Cablegate: Nicaragua: Nomination for the Secretary's Award for International Women of Courage


DE RUEHMU #1316/01 3021253
P 281253Z OCT 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 99729

1. (U) Embassy Managua is pleased to nominate Sofia
Montenegro for the Secretary's Award for International Women
of Courage, per ref A.

2. (U) Full Name of Nominee: Sofia Isabel Montenegro Alarcon

3. (U) Job Title and Institution: Executive Director, Center
for Media Research (Centro de Investigacion de la
Communicacion, CINCO) and leading founder of the Women's
Autonomous Movement (MAM).

4. (SBU) Date of Birth: February 15, 1954

5. (U) Country of Birth: Nicaragua

6. (U) Citizenship: Nicaragua

7. (SBU) Contact Information: 505-887-6363,

8. (U) Justification: "The more autonomy civil society has
before political society, the stronger it will be." This
sentiment has guided Sofia Montenegro through nearly four
decades of battling for democracy, gender equality and human
rights. From her origins as a militant of the Sandinista
National Liberation Front (FSLN) before it came to power in
1979, through her public break with the pro-Ortega faction of
the FSLN in the early 1990s, to her current role as director
of two of Nicaragua's key NGOs, Montenegro has consistently
led Nicaragua's movement for human rights and equality. She
remains politically active today -- a vocal critic of
President Daniel Ortega and First Lady Rosario Murillo,
regularly commenting on their authoritarian tendencies.

9. (U) Montenegro is currently Executive Director of the
Center for Media Research (Centro de Investigacion de la
Communicacion, CINCO) and a leader of the Women's Autonomous
Movement (Movimiento Autonomo de Mujeres, MAM), of which she
was a founder. CINCO is an NGO guided by three principles -
freedom of association, freedom of expression, and a person's
right to information. With these guiding principles,
Montenegro and CINCO have focused primarily on the
development of an ethical and independent media and on the
role of youth and women in a democracy. As a founder of MAM,
Montenegro has established a civic organization to address
the contradiction that women comprise half of the population,
but are in a position of political, economic, and social
subordination. MAM and Montenegro seek to raise the profile
of women in society, so that they can be viewed with
equality, enjoy the same measure of personal freedom as men,
and actively participate in the political, economic, and
social environment. Montenegro has summarized MAM's work
this way, "The Movement is about personal transformation as
much as it is about fighting to transform public policies."

10. (SBU) Montenegro believes sexual violence leads to
severe political and social repercussions, and is symbolic of
the dominant male and subordinate female roles in Nicaraguan
society. In this context, the goal of MAM and the women's
movement in Nicaragua is to, as Montenegro said in a 1997
interview, "expressly declare their objectives to fight
against subordination (of women) and for the transformation
of values and conditions for women." Similarly, she views
the case of President Daniel Ortega's alleged sexual abuse of
his stepdaughter, Zoilamerica Narvaez, as illustrative of
Ortega's "patriarchal and anti-democratic" style of
governance. Based in part on Zoilamerica's case, Montenegro
and MAM declared Ortega a "coward" with no moral authority to
govern and called on women around the world to come together
in the fight for justice and solidarity. Montenegro and MAM
have led the charge in denouncing Ortega both domestically
and internationally, leading Paraguay's incoming Minister of
Women to declare Ortega "persona non grata" for the
inauguration of President Lugo. In response to Montenegro's
leadership, women's groups around the region have mounted
protests against Ortega's visits to their countries,
including Paraguay, Honduras, El Salvador, and Costa Rica
(ref D).

11. (U) Because of Montenegro's outspoken criticism of the Ortega administration's undemocratic tendencies and the subsequent women's protests around the region which she has inspired, the Ortega government has sought to discredit and silence Montenegro (ref B). In an attempt to marginalize Montenegro, the Ortega administration has attacked the organizations she leads. It has accused MAM and CINCO of not being in administrative compliance with appropriate regulations and of possible "money laundering." The state prosecutor also summoned the leadership of both CINCO and MAM, including Montenegro, for questioning. The government has seized computers and documents from both organizations, and Nicaraguan courts have given the government access to the bank accounts of Montenegro and of the groups she leads.

12. (U) The government's effort to discredit Montenegro through administrative procedures has been conducted in tandem with an attack campaign by goverment-affiliated media. In the days following protests against Ortega in Honduras and Paraguay, government-aligned media outlets repeatedly dismissed and mocked the protesters as "minuscule groups" of "so-called feminists" financed by the USG. They attacked Ms. Montenegro for orchestrating "tiny protests" of women in these countries as part of a "well-articulated plan" to isolate Ortega from the international scene at a moment when Ortega was instrumental in expanding the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). In a particularly despicable episode, the government-affiliated media employed guilt by association tactics and used Montenegro's relationship with her deceased brother (a high-ranking member of the Somoza National Guard) as evidence of her "treason."

13. (U) Despite the government's unrelenting attacks, Montenegro has continued to champion women's issues, gender equality, and democracy in Nicaragua. She is an iconic figure with the ability to mobilize democracy supporters, influencing not only the country's political dialogue, but also people's actions. As the government was beginning its harassment of her civil society organizations, Ms. Montenegro was instrumental in mobilizing women for a march in support of democracy in Leon, an FSLN stronghold north of Managua. Unfortunately, Ortega's supporters prohibited the march from taking place, resorting to extreme physical violence in the process (ref C). Montenegro continues to speak out against Ortega and his increasingly undemocratic government and has urged Nicaraguans to vote in the upcoming municipal elections to "stop and contain the authoritarian tendencies" of the second Ortega administration. She continues to demonstrate her commitment and resolve to protect democracy and women's' rights in the face of government persecution. Her unwavering attitude is reflected in her October 19 interview with "La Prensa," Nicaragua's largest circulation daily. She said, "We have decided that they will not make us yield; let them take us to jail in this state of defenselessness, powerlessness, where crushing power is wielded in the most grotesque, authoritarian and abusive manner."

14. (U) Embassy Managua's POC for women's issues is PolOff
Michael Garcia, tel. 505-252-7405, and e-mail is

© Scoop Media

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