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Cablegate: Political Pundits Place Ortega Government On

VZCZCXRO9284
PP RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #0810/01 0881804
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 291804Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9637
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1035
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 03 MANAGUA 000810

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

WHA/CEN, DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/29/2017
TAGS: KDEM NU PGOV PHUM PINR PREL
SUBJECT: POLITICAL PUNDITS PLACE ORTEGA GOVERNMENT ON
YELLOW ALERT (C-AL7-00063)

REF: MANAGUA 0242

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

1. (C) Summary: Six of Nicaragua's leading political
analysts concur that the Ortega administration has already
reached "yellow alert" status and that President Ortega's
primordial objective is to consolidate power. Over breakfast
at the Ambassador's residence, they lauded our government's
approach towards Ortega, and believe it may prevent him from
falling exclusively under Venezuelan President Chavez' orbit
of influence. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Over breakfast hosted by the Ambassador on March
28, six of Nicaragua's leading political analysts, whose
political inclinations span Nicaragua's political spectrum,
discussed their respective assessments of the Ortega
administration thus far. Guests included
Conservative-leaning Gabriel Alvarez, a constitutional
expert; Sergio Garcia Quintero, a Liberal-dissident jurist;
Luis Humberto Guzman, former National Assembly president and
Christian Democrat; Cairo Manuel Lopez, a constitutional
expert, president of NGO Pro Justicia, and a Social
Christian; Alejandro Martinez Cuenca, an economist, director
of economic think-tank FIDEG, and a member of the FSLN; and,
Carlos Tunnerman, a Sandinista dissident involved in the NGO
Movimiento por Nicaragua (MpN), former Minister of Education
during the 1980s Sandinista regime, and one-time ambassador
to the United States during the same period.

U.S. Policy on the Mark, Aid Should Target the Poor
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (C) Initiating the conversation, Martinez Cuenca
(Reftel), thanked the Ambassador for the invitation and our
policy vis-a-vis the Ortega government. He termed our
approach the best means to prevent President Ortega from
using the pretext of a "hostile U.S. government" as
justification to fall exclusively within Venezuela's orbit of
influence. He offered that our lack of public reaction to
Ortega's occasional anti-U.S. rhetoric is helpful, and
encouraged us to ramp up the promotion of our assistance
programs so people are more aware of our support. Martinez
Cuenca, who commented that the USAID insert in the March 26
editions of the two dailies La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario was
an effective step towards this end, also suggested we
dedicate more of our assistance to help the needy.

4. (C) Garcia Quintero, who advises the Japanese on their
assistance programs, underscored the importance of "donor
branding" so that the people recognize the origin of the
donations and can effectively monitor project implementation.
Tunnerman referred to Secretary Leavitt's medical training
initiative as a valuable project because it targets the rural
poor. Lopez suggested we increase our exchange programs and
other public diplomacy activities, while Guzman underscored
the importance of our military assistance and
counternarcotics support.

Yellow Alert
- - - - - -

5. (C) Martinez Cuenca's view that Ortega administration
actions have triggered a "yellow alert" drew vigorous nods of
approval from his colleagues. Tunnerman ventured that the
Ortega government's actions are bordering on "orange."
Alvarez added that in some respects Nicaragua had reached the
"yellow alert" stage before the November 2006 national
elections, as voting results were manipulated to alter the
composition of the National Assembly to favor Ortega and
fellow political pact mate Arnoldo Aleman. He criticized
Nicaraguans and the international community for not having
insisted that the Ortega-Aleman-controlled Supreme Electoral
Commission (CSE) issue the final election results -- polling
center by polling center -- which could have helped detect
the fraud.

It's all about Power, the Battle between Democracy and
Authoritarianism
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - -

6. (C) The analysts were unanimous in their view that
President Ortega is an astute, wily, street-smart,
caudillo-style politician who adeptly manipulates popular
sentiment and pits both his supporters and enemies against
one another to maintain the upper hand. Tunnerman remarked
that this time around, a more "pragmatic" Ortega has shed his
socially-minded ideology and is now driven purely by his
desire to consolidate power in the hands of his inner circle
- namely himself, wife Rosario, and their offspring. The
1980s Sandinista government was run by a junta, not Ortega
alone, reminded Tunnerman. Rosario was relegated to a minor
role, but now she commands daily operations, explained
Tunnerman.

