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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Women's Protests Against Ortega Gain

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PP RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #1102/01 2391548
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 261548Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3092
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION PRIORITY 0052
RUEHTG/AMEMBASSY TEGUCIGALPA PRIORITY 4319
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL//J2/J3/J5// PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MANAGUA 001102

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN SJUSTICE
DEPT FOR INR/IAA AEMERSON
DEPT FOR DRL GMAGGIO
DEPT FOR G/IWI
DEPT FOR USOAS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/26/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM KWMN PINR NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: WOMEN'S PROTESTS AGAINST ORTEGA GAIN
REGIONAL TRACTION

REF: A. 2006 MANAGUA 2599
B. 08 MANAGUA 349
C. 08 MANAGUA 964

Classified By: DCM Richard M. Sanders for reasons 1.4 (b, d)

SUMMARY
- - - - -

1. (C) Women's rights leaders and activists in Paraguay and
Honduras have staged back-to-back protests against having
President Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation
Front (FSLN) set foot on their soil and have reignited
mainstream interest in the unresolved sexual abuse scandal
involving Ortega and his step-daughter Zoilamerica Narvaez.
The revival of interest in the case has galvanized local
Nicaraguan women's rights networks and sharpened the divide
within the Nicaraguan left. The FSLN's defensive reaction,
and in particular the hostile campaign of Rosario Murillo,
Ortega's wife and Zoilamerica's biological mother, to
discredit female critics as "demons" and agents of the U.S.
Government, indicates that the reemergence of solidarity for
Zoilamerica has hit a nerve with Nicaragua's first couple.
The fact that the repudiation is coming from feminist groups
outside Nicaragua also reveals Ortega's past reputation as a
child molester and rapist has been neither forgotten nor
forgiven. END SUMMARY

ZOILAMERICA CASE NEVER CLOSED
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2. (C) In 1998, Zoilamerica Narvaez came forward with a
formal complaint of sexual abuse--including rape, harassment,
and psychological and physical trauma--against her
step-father Daniel Ortega which, according to her testimony,
began when she was 11 and continued for 20 years (ref. A).
The case was never fully prosecuted locally, in part because
Ortega enjoyed parliamentary immunity and was further
protected by "el pacto," the power-sharing deal he cut with
ex-president and convicted felon Arnoldo Aleman of the
Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC). The female judge who
ruled in Ortega's favor, Juana Mendez, is a fervent FSLN
militant and widely despised by Nicaraguan women who
abandoned the Frente for the dissident Sandinista Renovation
Movement (MRS). When Zoilamerica's case was dismissed in the
Nicaraguan courts, she took it to the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in 2001, where it has
languished ever since. Although she has sent repeated
letters to the IACHR requesting a hearing, she has yet to
receive a formal response. Since Ortega's election victory
in November 2006, she told us she has preferred to stay out
of the public spotlight, not out of fear for herself, but
rather in the interest of protecting her friends and allies.
Now at the age of 40, she continues to feel threatened by and
exposed to the abuse of power.

PARAGUAYAN AND HONDURAN WOMEN TO ORTEGA: STAY OUT
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (SBU) Spain's leading center-left daily "El Pais" and
well-known Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa have put the
Zoilamerica story back in the media spotlight with recent
articles. Now the Paraguayan and Honduran women protests
have produced a "snowball effect" which their Nicaraguan
counterparts hope will have international reach. According
to local media, on August 14, Paraguay's newly-appointed
Minister for Women's Affairs, Gloria Rubin, voiced her
objections to having President Ortega attend the August 15
inauguration of President-elect Fernando Lugo, underscoring
Ortega's history of abuse and "sexual slavery" of his own
step-daughter. Rubin was clear that she was speaking out of
personal conviction and not in any official capacity. Her
defiant act inspired other women and human rights activists
to come forward in solidarity with Zoilamerica and sparked
international condemnation of Ortega. The Ortega team
abruptly canceled the trip to Asuncion, officially citing
mechanical problems with the presidential airplane.

4. (SBU) On August 18, Honduran women's activists, led by
the feminist Gladys Lanzas of the Movement of Women for
Peace, picked up the baton, repudiating Ortega who is
expected to travel to Tegucigalpa for the August 25 induction
of Honduras into the Bolivian Alternative for the Americas
(ALBA) agreement. "If he has any shame left," Lanzas
reportedly chided, "he should not come." Echoing the outrage
voiced by the left-leaning Nicaraguan women's movement, the
Honduran feminists insisted Ortega did not deserve to be
"received and applauded" in their country. They have asked
President Zelaya not to allow Ortega at the ALBA ceremony,
warning there will be more protests if he attends. The
resignation of the Honduran Minister of Women's Affairs,
Selma Estrada de Ucles, as a further gesture in repudiation
of the Ortega visit, combined with the wave of protests has
sent an even stronger signal that women throughout the region
stand united in solidarity on this issue. (NOTE:
Coincidentally, Ortega cancelled a trip to the Dominican
Republic scheduled over the weekend. END NOTE.)

