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Cablegate: Ortega Tightens Grip On Nicaraguan National Police

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DE RUEHMU #0263/01 0652310
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O 052310Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2181
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 000263

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SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CEN, INL/LP
INL FOR AMARTIN
NSC FOR FISK/ALVARADO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2013
TAGS: SNAR PGOV PREL NU
SUBJECT: ORTEGA TIGHTENS GRIP ON NICARAGUAN NATIONAL POLICE
AND ARMY

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

1. (C) Summary: On February 27, Nicaraguan President Daniel
Ortega stated his intention to bypass the Nicaraguan Ministry
of Government and the Ministry of Defense by assuming direct
control of the Nicaraguan National Police (NNP) and the
Nicaraguan Army, "without any intermediary." Ortega's
statement was widely criticized by the Nicaraguan media,
political analysts, and the National Assembly, with National
Assembly Defense and Government Committee Chairman Enrique
Quinonez publicly observing that the proposed change fit in
perfectly with Ortega's "dictatorial spirit." On March 3,
Ortega apparently utilized this new chain-of-command
structure to personally order the dismissal of five senior
NNP officials. Regarding the dismissals, National Assembly
Justice Committee Chairman Jose Pallais expressed his concern
that Ortega's "politically motivated" decisions would damage
the independence and professionalism of the NNP. End Summary.


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The Buck Stops With Ortega Alone
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2. (C) During a February 27 ceremony marking the presentation
of the NNP's annual "State of Operations" report to the
office of the President, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega
declared his intent to, "assume the direct command of the
Army and the Police without any intermediary, with
(Nicaraguan Army) General (Omar) Halleslevens and Police
Chief Aminta Granera." Ortega justified the move as
"necessary" to deal with a world in which "crime and violence
multiply by the day." Ortega's statement was widely
criticized by the Nicaraguan media, political analysts, and
the National Assembly, with National Assembly Defense and
Government Committee Chairman Enrique Quinonez publicly
observing that the proposed change fit in perfectly with
Ortega's "dictatorial spirit." Political analyst and
Nicaraguan constitutional specialist Alejandro Serrano
Caldera opined that although the President clearly has the
constitutional power to directly control the Nicaraguan Army,
the proposed take-over of the NNP was illegal under Article
97 of the Nicaraguan Constitution, which specifies that the
President should exercise control over the NNP only through
the "proper corresponding Ministry."


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Cleaning House & Flexing New Muscles
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3. (C) Following this announcement, on March 3 Nicaraguan
media widely reported Ortega's direct dismissal of five
senior NNP officials. The officials are as follows: NNP
Public Relations Chief Alonso Sevilla, Chontales District
Chief Jose Roman Orozco, Judicial Auxiliary Chief Denis
Tinoco Zeledon, Finance Division Chief Rosalpina Cabrales,
and Juvenile Affairs Chief Hamyn Gurdian. Nicaraguan
newspaper La Prensa noted that all of the senior officials
were well-respected and considered close allies of NNP Chief
Aminta Granera, and speculated that political considerations
were foremost in Ortega's decision to dismiss the five
officials. Regarding the dismissals, National Assembly
Justice Committee Chairman Jose Pallais expressed his concern
that Ortega's "politically motivated" decisions would damage
the independence and professionalism of the NNP.

- - - -
Comment
- - - -

4. (C) Comment: Ortega's statement and subsequent actions
reflect his desire to regress both the NNP and the Nicaraguan
Army back into completely subsidiary organs of the Sandinista
Party, as they once were during the days of the Sandinista
Revolution. The continued institutional independence and
professionalism of the NNP and the Nicaraguan Army has been
one of the few bright spots remaining under Ortega's
increasingly authoritarian regime and the foundation of our

strongest remaining areas of cooperation with the current
administration. Should Ortega's remarks result in the
actual, official removal of the Ministry of Government from
the NNP management structure, such a development could have
deleterious effects on Post's ability to carry out continued
counternarcotics support for NNP units and operations. In
fact, this has already occurred, as one of the dismissed NNP
officials, former Juvenile Affairs Chief Hamyn Gurdian, was
one of the Embassy's strongest partners on narcotics demand
reduction programs. Post will continue to seek clarification
regarding Ortega's statements with GON officials. End
Comment.
TRIVELLI

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