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Cablegate: The Opposition's Recipe for Success: A

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #1174/01 1272230
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 072230Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0099
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1081
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 001174

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/07/2017
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL KDEM NU
SUBJECT: THE OPPOSITION'S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: A
MONTEALEGRE-JARQUIN-RIZO ALLIANCE

REF: A. MANAGUA 1028
B. MANAGUA 0810
C. MANAGUA 0242

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

1. (C) Summary: Two former presidential candidates, Eduardo
Montealegre of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) and
Edmundo Jarquin of the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS),
are working on forging a political alliance to counter
President Ortega,s increasingly authoritarian inclinations.
They are also reaching out to another former candidate, Jose
Rizo of the Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC). Combined,
these three leaders represent about 62% of the votes cast in
the November 2006 election, and could present a strong
alternative to counter Sandinista National Liberation Front
(FSLN) in the 2008 municipal elections. In a recent dinner
hosted by the Ambassador, Montealegre and Jarquin deliberated
opposition unity with five prominent Nicaraguan political
analysts and Embassy officials. While Nicaragua,s history
is marked by numerous similar initiatives that failed, the
current proponents believe that this one, like Violeta
Chamorro,s UNO, will succeed because it must. End Summary.

2. (C) Over dinner hosted by the Ambassador on May 3, ALN
and MRS former presidential candidates Eduardo Montealegre
and Edmundo Jarquin, respectively, deliberated with five
prominent Nicaraguan political analysts over how to forge an
effective democratic opposition alliance to counter Ortega,s
creeping authoritarianism and win a substantial number of
mayoral races in November 2008. The political pundits
included Emilio Alvarez Montalvan, Foreign Minister during
part of Aleman government and a Conservative; Sergio Garcia
Quintero, a Liberal-dissident jurist; Sergio Ramirez, a
renowned author, MRS supporter, and VP during the Ortega
regime of the 1980s; Gabriel Alvarez, a constitutional expert
associated with the ALN; and, Cairo Manuel Lopez, a
constitutional specialist and Social Christian. The DCM and
PolCouns also attended.

Clear Objectives, Organization, Funds Recipe for Success
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (C) Alvarez Montalvan opened the discussion by sharing
his optimism that Nicaragua,s opposition forces will
coalesce and prevail over Ortega,s efforts to turn the
country into an authoritarian, autocratic regime. To
succeed, however, the effort will require clear objectives,
organization, and of course, financial backing. He asserted
that funding alone is not the solution; without a clear
purpose and order, the money will be useless. Another
essential ingredient is Nicaragua,s youth, especially given
that 70% of the population is under 30. Alvarez Montalvan
added that civil society, particularly the Movimiento por
Nicaragua (MpN), must play a pivotal role in the opposition
effort.

4. (C) Other Nicaraguan guests nodded in agreement, although
views were divided regarding whether political parties or
civil society should take the lead in the opposition
movement. Lopez commented that the MpN represents only a
small segment of the civil society and to be more effective,
it should shed its elitist reputation. He suggested that the
Pro Justicia umbrella NGO (over which he presides) could also
contribute. They also agreed that civil society and
political parties associated with the new opposition must
create a common sense of purpose and spirit of volunteerism.
Ramirez commented that President Ortega,s Venezuelan-funded
literacy campaign, eye clinics, and generic pharmaceuticals
will attract poor Nicaraguans to Ortega,s side. In addition
to arranging rallies and demonstrations, the opposition must
also promote social causes, for example, helping Nicaraguans
resolve basic problems like water shortages and illiteracy.
Most Nicaraguans are not focused on corruption and good
governance; they want food and jobs, argued Ramirez.

5. (C) Although Garcia was less optimistic than Alvarez
Montalvan, he ventured that today,s political context is not
as complex as what Violeta Chamorro,s UNO opposition faced
in the late 1980s. He explained that Violeta,s coalition
contained 23 parties and leaders competing for position,
while this time around the opposition can start with the
three presidential candidates, who together garnered 62% of
the vote in last year,s election.


Democracy Vs Autocracy
- - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (C) Montealegre posited that the crucial debate is not
whether Nicaraguans prefer left or right leaning political
parties, but rather, whether they support democratic or
caudillo-run, authoritarian regimes. Jarquin opined that
some of Daniel Ortega,s personality traits are
uncontrollable -) including the president,s penchant for
authoritarianism, a visceral loathing of free market
economies, and his ingrained dislike for the United States.
Jarquin explained that while he questions certain aspects of
free market economies and U.S. policies, engagement, not
empty, insulting rhetoric, is the proper manner to address
these concerns. Ramirez remarked that while Ortega is a
skilled conspirator, he is lousy at governing. Nonetheless,
Ortega,s disjointed, scatter-shot style should not be
misinterpreted or dismissed; behind the apparent chaos is a
man with a clear mission, warned Ramirez.

