Search

 

Cablegate: Nicaragua: New Raas Leaders Focus On Coast Not

VZCZCXRO1296
PP RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #1514/01 3542126
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 192126Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3541
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL//J2/J3/J5// PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANAGUA 001514

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR KRAAIMORE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/18/2018
TAGS: PGOV PHUM NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: NEW RAAS LEADERS FOCUS ON COAST NOT
MANAGUA

REF: A. MANAGUA 1383
B. MANAGUA 1149

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

1. (C) SUMMARY: On December 9 through 12, EmbOff traveled to
the South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS) municipalities of
El Rama, Bluefields, Pearl Lagoon, and Corn Island as well as
the coastal communities of Rama Cay and Monkey Point to meet
with outgoing mayors, mayor-elects, and community leaders.
Interviews revealed that even Frente Sandinista National
Liberation (FSLN) mayors were more interested in developing
their coastal communities and cooperating with the
international community than in focusing on the national
political battles underway in Managua over election fraud.
END SUMMARY


El RAMA - BETWEEN REGIONAL INDEPEDENCE OR INTEGRATION
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (C) On December 9, EmbOff met with current Constitutional
Liberal Party (PLC) Mayor Roger Araica, and PLC mayor-elect
Walda Obando, before continuing by panga boat down the
Escondido River to RAAS capital Bluefields. El Rama
municipality has 47 communities with a population that is 70
percent rural / 30 percent urban. The municipal capital, El
Rama, is a crossroads community situated on the north side of
the junction between the Escondido River and El Rama River
and also at the far eastern terminus of a paved highway
linked to the rest of Nicaragua. The paved highway has
transformed El Rama into the primary port city of the
Atlantic coast for container traffic, even though the
Escondido River depth and width limits the size of vessels
that can use this port facility.

3. (C) Mayor Araica explained that since the FSLN
presidential victory in 2006, there has been increasing
pressure from the national government to use Citizen Power
Councils (CPCs) for social programs. The recent November 9
municipal elections preserved the traditional PLC control of
the municipality despite FSLN fraud tactics (see RefTel A).
Mayor Araica noted that the day after the election, 40 CPC
members gathered outside his home, threatening him and his
family, until he called for 80 PLC supporters to scare them
off. Both Mayor Araica and Mayor-elect Obando explained that
while El Rama is historically part of the RAAS, it does not
enjoy any of the rights and benefits of being part of the
autonomous region. According to Araica and Obando, the
people in El Rama want to be independent from the RAAS
because they currently have no representation on the regional
council which sets a budget for development projects within
the region. Unless there is reform to Law 28, the law that
created the autonomous regions, followed by reform to
election laws and regional council rules, there will be
increased tension. Either way, leaders in the area will face
difficult choices between remaining an integrated part of the
RAAS without full representation or supporting unpopular
legislation by National Assembly Deputies Brooklyn Rivera and
Francisco Sacasa to create a new department within the RAAS
(see RefTel B).


RAMA CAY & MONKEY POINT - ISOLATED, THUS NEGLECTED,
COMMUNITIES
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
-

4. (C) On December 10, EmbOff traveled by panga boat with
Rama Terrority President Santiago Thomas to the Atlantic
coastal communities of Monkey Point (see RefTel B), Willing
Cay and Rama Cay island in the Bluefields lagoon. Monkey
Point has been the potential location for a deep water
Atlantic coast port project since 1913, when Germany made the
first investments by laying railroad tracks for a
transnational railroad (the remains of which are still
visible). The community today represents approximately 200
indigenous Kriol people in 50 or more family groups
concentrated near the coast. People subsist on fishing and
small gardens in a community without a store for supplies, or
even a dock to moor small canoes and panga boats. In
addition to the wooden homes with corrugated steel roofs,
there is a cement school building, and a cement community
health center that has been vacant for several years. (NOTE:

MANAGUA 00001514 002 OF 003


Community leaders blame the central government for not
posting a permanent nurse and supplies to the clinic, after
building the center and promising to staff and supply it).
Monkey Point has four Nicaraguan military guards stationed in
the community and their presence has reduced drug trafficking
in the area; however, the community lacks basic health
services, a potable water and sewer system, and the only
source of electricity comes from a recent French NGO
Blue-Energy windmill project that brings power primarily to
the school and a few homes.

5. (C) The village of Rama Cay is located on two joining
islands within the Bluefields lagoon, and is home to
approximately 500 Rama Indians. The adjoining islands are
overcrowded with wooden homes; there is almost no room for
small gardens, nor is there a potable water source,
electricity or sewage system for the community. Unlike
Monkey Point, there is a school/community center and a
Moravian church on the island, as well as wooden docks for
the panga boats and canoes that residents use to fish for
shrimps or travel between the mainland. Rama territorial
leaders continue to fight for demarcation of their
traditional lands by the central government and are seeking
international support to develop their lands for agriculture
and potential tourism. On December 7, they filed a public
lawsuit against the Ortega government for not completing the
demarcation process one year after the original survey was
completed (see RefTel B).


