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Cablegate: Firings at Family Ministry Bad News for Adoptions

VZCZCXRO3884
PP RUEHCD RUEHGA RUEHGD RUEHHA RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHMT RUEHQU RUEHTM
RUEHVC
DE RUEHMU #0853/01 2402025
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 282025Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4502
INFO RUCNMRC/WHA COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0417

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAGUA 000853

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR CA/OCS/ACS/WHA
DEPT FOR CA/OCS/CI
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN BERT KRAAIMOORE
DEPT FOR WHA/PPC and INR/IAA
STATE PASS TO USAID/LAC FOR BOSTIC
STATE FOR USOAS
SOUTHCOM FOR J2, J3 AND J5

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC KOCI PGOV ELAB PHUM NU
SUBJECT: FIRINGS AT FAMILY MINISTRY BAD NEWS FOR ADOPTIONS

REF: (A) 07 MANAGUA 2495, (B) 07 MANAGUA 2232, (C) 07 MANAGUA 984, (D) 07 MANAGUA 585


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On August 18, the Government of Nicaragua (GON) carried out massive firings at the Ministry of the Family (MIFAMILIA), decimating the units responsible for adoptions and the welfare of children. Post fears that cooperation with the GON will deteriorate on adoptions and sensitive child welfare cases as a result. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On August 20, a U.S. citizen reported to the Consular
Section that he could not locate anyone at MIFAMILIA. He said he
had been told that morning that MIFAMILIA was in transition and that
no one would be available to speak with him until the following
week. Post immediately reached out to MIFAMILIA contacts who
confirmed that approximately 30 staff members in the Department of
Special Attention for Children had received job termination letters.
Post's two primary contacts were among those dismissed -- Arle
Martinez, Director General of Special Attention for Children, and
Ivonne Ibarra, Director of the Office of Children's Issues. As
trained social workers, both had consistently rendered assistance to
the U.S. Embassy on sensitive adoption and child abuse cases.
They reported that staff members were in shock at the mass firings
that had targeted trained social workers. Many had thought they
would be immune from the mass dismissals that had affected other
government ministries following Ortega's return to power in 2007 as
reported reftels.

3. (SBU) While local media were initially slow to cover the MIFAMILIA shake-up, "Bolsa de Noticias," a left-of-center daily newsletter, reported on August 20 that Maria Isabel Munoz had been dismissed as Minister at MIFAMILIA and replaced by Mayling Calero, the former Vice Minister of the Tourism Institute (INTUR) and the current Deputy Political Secretary of the FSLN party. NOTE: Calero recently received heavy media exposure when local newspaper published photos of her directing a group of government-affiliated thugs that attacked peaceful protesters near the National Cathedral. Days after the incident, several National Assembly members and NGOs demanded Calero's immediate resignation. Her appointment as Minister of MIFAMILIA has been seen by many as her "reward" for loyal service to the FSLN. END NOTE.

4. (SBU) The mainstream press has also covered the MIFAMILIA changes over the last few days. Articles focused on the irregularities of Calero's appointment, noting that several Assembly members have accused Ortega of violating Nicaragua's Constitution by appointing this new minister without first seeking ratification by the National Assembly. Human rights groups cite the appointment of Calero -- given her recent key role in directing anti-democratic violence -- as a defiant provocation by Ortega, demonstrating his lack of respect for Nicaragua's people and institutions.

5. (SBU) One of MIFAMILIA's recently dismissed legal advisors
informed post that rumors had been circulating internally for months
that the GON planned to resurrect the 1980s structure of the
Nicaraguan Institute for Social Security and Welfare (INSSBI:
Instituto Nicaraguense de Seguridad Social y Bienestar), which would
have the net effect of subsuming MIFAMILIA under the umbrella of
Nicaragua's Institute for Social Security (INSS), which runs the
state's pension and medical insurance systems. Ivonne Solis
confirmed that the Deputy Director of INSS, Dr. Roberto Lopez, a
retired military physician and high-level member of the FSLN party,
had slowly assumed many of the functions previously performed by
MIFAMILIA. She added that he had served as an INSS representative
on the Nicaraguan Adoption Council for the last year. She said that
MIFAMILIA employees kept silent out of fear that the GON would take
action against them should this transition be made public.

6. (SBU) Contacts also confirmed media reports that the GON was linking the MIFAMILIA dismissals to alleged irregularities in "Program Amor". Program Amor, inaugurated in 2007 by First Lady Rosario Murillo, was designed to reintegrate abandoned children into society through educational and social projects focused on extended family networks rather than through formal adoption. GON officials have reportedly told those still working at MIFAMILIA that those dismissed were engaged in corruption and the selling of children. Ivonne Solis told post that she believes the GON will likely pursue trumped-up charges against her and other fired employees to avoid paying severance and to justify the illegal firings. Irregularities in Nicaraguan adoptions previously toppled high-level MIFAMILIA officials in 2007 when Pedro Siero, the former Director General of Special Attention for Children, confessed to local media that he accepted money from a Spanish couple in exchange for expediting an adoption.

7. (SBU) These recent firings leave many U.S. citizen families
without the support of a host government authority to process
adoption cases and pursue allegations of child abuse. Post is
currently working with MIFAMILIA on five children's issues cases
involving nine U.S. citizen children, five of whom were brought to
Nicaragua by non-custodial parents. Four additional children are in
foster homes under the custody of MIFAMILIA, two of them allegedly
victims of rape. On the adoption front, three U.S. citizen families
are currently fostering Nicaraguan children in Managua awaiting
their final adoption court judgments. Six more families are on the
cusp of starting the mandatory fostering process in preparation for
final adoption and nine families recently filed adoption requests
with the Nicaraguan adoption council. Post is aware of 55 U.S.
citizen families who have pending adoption cases with MIFAMILIA.

8. (SBU) COMMENT. Post will continue to track the situation at
MIFAMILIA carefully over the next few weeks, providing support and
information to U.S. citizen families and modifying the adoption
flyer for Nicaragua if cooperation does indeed appear to deteriorate
or cease altogether. The fear is that Rosario Murillo will make
real her threat upon inaugurating Program Amor that formal adoptions
should cease altogether in favor of informal extended family
arrangements. END COMMENT.

CALLAHAN

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