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Cablegate: Nicaragua - Fsln Social Programs Politicized and Failing

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O 112213Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0265
INFO RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE
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RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MANAGUA 001318

SIPDIS
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN
DEPT FOR INR/IAA
DEPT FOR PRM RMACKLER
STATE FOR USOAS
STATE PASS TO USAID/LAC
STATE PASS TO MCC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SOCI PHUM EAID ELAB IADB VE NU
SUBJECT: NICARAGUA - FSLN SOCIAL PROGRAMS POLITICIZED AND FAILING

REF: 2009 MANAGUA 1128 - NICARAGUA'S ECONOMIC DECLINE
2009 MANAGUA 859 - REGIONAL ELECTIONS
2009 MANAGUA 853 - FIRINGS AT THE FAMILY MINISTRY
2009 MANAGUA 84 - ON THE EVE OF RAAN ELECTIONS
2008 MANAGUA 1357 - DOL CHILD LABOR PROGRAM HIJACKED

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: As the third year of President Ortega's
five-year terms ends, many of his party's much-heralded social
welfare programs to fight child labor, hunger and improve education
are failing to live up to GON rhetoric. First Lady Rosario
Murillo's auspicious Programa Amor ("Program of Love") to end child
labor in the streets of Managua [after more than two years] offers
no concrete evidence that its objectives have been reached (see
Reftel C and E). The GON flagship program to reduce hunger in the
country, Hambre Cero ("Zero Hunger"), is reportedly unable to "lift
its head out of water" and only offers assistance to loyal party
members and during elections (see Reftel D). Even education
curriculum reforms have been politicized. These programs' failures
to improve conditions in the country are emblematic of the partisan
management of the country's social welfare system. END SUMMARY

PROGRAMA AMOR IN THE NEWS FOR THE WRONG REASONS

2. (U) First Lady Rosario Murillo's Programa Amor ("Program of
Love"), inaugurated in 2007, was designed to reintegrate abandoned
children back into society through educational and social projects
focused on extended family networks. Recently, the La Prensa
newspaper (national daily, right-of-center) featured two articles
critical of Murillo's social program which was heralded by the GON
as the best solution to removing abandoned, mistreated children
from the streets and tending to their needs more effectively. To
date, there is no concrete evidence that the general objectives set
forth for Programa Amor have been achieved; moreover, the NGOs and
human rights organizations interviewed by La Prensa declared that
Programa Amor was ill-conceived and not allotted the necessary
resources for success, despite Murillo's direct involvement.

3. (SBU) Reports from sources inside the Ministry of Family
(MiFamilia), which is the institution responsible for carrying out
Programa Amor, state that the GON's plan was to remove children
from government-run shelters and send them back to their families
through the "family recourse" initiative. Embassy sources that
work in the sector confirmed that the GON currently takes in kids
during the day for "education" at their shelters, but sends them
"home" in the evening, which frequently results in children seeking
shelter at night. The government-run shelters suffered budgetary
cutbacks and the elimination of funds as the program progressed.
The GON's argument for eliminating these government-run shelters
was that the "right" of a child to grow up within a family
structure had to be reinstated. However, NGOs argue that if
conditions in the home caused a child to be placed in shelters in
the first place, eliminating shelters and forcing children to
return to abusive conditions would actually be counterproductive.

A COMBINATION OF BUDGET CUTS & MISMANAGEMENT HURTS PROGRAMA AMOR

4. (U) According to the GON's own figures, the percentage of the
MiFamilia budget destined for assistance services and social
protection was 15% in 2009 compared to 44.3% in 2005, during the
previous administration. When Programa Amor was announced, it
envisioned a national network of social workers who would work with
at-risk children to encourage school participation and discourage
drop-outs, as well as assist parents to find better employment.
Critics point out that the interagency coordination required for

MANAGUA 00001318 002 OF 003


such an effort does not exist and resources are not allocated
despite the GON rhetoric to the contrary. Adelaida Sanchez from
the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) said that "no
resources were assigned, [neither] economic nor human... [and] that
there would be an inter-institutional committee (to oversee the
program), but when we asked the Social Security Institute (INSS)
for an example, they knew nothing..." In August 2009 the GON
purged most experienced MiFamilia officials, particularly those in
the adoption and child protective services division, replacing them
with FSLN militants (see Reftel C). New MiFamilia officials have
been generally evasive when discussing Programa Amor with Embassy
Consular officials. They defended the Ministry, claiming that it
was working hard to make Programa Amor run well, and that La Prensa
was spreading false rumors about closed shelters. However, they
did confirm that budget cuts (see Reftel A) in social spending had
affected the amount of funding that they were able to provide to
government-run children shelters.

