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Cablegate: Labor - Potential Key to Opposition Unity

VZCZCXYZ0581
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #1495/01 1642318
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 132318Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0511
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 001495

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN SCHIFFER, DRL FOR MAGGIO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/2017
TAGS: KDEM PGOV PHUM PREL ELAB
SUBJECT: LABOR - POTENTIAL KEY TO OPPOSITION UNITY

REF: A. MANAGUA 893

B. MANAGUA 1083
C. MANAGUA 1482

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

1. (C) SUMMARY: There is growing unrest and resentment
towards President Daniel Ortega among organized labor,
sparked by turmoil in the education sector earlier this
year. Human rights NGO Nicaraguan Permanent Commission for
Human Rights (CPDH) hopes to capitalize on the situation by
working with the pro-democracy teachers union to push a
pro-human rights agenda with the Ortega government.
Simultaneously, several unions, including Nicaragua's
largest Liberal labor federation, have approached the
Embassy with stories of firings and growing Sandinista
pressure. We believe there is an excellent opportunity to
harness this unrest by using CPDH as a vehicle to
coordinate and focus labor sector opposition and link it to
other pro-democracy elements in civil society, thereby
expanding and energizing the popular base of democratic
opposition. We will work to facilitate, coordinate, and
guide CPDH, labor leaders, and civil society
organizations. END SUMMARY.

Teachers' Strike - The Spark
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (C) There is growing unrest and resentment towards
President Daniel Ortega in the organized labor sector,
sparked by turmoil in the education sector created earlier
this year over wage increase disagreements and fueled by
unmerited firings and hostile school take-overs (ref. B).
Although the crisis has passed, the education sector
continues to simmer. Members of the non-Sandinista United
Teachers Union (USM) harbor resentment towards the
treatment of their members during the crisis and are
fearful that troubles will continue for USM members since
Minister of Education Miguel De Castilla only recognizes
the Sandinista teachers union (ANDEN).

3. (C) In addition to sustaining talks with poloff, USM
leadership have reached out to CPDH -- whose executive
director, Marcos Carmona, has himself been the target of
repeated threats since President Ortega was elected (ref.
A). On the heels of his involvement in a cross-sector
effort to stage a May 1 march, Carmona now sees the
possibility of using the 16,000-member USM as the
centerpiece and catalyst for a democratic counter-movement
against President Ortega.

Others Join In
- - - - - - - -

4. (C) Although USM's -- a federation of some 21 separate
small unions -- recent high profile status makes it a
logical rallying point, a number of other unions, both
large and small, have recently approached the Embassy
asking for assistance. All have complained of unwarranted
firings, pressure from superiors, and the growing presence
of Sandinista-affiliated unions. Leaders from the Liberal
labor federation Permanent Workers' Congress (CPT) reported
that hundreds of members, primarily in government
institutions have been fired. Pedro Calderon, the
president of the ENACAL (Public Water Utility) union --
representing about 2,000 members -- reported that 70
percent of the 280 workers fired over the past five months
were union members and that half the union's board has been
fired. He also mentioned that the union's contract with a
private health clinic had been cut, he assumed, by ENACAL,
and that since January four new Sandinista-affiliated
unions have been registered in the company. Jose Berrios,
president of the tiny private security guard union SINTRESV
reported that he had been fired and blacklisted for
refusing to affiliate his 200-person union with the
Sandinista union federation FNT. Berrios claimed that
nearly all the owners of the private security companies --
which represent a work force of some 50,000 security guards
-- are current or former high-ranking police or military
officials who were members of Ortega's security apparatus
during the 1980s.

5. (C) Poloff referred CPT, Calderon, and Berrios to
Carmona at CPDH to denounce potential labor violations, but
also to begin loosely linking disparate unions under one
"roof", giving them a single point of contact in Carmona.
At this point, CPDH has been focused on USM because of its
high profile status, but we will engage with them to
continue building on their cross-sectoral experience from
the May 1 march, by embracing these and other
disenfranchised union groups to add to the USM base. In
the case of CPT, the largest democratic union federation in
Nicaragua, which is planning its own initiative to achieve
Liberal unity (ref. C), coordinating with CPDH's efforts
with USM would be essential to establish common objectives.

Comment
- - - -

6. (C) Although labor sector unrest represents a strategic
opportunity, it will require careful coordination and
guidance to harness and focus the disparate groups under
the rubric of a democratic movement. At the broadest
level, a unified platform must be developed, linking the
various pro-democracy unions to a common vision and set of
objectives. Labor-centric in nature, this group must also
be coupled with other key civil society actors to make the
movement as broad as possible. While this worked on a
small scale for the May 1 march -- which brought together
CPT, CPDH, the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) party,
pro-democracy NGO Movimiento por Nicaragua (MpN) and a
small number of other NGOs) -- scaling it into a larger
pro-democracy social movement will be a daunting task.

7. (C) Nevertheless, our contacts consistently state that
Ortega and his inner circle "understand the street" --
meaning that a large popular demonstration may be able to
convey discontent with Sandinista actions in a way that
media and official opposition have failed to do. We will
continue to identify and work with key labor and civil
society actors, facilitate dialog, and provide strategic
guidance, as possible, to encourage coordination and unity
amongst these democratic civil society groups.
TRIVELLI

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