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Cablegate: Herty,S Passing: Will More Undecided Votes Pass To

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #1482/01 1872222
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 062222Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6885
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0726
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 001482

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/06/2026
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR KDEM NU
SUBJECT: HERTY,S PASSING: WILL MORE UNDECIDED VOTES PASS TO
MONTEALEGRE, OR WILL ORTEGA GAIN GROUND?

REF: A. MANAGUA 1220
B. MANAGUA 1210

Classified By: Ambassador Paul A. Trivelli. Reasons 1.4 (B,D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS)
presidential candidate Herty Lewites, who often asserted to
us that he stands between Daniel Ortega and the presidency,
died suddenly of apparent natural causes on July 2 and was
buried before thousands of mourners on July 5. The MRS
selected Lewites' running mate Edmundo Jarquin to succeed him
and singer/composer Carlos Mejia Godoy to run as Jarquin's
VP. We expect that Daniel Ortega believes his chances of
winning the election have significantly improved, but the new
MRS ticket could give Ortega a run for the money. Lewite's
passing also opens a new opportunity for Montealegre to
attract more of Nicaragua's undecided/unaffiliated voters.
These are additional votes he could win -- or lose. If
Montealegre reaches out to the poor, women, and youth, he may
attract some of Lewites' followers. However, with PLC
candidate Jose Rizo's numbers rising significantly in the
latest Borge poll (septel) and Montealegre's slipping, only
if Montealegre recoups ground
and resonates in rural areas will he clearly be the candidate
best positioned to beat Ortega. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) Herty Lewites, a Sandinista-dissident/presidential
candidate for the MRS -- who often asserted to us that he
stands between Daniel Ortega and the presidency -- died
suddenly of a heart attack on July 2 and was buried on July 5
in his hometown Jinotepe. He was born December 24, 1939 and
leaves behind wife Carmen "Carmencita" Garcia de Lewites and
two children, Herty and Sol. Born of a Jewish immigrant
father and a Nicaraguan mother and raised a Catholic, Lewites
was also proud of his Jewish roots, nicknaming himself the
"Jewish Tiger." President Bolanos, who attended the funeral
services, called for a three-day national mourning period in
honor of Lewites.

3. (C) Conspiracy theories speculating that Lewites may have
fallen victim to foul play by his FSLN competitors have
already started to surface. However, at his widow's request,
no autopsy was performed. Herty suffered from serious heart
trouble, and although internal bleeding from minor surgery
may have trigged his heart attack, we have no information
that suggests his death was from unnatural causes. Indeed,
according to attending physicians he had been warned not to
campaign.

MUNDO JARQUIN ASSUMES HELM, CHOOSES POPULAR RUNNING MATE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (C) The MRS selected Lewites' running mate Edmundo
"Mundo" Jarquin to succeed Lewites on July 4 and invited
popular revolutionary singer/composer Carlos Mejia Godoy to
run as the vice presidential candidate. Mejia Godoy accepted
the offer on July 5, expressing his commitment to helping
carry on Herty's legacy. Jarquin explained to polcouns at
the July 4 reception that Mejia enjoys the local name
recognition and popular support that will complement
Jarquin's technical expertise and international connections.

5. (SBU) Contacts, both MRS officials and others, have
privately criticized Jarquin as having lived for too long
outside of Nicaragua and not having the charisma that enabled
Lewites to draw support from all sectors of society. Some
believe that Mejia Godoy should be the presidential
candidate, with Jarquin remaining in the VP position. Mejia
Godoy, who had long been affiliated with the Sandinista
party, wrote the current Sandinista anthem, which includes
anti-U.S. lyrics. In an interview on July 6, Mejia Godoy
showed no remorse for the anti-Yankee lines, commenting that
"the U.S. deserves them." Mejia Godoy is enormously popular,
even among many non-Sandinistas for his nationalistic music
that captures the idiosyncrasies of the Nicaraguan people.


BIO: EDMUNDO JARQUIN
- - - - - - - - - - -

6. (U) Born in Nueva Segovia, Nicaragua in September, 1946,
Dr. Edmundo Jarquin Calderon is a lawyer, economist, and
former university professor. A firm opponent of Somoza at an
early age, he served as Ambassador to Spain and Mexico during
the Sandinista regime, and a National Assembly Deputy in the
early 1990s. An Enrique Iglesias protege, Jarquin worked for

the IDB in Spain before accepting Lewites' offer to run on
his ticket. He is married to Claudia Chamorro, Violeta
Chamorro's daughter.

