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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Eduardo Montealegre Gives Ambassador

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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 05 MANAGUA 001384

NOFORN
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, DRL, AND INR/IAA
DEPT PASS TO UAOAS
DEPT FOR S/GAC - KIM BARDY
STATE PASS TO USAID
USAID FOR LAC - CARDENAS, BATTLE AND KITE
NSC FOR GARCIA AND FISK
MCC FOR CEO DANILOVICH, BOHN AND SHERINIAN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/12/2028
TAGS: PGOV PHUM NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: EDUARDO MONTEALEGRE GIVES AMBASSADOR
EVIDENCE OF MASSIVE FSLN ELECTORAL FRAUD

MANAGUA 00001384 001.2 OF 005


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

1. (S/NF) Summary. On November 11, the Ambassador met with
Eduardo Montealegre, the opposition candidate for Mayor of
Managua, to receive Montealegre's evidence of wholesale,
blatant election fraud by the GON. He added that despite
having his "fiscales" (poll-watchers) systematically expelled
from voting stations throughout the day and from the
government's central vote tabulation center on Sunday
evening, the opposition has been able to reconstruct voting
results for roughly 95 percent of the vote in the capital,
which shows a clear opposition victory. Montealegre said
this appears to be the case in several other key races.
Montealegre also provided both anecdotal and documentary
evidence of pre-meditated, widespread fraud by the FSLN to
ensure large victories for the ruling party. We discussed
the opposition's planned next steps in defending the vote and
he suggested possible actions the USG might take to exert
pressure on the GON to ensure a credible, accurate and
transparent count of votes. End Summary.

Montealegre Asserts Systematic, Massive Fraud
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (S) On Tuesday, November 11, Ambassador Callahan met
with opposition mayoral candidate, Eduardo Montealegre, at
Montealegre's request, to receive an assessment of the
situation following the contested results of Nicaragua's
municipal elections on November 9. Montealegre began by
telling us that during the 2006 Presidential elections, he
reached a decision to concede to Ortega because his own vote
tallies showed Ortega had won the election. However, he
said, this time his tallies show that he won in Managua as
had opposition candidates in several other cities; and said
he would not back down. He recounted the obstacles that
Liberals confronted beginning on Saturday morning when
opposition "fiscales" (poll watchers) had difficulties
obtaining their credentials from the Supreme Electoral
Council (CSE). The hurdles continued into Sunday, as those
poll watchers were repeatedly and systematically expelled or
excluded from their voting station posts, and many voting
stations were closed hours earlier than permitted under the
law. He said the most problematic hurdle came Sunday evening
when the CSE expelled (and in some cases detained) opposition
poll watchers from the CSE central tabulation center and
barred them from observing the final vote tally at the
National Stadium.

And Has the Evidence to Prove It
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (S) Despite the impediments erected by the GON,
Montealegre's team had been able to gather the "actas" (vote
tally sheets) from more than 1990 of Managua's 2107 voting
stations. These tally sheets represent about 95 percent of
Managua's voting sites and more than 406,000 of the total

MANAGUA 00001384 002.2 OF 005


ballots that were cast in the Managua race. His team had
undertaken a detailed analysis of these documents, but by
Tuesday evening had already identified several serious
irregularities. NOTE: According to the CSE, there were
767,033 registered voters in Managua, of which the CSE
reported that 424,263 voted in Sunday's election,
representing at least a 55 percent turn-out. END NOTE.

Excessive Disqualified Votes
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (S) The first thing the opposition noted was an
abnormally high percentage of "nullified" votes. The tally
sheets for Managua show that at least 22,216 votes were
disqualified; a rate of about 5 percent. Historical norms
for Managua races range between 1 and 2 percent. Montealegre
asserted that this was the first indication of systematic
fraud by the GON. NOTE: The "disqualification" of ballots
can be made for technical reasons, i.e. vote not marked
properly, torn or damaged ballot, additional stray marks on
ballot, etc. Ballots can also be disqualified on "technical"
grounds if not properly signed by the election site
officials. END NOTE.

