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Cablegate: Aln Deputy Subject of Fsln/Plc Witch Hunt

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #1663/01 1862255
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 052255Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0729
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 001663

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR VALVARADO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/28/2017
TAGS: KDEM PGOV NU
SUBJECT: ALN DEPUTY SUBJECT OF FSLN/PLC WITCH HUNT

REF: MANAGUA 1083

Classified By: Ambassador Paul Trivelli for reasons 1.4(B,D)

1. SUMMARY: Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) deputy
Alejandro Bolanos Davis' seat in the National Assembly hangs
by a thread. Led by Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC)
magistrates, the Nicaragua Supreme Electoral Counsel (CSE)
voted to strip Bolanos of his seat over supposed citizenship
irregularities despite CSE president Roberto Rivas' 2006
public declaration that Bolanos "was fine." Until the
decision is formally "passed" to the National Assembly,
Bolanos retains his seat. Bolanos claims this is a
Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) witch hunt in
retaliation for Bolanos' open criticism of the FSLN on labor
issues and for publicly accusing senior FSLN official Lenin
Cerna of being the key player in an on-going property
extortion case (septel). The case has also opened a new rift
in the PLC between the CSE magistrates and anti-FSLN Assembly
deputies. END SUMMARY.

Background
- - - - - -

2. (U) In early June 2006, the ALN announced that
Conservative Alejandro Bolanos Davis, a nephew of
then-President Enrique Bolanos Geyer, would run for a deputy
position in the National Assembly on the ALN ticket. During
the registration process, Bolanos presented both a birth
certificate and a national ID card (cedula) that showed
Masaya, Nicaragua as his registered place of birth. On June
6, the PLC protested to the CSE on grounds that Bolanos was
an American citizen and therefore ineligible to run for
public office. The next day, CSE president Roberto Rivas, in
a public statement, declared "everything is in order" with
Bolanos' case, signaling that there were no grounds for
removing him from the ALN ticket. On June 8, PLC
presidential candidate Jose Rizo stated that the PLC would
not pursue the case further. Thus, Bolanos' name appeared on
the July 31 final list of ALN deputy candidates and on the
November 22, 2006 list of deputies elected to the National
Assembly. Bolanos assumed his seat in the National Assembly
on January 9, 2007.

3. (U) On June 13, 2007 the issue re-emerged when Edwin
Castro, head of the FSLN's National Assembly caucus, publicly
accused Bolanos of having U.S. citizenship. The issue was
immediately sent to the CSE (by the PLC) for review. The
three PLC magistrates on the CSE pushed for his removal on
grounds that Bolanos had violated Article 134 of the
Constitution, which states that any elected public official
must renounce any acquired citizenship four years before
running for office. On June 27, only two weeks later, the
CSE ruled against Bolanos, stripping him of his seat in the
National Assembly. However, as of July 3, the CSE had not
delivered their official decision to the National Assembly
and Bolanos still retained his seat. In turn, Bolanos is
questioning the CSE's legal ability to remove him from office
after being sworn-in. (Note: Post is independently checking
the legal basis of Bolanos' counter-claim. End Note).

CSE's First Argument - Violated Article 134 of Constitution
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (U) Article 134 of the Nicaraguan Constitution requires
that anyone who has acquired foreign citizenship must
surrender that citizenship four years before seeking public
office. Bolanos, who applied for his first U.S. passport in
1985, began procedures to surrender his U.S. citizenship on
May 31, 2006 with a letter sent to the U.S. Consulate. He
signed the necessary renunciation documents on July 27 at the
Embassy and the State Department approved his renunciation on
September 22. Regardless of the "official" date of
renunciation, Bolanos still renounced his citizenship well
inside the four-year period required by law.

5. (U) Bolanos' counter-argued that he did not "acquire" his
U.S. citizenship because he was born in the U.S., giving him
automatic citizenship. Thus, Bolanos claimed that Article
134 could not be used by the CSE. Further, he argued that
his citizenship had already been considered by the CSE the
previous June and that CSE president Roberto Rivas had found
no problem. Asked why he felt it necessary to surrender his
U.S. citizenship -- when he himself argued that it wasn't
required by Article 134 -- Bolanos responded that he "didn't
want there to be any doubt that I'm Nicaraguan."

