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Cablegate: Regional Partners Share Concerns About Direction

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INFO RUEHMU/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
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id: 127920
date: 10/30/2007 21:57
refid: 07MANAGUA2402
origin: Embassy Managua
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 07MANAGUA2008|07MANAGUA2384
header:
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DE RUEHMU #2402/01 3032157
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 302157Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1590
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
INFO RUEHMU/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0076
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 0475
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0214
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 0089
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0102


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C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 002402

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2017
TAGS: EAID BR CI CO ECON JA MX NU PREL XM
SUBJECT: REGIONAL PARTNERS SHARE CONCERNS ABOUT DIRECTION
OF ORTEGA GOVERNMENT

REF: A. MANAGUA 2384
B. MANAGUA 2008

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

Summary

1. (C) Ambassadors from Spain, Japan, Chile, Colombia,
Brazil, and Mexico share similar concerns about the direction
of Nicaragua under the Ortega Government. They are
frustrated by the GON's lack of professionalism, transparency
and accountability, and have a low level of confidence in the
government's ability to successfully carry out economic or
development programs. At the same time, they have found the
government to be pragmatic on some economic and investment
issues and many are seeking ways to continue to cooperate on
the humanitarian front. All share grave doubts about the
candidacy of former Catholic priest and ex-Foreign Minister
Miguel D'Escoto for the UNGA Presidency, but are not aware of
an alternative candidate. Ortega's continued overtures to
North Korea are threatening to damage relations with Japan,
including a cut in humanitarian assistance. End Summary.

2. (C) On October 24, Ambassador held a breakfast with
Brazilian Ambassador Vitoria Cleaver, Chilean Ambassador
Natacha Molina, Colombian Charge Andres Gafaro, Mexico
Ambassador Raul Lopez Lira and Spanish Ambassador Jaime
Lacadena to review bilateral cooperation with the Ortega
administration and exchange views on recent trends.
Ambassador attended a dinner the same day with the Japanese
Ambassador Saito and members of his mission staff on similar
issues. All of these countries share a common interest in
guiding and directing the GON along the right path.

Humanitarian Cooperation
------------------------

3. (C) Most of the Ambassadors had attended the October 23
meeting with President Ortega (ref a) to hear his request for
additional aid to the victims of Hurricane Felix and the
recent flooding in northern and central Nicaragua. Brazilian
Ambassador Cleaver commented that he was more diplomatic than
in recent meetings; toned down his rhetoric but also demanded
that aid be given "without strings" to that it could be used
more flexibly. All the Ambassadors noted that Ortega and
others in his administration do not understand how other
governments, and particularly their humanitarian assistance
programs work; i.e., donor countries could not, and would
not, hand over cash. Spanish Ambassador Lacadena echoed the
concerns of his colleagues that his mission holds very low
confidence in the professionalism of the Ortega
administration to carry out programs, and sees little or no
accountability for the programs the administration does have.
Nonetheless, the Spanish government is seeking new ways to
cooperate on the humanitarian front to address real and
pervasive problems facing the country.

4. (C) The Ambassadors lamented that the Ortega
administration has yet to draft an effective plan for
long-term recovery and development in the RAAN after
Hurricane Felix. Mexican Ambassador Lopez Lira noted, "we
want aid to go to real development, like roads and
infrastructure that will bring about permanent changes in the
region." All Ambassadors expressed concern that
disorganization, a lack of planning, and the apparent
arbitrary distribution of aid unfortunately "will ensure"
that the precarious situation on the Atlantic Coast remains
the same and that donors will be facing the same problems
when the next hurricane or disaster strikes the region.

Internal and Economic Situation
-------------------------------

5. (C) Lacadena noted the continued contradiction between
what Ortega says in public to appeal to his base and what the
government, in general, has done in practice. While
maintaining serious concerns about long-term economic
prospects, he felt that the government has generally been
pragmatic in its approach to the economy. Investment is
welcomed, he commented, when the government can attract it
and take the credit. However, most foreign investment isn't
from multi-nationals but rather from smaller firms whose
presence do not result in significant social investment or
broader economic development. The Ambassador lamented the
overall lack of social responsibility among the private
sector and that the few who do something don't publicize it
to generate more attention. Others expressed similar concern
for long-term economic development and doubted whether the
pragmatic course would continue, noting the increasingly
populist rhetoric and actions, such as the UNGA speech and
the temporary seizure of ExxonMobil assets at Corinto.

