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Cablegate: Nicaraguan Elections: The Scene On the Ground Ten

VZCZCXYZ0017
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #2377/01 2982246
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 252246Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8000
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

S E C R E T MANAGUA 002377

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/25/2026
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR KDEM NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUAN ELECTIONS: THE SCENE ON THE GROUND TEN
DAYS OUT

REF: A. MANAGUA 02116

B. MANAGUA 02044

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

1. (C) SUMMARY/INTRODUCTION: With ten days remaining before
Nicaragua's November 5 elections, three presidential
candidates are scrambling to convince voters that they are
best suited to beat Sandinista National Liberation Front
(FSLN) candidate Daniel Ortega. Ortega remains the
frontrunner in all polls, surpassing the 35% mark in a poll
conducted by a local university, whose predictions regarding
past elections have been grossly off the mark (septel).
Although Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) candidate Eduardo
Montealegre continues in second place, his numbers have
slipped. Placing third in reputable polls, Liberal
Constitutional Party (PLC) candidate Jose Rizo has gained a
few points, while Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS)
candidate Edmundo Jarquin places fourth, and Eden Pastora of
the Alternative for Change (AC) trails with barely 1%. In
the most recent Cid Gallup poll, about 18% of the respondents
were undecided or did not reveal their preferences, and
according to the latest Borge Asociados poll, Ortega would
beat Rizo in a runoff, but not Montealegre or Jarquin.

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2. (C) SUMMARY/INTRODUCTION CONTINUED: The campaign period
has been dominated by the PLC's incessant smear campaign
against Montealegre to lower his numbers in the polls, while
Ortega preaches peace and reconciliation and avoids
confrontation. The Embassy, along with international and
domestic observer organizations, continue to press the
Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) to deliver voter IDs and
temporary voting cards before the election, and concerns
about vote fraud continue to surface -- namely regarding the
possibility that vote challenges (impugnaciones) by the
dominant FSLN and PLC parties could alter the vote outcome.
While the ALN is well on its way in preparing its party poll
watchers (fiscales) and voting table (JRV) members, the MRS
lacks personnel and funds to defend the vote. As in previous
elections, Nicaragua's independent/undecided voters will
likely determine the outcome of the election. If they rally
around Montealegre, he could win the election, if not on the
first round, in a runoff against Ortega. However, if
independents split their votes and/or Jarquin's share of the
Sandinista vote declines, Ortega may win on the first round.
END SUMMARY/INTRODUCTION.

NEARING THE HOME STRETCH
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (C) With ten days remaining before Nicaragua's November 5
national elections, three of the five presidential candidates
are pulling out all the stops, each attempting to convince
voters that they are best suited to beat Ortega. Contacts
tell us that this campaign is the dirtiest in decades, with
the PLC directing its most scathing attacks against Eduardo
Montealegre. Tactics include resorting to bogus polls to
persuade Nicaraguans that Rizo, not Montealegre, is Ortega's
closest competitor; attempting to bribe ALN supporters to
desert Montealegre; maligning female ALN candidates; and,
securing Oliver North's tacit endorsement of Rizo, including
North's sudden visit to Managua on October 23. Jarquin
struggles with a cash-poor campaign and faces internal
discord from the Movement to Rescue Sandinismo. Ortega
continues preaching reconciliation and avoids confrontation,
parading before the media his most prized "catch" -- ALN
National Assembly candidate Salvador Talavera. However,
Ortega has been less successful in his efforts to downplay
the denunciation before the OAS Inter-American Human Rights
Commission against Ortega and a number of other FSLN leaders
for alleged atrocities against the Miskito population in the
1980s. Ortega's efforts to "buy" the Miskitos' charging him
have failed.

REMAINING CONCERNS: VOTER DOCUMENT DELIVERY, VOTE DEFENSE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (C) OAS and EU observers alike as well as our Embassy and
the Carter Center have expressed concern over the CSE's
snail's-paced delivery of national IDs (cedulas) and
temporary voting documents (documentos supletorios, or SDs),
as have the leaders of NGO Movimiento por Nicaragua (MpN).
OAS Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) chief Gustavo
Fernandez has called on the CSE to ensure delivery of some
400,000 documents before the elections. Rebecca Cox, an
official with the European Union Electoral Observation
Mission (EU/EOM), discussed EU/EOM concerns with the

Elections Donor Group, informing them that CSE president
Roberto Rivas recently told EU/EOM leaders that the CSE has
no plan to distribute cedulas or SDs beyond the CSE's
municipal (CEM) level. MpN has issued a public communique in
the press calling for the CSE to do its utmost to comply with
the production and delivery before November 5 of all cedulas
and SDs in accordance with the constitution and on October 24
sponsored a peaceful demonstration in Managua to call on
citizens to demand their cedulas or SDs. In the Ambassador's
recent meeting with CSE magistrates, he impressed upon them
that the delivery of cedulas and temporary voter documents is
required to receive our endorsement of the electoral process.


