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Cablegate: The Nicaraguan National Police and Electoral Fraud

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DE RUEHMU #1405/01 3251415
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 201415Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3410
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL//J2/J3/J5// PRIORITY
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

S E C R E T MANAGUA 001405

SIPDIS
NOFORN

STATE FOR WHA/CEN, INL/LP, INR/IAA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/11/2013
TAGS: SNAR ASEC PGOV PREL NU
SUBJECT: THE NICARAGUAN NATIONAL POLICE AND ELECTORAL FRAUD

REF: A. MANAGUA 1195
B. MANAGUA 1343
C. MANAGUA 1384
D. MANAGUA 1393

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

1. (S/NF) Summary: In the period before, during, and after
the November 9 municipal elections in Nicaragua, the
Nicaraguan National Police (NNP) conspicuously failed to
carry out its duties to uphold the Electoral Law and
generally failed to carry out its duties to maintain public
order in a non-partisan, professional manner. Embassy and
other third-party observers noted worrisome lapses in
provision of security for the opposition Vamos con Eduardo -
Constitutional Liberal Party (VcE-PLC) candidates as well as
selective inaction in the face of blatant election fraud and
violent actions on the part of the Sandinista National
Liberation Front (FSLN) and its supporters. Post is planning
to meet with NNP Chief Aminta Granera to present USG concerns
on the overall posture of the NNP during the entire election
period and the difficulty of continuing assistance programs
to the NNP considering their recent actions. End Summary.

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Before the Election: Harbingers of Trouble
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2. (C) As early as September 2008, the NNP was beginning to
exhibit troubling patterns of partisan bias in favor of the
FSLN. On September 20, NNP officials stood idly by as FSLN
sympathizers violently disrupted a civil society march in
Leon organized by pro-democracy civil society groups. The
civil society protest organizers had previously filed for,
and received, permission from the Leon government to stage
their march, whereas the FSLN groups who violently disrupted
the march were clearly acting without a formal permit and
outside the boundaries of the law. FSLN supporters taking to
the streets of Leon boldly declared that the "streets are for
the people - only FSLN people." In the face of these illegal
actions, the NNP failed to warn or otherwise deter the FSLN
marchers and did not arrest or detain any agitators, even
when police themselves were directly threatened by FSLN
sympathizers with machetes, mortars and baseball bats.
Representatives from the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights
(CENIDH) believe that President Ortega ordered the NNP to
allow the FSLN supporters to conduct their attacks against
the civil society groups without impediment.

3. (C) A close contact and former NNP division chief, who was
also primarily responsible for re-organizing the anti-riot
police unit in the early '90s, told us that the anti-riot
police in Leon were clearly acting "under instructions." He
explained that standard procedures for anti-riot units in
Nicaragua was to form a "triangle-wedge" formation to enter a
disturbance, after which the wedge must identify, surround,
and detain major "instigators" of violence. In the case of
disturbance in Leon, however, our contact pointed out that
video footage of the riot police clearly showed a "triangle"
unit moving towards, then deliberately avoiding FSLN mayoral
candidate Manuel Calderon, who had brought a baseball bat to
the scene and was one of the main instigators of the mob.
See Ref A for the full account of pre-election clashes in
Leon.

4. (C) The NNP also clearly demonstrated preferential
treatment for FSLN forces in the pre-election period in its
tolerance of the illegal occupation of major Managua
intersections and traffic circles by FSLN supporters (Ref B).
PLC Deputy and National Assembly Justice Committee
Chairperson Jose Pallais explained to PolOff that not only
did the FSLN activists, who were clearly organized and funded
by the Ortega administration, fail to secure any permits from
the NNP for their activity, but that their very presence in
the period leading up to the election was a clear violation
of the Nicaraguan Electoral Law. Nicaragua's Electoral Law
(Law 331) expressly prohibits any political gatherings in
the 72-hour period preceding any elections. As reported in
Ref B, even Managua's Sandinista mayor, Jose Dionisio "Nicho"
Marenco (who has clashed with Ortega on various occasions)
declared the occupation of the intersections and circles an
illegal act. Despite the clear legal prerogative to act,
however, the NNP remained silent and inactive. To date, the
FSLN has continued to maintain its illegal presence at major
intersections in the city as a clear deterrent to political
opposition and a none-too subtle threat of violence against
those who would stand in their way - all under the watchful
and passive eyes of the NNP.