MAYBE Hambre Cero ONLY WORKS DURING ELECTION YEARS...

5. (SBU) The Hambre Cero ("Zero Hunger") program, one of the key
populist/social programs launched by President Ortega in 2007 to
alleviate hunger in the country, will spend a mere 9% of its budget
this year, according to the latest Ministry of Finance report. In
principle, the program strives to help 14,000 rural families each
year by providing seeds, farm animals (pigs, chickens, cows) and
farming instruments to encourage food security in the country's
poorest regions. In practice, critics say the Hambre Cero aid has
been given to reward loyalty of FSLN supporters, or worse, to buy
votes in the run-up to elections (see Reftel D). Indeed, critics
say that the program is partisan to its core - Citizen Power
Councils (CPCs), which are FSLN community councils controlled by
Murillo, select program participants. Once selected, participants
receive a one-time transfer of agricultural inputs (valued between
$US 1,500 and $US 2,500), but no technical assistance to improve
productivity. In short, the Hambre Cero assistance serves to
perpetuate rather than break the cycle of rural poverty because it
does not train the beneficiaries, but rather gives them a free
hand-out.

6. (SBU) By the end of September 2009, a non-election year, Hambre
Cero had spent approximately 13.6 million c????rdobas ($US 680,000)
or
9.7% of its 2009 budget of 140 million c????rdobas ($US 7 million).
Included in Hambre Cero's budget are $US 5 million in funding from
the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) as well as funds from
Taiwan and ALBA/Venezuela. Despite the current year's
under-spending, the GON proposed increasing the 2010 Hambre Cero
budget by more than 50% or 88.7 million cordobas ($US 4.4 million)
for a total budget of 228 million cordobas ($US 11.4 million).
Meanwhile the Ministry of Agriculture (MAGFOR), which carries out
the Hambre Cero program, would suffer a general reduction of its
2010 budget (see reftel A). The increase in Hambre Cero funding
happens to coincide with the 2010 regional elections on the
Atlantic Coast (see reftel B) and the run-up to the 2011 national
presidential elections.

POLITICIZED EDUCATION REFORMS

7. (U) In 2007 the GON sought to reform the country's education
sector and eliminated ad hoc fees to attend public schools. This
had a positive impact on increasing school enrollment during the
first two years of the Ortega Administration - changes that were
praised both by national and international NGOs. However, proposed

MANAGUA 00001318 003 OF 003


reforms to the curriculum now have drawn criticism by these same
groups, who complain that the new changes would be political in
nature because the Ministry of Education (MinEd) would not involve
civil society in the process. MinEd is collaborating only with the
Sandinista Youth Movement in its development of the new 10-year
education plan. Minister of Education Miguel de Castillo recently
told the press that "we do not need to ask for [outside] support,
we already have the participation of the citizens [Sandinista Youth
Movement] with whom we will construct the 10-year plan."
Criticisms of the GON's highly touted illiteracy eradication
campaign will be reported SEPTEL.

COMMENT

8. (SBU) Given Nicaragua's position as the second poorest country
in the Western Hemisphere, minimal investment in GON populist
programs such as Programa Amor, Hambre Cero and education reform
should make an enormous difference in the lives of all Nicaraguans
to eliminate child labor, improve food security in rural areas, and
foster greater access to education. Instead, the 2008 municipal
election fraud deliberately perpetrated by the FSLN has caused the
domino effect of significantly reducing foreign assistance and
budgetary support, which in turn has led to major budget cuts to
the GON's key social welfare programs. In an environment of scarce
resources and political consolidation, these programs have turned
into mechanisms for party proselytizing and rewarding political
loyalty. In short, the ambitious FSLN social programs are
politicized and failing to help all Nicaraguans equally, despite
the vociferous rhetoric of the GON public relations campaign run by
First Lady Murillo.
CALLAHAN

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