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Cablegate: Codel Burton Meets with Edmundo Jarquin, Former


DE RUEHMU #2248/01 2840008
P 110008Z OCT 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 002248



E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/25/2026

1. (C) SUMMARY: This cable provides a readout of several
meetings Congressman Dan Burton held with various members of
the political class during his 22-24 September visit. The
congressman spoke with Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS)
candidate Edmundo Jarquin during which Jarquin reaffirmed his
commitment to opposing Daniel Ortega. The following day he
met with several former Contras who are members of the
Nicaraguan Resistance Party (PRN). These former guerrillas
eloquently discussed their support for Eduardo Montealegre
and disdain for the political pact between Arnoldo Aleman and
Ortega, which they see as having corroded Nicaragua's
democracy. Burton next met with representatives from the
various organizations (i.e. USAID, OAS, IFES) who are helping
to reinforce the electoral institutions here with an eye
toward ensuring a clean and fair election. The members said
that while nothing could guarantee a clean election, it was
possible to minimize the potential for fraud with sufficient
planning, a strong observation effort, and a drive to bolster
attendance at the polls. Finally, Burton discussed the
election with President Enrique Bolanos, who was optimistic
about Montealegre's chances despite campaign funding
problems. END SUMMARY.

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Edmundo Jarquin
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2. (C) Edmundo Jarquin began the meeting by talking about
his FSLN roots, and said he had never really been a die-hard
party member. He acknowledged that he had been involved in
the Sandinista government in various roles, but described
these as more technical than political. He described the
progression of the MRS and its formation around Herty
Lewites, and the way he has sought to carry on Herty's
legacy, while at the same time stamping his own persona on
the campaign. He then talked about the broad mass of support
his Sandinista Renovation Front (MRS) has developed from
Sandinistas disenchanted with Daniel Ortega as well as that
of independent voters. While he did not provide a figure, he
assured Burton that he was taking votes away from Ortega. He
said the MRS has developed a particular appeal to younger
voters who are disillusioned with traditional parties and

3. (C) Jarquin told Burton that the recent Greenberg poll -
which had Ortega at (28%), Montealegre (24%), Jarquin (20%),
and Rizo (14%)) is an indication that he and the MRS are
still picking up more votes and thus have room to grow.
Jarquin thought that some of this increase was the result of
his performance in the CNN-sponsored debate between the
candidates (which most analysts say he won hands down). He
indicated that he was surprised Montealegre's performance -
which he characterized as positive - had not seemed to have
much of an effect on his standings.

4. (C) When asked by Burton whether he was against Ortega,
Jarquin said "absolutely" and that the FSLN would do
everything they could to secure a first-round win because
they know that he cannot win in a second round. He said the
broad mass of non-FSLN voters would swing to the strongest
anti-Ortega candidate closer to the election. He said that
MRS voter analysis indicated that under such conditions, 80%
of Montealegre supporters would swing toward him, and vice
versa, because their motivation/inclination is predominantly

5. (C) Jarquin reported that he was surprised that Rizo had
even maintained 14% at this point, because he has been so
tarnished and clearly considered an Aleman pawn. When asked
by Burton if he would ever go into some kind of coalition
with Ortega, he said "no way," and added that the majority of
his supporters were anti-Ortega and would not stand for such
an agreement. In response to a question by Burton whether
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was supporting the FSLN, he
replied "of course" but that most Nicaraguans reject the
Chavez connection. Burton concluded the meeting by
congratulating him for his battle against Ortega and wished
him well in his campaign.

Former Contras: Montealegre Strong, Rizo Weak,
Ortega-Aleman Pact Dangerous
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6. (C) Congressman Burton, Ambassador, and Polcouns and met
with four former Contra leaders who are now members of the
Nicaraguan Resistance Party (PRN) backing Eduardo
Montealegre's Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) to discuss
the strength of the ALN campaign and the political pact

between Arnoldo Aleman and Daniel Ortega. The PRN members
present were Luis Fley (Comandante "Johnson"), Jose Angel
Talavera ("Chacal"), Encarnacion Valdivia ("Tigrillo"), and
Oscar Sobalvarro. Talavera kicked off the meeting by
Asserting that the PRN is one of the ALN's strongest
components and noted that his brother's (Salvador Talavera)
recent defection to the FSLN was part of a grand plan to
embarrass the ALN. He added that PRN leaders think Daniel
Ortega is afraid of Montealegre and considers him a threat
to victory, which explains the underhanded tactics he is
using against him.

