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Cablegate: Plc Convention Shows Aleman in Control,

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0944/01 2061639
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 241639Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2939
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 000944

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CEN
NSC FOR FISK AND ALVARADO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/23/2018
TAGS: KDEM NU PGOV PHUM
SUBJECT: PLC CONVENTION SHOWS ALEMAN IN CONTROL,
MONTEALEGRE'S POSITION TENUOUS

REF: MANAGUA 880

Classified By: DCM Richard M. Sanders, Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: The Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC) held
its national convention July 11 outside Managua, with the
nominal purpose of showing a united front against the Ortega
government, ratifying its candidate list for the November
municipal elections, and supporting Managua mayoral candidate
Eduardo Montealegre while opposing the removal of his
immunity regarding the CENIS case (reftel). The actual
results of the convention showed Arnoldo Aleman in clear
control of the party, a Liberal opposition that remains to be
united, and tenuous support for Montealegre from the PLC
leadership, which may yet find a way to force him off the
ticket. As the country heads toward elections, the continued
division within the Liberals could strengthen the FSLN's
position and lead to an Ortega victory in November.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
Aleman: The Leader of the Pack, but not the Opposition
--------------------------------------------- ---------

2. (C) In the PLC keynote address, former president and
convicted felon Arnoldo Aleman tried to rally the Liberals by
criticizing the Sandinista government's poor performance in
its first 18 months. (Note: Aleman freely criticized the
Sandinista government, but never criticized President Ortega
by name.) He also blasted former president Bolanos, whom he
blamed for splitting the Liberals and setting the stage for
their loss in the 2006 presidential elections. Aleman said
the PLC-Vamos con Eduardo (VCE) alliance was the winning
ticket for the November municipal elections, highlighting the
ballot for Managua with Eduardo Montealegre (VCE) for mayor
and Enrique Quinonez (PLC) as deputy mayor.

3. (C) The crowd's reaction to Aleman demonstrated he was
still able to rally key elements of the PLC base. Cheers for
"Arnoldo" were far louder and outnumbered any cheers for
"Eduardo" or Aleman's nemesis Enrique Quinonez, a
tough-talking PLC National Assembly deputy and candidate for
vice-mayor of Managua who has made publicly criticizing
Aleman his mission over the last six months. La Trinchera,
the PLC mouthpiece daily paper, confirmed Aleman's position
in the party by stating he "demonstrated he was the party's
leader and the PLC recognized his leadership." Despite the
clear support for Aleman, there were some instances of VCE
members with posters denouncing the Ortega-Aleman pact; these
were quickly taken away by Aleman loyalists. These incidents
were limited as most of Quinonez supporters (who oppose
Aleman) were prohibited from entering the convention, leading
to some violent confrontations between Quinonez and Aleman
supporters.

----------------------------------------
The PLC Supports Montealegre ... Kind Of
----------------------------------------

4. (C) The PLC ratified its slate of candidates for the
November municipal elections, and singled out its support for
Montealegre and Quinonez in the Managua race. Aleman
personally pledged his support to Montealegre and claimed
that Montealegre has the support of the PLC troops behind
him. However, Aleman has taken steps to keep the door open
to remove Montealegre and Quinonez if (or more likely when)
necessary. First, the convention authorized the PLC
executive committee (CEN) to replace at any time any
candidate not deemed capable of winning. The CEN is
comprised of Aleman loyalists and has recently issued public
warnings to Quinonez that he risks being removed for his
public criticisms of Aleman and the PLC leadership. This
authority provides one key avenue for Aleman to eliminate any
chance of Montealegre participating in the elections. PLC
contacts and members of Montealegre's campaign team have
suggested to us that Quinonez could be forced out in late
August or early September as a first step to removing
Montealegre.

5. (C) The second avenue available to Aleman in
manipulating to remove Montealegre would be to strip the
candidate of his immunity as a deputy in the National
Assembly based on the government's corruption charges
(reftel). To remove a National Assembly deputy's immunity
("desaforacion"), 47 of the 92 members in the assembly must
vote in favor of the motion. Currently 44 members (all 38 of

the FSLN and 6 of the ALN) are expected to vote against
Montealegre. Five deputies are "independent," three of which
usually vote with the FSLN. The FSLN is working hard to find
the votes to strip Montealegre of his immunity and it is
widely suspected Aleman is also prepared to throw in a few
PLC votes to ensure the mayoral candidate's political demise
and strengthen his own leadership in the liberal ranks.
Aleman's involvement in this process was alluded to when PLC
Secretary General Francisco Aguirre Sacasa told the DCM that
"the majority" of the PLC would vote against Montealegre's
loss of immunity -- implying that a handful of PLC deputies
could go over to the FSLN on the vote.

6. (C) The National Assembly will return from recess August
6 and a petition to lift Montealegre's immunity is expected
soon after. Given legislative procedures, a vote probably
would not occur until late of September. This would coincide
with the beginning of the official campaigns - approximately
one month prior to the elections.

-------
Comment
-------

7. (C) The PLC convention left no doubt Aleman is in firm
control of the party and is positioning himself as the sole
"alternative" to Ortega. Aleman has followed the convention
with nearly daily media appearances or campaign stops,
further demonstrating his resurgent and overt political
control over the Liberal alliance. At the same time, the
convention equally showed there is still no real unity among
the liberal factions, which continue to maintain separate
campaign structures in many municipalities, including
Managua.

8. (C) Aleman's public pledge to support Montealegre belies
the fact that he is retaining all the tools to betray
Montealegre should this be needed to preserve the "Pacto"
with Ortega which has kept him out of jail despite his
conviction and sentencing on massive corruption charges. The
loss of immunity, or the removal of Quinonez as his
vice-mayoral candidate, could force Montealegre to drop out
of the race. The PLC would then be certain to replace him
with a loyal partisan who would further alienate an already
disillusioned electorate. This could weaken the Liberals,
lead to a strengthened FSLN, and a resounding win for Ortega
in the November elections.
TRIVELLI

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