Opposition Poll Watchers Expelled
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (S) According to Montealegre, it seems that by Sunday,
the FSLN believed it had created conditions and impediments
that would reduce the turn-out of Liberal voters. However,
last minute get-out-the-vote drives by opposition and civil
society groups appeared to have had a positive effect and,
according to Montealegre, voter turn out was steady through
the morning with the trend breaking in favor of opposition
candidates. Eduardo told us that by mid-day Sunday the FSLN
was aware it was in trouble at the voting stations and began
expelling opposition poll watchers and closing polling
stations early in an effort to begin manipulating vote
tallies at voting stations. When it became clear that even
stealing votes at voting sites would not be enough to ensure
an FSLN victory, Montealegre said, the party and the CSE
decided to engage in wholesale election theft by changing
votes at the CSE central tabulation center in Managua.

Fabricated Voting Results
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (S) Montealegre told us that almost as soon as the CSE
began operations in the National Stadium on Sunday, his
campaign began receiving reports that opposition poll
watchers were being excluded from the vote count. He said
that at this point the CSE also began to fabricate vote
counts. Some of Montealegre's poll watchers noticed that the
CSE tally boards did not match the tally sheets for the
corresponding voting stations and had the presence of mind to
take phone-camera pictures of the CSE tally boards. By
Tuesday evening his team was able to confirm that the

MANAGUA 00001384 003.2 OF 005


preliminary vote tallies posted on the CSE website were the
same as the numbers on the tally boards at the tabulation
center. The problem was that the numbers being released by
the CSE did not match the tallies from the original tally
sheets from Managua's voting locations.

7. (S) Eduardo showed us 15 examples where the CSE had
simply fabricated vote tally numbers that bore no relation to
the original tally sheet vote counts. Three of the most
egregious examples came from voting centers 6051232, 6055400
and 6055402 in Managua. In each instance, the official tally
sheet from the voting station records the following vote
tally for each party:

Location Party/Votes
PLC FSLN PRN ALN AC
6051232 95 81 1 3 0 (PLC victory
by 14 votes)
6055400 112 68 2 1 1 (PLC victory
by 44 votes)
6055402 75 103 0 0 0 (FSLN victory
by 28 votes)

However, the preliminary "unofficial" vote tally released by
the CSE (and posted on its website) for these same voting
districts was as follows:

Location Party/Votes
PLC FSLN PRN ALN AC
6051232 5 281 1 3 0 (FSLN victory
by 276 votes)
6055400 38 360 0 0 0 (FSLN victory
by 322 votes)
6055402 0 400 0 0 0 (FSLN victory
by 400 votes)

According to the original tally sheets, in the three voting
districts the PLC wins overall by 30 votes. However, based
on the unofficial CSE total, the FSLN wins by 998 votes.
There is a total vote swing of 1028 votes for the FLSN.
These are just three examples of case after case where vote
tallies have been manufactured by the CSE to support an FSLN
victory. What is astonishing is that the CSE appears to have
engaged in fraud even in locations where the FSLN won
outright per the tally sheet. (NOTE: Eduardo provided us a
DVD with images of all the actas and paper copies of his
samples, which we will forward to the Department. END NOTE.)

