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Cablegate: Ambassador Meets with Fm Santos -- Property, Civil

VZCZCXRO7336
PP RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #1183/01 2632303
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 192303Z SEP 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3181
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAGUA 001183

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CEN
STATE PASS USAID FOR LAC - CARDENAS
NSC FOR FISK/GARCIA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/17/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV KDEM PHUM NU
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH FM SANTOS -- PROPERTY, CIVIL
SOCIETY AND MANPADS

REF: A. MANAGUA 1118
B. MANAGUA 1151
C. MANAGUA 1153

Classified By: Ambassador Robert J. Callahan Reasons 1.4 (b and d)

1. (C) Summary. In a courtesy call on Foreign Minister
Samuel Santos on September 11, Ambassador Callahan urged the
Nicaraguan government to make further progress on resolving
property claims, especially those under the control of the
government and armed forces. Santos gave assurances that
cooperation would continue while contending that a "new
order" was in place to prevent abuses in the settlement of
claims, as had happened under previous governments.
Ambassador raised concern about the increasingly negative
public attacks on civil society, and especially on
U.S.-funded NGOs, noting that our activities are in full
compliance with U.S. and Nicaraguan law and are consistent
with democracy activities worldwide. Santos pushed back,
accusing unspecified groups of violating the law, seeking to
cause a rupture in U.S.-Nicaraguan relations, and of not
being honest with the funds and with their political goals.
He asserted that the GON is engaged in an effort to ensure
"full compliance" with the electoral law and regulations
governing NGOs. On Nicaragua's man-portable air defense
systems (MANPADS), Ambassador reiterated that our offer
remains on the table and that we hope to receive a formal
response from the government to the proposal. Santos pledged
to raise it with President Daniel Ortega, who would be
handling the issue personally. End Summary.

PROPERTY
--------

2. (C) Ambassador noted that in the first six months of the
review period, the GON had made very little progress on
resolving outstanding property issues. In the last six
months, the GON had made positive efforts and Ambassador
expressed the hope that this trend would continue. The issue
of property continues to have the attention of the U.S.
Congress and further progress, especially on properties held
by the government and armed forces, will be necessary.
Santos replied that the previous Liberal governments had
demonstrated "exaggerated flexibility" in resolving cases, to
the detriment of Nicaragua's national interests. The Ortega
government, under Attorney General Estrada, had to use those
first months to "establish order," review cases to determine
the legitimacy of claims and focus on the issue of
citizenship before further progress could be made. The
previous government "abused the process," he asserted. Now
that the system and cases were in order, progress could be
made and Santos gave assurances that regular meetings with
the Embassy would continue to seek further progress on
resolving cases.

USG DEMOCRACY PROGRAM AND NGOS
------------------------------

3. (C) Ambassador expressed deep concern over the GON's
decision to seek criminal and administrative charges against
the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the
unfounded public attacks in official media by senior GON
officials against USG-funded democracy activities in
Nicaragua (refs a and b). Ambassador emphasized that
USG-funded democracy activities in Nicaragua are transparent,
in full compliance with both U.S. and Nicaraguan law, and are
consistent with activities that we fund around the world.
Furthermore, Ambassador cautioned Santos that the closure of
IRI, the National Democratic Institute, or other prominent
NGOs would have the potential to create serious problems for
Nicaragua, especially with the U.S. Congress. In addition,
the campaign of discrediting Nicaraguan civil society leaders
and, in particular the accusations that they are agents of
the USG, was particularly worrisome. The rise in
anti-democratic rhetoric as well as the recent recognition of
South Ossetia and Abkhazia (ref c) could have a negative
effect on many areas where we are seeking cooperation,
including on U.S. private sector investment.

4. (C) Santos was unusually combative and defensive of the
GON's attacks on democratic NGOs in his response. Santos
emphasized that all these activities need to be in strict
compliance with the law and the GON was engaged in a "process
to make sure laws are complied with. There was too much
flexibility in the past." While many of the activities
funded by USAID and other parts of the USG are very organized
and transparent, some programs "do and say things that are
not allowed." IRI, for example, has engaged in activities
that "border on the edge of the law" and has interfered in
the internal political process. Furthermore, the USG and its
NGOs would need to be sure that the work they do is very
careful, that they obey all the laws, and that they account
for the work they do and the funds they receive to the proper
Nicaraguan authorities.

5. (C) Santos accused the U.S. and USG-funded NGOs of
"excessive participation" in internal politics in the past.
"They talked too much and made mistakes" in violation of
Nicaraguan electoral laws. Now, he claimed, those same
groups are interested in breaking relations between the U.S.
and Nicaragua for their own personal and political reasons.
He asserted further that these groups were interested in
destabilizing the Nicaraguan government, which could not be
permitted. Ambassador reaffirmed our view that USG-funded
democracy activities were in keeping with U.S. and Nicaraguan
law and renewed our commitment to work in as open a manner as
possible, to discuss and share information and expressed the
hope that both sides would avoid making public accusations
without talking to each other first.

MANPADS
-------

6. (C) Ambassador reiterated that the offer to provide
Nicaragua with funding for healthcare and medical equipment
in exchange for the destruction of Nicaragua's stockpile of
MANPADS remained "on the table" and that we hoped to receive
a formal reply from the GON. Santos replied that it was
"unfortunate" that the details of the proposal had been
leaked to the press (Note: Santos ignored the fact that it
was Ortega who publicly stated the key elements of the
Nicaraguan proposal and U.S. counter-proposal. End Note.)
Santos promised to talk personally with Ortega during their
travel to the U.N. and that Ortega would "be looking at the
proposal" personally.

CALLAHAN

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