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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Gon Dismisses More Property Claims

VZCZCXYZ0004
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0173/01 0441421
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131421Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2071
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS MANAGUA 000173

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: NICARAGUA: GON DISMISSES MORE PROPERTY CLAIMS

REF: A) 07 MANAGUA 2581, B) MANAGUA 0002, C) 07 MANAGUA 1789, D)
MANAGUA 0106

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) During the January 31 monthly Working Group meeting on
property issues, Government of Nicaragua (GON) officials passed
Econoff a new list of 34 dismissed U.S. citizen claims for the lack
of proof that the U.S. claimant owned the property and/or it had
been expropriated. The GON insinuated that some U.S. citizens were
allies of Somoza and therefore not eligible for compensation. GON
officials added that they could not do anything about U.S. claims
already in court. We have requested a six-month review of the
2007-08 waiver year to reiterate the Secretary's Section 527
benchmarks, and to restate our expectations for GON cooperation.


GON PRESENTS SECOND LIST OF DISMISSED U.S. CITIZEN CLAIMS

2. (SBU) During the January 31 monthly Working Group meeting on
property claims with Econoff, Property Superintendent Yara Perez
Calero, three officials from the National Confiscations Review
Commission (CNRC), and the head of the Office of Assessment and
Indemnification (OCI) passed Econoff a list of 43 U.S. citizen
claims that the GON dismissed as "no ha lugar" in 2007. The primary
reason for dismissing the claims was the lack of proof that a U.S.
claimant owned the property that had been expropriated. The GON
also dismissed some claims as "inadmissible" because the claimant
already possessed the property (but still needed the title) or
because the matter is being handled in court. Perez asserted that
claimants must either follow the administrative process or pursue
the claim in court. Thirty-four of the dismissed claims were new
additions and nine were from the first list of rejected cases
submitted to the Embassy in November 2007 (Ref A). Throughout the
meeting, Econoff pressed Perez for better cooperation on resolving
U.S. citizen claims on a case-by-case basis agreed by the Ambassador
and Attorney General Hernan Estrada in their December 21, 2007,
meeting (Ref B).

ALLIES OF SOMOZA

3. (SBU) Perez said that Estrada recently instructed all GON
agencies involved in property claims not to compensate claimants who
had been allies of Somoza based on Decrees 3/1979 and 38/1979 [Note:
Decree 3 ordered the confiscation of all goods of the Somoza family,
military and government officials who had left the country since
1977; Decree 38 ordered the confiscation of properties belonging to
people allied to Somocismo. End Note]. Econoff requested a list of
U.S. citizen claimants that the GON considered "allies of Somoza,"
but Perez was noncommittal. On February 5, the Embassy Property
Office learned that at least two claims were dismissed because the
U.S. citizens involved were allegedly allies of Somoza.

CASES STUCK IN APPEALS COURT

4. (SBU) Econoff requested GON assistance to advance U.S. citizen
claims before the Property Appeals Court. He explained that some
U.S. citizens have been waiting nine years for a decision.
Moreover, the court has ruled against U.S. claimants, in apparent
contradiction of Nicaraguan law, when the U.S. citizens clearly
demonstrated proof of ownership and/or expropriation. Perez
responded that the judicial branch is independent of the executive
and there is nothing she could do in these cases.

5. (SBU) Comment: We are not satisfied with Perez' explanation. The
Nicaraguan judicial system is politicized and lacks independence.
For example, the Embassy has been actively engaged in assisting two
U.S. citizens recover their property from armed squatters since
January 27. The U.S. citizens filed a case in court in August 2007
to have the police remove the invaders, but no action was taken
until the Ambassador called Estrada on February 1 to inform the
Attorney General about the case. On February 7, the U.S. citizens
reported that the police came to their property to assess how many
land invaders were there, and their lawyer will now meet the judge
to discuss the case (septel). End Comment.

SIX-MONTH REVIEW

6. (SBU) To conclude the meeting, Econoff told Perez that the
Ambassador plans to meet Attorney General Estrada in February for a
six-month review of the 2007-08 waiver year. He noted that the
Ambassador will review benchmarks spelled out in the Secretary's
July 31, 2007 letter to Foreign Minister Santos regarding this
Section 527 waiver year. The Ambassador will propose steps to
improve bilateral cooperation and advance the resolution of U.S.
citizen claims.

COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) Property Superintendent Yara Perez' participation stifled
the constructive communication we had during our last Property
Working Group meeting (Ref D). Although she resisted in-depth
discussion of individual property claims, Perez seemed to understand
that we were not going to let these claims go away simply because
the GON wants to dismiss them. We want to use the Ambassador's
six-month review to drive this point home.

TRIVELLI

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