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Cablegate: Dol Child Labor Eradication Program Launch Hijacked

VZCZCXRO4682
PP RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #1357/01 3111432
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 061432Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3348
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL//J2/J3/J5// PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAGUA 001357

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR KRAAIMORE
STATE PASS TO USAID
USAID FOR LACK-CARDENAS
LABOR FOR KCHINNOCK, CHOLMES

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/04/2018
TAGS: PGOV ELAB PHUM PREL PINR LAB NU
SUBJECT: DOL CHILD LABOR ERADICATION PROGRAM LAUNCH HIJACKED

Classified By: Ambassador Robert J. Callahan for reasons 1(b) & (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: On November 4, 2008, Ambassador Callahan met
with representatives from five ministries at Nicaragua,s
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) to present award letters
from the US Department of Labor,s (DOL) three-year, US $5
million project to eradicate child labor in Nicaragua
entitled "Combating the worst forms of child labor through
education in Nicaragua - ENTERATE." While Nicaragua,s
Sandinista-led (FSLN) government welcomed the opportunity to
work with the US Government to combat child labor,
representatives from President Ortega,s office, who also
attended and dominated the meeting, clearly wanted to
exercise more direct control over this foreign assistance
program and manipulated the subsequent press coverage of the
event for this political purpose. END SUMMARY.

Child Labor Round Table without the Labor Minister
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (C) On November 4, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and
Secretary of Foreign Cooperation Valdrack Jaentschke hosted
U.S. Embassy officials for a minister-level meeting at MINREX
where the Ambassador delivered award letters for a
three-year, $5 million project to eradicate child labor
funded by DOL. Attendees included: Minister of Education
Miguel de Catilla; Minister of Health Guillermo Gonzalez;
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Ariel Bucardo; Minister
of Family Maria Isabel Munoz; Salvador Vanegas and Marcia
Ramirez from the office of the President; and MINREX America
Desk Officer Rene Morales. The Minister of Labor Jeannette
Chavez was absent from the meeting; however, Labor Commission
Secretary Jose Arguello represented the Ministry. (NOTE: We
had tried four separate times during October to schedule a
meeting with Chavez to discuss this project. Each time she
cancelled the meeting. This most recent meeting came about
only after we sent a formal diplomatic note seeking an
audience. We note that despite multiple assurances that
Chavez was confirmed for the meeting, she did not attend.
END NOTE)

Routing all programs through the Presidency
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (C) During brief welcoming remarks from Vice Minister
Jaentschke, he apologized for the Ministry of Labor canceling
four previous meetings with Embassy officials and underscored
the importance of working together to eliminate child labor
in Nicaragua. Presidential Secretariat representative
Vanegas described First Lady Rosario Murillo,s "Programa
Amor" (Program of Love) and the priority that President
Ortega places on this new child welfare program. Vanegas
stressed the need for better coordination between ministries
to prevent child labor, explaining that Marcia Ramirez of the
Presidential Secretariat would be the main point of contact
for coordinating all high-level ministerial meetings between
the GON officials and the Embassy or DOL contractors. The
Ambassador explained that the DOL program would focus on
establishing schools in coffee plantations in the departments
of Madriz and Jinotega, and also on an aggressive public
awareness campaign run from Managua. The Ambassador added
that the issue of combating child labor was apolitical and
this project demonstrated that the nature of U.S.
humanitarian aid and the relationship between Nicaragua and
the U.S. is much larger than politics. Jaentschke ended the
meeting by emphasizing that the Presidency would coordinate
this new DOL project.

4. (C) In a subsequent side meeting between Embassy Labor
Attache, DOL contractors from the American Institutes for
Research (AIR) and Ministry of Labor officials, Vanegas
repeated the call for better coordination through the
Presidential Secretariat to combat child labor. Vanegas
stated that President Ortega wants to coordinate all social
welfare programs through the secretariat to improve their
efficiency and eliminate unnecessary, redundant
administration costs and any competition or overlaps between
ministries. Vanegas remarked that the GON shares the
enthusiasm for the new DOL child labor eradication program,
but said that any program that only focuses on one aspect of
the problem will not be successful. As an example, Vanegas
said that "if a child is hungry, he won't pay attention in
school." Vanegas reminded the Labor Attache and AIR
representatives to contact Marcia Ramirez, in the
Presidential Secretariat, when scheduling any meetings with
representatives from other ministries. The Labor Attache
asked Vanegas whether this new requirement to coordinate all
minister-level meetings through the Presidential Secretariat
applied to other DOL-funded programs with the Ministry of
Labor, and the response was "yes." (COMMENT: During his
remarks in both meetings Vanegas never overtly said that the
$5 million grant would be directly transferred to the
Presidency, however, it was clearly implied by his comments
about managing the money and the need for close coordination
of the program by the Presidential Secretariat. END COMMENT)

Media Message Hijacked by FSLN
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (C) On November 5, the two major independent newspapers La
Prensa and El Nuevo Diario carried stories entitled "Program
Love receives support from the U.S." and "US$ 5 Million from
U.S. for Program Love," regarding the Ambassador,s
roundtable meeting and press conference. Both reports
highlighted Murillo,s "Programa Amor" and that the U.S.
continues to support the FSLN government by giving money
directly to it. (NOTE: Finland,s Embassy announced on
November 2, 2008 that it would withdraw two million Euros
(US$2.5 million) of continuing budget support to Nicaragua.
END NOTE) Vanegas was quoted in the La Prensa article
saying, "this money (US$5 million) will be managed by the
National Social Welfare System, where it will be distributed
to all ministries that work in the social arena." The U.S.
Embassy press release, given to reporters at the event, did
not include any reference to "Programa Amor" nor did it state
that funds would be transferred directly to the GON
presidency to run this program.

COMMENT
- - - -

5. (C) The ministerial roundtable came about only after we
sent a formal diplomatic note to the MINREX when four
previous attempts to meet with the Labor Minister failed.
The Ambassador,s MINREX roundtable was designed to formally
announce the program and deliver award letters to the five
GON ministries. However, it was overtly manipulated by the
FSLN government. The primary objective of the formal
announcement was to facilitate a meeting between the Embassy
and the Minister of Labor as well as establish the ground
rules for going forward on the new DOL child labor
initiative. The press reporting of the event was clearly
hijacked by the FSLN as our embassy-cleared press release
language did not appear in either news story, nor did the
Ambassador,s talking points. We suspect that the
government,s focus on the false statement that this DOL
program would support "Programa Amor" was designed in large
part to deflect attention away from prior day,s announcement
by Finland regarding aid cuts. We remain concerned by the
government,s insistence that all aid be centrally controlled
and distributed. The government has alluded to this plan in
its recent attacks on NGOs, but this event was the first time
we had seen the GON attempting to implement it. While we
welcome GON,s request to centrally schedule all
cabinet-level meetings, we fear the long-term negative
ramifications for U.S. and other donor assistance if GON
forces the issue of GON-controlled development funds.
CALLAHAN

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