Cablegate: Nicaragua and Suspension of Title Iii of The


DE RUEHMU #2532/01 3401842
R 061842Z DEC 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 002532




E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/05/2017


Classified By: CDA Richard Sanders for reasons 1.4 b&d.

1. (C) Summary: Nicaragua under President Ortega, in contrast
to the past three administrations, is establishing closer
relations with Cuba. We expect Nicaragua to vote more
consistently with Cuba. The trading relationship between the
two countries has increased, but continues to be
insignificant. No high-level Cubans have visited Nicaragua
in the last six months. 140 Cuban doctors are now working in
Nicaragua. Cuba provides Nicaraguans with scholarships and
medical treatment in Havana. While we expect the
Cuba-Nicaragua relationship to strengthen over the next few
years, what shape it will take remains unclear. At this
time, post believes that failure to waive Title III of the
Libertad Act for Nicaragua would allow Ortega to trumpet U.S.
"hostility" toward his new government. Post recommends
another waiver for Nicaragua. End Summary.

Bilateral Relationship

2. (C) The Cuba-Nicaragua relationship has changed and
intensified since President Ortega took office in January.
The head of the Cuban mission in Nicaragua has been upgraded
from Charge d'Affaires to Ambassador, Nicaragua has sent an
ambassador to Cuba, and Cuba sent a successor to its recently
departed Defense Attache. We now expect Nicaragua to vote in
international fora more consistently with Cuba than in the
recent past. During the previous three governments, the GON
generally voted with the United States on Cuba-related
matters and occasionally abstained. The notable exception
was when Nicaragua joined international calls for an end to
the U.S. embargo of Cuba -- reflecting a disagreement over
tactics. Neither President Ortega nor any member of his
cabinet has made any statement against Castro or in support
of the democratization of Cuba.

Trade and Investment

3. (U) Nicaraguan-Cuban bilateral trade declined steadily
from 1991 to 2005, but has increased in the last two years.
Two-way trade between Nicaragua and Cuba totaled USD 550,000
in 2005, down from USD 800,000 in 2003. By the end of
September 2007, two-way trade had reached USD 4.4 million,
mostly the result of Nicaragua's purchase in March of USD 3.7
million of energy saving light bulbs for distribution to
pensioners and the poor. Nicaragua's investment promotion
agency, ProNicaragua, reports no significant Cuban investment
in Nicaragua since the 1990s. On January 11, Nicaragua
joined the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America (ALBA), a
trade and cooperation agreement, of which Venezuela, Cuba,
and Bolivia are members.


4. (C) No high-level Cubans have visited Nicaragua in the
last six months. Ortega visited Cuba on June 16 during the
first leg of his trip to Venezuela, Libya, Iran and Italy.
There are rumors that Ortega has visited Cuba on at least two
occasions for medical treatment, but these cannot be

Training and Scholarships

5. (C) Post has seen an increase in Cuban training and
education assistance, as well as more personnel exchanges
with Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan military has traditionally
used Cuban trainers and Cuban facilities for both military
and civilian educations. Various sources report that the
Nicaraguan military has been moving away from Cuban training
as they consider it ineffective. The military is focusing
its training and assistance efforts on European countries,
notably Spain, as well as with the United States. Post knows
of at least 17 Cuban teachers currently working on the
Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua.

6. (C) Cuban medical assistance is the most extensive example
of this increased relationship. There are 72 Cuban medical
personnel in the Northern Atlantic coast region, all of whom
stayed through hurricane Felix. An additional 70 Cuban
medical personnel augmented this contingent after the
hurricane to assist with post-recovery operations. Cuban
doctors have also been providing long-term medical care on
the outskirts of Managua and rural areas around the country.

7. (C) For years, Cuba has offered full scholarships to
Nicaraguan students to attend Cuban universities. According
to press reports, over 977 Nicaraguan students are currently
in Cuba, mostly studying medicine. Further, under a
long-standing agreement, any member of the Nicaraguan
military can receive free medical treatment in Havana. Since
January, over 500 Nicaraguans have been transported to
Venezuela and Cuba for surgery, primarily for cataracts, paid
for by Venezuela.


8. (C) Both Cuba and Nicaragua have expressed a desire to
continue a steady increase in their bilateral relationship.
So far, this desire has manifested itself most prominently in
the health sector. Post believes that failure to waive Title
III of the Libertad Act for Nicaragua would allow Ortega to
trumpet U.S. "hostility" toward his new government. Failure
to waive Title III would hand hard-core Sandinistas the
argument that Cuba and Venezuela are more reliable, generous
allies for Nicaragua. Post recommends a waiver of Title III
of the Libertad Act for Nicaragua.

© Scoop Media

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