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Cablegate: Montealegre Warns a/S Shannon, "Lewites Is

VZCZCXRO4552
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHMU #1411/01 1801111
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 291111Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6785
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANAGUA 001411

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA A/S SHANNON AND WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/27/2016
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL KDEM NU ES
SUBJECT: MONTEALEGRE WARNS A/S SHANNON, "LEWITES IS
DANGEROUS"


Classified By: Ambassador Paul Trivelli for reasons 1.4 (b and d)

1. (C) Summary: ALN presidential candidate Eduardo
Montealegre warned A/S Shannon, Ambassador and others at a
June 27 breakfast that MRS candidate Herty Lewites is
corrupt, surrounded by unreformed Sandinistas, and likely to
siphon votes from Montealegre. Montealegre and his advisors
further discussed the influence of the Catholic Church in the
elections, the role of the private sector, the youth vote,
the ALN party structure, and the status of the FSLN and PLC.
Montealegre made the following recommendations for further
action by the USG: help convince the private sector to fully
support ALN; urge the U.S. "Right" to support the ALN vs. the
PLC; continue "get out the vote" and observation activities;
urge Jose Rizo and Jose Antonio Alvarado to withdraw their
candidacies; and, remind people that Nicaragua depends on
external assistance and remittances, which could be
jeopardized by a return to caudillismo. End Summary.

HERTY IS AN "ENEMY OF DEMOCRACY"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (C) Ambassador invited ALN presidential candidate Eduardo
Montealegre, vice presidential candidate Fabricio Cajina, and
advisors Maria Eugenia Sequeira, Indalecio Rodriguez, and
Enrique Gasteazoro to discuss the November 5 national
elections with A/S Tom Shannon, Senior Advisor Maria Tamburri
and Emboffs. During the session, Montealegre first
complained that MRS presidential candidate Herty Lewites
primarily draws support from independent voters who would
otherwise incline towards him, and not from FSLN candidate
Daniel Ortega,s "hard" base of Sandinista voters. Lewites
will only capture 10-15 percent of the Sandinista vote in
Montealegre,s estimation. Montealegre commented that
Lewites is not a "serious" candidate since he lacks a party
structure in many areas of the country, but he nevertheless
has "a personality that is attractive" to the 16-25 age
group.

3. (C) Furthermore, Lewites is "dangerous... an enemy of
democracy" and corrupt -- the "Byron Jerez" for Daniel and
Humberto Ortega, Montealegre called him, in reference to the
erstwhile lackey of convicted ex-President Arnoldo Aleman who
helped him steal millions in public funds. Montealegre
claimed that Lewites, closest advisors are unreformed
Sandinistas who will impose their Marxist ideology if
empowered. (Comment: Although Montealegre,s personal
dislike for Lewites is known to Emboffs, this was the
strongest attack so far on his "Third Way" rival that we have
heard. Montealegre,s remarks were likely incited by A/S
Shannon,s recent referral to both Montealegre and Lewites as
the candidates of Nicaragua,s future. End Comment.)

VATICAN SHOULD REMIND OBANDO TO STAY OUT OF POLITICS
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (C) A/S Shannon mentioned the role of the Catholic Church
and Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo,s (the retired Archbishop
of Managua) apparent support of the FSLN. Montealegre
responded that it "would not hurt" if the Vatican reminded
Obando to "stay out of politics." Montealegre remarked that
Monsignor Bosco Vivas Robelo, Bishop of Leon, and Monsignor
Juan Abelardo Mata, Bishop of Esteli, have been active on
behalf of the PLC and FSLN. Bishop Rene Sandigo of
Chontales, however, is a younger priest with whom Montealegre
has good relations. He also mentioned pending guidance from
the Catholic Episcopal Conference that will guide the clergy
on their behavior during the election season.

FINANCIERS MUST PAY UP BEFORE IT,S TO LATE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (C) Montealegre complained that many private sector
financiers still will not fully commit to supporting the ALN.
He commented that many fear reprisals from the
FSLN-controlled courts, and thus he is mulling over ways for
contributors to make donations anonymously. Montealegre is
planning a July 6 visit to El Salvador to meet with President
Saca and businessmen from that country.

