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Cablegate: Nicaraguan Government Pledges to Provide More Information

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0002/01 0021947
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021947Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1887
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS MANAGUA 000002

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CEN, EB/IFD/OIA AND L/CID
STATE FOR WHA/EPSC
STATE PLEASE PASS TO USTR
TREASURY FOR INL AND OWH

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINV ECON USTR KIDE NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUAN GOVERNMENT PLEDGES TO PROVIDE MORE INFORMATION
ON PROPERTY CLAIMS IN 2008

REF: A) MANAGUA 2581, B) MANAGUA 2615, C) MANAGUA 2324, D) MANAGUA

2442, E) MANAGUA 2494

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) In a December 21 meeting with the Ambassador, Attorney
General Estrada outlined the Government of Nicaragua's (GON) "plan
to resolve all property claims by 2011." The Ambassador asked the
GON to ensure a fair and transparent process as it seeks to resolve
claims, especially in those cases where the Ortega administration is
reviewing files accepted by previous governments for ironclad
evidence that the claimant once exercised domain over a property and
that the GON had expropriated the property. Throughout the meeting,
the Ambassador pressed Estrada for more communication outside of the
monthly Working Group meeting as the best way to renew cooperation
on case resolution. While Attorney General said his office will
remain the only channel of communication between the Embassy and
GON, but he did promise to provide the Embassy a list of U.S.
citizen claims that the GON will prioritize in 2008. The Ambassador
and Estrada agreed to meet in early 2008 to discuss the GON's
progress in resolving Embassy registered claims during the 2007-08
waiver year.

GON AMENDS TIMETABLE TO RESOLVE OUTSTANDING CLAIMS
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (SBU) In a December 21 meeting with the Ambassador, Attorney
General ("Procurador") Hernan Estrada outlined the Government of
Nicaragua (GON) "plan to resolve all outstanding property claims by
2011." Estrada's 20-minute presentation on the four-year plan
suggested that the GON planned to resolve as many as 163
Embassy-registered claims each year. The Ambassador cautioned that
the GON and USG consider a case resolved according to very different
criteria. The Ambassador asked the GON to implement a fair and
transparent process as it seeks to resolve those outstanding
property claims, noting that cases dismissed without due process
would remain in our registry.

AMBASSADOR CHALLENGES REVIEW OF APPROVED CLAIMS
--------------------------------------------- --

3. (SBU) In particular, the Ambassador challenged the GON's decision
to review cases accepted by previous administrations for ironclad
evidence that both the claimant exercised domain over a property and
that the GON had actually expropriated the property. The GON has
offered a list of 18 cases summarily dismissed for failure to meet
these criteria, the so-called "no ha lugar" decisions (Ref A). The
Ambassador explained that during the Chamorro, Aleman, and Bolanos
administrations, claimants provided utility bills, property tax
receipts, and/or inventory lists -- as opposed to certified title
documents -- to demonstrate proof of ownership. He noted that many
records were destroyed during the war, and that in many cases
claimants fled their homes, leaving all of their possessions behind.
The Ambassador concluded that the Ortega administration was
applying a higher threshold for proof of ownership and/or
expropriation than the law required. Estrada replied that the
Ortega administration "sought only to enforce the law," which he
asserts requires that a claimant show proof of ownership with an
original property title or cadastral records.

4. (SBU) The Ambassador also complained that granting a claimant
only ten days to respond to a "no hay lugar" decision is simply
unrealistic and that any person -- and particularly those who may
reside abroad -- would need more time to assemble the additional
information needed to defend a claim (Ref B). Estrada argued that
Presidential Decree 52/1992 established the ten-day period for a
claimant to appeal the GON's decision. [Note: Decree No. 52 allows
a claimant ten days to appeal a settlement offer from the Office of
Assessment and Indemnification. It is unclear how the GON
interprets this law to apply to a claimant's right to appeal a "no
hay lugar" decision. End note].

5. (SBU) The Ambassador explained that some claimants must go to
local courts or a notary public to prove they had ownership of their
property or assets, and these legal processes rarely take less than
10 days. He also noted that it normally takes more than 10 days for
domestic mail delivery; for mail to reach a claimant in the United
States would require much more time. To give a claimant only ten
days to respond to a "no ha lugar" decision is simply unfair, the
Ambassador concluded.

6. (SBU) The Ambassador asked Estrada to facilitate further
discussion between the Embassy and the GON on this issue. He asked
the GON to clarify the criteria by which claimants demonstrate proof
of ownership and/or expropriation and the period during which they
may appeal a "no ha lugar" dismissal. He asked the GON to publish
this information on the Internet and in the local press alongside
the list of claims it will review in 2008. Estrada replied that the
GON will be fair and transparent throughout the process, but he
emphasized that claimants will not enjoy an indefinite period to
provide information about their cases.

ESTRADA PROMISES TO SHARE INFORMATION ON 2008 PRIORITY CLAIMS
--------------------------------------------- ---------

7. (SBU) Throughout the meeting, the Ambassador pressed Estrada for
more communication other than the monthly Working Group meeting,
noting that once-monthly sessions are not sufficient to discuss and
resolve claims. Estrada stated that his office will remain the only
channel of communication between the Embassy and GON to curb corrupt
practices that, he asserted, flourished under previous
administrations. The Attorney General said that the Embassy
Property Office and GON should use the monthly Working Group meeting
to focus on analyzing Embassy-registered claims. Estrada alleged
that some claimants received double compensation (receiving their
property and indemnification bonds), while others colluded with
their lawyers and former GON officials to overvalue their assets to
obtain additional indemnification bonds (Ref B).

8. (SBU) In response to the Ambassador's pressure to ensure that the
administrative process would be fair and transparent, the Attorney
General said that he would publish a list of all the claims that the
GON would work on in 2008 on the website of his office and in a
local newspaper. Estrada noted that publishing the list of claims
will provide claimants an opportunity to take the necessary steps to
defend their rights. The Ambassador suggested that the Embassy
could help the GON with U.S. citizen claims if we receive a copy of
the list before its publication. The Ambassador explained that the
Property Office is prepared to review claims with the GON and
contact claimants to provide instructions on how to submit
information the National Confiscations Review Commission claims is
missing.

SIX MONTH REVIEW IN JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2008
-----------------------------------------

9. (SBU) The Ambassador told Estrada that they should meet in
January to assess the GON's progress in resolving Embassy registered
claims during the 2007-2008 waiver year. Estrada agreed that this
mid-year review is important and each side should "put their cards
on the table" to avoid any surprises or misunderstandings. Estrada
asked the Ambassador if the meeting could take place after
mid-January since the GON would be busy "closing out" 2007.


COMMENT
-------

10. (SBU) We will press GON officials to uphold Estrada's
commitments to share more information on U.S. citizen claims and
provide clarity about the criteria for acknowledging legitimate
ownership and expropriation claims. We will also reiterate that the
Embassy seeks to help the GON resolve Embassy registered claims --
but not without our full involvement in a fair and transparent
process.

TRIVELLI

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