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Cablegate: Ambassador's August 6 Meeting with Eduardo

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #1880/01 2211814
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 091814Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0968
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL//J2/J3/J5// PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 001880

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/08/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL KCOR KDEM NU
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S AUGUST 6 MEETING WITH EDUARDO
MONTEALEGRE

Classified By: Ambassador Paul Trivelli, reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)

Summary
-------

1. (C) The Ambassador met with Eduardo Montealegre leader of
Nicaragua's Liberal Alliance (ALN) at Montealegre,s request
on August 6. Montealegre expressed his doubts about the
possibilities of forming a strategic liberal alliance with
Liberal Constitutional Party of Nicaragua (PLC) before the
2008 municipal elections. He suggested that the best way
forward was to work with the PLC one issue at a time. First
and foremost, on Montealegre's list is working with the PLC
to fight the Ortega government's efforts to establish
Citizens, Councils (CPCs - Consejos del Poder Ciudadano).
Montealegre complained about the lack of financial resources
to support democratic change in Nicaragua, and openly
wondered how much longer he should continue to invest
personally in the party. That said, he did not categorically
dismiss the possibility that he might stand as a candidate
for the mayoral job in Managua. End Summary.

A Strategic Alliance with the PLC?
----------------------------------

2. (C) Montealegre suggested that reaching a common
legislative agenda with the PLC is going to be very hard.
Aleman is clearly not interested, in Montealegre's opinion.
Montealegre discounted the supposed willingness voiced by
certain PLC leaders, for example Maximino Rodriguez or
Enrique Quinonez, to work with the ALN. Montealegre also
doubts the power of lower level PLC politicians -- for
example PLC mayors -- to effect change, since most of them
are none too clean themselves, and Aleman can use his control
of the Comptroller's Office to put pressure on them.

3. (C) Furthermore, Montealegre opined that in his view
there was no goodwill in the PLC to work on a strategic
liberal alliance with the ALN. Montealegre told the
Ambassador that the PLC thus far has shown no interest in
discussing the nitty-gritty details of a common legislative
agenda. Therefore, Montealegre believes that the only way to
move forward in developing liberal unity in Nicaragua is to
work with the PLC on one specific issue at a time. The first
such issue needs to be fighting the Ortega government's
efforts to establish Consejos del Poder Ciudadano.

4. (C) Montealegre also doubts that it will be easy to
create a common slate of candidates for the municipal
elections next year. A full blown primary would be difficult
to organize, expensive, and not necessary. The ALN and PLC
are evenly matched in only about 27 municipalities, and in
the others municipalities it should be easy to decide which
party should take the lead. Montealegre argued that the ALN
and PLC would do better to follow the Mexican PRI example of
internal weighted polls to pick common candidates in those
municipalities where neither party enjoys a significant
advantage.

Threats to Nicaraguan Democracy
-------------------------------

5. (C) The CPCs pose a real threat to democracy, according
to Montealegre. Rosario Murillo is seeking to use these
Consejos first and foremost to secure control over the FSLN;
but clearly the larger intent is to use the CPCs to
circumvent municipal authorities. Even if the Assembly gets
rid of the Ley 290, Ortega/Murillo will continue to develop
the Consejos as overtly partisan organizations. Montealegre
discounts that Ortega is primarily seeking to establish the
CPC,s in order to offset a possible loss of Presidential
power if the Ley Marco is repealed. According to
Montealegre, Ortega does not have much to fear if the Ley
Marco is set aside; unlike President Bolanos who controlled
only 5 Assembly votes, Ortega, with his 47 votes, will lose
little power if the withdrawal of the Ley Marco comes to pass.

6. (C) Montealegre told us that the Assembly leadership's
decision to move the Bolanos Davis case to the Supreme Court
embodied a deal between Aleman and the FSLN to protect Aleman
from an Assembly vote that could have gone against him,
highlighting divisions within the PLC. Moving the case to
the Supreme Court puts the Bolanos Davis case squarely in the
hands of the Pacto. Having circumvented the will of the
Assembly on this case, by referring it to the Court, the
Pacto may try to utilize the same tactic for other issues.


7. (C) Continued funding for the democratic forces in
Nicaragua is a real challenge, Montealegre told the
Ambassador. He argues that he's not talking about a lot of
money - $100k a month is all that is needed - but if young
entrepreneurs and others with a stake in protecting
Nicaraguan democracy are not willing to contribute to the
effort, he wonders how long he personally should continue to
do so. Montealegre also fears that the Sandinistas will try
to attack his assets, and so he has transferred much of his
wealth to his wife. "I'd rather be ripped-off by my wife
than by the FSLN," he joked. The private sector has not yet
reacted to Ortega's politics because, so far, Ortega has not
threatened them. The private sector would only react,
Montealegre opined, as they did during the Somoza regime,
when Ortega begins to directly to compete with them and
impinge on their profit making.

8. (C) Montealegre also voiced his concerns about the recent
suicide of the wife of the Director of the Central Bank. The
Central Bank Director has been one of the few rallying points
for economic pragmatism, and Montealegre feared what the
effect of this tragedy will be. If there was no foul play,
the man will likely be devastated and distracted for some
time. If there was foul play, and the Pacto has connived to
cover it up, then the Pacto will now own the Central Bank too.

Mr. Mayor?
----------

9. (C) The Ambassador asked whether rumors are true that
Montealegre is thinking about standing as the mayoral
candidate in Managua in the municipal elections next year.
Montealegre said that he had not yet made this difficult
decision. On one hand, the mayor's job is an important
political platform in Nicaragua, especially since 25 percent
of the nation's voters live in Managua. On the other hand,
if he won, the pressures of the job would distract him from
other political work, and there is a strong possibility that
the Pacto would intentionally obstruct all of his efforts in
order to discredit his leadership. Montealegre also fears
that the PLC is pushing the Managua candidacy on him with the
full intent to double cross him: Aleman would name a deputy
mayoral candidate and them right before the elections would
reinvigorate the CENI accusations, seeking to discredit
Montealegre, forcing him to renounce his candidacy, and thus
allowing the PLC deputy mayoral candidate to move up into the
lead slot.

Comment
-------

10. (C) Montealegre has not yet lost the political bug, and
has not decided against running for Mayor of Managua next
year. However, his financial fatigue of supporting the ALN
is almost surely genuine.

11. (C) Comment continued. We agree with Montealegre that
the fight in the Assembly over the Consejos del Poder
Ciudadano will be a critical. If the PLC and ALN can
successfully work together to fight the Ortega government on
this issue, the prospects for a strategic liberal alliance
before the November 2008 elections will be strengthened. If
the PLC and ALN can not hold together in an effort to change
the Ley 290 and remove the enabling language for the CPCs, it
is hard to imagine how they could form a wider alliance to
defeat the FSLN in the municipal elections.
TRIVELLI

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