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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Raan Elections Open - Same Fraud

VZCZCXRO2450
PP RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #1517/01 3571433
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 221433Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3545
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC 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 02 MANAGUA 001517

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR KRAAIMOORE
NSC FOR GARCIA
DEPT PASS USAID - CARDENAS
DEPT FOR DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/17/2018
TAGS: PGOV PHUM NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: RAAN ELECTIONS OPEN - SAME FRAUD
EXPECTED

REF: A. MANAGUA 1383
B. MANAGUA 1367
C. MANAGUA 1136

Classified By: Charge' d' Affairs R. Sanders for reasons 1.4 (b) & (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: The official kick-off for the North Atlantic
Autonomous Region (RAAN) municipal elections in seven
municipalities began on December 4 without major violence.
The Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN) and the
Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC) each held separate rallies
over the weekend of December 6 and 7 in Puerto Cabezas and
other large cities in the RAAN. While a unity candidate
movement has started in Puerto Cabezas, the regional capital,
our contacts tell us that the FSLN is repeating the same
election tactics and strategy to steal the vote scheduled for
January 18, 2009 and will probably succeed despite ongoing
international and national pressure. END SUMMARY

OPENING EVENTS FOR RAAN ELECTIONS
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (C) December 4 marked the official opening of the RAAN
municipal election campaign in the seven remaining
municipalities: Bonanza, Mulukuku, Prinzapolka, Puerto
Cabezas, Rosita, Siuna, and Waspam. As previously reported
(see Refs), the campaign and political maneuvering has been
underway for months. FSLN supporters held a large public
rally of 2,000 participants in the municipal park on
Saturday, December 6. The next day, Sunday, December 7, over
1,000 PLC supporters and other liberal party supporters held
a public rally in the same Puerto Cabezas park.

UNITY CANDIDATE MOVEMENT BEGINS IN PUERTO CABEZAS
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (C) According to public opinion polls, if the Liberal
political parties joined forces, they could beat the FSLN and
Yatama in a free and fair election. To that end, during the
PLC rally in Puerto Cabezas on December 7 the Nicaraguan
Resistance Party (PRN) mayoral candidate Alvaro Ramirez
called on his supporters to vote for the PLC mayor candidate
Orson "Blas" Coleman, a former Contra leader and a leader in
the Yatama-non FSLN party (see Ref C). Ramirez had told
EmbOff privately (see RefTel B) that he was willing to give
up his candidacy to form an opposition unity ticket for
mayor. In announcing his support for the PLC candidate,
Ramirez has not officially renounced his candidacy nor asked
that his name be replaced with another person, in order to
prevent the FSLN-controlled regional election council from
naming a new candidate in his stead. Another opposition
candidate, Victor Alvarado, from the Nicaraguan Liberal
Alliance (ALN) party also privately expressed his desire to
withdraw from the race to support the PLC candidate, but has
not done so. Our contacts tell us that in mid-January the
ALN candidate would follow a similar strategy of calling on
supporters to vote for the PLC candidate without officially
withdrawing from the race, thus preventing the FSLN from
illegally substituting a new candidate onto the ballot.
However, our contacts also tell us that the PLC candidate has
used an aggressive radio attack campaign against the ALN
candidate in Puerto Cabezas, instead of Yatama and FSLN
candidates, which could backfire on a future unity ticket in
January.

NEW ELECTIONS - SAME FRAUD EXPECTED
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (C) Our contacts tell us that most of the FSLN supporters
in the December 6 rally in Puerto Cabezas were bused in from
surrounding communities, and enticed to participate through
offers of free medicine and medical check-ups, Christmas
gifts for children, and personal loans by the FSLN party.
According to our contacts, Minister of the Fishing Institute
Steadman Fagoth has been organizing the FSLN loan program,
offering loans up to $5,000 for fishermen and smaller "quick"
loans of $300 to other individuals in exchange for signing a
list to support the FSLN candidates. (NOTE: On its face, a
$5,000 loan to a fisherman would not seem a large amount,
however, in the RAAN, where unemployment is more than 50% and
the average fisherman earns $250 a month, it represents

MANAGUA 00001517 002 OF 002


almost two-year,s salary. END NOTE) Liberal candidates in
Waspam were also at a disadvantage because the Yatama-FSLN
alliance controlled the local radio station and would not
grant any airtime for liberal political ads. Contacts also
told us that a group of up to 100 people from the Managua
mayor's office and affiliated with the FSLN were traveling to
the RAAN before the election to organize shock troops and
guarantee the FSLN victory. This effort is allegedly led by
Rudolfo Rafael Castillo, who is the second national secretary
of the FSLN, and a member of First Lady Rosario Murillo's
"defenders of the vote" which also include Francisco Guzman,
Lenin Cerna and Francisco Lopez (FSLN party treasurer).

BIAS OBSERVATION TOO
- - - - - - - - - - -

5. (C) Media reports that only two local groups may receive
election observation accreditation in the RAAN contest - the
Center for the Development of the Atlantic Coast (Cedeca) and
the RAAN Moravian Church. Our contacts believe that both
groups would be biased in their observation and that it would
only serve to rubberstamp the election fraud that the FSLN
party is preparing to unleash in the RAAN. While Cedeca is
an NGO that has performed election observation in the past,
it is closely aligned with the FSLN. The director of Cedeca,
Debby Hudson, has already called the embassy asking for USG
funding to support their 250 election observers and claims
that unlike other domestic election observation organizations
that were not accredited for the November 9 elections, namely
IPADE and Etica y Transparencia, she already has a verbal
guarantee of accredation from the Supreme Election Council
(CSE). (NOTE: During the cable clearance Debby Hudson
contacted the Embassy again to inform us that she had already
secured funding for observation from an "organization that
always supports us" - referring to the FSLN party. END NOTE)
Meanwhile the RAAN Moravian Church has no previous election
observation experience and includes church leaders who have
FSLN-leaning sympathies. Even with training, it is widely
believed that the Moravian Church observers would not be
aggressive in pointing out election fraud. IPADE has also
asked publicly and privately for accreditation to observe the
elections in the RAAN without any response from the CSE.

COMMENT
- - - -

6. (C) The FSLN continues to ignore calls by the
international community and domestic opposition to hold free
and fair elections in the upcoming RAAN municipal elections
set for January 18, 2009. FSLN leaders, with their Yatama
allies are following the same playbook in bribing voters to
support their candidates and putting into place shock groups
and biased election observers to assure a FSLN sweep in most
if not all of the seven RAAN municipal contests. Liberal
candidates face enormous challenges in mounting their
campaigns, but are forming unity tickets to increase their
advantage. We believe that in a free and fair contest, the
FSLN candidates would handily win in Bonanza, Rosita; that
Yatama candidates would win in Prinzapolka; and that Liberal
candidates would win in Siuna, Mulukuku, Waspam and possibly
Puerto Cabezas. However, all indications are that a free and
fair election in the RAAN is unlikely.
SANDERS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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