6. (C) On the political front, Brazilian Ambassador Cleaver
commented that many of the NGOs with whom they maintain
contact are worried about trends and are experiencing serious
difficulties with the current government. They note an
increasing climate of secrecy, and term dialogue with the
administration on political matters difficult. Both the
Brazilian and the Chilean Ambassadors observed that their
countries have strong democratic and private sector
institutions to see them through difficult periods; Nicaragua
unfortunately lacks these institutions, raising doubts about
the durability of democracy. Chilean Ambassador Molina
commented that Ortega is another caudillo (strongman) who
wants to be able to tell people what to do without regard to
what they think or want. Mexican Ambassador Lopez Lira noted
Ortega's comments at the October 23 meeting with donors and
expressed the view that Ortega seems primarily interested in
pursing deeper bilateral relations with Cuba, Iran,
Venezuela, Libya and Taiwan without regard to the concerns of
others.

D'Escoto Candidacy for UNGA Presidency
--------------------------------------

7. (C) Ambassador questioned his counterparts on the
candidacy of former Catholic priest and ex-FSLN Foreign
Ministry Miguel D'Escoto Brockman for the Presidency of the
UNGA (ref b). All Ambassadors expressed surprise that the
GON nominated D'Escoto for the job and noted that the GON has
been pushing hard for their votes. Chilean Ambassador Molina
noted that Chile has orally pledged to support D'Escoto but
that support was not firm. She and the others all expressed
their own deep personal misgivings about the nomination and
noted that he was unfit for the job. Brazilian Ambassador
Cleaver commented that the position required flexibility and
negotiation skills -- which D'Escoto clearly lacks and that
his candidacy would therefore be difficult. Mexican
Ambassador Lopez Lira was not sure of his government's
position for the candidacy but shared doubts about D'Escoto.
Colombian Charge Gaforo expressed concern that D'Escoto would
use the position to press Nicaragua's maritime boundary
claims against Colombia over the waters near San Andreas
island. None of the Ambassadors were aware of a possible
candidate from the Dominican Republic, though they thought it
would be a good idea. All noted the need for a consensus
candidate and that D'Escoto wouldn't likely produce such a
consensus.

North Korea damaging Nicaragua-Japan Relations
--------------------------------------------- -

8. (C) In a subsequent dinner with Japanese Ambassador Saito
and his senior staff, the Japanese expressed similar
frustration with the Ortega administration, especially in
regard to humanitarian assistance. Ambassador Saito said
that although Japan has an image of being a country that
offers "aid without ties" he asserted that Japanese aid is
"always conditional." For Japan, there are two main
conditions for aid - there must be a strong bilateral
relationship between the GOJ and the country receiving aid
and there must be "general agreement" on major foreign policy
issues. According to Saito, Nicaragua is in danger of
failing on this second condition because of its statements in
sympathy with North Korea. Saito was alarmed that Ortega,
during a recent conversation, demonstrated a lack of
knowledge about the North Korea/Japanese abduction issue or
even basic facts about the nuclear situation in North Korea.
He was particularly disappointed that Ortega could make
sweeping remarks about the rights of countries to obtain
nuclear technology with such little knowledge of the actual
geopolitical situation. Saito explained that Tokyo does not
understand that Ortega is speaking without real understanding
and views Ortega's comments and actions with deep concern.
He also noted that Japan already was cutting its aid budget
significantly across the board and that Nicaragua would see a
serious drop.


9. (C) On Taiwan, Saito reported that he heard the Ortega
administration had actually gone to the PRC to offer a switch
of diplomatic recognition -- which was promptly turned down
by the Chinese. Ambassador suggested that this was perhaps
due to the visit of Taiwanese President Chen; Saito nodded
his agreement with this analysis. Saito opined that Taiwan
should be able to maintain diplomatic relations with
Nicaragua for the next four to five years. Saito also
commented that the Ortega administration is planning to
launch a "development plan" to attract more foreign
investment and had come to the Japanese for advice. The
consensus among the Japanese participants was that this plan
was unlikely to succeed and that the administration's recent
actions and rhetoric had only served to frighten off foreign
investment.

Comment
------

10. (C) Despite the range of foreign assistance and economic
engagement among our diplomatic counterparts, we are struck
by the similarity of views. All share a growing concern
about the lack of professionalism, transparency, and
accountability of the Ortega administration. Nonetheless
they are seeking to continue, in some manner, humanitarian
assistance to respond to real needs among the Nicaragua
people and to expand opportunities for economic investment.
It is not clear that the Ortega administration places the
same value on that cooperation or that it understands the
impact that its increasingly erratic and worrisome internal
political and economic policies may eventually have on
assistance levels.


TRIVELLI

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