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Cablegate: Tfha01: Ambassador Protests Ortega Haiti Statement

VZCZCXRO8612
RR RUEHAO RUEHCD RUEHHO RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS
DE RUEHMU #0049/01 0262231
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 262231Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0574
INFO WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAGUA 000049

SIPDIS
AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN PASS TO AMEMBASSY GRENADA
AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PASS TO AMCONSUL QUEBEC
AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PASS TO AMCONSUL RECIFE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/01/26
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS EAID OAS HA NU
SUBJECT: TFHA01: AMBASSADOR PROTESTS ORTEGA HAITI STATEMENT

REF: A) MANAGUA 158

CLASSIFIED BY: Robert J. Callahan, Ambassador; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (C ) Summary: At a January 25 meeting with Foreign Minister
Samuel Santos the Ambassador protested President Daniel Ortega's
willful mischaracterization of U.S. humanitarian efforts in Haiti
as a military occupation. He said that such statements have been
noticed in Washington and are damaging to bilateral relations.
For his part Santos questioned the need for "so many troops" in
Haiti and suggested that the main obstacle to good relations is USG
"interference" in Nicaragua (i.e. criticism of electoral fraud).
The Ambassador has explained our role in Haiti to the media and
criticized those who seek to politicize a humanitarian crisis.
Ortega surrogates (including First Lady Rosario Murillo) have
repeated his line; we expect they will continue to do so. End
Summary.

2. (C ) On January 25, the Ambassador met with Foreign Minister
Samuel Santos to discuss President Daniel Ortega's assertion
(reftel) that U.S. operations in Haiti are aimed at "occupying"
that country. The Ambassador was accompanied by the DCM, Santos by
MFA Director General for the Americas Orlando Gomez. The
Ambassador stated that Ortega's comment had no basis in fact, and
that U.S. military had unique capabilities which were needed given
the massive scale of the disaster. He noted the U.S. military's
role in reopening Port-au-Prince's Airport, the use of helicopters
to bring in supplies, and the work of U.S. soldiers in distributing
food to key points. He also mentioned the presence of the USNS
Comfort, the massive hospital ship which twice before has provided
medical attention in Nicaragua, and should be well known to the
GON.

3. (C ) The Ambassador described the assertions of a U.S. desire
to take over Haiti as "absurd," saying that there was no strategic
interest which would warrant such a step and that our motivations
were purely humanitarian. Ortega's comment had been found
offensive by the most senior members of the USG, and, in fact, the
Secretary of State had raised it with the ambassadors during the
recently concluded Western Hemisphere Chiefs of Mission Conference.
He asked that Santos convey USG concerns directly to Ortega. Such
statements, he added, further complicate bilateral relations, which
are not good.

4. (C) Santos promised to report our concerns, but then made an
effort to defend Ortega's statement. "Why are there so many
troops? Why aren't they under the control of the 'Blue Helmets'
(MINUSTAH)?" He added that he had returned from the Latin
America-Asia Economic Cooperation Forum (FOCALAE) in Tokyo and that
other (unnamed) nations shared Nicaragua's concerns. He agreed
that bilateral relations were not good, but said that he always
tries to suggest publicly that they are, and urged the USG to do
the same.

5. (C) The principal bilateral problem, he claimed, was USG
interference in Nicaragua's internal affairs (i.e. our complaints
about electoral fraud in the November 2008 municipal elections),
and sought, as he had in previous occasions, to argue that
statistics proved increasing support for the FSLN in successive
electoral events. While declining the opportunity to revisit GON
arguments regarding the elections, which had been criticized not
only by the USG, but by the EU and member states, the Catholic
Church and international and domestic NGOs, the Ambassador said
that we were still waiting for the National Electoral Council to
actually publish detailed electoral results as Nicaraguan law
requires. Gomez at that point jumped in, suggesting that it had
become a matter of sovereignty and that Nicaraguan electoral
authorities would never publish results simply because the USG was
demanding them.

6. (C) The Ambassador reiterated that Ortega's comments were
offensive and damaging to the bilateral relationship. He said that
a senior USG delegation was planning to attend the Nicaraguan
Army's change of command ceremony on February 21, and warned that
if President Ortega repeated false accusations regarding Haiti it
would have no choice but to walk out. When Santos and Gomez
suggested that this was a threat, the Ambassador said that in the
interests of maintaining decent relations, he had felt obligated to
give them advance warning. Santos agreed to pass this message on
to Ortega.

7. (C) At a press encounter earlier that day, the Ambassador took
the opportunity to praise the Nicaraguan military presence in Haiti
(search and rescue and medical) and to describe the U.S.-led
international humanitarian effort there effort there. He said that
was "sad that some persons take advantage of this to play politics
regarding U.S. actions." The Ambassador's comments were
extensively reported in print and electronic media.

8. (C) Comment: The effort in Haiti simply does not fit with the
GON's preferred portrait of the U.S. as a heartless, interfering,
capitalist monster. We can expect that GON spokesmen will stick
to their talking points no matter how far they vary from reality.
They have already been re-used by First Lady Rosario Murillo, FSLN
international affairs chief Jacinto Suarez, and Nicaraguan
Ambassador to the United Nations Maria Rubiales
CALLAHAN

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