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Cablegate: Controversial Assembly Reforms Sent to President,

VZCZCXRO5580
PP RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #2696/01 3482125
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 142125Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8440
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAGUA 002696

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/11/2016
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM NU
SUBJECT: CONTROVERSIAL ASSEMBLY REFORMS SENT TO PRESIDENT,
ALTHOUGH NEW ASSEMBLY MAY MODIFY

REF: A. MANAGUA 2673

B. MANAGUA 2652
C. MANAGUA 2646

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

1. (C) Summary: According to present and future National
Assembly deputy for the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN)
Maria Eugenia Sequeira, the Assembly's controversial ways and
means bill has been sent to President Bolanos for signing,
but will likely face a veto, giving the new Assembly a chance
to further modify the legislation. Certain articles granting
the Assembly the power to summon private citizens and approve
its own budget are inconsistent with the constitution, stated
Sequeira and the reforms in general are designed to
strengthen the shared political dominance of the Sandinista
Front (FSLN) and Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC). Various
civil society leaders publicly support Sequeira's analysis
and have urged the President to ignore or veto the bill. End
Summary.

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2. (C) Poloff met with ALN deputy Maria Eugenia Sequeira on
December 14 to discuss the final version of the National
Assembly's "Organic Law" that was sent to President Bolanos
for signature on December 8. Sequeira commented that she was
able to work with certain "perturbed" PLC deputies (who were
not re-elected and feel betrayed by the party) to modify some
of its most objectionable articles. In addition, the FSLN
voted with the ALN to remove an article that would have
facilitated an amnesty vote for convicted ex-President and
PLC leader Arnoldo Aleman (reftels). Nevertheless, the bill
still contains several provisions that Sequeira deems
"unconstitutional and anti-democratic."

3. (C) Sequeira highlighted the following articles for poloff:

- Weakening the Authority of the Executive Board (Article 7):
The deputies may convoke a special session of the Assembly
with a majority vote (increased from a one-third vote). If
the Executive Board does not respond in 15 days, the deputies
may convoke a session without the Executive Board. (Note: In
the past, minority parties have been able to use the
Executive Board to block objectionable votes, including
amnesty bills. End Note.)

- Assembly May Approve Own Budget (Article 12): The reforms
stipulate that the Assembly may approve its own budget
without vetting it through the Executive. Sequeira noted
that this provision is blatantly unconstitutional.

- FSLN Caucus Chief May Change the Agenda (Article 39): Over
the objections of the ALN, this article was approved to allow
the head of a caucus that represents at least one-third of
the deputies (only the FSLN meets this definition) to change
the order of the Assembly's daily agenda.

- Assembly May Summon Private Citizens (Article 52): As
mentioned in reftels, the Assembly wishes to empower itself
(specifically, the commissions) to summon public and private
citizens to testify. Sequeira described this provision as a
"coup d'etat" by the FSLN and PLC to grant themselves the
power to intimidate and prosecute journalists, civil society
leaders, business owners, and others as they see fit.

- Assembly Not Required to Reveal Sources (Article 59):
Although the commissions would have the power to summon
private citizens, the deputies would not be required to
reveal their sources of information, according to this
article.

4. (C) Sequeira agreed that these reforms are clear evidence
of a continued pact between the PLC and FSLN and an assault
on Nicaraguan democracy. Other articles strengthen the
authority of the caucus heads at the expense of the deputies,
she explained. Sequeira noted, however, that some in the
FSLN seem to be experiencing cold feet over the reforms due
to the denunciations of the ALN and pressure from civil
society. According to Sequeira, the ALN will urge President
Bolanos to veto the bill so that the new Assembly sworn in on
January 9 can have a chance to modify its provisions. The
ALN will work with the FSLN, which she described as having
more "mature" deputies, to try to improve the bill.

5. (C) Sequeira raised her personal relationship with FSLN
caucus chief Edwin Castro, who is related to her ex-husband
and the uncle of her children. She said that Castro is the
only member of her ex-husband's family that did not reject
her after the divorce due to his close relationship with her
children. Sequeira commented that Castro, a "moderate
Sandinista" associated with Daniel Ortega's wife Rosario
Murillo and FSLN Foreign Affairs Secretary Samuel Santos, may
convince Ortega to back away from the more controversial
aspects of the bill, which are supported by former
intelligence chief Lenin Cerna and other hardliners.

Civil Society Supports ALN Objections
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (U) Movimiento por Nicaragua (MpN) Executive Committee
member Dr. Carlos Tunnerman released an article on December
12 questioning the validity of the reforms. Tunnerman cited
a 1992 Supreme Court ruling defining the difference between
internal Assembly "regulations," which the Assembly may
approve internally, and "laws," which must be sent to the
President. Tunnerman argues that the Organic Law reforms are
essentially modifications to internal regulations with an
article inserted, inappropriately, that would give Assembly
commissions the power to summon private citizens. Tunnerman
advises the President to refuse to act on the Law and advises
the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional.

7. (SBU) Officials of Hagamos Democracia publicly concurred
with Tunnerman's assessment of the Law. Privately, Hagamos
analyst Jose Somarriba expressed concern regarding possible
political manipulation regarding the reduction of Assembly
commissions, the increased powers of the caucus heads
relative to regular deputies, and the article stating that
the deputies' rights and immunities will not be affected by a
state of emergency. Permanent Human Rights Commission (CPDH)
executive director Marcos Carmona recently told us that the
CPDH is allying with other NGOs to question the
constitutionality of the Law.

Comment
- - - -

8. (C) Pressure from civil society and the ALN coupled with
our private objections to the FSLN (Ref A) appear to have
caused a reassessment of the bill on the part of the
Sandinistas, who are still eager to reassure the world that
they are ardent democrats. We will continue to work with the
ALN and civil society groups to maintain pressure on the new
Assembly to reform the reforms.
TRIVELLI

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