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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Catholic Church Leader Highlights Lack

VZCZCXRO6365
PP RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #0955/01 2071536
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 251536Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2955
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANAGUA 000955

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SJUSTICE WHA/CEN
AEMERSON INR/AA
NSC FOR VALVARADO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/24/2018
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KDEM NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: CATHOLIC CHURCH LEADER HIGHLIGHTS LACK
OF JUSTICE AND MORAL VALUES

REF: A. MANAGUA 2008 761
B. MANAGUA 2007 01904

Classified By: Ambassador Paul A. Trivelli for reasons 1.4 (b and d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: Influential Catholic Church leader Monsignor
Bernard Hombach, the German-born Bishop of Granada, privately
reaffirmed his concerns about Nicaragua,s fragile democracy,
absence of justice, politicization of government
institutions, and erosion of moral values. While
acknowledging the troubled political situation, Hombach
remains staunchly opposed to any Church involvement in
politics. Although some prominent religious leaders have
joined the civil society chorus calling for a national
dialogue, in Hombach,s estimation it would be a waste of
time because Nicaragua has no coherent political opposition.
Hombach expressed a general lack of faith in the Nicaraguan
political class,s ability to solve the real problems facing
Nicaragua, and underscored the need to restore values of
social justice to put the country on the right path. END
SUMMARY

CHURCH AND POLITICS SHOULDN'T MIX
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (C) During a July 11 visit with Poloff, Monsignor Hombach
explained that the Church,s role is not to meddle in
politics nor identify with any particular political party,
but rather to demonstrate a positive image for the people.
He objected to many of the actions by the Ortega government
and the Sandinista National Liberation Front,s (FSLN)
partisan control of state institutions, but the Catholic
Church needs to stay out of politics, Hombach insisted.
Bishops who side with or oppose any one party are making a
mistake, although he confided that not all church leaders
share this point of view. (Note: In a recent interview
with leading center-right La Prensa, Bishop Hombach
criticized the Council of Peace and Reconciliation,
administered by retired Cardinal Obando y Bravo, which he
judged had accomplished nothing and whose existence was
&unnecessary.8 End Note.) The Church has no business
being &married8 to any party, be it on the left or the
right, but must instead serve as an independent arbiter of
justice and morality. Like the prophets of the Old
Testament, the Church,s duty is to uphold its principles to
serve God not the politicians. The Church did have an
obligation to be alert to any wrongdoings by the government
against the people. In his view, however, the criticism must
not be to antagonize or create enemies, but rather to
pressure the government to keep its commitment to ending the
country,s social problems.

LACK OF JUSTICE, PARTISANSHIP, PACTO HAMPER REAL DEMOCRACY
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (C) Monsignor Hombach was especially perturbed about the
lack of justice in Nicaragua and found it astounding that one
party, the FSLN, could have exclusive control of the
country,s legal institutions, the courts, and the Supreme
Electoral Council (CSE). The justice system in Nicaragua is
managed primarily by partisan interests, he explained, rather
than out of any respect for truth or ethics, and the highest
judicial positions are doled out as rewards for party
loyalists. In Hombach,s view, the partisan monopoly was
preventing Nicaraguan democratic forces from flourishing
while enabling corruption.

4. (C) Offering his perspective on the relationship between
President Ortega and former president and convicted felon
Arnoldo Aleman of the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC),
Hombach likened them to Siamese twins who were paralyzing
&true democracy.8 Although Ortega is a poor administrator,
he is a Machiavellian politician. With justice in the hands
of the Sandinistas, they have Aleman chained up &like a
dog.8 According to Hombach, as long as Daniel Ortega is in
power, Aleman, who is ostensibly under house arrest, will
never be free because he is Ortega,s most &valuable card.8
He observed that Ortega places people who are corrupt but
obedient in key positions. For example. Roberto Rivas,
president of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), is not even
a true Sandinista, Hombach noted, but is willing to carry
Ortega,s water out of convenience and personal opportunism.
Arnoldo Aleman, meanwhile, would never put anyone in a
position of authority he deemed more capable than himself.
Hombach judged that Nicaragua was prone to corruption and
dependency on outsiders, largely due to its history of
caudillismo and tradition of "the Gueguense," the Nicaraguan
custom of wearing "two different masks."

