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Cablegate: Nicaragua: Gon Promises Better Progress On Claims Under Government Control

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #1166/01 3171722
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131721Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0131
INFO WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS MANAGUA 001166

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINV ECON KIDE NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA: GON PROMISES BETTER PROGRESS ON CLAIMS UNDER GOVERNMENT CONTROL

REF: MANAGUA 1090; 02 MANAGUA 877; MANAGUA 953; MANAGUA 643 08 MANAGUA 1546; MANAGUA 1052

SUMMARY

----------------

1. (SBU) During the October Property Working Group Meeting on November 5, Government of Nicaragua (GON) officials promised better progress on U.S. claims under government control, including the Nicaraguan Army, during this waiver period. They agreed to meet with claimants to provide clear, detailed explanations on how the government determined settlement offers and stated that the GON is committed to resolving "legitimate U.S. claims" despite budget cuts. OffQals pressed Econoff to remove claims that either lacked documentation or were not filed with the GON. They expressed their support for a second bilateral review in December 2009 or January 2010, depending on the schedule of Attorney General Hernan Estrada. During Estrada's visit to Washington in December, he will seek to demonstrate to Washington officials that the GON is making significant progress on settling claims in an effort to convince them to establish a bilateral commission to conclude the Section 527 process.

PROMISES TO ADVANCE GOV'T-CONTROLLED CLAIMS

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2. (SBU) On November 5, Econoff held the October monthly Property Working Group meeting with Ruth Zapata, Head of the Office of Assessment and Quantification (OCI); Jeanette Garcia, President of the National Confiscations Review Commission (CNRC); Magally Bravo, the Attorney General????s Executive Coordinator for Property Issues; Alfonso Solorzano, CNRC member; and Rebeca Zuniga, Coordinator of the Office of U.S. Citizen Claims. The meeting was scheduled for October 30, but postponed until November 5 because of the attacks against the Embassy by Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) supporters (Ref A). Zapata asserted that the GON is working diligently to resolve U.S. citizen claims, especially those under the control of the government and the Nicaraguan Army. She stated that the GON plans to resolve 33 claims under government control, including the case of U.S. citizen Juan Barreto, whose 28 properties are under control of the Nicaraguan Army (Ref B), during this waiver period. Zuniga added that the Attorney General's Office should have a settlement offer ready for Mr. Barreto in 2-3 weeks.

CLEAR EXPLANATION OF SETTLEMENT OFFERS

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3. (SBU) Econoff urged GON officials to provide clear, detailed explantions of settlement offers to claimants who question the appraisal process. He stated that the lack of transparency in the settlement process undermines our joint efforts to work with claimants. He noted that neither settlement offers (finiquitos) nor rulings on appeals provide an explanation of how the GON determines compensation. Econoff reminded them that the USG considers a claim resolved when a claimant determines that he/she has received adequate and effective compensation. He emphasized that even if the GON publishes a claim in the Official Gazette, deposits indemnification bonds in an escrow account, and declares that the case is closed, the USG will not recognize the claim as resolved until the claimant agrees to accept the compensation offer. Zuniga agreed to meet with U.S. claimants to explain the settlement offers. She suggested that the Embassy Property Office prepare a list of claimants who want to meet with her to dicuss the government's Qfers.

DISMISSING CLAIMS FOR ADMINISTRATIVE REASONS


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4. (SBU) CNRC President Garcia pressed Econoff to remove claims
from the Property Office database because they either lack proof of
ownership and/or confiscation, or those cases were never filed with
the CNRC (Ref C). Econoff said that claimants were reviewing their
files to find documents that demonstrated the legitimacy of their
claims. He noted that on October 27 the Ambassador wrote to
Attorney General Estrada to provide him with information on the
Property Office's efforts to contact claimants. He asked GON
officials to provide more time as claimants continue searching for
their documents.

GON TO ADVANCE CLAIMS DESPITE BUDGET WOES

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5. (SBU) Zapata told Econoff that the GON remains committed to
resolving "legitimate" U.S. citizen property claims despite the
Nicaraguan government's budget woes (Ref D). She complained that
compensating claimants is a financial burden for the government and
takes away funding for projects that would help Nicaragua's
socioeconomic development.

2009 BILATERAL REVIEW

---------------------------------------

6. (SBU) GON officials welcomed a second bilateral review in
December or January 2010 (Ref E). They opined that the 2008
bilateral review was productive because it allowed the GON to
explain Nicaraguan law and government policies, and promoted frank
and honest discussion on issues of concern to both sides. Zuniga
cautioned that Attorney General Hernan Estrada had already planned
to travel to Washington the week of December 14 to attend
previously scheduled meetings and he would be unable to host the
consultations in Managua on December 16-17. She asserted that
Estrada will participate in the bilateral review depending on his
schedule. Econoff reminded officials that the bilateral review is
one of the benchmarks that the USG evaluates when determining
whether to grant Nicaragua a Section 527 waiver. [Note: On
November 10, Attorney General Estrada told the Ambassador that he
will host the bilateral review on February 24-25, 2010. End Note]


COMMENT

----------------

7. (SBU) During the Working Group meeting, GON officials mentioned
repeatedly that they were making every effort to resolve U.S.
citizen claims. We sense that they are under pressure from
Attorney General Estrada to resolve claims, especially those
related to Section 527 benchmarks, before his trip to Washington in
December. During this visit, we believe that Estrada will seek to
demonstrate to us that his government is making significant
progress in settling claims. Instead of addressing issues of
concern for U.S. claimants (Ref F), he will want to discuss only
his agenda, such as seeking the creation of a bilateral commission
to review pending U.S. citizen claims and determine final
compensation for them as a way to conclude Nicaragua's Section 527
obligation.
CALLAHAN

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