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Cablegate: Aleman Storms Aln Headquarters, but Refuses to Meet Privately with Montealegre

VZCZCXRO9817
PP RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #0617/01 0671501
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081501Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9379
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0992
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAGUA 000617

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/08/2017
TAGS: PGOV PINR KDEM NU PREL
SUBJECT: ALEMAN STORMS ALN HEADQUARTERS, BUT REFUSES TO MEET PRIVATELY WITH MONTEALEGRE

REF: MANAGUA 0543

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

1. (C) Summary: With an entourage of PLC party hacks and
media in toe, former president Arnoldo Aleman recently paid
an impromptu (although some ALN members appear to have
expected it) visit on rival ALN party headquarters. Eduardo
Montealegre was in the midst of chairing his party's weekly
board of directors meeting, so Aleman was invited to meet
with other ALN leaders. According to ALN National Assembly
caucus leader Maria Eugenia Sequeira, Aleman flatly rejected
her party's proposals to set a common legislative agenda and
present a joint list of qualified candidates for judiciary
appointments. She believes that Aleman "generously" offered
to postpone the PLC's internal elections because he has lost
much of his following. ALN planning coordinator Kitty
Monterrey confirmed that Aleman declined Montealegre's offer
to meet privately -- removed from the gaggle of reporters.
Aleman's motive for the visit was clearly to deflect
attention from his failing internal election effort, and to
create a media circus to convince the public that he is the
leader of the opposition and that Montealegre had rebuffed
the "humble" PLC leader's efforts for Liberal unity. End
Summary.

2. (C) On March 5, with an entourage of Liberal
Constitutional Party (PLC) hacks and media in toe, former
president/convicted embezzler Arnoldo Aleman paid an
impromptu, likely pre-orchestrated, visit on rival Nicaraguan
Liberal Alliance (ALN) headquarters. According to ALN
planning coordinator Kitty Monterrey, who received the PLC
leader at the door, Aleman requested to meet with ALN
leader/2006 presidential candidate Eduardo Montealegre to
discuss Liberal unity. Montealegre was in the midst of
chairing his party's weekly board of directors meeting, so
Aleman was invited to meet with other ALN leaders, including
Assembly Deputies Maria Eugenia Sequeira, Yamileth Bonilla,
and Eliseo Nunez, Sr.; Parlacen Deputy Eliseo Nunez, Jr.;
and, legal adviser Mauricio Montealegre.

Aleman Rejects Common Legislative Agenda
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (C) Sequeira, who presides over the ALN National Assembly
caucus, recounted to PolCouns that Aleman responded to the
ALN proposal that the two estranged Liberal parties establish
a common legislative agenda to contain President Ortega, with
an unequivocal "no." Similarly, when the ALN leaders
recommended forming a joint working group to present a list
of qualified candidates to replace a number of judges whose
terms have expired, Aleman's response was a resounding
negative. Aleman was magnanimous on only one item -- his
offer to postpone the PLC's internal elections to allow more
time for all Liberals to join what he touts as his Liberal
unification initiative.

Is Pact-Bound Aleman Losing His Followers?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (C) For Sequeira, Aleman's "generous offer" was nothing
more than a ruse to conceal his desperation because nobody is
beating down the door to participate in the PLC elections.
She noted that Aleman's unwillingness to discuss serious
issues evidences his unwillingness to support any action that
could incur the wrath of political pact mate Daniel Ortega.
Aleman's primary objective was to orchestrate a media circus
to feature him as the "humble" political leader who only
seeks to unify Nicaragua's Liberals, opined Sequeira.
Monterrey supported Sequeira's assessment, reporting that
when Aleman was invited to meet privately with Montealegre,
without the cameras rolling, he declined.

ALN Suspects Internal Complicity, Tries to Turn Incident to Its Advantage
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (C) Monterrey shared her suspicions that Eliseo Nunez, Sr., and possibly Yamileth Bonilla and Eliseo Nunez, Jr., may have been "complicit" in Aleman's surprise visit. Montealegre also confirmed to DCM that he suspected Bonilla had arranged the foray. (Note: Camera footage depicts a seemingly expectant Nunez, Sr. warmly welcoming Aleman "home" -- "bienvendio a casa".) Monterrey acknowledged that media reports on Aleman's visit could lead the public to misconstrue that Montealegre had arrogantly rejected Aleman's peace making efforts. She mentioned that ALN leaders will use talk shows and press interviews to dispel this notion and assess how to make the best use of the incident. The fact that Aleman sought Montealegre on ALN turf could be used to convince rural Liberals that Montealegre is truly the leader of the opposition, she ventured.

6. (C) On March 6, PLC lawmaker Jose Pallais opined to PolCouns that Aleman's impromptu visit to the ALN was in part a tactic to demonstrate to the public that Aleman is promoting, not blocking, Liberal unity, and in part a reaction to growing internal criticism that Aleman must step down from his leadership of the party. He recounted that in a PLC meeting prior to Aleman's sudden visit to ALN headquarters, several party militants openly accused Aleman of being the primary obstacle to Liberal unity. Reportedly, Aleman countered that he would prove them wrong, stormed out of the meeting and invited the ever expectant media to accompany him to the ALN. According to Pallais, PLC lawmaker Enrique Quinonez called ALN deputy Bonilla to inform her of the visit.

Comment
- - - -

7. (C) We hear from both ALN and PLC contacts that the bulk
of Liberals seek a united opposition and lay much of the
blame for Ortega's victory on the failure of their leaders to
unite before the November 2006 election and Aleman's pact
with their Sandinista arch-enemy. Aleman's failure to
attract participation in his party's internal annual
elections likely reflects this common sentiment and the
belief among some Liberal activists that Aleman will
manipulate the outcome (reftel). We doubt that Aleman's
visit was as spontaneous as he tried to make it appear.
Timing the visit to coincide with Montealegre's presence at
his party headquarters suggests that the visit was precooked.

8. (C) We suspect that Aleman's true motive for the visit
was to create a media circus to dupe the public into
believing that he, not Montealegre, is the leader of the
opposition and that Montealegre had rebuffed the humble PLC
leader's efforts for Liberal unity. Much of the media
coverage of Aleman's "blitzkrieg" on the ALN has been vague,
leaving it to the public to decide whether Montealegre
rejected Aleman -- PLC deputy Enrique Quinonez' widely
publicized version of the events -- or whether Montealegre
called the PLC leader's bluff.
TRIVELLI

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