PARISHIONERS SHARE CONCERNS
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (C) Reflecting on the state of Nicaragua,s democratic
development, Hombach relayed the concerns he has heard from
members of his congregation. Many Granada parishioners have
expressed frustration about the closure of democratic space
and the controversial CSE ruling to block minority political
parties from participating in the November 2008 municipal
elections (Ref. A.) Some citizens have grown disillusioned
with the democratic process and lamented that they have no
one for whom to vote. Hombach emphasized that the
manipulation of the Nicaraguan electoral process is nothing
new. He recounted previous elections rife with fraud, and
noted the frustration of having reported several instances of
electoral abuse directly to CSE president Roberto Rivas who
has simply ignored his complaints.

LOSS OF VALUES AND ETHICS
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (C) Hombach stressed that the Catholic Church views the
problems facing Nicaragua, particularly the failure of
justice, within the larger context of the loss of societal
and moral values rather than as a result of political
tension. Hombach was indignant about the impunity often
afforded to drug traffickers and perpetrators of sexual
violence and child abuse, and noted many parishioners had
sought his counsel on dealing with the issue of intrafamily
violence, a serious problem throughout Nicaragua. Because of
the lack of an independent judiciary, many cases go
unresolved or are treated with impunity. The bishop was
clear that no one, not even priests, should be exempt from
punishment in cases involving child abuse. He cited one
disturbing case of a step-father who had raped his own
step-daughter, but instead of justice being served, the girl
was blamed for "lying about" the allegations. According to
Hombach, the Church had a duty to defend and teach ethics and
moral values because although laws exist, laws can,t change
human behavior. The bishop also lamented that as a
consequence of societal tolerance of child abuse, Granada is
gaining a reputation as a popular destination for child sex
tourism among foreign travelers. (NOTE: A representative of
a Granada-based NGO involved in defending the rights of women
and children informed poloff separately that Monsignor
Hombach is playing a prominent role in the fight to stop
sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the community,
praising his advocacy of this cause. END NOTE.)

PASTORAL LETTER TO URGE END TO INJUSTICE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

7. (C) In contrast to other church leaders who have called
for a national dialogue as a means for dealing with the
country,s political, economic, and social crises, Hombach
demurred that it did not make any sense given the absence of
real political opposition. He suggested that the lack of an
opposition leadership is even more of a problem than Daniel
Ortega. Politicians in Nicaragua don,t have principles, he
judged, and many National Assembly deputies are opportunists
who people can't trust because they change from one party to
another. A national dialogue would just turn into &a
monologue, and no one would listen.8 Rather than demand a
national dialogue, Hombach was in favor of the Church sending
a pastoral letter to the Nicaraguan people, to urge
reconciliation, address poverty and hunger, and to demand
that politics be practiced as a "noble art, with noble
people." He indicated plans to do so at some point in
August. Furthermore, although he expressed admiration for the
strength of the ecumenical dialogue on the Atlantic Coast, he
lamented that this spirit was weak in the rest of the country
and regretted that tensions between the Catholic Church and
evangelical communities exacerbate divisions among people.

COMMENT
- - - -

8. (C) While Hombach remains steadfast in objecting to
direct Church involvement in politics, he was clearly more
critical of the Ortega government than he had been a year ago
(Ref. B). He is aware that everything is politicized in
Nicaragua, but seeks to maintain a distinction between
criticizing the injustices of the government and criticizing
or defending political figures or parties. His complaints
mirror the many voiced by democratic opposition groups, human
rights organizations, media, and civil society contacts.
Given recent public opinion polling showing both the Catholic
and Evangelical Churches as inspiring considerably greater
confidence among the population than state institutions and
many political figures, Monsignor Hombach's insistence on
keeping a distance from politics is probably both prudent and
understandable.


TRIVELLI

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