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Cablegate: Bolanos-Davis Case: Silencing Critics Made Easy

VZCZCXRO4569
PP RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #2001/01 2421443
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301443Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1117
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC 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 SECTION 01 OF 03 MANAGUA 002001

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SOUTHCOM FOR POLAD
USOAS FOR ASTEVENSON

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/27/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL KCOR KDEM NU
SUBJECT: BOLANOS-DAVIS CASE: SILENCING CRITICS MADE EASY

REF: MANAGUA 1663

Classified By: Ambassador Paul Trivelli, reason 1.4 (b) and (d)

Summary
- - - -

1. (C) National Assembly Deputy Alejandro Bolanos-Davis met
with us on August 24 to give us his reaction to his seemingly
permanent expulsion from the National Assembly, the next
moves in his case, and his overview of Nicaraguan politics.
Bolanos-Davis is convinced that the Ortega regime will not be
satisfied with removing him from the Assembly, but will
continue to pursue bogus claims against him, in order to
incarcerate him. No critic of the current regime is safe, he
believes. End Summary.

If you can't shut their mouths, just decapitate them
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (C) According to Bolanos-Davis, he is the victim of a
political witch-hunt. He believes that he is the object of
Sandinista ire because he specifically attacked the
money-making racketeering of Lenin Cerna, the evil heavy-hand
of the Sandinista (FSLN) machine. According to
Bolanos-Davis, thanks to his efforts to highlight Cerna's
activities, the FSLN can no longer use its control of the
country's judiciary to extort money from citizens. The
timeline of the accusations against Bolanos-Davis tend to
corroborate this assertion (reftel).

3. (U) On June 13, after a surprisingly rapid 5-day process,
Nicaragua's Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) stripped
Bolanos-Davis of his seat in the National Assembly on the
basis that he had failed to renounce his foreign (U.S.)
citizenship at least four years previous to running for the
National Assembly, as stipulated under Nicaraguan law
(reftel). The matter was then deferred until the National
Assembly reconvened after their July break. On August 2, the
Executive Committee of the National Assembly decided not to
bring the question of Bolanos-Davis's seat to the Assembly
floor, but instead to refer the matter to the Supreme Court.

4. (U) On August 13, the Supreme Court responded that it had
no jurisdiction over the case and that the decision by the
CSE was final. Bolanos-Davis's supporters in the Nicaragua's
Liberal Alliance (ALN) party circulated a petition the week
of August 20 that called for the Bolanos-Davis case to be
discussed by the Assembly in a plenary session, but only
managed to garner a handful of signatures from other party
groups. Apart from providing political theater of almost
comic theatrical proportions -- with all the ALN deputies
sporting black gags to represent their frustration at not
being allowed to debate the case -- this last ditch effort by
the ALN to force an Assembly discussion on the Bolanos-Davis
accomplished little. Bolanos-Davis has lost his seat in the
Assembly, and his party-named replacement Stanford Cash-Dash
assumed the job on August 28.

"No One is Safe" Without a Fair Process
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (C) Bolanos-Davis complained to us that the process used
to effect his removal was completely outside normal, legal
judicial procedures. He was never properly accused in a
court; never given the right to hear the accusations; never
given the opportunity to defend himself. The CSE used an
administrative order to remove him, which was an action that
Bolanos-Davis believes exceeded the CSE's mandate. According
to Bolanos-Davis, the CSE's purview is limited to the conduct
and administration of elections during the election season,
so the CSE's prerogative to question the validity of his
candidacy ended when he was sworn in as a National Assembly
Deputy. Therefore, Bolanos-Davis maintains that his rights
to access to the judiciary have been denied, and he plans to
file a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights.

6. (C) Bolanos-Davis is certain that the combined weight of
the FSLN-Aleman Pacto will continue to pursue him. "They
want me in jail," he told us, expecting that the FSLN's first
line of attack will be that he falsified documents in order
to show that he was born in Nicaragua. After that,
Bolanos-Davis expects that they will start fabricating
evidence against him. "But I'm clean," Bolanos-Davis assures
us, free from any personal or financial indiscretions that
his enemies can use.

