Cablegate: Embassy Managua Assessment of Central America
DE RUEHMU #1873/01 2202346
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 082346Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0961
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO IMMEDIATE 4652
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
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RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL//J2/J3/J5// IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 001873
DEPT FOR WHA/FO--G. SNIDLE, WHA/CEN--S. CRAIG
DEPT ALSO FOR INL/LP--A. MARTIN
SOUTHCOM FOR POLAD
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/07/2017
TAGS: PTER PINS PREL XK
SUBJECT: EMBASSY MANAGUA ASSESSMENT OF CENTRAL AMERICA
REF: SECSTATE 107145
Classified By: Ambassador Paul Trivelli for reasons 1.4 (b) & (d).
1. (C) Due to recent political changes in Nicaragua, it
remains to be seen whether the GON will continue to cooperate
with the U.S. on broad high-level security policy. Even so,
day-to-day operational cooperation remains strong,
particularly with the National Police and the military. We
believe that expanding our practical and direct engagement
with appropriate Nicaraguan government agencies, especially
the military and the national police, does present viable
opportunities both to improve Nicaraguan security and
institutionalize Nicaragua's regional integration. With this
backdrop, we present the following ideas on what policy
actions and assistance could be effective in Nicaragua as
part of a comprehensive regional security strategy.
Success Predicated on Four Basic Assumptions
2. (C) We believe strongly that there are four underlying
assumptions that should apply across all countries in the
region and that should weigh heavily in Washington's
decisions about what policy and assistance to provide.
--First, the initial phase of policy support or assistance
needs to bring all countries to a common baseline via the
provision of common equipment with an emphasis on systems
that tie the countries' military, law enforcement, and
intelligence institutions together. This approach may mean
providing "unequal" support to some countries.
--Second, especially in Nicaragua, funds need to be set aside
to carry out public diplomacy to correct misperceptions about
and to promote U.S. assistance related to this regional
--Third, assistance, particularly equipment, should include
"sustainability packages" that allow receiving nations to
develop native capacity to continue efforts on their own
--Finally, a "burden-sharing" element should be required of
all nations, though realistically this would be non-monetary
in nature. As has already been seen with the Millennium
Challenge Corporation model, contributions of physical
facilities, legislative remedies, and the like can go a long
way to creating a lasting sense of ownership by the host
country and increase the chance for success.
Suggestions for Nicaragua
3. (C) With respect to Nicaragua, there are six areas where
additional assets and policies could bind Nicaragua more
closely to its neighbors resulting in better regional
cooperation and positive results.
-- Border Control: Nicaragua's police, military and the
customs and immigration agencies do not possess adequate
resources to exert sovereignty over national territory. One
key weakness in Nicaragua's border and immigration control is
the lack of airport security, which could be greatly improved
by installing a complete and functional video monitoring
system and the comprehensive implementation of the PISCES
immigration system. Policy consideration should be given to
determining how the C-4 Customs Union, of which Nicaragua is
a member, might be strengthened to expand its defensive-ring
potential. Perhaps integration into the larger CAFTA-DR
structure would produce the greatest effect. Despite
attendant fuel constraints, providing fixed- and rotary-wing
air assets as well as additional water assets would improve
activities to combat trafficking of narcotics, humans, as
well as of rare and protected species.
-- Military Cooperation: A regional solution to improve
security can not be successful without considering military
cooperation. Like nearly every other country in the region,
Nicaragua desperately needs transportation helicopters and
lift capacity. To be useful, however, any new physical
assets must be accompanied by, and should not be delivered
without, host country agreement for a "sustainability
package" that includes spare parts, training and maintenance.
Such a package should be designed to develop national
capacity that can be sustained for the long-term. The
provision of any physical assets should also include
communications systems that are mutually compatible to
encourage cooperation between the countries. In addition,
systems that are interoperable with U.S. equipment should be
considered where possible.
-- Regional Command and Control: We suggest that a regional
command and control/coordination center be considered -- as
SICA itself has proposed. This center could be housed at
JIATF in Florida or possibly in Honduras at Soto Cano. The
institution should at least bring together representatives
from national counter-drug and financial crimes enforcement,
and possibly counter-terrorism, entities from each country.
This center would improve regional coordination and
information sharing across national lines. If a U.S.
location were selected, Washington should consider providing
stipends or scholarships to facilitate the presence of
foreign LNOs on a rotational basis.
--Police Presence: Nicaragua has a National Police force;
however, outside the capital and major cities the NNP has a
limited presence with virtually no presence at all in the
Atlantic Provinces. Funding to increase the rural and
regional police presence, especially in the lawless Atlantic
region of the country, would greatly improve the NNP's
capacity and provide a significant deterrent against the
traffickers of narcotics, arms, persons, and other illicit
goods that utilize routes throughout the region. Increased
police manpower would also result in enhanced and more
frequent military-police cooperation particularly outside the
--Anti-corruption: Corruption in Nicaragua is endemic and
corrosive. In particular, the judiciary here presents a
particular challenge -- from top-to-bottom Nicaragua's courts
have been stacked, politicized and are routinely manipulated.
However, there are some options that we believe may produce
improvement. Nicaragua would benefit from assistance to
enforce financial disclosure laws already on the books.
Nicaragua is also the only nation in the region without a
financial intelligence unit and will almost certainly fall
under international financial sanctions beginning January
2008 due to the lack of progress. We would also propose
establishing a regional FINCEN, or help create unit within
the existing C-4 Customs Union structure.
-- Gangs: A regional anti-gang strategy has already begun to
be implemented. Although Nicaragua does suffer from a
growing problem with street gangs, especially in Managua, to
this point foreign organizations such as the MS-13 have not
been able to establish a long-term presence in the country.
However, like its neighbors, there are large numbers of
at-risk youth, who due to lack of economic opportunity and
social mobility, present potentially fertile ground for gang
and organized crime elements that seek to expand.
Substantial funding for programs targeting at-risk youth
would be a good investment.