Cablegate: Nicaragua: Property Dispute Exposes Fsln Infighting


DE RUEHMU #2376/01 2962001
R 232001Z OCT 07






E.O. 12958: N/A

Refs: A) Managua 2324 B) Managua 626

1. (SBU) Summary: A dispute over valuable coastal property at
Amarillo Beach may be shedding light on political intrigue and
infighting among senior FSLN officials. An internal rift appears to
have contributed to the September 20th dismissal of Property
Superintendent Mireya Molina. While Attorney General Hernan Estrada
has assumed a more forceful, leading role on property matters, he
has refused to pre-judge the legal maneuverings surrounding property
rights to Amarillo Beach. Further FSLN political infighting may
well only complicate our efforts to help American citizens obtain
just compensation for properties confiscated by the Nicaraguan
government in the 1980s. End Summary.


2. (SBU) Extensive local media coverage of a multilayered dispute
over valuable coastal property is shedding light on possible
corruption and infighting among senior FSLN officials. Three
separate parties are disputing rights to Amarillo Beach, a 123-acre
coastal tract on the Pacific coast near Tola. Each party alleges
ownership of overlapping properties, and has accused the others of
using FSLN influence to advance their claims.

--Cesar Ibarra, a retired policeman, claims ownership of Amarillo
Beach property based on a title issued in 1988, but not registered
until 2005. He is rumored to have the backing of FSLN heavyweight
Lenin Cerna and other senior members of the FSLN. Earlier this
year, former Property Superintendent Mireya Molina approved and
signed a title conferring ownership of property in question to
Ibarra. Molina's actions may have contributed to her abrupt
dismissal on September 20 (see Para 5).

--Ex-"contra" rebels say they possess fourteen separate titles to
Amarillo Beach, all issued in 1993 by the government of Violeta
Chamarro, and subsequently reaffirmed by the governments of Arnoldo
Aleman and Enrique Bolanos. Property Superintendent Mireya Molina
effectively annulled these titles in September, when she conferred
ownership upon Cesar Ibarra.

--Bayardo Arguello, a Granada businessman with a history of shady
deals, alleges that he bought Amarillo Beach property from the
Nicaraguan Government in 1993. Arguello appears to have the backing
of Alba Luz Ramos, an FSLN party member and Supreme Court Justice.


3. (SBU) Ibarra and the ex-contras accuse Arguello of using Justice
Ramos' strong position within the FSLN and her influence as a
Supreme Court Justice to persuade Tola Judge Jeny Chavez to declare
void the title that former Superintendent Molina issued to Ibarra.
Ramos categorically denies any involvement in the case, publicly
stating that, before becoming President in January, President Ortega
had made the "political decision" that Amarillo Beach property
should revert to the Tola Municipality [Comment: We see no clear
evidence that Ortega had made such a decision or that subsequent
actions have been based on such a decision. End Comment].

4. (SBU) Reportedly, Ibarra plans to file a complaint with the
Judicial and Administrative Council of the Supreme Court, alleging
that Chavez and Ramos exercised inappropriate influence, and thus
violated the law when Chavez ruled that Ibarra had no right to
Amarillo Beach property. Taking the case to the Supreme Court is
not likely to separate the dispute from political influence, as the
FSLN and PLC appointees which comprise the court enjoy a long
history of politicizing cases [Note: This is not the first time that
Ramos has been accused of influence peddling. In 2003,
Embassy-registered Amcit property claimant Emma Lugo publicly
accused Ramos of pulling strings to have an Appeals Court rule
against Lugo's property claim. End Note].

--------------------------------------------- --------

5. (SBU) On September 20, Attorney General Hernan Estrada abruptly
fired Property Superintendent Mireya Molina. Local media reported
that Molina was dismissed because she crossed FSLN leadership when
it came to Amarillo Beach property. Sources close to Molina,
however, told Emboff that the real reason may have been linked to a
conflict of interest. Apparently, Molina had approved compensation
for clients whom she represented as a private attorney before
becoming Property Superintendent. These clients were pursuing
compensation for property that the government had improperly
confiscated during the 1980s. Under Molina, their compensation
reportedly exceeded limits set by FSLN leadership, i.e., $2 million
per year for total property compensation to all claimants. Estrada
immediately announced the appointment of Deputy Attorney General
Yara Perez as Property Superintendent (Ref A).


6. (SBU) Shortly after the Sandinista Government came to power and a
week before she assumed her duties as Property Superintendent,
Molina visited the Embassy to express her intention to cooperate on
settling pending Amcit claims (Ref B). In subsequent meetings,
Molina used her contacts within the GON to advance resolutions in
complex cases, particularly those involving the Nicaraguan Army, the
National Police, and the Ministry of Government. This experience
led us to believe that we could work with Molina in a positive way.

7. (SBU) By May 2007, however, we could see Molina's authority
diminishing, as Attorney General Hernan Estrada assumed a more
forceful, leading role on property matters. On May 16, Foreign
Minister Samuel Santos penned a letter to the Ambassador stating
that Attorney General Estrada was the only channel through which the
Embassy should work to address Amcit property claims. During a
phone conversation with Embassy staff in June, Molina privately
admitted that by continuing to work with us on a particular case,
she was going beyond her authority vis-a-vis Attorney General
Estrada. In short, Molina was operating on a very short leash.

8. (U) On October 9, after Molina's dismissal on September 20,
President Ortega referred to "former property superintendents" as
"land traffickers" who were "dishonest, irresponsible, or not
serious about performing their jobs well." On October 11, the
Nicaraguan newspaper "El Nuevo Diario" published an expletive-filled
interview with Molina in which she complained fervently about the
harsh treatment she received by the FSLN, noting that her office and
files were ransacked by FSLN officials as if she were a common
criminal. Molina also accused "El Nuevo Diario" and the FSLN party
of trying to ruin her reputation as a professional lawyer.

9. (SBU) Molina's fall from grace was both dramatic, and given her
background, surprising. She is a recognized militant Sandinista,
having played a role in the Nicaraguan revolution in the 1970s. As
Jaime Wheelock's assistant, Molina was a key player in the agrarian
reform process of the 1980s and the confiscation of properties under
various decrees designed to create a post-Somoza, socialist
Nicaragua. Under three successive Liberal governments, Molina
toiled as an attorney in the private sector, while holding fast to
her FSLN party membership. Once appointed Property Superintendent,
she seemed intent to redress at least some of the inequities of the
past for which she was responsible, in accordance with President
Ortega's campaign themes of "peace and reconciliation," as well as
his pledge that all property rights would be respected during his


10. (SBU) Estrada has told the press he will not take any steps to
resolve Amarillo Beach property disputes until expected legal
actions have run their course, particularly Ibarra's complaint
before the Judicial and Administrative Council of the Supreme Court
against Judge Chavez and Justice Ramos. He explained that he would
have to wait for a decision from the Supreme Court before he could
take action on Amarillo Beach.


11. (SBU) We have not been able to confirm rumors of a serious
difference of opinion between President Daniel Ortega and FSLN
Secretary for Party Organization Lenin Cerna on how property issues

surrounding Amarillo Beach and the Tola Municipality should be
resolved. We have little doubt, however, that the political
intrigue surrounding property issues will surely grow, particularly
in cases involving more valuable beachfront property lots. Further
infighting may well only complicate our efforts to help American
citizens obtain just compensation for properties confiscated by the
Nicaraguan government in the 1980s.


© Scoop Media

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