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Cablegate: Aln Emerges As Democratic Alternative

VZCZCXYZ0004
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #2625/01 3381453
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 041453Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8352
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 002625

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/08/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR KDEM NU
SUBJECT: ALN EMERGES AS DEMOCRATIC ALTERNATIVE

REF: A. MANAGUA 2615
B. MANAGUA 2567 AND PREVIOUS
C. MANAGUA 2548
D. MANAGUA 2470
E. MANAGUA 0556

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

1. (C) Summary: The Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance's (ALN)
second place finish to the FSLN in the November 5
presidential elections broke a 16-year political party
duopoly in Nicaragua and thrust to the forefront an
organization committed to democratic change. The election
results and recognition by the Liberal International have
given the ALN the political and moral momentum to claim the
status of the principal opposition party to the FSLN. Along
the way, however, the ALN most overcome continuing challenges
from the Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC), separatist
tendencies from its constituent organizations, and internal
opportunists seeking to form new pacts for power and personal
benefit. End Summary.

Psychological and Practical Benefits of Montealegre
Second-Place Finish
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - -

2. (SBU) After the elections, ALN contacts were disappointed
by the FSLN victory, but optimistic that the young party will
be able to take the reigns from the PLC as the principal
opposition force in the country. ALN presidential candidate
Eduardo Montealegre's second-place finish shattered the
16-year pattern of poor third-party performances and proved
that the ALN is a vital national force capable of mounting a
campaign and defending its votes. The ALN's success caused
considerable upheaval and soul-searching in the PLC, even as
Montealegre reaffirmed his position that the ALN will not
ally with a PLC controlled by party boss and convicted money
launderer/embezzeler Arnoldo Aleman. Many local PLC leaders
began questioning which party represents the future of
Liberalism in Nicaragua.

3. (U) On November 11, Liberal International officially
inducted the ALN into its ranks, sending another signal that
the international community regards Montealegre and the ALN
as the legitimate standard bearers of Liberalism in
Nicaragua. (Note: The PLC was expelled in 2005 over the
Aleman case. End Note.)

4. (C) As the "second power" in Nicaragua, the ALN will enjoy
the authority under the Electoral Law to name officials in
the Departmental and Municipal Electoral Councils (CEDs and
CEMs). ALN director Eliseo Nunez stated on November 25 that
the ALN will obtain 76 CEM and eight CED presidencies
(slightly less than half) when the electoral bodies are
restructured six months before the 2008 municipal elections.
(Note: After Nunez' comments, Montealegre announced that the
ALN will support changes to the Electoral Law that
professionalize the assignment of electoral officials. End
Note.) PLC spokesman Leonel Teller disputed Nunez' claim,
based on the PLC's superior results in the National Assembly
deputy elections, but CSE officials informed OAS and EU
observers on separate occasions that the CSE will use the
presidential vote results to determine which party is the
"second power."

ALN Surges on the Atlantic Coast
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (U) PLC leaders repeat ad nauseum that their party has a
stranglehold on the rural vote, especially on Nicaragua's
remote Atlantic Coast (Ref D). In just eight months,
however, the ALN managed to make dramatic gains on the Coast.
In the RAAN, the ALN increased its percentage of the vote
from 5.4% to 18.31%, and in the RAAS, ALN support doubled
from 15.4% to 30.71%.

6. (U) Comment: While a significant percentage of the ALN
increase came at the expense of the PLC, most of the votes
came from the indigenous Yatama party. Yatama leaders
formally allied with the FSLN, but dissidents, such as
Comandante Blas, broke away and joined the ALN with most
Yatama voters. The ALN was less successful, however, in
making inroads into deep-rural, PLC strongholds in the
northern departments, where the PLC radio stations bombarded
residents with its Montealegre smear campaign, including
announcing just days before the election that Montealegre had
withdrawn his candidacy under U.S. Embassy pressure. End
Comment.

Internal Threats to ALN Unity
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

7. (C) The ALN is an alliance comprised of several parties
and movements, some elements of which have made separatist
noises for personal benefit or to maintain party identity.
ALN deputy candidate and titular president of the Nicaraguan
Resistance Party (PRN) Salvador Talavera announced on
November 7 that he would seek to form an independent caucus
of PRN members in the new National Assembly. On September
15, Talavera betrayed the ALN and signed an agreement with
the FSLN while refusing to renounce his ALN candidacy. Even
though he is running on a national slate of ALN candidates,
Talavera claimed that he owes the ALN "nothing," only the
people who elected him. According to Salvador Talavera's
brother, Jose Angel Talavera, who was elected to the Central
American Parliament on the ALN ticket, the FSLN threatened to
send Salvador to jail for abusing his former wife unless he
"cooperated" with the FSLN. (Comment: The FSLN likely
honeyed the threat with a substantial cash bribe that
Talavera needed to pay off his considerable debts. End
Comment.)

8. (C) The ex-Resistance members that could presumably join
Talavera's caucus are: Indalecio Rodriguez, Pedro Joaquin
Chamorro, and Talavera from the ALN; Brooklin Rivera and Elia
Maria Galeano from the FSLN; and Maria Auxiliadora Aleman and
Adolfo Calero from the PLC. (Comment: None of these deputy
candidates is likely to join a caucus headed by Talavera, who
many -- including his own brother Jose Angel -- now regard as
a traitor. The formal formation of a caucus requires a
minimum of four deputies. End Comment.)

9. (C) Another threat to ALN unity may come from a principal
component of the Alliance: the Conservative Party (PC).
During a meeting with polcouns, PC president Azalia Aviles
reported that, according to PC statutes, the party deputies
must form their own caucus in the National Assembly if
possible. (Note: the PC has five deputies-elect, enough to
form a caucus. End Note.) Polcouns urged Aviles to discuss
the matter with Montealegre, as a public break with the ALN
would be a severe blow to the Alliance. On the margins of
Montealegre's November 28 breakfast meeting with A/S Shannon
(Ref A), Aviles informed polcouns that for now the
Conservative Party will remain as part of the ALN caucus in
the National Assembly, but told her on December 2 that many
PC members feel marginalized by Montealegre and are pushing
for a separate caucus.

Comment: Building a Party for the Future
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

10. (U) In addition to reaffirming that the ALN will not join
or ally with a PLC controlled by Arnoldo Aleman, Montealegre
continues to portray the ALN as a party that supports
democratic development, both for Nicaragua and internally.
On November 23, he announced that ALN deputies will not be
allowed to take any other role in the party leadership
structure and must "dedicate themselves fully to legislative
work." On other occasions, Montealegre has pledged to
support democratic reforms at the expense of the majority
political parties' power.

11. (C) Montealegre and other ALN leaders will have to both
work on maintaining unity among the constituent groups and
resist old-school operatives (such as Nunez) who would use
the ALN's new clout to perpetuate the patronage systems
traditionally enjoyed by the majority parties. If they fail,
the independent voters and other constituencies (such as the
evangelicals - see Ref C) that supported the ALN will quickly
become disillusioned.
BRENNAN

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