5. (SBU) While the MRS has not recruited enough party poll
watchers (fiscales) to defend its vote and is short on cash,
the ALN appears to possess the manpower and probably will
obtain the funds required to ensure that all of its
supporters can deploy. According to ALN vote defense
coordinator Zenalia Madrigal, the ALN will have an official
present at 52% of the JRVs on election day. She shared with
polcouns on October 19 the lists of ALN JRV officials and
fiscales, noting that over 80,000 ALN supporters will be
involved in the overall vote defense process -- which started
with helping Nicaraguans obtain their cedulas and SDs.
Madrigal was concerned, however, because some of these JRVs
are located in isolated, sparsely populated areas -- while
the ALN will have JRV officials at only 18% of the tables in
Leon, a highly populated, potentially contentious department.


POWER PRODUCERS AND DISTRIBUTORS GUARANTEE ENERGY SUPPLY
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (U) Power producers, distributors, and the Nicaraguan
government have addressed concerns that Nicaragua's energy
supply crisis could impede the electoral process on November
5 -- guaranteeing that supplies will be adequate from
November 4-11. According to Rodrigo Barreto, the CSE has
been performing simulated vote transmission tests to ensure
that transmission will go smoothly even if there are power
fluctuations or outages.

POLICE/MILITARY PREPARE TO DEAL WITH ELECTION VIOLENCE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

7. (C) Police Chief Aminta Granera has told us that there
will be 20,000 electoral police, in addition to 10,000
regular police deployed on election day. However, she is
concerned that Ortega could mobilize thousands to take to the
streets to declare early victory. She has warned us that the
police only have enough equipment (tear gas, rubber bullets,
etc.) to deal with possible election-related violence for two
days (six hours total). According to Granera, she had
included the items in a budget request, and received
everything else in the request except the anti-riot
equipment. She requested support from the U.S. as the Police
will hold the front line of defense on election day.

8. (C) According to DAO, the Nicaraguan military has
expressed on several occasions that they have plans to ensure
that demonstrations do not turn violent, but they have not
shared any details, even when pressed. They also claim they
have members "inserted in the FSLN" who will disrupt any
plans to resort to violence. The military appear to be
basing plans on their recent success during the Defense
Ministerial meetings in Managua (no violence was planned,
however) and believe their mere presence will suffice as a
deterrent. Granera does not believe the military will
support the Police if violence erupts and while RSO believes
they have a good plan, they are incapable of handling
multiple flash points, which could arise on election day.
(NOTE: We are facilitating a meeting between the military and
police to discuss coordination.)

CASH FLOW IMPROVES FOR MONTEALEGRE, STILL TIGHT FOR JARQUIN
- - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

9. (S) With COSEP's October 20 formal endorsement of
Eduardo Montealegre, following the release of a
COSEP-sponsored poll (Ortega received 32.5 %; Montealegre
21.1 %; Rizo 16.8 %; Jarquin 11.8%; and Pastora 1%.
Undecided/no response was high - around 17%), comes its
members' commitment to finance a robust publicity campaign in
favor of Montealegre. The Taiwanese minister counselor told
us earlier in the day that following COSEP's blessing, funds
will pour in for Montealegre, including from Taiwan.

(COMMENT: Montealegre recently told us that the COSEP
endorsement has convinced more Nicaraguan and foreign
financiers to contribute. Thus far, he has received $1
million from the Taiwanese and hopes to receive an additional
$1 million - in line with Taiwan's $2 million to Bolanos when
he ran for office in 2001.)

MORE PLC MILITANTS BACK MONTEALEGRE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

10. (C) Following Embassy efforts to encourage contact with
the ALN campaign, 400 members of the PLC publicly declared
their support for Eduardo Montealegre's candidacy on October
21 (see 10/2 update and Managua 2097). PLC municipal officer
and president of the pro-Montealegre GANARAM movement Eugenio
Rodriguez stated that he would support Montealegre as the
only candidate who can defeat Daniel Ortega, even though the
other candidates (Jose Rizo and Edmundo Jarquin) are trying
to drag Montealegre down. Margarita Sequeira, PLC deputy
candidate in Chinandega, claimed that "Eduardo represents
true Liberal values, not the authoritarianism of Arnoldo
Aleman and his cronies." Montealegre called upon PLC JRV
members and fiscales to defend the vote against FSLN fraud
and invited all Liberals to support the ALN campaign.

WHO'S SUPPORTING RIZO AND WHY?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

11. (C) ALN National Assembly deputy/candidate Yamileth
Bonilla recently shed light on PLC candidate Rizo's apparent
sudden increase in cash flow, as evidenced by a dramatic
spike in campaign spots and paraphernalia. She reported to
polcouns that Mexican media mogul Angel Gonzalez contributed
USD 450,000 to Rizo's campaign. Bonilla believes that this
donation enabled Rizo and the PLC to ratchet up the smear
campaign against Montealegre. (COMMENT: Gonzalez is partial
owner of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN)
slanted channel 4 and holds substantial investment with the
FSLN in channel 10. He also holds shares in channel 12. We
cannot confirm this allegation, but Gonzalez' support for
Rizo would make sense in that it helps keep Rizo in the race
and the Liberals divided, which in turn increases FSLN
candidate Daniel Ortega's chances to win on the first round.
Gonzalez also competes with Channel 2, whose owners back
Montealegre. Further, more recently, Channel 10 backed the
Central American University (UCA) poll, whose results favor
Ortega and Rizo. According to some students involved in the
poll, the results were manipulated. END COMMENT.)

