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Cablegate: Nicaragua's November 21 Dueling Marches, Some Violence

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RUEHROV RUEHRS RUEHSL RUEHSR RUEHTM
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FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0161
INFO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS IMMEDIATE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANAGUA 001091

SIPDIS
AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN PASS TO AMEMBASSY GRENADA
AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PASS TO AMCONSUL QUEBEC
AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PASS TO AMCONSUL RECIFE
AMEMBASSY BERLIN PASS TO AMCONSUL DUSSELDORF
AMEMBASSY BERLIN PASS TO AMCONSUL LEIPZIG
AMEMBASSY ATHENS PASS TO AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/11/20
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM NU
SUBJECT: Nicaragua's November 21 Dueling Marches, Some Violence
Likely

REF: A) MANAGUA 794; B) MANAGUA 232; C) MANAGUA 35
D) 08 MANAGUA 1405; E) 08 MANAGUA 1393; F) 08 MANAGUA 1328
G) 08 MANAGUA 1195; H) 08 MANAGUA 1057; I) 08 MANAGUA 1049
J) 08 MANAGUA 1035

MANAGUA 00001091 001.2 OF 003


CLASSIFIED BY: RobertJ.Callahan, Ambassador, State, US Embassy
Managua; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (C) Summary: On Saturday, November 21, civil society together
with opposition parties will march on the streets of Managua to
protest the 2008 municipal election fraud and the re-election of
President Daniel Ortega. On the same day (and on nearby streets)
the governing Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) will be
marching to celebrate its "victory" in the 2008 municipal
elections. The FSLN already has begun to employ its tactics of
intimidation to suppress opposition turnout the day of the march,
and will use government coffers for its own logistics on November
21. Meanwhile, civil society and opposition parties will be
challenged by the task of amassing large crowds the day of the
march. While the general public rejects the election fraud and
Ortega's re-election, due to past violence there is a sense of fear
in publicly protesting, especially if the FSLN will be nearby. The
police, whose actions have been questioned in past marches, also
have become a central figure in the November 21 events. Police
Commissioner Aminta Granera has personally taken charge of the day,
and is placing the legitimacy of her institution (and herself) on
the spot. The announced marches have led to heightened tensions in
Nicaragua's already politically divided population. This along with
the violence in recent protest marches has led to the popular
belief that at least some violence is likely on November 21. End
Summary.

Civil Society Calls a March, FSLN Announces Countermarch

2. (C) On November 9 a group of 18 civil society organizations
(the Citizens' Union for Democracy, UCD) called for a march on
November 21 to commemorate and protest the 2008 municipal election
fraud and protest Ortega's re-election efforts (ref J). The UCD
previously had received the necessary permit from the police and
the police had informed them that no other group had requested
permits for that day in that (or an adjacent) location. Following
the announcement of the march, all major opposition political
parties have joined the call for the march. Leaders of the
opposition who have stated they will participate include National
Assembly Deputy and former presidential candidate Eduardo
Montealegre and former President Arnoldo Aleman.

3. (C) On November 10, FSLN National Assembly Deputy (and close
confident to Ortega and First Lady Rosario Murillo) Gustavo Porras
announced that his party would celebrate the first anniversary of
the "Sandinista victory" in the municipal elections. The FSLN had
not yet applied for a permit, but announced their march would
follow the same route as that of the UCD's march. Porras stated
that his National Labor Front (FNT) along with other
FSLN-affiliated organizations would occupy Managua's rotundas and
streets because the streets "belonged to them." True to his word,
as of November 19 FSLN sympathizers were occupying the rotunda that
will serve as the starting point for the UCD march; these
sympathizers were also throwing rocks at local media that drove by
the rotunda. Porras claimed that through the various FSLN
structures, his party will bring 100,000 people to demonstrate
their support for Ortega's government on November 21. Members of
civil society and the opposition note the FSLN uses public
resources and forces public employees to attend the party's
activities and will do so again to reach the 100,000 mark. The
FSLN has publicized its march on television, radio and internet
news websites. The governing party's advertisements significantly
outnumber those of the UCD's march.

