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Cablegate: Iri-Executed Hrdf Project Trains New Political Leaders and Election Monitors

VZCZCXYZ0022
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #1519/01 1921358
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 111358Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6943
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS MANAGUA 001519

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, DRL JFARRAR AND NTONGOUR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL NU KCRM KDEM KWMN
SUBJECT: IRI-EXECUTED HRDF PROJECT TRAINS NEW POLITICAL LEADERS AND ELECTION MONITORS

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On June 28, Foreign Affairs Officer and
FSN met with International Republican Institute (IRI) Program
Officer Ivania Vega, and with Academic Director William Genet
and General Manager Jorge Luis Ayestas of American College to
discuss progress on the Nicaragua portion of the "Regional
Party Renovation" project. The Nicaragua component, which
began in September 2005 and ends in September 2006, has
received $21,000 out of a total DRL Human Rights and
Democracy Fund (HRDF) grant of $400,000 also being used by
IRI in Ecuador, Argentina, and Bolivia. During a June 15
meeting with Foreign Affairs Officer, Gilberto Valdez, IRI
Resident Country Director for Nicaragua opined that "Regional
Party Renovation" was the "best project" he had been involved
with in his current position at IRI due to the project's
prognosis for sustainability; he wished that a larger portion
of the $400,000 had been allocated for the Nicaragua
component. The three-phase project is actively training a
new generation of qualified political leaders and poll
monitors for the November 5 elections. Gilberto Valdez has
requested a one-year extension of between $20,000 -- $40,000
to ensure project sustainability after the November 2006
elections. END SUMMARY.

STRENGTHENING INSTITUTIONAL WEAKNESSES WITHIN POLITICAL PARTIES
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2. (SBU) The party renovation project addresses
institutional training weaknesses among the nation's
political parties by providing a three-part university-level
training course for young politicians and political
functionaries with a view to creating a future corps of
qualified, professional and democratically-oriented political
leaders. IRI has partnered with American College (AC), a
private Nicaraguan higher-level academic institution located
in Managua. The AC course instructors have created a manual
entitled Democratic Leadership ("Liderazgo Democratico.") It
contains sections on Nicaraguan political history, current
political affairs as well as exercises and multiple choice
tests. The manual, which is the basic course text resource,
is distributed to all participants. The instructors
elaborate upon the information in the manual through power
point presentations, lectures by party leaders, interactive
seminars and testing for all participants.

FOUR SMALLER PARTIES PARTICIPATE
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3. (SBU) The three phases of the course include leadership
skills, vote defense, and political management. Participants
who take all three phases will receive a diploma that can be
used as credit toward a one year masters at the American
College. Due to budgetary and other considerations, the
project concentrated on building leadership skills among four
smaller political parties: Camino Cristiano (CCN); Sandinista
Renewal Movement (MRS); Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN);
and, Movement for the Republic (APRE).

PARTIES SELECT THE COURSE CANDIDATES
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4. (SBU) Course participants are selected by their own
political parties based on aptitude, interest and potential
for party leadership. The AC representatives said that 70%
of participants were between 17 and 25 years of age. For the
leadership skills phase, each of the participating political
parties nominated 30 candidates from their own ranks to
undertake a two-day (Saturday and Sunday, from 8 am- 5 pm, 16
hours total) intensive seminar with lectures, group exercise,
pre-and post-course testing, and feedback sessions. AC and
IRI representatives noted that due to inter-party
antipathies, party leaders from each of the participating
parties gave lectures only to course participants from their
own party. Ayestas averred that the dropout rate after the
first day of the leadership skills phase was generally no
more than 6% for participants from all parties. Foreign
Affairs Officer and FSN viewed a video recording of several
different seminar sessions including separate seminars for
APRE and Camino Cristiano participants. The sessions appeared
to be lively, highly interactive and well attended.

NOTABLE SUCCESSES AND REMAINING CHALLENGES
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5. (SBU) IRI and AC representatives identified the following as successes to date: almost 120 young politically active individuals have completed the leadership skills phase; IRI and AC built into the course curriculum knowledge and training weaknesses identified by the participating parties; approximately 95% of participants improved in their professional skills and understanding; and, after learning in the course about their own parties' by-laws and constitutions, graduates of the course have begun to demand that party leadership behave more transparently and comply with their own rules. Valdez noted a substantial lack of coordination within participating parties and lack of enthusiasm for the project among some members of party structures. He explained that these weaknesses have impeded efforts to inform participants about the availability dates for the leadership skills course, adding that many participants possess very little knowledge of the historical backgrounds or political philosophies of their own parties. A few individuals appeared to have joined their parties purely for social or personal advancement reasons.

PHASE TWO WILL TRAIN ELECTION POLL MONITORS
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6. (SBU) American College completed the leadership skills
phase in April, and during June had begun the ambitious vote
defense phase, which seeks to create a qualified cadre of
8000 "fiscales" (election poll monitors) from among members
of the four participating political parties in preparation
for the November 2006 elections. The project has not yet
started the political management part of the course, but
expects to have 60 participants in that phase, with all
participants having already undertaken the leadership skills
and vote defense components as a prerequisite.

EFFORTS TOWARD SUSTAINABILITY
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7. (SBU) IRI's relationship with AC under the HRDF grant
will end in September. Gilberto Valdez asked Foreign Affairs
Officer if DRL might be willing to give a six-month to
one-year extension of between $20,000 -- $40,000 to ensure
project sustainability after the November 2006 elections.
The AC will begin charging for the three-phase course as one
of the academic offering among the other course it regularly
teaches. The AC representatives informed Foreign Affairs
Officer and FSN that at present they are seeking future
funding assistance from local private sector leaders
interested in improving the quality of the nation's
politicians, and from other USG sources. In addition to
training political leaders, the AC representatives want to
expand the course's leadership skills component to focus on
vulnerable youth on the Atlantic Coast who need leadership
and self-esteem skills, as well as to support leadership
capacity building among women.
TRIVELLI

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