An Aleman-Free Opposition
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

7. (C) Jarquin suggested that today,s opposition should
rally around two causes: defending Nicaragua,s democracy and
ensuring that the November 2008 municipal elections are held
on schedule. Slippage in the municipal polls would allow
Ortega more time to consolidate popular support in
preparation for the 2011 national elections. To succeed, the
opposition must be aggressive and focused in its criticism of
Ortega and his political pact with Aleman -) calling Ortega
on every failure to deliver on his campaign promises of zero
unemployment and zero hunger, he said.

8. (C) Expressing his optimism over forming an opposition
alliance with Montealegre in preparation for the municipal
elections, Jarquin clarified that under no circumstances
should PLC caudillo/convicted criminal Arnoldo Aleman
participate in this effort. Montealegre seconded this view,
saying that Aleman presents the main obstacle to unity.
Garcia underscored the strategic importance of winning
Managua,s mayoral race. (Note: Edmundo Jarquin has publicly
stated his interest in running for Mayor of Managua, where
the MRS enjoys considerable support.)

Counter Ortega through Aleman
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

9. (C) Monteleagre ventured that the most effective way to
counter Ortega is by attacking Aleman. In weakening Aleman,
Ortega will lose PLC National Assembly votes, which he needs
to advance his political project. Ramirez agreed, adding
that Ortega cannot afford to publicly defend any attacks on
Aleman. Alvarez warned that once Aleman,s utility expires,
Ortega will find another Liberal to &replace8 him.
(Comment: If Aleman,s influence on his party weakens, PLC
legislators will be less likely to endorse legislation that
advances Ortega,s interests and more likely to coalesce with
the ALN and MRS legislators to block destructive elements of
Ortega,s legislative agenda.)

Rizo A Key Ingredient, But Will He Play Ball?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - --

10. (C) While all of the Nicaraguans rejected Aleman,s
participation, they were unanimous that former PLC candidate
Rizo should be included in the opposition formula. Jarquin
and Montealegre agreed that Rizo will not attract all PLC
voters, but he can draw enough votes to create a critical
mass to reduce support for Aleman, whose pact with Daniel
Ortega allowed Ortega to win the election. Jarquin noted
that only Rizo can convince the hundreds of thousands of
Nicaraguans who voted for him that supporting an
Aleman-controlled PLC is tantamount to endorsing Ortega.
Montealegre then recounted his latest failed attempt to draw
in Rizo, who after agreeing to participate in a joint Liberal
unity tour in Matagalpa department over the May 4-6 weekend,
suddenly backed out with the excuse that he did not want
people to think he had joined the ALN. Montealegre
questioned Rizo,s commitment to the opposition movement and
courage to break with Aleman. Alvarez Montalvan and Garcia
offered to approach Rizo and coax him to &make the leap,8
although they also acknowledged that on several occasions

Rizo had been very close to joining Montealegre during last
year,s electoral campaign, but always capitulated to
Aleman,s pressure.

Watch out for Constitutional Reform
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

11. (C) The Nicaraguan analysts diverged over the
advisability of lobbying for constitutional reforms. Garcia
warned that negotiating reforms would open a Pandora,s Box
and would play into Ortega,s hands, while Alvarez reasoned
that opposition lawmakers must be prepared in the event the
FSLN and PLC allies push for adverse reforms. (Note: The
FSLN is jockeying for a constitutional reform that would
permit consecutive presidential elections, while the PLC
supports non-consecutive re-election, clearly to advance the
personal interests of their respective leaders. Together,
the two parties hold enough votes to promulgate
constitutional reforms. The ALN and MRS oppose these
measures, and instead, propose requiring presidential
candidates to receive at least 50 percent of the valid votes
counted to win the election on the first round.)

Comment
- - - -

12. (C) The 2008 municipal elections may offer the last
window of opportunity for the democratic opposition to
contain President Ortega,s apparent intentions to install a
populist, family-run dynasty in Nicaragua. Ortega is racing
to attract new voters to his side through a variety of social
programs targeting Nicaragua,s poor -- similar to Chavez,s
approach with Venezuela,s impoverished. He will exploit
whatever legal resources are at his disposal to remove
competitors like Montealegre from his path and keep the
opposition disunited. His control of the courts with
political ally Aleman allows him this privilege. The ALN-MRS
alliance is feasible in Nicaragua,s current political
context, as both oppose the caudillo-controlled FSLN and PLC.
However, to reach the critical mass of support to win
municipalities, including Managua, the ALN-MRS alliance must
garner sizable support from traditional PLC voters.

13. (C) Nicaragua,s history is marked by dozens of similar
initiatives that failed, but the current proponents believe
that this one, like Violeta Chamorro,s UNO, will succeed
because it must. Clearly, time favors Ortega and he
possesses the resources through Venezuelan assistance to buy
hearts and stomachs. How soon the opposition coalesces,
obtains the necessary financial backing, and starts playing a
visible role in helping resolve Nicaragua,s daunting social
needs, will largely determine whether this latest initiative
is yet another failed alliance, or an initiative that will
prosper and succeed. Thus far, the bulk of Nicaragua,s
business elites have avoided association with opposition
efforts and declined to support them. The risk is that not
enough Nicaraguans will awake in time, and instead, will be
lulled into complacency, or threatened into silence.
TRIVELLI

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