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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Ambassador Calls On New Minister Of

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0467/01 0522243
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 212243Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9177
INFO RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS MANAGUA 000467

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR OES

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EAGR EAID EIND NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: AMBASSADOR CALLS ON NEW MINISTER OF
ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES

REF: MANAGUA 0405

1. (SBU) Summary. The Ambassador met with new Minister of the
Environment and Natural Resources Amanda Lorio Arana to
discuss potential collaboration on environmental programs.
The Ambassador described the breadth and depth of U.S.
environmental projects and programs in Nicaragua, including a
CAFTA-DR Environmental Cooperation Agreement, a new $3.6
million Global Development Alliance with the Rainforest
Alliance, and a new natural resource management activity with
the U.S. Forest Service to improve the effectiveness of
protected areas and preserve biodiversity. Lorio told the
Ambassador that she planned to instill a new focus at the
Minister of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) on
watersheds and water resources. She emphasized that another
part of her job will be to change attitudes toward littering
and cleanliness. In the medium- to long-term, Lorio believes
that MARENA will have to develop the capability to evaluate
the environmental impact of the new petroleum refinery
proposed by the Venezuelans. Finally, she said that she saw
another one of her responsibilities as preparing the
population for climate change. Lorio agreed that there is
extraordinary potential for ecotourism in Nicaragua, and the
USAID Director affirmed that studies had shown that Nicaragua
offered even more biodiversity than Costa Rica. Commenting
on illegal logging activity, Lorio observed that corruption
is rampant, and that illegal exporters of protected tree
species come in all shapes and sizes. End Summary.

2. (U) On February 7, the Ambassador met with new Minister of
the Environment and Natural Resources Amanda Lorio Arana to
discuss potential collaboration on environmental programs.
Accompanying him was the USAID Director and Econoff. MARENA
Director General Maria Antonieta Rivas Leclair also
participated.

USAID Activities
----------------

3. (SBU) The Ambassador opened by explaining the breadth and
depth of U.S. environmental projects and programs in
Nicaragua. He noted that much of the U.S. effort is related
to fulfilling trade capacity building obligations under
CAFTA-DR. The following week, for example, the U.S. would
participate in a regional conference in Guatemala for CAFTA
countries to discuss priorities for the region. (Note:
Nicaragua was the only country which did not send a delegate
to that conference. Travel authorizations have been
complicated by a Ministry of Finance order centralizing
funding authority under the Presidency, in the Office of the
Coordinator for Public Communication and Citizenship headed
by First Lady Rosario Murillo.)

4. (U) The Ambassador and USAID Director told Lorio that in
the fall of 2006, USAID completed a work plan with the
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) to
support activities under the CAFTA-DR Environmental
Cooperation Agreement. USAID will invest $2 million to
strengthen the country's ability to implement and enforce
environmental laws, better protect and manage biodiversity
and conservation, and encourage private sector involvement.

5. (U) The Ambassador informed Lorio that USAID had recently
initiated a new $3.6 million Global Development Alliance with
the Rainforest Alliance to bring together private sector
partners to strengthen the competitiveness and sustainability
of agriculture, tourism, and forestry of small and
medium-sized enterprises and community based activities.

6. (U) In addition, the Ambassador and the USAID Director
informed Lorio that USAID will begin new natural resource
management activity with the U.S. Forest Service to improve
the effectiveness of protected areas and preserve
biodiversity. Activities focus on watershed and associated
protected areas. USAID will fund $2.2 million while the
private sector will contribute about $750,000.

MARENA's Focus
--------------

7. (SBU) Lorio told the Ambassador that she plans to instill
a new focus at MARENA on watersheds and water resources. She
said decisions have to be made about which sources of water
should be used for drinking and which should be used for
industrial purposes. In some cases, she said, wastewater and
other effluents had thoroughly polluted lagoons, lakes, and
rivers; in other cases, watersheds need to be replenished.
In Nicaragua, she observed, reforestation has a large role to
play in watershed management, as does understanding
geothermal dynamics. The Ambassador suggested that earning
carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol could provide a
useful stimulus for reforestation in Nicaragua.