NICARAGUAN WOMEN'S MOVEMENT COMMITTED TO PURSUING JUSTICE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (SBU) Declaring him a "coward" with no moral authority to
govern, the Nicaraguan Autonomous Women's Movement (MAM)
(refs B.C.), praised Rubin for speaking out against Ortega
and proclaimed that women around the world were coming
together in this fight for justice and solidarity. This
network of women has led the charge denouncing Ortega
domestically and internationally and vowed never to abandon
Zoilamerica or ignore the consequences of Ortega's impunity.
They have often accused the Ortega government of installing
an "anti-gender policy" which includes the political
persecution of women. They find First Lady Rosario Murillo
equally guilty of what they have termed a "patriarchal and
anti-democratic" style of governance. Leading MAM activists
Sofia Montenegro, Patricia Orozco, and Juana Jimenez are
calling for a global protest, stating they are certain that
where there are women fighting for the rights of women, "the
indignation will grow." The reaction in Paraguay and
Honduras also indicated that Ortega's image as a
revolutionary was losing credibility even among the left,
they observed. MRS deputy and former FSLN militant Monica
Baltodano deemed both the Paraguayan and Honduran protests
legitimate and vindication for what Nicaraguan women had long
been fighting. The renewed international attention has also
raised hope among the Nicaraguan women's movement that the
pressure will move the IACHR to take action on the
controversial issue.

6. (C) Ortega's political rivals may be assessing whether
they can exploit the international shaming of Ortega to their
advantage. On August 20, Enrique Quinonez, PLC deputy and
Managua vice mayoral running on the PLC-Vamos Con Eduardo
ticket, reportedly invited Zoilamerica to the National
Assembly to present her case to the Commission for Peace,
Defense, Governance, and Human Rights over which he presides.
Quinonez suggested that after listening to her, the
commission might be willing to write a letter to the IACHR on
her behalf, given that "Nicaragua had denied justice to
Zoilamerica Narvaez." MRS alternate deputy Hugo Torres and
PLC deputy Jose Pallais worried that the rejection of Ortega
taking place in other Latin American countries was
embarrassing for the image of Nicaragua.

MURILLO SPEAKS FOR ORTEGA, DISMISSES CRITICISM AS CIA PLOT
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

7. (C) In the immediate aftermath of the Paraguayan
protests, Rosario Murillo and the FSLN machinery went on the
offensive in an attempt to discredit the international
women's activists as paid agents of the U.S. Embassy and the
CIA, and part of an elaborate media campaign of slander and
insults against her and the president. She chastised the
international media for its complicity in joining the
campaign of disparagement. In a press monologue she
delivered on official Channel 4 TV, Murillo dismissed
Minister Rubin as a low-ranking secretary of "third or
fourth" degree. She further explained that Rubin had ties
with the "right wing remnants" of the Stroessner
dictatorship, who never got over the fact that Nicaraguan
homologue Anastasio Somoza had been assassinated on their
turf. Therefore, the attacks against Ortega were also a form
of payback against the Sandinista Revolution. (NOTE: When
the scandal first broke back in 1998, Murillo also accused
Zoilamerica of being part of a plot against Daniel Ortega
END NOTE.) Murillo also gave a lengthy and convoluted
explanation that Ortega's presidential plane could not fly
due to mechanical problems involving a leak in the gas tank
and was unable to make the trip to Asuncion and return in
time for an event planned the following day in Jinotega,
underscoring how he needed to keep his commitment to the
people. She suggested those trying to bring down Ortega were
sowing hatred instead of respecting the Government of Peace
and Reconciliation.

8. (SBU) FSLN International Relations director Jacinto
Suarez responded to the Honduran episode with a similar
tactic to disparage and discredit the female protesters,
calling them "devils" being paid by the "empire." These
women were "renegades of the left" with ties to the Communist
Party. Asserting that Lanzas had been expelled from all
parties and unions in Honduras, he observed that she was just
like all feminists "cut from the same cloth" and on "the same
payroll." Downplaying the hype, meanwhile, FSLN Deputy Edwin
Castro insisted that as far as the Nicaraguan justice system
was concerned, the Zoilamerica case is closed. He speculated
these feminists were just "rehashing" it like they always do
close to an election.

ZOILAMERICA EXPRESSES GRATITUDE FOR SHOW OF SOLIDARITY
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

9. (C) Just as she thanked the editors of Spain's "EL Pais"
for their moral support, in a letter posted on the Nicaraguan
daily left-of-center "El Nuevo Diario" webblog, Zoilamerica
thanked those like Gloria Rubin who were willing to speak out
on behalf of her cause despite "political inconveniences."
She expressed heartfelt gratitude for the outpouring of
warmth and solidarity, underscoring that she had no economic
nor political arrangement "of any kind" with her mother nor
with Daniel Ortega. (NOTE: Zoilamerica had recently told us
privately that the rumors earlier in the year that she had
reunited with her family were patently false, and probably an
attempt by FSLN insiders to discredit her among her MRS
supporters. END NOTE.) She reiterated that her pursuit of
justice was no longer about punishing her abuser but rather
it was against the government of Nicaragua for having
remained complicit in the denial of justice. In her letter,
she lamented that because of the IACHR process, her case
continued to stagnate. She has vowed to continue helping
other victims of sexual violence and discrimination through
her non-profit foundation "Sobrevivientes" (Survivors).
Zoilamerica, now 40, is the daughter of Rosario Murillo and
the late Jorge Narvaez Parajon, Murillo's first husband.
Adopted legally by Daniel Ortega in 1986, her surname is
officially Ortega Murillo a name she has since rejected in
favor of her original family name of Narvaez.

COMMENT
- - - -

10. (C) The emblematic and controversial Zoilamerica case
has never vanished from the country's collective memory, but
its resurfacing just ahead of the November municipal
elections--expected to be a referendum on the president and
the FSLN--is particularly inconvenient for Ortega. Although
the electorate was also reminded of Ortega's alleged sexual
misconduct ahead of the 2006 national elections, it did not
prevent him from winning. The revived interest in the case
may have some impact in this year's municipal elections. We
shall see whether it is true, that as one contact recently
told us, the people now would rather vote for a "tamal"
(crook) than a "violador" (rapist).


CALLAHAN

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