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Cablegate: Reporter Injured in Political Scuffle:

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0989/01 2132329
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 312329Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2980
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL//J2/J3/J5// PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHBVNKP/USS KEARSARGE PRIORITY
RULYEGA/COMPHIBRON EIGHT PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 000989

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN JUSTICE
DEPT FOR INR/IAA EMERSON
DEPT FOR USOAS
DEPT FOR PLEASE PASS TO AID/LAC
NSC FOR ALVARADO
USS KEARSARGE FOR COMMODORE PONDS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/31/2018
TAGS: PHUM KDEM PGOV ASEC NU
SUBJECT: REPORTER INJURED IN POLITICAL SCUFFLE:
ORCHESTRATED VIOLENCE?

REF: A. MANAGUA 982
B. MANAGUA 823

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

1. (C) SUMMARY: Partisan violence erupted on the afternoon
of July 30, 2008 resulting in gunshots and a wound to the leg
of pro-Sandinista Channel 4 News reporter, Antenor Pena
Solano. Edgardo Cuarzema, the local-level Political
Secretary for the Sandinista national Liberation Front (FSLN)
and leader of the FSLN group at the incident, immediately
blamed the three other news agencies present, although other
observers claim that Cuaresma's group of Sandinista followers
initiated the clash. This incident closely parallels recent
beatings of Liberal supporters and candidates that took place
over the weekend (REF A) and suggests diminishing FSLN
tolerance for opposition electioneering. END SUMMARY

DEMONSTRATION "A LA SANDINISTA"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (SBU) At 3pm on July 30, 2008 Sandinista enthusiasts --
some identified as members of the Sandinista Youth group --
armed with rocks, sticks and alcoholic beverages, guarded
several of the hundreds of the billboards lining Managua's
streets that display Ortega's image. They awaited a youth
group, "Puente" that was scheduled to protest the excessive
use of State funds for such publicity by chaining themselves
to a billboard in the Rotunda "Ruben Dario" that same
afternoon. Before the altercation, the leader of the group,
Victor Cienfuegos (a long-time FSLN street agitator), told
the press "today we are here because they said that (Puente
members) are going to chain themselves to the billboards. We
don't think that is appropriate . . . we will not permit it."
According to the press, when Puente members saw the group of
Sandinistas, they moved their protest to another location to
avoid violence. Later, vehicles arrived carrying Puente
supporters from the Managua suburb of Cuidad Sandino, led by
missionary priest Alberto Boschi. The FSLN group "welcomed"
them by hurling rocks, apparently damaging two police patrol
cars in the process. When officers attempted to apprehend an
individual, they were rushed by the rest of FSLN crowd and
shots were fired. Press reports claim that a reporter from
Channel 4 news -- owned by President Ortega's son -- was
injured by a gunshot. However, doctors at the military
hospital that treated him reported no gunpowder residue,
burns or broken bones, the usual evidence of such a wound.

3. (C) Commissioner Palacios of the Nicaraguan National
Police (NNP), dismissed any police involvement in the
shooting, telling us that police covering riots use AK-47s
and shotguns, not the pistol that was apparently discharged.
A different contact at NNP noted an emergency call was placed
to cover the protest and so police arrived without their
usual riot gear. (Note: there is a picture in the paper and
television footage of a police officer pointing a pistol in
the air. End note). Another officer told us that the wound
might actually have resulted from a stabbing.

THE BLAME GAME
- - - - - - - -

4. (C) Arriving on the scene just after the incident,
Edgardo Cuarzema, local-level Political Secretary for the
FSLN, accused the three other news agencies present of
provoking the violence. Later, Channel 4 blamed nearly all
FSLN opposition -- political opposition groups Vamos Con
Eduardo (VCE) and the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS);
daily newspapers La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario; the
left-of-center civil society group Coordinadora Civil; Manuel
Guillen, La Prensa's satirical cartoonist; and Jaime
Arrellano, a local, liberal, talk show host --telling viewers
that "it (the aggression) was a cowardly action taken by the
Right." However, VCE representatives have told us that none
of their supporters were present; they were planning on
participating later that evening and insinuated that the
violence, gunshots and possibly the injury were staged. Hugo
Torres, spokesperson for the MRS, informed us that when

Boschi's van arrived, they mistook the Sandinista group for
MRS as some were wearing orange shirts (MRS colors) and
waving Nicaraguan flags. They contend the FSLN group stoned
their van and when the priest complained to the police,
mayhem ensued. Other news sources also blame the Sandinista
group -- purported members of the Citizen Power Councils
(CPC's) -- for instigating the violence.

COMMENT
- - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (C) Yesterday's scuffle typifies the rising tensions
between political parties and Ortega's diminishing tolerance
for opposition. The FSLN appears willing to use supporters
to intimidate peaceful opposition demonstrations; and the
Sandinista press, to stoke political animosity and blame the
government's primary media adversaries. As elections near,
Ortega's government is apparently replacing more subtle
efforts to suppress the media (REF B) with verbal and legal
attacks, coupled with outright physical attacks on protesters.
TRIVELLI

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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