Cablegate: Usg Commitment to Good Relations with Sandinistas


DE RUEHMU #1588/01 1771911
P 261911Z JUN 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 001588




E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/07/2017

Classified By: Charge Peter Brennan for reasons 1.4(b,d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: In May 29-June 1 meetings in Managua,
WHA/CEN Office Director John Feeley reaffirmed with senior
FSLN leaders that USG policy is to pursue productive and
positive relations with the Ortega government. At the same
time he communicated that President Ortega's increasingly
anti-US rhetoric will not be without a cost and has sent a
mixed message to Washington, especially following FM Santos,
April 19 pledge to Secretary Rice that the Ortega government
wants good relations. Officials uniformly acknowledged that
the President,s rhetoric is unproductive, but offered
various excuses on the theme of "old habits die hard." They
also defended Nicaragua's right as a poor country to develop
relationships with any country that can offer it assistance.
Opposition leaders unanimously agreed that former president
Aleman is the main obstacle to Liberal unity, but admitted
they do not know how to remove him from politics. With the
press, business leaders, and civil society, Feeley emphasized
the US commitment to democracy, transparency, and prosperity
through private sector-led development in Nicaragua. He
praised the Nicaraguan police for their counter-narcotics
efforts and pledged continued cooperation to help the GON
contribute to regional stability and security. END SUMMARY.

Senior Officials Cognizant of Rhetoric's Impact
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2. (C) In separate meetings with Vice President Jaime
Morales, Foreign Minister Samuel Santos, Economic Advisor
Bayardo Arce, and Managua mayor Dionisio Marenco, Feeley
drove home the point that Ortega's recent anti-U.S. rhetoric
will not be cost free and could impede constructive bilateral
dialogue, creating uncertainty among U.S. investors. All
acknowledged that Ortega's post-election anti-U.S. rhetoric
has not been productive for the bilateral relationship, but
claimed that Nicaragua is not in a position to refuse offers
of assistance from Iran or Venezuela given its extreme
poverty. Morales asked us to "have patience" with the new
administration while emphasizing our common agenda on trade,
terrorism, drug trafficking, and poverty alleviation. For
his part, Santos insisted the level of rhetoric has decreased
since January and re-enforced the importance of the U.S.
relationship. Arce, the least apologetic, argued that
Nicaragua's economic needs compel it to build relationships
with a broad spectrum of countries and reduce dependence on
the United States. Concerned about the impact of Ortega's
rhetoric on smaller foreign investors, Marenco urged more
direct "person-to-person" contacts, such as the expansion of
sister city programs, that can deliver tangible results.

Civil Society Organizations - A "Pebble in the Shoe"
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3. (C) In partial defense of Ortega's recent accusation that
the US is financing NGOs to foment opposition to his
government, Santos blamed "undemocratic" civil society groups
for attacking President Ortega and fanning the flames. In a
sweeping generalization, Santos claimed that NGOs are "the
most anti-democratic (forces) that exist" because they are
formed by small groups of individuals with special interests
who usurp the role of elected legislators by claiming to
speak on behalf of "civil society." He labeled NGOs a
"pebble in the shoe that we (the Sandinistas) didn't put
there." Pointing out the irony of Santos' comment, Feeley
replied that most of Nicaragua's 4,000 national NGOs have
been historically aligned with the Sandinistas and that
several of the U.S.-financed NGOs had sought to include FSLN
party members in training programs, only to be rebuffed. He
also noted that the Embassy had recently released a list of
democratic civil society organizations that had received U.S.
funding during the electoral campaign, underscoring our
commitment to transparency in supporting Nicaraguan democracy.

