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Cablegate: Cse Official Claims Electoral Council Serious

VZCZCXYZ0012
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0627/01 0672329
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 082329Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9391
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 000627

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/07/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR EAID KDEM NU
SUBJECT: CSE OFFICIAL CLAIMS ELECTORAL COUNCIL SERIOUS
ABOUT REFORMS

REF: 06 MANAGUA 2665

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

1. (C) Summary: Rodrigo Barreto, Chief of Staff of
Nicaragua's Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), claims that most
CSE magistrates are ready to implement desperately needed
electoral reforms, but the Council requires donor assistance
to move forward. The reforms would center around the
issuance of new citizen ID/voter registration Sx~'pQsuccess of the cedulation effort prior to the 2008 municipal
elections. End Summary.

2. (C) CSE Chief of Staff Rodrigo Barreto requested a meeting
with poloff on March 7 to discuss the CSE's plans for
electoral reforms and request the participation of the
Ambassador in a meeting with CSE president Roberto Rivas.
Barreto explained that Rivas has convinced most of the CSE
magistrates to support the modernization of the cedulation
process and has even, through Sandinista magistrate Castillo,
obtained the benediction of President Ortega. (Comment: The
CSE is technically an independent branch of government, but
Rivas would never make any progress without the approval of
the Sandinistas, who control most of the key positions in the
CSE. End Comment.)

3. (C) According to Barreto, the power of Sandinista
magistrate Emmet Lang, who many regarded as the real power in
the CSE before the elections, has seriously deteriorated.
Barreto commented that Lang's power plays, political ambition
(he wants the CSE presidency) and staunch opposition to
modernization has alienated the other magistrates. Lang
considers that he "delivered the elections to Ortega" by
manipulating the cedulation process, Barreto said.
Consequently, Lang feels betrayed by Ortega's refusal to give
government positions to his cronies, or even grant him an
audience. Barreto claimed that Lang initiated the current
wave of strikes by the CSE rank-and-file using his influence
with the employees' unions to "show Ortega he still counts."

4. (C) Regarding the reforms, Barreto explained that Rivas
plans to focus on the modernization of cedulation and the
civil registry because the political parties, donors, and
civil society essentially agree on what needs to be done in
this area. The CSE would start with complete digitization of
civil registry records (a birth certificate is required to
obtain a cedula) and the professionalization of the
registrars, who are currently municipal employees commonly
influenced by the political affiliation of the mayor. New
cedulas with a biometric identifier (thumb print) and other
security features would concurrently be issued to form the
basis of a new, "clean" padron. (Note: The current padron is
inflated by about 30 percent with ineligible entries. End
Note.) The whole process would be implemented under the
guidance of an international organization such as IFES.

5. (C) Barreto admitted that the issuance of new cedulas
would not be completed before the 2008 municipal elections,
forcing the CSE to use an "auxiliary padron" for voters using
the existing documents. He insisted, however, that the CSE
is "serious" about distributing the new cedulas and is
willing to work with civil society groups and international
NGOs to accomplish this task. He also claimed that the CSE
will implement safeguards to prevent citizens from voting
twice with two different cedulas.

6. (C) Having obtained consensus from the magistrates and the
President, Rivas is eager to meet with key donors to seek
approval and funding. A loan of 6.2 million euros from Spain
will only cover about half of the CSE's necessary expenses,
Barreto noted. Local IFES director Rafael Lopez Pintor
called after the meeting with Barreto to emphasize that
Rivas' is committed, but the CSE must begin implementing the
new systems by April to avoid jeopardizing the municipal
elections. Lopez Pintor commented that the CSE would need an
additional $9 million to implement the planned reforms.

7. (C) Comment: The success of the CSE's reforms will depend
on donor financing, which is in turn contingent upon
transparency. Before the elections, Rivas walked a tightrope
between donor and civil society demands for openness and the
desire of certain elements of the PLC-FSLN political pact
(including Lang) to cloud and stall the highly politicized
cedulation and vote counting processes. Too often Rivas

allowed Lang to stonewall and shun observer groups -- as
evidenced by the CSE's continued refusal to publicly release
the final vote counts of individual tables -- hence Barreto's
eagerness to explain Lang's eclipse by opposing forces. We
and the other election donor countries plan to hear Rivas out
and give him a chance to show that the CSE has taken a new
tack and is ready to seriously approach electoral reform.
TRIVELLI

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