12. (C) Jordanian-Nicaraguan Ismat Tarek Khatib is another
reported PLC supporter, who allegedly is supplying the PLC
with cloth for banners, t-shirts, and hats. Khatib's U.S.
visa was recently revoked under 212 (A) (3) (B) for terrorist
activities, including fundraising. He has also been
reportedly involved in customs scams, including paying low
taxes on undervalued luxury vehicles and textiles, as well as
in the illegal movement of people and possibly trafficking in
persons. He was detained on September 14 while attempting to
bring in two Indonesian women who told polcouns they believed
their final destination was the United States.

ARCHBISHOP REITERATES NEED TO SCRUTINIZE CANDIDATES' PAST
RECORDS, CARDENAL MUTES HIS ENDORSEMENT OF ORTEGA
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

13. (C) Drawing on the Catholic Church's August pastoral
letter regarding the upcoming elections, Archbishop Leopoldo
Brenes appealed to Nicaraguans to vote, and to "choose the
ideal person to govern the country, the person who has
principles, a person of God, sincere and transparent." He
also urged voters to look at the candidates' pasts and the
programs they offer. The local papers also highlighted Pope
Benedict XVI's recent call for Catholic Church leaders to
refrain from politicking. Likely in response to the Pope's
remarks, Cardenal Obando y Bravo -- who has appeared over the
months with Daniel Ortega in clear endorsement of the FSLN
presidential candidate -- attempted to justify his
association with Ortega by asserting that he supports certain
qualities and principles, not a particular candidate. Since
the Pope's statement, Obando has appeared less frequently
with Ortega and has met with Arnoldo Aleman. However, he
continues to support candidates who call for "peace and
reconciliation," Ortega's campaign motto.

CONTACTS' PREDICTIONS RUN THE GAMUT, MOST POINT TO RUNOFF
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

14. (C) Several Embassy interlocutors have shared their
predictions regarding Nicaragua's November 5 election
outcome. A sampling of predictions follows:

--Nuncio Jean Paul Gobel believes that Ortega's victory is
"possible but not probable," warning us that that popular
support for the FSLN has grown in some areas of the country,
including in traditionally Conservative Granada, where entire
barrios now support the FSLN.

--Foreign Minister Norman Caldera predicts that Montealegre
can garner 35% of the vote in the first round. According to
Caldera, the polling organizations employ weighting models
based on U.S. demographics that give similar weight to each
age category, while the polls should use a "pyramid-shaped"
demographic model that gives more weight to the younger age
groups. He also believes that poll participants are
reluctant to reveal non-Ortega voting intentions to the young
college students conducting the polls because the
participants assume the students are Sandinistas.

--Nicaraguan Minister of Defense Avil Ramirez is confident
that Montealegre will win the presidential elections in the
first round. He claims that Montealegre has met with Army
chief Gen. Omar Halleslevens and that the Army wants
Montealegre to win because he would not threaten the Army's
relationship with the USG. (Comment: This information
conflicts with reports that the Army has supported FSLN
officials with transportation on the Atlantic Coast and other
rural areas.)

--Chief Police Commissioner Aminta Granera believes Ortega
will likely win the elections given the divided Right and the
fact that he requires only 35% to win on the first round if
his nearest competitor trails by 5% or more.

--FSLN dissident Alejandro Martinez Cuenca fears Daniel
Ortega will win because Rizo and Montealegre will divide the
Right and Sandinista dissident Jarquin has not been able to
obtain much of the FSLN vote.

--MRS Assembly candidate Dora Maria Tellez does not believe
the FSLN can win fairly but is certain that the FSLN is
prepared to commit fraud to steal the elections. She told us
recently that the MRS will warn the FSLN that if it steals
the election, the MRS will "take to the streets," opining
that this is the "only kind of message Ortega understands."

--MFA International Organizations Director, Ambassador
Mauricio Diaz, confided to us recently that Supreme Court
Justice Payo Solis (FSLN) told him Ortega will probably win
the November 5 election. Moreover, Solis claimed that if
Ortega falls short, the FSLN will steal the points required
to win -- ensuring that a "Mexico scenario" does not occur,
Solis said.

--CSE Executive Director Rodrigo Barreto shared with us on
October 24 that this time the Sandinistas are confident
victory is in their reach, adding that while his family is
anti-Ortega, this time they are debating between backing
Montealegre or Rizo. North's recent visit to Managua in
support of Rizo has furthered confused some family members,
he explained, although he is clear that the PLC is merely
attempting to confuse non-Sandinista voters so that they
consider voting for Rizo instead of Montealegre.

COMMENT
- - - -

15. (C) As in previous elections, Nicaragua's
independent/undecided voters will likely determine the
outcome of the election. If they rally around Montealegre,
he could win the election, if not on the first round, in a
runoff against Ortega. However, if independents split their
votes and/or Jarquin's share of the Sandinista vote declines,
Ortega may win on the first round.
TRIVELLI

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