Cablegate: Nicaragua Sofa Letter: Gon Responds with Some
DE RUEHMU #0515/01 1192253
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 282253Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2511
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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UNCLAS MANAGUA 000515
DEPT FOR PM/SNA, WHA/CEN, AND L/PM
NSC FOR ALVARADO
DHS FOR U.S. COAST GUARD
OSD FOR OSD (POLICY) - WALTER EARLE
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MARR PREL MOPS KTIA NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA SOFA LETTER: GON RESPONDS WITH SOME
REF: A. CURTIS - DE TEMPLE EMAIL 04/23/08
B. MANAGUA 348
C. STATE 2677
1. (U) THIS IS AN ACTION MESSAGE. PLEASE SEE PARA 2 FOR
2. (SBU) SUMMARY AND ACTION REQUEST. On April 24 we met
with representatives from the Americas Division and the
Protocol Office of Nicaragua's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(MINREX) to discuss their proposed changes to the USG draft
SOFA dip note text, which we had provided them in January.
Early indications were that the GON might adopt a
confrontational approach; however, during the April 24
meeting, we found both the GON attitude and its proposed
changes rather more positive. We are providing GON proposed
changes and rationale in para 4 below. We request guidance
as to whether GON proposed changes are acceptable and whether
we can conclude the final version of the diplomatic note
exchange. END SUMMARY AND ACTION REQUEST.
3. (SBU) On April 24, we met with MINREX Americas Division
Director, Rene Morales, and Director of Protocol, Maria
Esther Chamorro to discuss changes to the text of the draft
SOFA letter proposed by the GON and the GON's underlying
rationale for each change. Electronic copy of the full draft
text (in English and the Embassy's unofficial Spanish
Translation) that includes marked GON changes will be
forwarded separately to PM/SNA and WHA/CEN.
4. (SBU) BEGIN GON SUGGESTED CHANGES.
CHANGE 1: Para 1, last sentence.
DELETE all text to the end of the sentence beginning from
"the Bilateral Military Assistance Agreement..."
REPLACE with the following text: "the relationship of
friendship and cooperation that exists between the Republic
of Nicaragua and the United States of America."
GON JUSTIFICATION: Per the Article 92 of Title V of
Nicaragua's Constitution, any stationing or transit of
foreign troops must be ratified by the National Assembly. To
comply with the Constitutional requirement, in January 2008
the Nicaraguan Army forwarded to the National Assembly for
its approval the list of CY2008 planned operational
activities for CY 2008. The National Assembly approved the
activities and published the decree in "La Gaceta,"
Nicaragua's equivalent of the "Federal Register." MINREX
asserts that the National Assembly decree does not mention
the 1954 Mutual Defense Agreement and their proposed change
bring the draft SOFA letter text into harmony with the
Assembly's decree. NOTE: We are trying to locate the
relevant public documents. END NOTE. In response to our
questions about whether this deletion indicated any change in
the GON's position regarding the 1954 agreement itself,
Morales stated that the GON believes "the 1954 Agreement is
still in force, at this time."
CHANGE 2: Para 2, first clause.
REPLACE the word "status" with "treatment." NOTE: MINREX
edited only the Spanish-language version of the document, not
the English. Their change was to replace "el estatus"
(status) with "tratamiento" (treatment).
GON JUSTIFICATION: Morales said that "tratamiento
(treatment)" was the proper legal term for non-diplomatic
personnel. We confirmed that MINREX understands the term to
mean that non-diplomatic personnel are treated equally to
administrative and technical personnel, including the
relevant rights and immunities.
CHANGE 3: Para 2, third clause, beginning with "and that
Nicaraguan Authorities shall accept..."
INSERT the words "valid, unexpired" before "drivers licenses
or permits issued by the appropriate authorities..."
GON JUSTIFICATION: MINREX Spanish language insertion was
"validos y vigentes." The GON is prepared to accept, as
valid for use in Nicaragua, any U.S.-issued drivers license
(civilian or military) on the condition that it not be
CHANGE 4: Para 3, first clause, ends with "in connection
with the 2008 operational activities".
INSERT before the semicolon: "activities, which should be
done in coordination with the Embassy of the United States,
by means of the duty-free permits, and/or as appropriate,
through a duty-free 'Provisional Importation Certificate'
granted in the name of the aforementioned diplomatic
GON JUSTIFICATION: Chamorro explained that this insertion
allows the U.S. maximum flexibility for duty-free
transactions under Nicaraguan law. She added that items
imported duty-free under a regular diplomatic permit
(franquicia) can not be re-sold or re-exported for a fixed
period (normally two years) without incurring a duty. She
further explained that the Provisional Importation
Certificate (Tramite de Importacion Temporal) would allow for
the duty-free importation and re-export of items that remain
in Nicaragua for only a short time. Items brought in this
manner may not be re-sold in Nicaragua. Morales added that,
recently, Embassy logistics officials had refused to process
paperwork for the exportation of some military items at the
close of an activity. As a result, these items had to be
disposed of through alternate methods. Morales said the GON
wished to clarify that the duty-fre importation and
exportation of items related to operational activities should
be done through Embassy channels. In response to our
questions, Morales and Chamorro did confirm that items for
direct use by the Nicaraguan Army could be sent directly to
the Army without first passing through the Embassy, as the
Army was itself tax-exempt and could request duty-free
CHANGE 5: Para 9, last line (SPANISH VERSION ONLY).
This change corrects the Spanish grammar in the last line.
It inserts the word "de" between "virtud" and "este Acuerdo."
There is NO CHANGE to the ENGLISH.
CHANGE 6: Para 2, third clause (SPANISH VERSION ONLY).
This changes corrects Spanish grammar. It adds an "s" at the
end of "autoridades nicaraguenses". There is NO CHANGE to
END GON SUGGESTED CHANGES.