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Cablegate: Once Upon a Nicaraguan Election: Tales of a U.S.

VZCZCXYZ0029
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #2492/01 3132250
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 092250Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8182
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 002492

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/09/2016
TAGS: PGOV KDEM SOCI NU
SUBJECT: ONCE UPON A NICARAGUAN ELECTION: TALES OF A U.S.
OBSERVER MISSION

REF: A. MANAGUA 2466

B. MANAGUA 2459
C. MANAGUA 2484

Classified By: Ambassador Paul Trivelli for reasons 1.4 (b and d)

1. (U) SUMMARY: The U.S. Embassy community contributed 46
observers to the international force on November 5th.
Traveling to each of Nicaragua's 17 departments, observer
teams left by plane and automobile early on Saturday the 4th.
Their collective experiences paint a colorful picture of
Nicaragua's 2006 presidential and legislative election which
brought Daniel Ortega to power after three previous
unsuccessful attempts. A collection of their stories from
observing in the barrios of Managua to the mountains of
Chontales follows. Some highlight electoral anomalies
tracked by trends in Ref C; others are touching stories of
democracy in action. END SUMMARY

INTENTION OF THE VOTER
- - - - - - - - - - - -
2. (SBU) The widespread control and ability of the Sandinista
National Liberation Front (FSLN) to mobilize its supporters
to action was strongly represented in the experience of one
observer in the department of Rio San Juan, one of
Nicaragua's southern departments. During the closure process
and vote tabulation, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE)
president of the voting table (JRV) who was a Liberal
Constitutional Party (PLC) representative, attempted to annul
votes cast for the FSLN with the excuse that the mark had
been made outside of the circle but inside the party box.
According to Nicaraguan electoral regulations, however, these
votes should have been valid. The fiscal argued with her, to
which she responded that she would not be intimidated.

3. (SBU) The FSLN fiscal spoke to someone outside the window
and within 15 minutes there was a fairly large crowd of FSLN
supporters standing outside the JRV shouting, "intention of
the voter!" They continued their chanting until the
president conceded that indeed, the ballots were valid and
would count. In a rural JRV in Chontales, a voter had
written the word "mentiroso" (liar) in the circle below
Daniel Ortega. The FSLN fiscal insisted that the vote was
valid, and the CSE officials agreed.

MARRIAGE PROPOSALS AND COUNTRY HOMES
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
4. (C) Pol Intern observed in a semi-rural JRV in the region
of Chontales, a mountainous region known for its meat and
dairy industry, and once high Contra presence. According to
most reports, Chontales was a particularly tranquil region
during the election, with an expected number of anomalies.
This trend was confirmed by Pol Intern who observed in the
towns of Juigalpa and the rural Santo Thomas. In the JRV
where she spent the majority of her time, she was greeted by
a friendly and amicable FSLN fiscal who found time as he was
overseeing the voting process to offer her a place in his
country home in the mountains of Chontales. "I'm single," he
assured her from under the brim of his U.S.A. baseball cap.
She was also lucky enough to receive a marriage proposal from
the electoral police on guard, enthusiastic about the
prospect of acquiring American citizenship.

5. (SBU) Also in Chontales, the observer team visited the
campaign headquarters for each of the five parties. At each
they were greeted amicably. At the PLC headquarters they
observed the slogan "Arnoldo, the liberals are with you"
painted profusely on the walls of the small office, referring
to former president Arnoldo Aleman. Onlookers cautioned the
team that if they visited the FSLN headquarters they would
find them distributing cedulas. Once there, they didn't find
cedulas, only paintings of "Che" Guevara. The team was
filmed by party functionaries as they were leaving the
headquarters.

MAKING YOUR VOTE COUNT
- - - - - - - - - - -
6. (SBU) For many, last Sunday was an important event, an
opportunity to have a say in a process that is relatively new
to the Nicaraguan political experience. Many extremely
humble citizens took time on Sunday to stand in long lines,
some for 5 1/2 hours, endure rain, heat, and confusion in
order to cast their ballot. One observer in the northern
department of Madriz saw an elderly lady slowly and
meticulously cast her ballot and then painstakingly search
for the correct deposit boxes. Having succeeded and after
her thumb was stained with the black-brown ink, she did a

hop-skip and clapped her hands together in celebration.

7. (C) Less humble Nicaraguans voted as well, including
Daniel Ortega, who voted at the same JRV as one FSN who was
observing for the civil society group Etica y Transparencia.
He arrived with an entourage of press and supporters who
strong-armed their way into the JRV to photograph the event.
The FSN observed from her position plastered against the wall
of the tiny room as Ortega voted with his wife Rosario
Murillo. The room was so small that it was possible to see
into the voting booths. He left with both thumbs in the air,
celebrating. Hours later, Alternative for Change (AC)
candidate Eden Pastora voted in the same JRV followed by only
two reporters.

CRIMINALS AS ELECTORAL POLICE, IN THE RANKS OF THE CSE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
8. (C) Observers in the departments of Boaco and Leon
reported that the CSE had some difficulty finding JRV
officials without criminal records. In Leon, the Municipal
Electoral Council (CEM) president confirmed to observers that
100 of the 416 electoral police in his municipality had been
replaced at the last minute because they were "found to have
police records." The CEM president informed the observer
that the Ministry of Government selects, trains, and pays the
electoral police, but the CEM can determine where to place
them. (Note: Electoral law article 182 explains that the
Ministry of Government shall ensure the constitution of the
electoral police but that they will function under the orders
of the CSE from the beginning of the campaign until the
inauguration. Even the instructions issued by the CSE do not
clearly indicate which body has the ultimate authority to
place and control the police force.)

9. (C) The experience of an FSN observing in Boaco serves as
a clear representation of the FSLN-PLC pact at its most basic
level. At the JRV where he observed, the first member of the
JRV was challenged because she held a criminal record. She
was a representative of the PLC and the president of the JRV
belonged to the FSLN. Despite their party differences, the
FSLN president defended her. In the end she was allowed to
stay and assume the position of first member.

INTO THE WEE HOURS OF THE NIGHT
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
10. (U) JRV's were scheduled to close at 6:00 PM and most
reported having done so. Nevertheless, the majority of JRV's
did not finish the voting tabulation and transport the votes
to the computation centers until 11:00. Some closed as late
as 4:30 in the morning and CSE officials, fiscales, and
observers remained with the ballots until that time. One
observer reported seeing an Etica y Transparencia observer
sleeping next to a bag of tallies and packaged votes while
they waited for the CSE trucks to pick them up. Caravans of
CSE officials, fiscales, and observers made their way to the
Enitel (phone company) transmission centers and then to the
computation centers, often passing through massive
celebrations of FSLN supports who had heard the 12:50
announcement that put the FSLN ahead.

11. (U) COMMENT: The U.S. observer mission shared in the
collective experience of the Nicaraguan people from dawn on
Sunday to dawn on Monday and most observers reported having a
very positive experience. A nominal level of chaos and
inefficiency seems to have been the norm, and certainly there
were notable anomalies (Ref C).
TRIVELLI

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