CSE's Second Argument - Used Fraudulent Documents
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (C) Because Bolanos supposedly presented both a
Nicaraguan birth certificate and cedula showing Masaya as his
place of birth when he registered as an ALN deputy candidate
in June 2006, the CSE is accusing him of presenting
fraudulent documents. The CSE claims that it would never
have registered Bolanos in 2006 had it known that Bolanos was
an American citizen. (Comment: Between the time Bolanos
registered in June and the publication of the final list of
deputies in July 2006, the CSE could have raised the same
argument, but did not. The Bolanos issue was dropped
following Rivas' June 7 declaration. It is possible that the
FSLN or PLC, by raising the issue and then dropping it, hoped
to show Bolanos that they had something on him, thus
pressuring him into legislative compliance. The FSLN
resurrected the citizenship complaint only after Bolanos
refused to end his public criticisms of illegal firings,
property extortions, and other irregularities perpetrated by
the Ortega Administration. End Comment.)

7. (U) When the story first re-surfaced last month, Bolanos
initially appeared on television with his Nicaraguan cedula,
claiming he was born in Nicaragua despite the fact it was
widely known that he was born in the U.S. It is not clear
why Bolanos initially made this claim, but his reaction hurt
his credibility and made the CSE's fraud argument sound more
credible. Only a full two weeks after the story broke, did
Bolanos publicly address the issue of the Nicaraguan birth
certificate, claiming the Nicaraguan registry mistakenly
wrote Masaya on his cedula application in 1993. Bolanos
stated that he petitioned to have the error corrected in
1993, but three years later, in 1996, his cedula still
indicated he was born in Masaya. Predicting further
election-related delays due to the 1996 elections, Bolanos
claimed he did not pursue the matter further, quipping that
it never would have become an issue because he never thought
he would run for public office. (Note: In e-mail
correspondence with the Embassy, Bolanos indicated that his
grandfather registered his birth in Masaya in 1949, but he
did not indicate how the birth was registered - i.e., as a
birth abroad or a domestic birth. It is very likely that no
proof of birth was required at the time of registry at that
time. End note.)

Bolanos Claims Embassy-Provided Information Started Witch Hunt
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-

8. (C) On June 15, two days after Castro's announcement, the
daily newspaper El Nuevo Diario contacted an Embassy public
affairs officer regarding the status of Bolanos' citizenship.
After consulting with consular staff, reviewing the 7 FAM,
and clearing with the Front Office, public affairs confirmed
that Bolanos had relinquished his citizenship just prior to
the November 5 national elections.

ALN not to the Rescue
- - - - - - - - - - -

9. (C) Although Emboffs privately encouraged ALN leadership
to publicly support Bolanos in his fight to retain his seat,
the party provided little support. ALN deputy Eliseo Nunez
commented to the media that Bolanos had "made an error"
renouncing his citizenship so late, while Maria Eugenia
Sequeira, head of the ALN caucus on the National Assembly,
stated on June 19 that Bolanos was "very likely" to lose his
seat. ALN president Eduardo Montealegre -- when asked
directly if the ALN was supporting Bolanos -- responded that
"no one is above the law." He did, however, reference CSE
president Roberto Rivas' June 2006 comment that there was "no
problem" with Bolanos' case.

Comment - Independence is a Dangerous Thing
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

10. (C) Bolanos has sharply criticized the FSLN
administration several times since taking office. As
president of the National Assembly's labor commission he
decried its handling of the minimum wage issue and the
education crisis that brought the secondary education system
to a near standstill (reftel). In addition, Bolanos directly
named Lenin Cerna, the former head of state security in the
1980s and a key FSLN insider, as the man behind a recent high
profile property extortion case in Tola (septel) in which $4
million was demanded from investors to resolve a property
rights issue.

11. (C) On multiple occasions, Bolanos had commented to
emboffs with pride that he was "beholden to no one and could
say and do what I think. I am independent." However, by
going after Cerna, who wields tremendous influence in the
FSLN, Bolanos appears to have bit off more than he can chew.
Within days of mentioning Cerna's name, his own name was back
in the press with Castro accusing him of violating the
Constitution. Within weeks the CSE had striped him of his
seat in the National Assembly despite clear contradictory
statements one year earlier by the CSE's president. There
can be no doubt that the FSLN targeted Bolanos -- with an
assist from the PLC -- for retribution and to serve as an
example for those contemplating attacks on the FSLN's
leadership.
TRIVELLI

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