What Next? Opposition Determined, but Realistic
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

8. (S) The Ambassador asked Eduardo what steps the
opposition planned to take to defend the popular vote. He
said the opposition plans to continue exerting both public
and legal pressure. He told us that the campaign would
release copies of the fraudulent tallies to the press for
publication later in the week. He also told us he had just

MANAGUA 00001384 004.2 OF 005


come from a meeting with the OAS mission, where he had
presented his information. He also told us that he had
meetings scheduled for Wednesday with the European Union (EU)
missions, the Evangelical community and asked whether he
could formally and publicly present his documentation and
findings to the Ambassador on Wednesday afternoon. (NOTE:
This meeting took place at 2pm local on Wednesday and will be
reported separately.) Eduardo confirmed that leadership and
supporters of both the Conservative Party (PC) and the
Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) had joined the liberal
alliance marches on Monday and Tuesday. He said that support
from these two de-listed parties was strong and would
continue. He also said the Catholic Church and private
sector associations, like the Nicaraguan-American Chamber of
Commerce (AmCham) and the Higher Council of Private
Enterprise (COSEP), had pledged continued solidarity with the
opposition and had or would issue statements calling for a
transparent count of the votes. He said the opposition would
continue to insist that international observers or an
international electoral audit take place to restore peoples'
faith in the election results.

What Next? FSLN Not Likely to Back Down
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

9. (S/NF) When asked whether the mounting domestic and
international pressure was likely to cause the FSLN to
relent, Montealegre responded that he thought it might not be
effective. He said he was increasingly convinced that Ortega
and Murillo did not care about consequences or their
international reputation. They were increasingly and solely
focused on consolidating political power. He told us that a
credible source had informed him that on Friday, November 7,
the FSLN leadership held a final pre-election meeting to
discuss strategy. It seems a dispute broke out between First
Lady Rosario Murillo and the rest of the FSLN leadership.
Rosario took the position that the political cost of losing
key municipal races in an open contest was far higher than
the political cost of stealing the races outright. Senior
FSLN officials, including Lenin Cerna, disagreed, arguing
instead that the party should allow the elections to proceed
"normally" and abide by the results, even if it meant losing
Managua and other key cities. However, according to
Montealegre's source, Murillo refused to accept this position
and ordered the FSLN leadership to do whatever was required
to ensure an FSLN victory. Montealegre wondered how anyone
could influence someone with "that mentality."

What Next? Possible USG Actions
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

10. (S) Montealegre said in spite of the likely
intransigence of the First Couple, he had hoped the United
States and other donor nations could take steps to support an
open, transparent accounting of votes. He asked whether the
Embassy or the Department could issue a public statement
calling for a transparent and open review of the voting

MANAGUA 00001384 005.2 OF 005


results. He also asked whether any Administration officials
-- HHS Secretary Leavitt, MCC CEO Danilovich and Commerce
Secretary Gutierrez were mentioned -- could call President
Ortega or make public statements in support of an
international electoral audit. Finally, he also asked
whether President-elect Obama, or someone from his transition
team -- perhaps Vice President-elect Biden -- might be
persuaded to issue a public statement of concern about the
situation in Nicaragua.

COMMENT
- - - -

11. (S) Over the last three days, the united Liberal
opposition has shown an uncharacteristic adeptness at
constructing a broad-based coalition in support of their
position. We note their success in garnering support from
religious leaders, the private sector and political parties.
However, the absence of the civil society NGOs, which lead
the massive anti-corruption marches in June and July, is a
gaping hole in this effort. (By November 13, several civil
society groups had at least begun to issue statements of
support for a recount.) On the other hand, the GON continues
to use resources of the state to unilaterally impose its
will, be it payments to the rock-throwing FSLN rank-and-file
that continue to occupy the capital's rotundas and vandalize
vehicles and injuring people, or its punctilious application
of legal technicalities, regardless how capricious the
interpretation. We are also concerned that time is on the
government's side. It has demonstrated a clear willingness
and intent to use excessive force to frighten and intimidate
Nicaraguans who might otherwise speak out.

PARTICIPANTS
- - - - - -

Ambassador Robert J. Callahan
Eduardo Montealegre, Candidate for Mayor, PLC-VcE Alliance
Javier Llanes, Advisor to Montealegre
Richard M. Sanders, Deputy Chief of Mission
Chris Robinson, Political Counselor
Jesse Curtis, Political Officer (note taker)
CALLAHAN

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