HERTY'S FUNERAL REFLECTS HOPE AND SORROW
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

7. (C) Ambassador and polcouns attended Lewites' funeral, a
spontaneous outpouring of popular affection and support for a
man, who for many, symbolized their hopes for a more just and
prosperous Nicaragua. The thousands of mourners reflected
the groups most drawn to Herty: youth, women, the poor,
artists, and intellectuals -- vital segments of Nicaragua's
voter population. Common-folk and MRS leaders, including
Jarquin, approached the Ambassador to express appreciation
for his presence. While ALN candidate Eduardo Montealegre,
his vice presidential candidate Fabricio Cajina and a number
of other Montealegre supporters attended, neither Rizo nor
Ortega were present, although the FSLN announced it had
suspended a number of activities out of respect for Lewites.
At the close of the funeral, Jarquin assured mourners that,
like Herty, he does not seek power. Rather, he will break
the nefarious Ortega-Aleman pact and implement Herty's social
project, an effort that puts first and foremost the welfare
and happiness of all Nicaraguans, regardless of political
affiliation.

COMMENT -- WHAT NEXT?
- - - - - - - - - - -

8. (C) Whether Jarquin, Martinez Cuenca, Ramirez, or any
other candidate can fill Herty's shoes is questionable, as
his charisma was the drawing card of the MRS coalition. It is
also unclear whether Jarquin will be able to attract
financial backing. Lewites drew heavily on support from the
Jewish financiers, an advantage Jarquin does not enjoy.
Without the coattails of Herty's charisma, the chances of the
MRS capturing a significant number of legislative seats may
also diminish, making it more difficult to break the
Ortega-Aleman "Pacto" alliance in the National Assembly.
While Mejia's addition to the MRS ticket may draw more votes
from Ortega, his apparent anti-U.S. stance could complicate
relations with the USG and scare away non-Sandinista voters,
who may decide that Montealegre is a safer bet.

9. (C) We expect that Daniel Ortega and his supporters are
relieved that Herty is no longer part of the political
competition and that they believe Ortega's chances of winning
the election have significantly improved. Indeed, a bump in
the polls in favor of Ortega has occurred and Ortega's
numbers appear to have crossed the 30% threshold. Although
we are likely to see Ortega attempt rapprochement with his
"Sandinista comrades" in the MRS, the lack of FSLN presence
at the funeral does not bode well for reconciliation between
the FSLN and MRS. Further, the new MRS ticket could give
Ortega a run for the money, as the Jarquin-Godoy combination
may attract more, not fewer, Sandinista voters. Moreover,
Ortega's rise in the polls could prompt the unintentional
consequence of scaring more undecided/unaffiliated voters,
who are largely anti-Ortega, to back the candidate best
poised to beat him. Clearly, a high abstention rate would
favor Ortega, while higher voter turnout would work against
him.

10. (C) Lewites' passing also opens a new opportunity for
Montealegre to attract more of Nicaragua's undecided or
unaffiliated voters. These are additional votes he could win
-- or lose. Jarquin will not be an easy competitor, as he
appears more habile than Montealegre with the media, and,
like Montealegre, is versant in economic matters. If
Montealegre improves his outreach to, and resonance among,
the poor, women, and youth, he may attract some of Lewites'
followers, although many are certain to remain loyal to
Lewite's successor.

11. (C) Montealegre faces an additional challenge. While he
was grappling with his alliance's interpersonal and partisan
conflicts over the past two months, Rizo was actively
campaigning, especially in the PLC's stronghold - Nicaragua's
rural areas. Rizo's efforts seem to have paid off: his
numbers rose significantly in the latest Borge poll (septel).
Only if Montealegre recoups ground and starts to resonate in
rural areas will he clearly be the best candidate to beat
Ortega. And only then will Rizo be pressed to withdraw from
the race and support Montealegre. Montealegre's rural
running mate may be the key to attracting the rural vote, but

he must move soon to make a dent into the PLC vote there.

12. (C) Ambassador will meet on July 7 with Montealegre and
IRI'S Gilberto Valdez to drive home the need for Montealegre
to act now and to discuss how to unify his disparate,
unfocused alliance. Ambassador will also meet with MRS
candidate Jarquin. END COMMENT
TRIVELLI

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