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Cablegate: (C) Embassy Jump Starts Liberal Unity Discussions

VZCZCXYZ0017
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0616/01 0671458
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081458Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9377
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0990
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 0070
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 000616

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/06/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR KDEM NU IR TW VE
SUBJECT: (C) EMBASSY JUMP STARTS LIBERAL UNITY DISCUSSIONS

REF: A. MANAGUA 0577

B. MANAGUA 0543
C. MANAGUA 0404

Classified By: Ambassador Paul Trivelli for reasons 1.4 (b and d)

1. (C) Summary: After splintering under the weight of mutual
suspicion and recriminations, DCM hosted a cocktail to bring
together members of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) and
Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC) to reactivate discussions
on the need to forge a unified opposition to confront
President Ortega's totalitarian ambitions. ALN leaders
insisted on achieving a unified agenda in the National
Assembly (where Liberals hold the majority), while PLC
representatives equivocated, visibly annoyed by the ALN's
aggressive posture. Ultimately, both sides concurred on the
overarching need to defend the country against a renascent
Sandinista dictatorship and agreed to meet again under the
auspices of a neutral facilitator. End Summary.

2. (C) At the request of ALN deputy and chief unity
negotiator Jamileth Bonilla, DCM agreed to host a cocktail on
March 5 to jump start faltering unity discussions between the
ALN and PLC (ref C). In addition to Bonilla, ALN president
Eduardo Montealegre and deputies Maria Eugenia Sequeira and
Luis Callejas represented that party. Francisco Aguirre
Sacasa, Carlos Noguera, and Freddy Torres were invited on
behalf of the PLC.

3. (C) The encounter was significantly more contentious than
previous meetings, with both sides launching accusations of
unjustified public attacks and press manipulation. Torres
specifically criticized the reunification lunches organized
by Bonilla as a "media circus" and complained that the ALN's
efforts to recruit PLC deputies and mayors (refs A and B) had
undermined confidence in the process. Bonilla and Sequeira
shot back that the PLC caucus in the National Assembly is
still responding to FSLN interests through orders from
convicted PLC leader Arnoldo Aleman, which is why the caucus
has not agreed on a unified legislative agenda.

Liberals Agree to Reject Questionable Agreements...
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (C) Despite their differences, the Liberals concurred that
the Assembly should not ratify or approve various treaties
and "friendship agreements" with Iran, Venezuela, and Taiwan.
Aguirre Sacasa explained that while agreements or memoranda
of understanding do not normally require Assembly
ratification, any document involving the national budget must
pass the legislature's muster. Thus, some of the Venezuelan
agreements will require Assembly approval. Both sides
rejected the proposed agreement with Iran, which states that
Nicaragua would support Iran in international fora. They
were unsure, however, about what kind of official action to
take (if any) regarding the Iran document or other
questionable agreements with Venezuela and Taiwan, which may
not technically require approval from the Assembly. We asked
if they could pass a non-binding resolution rejecting the
documents, but the deputies did not answer.

... But Vacillate Over Budgetary Controls
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (C) ALN president Eduardo Montealegre strongly urged the
PLC team to agree to modify the 2007 budget proposal to
disallow extra-budgetary income generated by autonomous
institutions to be spent on other official entities (such as
the FSLN-controlled citizen councils). Such a restriction
would block the FSLN from "laundering" Venezuelan oil money
through the state-controlled distributor to finance
Sandinista projects without legislative oversight. The
deputies could not agree, however, on how to enact the
modifications or if the Assembly has the authority to change
the budget proposal at this stage. (Note: According to
Sequeira, the ALN, PLC, and MRS successfully proposed a
motion the following day to add a clause to the budget that
stipulates that revenues from autonomous government entities
(like PetroNic) must be channeled through the national
budget. The ALN failed, however, to pass a motion that would
have placed similar restrictions on donations. End Note.)

6. (C) Towards the end of the meeting, Ambassador and emboffs
set the deputies back on course by giving examples of how
Chavez manipulated divisions in the Venezuelan opposition to
gain absolute control. The anecdotes sobered the Liberals
considerably. They then agreed to continue negotiations in a
private setting and with the assistance of a neutral
facilitator and requested USG assistance in this regard.
USAID Democracy and Governance Officer, present for the
meeting, agreed to assist if/as needed.

7. (C) Comment: The Liberals' confusion over parliamentary
procedures and legislative oversight demonstrates the lack of
capacity for even experienced deputies such as Bonilla,
Sequeira, and Noguera (a former Assembly president) to
respond to the Sandinistas' domination of all other branches
of government. In addition, overblown egos, internal
divisions, and the Aleman Question (septel) persist in
hampering unification attempts. We will continue to nudge
the Liberals in the right direction by, if necessary,
providing a facilitator to assist negotiations and seeking
additional technical support for legislative issues.
TRIVELLI

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