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Cablegate: Citizen Councils - Full Steam Ahead?

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INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
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RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
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RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAGUA 002207

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, NSC FOR V. ALVARADO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/21/2017
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ECON KDEM NU
SUBJECT: CITIZEN COUNCILS - FULL STEAM AHEAD?

REF: A. MANAGUA 2185
B. MANAGUA 2043
C. MANAGUA 1944
D. MANAGUA 1783

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

1. (C) SUMMARY: In a September 20 meeting, Citizens' Power
Councils (CPCs) Managua coordinator Eliaz Chevez asserted the
National Assembly's (NA) vote to remove authorization for the
executive to create such entities from Law 290 is "not
substantial" and that the CPCs will "continue to move
forward." Despite this claim, Chevez admitted that
Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) had yet to meet
to discuss a post-vote strategy, or to set a new date to
announce the formation of the CPC national cabinet,
originally scheduled for September 14. According to Chevez,
all CPCs -- from the department (state) down to the
neighborhood level -- have been formed and the CPCs are
actively working in communities "without resistance." The
longer-term impact of the NA's vote on the CPCs is unclear,
but if the government is unable to channel official programs
and funding through the CPCs due to the change in law, this
legal rollback could erode individual incentive and
participation over time. Ortega has announced his intention
to veto the NA's reform of the law. END SUMMARY.

CPCs - "Business as Usual"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (SBU) Despite the National Assembly's recent vote to curb
the official power of the President Daniel Ortega's CPCs by
striking language from Law 290 (reftel B), Managua CPC
coordinator Elias Chevez assured us in private that the
change is "not substantial" and the CPCs will "continue to
move forward." However, Chevez noted that the FSLN
leadership still has not met as a group to develop a response
strategy. Chevez commented that the leadership is
considering several options, including "trying" to have the
reform declared unconstitutional for restricting citizens'
rights to organize and express themselves. (COMMENT: On
September 24, before departing to the U.S. to participate in
the UN General Assembly, President Ortega announced that he
would partially veto the NA's proposed reform to Law 290.
During his remarks, Ortega accused the NA of contradicting
the purpose entrusted to it by the Nicaraguan people by
overturning legislation that would "permit the integration of
citizens into the Power of the State." While Chevez had
indicated that senior FSLN leadership was evaluating its
options, he did not appear distressed by the NA's vote and
gave no indication that a presidential decision was imminent.
END COMMENT.)

3. (SBU) Given the general level of discomfort with the CPCs
within Nicaraguan society, we asked Chevez if the CPCs have
encountered increased resistance from state-sponsored service
providers (schools, clinics, hospitals, etc.) since the NA
vote. Chevez responded that "in practical terms, nothing has
changed," citing examples where CPCs had recently
participated in a forum on public safety and would shortly
conduct anti-dengue joint operations with the Ministry of
Health.

Awaiting "Opportune Moment" to Announce National Council
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (SBU) Like First Lady Rosario Murillo - the architect of
the CPCs - Chevez blamed Hurricane Felix for Ortega and
Murillo's failure to announce the much anticipated CPC
National Cabinet on September 14. When asked if Ortega and
Murillo had selected a new date, Chevez admitted they have
not and that Ortega and Murillo are waiting for an "opportune
moment" to announce the cabinet. Asked to define an
opportune moment, Chevez fumbled about for several minutes,
but failed to come up with cohesive answer. He did, however,
insist that the CPCs are fully formed from the neighborhood
to the departmental level in every department and they are
ready to install the national cabinet. (COMMENT: We
discount the assertion that the CPC are fully formed and
functioning throughout the country. For example, in
Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast Autonomous Regions, resistance to
the CPCs has been fierce. As a result, CPCs have not been
widely established in either region. END COMMENT)

CPC Members on Their Own
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (SBU) Chevez dismissed widespread claims that the
government is financing the CPCs. He proudly insisted that,
despite having no budget, they have managed to organize
themselves and become a force within civil society very
quickly. He remarked that the main priority now is to train
and strengthen the capabilities of the members. Asked how he
would do this without a budget, Chevez made vague reference
to taking advantage of public events and fora to help educate
his CPC members and to inject CPC opinion into public
dialogue.

COMMENT
- - - -

6. (C) Ortega's quick decision to move forward with a veto
despite the unresolved issue discussed at the Chevez meeting,
may indicate that Ortega senses weakness in the opposition
created by Eduardo Montealegre's legal troubles and the
recent defection of ALN deputy Ramiro Silva Gutierrez (Reftel
A). Ortega may believe that the ALN / Liberal Constitutional
Party (PLC) block will not hold firm on a veto-override vote.


7. (C) If Ortega's veto stands, the administration no doubt
plans to continue officially channeling government programs
and funding through the CPCs -- such as Zero Hunger (Reftel
C,D) -- giving the individual CPC members power and control
in communities, and giving the party greater control at the
grassroots level. If the NA overrides the veto, the CPC
members, robbed of program control and funding, as Chevez
stated, will largely be left to their own devices to both
train themselves and to devise ways to help in their
communities (unless of course a friendly foreign power fills
the gap.) Such a legal rollback could erode commitment and
cause members to abandon the CPCs over time.
TRIVELLI

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