7. (C) The former resistance fighters see Montealegre as the
best solution to Nicaragua's problems. While they
acknowledge that he may not be able to solve all of
Nicaragua's problems, he can be counted on to oppose the
Ortega-Aleman pact and fight corruption. They added that
diversity of his alliance proves Montealegre has widespread
backing. The PRN members said that their organization
provides a significant boost to the ALN, estimating that the
PRN has about 6,000 grassroots supporters throughout the
country. Moreover, they discounted as myth the assumption
that the PLC has a strong party machinery to fall back on.
Fley asked rhetorically where that strength was when the PLC
suffered such a large defeat in the 2004 municipal elections.
He said that the PLC lost 53 municipalities and now controls
only two of the 17 Departments.

8. (C) Echoing this point, Talavera noted that the structure
of the PLC has been disorganized while the ALN has made
gains. One PRN leader speculated that more PLC supporters
are likely to weigh in behind Montealegre closer to the
election if he continues to dominate the polls. They noted,
however, that a lack of resources is the biggest challenge to
Montealegre's campaign. They said that additional funding
will become all the more of a necessity as the party puts
itself in a position to fight back against the 'dirty
campaign' launched by the PLC and FSLN to smear Montealegre's

9. (C) In response to a question from Burton, Talavera
insisted that there was plenty of proof that Rizo is
beholden to Aleman. For instance, he (Rizo) was forced to
accept Aleman's decisions over who would compose the party's
slate of deputies, and he was only allowed to select one
candidate. He noted that Aleman did the same thing with
Bolanos, keeping a tight control over the party apparatus by
picking loyalists to fill the bulk of party positions. Other
PRN members opined that Rizo may not be happy with this
arrangement, but lacks the strength to stand up to Aleman.

10. (C) All four PRN leaders expressed certainty that the
Aleman-Ortega pact is not only still active, but is the most
prevalent threat to democracy in Nicaragua. They explained
to Burton that this agreement stands at the very center of
the ability of the PLC and FSLN to control the National
Assembly, the courts, and other critical institutions.
Talavera explained that Ortega and Aleman share the same
motivations -- the desire to entrench their own personal
power -- and noted that a victory by either the PLC or the
FSLN in the election would be equally damaging. One of the
PRN members told his audience that the PLC and FSLN have an
agreement to alternate periods in office, but that Ortega, if
victorious, would back out of this deal, assert greater
control over the government, and attempt to extend his time
in office for as long as possible. He pointed out that as
long as Aleman is in jail, Ortega will have the upper hand in
their relationship. He has forced Aleman into making
concessions by threatening to return him with stricter terms
of confinement or with returning him to jail.

Election Observers: Guardedly Pleased With Election Support
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11. (C) Burton, the Ambassador, and Polcouns met with
representatives from various organizations involved in
bolstering the election process, including USAID, the OAS,
and NGOs such as IRI, NDI, and IFES. Burton asked how,
given partisan control over the Supreme Electoral Council
(CSE), a clean election is possible. The CEPPS partners
responded that while nothing could guarantee a clean
election, it was possible to minimize the potential for fraud
with sufficient planning, a strong observation effort, and a
drive to bolster attendance at the polls. IFES is training
CSE staff at the Departmental, Municipal, and poll levels to
ensure electoral officials are properly trained to handle
election day activities and the electoral complaint process.
The CEPPS partners said that the ability of all parties to

have one political party pollwatcher assigned to each JRV to
protect party votes will also help to provide an extra layer
of scrutiny over the process. Attendees said that the
domestic and international observer mission will be key to
the success of the election, and USAID affirmed that the
domestic observers will be mounting a comprehensive effort.

12. (C) A USAID representative noted that the national
observation mission will be the second largest in history
(second only to Indonesia), and the OAS international
observer mission will be the longest OAS mission conducted to
date. The OAS noted that all this provides impartial
observers with more opportunities to denounce fraud than was
present in the 2001 elections. The IRI representative
reported that CSE complaints over efforts to educate poll
watchers may well be a sign that their efforts are working.
The OAS representative noted that his organization would be
meeting with Ortega in order to discuss Ortega's recent
criticism of the OAS efforts -- he has charged that the US is
using the OAS mission as a tool to manipulate the results of
the election.

