economic embargo imposed on Cuba by the US since 1962.

Le Monde makes shocking revelations about "a big brother hidden in the heart of French intelligence". According to the journal, the defence ministry spy agency has since 2007 operated a secret programme which enables it to intercept and stockpile communications data. Le Monde claims that the encrypting platform targets essentially under-water communications cables.

The problem according to the paper is that the personal data collected is used by all the French intelligence services without any external control. For the paper, this is why the intelligence bill being debated in parliament can only attract harsh criticism from advocates of civil liberties.

It's thumbs up for Rafale following India's inking of a multi-billion-euro deal for 36 fighter jets from the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault. The ready-to-fly jets were ordered during the first trip to France by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday.

The announcement put to rest intense speculation over the fate of the contract, which was first signed in 2012 but had been bogged down by questions of cost and New Delhi's insistence on assembling a portion of the high-tech planes in India.

"What a boon for export", crows Le Monde, underlining that Dassault is expected to earn more than 5 billion euros from its biggest-ever international order. For Le Monde, the win is particularly important for France, which is struggling with anaemic growth, sky-high unemployment and an enormous debt pile. Libération looks forward to a facelift for the French air force. According to the paper, the sale of the Rafale jets to India will keep the defence ministry's budget up for review in June under the military planning bill.