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Cablegate: Resignation of Nicaraguan Official From Anti-Tip

VZCZCXYZ0016
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0984/01 1091546
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 191546Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9866
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 000984

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE TO WHA/CEN GSCHIFFER, WHA/PPC MPUCCETTI, AND G/TIP
BFLECK

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/19/2017
TAGS: KCRM KWMN PHUM PREL SMIG ELAB NU
SUBJECT: RESIGNATION OF NICARAGUAN OFFICIAL FROM ANTI-TIP
COALITION, A TROUBLING SIGN

REF: A. MANAGUA 07 00796
B. MANAGUA 07 00882

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

1. (C) SUMMARY: Maria Gabriela Zuniga, Program Director of
the National Coalition Against Trafficking in Persons,
tendered her resignation to the Ministry of Government last
week, citing personal reasons for her decision. She confided
to us that the working conditions and culture of secrecy
under the Ortega government made it impossible for her to
play any effective role within the Ministry of Government or
in the Coalition. Instead, she intends to continue working
on the trafficking in persons issue outside the government
sphere, and could find a position with one of the major NGOs
dedicated to the issue in Nicaragua. She was one of the top
candidates selected to participate in the International Law
Enforcement Academy's (ILEA) anti-TIP training course
scheduled for San Salvador later this month. She recently
completed an International Visitor's Program with the
Department of State, and she has been a key contact for
information regarding the government's anti-trafficking
activities, and the main source of government information
essential to completing the Department's annual trafficking
in persons report. Her departure will be a loss to our
efforts to monitor Nicaragua's anti-TIP activities and
encourage a more effective government response to the
problem. END SUMMARY.

Losing an Asset
- - - - - - - -

2. (C) Over the past two and a half years, post has
developed a close working relationship with Maria Gabriela
Zuniga, Program Director of the National Coalition against
Trafficking in Persons. Although still at the beginning of
her professional career, Zuniga has proven to be a leader
in terms of generating government interest in the issue of
trafficking in persons, developing a National Plan of Action,
and working across agencies and civil society organizations
to promote an integral approach to the problem. She has
become a valuable asset to the Embassy in her area of
expertise, and has been cooperative and forthcoming in
providing information to political officers during both the
human rights report and trafficking in persons annual
reporting exercises (Reftel A). She was selected to
participate in an International Visitors Program in February.

3. (C) Although there were rumors soon after Ortega took
office that Zuniga would be swept up as part of the new
administration's attempt to clean house, we were relieved
when the Ministry of Government selected Zuniga as one of its
leading candidates to participate in the ILEA-sponsored
"Trafficking in Persons Course for Law Enforcement
Professionals" in San Salvador April 23 to May 4 (Reftel B).
We felt encouraged that this meant the Ortega government was
serious about continuing the commitment to addressing the TIP
problem. Zuniga's decision to step down from her government
position means she is ineligible to participate in this
conference, and that a less experienced alternate from her
organization will go in her place.

Resignation was Personal Choice, but...
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (C) When we received the news that Zuniga had decided to
leave her position within the Ministry of Government after
serving for almost three years, and making a name for herself
in the trafficking in persons field, we became concerned that
she had been forced to resign. In contrast to the spate of
dismissals of government officials--from both politically
appointed and civil service ranks--Zuniga maintains her
decision was voluntary. During a candid meeting we held with
her last week, she explained that for her own "sanity" she
had to leave the position because she was at a point where
she could no longer perform her job given the silence and
secrecy permeating the Ministry of Government under the
leadership of the Ortega government. Zuniga described a
dysfunctional and paralyzing working environment that left
people demoralized and made it "impossible" to coordinate
actions or make decisions at an internal level.

5. (C) Zuniga contends that under this administration, the
Ministers are not given any decisionmaking power, and are
mere "puppets," whose strings are pulled directly by
President Ortega or First Lady Rosario Murillo, the
administration's Director of Communications and Citizenry.
She explained that despite her repeated efforts to meet with
her supervisor, the Vice Minister of Government, she failed
and was virtually ostracized. Given these conditions, Zuniga
felt she had no other choice but to resign.

Departure Augurs Poorly for Government's Anti-TIP Plans
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (C) Zuniga also harbors doubts about the Ortega
government's commitment and political will to continue to
address the issue of trafficking, asserting that it doesn't
much matter if someone at her level is committed, if the top
leadership level is not. Zuniga is also convinced that only
constant outside pressure from civil society and
organizations like the International Organization for
Migration (IOM) and Casa Alianza will keep the government
focused on combating trafficking in persons. She clarified,
however, that TIP is not the sole responsibility of the
Ministry of Government, but rather entails a broader
commitment from other government agencies. She suggested
that other government agencies had failed to shoulder their
share of responsibility.

7. (C) Zuniga explained that her experience is not unique,
confiding that colleagues in other agencies and ministries,
including Foreign Affairs, Family, and Immigration, were also
leaving of their own accord or being forced out, including
some Sandinistas. Echoing reports we have heard from other
disenchanted and sidelined officials, the Ortega-Murillo
cabal does not trust anyone who is not part of its inner
circle. For example, the director of information for
Immigration was fired, likely because the new administration
doubted his loyalty. She mentioned that the person who will
probably replace her on the Coalition comes with no prior TIP
experience.

Looking Ahead to NGOs
- - - - - - - - - - -

8. (C) On a more positive note, Zuniga looks forward to
continuing to work the issue outside the government sector,
possibly with the IOM. She and IOM National Director Raul
Rivas have been collaborating on a National Anti-TIP Action
Plan, which she believes is an effective project that could
produce tangible results and bring Nicaragua into full
compliance with international anti-trafficking standards.
She reiterated, however, that any action by the government
will depend on continued external and international pressure.

TRIVELLI

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