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Cablegate: Mrs: "We Want to Bring Ortega Down"

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #1961/01 2492233
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 062233Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7487
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0760
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 001961

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/06/2016
TAGS: EAID ECON EFIN KDEM NU PGOV PINR PREL
SUBJECT: MRS: "WE WANT TO BRING ORTEGA DOWN"


Classified By: Ambassador Paul A. Trivelli. Reasons 1.4 (B,D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS)
spokesperson Israel Lewites (Herty Lewites' nephew) recently
asserted to polcouns that the MRS is the only viable option
for the 2006 election. Lewites believes that the MRS can
capture some of the traditional Sandinista (FSLN) vote,
enough to ensure that Daniel Ortega does not win on the first
round, also predicting that many of the undecided voters will
vote for the MRS. Lewites warned that Eduardo Montealegre
has been tainted by the
CENI (Certificados Negociables de Inversion) scandal, and if
he wins the presidency, will therefore be controlled by the
FSLN. Lewites described the MRS' platform and the evolution
of the campaign after Herty's death. Despite what he sees as
recent successes, Lewites noted that limited resources will
continue to hamper the campaign and election day efforts,
including the MRS' ability to send party poll watchers
(fiscales) to voting centers. END SUMMARY.

"The only viable option"
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (C) In a meeting with poloffs on August 31, MRS
spokesperson Israel Lewites addressed the CENI issue and
Montealegre's possible involvement. He stated that the MRS
is the only viable party, as Montealegre's image has been
tainted. He explained that even if Montealegre were to win
the presidency, the FSLN (through a pact with the PLC) would
likely control the National Assembly and Montealegre would
enjoy no real power. In light of the possibility of a
continuing pact between the FSLN and the PLC in the Assembly,
Lewites believes that the focus of the election should be on
the deputy slots.

3. (C) Lewites emphasized that the MRS would never return to
an FSLN controlled by Ortega. He expressed concern about a
possible FSLN win, estimating that the FSLN can easily steal
four to five percent of the vote on election day. He also
pointed out the ideological differences between the ALN and
the MRS, and denied any possibility that Edmundo Jarquin
might step down and support Montealegre. He responded that
if Jarquin resigns, the MRS votes may migrate to Ortega.

4. (U) Polcouns reiterated the USG position that the MRS is a
viable and constructive option, with whom the United States
would maintain good relations.

Campaign tactics
- - - - - - - - -

5. (C) Lewites shared that the MRS is renewing campaign
efforts and planning intensive outreach in rural areas.
Jarquin will visit the smaller cities and towns, while vice
presidential candidate Carlos Mejia Godoy will concentrate on
the countryside. Recent campaign efforts have focused on
creating name recognition for Jarquin, wooing the youth vote,
as well as capturing some of the traditional FSLN vote.

6. (U) Shortly after Jarquin was named as the new MRS
presidential candidate, Lewites initiated a campaign -- "Vota
por el feo que quiere una Nicaragua linda" (Vote for the ugly
guy who wants a beautiful Nicaragua), playing on Jarquin's
appearance. According to Lewites, the campaign rapidly
increased recognition of Jarquin and everyone now calls him
"El Feo." Another recent campaign ad mocks Daniel's
appearance on July 19 riding a thoroughbred with the
Nicaraguan flag tied around his neck and contrasts it with
Jarquin riding a burro during a campaign rally in the
countryside. Other efforts to court the youth vote include a
contest for young people to write a Reggaeton song (a popular
style which mixes reggae and Latin American hip hop) against
corruption with a $200 prize for the winner.

MRS Platform
- - - - - - -

7. (U) MRS campaign efforts have focused on portraying the
party as the only "anti-pact" option. Their campaign
materials mention a "clean pact" with the people and their
platform focuses on anti-corruption and services for the most
disadvantaged in Nicaragua. Their "clean pact" with the
people includes 14 points:

- End the PLC - FSLN pact.
- Put an end to "mega" salaries and pensions for government
worker in order to increase salaries for health care workers
and teachers.
- Create 500,000 new jobs, focusing on employment for youth.
- Eradicate hunger and infant malnutrition.
- Guarantee better education for children.
- Increase and improve medical services.
- Create a development bank for small producers.
- Find housing solutions for the most needy.
- Prioritize road construction for the center and north of
the country; increase communication with the Caribbean Coast.
- Grant true autonomy to the RAAS and the RAAN.
- Protect Nicaraguan emigrants and ensure their right to vote.
- Improve security and safety for all Nicaraguans; stop
violence against women and children.
- Promote sustainable use of natural resources.
- Develop alternative energy sources and encourage tourism
and development.

8. (C) According to Lewites, the two key issues for the MRS
are term limits in the National Assembly and the regulation
of salaries. He believes that the system must be changed
whereby National Assembly seats are not treated as a reward
for the party faithful.

Life after Herty
- - - - - - - - -

9. (C) Jarquin and the MRS continue to use Herty Lewites'
popularity as a campaign tool, emphasizing his legacy.
Jarquin does not enjoy Herty's popularity and many say he
lacks Herty's charisma. During the meeting, Lewites voiced
his strong support for Jarquin and satisfaction with his
commitment to the party. He commented on Jarquin's
dedication and honesty, but admitted that his candor recently
lead to a tactical mistake. Jarquin expressed his support
for legalizing elective abortions, a procedure opposed by a
large majority of Nicaraguans and the Catholic Church. The
Catholic Church, as well as the other candidates (including
the FSLN) publicly denounced Jarquin's position.

10. (C) Lewites confirmed that financial backing remains a
critical issue and that the MRS has not been able to raise
many funds from Herty's contacts. Embassy contacts report
that several sources of funding brought to the MRS by Lewites
(from Jewish communities in Panama and Europe, for example)
have run dry. Jarquin himself admits that the MRS receives
minimal support from the Nicaraguan private sector, and the
party has been forced to essentially cut off local candidates
in lower-priority departments -- basically everywhere but the
Pacific region, which contains the majority of MRS
supporters.

11. (C) Lewites is particularly concerned about fraud on
election day and not having enough funds to cover logistical
expenses for the MRS fiscales. He told poloffs that the MRS'
selection and preparation of party poll watchers (fiscales)
is progressing. IRI has confirmed that it has trained about
30% of the MRS fiscales. According to Lewites, the MRS
intends to have at least two people per voting table (JRV) on
election day, but they need funds to feed and transport the
fiscales and other helpers.

Comment
- - - -

13. (C) Lewites seems optimistic about the possibility of the
MRS winning a fair number of deputy seats. Adamantly
anti-Daniel, Lewites claims he views the election as a
personal fight. He made a point of mentioning to poloffs
that he had studied in the United States (at the University
of Texas in Arlington) and believes in "the American dream"
and supports responsible capitalism -- since it so clearly
benefited him. Lewites is the force behind the MRS'
innovative publicity campaign that has a large number of
Nicaraguans talking about "El Feo." Though current polls
show Jarquin in third place, if the MRS can shift votes from
the FSLN and garner some of the undecided vote, it is still a
viable option -- and could be the key to preventing an Ortega
win.
TRIVELLI

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