7. (C) Tunnerman added that while the Sandinistas of the
1980s were committed to a "social project," this time around
Ortega possesses no clear government plan and is driven
exclusively by his unquenchable thirst for power, akin to the
Somoza regime. He postulated that President Ortega will use
whatever means at his disposal to legalize and legitimize his
actions to convince observers that he remains within a
democratic framework. Thus it is understandable that today's
Ortega will court foreign and domestic capital -- even
sweet-talk potential U.S. investors -- while completely
discarding the rule of law. Lopez remarked that wealthy
Sandinistas who support the new government will also do their
utmost to protect their business interests and seek new
foreign business partners. Alvarez conjectured that what is
at stake is no longer a matter of left versus right; rather,
the struggle is between authoritarianism and democracy.

Economic Decline Could Become Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
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8. (C) The analysts shared the Ambassador's concern that
Nicaragua's economy shows signs of deterioration, and a
downturn could become a self-fulfilling prophecy that
President Ortega would exploit to impose a more
authoritarian, market-hostile, economic model. Martinez
Cuenca enumerated a decline in housing starts, a slowdown in
investment, private sector reluctance to restock inventories,
the country's unresolved energy crisis, and a looming drought
that could cause serious water and power shortages as areas
of special concern. If these trends continue, they could
ultimately spark an economic crisis -- in a soon as 60 days
-- that Ortega would use to "justify" the imposition of a
more authoritarian economic model, he warned.

Limits on Ortega Will Kick in as the Euphoria Wanes
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9. (C) Lopez predicted that as Sandinista euphoria over
their victory abates, the FSLN's internal struggles for party
control will escalate. It will also become increasingly
evident to the public that most of Ortega's cabinet ministers
are mediocre and ill-prepared to resolve Nicaragua's
problems. And, while Venezuela can provide oil and other
material goods to Nicaragua, it cannot offer the technical
expertise of more developed countries that Nicaragua so
desperately needs. Guzman observed that Ortega's powers in
some ways are more limited this time around, as he no longer
enjoys the "social hegemony" of the 1980s and international
limitations, including the IMF will check him.

Social Apathy, Divided Opposition Advantage Ortega
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10. (C) The analysts agreed that widespread social apathy
combined with the political opposition's lack of direction
advantage Ortega and his race to consolidate power. Garcia
Quintero dwelled on what he termed the "indefinable
idiosyncrasies" of Nicaragua's social dynamics that can
propel mercurial Nicaraguans from "the sublime and heroic to
the ridiculous" in no time. He believes that most
Nicaraguans resist displaying their "confrontational heroism"
of the 1980s and prefer now to let someone else make the
first move.

11. (C) Despite the pervasive consternation, the analysts
evinced various shades of optimism. Tunnerman was hopeful
that groups like Movimiento por Nicaragua (MpN) can help
contain Ortega and defend the country's embattled democracy.
He reported that students from the Polytechnic University
recently asked the MpN to help arrange a rally on 29 March in
protest of the Ortega government's poor performance thus far.
(The MpN recently issued Ortega a failing report card for
his government's poor performance during the first 60 days).
While all guests agreed that civil society can play a pivotal
role in curbing Ortega's excesses, Garcia Quintero argued
that political opposition parties, not civil society, should
lead the charge. Lopez countered that in an ideal scenario,
political parties should set the course; however, given their
lack of focus and disingenuousness, they are not yet up to
the task.

100 Days the "Drop-Dead" Mark
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

12. (C) Martinez Cuenca shared with the group his message to
the Ortega administration that he will reserve judgment on
its performance until it passes the 100-day mark. He invited
his colleagues to join him in sharing their assessment with
the public at that point.

Comment
- - - -

13. (C) Daniel Ortega's motives have not really changed --
his blind ambition for power is by no means a recently
acquired trait. Rather, he altered his tactics, adopting a
conciliatory demeanor during the election campaign and
pre-inauguration periods after his confrontational approach
failed -- and specializing in double discourse since January
10. We will encourage these and other political pundits to
put together a forum to mark the Ortega administration's
first 100 days and to publish their assessments.
TRIVELLI

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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