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Cablegate: Nicaragua and Suspension of Title Iii of The

VZCZCXYZ0002
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0673/01 1442145
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 232145Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2660
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0045

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 000673

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CCA AND WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/22/2018
TAGS: ETRD ETTC PREL CU NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA AND SUSPENSION OF TITLE III OF THE
LIBERTAD ACT

REF: STATE 52541

Classified By: Amb. Paul Trivelli for reason 1.4 b&d.

1. (C) Summary: Nicaragua under President Ortega, in contrast
to the past three administrations, is establishing closer
relations with Cuba. We expect Nicaragua to vote more
consistently with Cuba. The trading relationship between the
two countries has increased, but continues to be
insignificant. Cuban Vice President Laje attended
Nicaragua's Food Security Summit on May 7. 140 Cuban doctors
are now working in Nicaragua. Cuba provides Nicaraguans with
scholarships and medical treatment in Havana. Since Fidel's
departure from power, the Nicaragua-Cuba relationship has
entered a holding pattern. As events unfold in Cuba, it is
unclear how this relationship will change. Post continues to
believe that failure to waive Title III of the Libertad Act
for Nicaragua would allow Ortega to trumpet U.S. "hostility"
toward his government. Post recommends another waiver for
Nicaragua. End Summary.

Bilateral Relationship
----------------------

2. (C) While the Cuba-Nicaragua relationship has intensified
since President Ortega took office in January 2007, Fidel's
withdrawal from power seems to have put the relationship into
a holding pattern. The DAO reports that the Nicaraguan
Defense Attache to Cuba is no longer a resident diplomat and
only travels to Cuba 3-4 times a year, because of the lack of
training or exchanges. We continue to expect Nicaragua to
vote in international fora more consistently with Cuba than
in the recent past. During the previous three governments,
the GON generally voted with the United States on
Cuba-related matters and occasionally abstained. The notable
exception was when Nicaragua joined international calls for
an end to the U.S. embargo of Cuba -- reflecting a
disagreement over tactics. Neither President Ortega nor any
member of his cabinet has made any statement against Castro
or in support of the democratization of Cuba.

Trade and Investment
--------------------

3. (U) Nicaraguan-Cuban bilateral trade declined steadily
from 1991 to 2005, but has increased since 2006. Two-way
trade between Nicaragua and Cuba totaled USD 550,000 in 2005.
It reached USD 6.9 million in 2007, mostly the result of
Nicaragua's purchase in March of USD 3.7 million of energy
saving light bulbs for distribution to pensioners and the
poor. Nicaragua's investment promotion agency, ProNicaragua,
reports no significant Cuban investment in Nicaragua since
the 1990s. On January 11, 2007 Nicaragua joined the
Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America (ALBA), a trade and
cooperation agreement, of which Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia
are members.

Visits
------

4. (C) Cuban Vice-president Laje attended Nicaragua's Food
Security and Sovereignty Summit on May 7. Raul Castro has
been invited to participate in the July 19 Sandinista
Revolution Day celebrations, but we have no confirmation on
his attendance. Ortega visited Cuba in December 2007 to
attend the PetroCaribe Summit, and on March 19-20 and April
18-22 of this year for meetings.

Training and Scholarships
-------------------------

5. (C) Post has seen an increase in Cuban training and
education assistance, as well as more personnel exchanges
with Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan military traditionally used
Cuban trainers and Cuban facilities for both military and
civilian educations during the 1980s, under Ortega's first
term. Despite the current Ortega administration's closer
relationship with Cuba, various sources report that the
Nicaraguan military has received little if any Cuban training
as they consider it ineffective. The military is focusing
its training and assistance efforts on European countries,
notably Spain, as well as with the United States. Post knows
of at least 17 Cuban teachers currently working on the
Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua.

6. (C) Cuban medical assistance is the most extensive example
of this increased relationship. There are 72 Cuban medical
personnel in the Northern Atlantic coast region, all of whom
stayed through Hurricane Felix. An additional 70 Cubans
augmented this contingent after the hurricane to assist with
post-recovery operations, and remained. Cuba now rotates
medical staff in and out of the Atlantic Coast region,
keeping the overall level at 140. Cuban doctors have also
been providing long-term medical care on the outskirts of
Managua and rural areas around the country.

7. (C) For years, Cuba has offered full scholarships to
Nicaraguan students to attend Cuban universities. According
to press reports, over 977 Nicaraguan students are currently
in Cuba, mostly studying medicine. Further, under a
long-standing agreement, any member of the Nicaraguan
military can receive free medical treatment in Havana. In
2007, in a program called Operacion Milagro, over 500
Nicaraguans were transported to Venezuela and Cuba for
surgery, primarily for cataracts, paid for by Venezuela. As
part of Operacion Milagro, the EU is financing the
construction of three ophthalmology centers on the Atlantic
coast. Cuban doctors will support and staff these centers.
Future operations will be conducted through these clinics,
which may decrease the number of patients flying to Cuba and
Venezuela. It will also result in an increase in Cuban
medical professionals in urban areas on the Atlantic Coast.

Comment
-------

8. (C) Both Cuba and Nicaragua have expressed a desire to
continue a strong bilateral relationship. So far, this desire
has manifested itself most prominently in the health sector.
Post believes that failure to waive Title III of the Libertad
Act for Nicaragua would allow Ortega to trumpet U.S.
"hostility" toward his new government. Failure to waive
Title III would hand hard-core Sandinistas the argument that
Cuba and Venezuela are more reliable, generous allies for
Nicaragua. Post recommends a waiver of Title III of the
Libertad Act for Nicaragua.
TRIVELLI

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