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Cablegate: Nicaragua Elections: Official Campaign Season

VZCZCXRO7731
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHMU #1827/01 2341608
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 221608Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7312
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAGUA 001827

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SOCI NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA ELECTIONS: OFFICIAL CAMPAIGN SEASON
BEGINS


1. (U) Summary: Nicaragua's Supreme Electoral Council (CSE)
launched the official campaign season with a ceremony on
August 18. CSE president Roberto Rivas used the occasion to
admonish observer groups and remind the public that the CSE
is the final arbiter of the November 5 national elections.
On August 20, the Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC) staged a
large rally in the town of Sebaco, which was not attended by
PLC leader Arnoldo Aleman or his family. The Nicaraguan
Liberal Alliance (ALN), Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS),
and Alternative for Change (AC) parties held smaller
gatherings in rural areas. In a departure from previous
campaign seasons, the Sandinista Front (FSLN) has decided to
focus on door-to-door campaigning rather than a giant rally.
End Summary.

CSE Formally Opens Campaign Season
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (U) The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) marked the formal
opening of the electoral campaign season with a ceremony on
August 18. The CSE magistrates presided, with
representatives from the political parties, GON, Supreme
Court, armed forces, police, diplomatic corps, and other
observers. All presidential candidates were present except
Edmundo Jarquin (MRS) and Daniel Ortega (FSLN), who sent
campaign manager (and wife) Rosario Murillo in his place.

3. (SBU) Notably, the CSE chose retired Archbishop of
Managua, Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, to deliver the
opening remarks. (Comment: Obando, aside from being
officially "retired," is now regarded as a supporter of the
FSLN. Many regarded his presence on stage with the CSE
magistrates as highly inappropriate given his status as a
Catholic Church prelate and his political affiliations. End
Comment.) CSE president Roberto Rivas gave the principal
address, in which he praised Obando y Bravo for his
commitment to Nicaraguan democracy and his CSE colleagues for
their "professional and objective" efforts. Rivas announced
that the CSE will open dozens of cedulation stations in
Managua on August 19 to attend citizens that have not yet
applied before the deadline -- he commented that the CSE has
registered "very few citizens in relation to the massive
numbers that some claim lack cedulas." Glaring at the OAS
delegation, Rivas sternly reminded the audience that the CSE
is in charge of the electoral process, not observer groups.

PLC Opens Campaign in Sebaco, Aleman and Family Absent
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (U) The PLC officially opened their campaign in Sebaco,
Matagalpa on August 20 with thousands of supporters and a
strong, anti-FSLN message. Former president Arnoldo Aleman
and his family were conspicuously absent. (Comment:
According to the Rizo campaign, Aleman's absence is "proof"
that Aleman does not control the party and that he and his
family are complying with the various requests from Rizo's
supporters to distance themselves from the presidential
campaign. End Comment.)

5. (U) PLC presidential candidate, Jose Rizo, declared
himself 'anti-pacto' and promised to free Nicaragua from the
grip of the FSLN by breaking the hold of the pact. He
invoked strong words against FSLN candidate Daniel Ortega,
declaring that he hopes that Ortega will resign from
Nicaraguan politics after losing the upcoming election. Rizo
used ALN candidate Eduardo Montealegre's own campaign slogan
"sowing opportunities" to criticize him, saying he would only
"sow opportunities for other bankers." PLC vice presidential
candidate Jose Antonio Alvarado claimed that Rizo is
"untouched by scandal," unlike front-runners Ortega (the
pinata) or Montealegre (Cenis). PLC sources claimed that
250,000-300,000 people attended the rally, with many
supporters brought in using 3,000 buses, but actual turnout
was probably 30,000-50,000.

ALN, MRS, and AC also Open Campaigns in Rural Regions
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (U) The ALN, MRS, and AC also opened their campaigns on
August 19 and 20 with reasonable turnout and strong messages.
ALN candidate Eduardo Montealegre was found dancing with a
traditional dancer at his opening in Bluefields on the
Atlantic Coast, where he vowed to beat Ortega in November.
He said that the FSLN and the PLC represent "the past,
misery, corruption, and war." Montealegre and running mate

MANAGUA 00001827 002 OF 002


Fabricio Cajina visited Bluefields, Laguna de Perlas, and
Corn Island during their Atlantic Coast tour, pledging to
devote more time and attention to the neglected region,
should Montealegre win the Presidency. (Note: The ALN is
also planning a rally in Managua on August 27. End Note.)

7. (U) Although the MRS and AC did not plan official campaign
events, MRS candidate Edmundo Jarquin opened his campaign in
the northwestern department of Chinandega, where he plans to
visit 60 percent of the municipalities in that department.
AC candidate Eden Pastora opened the AC campaign in Rivas.
Pastora plans to present the AC government plan on August 22
in Managua.

8. (SBU) FSLN campaign manager Rosario Murillo announced to
the public that the FSLN will not hold a traditional rally to
launch their campaign, rather, the party will focus on
"personal" door-to-door campaigning, a "pilgrimage to the
people" in Murillo's words. (Comment: The FSLN has been
mocked in the past for "filling the plazas, but not the
voting booths," and Ortega suffered strong criticism for his
July 19th appearance at the Anniversary of the Sandinista
Revolution wearing the Nicaraguan flag and riding into the
park on a horse, a scene reminiscent of the former Somoza
dictatorship. End Comment.)

TRIVELLI

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