8. (SBU) Lorio stressed that another part of her job will be
to change attitudes toward littering and cleanliness.
Driving through Managua, one can see people living in and
around trash scattered along the streets and around the homes
of practically all Managuans. Lorio speculated that she
would be requesting donor support for the establishment of
collection and recycling systems.

9. (SBU) In the medium- to long-term, Lorio believes that
MARENA will have to develop the capability to evaluate the
environmental impact of a new petroleum refinery, in
reference to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' recent offer.
Lorio noted that the experience of Honduras might be
instructive in this regard. (Note: Exxon-Mobil owns and
operates the one refinery in Nicaragua at this time.)

10. (SBU) Lorio retrieved a map of oil spills or leaks
located around the country. She pointed to five major and
ten minor spills under management by the Directorate of
Environmental Control. (Note: We understand that most of
these sites are gasoline stations with leaking tanks, and
that the situation is not serious.) Lorio added that while
MARENA had set up a hotline to report environmental crimes,
the ministry needs to train ministry officials and lawyers
how to apply environmental law.

11. (SBU) Finally, Lorio said that she sees another one of
her responsibilities as preparing the population for climate
change.

Ecotourism
----------

12. (U) The Ambassador commented that he served in Nicaragua
twelve years ago and had always thought that the country was
beautiful, but he now sees the extraordinary potential for
ecotourism. Lorio agreed, standing up to show designated
protected areas and volcanoes on a topographical map. She
added that while most people believe that Costa Rica is home
to more biodiversity, it is only because it is better
documented. USAID Director agreed, affirming that studies
had shown that Nicaragua offered even more diversity than
Costa Rica, especially along what is known as the biological
corridor.

Forestry
--------

13. (SBU) The Ambassador asked about issues surrounding
forest management and the enforcement of logging laws, given
that things had deteriorated so that the Bolanos government
had to issue a ban on the export of raw timber (reftel).
Lorio supported Bolanos' desire to do something; the
government could not simply sit idly by while the forests
died a slow death. The police, attorney general, and others
need to better enforce the law. Corruption in the industry,
she stated, has to be confronted. Illegal exporters of
protected tree species come in all shapes and sizes. USAID
Director pointed out that what Nicaragua needs is a system to
certify that logging corresponds to approved management
plans.

Turtles and Lagoons
-------------------

14. (U) Lorio lent two films to the Ambassador: "Turtles Also
Cry" and "Broken Mirrors." She encouraged him to show them
to Embassy staff. The first documents the plight of
endangered species of turtles in Nicaragua. On the Atlantic
coast, turtle meat is butchered and commonly sold in the
marketplace. In addition, Nicaraguans harvest thousands of
turtle eggs for food every year. Lorio explained that
Nicaragua has four of the seven endangered species of turtles
designated by the Convention on Illegal Trade of Endangered
Species (CITES). The second film described the plight of
Nicaraguan lagoons, originally created as the result of water
runoff into volcanic craters. Years of neglect and improper
drainage of waste water had destroyed one very popular lagoon
near Managua. The films, funded by Danish development agency
DANIDA, were locally produced and filmed.

Potential for Collaboration
---------------------------

15. (U) The Ambassador told Lorio that the U.S. Mission is
very open to suggestions for potential projects. USAID
Director said that USAID would try to provide U.S. experience
when it came to watershed management and reforestation. He
added that USAID welcomes the opportunity to discuss country
and regional projects.

Biography: Amanda Lorio Arana
-----------------------------

16. (SBU) Amanda Lorio Arana is a sociologist who worked for
the Agricultural Development and Reform Ministry during the
1980s. She has since been certified by the Upledger
Institute (United States) and the International Therapy
Examination of Healthcare Practitioners. Before being named
minister, she practiced reflexology at a medical office in
Managua. The office specialized in the treatment of
migraines, nervous and hormonal dysfunctions, depression,
arthritic knees, lumbago, scoliosis, stress, post-operative
recovery, and trauma. She has reportedly treated the first
lady and Director of Public Communication and Citizenship
Rosario Murillo, and it was through this connection that she
was selected as minister.
BRENNAN

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