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Cablegate: Educating Nicaraguans On Fiu Operations

VZCZCXRO7088
RR RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #2621/01 3542129
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 202129Z DEC 07 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1848
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 1821
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAGUA 002621

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/EPSC, INL/LP, S/CT AND EEB/IFD
BOGOTA FOR FGROENE
GUATEMALA FOR NAS
TREASURY FOR SARA GRAY AND FINCEN
TREASURY PASS TO IRS-CI/NFULLER, AALDECOA, TMAHONEY
JUSTICE FOR OIA, AFMLS, NDDS
JUSTICE PASS TO OPDAT CDELUIGI
USDOC FOR 4332/ITA/MAC/WH/MSIEGELMAN
3134/ITA/USFCS/OIO/WH/MKESHISHIAN/BARTHUR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EFIN PTER ECON PGOV SNAR NU
SUBJECT: Educating Nicaraguans on FIU Operations

REF: MANAGUA 2351 (NOTAL)

1. (SBU) Summary: On November 29, Embassy Managua held three
separate seminars to educate members of the media, GON, and the
private sector about the role and operation of a Financial
Intelligence Unit (FIU) to dispel fears that the FIU would become
another law enforcement tool which the GON could deploy against
political enemies. Our immediate objective was to explain the
responsibilities of an FIU, how it operates, and how it interacts
with the other FIUs. Eighteen reporters from various media outlets
attended the seminar for press and spent almost two hours asking
questions. Separate seminars for the GON and private sector
representatives resulted in equally intense Q&A sessions. The event
helped us to get out clear and accurate information on FIU
operations and the institution's role in Nicaragua's financial
security. Depending on the progress of the bill to create an FIU in
the National Assembly, we may consider a follow-up event in February
2008. End Summary.

Overview of the Seminars
------------------------

2. (U) Since Embassy Managua's last public event highlighting the
need for Nicaragua to have an FIU (Reftel), public debate has
centered on a growing fear that an FIU would overturn banking
secrecy laws and become another law enforcement tool the GON could
deploy against political enemies. Several Nicaraguan public figures
have called the creation of an FIU the beginning of a "police
state." To allay fears and influence the public discourse of key
Nicaraguan actors on the issue, on November 29 Embassy Managua held
three separate seminars for public and private sector
representatives and the press explaining the responsibilities of an
FIU, how FIUs operate, and how FIUs interact with their
international counterparts. Separate events allowed participants to
feel that they were among colleagues and therefore free to discuss
their concerns.

4. (U) Speakers at the event were Mauricio Pastora, Regional Advisor
to Latin America in FINCEN; Willy Zapata, Guatemalan Superintendent
of Banks and former president of Caribbean Financial Action Task
Force (CFATF); Humberto Arbulu Neira, IMF Resident Representative;
and Ricardo Velez, creator and former President of Guatemala's FIU
and anti-money laundering consultant. Experts on hand to respond to
questions were Lourdes Galindo, Guatemala NAS Legal Advisor and one
of the drafters of Guatemala's FIU law; Victor Urcuyo, Nicaraguan
Superintendent of Banks; Ramon Tobar, Guatemalan FIU Director; and,
Heynar Martinez, Anti-Money Laundering Director at Nicaragua's
Superintendency of Banks.

5. (U) Speakers focused on the role of an FIU in improving financial
security in a country, clarifying what an FIU looked at and
investigated, how it interacted with the international FIU
community, and how it conducted operations within the confines of
existing banking secrecy practices. Velez' presentation went into
extensive detail on the day-to-day operations of an FIU and its
interaction with other FIUs around the world. Zapata used
colloquial stories to explain the costs to ordinary Nicaraguans of
not having an FIU. Post had provided the speakers with Nicaragua's
current bill creating an FIU, as well as proposed amendments from
the Superintendency of Banks, so they were able to show how the
proposed Nicaraguan FIU met these international norms.

The Media
---------

6. (U) An essential part of educating the Nicaraguan public on the
importance of an FIU is educating the media. Managua PAS invited
over 20 members from Nicaragua's broadcast and print media to a
special session with the speakers. Over 18 reporters attended,
including four television crews. The speakers delivered their
presentations, answered questions and conducted extensive television
interviews for almost two hours. We also shared via e-mail Velez'
power point presentation which laid out step-by-step how FIUs
operate. As a result of this effort, Nicaragua's two major
newspapers issued three balanced and informative pieces that
dispelled quite a few of the myths surrounding FIUs. Television
coverage included evening news spots on one cable and two national
stations. At least four radio stations with national coverage
discussed the issue of FIUs in afternoon and evening news programs.

The Government
--------------

7. (SBU) A Supreme Court Justice headed thhcQQ5Nx~, National Anti-Drug
Commission, and Director General for Taxes. The Economic Counselor
from the German Embassy, representing the G8 presidency, made a
closing statement highlighting the high priority G8 countries give
to Nicaragua having an FIU.

8. (U) Questions from the floor focused on FIU operations and
international standards. Many of the guests continued to ask the
speakers and experts questions during the coffee break and in the
hallway while the next event was being set up. We also shared via
e-mail Velez' power point presentation to all who attended.

The Private Sector
------------------

9. (SBU) The Ambassador opened the meeting with the private sector
which included representatives from the American Chamber of
Commerce, the Chamber of Industry, and the Association of Private
Banks. During an extensive 90-minute question and answer period,
attendees focused on protecting private financial information from
political scrutiny, the responsibilities of banks, and how to
guarantee FIU independence.

Comment
-------

10. (SBU) The event allowed us to get out clear and accurate
information on the role and operation of FIUs in Nicaragua. We had
wanted National Assembly Deputies and their staff to attend, but
they were unable to because of a scheduling conflict. The
Superintendent of Banks believes they avoided the event because the
FIU issue had become a political "hot potato." Depending on the
progress of the bill creating an FIU, currently in the National
Assembly Economic Commission, Embassy Managua may want to invite Mr.
Zapata and Mr. Velez to speak just to National Assembly Deputies in
February 2008.

11. (U) Post would like to extend a special thanks to NAS Guatemala
for their help and support for this event.

TRIVELLI

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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