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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Gon Focused On Municipal Elections Instead Of

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #1370/01 3171716
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 121716Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3360
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS MANAGUA 001370

STATE FOR WHA/CEN, EB/IFD/OIA, AND L/CID
STATE ALSO FOR WHA/EPSC
STATE PASS TO USTR
TREASURY FOR INL AND OWH

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINV ECON USTR KIDE NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: GON FOCUSED ON MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS INSTEAD OF
RESOLVING PROPERTY CLAIMS

REF: A) 02 MANAGUA 877, B) MANAGUA 564, C) MANAGUA 1186,
D) MANAGUA 1244

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) During the October 30 Property Working Group meeting, Ruth
Zapata, head of the Office of Assessment and Indemnification (OCI),
said that she and her colleagues were focused on issuing local
property titles rather than resolving claims. Zapata stated that
some U.S. citizen claims require approval by President Ortega
because of the amount of compensation and their complexity. Zapata
expressed her willingness to provide regular updates on the status
of U.S. claims in the administrative process, but did not agree to
provide clear explanations on how the GON determined settlement
offers. The GON's focus on issuing property titles to political
supporters in the run up to the municipal elections is delaying the
resolution of U.S. claims. End Summary.

ISSUING PROPERTY TITLES FOR FSLN POLITICAL GAIN
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (SBU) On October 30, Econoff met with Ruth Zapata, head of the
Office of Assessment and Indemnification (OCI), and Magally Bravo,
an official from the Office of the Property Superintendent, to hold
the October Property Working Group meeting. Zapata said they were
not fully prepared to discuss the list of 53 claims that the Embassy
Property Office sent to Attorney General Hernan Estrada on October
21 for this meeting. She explained that her work and that of her
colleagues had recently focused on issuing property titles to locals
rather than resolving claims "to fulfill commitments with the World
Bank and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)." Zapata
asserted that the Attorney General's Office and the Property
Superintendent's Office had to prioritize issuing titles because of
time constraints to implement the assistance from both institutions.


3. (SBU) Note: Our MCC staff reports that the only time constraint
they are aware of was to complete the pilot title restitution
program in Nagarote municipality, by August 2008. MCC funded the
pilot project which included additional staff support and support
offices in the city of Leon for the Office of the Property
Superintendent. MCC continues to provide legal, logistical,
technical, and staff support to implement the program. MCC is
currently awaiting comments from the GON on an 18-month plan to
implement the program in the departments of Leon and Chinandega by
2010. We believe that the Attorney General's Office and Property
Superintendent's Office are spending their time issuing titles to
help FSLN candidates in the November 9 municipal elections. On
October 25, local media reported that Property Superintendent Yara
Perez issued property titles while members of the Citizens Power
Councils (CPCs) asked the beneficiaries to the vote for FSLN
candidates. Perez defended the actions of the CPCs at an official
government event, stating, "One should not hide who he/she is. The
truth is that they (the media) can criticize what happened, but we
cannot hide who we are. We are the Sandinista government and we
should not hide it or hide ourselves." End Note.

ORTEGA DECIDES RESOLUTION OF SOME U.S. CLAIMS
---------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Zapata acknowledged that some U.S. claims require approval
by President Ortega because of the amount of compensation needed and
their complexity. As examples, she cited the Las Serranias case,
involving 29 properties confiscated from the Barreto family (Ref A),
and the case of Uri Kollnesher, involving the confiscation of the
property of his company (ICADESA).

MORE UPDATES OF CLAIMS IN ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESS...
--------------------------------------------- ------

5. (SBU) Zapata expressed her willingness to provide the Embassy
Property Office with regular updates on the status of U.S. claims
subject to the administrative process. She added that these updates
would be useful in keeping U.S. citizen claimants informed about
their cases.

...BUT UNWILLING TO OFFER TRANSPARENT APPRAISALS
--------------------------------------------- ---

6. (SBU) Econoff urged Zapata to explain to U.S. claimants how the
government determines settlement offers. Specifically, how OCI
determines values, or in some instances, why OCI reduces settlement
offers that previous governments proposed higher compensation (Ref
B). Zapata was noncommittal, asserting that property values are
public information and that claimants can request from the National
Cadastral Registry Office or its regional offices.

COMMENT:
--------

7. (SBU) The GON's current focus on issuing property titles is
delaying the resolution of U.S. claims. During the August 28 (Ref
C) and October 2 (Ref D) property working group sessions, GON
officials were not prepared to discuss most of the claims that we
provided via letters from the Ambassador to Estrada, a convoluted
procedure upon which Estrada, himself, insists. The political
dimensions of this recent push to deliver titles to supporters is
another example of the GON using all available resources at its
disposal to help FSLN candidates win municipal elections.


CALLAHAN

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