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Cablegate: Pastor Espinoza Discusses Evangelical Political

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #1605 2051608
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 241608Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7054
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS MANAGUA 001605

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN, DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KCRM KDEM KWMN PREL PHUM NU
SUBJECT: PASTOR ESPINOZA DISCUSSES EVANGELICAL POLITICAL
STATUS AND CHURCH-STATE RELATIONS

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On June 14, Ambassador Trivelli and
Foreign Affairs Officer met with Mario Espinoza Gonzalez,
Presidente Nacional of the Consejo Nacional de Pastores
Evangelicos de Nicaragua, an umbrella organization that
according to Espinoza, represents more than 400 pastors of
all evangelical denominations in 122 municipalities
throughout the country. The purpose of the meeting was
to hear Espinoza's views on current political developments in
the country. In addition to his allegations that Catholic
clergy continue to receive preferential treatment in
Nicaraguan society, Espinoza wants the Nicaraguan
political establishment to recognize evangelical Protestant
pastors and their flocks as a political force to be reckoned
with in future leadership decision-making. END SUMMARY.

A GROWING DEMOGRAPHIC AND POLITICAL GROUP
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (U) Pastor Espinoza averred that at present approximately
34% of the Nicaraguan population is evangelical Protestant
and that some towns are nearly
100% evangelical. With regard to political leanings,
Espinoza claimed that the evangelical churches have no single
political party and that evangelical pastors are members of
all national political affiliations, including about 2% who
are FSLN (Sandinista) supporters. He asserted that the
evangelical church has not yet defined a presidential
candidate that it favors for the upcoming
elections.

WE WANT MORE ACCESS TO THE POLITICAL ESTABLISHMENT
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (SBU) The Ambassador noted that currently, Nicaraguans
have five candidates to chose from, who represent different
democratic options, in contrast to the bi-polar situation of
past elections. Espinoza noted that evangelicals are
concerned about the current Bolanos government because it has
remained distant from evangelicals, despite the fact that
evangelicals were among the first groups to openly support
President Bolanos. Further, claimed Espinoza, Bolanos has
not accorded them the same accessibility to high level
officials that Roman
Catholic Church leaders enjoy.

4. (SBU) Espinoza also alleged that Catholic missionary
clergy are given open access at airports to enter the
country, whereas evangelicals are subject to luggage searches
and "formalities." He also referred to subsidies that the
state allegedly provides to Catholic cultural and other
facilities, and wants evangelicals to have the same access
and clout that he claims the Catholic clergy currently
enjoys. He acknowledged that evangelical groups in Nicaragua
receive substantial financial and other support from U.S.
evangelical churches.

PASTORS' INFLUENCE OVER THEIR FLOCKS
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (SBU) Espinoza claimed that presidential candidate Eduardo
Montealegre does not have sufficiently close ties with
evangelical churches. The Ambassador noted by contrast that
a number of the Liberal Youth, whom he had met that same day,
and who support Montealegre, told him that they were
evangelicals. Espinoza countered that he would like to see
more persons who are demonstrably evangelical in high
government positions.

6. (SBU) In his concluding remarks, Espinoza underscored his
message that evangelical pastors command the allegiance of
large numbers of people in their many churches throughout the
country, and are a political force to be taken seriously. He
also took the opportunity to allege divine retribution
against the Sandinista leadership, in particular Daniel
Ortega, citing Chapter 5. 26 from the Book of Daniel
referencing the destruction of the Babylonian King
Balshazzar's empire due to his arrogance in the sight of God.

BRENNAN

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