13. (C) The Ambassador noted that voter turnout will be key;
the larger the turnout, the harder it will be for Ortega to
manipulate the outcome. With this in mind, the Embassy is
supporting an extensive 'get out the vote' campaign, with
voter education drives (including in universities and high
schools), rock concerts, t-shirts, media interviews, etc.
There are some signs that these efforts are paying off.
Since the beginning of the year, for instance, over 200,000
cedulas (voter IDs) have been issued, and in recent months
another 200,000 people have applied. While these latter may
not receive their cedulas ahead of the election, the CSE is
in the process of distributing temporary cards with pictures
that will allow the holders to participate in the national
elections and a possible runoff. Although the CSE cedula
distribution efforts have been delayed -- according to an NDI
study only about 18% of applicants have received their cards
-- the OAS is recommending the CSE accept people's receipts
from when they applied for the cedula as a backup for voters
who do not receive documentation prior to election day. The
OAS noted that this solution was adopted earlier this year
during the Atlantic Coast regional elections. The voting
population may have expanded considerably from previous

14. (C) To add pressure on the CSE to ensure that results
are not significantly tampered with after they have been sent
for tabulation, both the OAS and Ethics and Transparency, the
local chapter of Transparency International, will be doing
quick-counts. This will provide an accurate idea of what the
results should look like for the presidential race and a few
legislative races within hours after polls close, serving as
a deterrent against manipulation of electoral results.
Burton concluded, saying that "this is very impressive" and
that this ought to be "an example to the whole world for how
to help an election."

President Bolanos Urges Support for Montealegre and Pans
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15. (C) Burton and the Ambassador met with President
Enrique Bolanos to discuss the elections and Montealegre's
candidacy. Bolanos welcomed his visitors and started the
meeting by lamenting the current problem of people falling
victim to tainted alcohol. (Comment: In recent weeks
criminals selling bootleg liquor laced with methanol have
caused injury to over 700 people, predominantly in Leon. End
Comment.) The President had spent much of the morning in
Leon where he visited hospitals that are treating the
victims. Bolanos said that the death toll now stands at 50,
and that he had met with the family of five children whose
mother had just passed away.

16. (C) Moving on to the issue of the election, Burton
queried Bolanos over the origins of the Aleman-Ortega pact.
Bolanos replied that this history is somewhat murky, but
pointed that relations between the two caudillos took a
noticeable change in 2003 when Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo
took a trip to Rome. Bolanos said that during his absence,
Sandinistas -- ordered by Lenin Cerna -- broke into the
Cardinal's house, stole his safe, and photocopied its
contents. As the Cardinal had at the time been a close
Aleman ally, it is suspected that the FSLN gained access to
incriminating information that has enabled the party to
dominate both Aleman and the Cardinal.

17. (C) Discussing the strength of the PLC, Bolanos noted
that the PLC still retains much of its former strength and
enjoys a history, albeit brief, of being the dominant
centrist party. He said that many people, particularly in
rural areas, think that Montealegre is still with the PLC,
and will cast their vote for the PLC casilla, believing they
are in fact voting for Montealegre. Bolanos suggested that
the best hope for defeating Ortega would be for some kind of
deal that unites Rizo and Montealegre. He said "I have been
trying to help them get together" for some time, but that the
difficulty was that one person would have to step down.
Bolanos also noted that Rizo probably sees stepping down and
away from the PLC as political suicide. The chances of Rizo
challenging Aleman are also remote as he has no strength
within the party. One of Bolanos's advisers who was present
in the meeting noted that of the diehard PLC voter base (he
estimated at 12% of the population) the vast majority remain
loyal to Aleman while only a handful are attracted by Rizo or
his running mate Jose Antonio Alvarado. Bolanos noted that
Rizo is weak. "As my vice president he, in all his meetings
with the Cabinet, never managed to carry across a point."

18. (C) Bolanos noted that Montealegre's biggest obstacle is
raising enough money to sustain a strong campaign,
speculating that Montealegre has only managed to raise about
$5 million. However, he remained optimistic of Montealegre's
chances of winning in November. Bolanos appeared to base
his optimism more on his own track record of having overcome
significant political obstacles during his administration
rather than on any real political evidence. Bolanos said "I
dream that we can beat both of them," referring to Aleman and
Ortega and told Burton to "have faith," saying that "I have
the support of only 9 out of 90 votes in the Congress, and
nevertheless we managed to pass some legislation." He noted
that while the going has been tough, Bolanos and his team
have managed to have some success in reducing some of the
pacto ability to influence the election. For example,
recently his administration was able to push the CSE to adopt
changes to the electoral procedure that theoretically makes
it harder for polling places to negate ballots. (Comment:
Bolanos was probably referring to a recent change in which
the CSE raised from one to two the number of signatures
required by JRV members to nullify a ballot box. End

19. (C) Bolanos suggested to Burton that the United States
take care to word its public messages in a more positive
light. For instance, rather than issuing a tough reminder of
how bad Ortega would be, to instead offer how the two
countries would have the opportunity with a democratic
candidate, to move forward and consolidate the close
friendship between the two countries. Burton responded,
saying "You are a very wise man." Bolanos joked that while
he was old, he was still capable. He pointed out that upon
taking office he was older than former President Ronald
Reagan when he was elected.

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