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Cablegate: Ortega Follows Chavez' Lead in Confronting U.S.

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0726 0791529
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 201529Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9524
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1015
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 000726

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/19/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR KDEM NU VE
SUBJECT: ORTEGA FOLLOWS CHAVEZ' LEAD IN CONFRONTING U.S.

REF: CARACAS 0584

Classified By: Ambassador Paul Trivelli for reason 1.4(d)

1. (C) Summary: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez traveled to
Nicaragua on March 11 to use the country as a platform to
criticize the United States and the Central American leg of
President Bush's recent trip. Chavez' trips to Nicaragua
have inspired President Daniel Ortega to abandon his
pre-election message of "peace and reconciliation" and jump
on the anti-U.S. bandwagon. Ortega's reversion to
confrontational 1980s-style rhetoric has generated concern
among moderate Nicaraguans, who had vainly hoped that he had
turned a new leaf. End Summary.

2. (U) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hastily arranged a
March 11 visit to Nicaragua to coincide with President Bush's
trip to Guatemala. Chavez and Nicaraguan President Daniel
Ortega traveled to Leon to pay homage to legendary poet Ruben
Dario before launching into a stereophonic anti-U.S. tirade.
Chavez criticized Bush's trip to Latin America as
"ridiculous" and labeled him a "political cadaver." Chavez
urged Ortega to copy the Venezuelan system of "21st century
socialism" by establishing citizens' councils and warned him
not to allow the "right-wing opposition... supported by the
Empire" to derail the Sandinista project. The Venezuelan
president promised that Nicaragua would no longer be subject
to the "ghastly" influence of the IMF and pledged to build a
$2.5 billion oil refinery in Leon.

3. (U) Ortega followed Chavez' pronouncements by demanding
that the U.S. withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and
cease construction on the southern border wall. If the U.S.
truly had good intentions regarding Latin America, Ortega
claimed, it would start by paying the $17 billion owed to
Nicaragua for mining Corinto harbor and helping to finance
the contra rebels. (Note: The Chamorro government renounced
all claims and the $17 billion figure is a Sandinista
creation that was never stipulated by The Hague or any other
judgment. End Note.)

4. (SBU) Chavez' visit was widely criticized by the
Nicaraguan opposition and the press. Opposition leaders from
the ALN, PLC, and MRS accused Chavez of interventionism and
scolded Ortega for letting Chavez use Nicaragua as a platform
to criticize the U.S. The newspapers lampooned Ortega as a
puppet of Chavez and a slave to Venezuelan oil wealth and ran
several negative editorials. Several contacts indicated that
moderate Nicaraguans are increasingly uncomfortable with
Ortega's attacks on the United States. (septel).

5. (U) The Ortega/Chavez trip to Dario's tomb also re-ignited
a debate over two original manuscripts of Dario's poems that
Ortega bequeathed to Chavez during a February 23 trip to
Caracas. At the time, Ortega was roundly condemned for
giving away valuable artifacts of Nicaragua's cultural
heritage -- in a poll conducted by "La Prensa," 92 percent of
respondents considered that Ortega was wrong to gift the
manuscripts to Chavez. Many hoped (in vain) that Chavez
would use the occasion of the homage to Dario to return the
manuscripts to Nicaragua.

6. (C) Comment: Ortega continues to struggle with the "dual
discourse" demanded by most of Nicaraguan society and the
moderate members of his party and the extremists (and
paymaster Chavez). He appears, nevertheless, to be much more
comfortable in the role of left-wing populist ideologue than
playing a responsible head of state. He is animated,
sometimes close to euphoric, during his encounters with
Chavez, but mumbles listlessly through prepared remarks when
meeting with USG officials. Ortega's attitudinal shifts may
well portend the future direction of Nicaraguan foreign
policy unless the FSLN moderates who truly comprehend the
benefits of a positive relationship with the U.S. can reign
him in.
TRIVELLI

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