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During The Election: NNP Complicit in Electoral Fraud?
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5. (C) Nicaraguan municipal elections were held on November
9, 2008. Throughout the day, Embassy and third party
organizations noted multiple instances of intimidation and
improper, if not outright illegal, behavior towards VcE-PLC
affiliated personnel (Ref C). In multiple voting centers
around the country, NNP uniformed police stood by and watched
as FSLN supporters forcibly and illegally ejected VcE-PLC
fiscales (poll-watchers) from the sites. According to PLC
Deputy Jose Pallais, there was at least one instance of
uniformed police officers actively involved in the expulsion
of opposition poll-watchers from a voting center - in the
FSLN dominated municipality of Telica. Post is attempting to
gather more information on the events in Telica, particularly
the alleged personal involvement of the Telica Chief of
Police in what transpired there.

6. (C) In addition, there were widespread reports of
"electoral police" involved in electoral irregularities
throughout the country. Embassy monitors, media outlets, and
other third party organizations reported that the electoral
police (who are not affiliated with the NNP) assisted in the
ejection of VcE-PLC officials from voting centers, the early
closure of key voting centers, and were likely involved in
actual physical tampering with a large volume of ballots.
(Another close contact and former NNP chief explained to
PolOff that although these groups are called "police" in
actuality they have no ties to the NNP.) The Supreme
Electoral Council (CSE) traditionally has the role of
gathering civilian volunteers and provide training to these
individuals as electoral police. This year, however, this
role was relegated to the Ministry of Government, which in
turn charged regional Citizen Power Councils (CPCs) with the
task. We know that the electoral police were FSLN members
hand-picked by the Ministry of Government. (Note: In a
formal briefing on electoral security, the Nicaraguan Army
stated that the electoral police were indeed directly trained
by the NNP.) Of course, contact concluded, these purely
partisan Sandinista organizations lost no time in gathering
groups of FSLN radicals who entered into service with one aim
- to steal the elections.

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After The Election: All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go
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7. (C) The trend of police inaction in face of clearly
illegal acts of violence and intimidation continued in the
days following the election (Ref D). On November 11, an FSLN
mob attacked the VcE headquarters building in Managua,
causing extensive property damage and injuring some VcE
staff. On the same day, the NNP failed to prevent FSLN
forces from burning down the VcE campaign headquarters in
Nagarote. Despite receiving intelligence regarding the
potential for such attacks, the NNP failed to prevent the
attack or apprehend those responsible. It took police over
15 minutes to arrive on the scene in Managua. On November
16, FSLN supporters created an illegal barricade against
VcE-PLC supporters attempting to travel to Leon to protest
the fraudulent results of the mayoral race there. In a
situation reminiscent of the clashes in Leon in September,
the NNP again failed to protect the rights of the protesters,
who once again had obtained legitimate permits from the NNP
itself, to gather safely in Leon. The opposition group was
forced to turn away from Leon in defeat.