Opposition - Aleman Remains Main Obstacle to Liberal Unity
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4. (C) Feeley met separately with former presidential
candidates Eduardo Montealegre (Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance -
ALN) and Jose Rizo (Liberal Constitutional Party - PLC), the
president of the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) party
Enrique Saenz, two PLC National Assembly deputies, and a
group of PLC mayors to discuss opposition progress towards
unity. Liberal opposition leaders were unequivocal that
Aleman is the primary obstacle to Liberal unity and must be
removed from the picture, but there is no consensus on how to
do it. Rizo observed that Aleman still has substantial
power, money, and control over an important segment of the
PLC. From the Sandinista reformist perspective, Saenz is not
promoting unity with the Liberals, but he assured Feeley that
the MRS is ready to ally with them in the National Assembly
on specific issues such as seeking to make public details of
any Venezuelan oil deals and condemning the closure of RCTV
by Chavez. (Comment: The same morning as the Rizo meeting,
Rizo and Montealegre appeared together on a popular morning
talk show to discuss Liberal unity and common legislative
agendas. During the program, Aleman suddenly appeared,
announcing that he had "come to talk, if you will permit me,
about the unity that the people want." Montealegre refused
to engage Aleman, stating instead, that "if Aleman wants
unity that he should accept that PLC directors - not Aleman -
are the primary interlocutors on any discussions of unity."
After the incident most observers indicated that Aleman,s
surprise appearance made him look desperate. End comment.)

Message to Business Community and Media - "The U.S. will not
Abandon You"
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- - - - -

5. (SBU) During a reception with AmCham and other local
business leaders, Feeley highlighted the overall benefits of
CAFTA to Nicaragua during its first year in force. There was
general recognition and agreement that the creation of a
strong and stable investment environment will require a lot
of work with the Ortega administration and that the
Nicaraguan private sector must play an active role in holding
the Sandinistas to their pro-market campaign promises.
Feeley emphasized that the United States and Nicaragua are
friends, neighbors, and that the U.S. will not abandon its
commitment to the Nicaraguan people, nor to its business
community. He emphasized that U.S. prosperity and security
are integrally linked to that of our Central American

6. (U) Feeley delivered the same message to the media during
a joint press conference with Morales, and in other radio and
TV interviews, underscoring that the USG very much wants to
work with all democratically elected governments that govern
democratically. "This includes the GON and we hope we can
continue to pursue our mutual interests in this spirit," he
clarified. In light of recent allegations that the U.S. is
financing opposition parties with a view to destabilizing the
Ortega government, Feeley reiterated Ambassador Trivelli,s
statements that the USG is not financing parties, but
institutions, to ensure prosperity, democracy, and

Civil Society Sees Few Positive Signs
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7. (C) Pro-democracy NGOs Movimiento por Nicaragua (MpN),
National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the International
Republican Institute (IRI) expressed concern that the Ortega
government is slowly blurring the lines between party and
State. Representatives commented that Ortega is likely to
avoid drastic measures, but rather will seek increasing
control of the democratic space through subtle means.
Nonetheless, they pointed out that Ortega's recent attacks on
MpN for its sustained criticism of the government have been
anything but subtle. Further, recent attempts by NDI to
include young FSLN leaders in leadership training courses
were rejected by the Sandinistas. Despite the difficulties
of these NGOs to engage with the new government, all viewed
with optimism the National Assembly's recent condemnation of
the closing of Venezuela's RCTV, seeing it as a step towards
broader legislative unity to counter Ortega's maneuvering.

8. (C) Monsignor Aviles, the number two in Nicaragua's
Catholic archbishopric, believes that democracy is stronger
than ever in Nicaragua because elections can be held without
violence, but he expressed concern that Ortega's campaign
promises to the poor have raised expectations to an untenable
level. He warned of growing discontent with the Ortega
administration, stating that Ortega never really had a plan,
only empty campaign rhetoric. Aviles suspected that Ortega
will continue to employ a strategy of blaming foreigners and
previous governments for Nicaragua's woes.

Nicaraguan Police - Keep up the Good Work
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9. (C) Feeley congratulated National Police Commissioner

Aminta Granera for the Nicaraguan National Police's (NNP)
crackdown on drug trafficking since Granera took office in
September 2006. (Note: Shortly before the meeting a story
broke of a 300kg cocaine bust. In the first 5 months of 2007
NNP drug seizures are twice the 2006 totals. End note.)
Feeley also recognized the close cooperation between the U.S.
and the NNP and confirmed our desire to stay engaged with the
police on counter-terror and counter-drug initiatives. He
also praised the NNP for the implementation and early
successes of the special vetted unit.

© Scoop Media

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