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Cablegate: Nicaragua Cpc Update: "King of the Rotunda"

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAGUA 001343

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/24/2018
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA CPC UPDATE: "KING OF THE ROTUNDA"

REF: A. MANAGUA 1151
B. MANAGUA 989

Classified By: Amb. Robert J. Callahan for reasons 1.4(b) & (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: The continued, illegal occupation of
Managua's main rotundas by paid supporters of Nicaraguan
First Lady Rosario Murillo is approaching its third month.
Titled the "campaign against hatred," it is designed to close
democratic spaces for the opposition and prevent a fair
municipal election campaign. END SUMMARY

King of the Rotunda
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2. (SBU) The failure of the Nicaraguan government to
reconstruct Managua,s historic downtown area after the
devastating 1972 earthquake prevented the formation of a
central location for large public demonstrations. Instead,
strategic rotundas that facilitate traffic flow are the main
gathering spots for public rallies in today,s capital. In
fact, most strikes, political rallies, marches and protests
in Managua usually start or end at one of these major
rotundas, most of which are park-like and have monuments to
important Nicaraguan political or cultural figures.
Recognizing their importance, the mayor's office requires
that public demonstrators file for a permit to temporarily
occupy a rotunda well in advance of any planned rally.
During past elections, occupying Managua rotundas has been a
"king of the hill" game fought between political parties, and
carefully supervised by police.

3. (C) This year the traditional "king of the hill" game has
changed. As reported in REFTEL B, the last legal public rally
at a Managua rotunda took place on July 30, when a bus load
of youth arrived at the Ruben Dario rotunda to protest the
waste of public resources on the pink and yellow pro-Ortega
propaganda that decorates many of the billboards in Managua.
The youth included activists from the Movement Vamos Con
Eduardo (VCE), and the Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS)
political parties. The group had pre-registered with the
Mayor,s office to occupy the rotunda for the day. However,
when they arrived, they were met by a large group of
FSLN-youth, pro-Ortega sympathizers, who somehow knew
beforehand about the protest. In the altercation that
followed, an FSLN-supported television reporter, Antenor Pena
Solano, was wounded in the leg from what initially was
believed to be a bullet fired by the protesters and chaos
erupted. The FSLN supporters pelted the pro-transparency
protesters, bus with rocks and threatened adult organizers
with assault. Police were called in to end the violence, but
the opposition protesters were never able to begin their
legal occupation of the rotunda. The media melee that
followed the broadcasting of Pena,s wound at the alleged
hands of the anti-government protestors set the stage for the
ultimate round of "king of the rotunda8 currently underway
in Managua. (NOTE: a subsequent medical investigation
revealed that Pena,s wounds were not the result of a bullet
wound, but were from a kick to his leg. And the police
investigation revealed that the gunshots were fired from a
white truck that was circling the rotunda, and not by the
protesters, who did not have any firearms. END NOTE)

Attacking the Media First
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (C) The current Murillo/CPC demonstration, alternatively
known as the "prayer against hatred" or "love is stronger
than hate" campaign, started as a two-day theatrical protest
in front of television station Canal 2, and the main
independent newspapers La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario.
Participants wore white tee-shirts with pink slogans "love is
stronger than hate," (a not so veiled double entendre with
faux pious religious references to Christ,s "love those that
hate you," and a manifestation of Murillo,s view that only
those who hate her/Nicaragua would be critical of the
government). They joined hands to pray against media
outlets, and women waving crucifixes wanted to "exorcise"
popular TV political commentator Jaime Arelleno for his daily
talk-show program that criticized the Ortega government.
Weeks later, Arelleno was forced to leave Canal 2 because of
government pressure against the television station owners,
who feared that the government would not renew their media
license if Arelleno remained (see REF A).

Campaign of Hate - The Ultimate "King of the Rotunda"
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MANAGUA 00001343 002 OF 002

5. (C) What initially began as a quasi-religious protest
against the most vocal media opponents to the Ortega
government evolved, over-night, into an expensive, 24-hour
and seven-day-a-week campaign to occupy the main rotundas of
Managua. Media reports that twenty or more daily
"volunteers" come in two 12-hour shifts - a day-shift for
CPC/FSLN members, and a night shift for the Nemagon banana
protestors who have been camping in front of the National
Assembly since the 2006 elections. Each volunteer receives
free transportation, free meals, and approximately 200
Cordobas ($10 USD) a day to participate. This has been
corroborated by other sensitive reporting. During their
12-hour shift, the participants join hands for prayers at
least once an hour; otherwise, they are usually loitering on
the rotunda under the shade tents, or waving Nicaragua,s
blue and white national flag at Managua drivers.

6. (C) The Ortega government,s public relations campaign
wants the Nicaraguan people to believe that this is a
spontaneously organized religious protest. But the campaign
is too well organized to be spontaneous, even though there
are no "official organizers" for the prolonged protest. Each
rotunda has everything necessary for the "volunteer"
participants to maintain their indefinite occupation of
Managua,s rotundas: portable toilets, shade tents,
electricity for loud-speakers that play patriotic and
religious music, large Nicaraguan flags, and more white tee
shirts and pink banners with the slogans "love is stronger
than hate" and "prayer against hatred." Sources tell us that
the mostly middle-aged participants have been coached to deny
to the media that they receive any daily remuneration, and
instead claim that they are simply "peaceful volunteers who
want to pray against hatred." The hatred they refer to is
any anti-Ortega or anti-government message.

A Violation of Municipal & Election Laws
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

7. (C) Managua mayor, Jose Dionisio "Nicho" Marenco, a
Sandinista who has fallen out of favor with President Ortega,
said that the continuing occupation of the rotundas is
illegal, and that there are no permits for the protest.
(NOTE: The protest also became a violation of Nicaraguan
electoral law on September 25 when the elections officially
began. However, the CSE, which oversees elections, has
hesitated to criticize the protests, citing their "religious"
nature. END NOTE). The Nicaraguan police have also not been
called upon to remove the government-funded protester from
the Managua rotundas. (COMMENT: The police inaction against
the illegal rotunda protesters is just one more example in a
series of its growing complicity and collusion with the
Sandinista government (SEPTEL). END COMMENT)

COMMENT
- - - - - - - - -

8. (C) In the traditional "king of the rotunda" election
season battle, Murillo's "campaign against hate" has
effectively blocked democratic forces from having a place to
hold their rallies. Demonstrators' claims to be religious
volunteers instead of party operatives masks their true
purpose which is to silence opposition and pre-empt any
possibility of large scale opposition protests. Moreover,
the so-called "campaign against hate" has actually set the
stage for violent confrontations between the opposition and
the CPC members who occupy the rotundas during the official
election campaign.
CALLAHAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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