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Cablegate: Citizen Councils Dealt Blow by National Assembly

VZCZCXYZ0025
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #2486/01 3252145
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 212145Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1690
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 002486

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, NSC FOR V. ALVARADO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/20/2017
TAGS: PHUM GOV ECON KDEM NU
SUBJECT: CITIZEN COUNCILS DEALT BLOW BY NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

REF: MANAGUA 2466

Classified By: Classified by Ambassador Paul Trivelli for reason 1.4d

1. (C) SUMMARY: On November 20, the Nicaraguan National
Assembly voted to override with 52 votes Sandinista President
Daniel Ortega's veto of legislation to prohibit the transfer
of a real measure of Executive authority to the Citizen Power
Councils (CPCs). Deputies representing the Nicaraguan
Liberal Alliance (ALN), the Constitutional Liberal Party
(PLC), and the Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS) voted
unanimously to override the veto. Before a power outage cut
short discussion and forced a roll-call vote, debate in the
chamber had been heated, with Sandinista National Liberation
Front (FSLN) deputies loudly proclaiming that CPC activities
would continue regardless of the vote. Within hours, the
Pacto-controlled Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) issued an
injuction, preventing the publication of the law. While the
vote is certainly an important symbolic victory for Liberal
alliance, its long-term legal impact on the CPCs is less
clear. END SUMMARY.

National Assembly Overturns Ortega Veto
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (U) On November 20, the Nicaraguan National Assembly
overrode Sandinista President Daniel Ortega's veto of
legislation to prohibit the legal formation of Citizen Power
Councils (CPCs) as an arm of the executive branch of
government. With a simple majority (47 of the 92 assembly
seats) required to override the veto, 52 deputies in fact
voted to override it. The 52 vote count included 22 ALN
votes, 25 PLC votes, 3 MRS votes, and the votes of two former
MRS deputies who defected from the party shortly after being
elected - Mario Valle and Juan Ramon Jimenez. A sudden power
outage mid-way through the session knocked out the electronic
voting mechanism, leaving FSLN assembly president Rene Nunez
to take a verbal roll call vote in the near-darkness of the
assembly chamber. (NOTE: Who cast the 52nd vote is still
being investigated. Instead of Jimenez, there are rumors
that FSLN deputy Gustavo Porras -- who blasted ALN president
Eduardo Montealegre during the assembly debate -- may have
accidently cast his vote to override the veto. END NOTE)

FSLN Deputies: "Vote Will Have no Affect on CPCs"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (U) The debate itself was heated, as more than 20
deputies voiced their opinions about the CPCs prior to the
power blackout. PLC caucus president Maximino Rodriguez
stressed the importance of citizen participation, but
questioned the legitimacy of the CPCs when, according to a
recent poll, 95 percent of the population indicated they did
not support them. He pledged that the PLC would work with
the FSLN to support any social movement so long as it "is
legal" without "a government structure on top." Echoing this
sentiment, MRS deputy Victor Hugo Tinoco emphasized citizens'
right to organize, but stated that the government had "no
right" to recognize only one social organization as
"legitimate" and to channel government funding through it.
In turn, each FSLN deputy that spoke proclaimed that the CPCs
would continue to operate regardless of the National
Assembly's vote and that the "will of the people is stronger
than the will of the Assembly." In a show of humor, FSLN
deputy Zochilt Ocampo, joked that the fact that all the
Liberal deputies showed up on time for the debate was a sign
that the CPCs are already working well.

Deputies Close Assembly
- - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (SBU) The CPC debate had captured headlines for two weeks
prior to the vote, with the PLC and ALN deputies repeatedly
pledging to vote as a single bloc to override the veto, and
the FSLN vowing to move forward with the CPCs regardless of
the outcome. The morning of the debate, the ALN, PLC, and
MRS caucuses met for over an hour to consolidate their votes.
The caucuses also decided to close the session to outside
observers due to concerns that CPC supporters would disrupt
the debate as they had a few weeks earlier when Ortega
pitched the CPCs on the Assembly floor (NOTE: Emboffs
attempted to observe the session, but were turned away when
assembly president Wilfredo Navarro refused to co-sign an
authorization slip. Minutes later, an apologetic Montealegre
confirmed by phone that the session was closed to all
observers. END NOTE.)

Injuction Granted by Supreme Court
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (U) Immediately following the decision, the FSLN filed an
injuction with the Appeals Court, seeking a delay in the
publication of the Assembly's decision (officially known as
Law 630). Within hours, the Supreme Court's (CSJ) Chief
Justice Rafael Solis announced that the injunction had been
granted and that Ortega had been notified by official
correspondence not to publish Law 630.

COMMENT
- - - -

6. (C) With the override of Ortega's veto, the Liberals won
a battle, but the war is not over. First, Ortega is sure to
appeal the decision to the CSJ, claiming that National
Assembly's vote to uphold legislation forbidding the CPCs is
unconstitutional as an infringement of citizens' right to
organize. If this happens, the Pacto-controlled CSJ is very
likely to rule in Ortega's favor -- as evidenced by the speed
with which the injunction was granted. Second, the PLC's
unanimous vote against the CPCs keeps the caucus together and
enables Aleman to discredit claims that the PLC/FSLN "Pacto"
is alive and well. In fact, in an article published the
morning of the vote, Aleman was quoted as saying that the
vote would demonstrate that "there are no negotiations with
the Sandinistas" in reference to rumors about discussions
over the new penal code that could favor Aleman.

7. (C) In apparent confirmation of the FSLN deputies' claims
that the CPCs will continue to move ahead with their social
project whether Ortega's veto were upheld or overturned,
local Managua CPC contacts seem unaffected by National
Assembly wrangling, stating that they are focused on their
local communities and spheres of influence. They continue to
hold weekly meetings and maintain regular interaction with
district and departmental level councils to voice concerns
and advocate for improvements in local services. Thus, while
today's National Assembly vote was an important symbolic
victory for the Liberal alliance, it remains to be seen if
their efforts to stop the CPCs by legal means will bear fruit.
TRIVELLI

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