BASEBALL DIPLOMACY: GOING AFTER YOUTH VOTE
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6. (C) Indalecio Rodriguez commented that the ALN must
develop a strategy to attract the youth vote ) those who do
not remember the Sandinista depredations during the 1980s.

MANAGUA 00001411 002 OF 003


Enrique Gasteazo noted that "young Nicaraguans like sports,"
especially baseball. He asked about the possibility of
funding to renovate baseball diamonds in rural areas. A/S
Shannon inquired whether a meeting between Nicaraguan
baseball players and senior USG officials would prove
effective. Cajina responded that such a meeting would have a
significant impact in rural areas.

ALN HAS MACHINERY TO DEFEND THE VOTE, PLC WEAKENED
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

7. (C) A/S Shannon mentioned that many PLC supporters claim
that only the PLC has the party machinery to confront the
FSLN in November. Gasteazo responded that the ALN will have
100 percent coverage of the voting tables, mobilizing 15,000
party poll watchers (fiscales). He claimed that the ALN
already boasts 200,000 registered affiliates with a goal of
350,000 by the end of October. The ALN is also working with
the "Citizens, Crusade" NGO to provide transportation
logistics for ALN voters on November 5, Gasteazo added. He
commented that most ALN leaders and supporters are Liberals
who defected from the PLC, leaving that party eviscerated.

8. (C) Maria Eugenia Sequeira followed that the PLC is not
really trying to win the election, but rather simply ensure
that it retains sufficient deputy positions to continue the
pact with the FSLN and to protect Aleman. Montealegre
commented that the PLC's "hard" vote is 12-14 percent of the
electorate, but could drop lower if Jose Rizo and Jose
Antonio Alvarado renounce their candidacies. Many
Arnoldistas in the PLC are angry with Rizo,s bid for
independence from Aleman and will not contribute to his
campaign, he asserted. Montealegre admitted, however, that
many voters in rural areas will still &vote for the banner8
of the PLC unless the ALN can obtain the resources to reach
them.

MARCHING ORDERS
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9. (C) At the end of the meeting, Montealegre made the
following recommendations for further USG action:

- Help convince private sector to fully support ALN. The ALN
needs $10 million to run the campaign.

- Urge the U.S. "Right" to support ALN vs. PLC. There are
still some people that are giving hope to the PLC that the
USG will somehow eventually make amends with Aleman to avoid
an Ortega victory.

- Continue "get out the vote" and observation activities.

- Urge Jose Rizo and Jose Antonio Alvarado to withdraw their
candidacies. Their withdrawal would convince many PLC
supporters that the ALN is the only viable Liberal option and
increase the chance of Liberal unity after the election.

- Remind people that Nicaragua depends on external assistance
and remittances, which could be jeopardized by a return to
caudillismo.

COMMENT: A TAD TOO UPBEAT?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

10. (C) Montealegre and his advisors painted a rosy picture
of ALN strength by rattling off numbers of affiliates and
fiscales and proclaiming the "evisceration" of the PLC. In
reality, the situation is more nebulous, with prominent local
Liberals switching back and forth between the parties and
cannibalizing each others' support without aggressively
pursuing independent and Sandinista voters. The ALN leaders
seem to have a sense of "manifest destiny" regarding their
eventual triumph at the polls, believing that they will win
because they deserve victory. The party must work harder to
secure votes, however, especially in rural areas, to ensure
success.

11. (U) Participants:

Nicaragua:
Eduardo Montealegre
Fabricio Cajina
Maria Eugenia Sequiera
Enrique Gasteazoro
Indalecio Rodriguez

MANAGUA 00001411 003 OF 003

U.S.:
A/S Thomas Shannon
Ambassador Paul Trivelli
Senior Advisor Maria Tamburri
DCM Peter Brennan
Polcouns Victoria Alvarado
Poloff Timothy Smith (notetaker)
TRIVELLI

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