8. (C) During the week of November 17, FSLN forces gathered
in large, armed groups (machetes, home-made mortars, and some
guns) to continue their illegal occupation of major
intersections and roundabouts in Managua. In many instances,
units of anti-riot police - dressed in full anti-riot gear -
could be observed loitering safe distances away from the
armed FSLN mobs blocking traffic, laying down nail-strips and
other traps for vehicles, and shooting their home-made
mortars into the air. As a result of this intimidation,
opposition leaders were forced to abort a large march they
had scheduled on November 18 to protest the electoral fraud.
Participants in the opposition told us that police radios
were used to position FSLN supporters over the three-hour
standoff. Police also physically prevented opposition
supporters from accessing the march location. However,
opposition leaders were able to take advantage of the FSLN
focus on Managua to hold a successful protest march in Leon.
In an apparent act of retaliation, on the same night
Sandinista sympathizers led by an FSLN National Assembly
deputy, broke in and destroyed the radio transmitters of
three radio stations widely seen as sympathetic to the
opposition. When asked by Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa why
they stood aside and let the crime occur, one of the two NNP
officers who had been on the scene frankly replied, "we had
orders not to act."

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Granera Embattled, Surrounded - But Still Struggling
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9. (S/NF) The consensus that is emerging after all of these
events is that NNP Chief Aminta Granera has almost completely
ceded control over the institution to Ortega loyalists
ostensibly serving under her. A Former NNP Chief blamed the
inaction and seeming indifference of anti-riot units in
Managua on Managua Chief of Police Roger Ramirez, who he
claimed is receiving orders directly from FSLN security
organs. Our contact also accused newly promoted NNP
Sub-Director Francisco Diaz, who shares an illegitimate
grandson with Ortega, of being heavily involved in electoral
machinations involving the NNP. The Nicaraguan private
sector is also evidently aware of Granera's loss of control
in the NNP. Owner of Nicaragua Brewing Company Javier Solis
informed EmbOffs that NNP units on the street are actually
directly controlled by Ortega and First Lady Rosario Murillo.
(Note: He also informed us that he has offered Granera a job
at the Brewing Company.)

10. (S/NF) Despite her lack of influence, Granera appears to
be attempting to help VcE-PLC figures in a limited fashion.
According to various sources inside both the NNP and the
VcE-PLC organization, on November 10 Granera personally
warned VcE leader and Managua mayoral candidate Eduardo
Montealegre of a squad organized by FSLN security chief Lenin
Cerna to attack him as he approached CSE headquarters to
protest the fraudulent election results. Granera also seems
to be looking out for opposition figures who have personal or
geographic connections to her. PLC Deputy Jose Pallais, who
like Granera is a Leon native, said that when his team
discovered ballots marked in favor of VcE-PLC candidates
discarded in Leon's municipal dump, Granera acted quickly on
his tip to protect the ballots - thus preserving important
evidence of electoral tampering by the FSLN. Finally,
perhaps in response to widespread criticism over the
lethargic response of the NNP to election-related
disturbances to this point, the NNP now appears to be taking
more assertive actions to protect opposition politicians from
Sandinista mobs. Post will continue to closely monitor the
NNP posture as the likelihood of violent conflict between
FSLN and opposition supporters rises before the CSE's
official December 5 announcement of the results of the
election.

- - - -
Comment
- - - -

11. (S/NF) Comment: Granera has publicly characterized the
actions of the NNP as "balanced and cautious," with a focus
on "preventing a bloodbath" as opposed to being concerned
about "social conflicts." We remain, however, gravely
concerned both by the actions (and inaction) of the NNP
during these municipal elections and the systematic attack by
the Ortega Administration against the professionalism and
independence of the police organization. We are actively
seeking a formal meeting with Aminta Granera to present USG
concerns about the conduct of the NNP and warn of the effect
this might have on assistance programs for the police, but we
anticipate that the presence of Ortega loyalists and NNP Sub
Directors Carlos Palacios and Francisco Diaz will have a
chilling effect on the dialogue in the meeting. In short, at
this late stage of the game it is difficult to expect that
Aminta Granera will have the power, influence or even,
perhaps, the will to change the course of events both within
and without the NNP. The validity of our concerns was
brought into sharp focus on November 18, when an Embassy
officer waved down an NNP patrol for assistance with a FSLN
mob that was actively threatening him. The hapless officer
was succinctly told: "We are not here to help you."
CALLAHAN

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