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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Gon Seeks More Usg Cooperation During March

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0424/01 1002004
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 092004Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2408
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS MANAGUA 000424

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 SEEKS MORE USG COOPERATION DURING MARCH
MEETING ON PROPERTY CLAIMS

REF: A) MANAGUA 287, B) MANAGUA 274, C) MANAGUA 173, D) MANAGUA

0106, E) MANAGUA 0002, F) 07 MANAGUA 2581, G) 01 MANAGUA 2313, H) 04
MANAGUA 2442, I) 04 MANAGUA 2324, J) 02 MANAGUA 877

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) During the March 27 monthly Working Group meeting on
property issues, Government of Nicaragua (GON) officials handed
Econoff a list of 11 "dismissed" cases that they would continue to
process if the U.S. claimants provided additional information to
defend their claims. GON officials asked the Embassy to participate
in an inspection of U.S. citizen property under control of the
Nicaraguan Army to seek our help in advancing the resolution of this
case. Econoff raised concerns about the GON's lack of customer
service when dealing with U.S. claimants eager to resolve their
claims. The GON also reported that Attorney General Estrada is
exploring legal options that might allow some U.S. claimants deemed
"allies of Somoza" the opportunity to defend their claims.

SOME FLEXIBILITY ON DISMISSED CLAIMS
------------------------------------

2. (SBU) During the March 27 monthly Working Group meeting, Econoff
pressed two members of the National Confiscations Review Commission
(CNRC) and the head of the Office of Assessment and Indemnification
(OCI) to allow U.S. claimants to defend 23 claims the GON had
recently dismissed. GON officials responded that they were
unprepared to discuss the 23 dismissed claims. Instead, they
presented a separate list of 11 dismissed property claims that they
would continue to process if U.S. claimants provide additional
documentation to show proof of ownership. Econoff asked the GON for
a precise list of documents that would serve this purpose. He added
that the Property Office will follow up with the U.S. claimants to
inform them of this opportunity.

OCI SEEKS USG HELP ON LAS SERRANIAS CLAIMS
------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Ruth Zapata, head of OCI, asked Econoff to participate in a
site inspection to advance the resolution of 29 claims pertaining to
the Las Serranias residential complex that ended up being controlled
by the Nicaraguan Army after being confiscated in 1980 from U.S.
claimant Juan Barreto (Ref J). She noted that Attorney General
Hernan Estrada has met with the Nicaraguan Army and Mr. Barreto's
legal representative, Mr. Samuel Barreto (brother), but neither the
Army nor Mr. Barreto appears willing to negotiate.

4. (SBU) Zapata explained that Mr. Barreto seeks the return of
property not used by the military and indemnification bonds (BPIs)
for the rest. The Nicaraguan Army does not wish to return any of
the property to Mr. Barreto and has urged the GON to settle the
claims with BPIs. Econoff welcomed Zapata's offer, but he requested
more information regarding the goals of the inspection, assurance
that Mr. Samuel Barreto would participate in it, and agreement that
the findings would compel the GON to lead serious negotiations
between the parties to resolve these claims.

POOR TREATMENT OF U.S. CLAIMANTS
--------------------------------

5. (SBU) Econoff raised concerns about the GON's lack of customer
service when dealing with U.S. claimants. He noted that during the
February 28, 2008, Property Working Group meeting (ref A), GON
officials requested the Embassy to contact claimants to ask that
they come to the Attorney General's Office to provide documents to
advance their claims or to sign the settlement offer to finalize
them. The Embassy Property Office staff provided several examples
of U.S. claimants who went to the Attorney General's Office to
follow up on their claims, but found officials unwilling to meet
with them. Zapata said that claimants who come to the Attorney
General's Office in the future to advance or resolve their claims
could ask for her and she would assist them [Note: Attorney General
Estrada has also told the Ambassador that he would personally meet
with any U.S. claimant willing to resolve their cases. End Note].


CNRC UNABLE TO RULE ON "ALLY OF SOMOZA" CLAIMS
--------------------------------------------- -

6. (SBU) CNRC official Alfonso Solorzano Icabalseca said that his
agency lacks the legal authority to overturn a confiscation based on
Decree 38, also known as the "allies of Somoza" decree. CNRC
officials explained that Attorney General Estrada is exploring
alternative legal options that might allow some U.S. claimants the
opportunity to defend their claims. Solorzano noted that Decrees
172/1979 and 282/1980 establish a procedure to contest confiscations
under Decree 38. Econoff responded that several U.S. claimants have
certificates of non-confiscation ("certificados de desconfiscacion")
that the GON should recognize as evidence of this process to allow
for compensation via BPIs or the return of the property.

7. (U) Note: Decree 172/1979 halted the application of Decree 38.
Decree 282/1980 established a procedure for claimants to contest the
confiscation of their property under Decree 38. After the
publication of Decree 282 in the Official Gazette on February 7,
1980, claimants were granted 30 days to prove that they were not
allies of Somoza. Claimants also had to demonstrate that they did
not owe back taxes. Claimants had to personally file their claims.
The Attorney General's Office then reviewed the evidence to decide
if the property should be returned to the claimant. In some cases,
the GON approved land swaps and monetary compensation to compensate
claimants for the loss of their property. End Note.

8. (SBU) In a separate conversation with Econoff, Nicaraguan legal
scholars and attorneys argued that the Decree 282 did not establish
a fair and transparent process to contest confiscations under Decree
38. Many claimants fled Nicaragua because they were concerned for
their safety; they refused to return to personally claim their
assets. A legal scholar noted that the Attorney General's Office,
which administered the appeals process under Decree 282, was the
same institution that confiscated property under Decree 38. One
attorney added that 30 days was not sufficient time for claimants to
collect evidence that they were not "allies of Somoza" or they had
any outstanding tax obligations.

COMMENT
-------

9. (SBU) Property Superintendent Yara Perez, who has been difficult,
did not attend the meeting. This absence allowed for constructive
casework and a frank discussion concerning GON policies. GON
efforts to enhance cooperation with the Embassy on U.S. claims may
reflect some concern that they are not doing enough to receive a
Section 527 waiver this year. We believe that the GON is
cooperating with us only to the effect that it can eventually blame
the USG for the lack of progress.

TRIVELLI

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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