MANAGUA 00001091 002.2 OF 003


Intimidation Tactics Begin, Violence Expected

4. (C) Even before the November 2008 municipal elections, the FSLN
had responded to what it viewed as "opposition" protests with
violence and used this as an intimidation tactic to suppress
further acts of protests. Their intolerance recently resulted in
the beating and kidnapping of opposition youth in Managua and Leon
(ref H, I). Since the announcement of the marches, their
intimidation tactics have continued both directly and indirectly.
In the early morning of November 11, government supporters defaced
the homes of civil society and opposition members in Leon, using
material from the Leon City Hall. Similar incidents were reported
in Managua. FSLN Political Secretary (and former head of security
in the FSLN government of the 1980s) Lenin Cerna held a private
meeting with members of the transportation unions, where it was
suspected he might have discussed mechanisms to disrupt the UCD
November 21 march. FSLN political secretaries from departments
publicly have stated the party would block the opposition's
November 21 march, and media reported the FSLN would use improvised
weapons to block access to Managua from other parts of Nicaragua.
The mere mention that the FSLN will have 100,000 supporters the day
of the march is viewed by civil society and the opposition as a
mechanism to try and intimidate the UCD marchers. Given the FSLN's
recent history in violently suppressing protests (ref A, B, C, E,
F, G), the party is surely relying on intimidation tactics to
suppress turnout on November 21.

5. (C) Nonetheless, civil society and opposition parties argue
that the people's fear is beginning to abate, and they expect
people to attend the Saturday march. Both sides have publicly
stated their marches are peaceful, but both sides also appear to be
preparing for other scenarios. It is widely expected that the FSLN
will use the makeshift weapons and former gang members it has
employed in the past. In attempts to encourage its own turnout,
opposition leaders have publicly stated that they will respond in
kind to any acts of violence from the FSLN. In private, members of
the opposition have told us that their people will be armed with
the same tools the FSLN usually carries - namely sling shots,
improvised hand-held projectile devices ("morteros"), and other
makeshift weapons. The likelihood of violence increased when the
police publicly stated that the use of "morteros" (illegal under
Nicaraguan law) would be permitted. The UCD quickly responded
asking the police to ban these weapons, as they have inflicted
injuries and damage in past marches.

6. (C) Given the past violence and this heightened tension,
religious and private sector leaders have called for peaceful
marches on November 21. In a joint letter to President Ortega, the
presidents of the Higher Council of the Private Sector (COSEP) and
the American-Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) advised Ortega
that it was in his hands to avoid confrontations at the marches and
that past violence had only negatively affected private investment.
Nicaragua's Conference of Bishops issued a statement November 18,
in which it expressed its concern over the threats to fundamental
freedoms such as the freedom of expression and assembly. The
bishops then called on Ortega and other political leaders to reject
and condemn any attempts to repress the freedom of expression and
assembly. Evangelical leaders have made similar calls for
peaceful, nonviolent marches.

Police on the Spot

7. (C) On November 21, Police Commissioner Aminta Granera and her
institution will be put to the test. Given their recent track

MANAGUA 00001091 003.2 OF 003


record of passivity in protecting people's basic rights and
freedoms (ref D), Granera has very publicly taken the lead of the
institution's efforts to ensure a peaceful November 21. Appearing
to have conceded to the FSLN's march plans (despite being
subsequent to the UCD march plans), Granera was publicly criticized
for asking the UCD to change its route for November 21. In a
November 18 press conference, the commissioner and her senior staff
presented the police's plan for the day of the marches. They
discussed the two routes for the marches, explained that the police
would serve as buffers at certain points throughout the march, and
stated that the police would provide security to those traveling
from outside Managua. Publicly the organizers of the UCD march
have stated they place their trust in the commissioner, but many
doubts persist on whether or not the police will function
effectively the day of the marches. While Granera might wish to
avoid violence, questions remain as to how much control she has
over her own institution. One security analyst said that within
the police there is a corporate mentality to obey the political
directives of the FSLN - i.e., Ortega and not Granera.

Comment

8. (C) The FSLN violence over the past year has for the most part
been effective for the governing party in that people are not
likely to publicly protest against the government. However,
people's fears are increasingly dissipating and they more regularly
speak of "an eye for an eye." This combined with the increased
rhetoric from both sides in the lead-up to the November 21 marches
and the police's decision to allow "morteros" has placed a blanket
of uncertainty (and insecurity) over the events of November 21. A
big factor in what actually happens will be the ability for UCD
marchers to reach Managua from other departments. Police
Commissioner Granera's public statements and visible role in the
days ahead of the march also make clear that Saturday will be a
clear test for her and her institution. While the likelihood for
violence is high on November 21, Nicaragua is always full of
surprises and anything can happen - even a peaceful march.
CALLAHAN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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