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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Raas Protest Reveal Regional Rift

VZCZCXRO3763
PP RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #1353/01 3101533
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051533Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3345
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE 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 001353

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR KRAAIMORE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/30/2018
TAGS: PGOV NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: RAAS PROTEST REVEAL REGIONAL RIFT
REGARDING REFORMS

REF: A. MANAGUA 1149
B. MANAGUA 953 AND PREVIOUS

Classified By: Ambassador Robert J. Callahan for reasons 1.4 (B) & (D)

1. (C) SUMMARY: On October 29, 2008 in Rama, within
Nicaragua's South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS), a crowd
of over three hundred people, led by regional government
leaders, publicly rejected plans for demarcation reform for
the Autonomous region proposed by National Assembly Deputies
Brooklyn Rivera and Francisco Sacasa. The proposed assembly
reforms would carve out four of the 12 RAAS municipalities to
form a new department or Autonomous region (see REFs A and
B). The non-violent protest, directed at Rivera and Sacasa,
took place during the 21st year anniversary of Law 28 that
established Nicaragua,s autonomous regions. END SUMMARY.

A Private Meeting...
- - - - - - - - - -

2. (C) On October 29, National Assembly Deputies Brooklyn
Rivera, from the Yatama indigenous party currently aligned
with the Sandinista (FSLN), and Francisco Sacasa, from the
Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC), went to Rama to
participate in a private forum organized by the Commission of
Ethnic Affairs, Autonomous Regimes and Indigenous Communities
in the Kingston Hotel. Both Rivera and Sacasa represent the
Atlantic Coast in the National Assembly and support proposed
demarcation reforms to Nicaragua,s Autonomous Law (see REF
A) that would form a new Autonomous region or department,
called Zelaya Central, from the RAAS by stripping out four of
the RAAS,s western municipalities, Muelle de los Bueyes, El
Rama, El Ayote and Nueva Guinea. Rivera and Sacasa met with
four FSLN regional council members, and three municipal
election candidates, a mayor, and thirty other invitees in
their private forum to pre-cook the plans for approval of the
reforms.

A Public Confrontation...
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (C) At the same hour as the Rivera meeting, RAAS Regional
Government President Lourdes Aguilar, RAAS Governor Yadira
Flores and representatives from the twelve RAAS
municipalities, who oppose the demarcation reforms, held a
separate public forum in the Rama municipal gymnasium. When
Rama Mayor Roger Canales decried the private Rivera meeting,
the crowd of over three hundred costenos (people from the
Nicaragua,s Atlantic Coast) rose to their feet and marched
three blocks to the Kingston Hotel to protest. The crowd
surrounded the hotel for over an hour, chanting against
Rivera and Sacasa, calling them "cowards, thieves, shameless
violators of human rights and the laws of the Constitution."
Aguilar and Flores called the deputies to come out to the
people who elected them and talk with them "under the light
of the sun." When Sacasa and Rivera finally emerged, they
defended their plans to form a new department in the RAAS and
told the crowd to listen to their proposal first, before they
would be willing to listen to the crowd,s demands. In the
end, the deputies told the crowd that they already had their
work to do and that they would not abandon it to go to the
gymnasium to listen to complaints. Aguilar and Flores then
led the group back to the gymnasium to continue their public
meeting, in which they declared it was clear that the
National Assembly deputies were not interested in listening
to the people except during elections. The public meeting
continued with presentations by mayors from Muelle de los
Bueyes, El Rama, El Ayote and Nueva Guinea, who each called
for more integration with the RAAS regional government.

4. (C) On October 30, 2008 Aguilar held a press conference in
which she reiterated the regional government,s firm
opposition to any efforts to carve up the RAAS into new
territories. Aguilar stated that "we are not going to permit
that they (National Assembly deputies) destroy our region,
nor are we going to allow them to impose a new department on
us or carve up our territory." Aguilar called on the 630,000
costenos to unite in order to demonstrate to the central
government that it needs to "respect our territory and our
rights." She accused the government of robbing the region,s
resources, from lumber to lobsters, through resolutions and
licenses originating in Managua. She promised that "we are
the owners of our natural resources and we are going to
defend them today more united than before." The mayor of
Rama, Roger Araica, remarked that the embarrassing and
humiliating attitude of the deputies was unfortunate, but
reminded the press that Sacasa was inappropriately elected to
represent the costenos. (NOTE: Sacasa is mestizo, from Rivas
on the Pacific coast and was not directly elected by costenos
to his deputy position. Ex-president Arnoldo Aleman
appointed Sacasa "por dedaso" (by finger) to be a PLC deputy
for the RAAS. Sacasa's connection to the RAAS involves his
family's large land holdings, which are currently subject to
several lawsuits. It is widely believed that proposed
reforms to Law 28 would directly benefit Sacasa in preserving
his family's land holdings and ending the lawsuits. END
NOTE) Other opinion leaders in the RAAS shared these same
views, including the influential Reverend Rayfield Hodgson
and Vice Rectors Claribel Castillo and Zarifet Bolanos from
Uraccan University in Bluefields and Nueva Guinea.

Unfulfilled Laws...
- - - - - - - - - -

5. (C) The RAAS regional leaders and National Assembly
deputies had gathered in Rama, one of the larger
municipalities in the RAAS to participate in celebrations for
the 21st anniversary of Law 28, known as the law of autonomy
that established Nicaragua,s two autonomous regions. In
addition to the meetings in Rama, our contacts tell us that
FSLN Atlantic Coast Secretary Lumberto Campbell was in
Bluefields on October 29 holding private meetings regarding
demarcation reform.

6. (C) Rivera,s proposal to reform Law 28 (see Ref A and B)
and form two new departments from RAAS and North Atlantic
Autonomous Region (RAAN) municipalities is widely unpopular
among coastal people who understand its implications. Many
coastal leaders believe that Sacasa, Rivera and Campbell are
following instructions from their party leaders to divide the
RAAS and RAAN before completing the demarcation and land
titling process required under Law 445. Demarcation expert
Lottie Cunningham told us that only a fraction of the 235
indigenous communities within 3 of the 23 RAAN territories
have received land titles in the last five years, despite
millions of dollars of financing from the World Bank and
other donor nations to carry out the task. Moreover,
Cunningham believes that the government,s administration of
the demarcation process is technically flawed because workers
do not spend sufficient time to complete a thorough
diagnostic study; often they spend less than a day in a
community conducting surveys. In Rama communities where the
diagnostic study is complete, the GON will not approve it
because of the influx of Spanish-speaking Pacific migrants,
who would normally have second preferences for land claims
behind indigenous groups. Cunningham claimed that during his
2006 campaign President Daniel Ortega had promised the
mestizo migrants that they would get title to the land ahead
of the Indians.

7. (C) COMMENT: The public confrontation over Rivera,s plans
to reform Law 28 and carve out new departments from the RAAS
and RAAN was no accident. The reforms are not sought by the
Costenos, but are being imposed on the Atlantic Coast by
political leaders in Managua in order to consolidate
political power and doubtless, to benefit from the money to
be made from exploiting the region's natural resources and
avoid obligations to complete the demarcation process by
2009.
CALLAHAN

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