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Cablegate: Nicaraguan Opposition in Unison: Fact or Fiction?

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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAGUA 002043

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/09/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM KCOR NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUAN OPPOSITION IN UNISON: FACT OR FICTION?

Classified By: Ambassador Paul Trivelli, reason 1.4 (b) and (d)

Summary
- - - -

1. (C) On September 4, leaders from the two main liberal
opposition parties in Nicaragua, the Liberal Alliance of
Nicaragua (ALN) and the Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC)
announced that they had signed an agreement to pursue a
common legislative agenda. A few days later, on September 7,
both parties voted in unison against giving President Ortega
the power to create citizen councils (CPCs). Although it has
not been publicized, Post also has obtained a second
agreement, signed by ALN President Eduardo Montealegre and
PLC President Jorge Castillo Quant, which outlines four steps
for cooperation in advance of the November 2008 municipal
elections. Well informed sources from both parties assure us
that their parties' intentions to cooperate are genuine, but
mutual trust is low. Both the announcement of an ALN-PLC
cooperation agreement and the September 7 vote are welcome
indications of growing opposition unity, but in a political
system where games-playing is the norm, we believe that it
will take some months of demonstrated good will by both
parties -- supported by cooperative actions -- to prove
whether there is a genuine intent to forge a strong
democratic opposition to President Ortega. End Summary.

A Show of Opposition Unity
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (U) On September 4, leaders from the ALN and PLC appeared
before the press to announce that after weeks of secret
negotiations, they had reached an agreement on a joint
legislative agenda. The agreement indicated that the two
parties have agreed to 18 common legislative actions, to
include working together to reform the Law 290 (to limit
President Ortega's ability to create Citizens' Power Councils
- CPCs) and creating a mechanism to reach agreement on how to
repeal the Ley Marco (the law that delayed the entry into
force of constitutional reforms that limit the Executive's
power). The two parties' Whips (jefes de bancada) Maria
Eugenia Sequeira (ALN) and Maximino Rodriguez flanked their
party presidents at the press event.

3. (C) ALN President's chief advisor Kitty Monterrey passed
us on September 5 a copy of an additional document, signed by
both parties, that outlines a wider vision of cooperation,
including a promise to work together towards the creation of
an electoral alliance in advance of the November 2008
municipal elections. The agreement lists four specific areas
of electoral cooperation that the parties will pursue: a) a
mechanism to identify and select candidates; b) a decision on
a common ballot number (Note: on the 2006 election ballots
the PLC candidates were listed under box number 1 and ALN by
box 9. End note.); c) campaign finances; and d) campaign
conduct. Monterrey told us that the ALN national leadership
was already in the process of drafting a letter to all
municipal ALN leaders, instructing them to start working with
their PLC counterparts with a view toward starting a process
of identifying candidates for the 2008 elections.


Skin Deep?
- - - - -

4. (C) ALN President Montealegre had previously expressed to
us his doubts that the ALN would be able to reach a
legislative agreement with the PLC, citing the lack of PLC
desire to cooperate. Monterrey echoed these doubts to us
this week, noting that the ALN leadership questions whether
the PLC will stick to the deal. She opined that despite the
grass-roots pressure from PLC supporters for opposition
liberal unity against the Sandinistas, many PLC deputies are
still under the sway of PLC leader and convicted felon
Arnoldo Aleman. In Monterrey's view, there are few PLC
deputies that Aleman can't still buy or blackmail, and Aleman
does not support liberal opposition unity (unless he's in
control). However, she explained, the ALN must be perceived
as promoting unity. If, for some reason, unity doesn't
prosper, the ALN does not want to be seen as the spoiler.

5. (C) For the PLC's part, Deputy Enrique Quinonez told us
that many national PLC figures have a genuine desire to
foster greater liberal cohesion. He noted that
disillusionment with Aleman is not limited to the PLC

MANAGUA 00002043 002 OF 002


grassroots, as many PLC Deputies resent the continued heavy
handed pressure of Aleman. According to Quinonez, when
Aleman was told that members of the PLC were negotiating a
legislative strategy with the ALN, Aleman said "OK, I give
you permission to talk to them." The response, Quinonez
alleged, was "we are not asking for your permission, we're
telling you." Quinonez admitted that Aleman can still use
his power -- both money and control over certain institutions
of state, e.g. the courts, the Comptroller's office, the
National Electoral Council (CSE) -- to leverage the obedience
of some PLC deputies. However, he maintained that Aleman's
power within the party is waning, as frustration with
Aleman's pro-Sandinista actions grows.

Proof is in the Pudding?
- - - - - - - - - - - -

6. (C) Quinonez argued that we would see the PLC working
with the ALN to provide effective opposition to the
Sandinista regime of Daniel Ortega. For example, he
reemphasized the message that we have been hearing for weeks
from PLC leaders, that it would be "political suicide" for
any PLC legislator not to support amendments to the Law 290,
conscribing Ortega's ability to create a nationwide network
of Citizens' Power Councils (CPCs). "This was a clear
mandate from the (PLC) party convention," Quinonez argued.

7. (C) On September 7, the National Assembly debated the
reforms to Law 290 that the opposition controlled Justice
Committee had proposed. The proposed reforms would remove
from the powers of the President the right to create
"Councils" as part of the executive branch. As our PLC
contacts had predicted, all members of the PLC voted with the
ALN, as well as the opposition members from the tiny
Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) party, in favor of these
reforms. In the final vote, the united opposition beat the
Sandinista Assembly Deputies in 52 to 34 vote.

Comment
- - - -

8. (C) We continue to discount statements that downplay
Aleman's control over the PLC, and we believe that the ALN's
doubts about the PLC's true intentions are reasonably
founded. If PLC leaders want us to believe that the party
has turned a corner -- and now represents a pro-democracy
party, rather than a pro-corruption, pro-pacto party -- they
will need to demonstrate a consistent record over time of
responsible opposition, and real cooperation with
pro-democracy forces. At this point, with Aleman still at
the helm, the prospects of PLC behaving as positive force for
democracy in Nicaragua appear limited indeed.

9. (S) As previously reported, it is Post's belief that the
democratic forces in this country remain especially
vulnerable. However, the public show of growing cohesion
among the opposition parties is welcome. Whatever the
motivations, the fact that the PLC did not back down on its
promises to help strike the legislative basis for Ortega to
create Citizens' Power Councils (CPCs) also represents a
positive step. If, and that's a big if, the PLC and ALN can
continue to work together within the National Assembly, and
can truly forge an electoral alliance, the prospects of a
Sandinista victory in the 2008 municipal elections will be
diminished. The 2008 elections are not yet a lost cause, and
we need to stand prepared to assist those who represent a
democratic future for this country. If the opposition
parties themselves manage to come together, the prospects for
our assistance falling on fertile ground will be much
increased.
TRIVELLI

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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