7. (C) Bolanos-Davis further insists that the fact that he
was never able to defend himself, and denied all access to
any normal judicial process, is proof that no one is safe in
Nicaragua if they cross the FSLN-Aleman Pacto. Bolanos-Davis
maintains that if it is so easy to get rid of him, once he
attacked one of the Sandinista's power bases, the FSLN-Aleman
Pacto can similarly silence any other critics. Bolanos-Davis
also holds no expectation that the Pacto-controlled judicial
system will afford him any relief; he expects to lose any
legal case brought against him. His only hope, he says, is
to maintain public and international support.

A Victory for Ortega and Aleman
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

8. (C) The means by which Bolanos-Davis was removed from the
Assembly represent a victory both for the Sandinista regime,
and for Liberal Constitution Party (PLC) President Arnoldo
Aleman. Ortega has gotten rid of a vocal and bold critic.
By making sure that the Bolanos-Davis case never came to the
floor of the Assembly, Aleman ensured that rumbles of dissent
within the PLC remained under wraps.

9. (C) Some members of the PLC, who are unhappy with
Aleman's continued alliance with Ortega, would have risked
upsetting their anti-Aleman PLC constituents if they did not
stand up to defend Bolanos-Davis In short, a vote on the
Assembly floor could have been embarrassing for Aleman by
exposing a possible PLC rift. As it was, faced with only the
prospect of whether or not to sign the ALN's petition, the
majority of PLC Deputies could safely tow Aleman's line
without fear of offending hard-core anti-Sandinista
supporters, and only five PLC Deputies signed.

10. (C) Beyond complaining about not being able to debate
the Bolanos-Davis case, however, many Assembly Deputies --
outside of the FSLN -- are worried about Ortega's
encroachment on the Assembly's independence. On August 22,
Bolanos-Davis pushed his way into the Assembly chamber and
took his seat, even though the National Assembly's Executive
Committee had already accepted the CSE's decision to strip
him of his status. The response from the Sandinista
President of the Assembly Rene Nunez was sharp, and according
to many Deputies disproportionate. On Thursday morning the
Assembly was surrounded by a police cordon, who aggressively
questioned all entering Deputies, simply to keep
Bolanos-Davis out. Opposition ALN whip Maria Eugenia
Sequeira and PLC heavy-weight Enrique Quinonez denounced this
"militarization" of the Assembly as "sending a message of
terror."

Disappointment with the ALN
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

11. (C) Bolanos-Davis expressed to us his deep
disappointment that so few Deputies had stood up to defend
him. The support of his own Conservative Party was
unfailing, he told us, but the overall response from the ALN
had been tepid. "Eduardo (Montealegre) is not a fighter," he
opined. "He would be a great peace-time leader, but we are
in the middle of a war." The ALN needs bold leadership and
the time for Montealegre to step aside had come, he stated.
That would create space for a stronger leader, perhaps for
one of the more disaffected PLC members to jump ship and join
forces with the ALN. When we asked who that could be, he
named Enrique Quinonez. "Quinonez has the guts to jump the
PLC ship, but he won't do so until there is someplace to
land."

Comment
- - - -

12. (C) Bolanos-Davis appeared to us to be surprisingly
resilient, even feisty, in the face of removal from his
Assembly seat and the likelihood of sustained attacks in
future. By his own admission he is buoyed by the belief that
he has been unfairly targeted, and that he is in the right.
We agree that he has been the victim of a sustained attack
because he was outspoken and dared to take on Lenin Cerna
directly. Unfortunately, we also agree with Bolanos-Davis
that the cards are stacked against him here in Nicaragua, and
we think that he is probably not exaggerating when he guesses
that the FSLN leadership will continue to pursue him,
including possibly putting him in jail, with or without
adequate cause.

13. (C) Bolanos-Davis's disappointment with the leadership
of the ALN is not surprising, given what he's been through in
the past few weeks. While we have severe reservations
whether Quinonez would be an ideal leader for the ALN or a
Liberal coalition, if at some point Montealegre decides to
stand down, Bolanos-Davis is probably correct in his
assessment that the pro-democracy forces in Nicaragua are
particularly fragile right now. If his case proves nothing
else, it demonstrates that the combined power of
Ortega-Aleman is hard to assault and personally risky for
those who try it. Despite the interesting political
theatrics around the Bolanos-Davis case in the National
Assembly in the first few weeks of August, the weakness of
the Assembly is clearly manifest. It seemed all too easy for
the FSLN-Aleman Pacto to get rid of this critic.
TRIVELLI

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