BLUEFIELDS - REGIONAL CAPITAL IN SEARCH OF ECONOMIC GROWTH
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (C) On December 9 and 10, EmbOff held meetings with RAAS
Regional Council President Lourdes Aguilar Gibbs, Governor
Yadira Flores, Catholic Church Bishop Pablo Schmidt, and PLC
mayor-elect Dr. Harold Bacon. Bishop Schmidt, a US citizen
who has been serving in the Catholic Church in Nicaragua
since 1972, framed the basic issues of the Atlantic Coast as
the result of a huge wave of emigration from the Pacific side
of Nicaragua - in 1970 the Atlantic Coast population was
approximately 350,000, today it is approximately 900,000.
The emigration wave has changed the politics and demographics
of the region dramatically - mestizos now outnumber black
Kriols and indigenous groups (i.e., Miskito, Mayagna, Suma
and Rama) almost two to one. The coast has been essentially
economically isolated from the rest of Nicaragua and is now
suffering from the fact that remittances from the coastal
people working in the U.S. are substantially lower since the
worldwide economic downturn, as are employment opportunities
for English-speaking costenos on Caribbean cruise ships.
Moreover, the paved highway to El Rama and its port
facilities have also severely damaged Bluefield's economy.
Both of these economic factors could lead to a further
deterioration of the Bluefields economy. (COMMENT: Perhaps
that is why all of the political and community leaders we
spoke with stressed the need for Bluefields to get connected
to by road to the rest of Nicaragua to improve its economic
circumstances. If Bluefields remains isolated, it will lose
its role as the regional political and economic capital of
the RAAS. END COMMENT) Mayor-elect Bacon and President
Aguilar both agree that the road to Bluefields from Nueva
Guinea or to El Rama is the best long-term solution for
helping their community. Mayor-elect Bacon explained that he
is committed to having a transparent administration that will
continue investment into basic services (roads, electricity,
water, and health) for his community.


PEARL LAGOON - A GREAT NAME, BUT NO PARADISE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

7. (C) On December 11, EmbOff traveled by panga boat to Pearl
Lagoon to meet with the FSLN mayor-elect Robert Cutberg,
representatives from the Moravian Church, and the PLC mayoral
candidate Jacqueline Taylor. Mayor-elect Cutberg calls
himself a political outsider, as a non-Kriol, Miskito Indian
from a rural community outside of the city of Pearl Lagoon.
His election, while contested, would be the first time that
Pearl Lagoon is led by a non-Kriol mayor. Cutberg is
committed to making more roads to connect the 17 communities
within the Pearl Lagoon municipality - so far 12 communities
have access to roads. The second priority for his
administration is increasing tourism; however, Pearl Lagoon

MANAGUA 00001514 003 OF 003


lacks the infrastructure needed to attract international
tourists - paved streets, 24-hour uninterrupted power and
potable water. Cutberg said that CPCs will not be a part of
his administration because there is a functioning communal
authority that already fills this role.


CORN ISLAND - COULD BE A CARRIBEAN PARADISE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

8. (C) On December 11 and 12, EmbOff held meetings with Corn
Island municipal council member Richard Downs, PLC mayoral
candidate and regional council member Ena Moses, outgoing PLC
mayor Alex Dixon, and FSLN mayor-elect Cleveland Webster.
Corn Island, with its turquoise waters and white-sand
beaches, is a microcosm of the emigration wave that has
changed the Atlantic Coast during the past forty years. Corn
Island and Little Corn Island have approximately 10,000
inhabitants currently, up from the 3,000 in the 1970s. Most
of the emigrants to the island are Mestizo or Miskito Indian.
The local economy is heavily reliant on lobster fishing;
tourism only accounts for five to ten percent of the economy.
Unfortunately, the island suffers from lack of basic
services, namely: potable water, garbage collection and
reliable electricity. The current mayor has made significant
steps to improve the island,s security and electrical power
situation, growing the police force from four to 20 and
adding two additional diesel-run generators to the island's
power grid. The lack of regular garbage collection and of a
large landfill on the island keeps the beaches littered with
flotsam and jetsam washed up from the Caribbean tides.
Downs, who is also the Corn Island PLC party leader,
explained that the FSLN won the election by convincing the
people that an FSLN mayor would receive greater national
support to address the island,s problems. Mayor-elect
Webster said that he is an "islander" first and a Sandinista
second, and will work to improve the lot of his fellow
citizens during his four year term. His 75 percent victory
in the polls gives him a mandate to govern and try new
programs; however, his primary focus will be improving the
infrastructure to attract more tourists to the island.


COMMENT
- - - -

9. (C) Throughout the meetings with mayors, mayors-elect, and
community leaders, the biggest issues facing the RAAS were
the impact of Pacific-side emigration on the traditional
communities and their lack of infrastructure, both community
and economic to effectively absorb new migrants. The
worldwide economic downturn, and with it falling remittances
and lobster prices will put enormous pressures against the
economy of the RAAS. In the past, the isolation and lack of
roads helped preserve the traditional cultures, but now these
represent barriers to its development. New mayors hope to
improve roads and services for their communities to increase
agriculture and attract tourist to this resource-rich region.
CALLAHAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC