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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Martha Guadalupe Romero: Additional Information

VZCZCXYZ1359
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0272/01 0671543
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 071543Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2194
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS MANAGUA 000272

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CEN, EEB/IFD/OIA AND L
STATE PASS USTR

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINV ECON USTR KIDE CVIS NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: MARTHA GUADALUPE ROMERO: ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
FOR REQUEST OF FINDING OF SECTION 2225 VISA INELIGIBILITY

REF: 04 MANAGUA 2136

SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION
------------------------

1. (SBU) Post forwards additional information to support the request
of a finding of visa ineligibility concerning Martha Guadalupe
Romero under Section 2225 of the Foreign Affairs Reform and
Restructuring Act of 1998. U.S. citizen Roberto Velez has been
unsuccessful in reclaiming his property from Romero via the courts
or negotiations with the Government of Nicaragua (GON). Post
believes that visa revocation or denial might encourage Romero to
return the property to Mr. Velez or compel the GON to settle the
claim with him via indemnification bonds (BPIs).

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
-----------------

2. (SBU) On July 20, 2004, Post submitted reftel recommending to the
Department that Martha Guadalupe Romero be considered ineligible for
a non-immigrant visa under Section 2225 of the Foreign Affairs
Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998. Romero abused her position as
senior advisor to Nora Astorga, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs
during the Sandinista government, to acquire the home of U.S.
citizen Roberto Velez. According to Mr. Velez, Romero also worked
as senior advisor to former Foreign Minister Miguel D'Escoto
Brockman. Romero took possession of the property in June 1982 and
has confirmed to GON officials that she had occupied the house since
August 22, 1982. Between August 1992 and July 1996, Romero
attempted to obtain a title for the property, but never paid back
the property taxes she owed. In 1996, the Government of Nicaragua
(GON) made Mr. Velez an offer of $100,000 in indemnification bonds
or BPIs (estimated market value of $23,000) to settle the claim, but
he refused the amount because the offer was too low.

3. (SBU) The Government of Nicaragua sued Romero for non-payment of
2,275,746 cordobas ($167,800) in property taxes by September 2001,
and a local court ordered the foreclosure of the property and the
house transferred back to Mr. Velez in December 2001. In March
2002, the GON attempted to execute the court order to return the
property back to Mr. Velez and cancel Romero's record in the Public
Registry, but Mr. Velez was never able to take possession of it.

BACKGROUND
----------

4. (SBU) In October 2002, the Attorney General's Office filed a
civil lawsuit against Romero seeking an eviction order, and in
October 2003 the court ordered eviction. In February 2004, Romero
appealed to the Property Appeals Court, but the court delayed
issuing a decision. Mr. Velez was able to obtain internal court
memos that indicated that at least three of the judges who sat on
the court would rule against him. On April 3, 2006, the Property
Appeals Court ruled against Mr. Velez, nullifying the previous
ruling that transferred the property back to Mr. Velez. Mr. Velez
believes the ruling was a political decision coordinated between the
Sandinista Party and the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC),
known as the "Pacto." Mr. Velez was a member of the National
Assembly for the Conservative Party during the Somoza era, but
claims that he was never a Somocista [Note: Post does not have any
evidence that this unusual court decision was the result of
Sandinista influence. End Note.].

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
-------------------

5. (SBU) On January 8, 2007, Mr. Velez signed a document
acknowledging that the Office of Assessment and Indemnification had
offered him a settlement of BPIs for the house. Mr. Velez informed
the Property Office that he would accept BPIs as settlement for his
house but that he would continue to negotiate separately for the
property on which it was located. On February 8, the National
Confiscations Review Commission (CNRC) dismissed his entire claim,
alleging that Mr. Velez had already received bonds [Note: The GON
has provided no additional details supporting this allegation. End
Note.]. On February 15, Mr. Velez filed an appeal with the CNRC.
On February 28, Econoff raised Mr. Velez's claim during the monthly
Property Working Group meeting (septel) and GON officials promised
to review his case.

6. (SBU) Romero and her family still live in the house and control
the property. She has never applied for a non-immigrant visa. Mr.
Velez claims that he has spent about $50,000 in legal fees to regain
possession of the property.

POST RECOMMENDATION

-------------------

7. (SBU) Post recommends that Romero be considered ineligible for an
NIV under Section 2225 of the Foreign Affairs Reform and
Restructuring Act of 1998. Romero abused her position in the GON to
obtain the property of a U.S. citizen for her personal benefit and
continues to maintain control of it. We believe that visa
revocation or denial might encourage Romero to return the property
to Mr. Velez, or compel the GON to settle Mr. Velez' claim via BPIs.


TRIVELLI

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