Cablegate: Plc Municipal Officals Frustrated with Party

Published: Tue 19 Sep 2006 07:45 PM
DE RUEHMU #2062/01 2621945
P 191945Z SEP 06
C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 002062
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/17/2026
Classified By: Ambassador Paul A. Trivelli. Reasons 1.4 (B,D).
1.(C) Summary: In a recent meeting with the Ambassador
and polcouns, a group of mayors and vice mayors from the
Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC) expressed their
frustration with Arnoldo Aleman's continued dominance of
their party and the current division of the center right.
The local politicians complained of poor treatment at the
hands of Aleman and his advisers, noting that those who
step out of line or challenge Aleman are being threatened
and persecuted. To some, the PLC's use of heavyhanded
tactics has caused them to lose respect for the PLC
leadership. The Ambassador supported their willingness to
risk losing the support of their party to defend democracy,
and suggested that those who feel personally threatened
should file complaints with Nicaragua's Permanent Human
Rights Commission (CPDH). The politicians differed over
how to work within the PLC to reduce Aleman's influence --
some advocating for a complete break with the party and
all-out support for Eduardo Montealegre, others still
holding out hope that the PLC is salvageable. End Summary.
Mayors Offer Gloom and Doom Forecast for Ortega Presidency
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2. (C) During a 13 September meeting, a group of PLC
mayors and deputy mayors discussed their concerns about a
potential victory by Daniel Ortega in November's election,
and deliberated the possibilities of uniting the center
right parties. The politicians were unanimous in their
frustration with Ortega's top-ranking poll position and
complained that the determination of the Nicaraguan Liberal
Alliance (ALN) and PLC to field opposing candidates accords
Ortega the opportunity to outpace his competitors. They
noted that Ortega, on the other hand, has largely remained
free of public entanglements with opponents, presents a
consistent and coherent message, and enjoys the backing of
highly disciplined supporters. The officials agreed that
they are more concerned about Ortega's chances in this
election than in previous ones because this is the most
divided his opponents have been. One mayor criticized the
Right for not doing enough to highlight the negative
effects of the Sandinista government of the 1980s, and said
that young people were generally unaware of FSLN misdeeds
during that time. They stated that, if victorious, Ortega
would take steps to solidify his political position,
including by further manipulating the electoral code in his
3. (C) The mayors also cited several problems with the ALN
and Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS). Several among
the group noted that the ALN is struggling to make inroads
in some areas because the inclusion of the Conservatives in
Montealegre's alliance alienates many due to longstanding
resentment toward that party.
They noted that while the MRS ostensibly provides voters
with a leftist alternative, in reality the party is only
weakly represented throughout the country.
Upset With PLC Leadership. . .
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4. (C) The officials complained about Aleman's continued
dominance over the PLC and generally agreed that his
continued association with the party hurts its image. Many
of those present voiced their discontent with the way that
they have been treated by Aleman and other party leaders.
They noted that PLC members who step out of line or
challenge Aleman are persecuted. One politician explained
how the PLC often imposes additional bureaucratic obstacles
to make life more difficult for those deemed insufficiently
loyal; others suspect some of their Alemanista subordinates
of acting as snitches. Several of the politicians
commented that they received only minimal financial support
from the party and at times have had to leverage their own
resources to fund their campaigns. One mayor noted that
during one campaign he had to mortgage his mother's house
and the PLC never repaid him for his expenses. These
heavyhanded tactics have soured their perceptions of PLC
leadership. The Ambassador suggested that those who felt
personally threatened file complaints with the CPDH.
. . . But Divided Over Solutions
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5. (C) Although nearly unanimous in their opposition to
Aleman and frustration over the ALN-PLC division, the
officials differed in how best to overcome these
obstacles. Some among the group advocated a break with the
party and all-out support for Eduardo Montealegre. Others,
however, favored redoubling efforts to change the party
from within. Most of the politicians saw unification of
the ALN and PLC as the best way to reduce Aleman's power
and defeat Ortega in the elections. Nevertheless, none of
the officials proposed a detailed vision of what a unified
center-right might look like (i.e. under Rizo or
Montealegre). Some appeared to assume that the PLC will
remain the flagship of the Right. While the Ambassador
warned that a PLC still affiliated with Aleman is
undemocratic, members of the group hesitated to challenge
the caudillo. Some claimed that the absence of Aleman and
his family members from recent rallies and other functions
already shows his willingness to diminish his presence.
One official made the dubious claim that a united front
between Rizo, Jose Antonio Alvarado, and Montealegre would
increase the odds of dealing with Aleman after the
election, as all three have previously challenged the
caudillo. (Comment: Throughout his political career,
Aleman has deftly played people against each other. Aleman
would stand a good chance of political survival by doing
this with the members of any alliance that did not first
agree to marginalize him. End comment.)
Rizo Cannot Tackle Aleman
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6. (C) In the absence of a strong and clearly defined
proposal to clean out the PLC ahead of the elections, the
Ambassador made a clear case for taking such steps
earlier rather than later. He drove home the point of the
continued existence of the pact between the PLC and FSLN by
pointing out that Aleman has recently praised the FSLN
mayor of Managua and that Aleman's godfather is Ortega's
running mate. The Ambassador also pointed out that the
choice of Rizo as a candidate demonstrates Aleman's
continued grip on power. Rizo has been unable to deliver
on his promises to marginalize Aleman, which raises
questions of his committment and/or ability to clean up
the party. In addition, Rizo is politically weak. Poll
after poll shows that he remains a significant distance
behind Montealegre, and some polls even show that he may be
hardpressed to defeat Ortega in the event of a second round
between the two of them. The Ambassador underlined that a
race between Rizo and Ortega does not offer voters a
democratic option, but is rather "a choice between
Keep Up the Good Fight
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7. (C) The politicians concluded the meeting by
reaffirming their committment to pushing for a freer PLC
and sought clarification on what the Embassy could to to
support them. Citing their tough political situations,
several sought help with visa assistance, while others
expressed interest in receiving financial aid to assist
with campaign and organizational expenses. The Ambassador
praised the officials for their steadfastness to their
cause, reassuring them that their actions are important for
promoting healthier democracy in Nicaragua. He redirected
visa inquiries to the consular section, and promised that
the Embassy will continue to strongly support the mayors'
efforts to clean the PLC of its corrupt elements. He also
promised to explore the possibility of providing limited
monetary support for small projects in specific
8. (C) Comment: The mayors' committment to clean up the
PLC's act is commendable, but the movement appears limited
by its size and lack of focus. The mayors indicated that
they had formed an association called Alcaldes Patrioticos
(Patriotic Mayors), but one noted that the body had only 16
members of which only a few are willing to take a more
active role. They are further constrained by a lack of an
overarching agreement over whether it is best to leave the
PLC or reform it from within. Many seem hesitant to break
with the party -- one mayor was late in arriving for the
meeting as he had first decided to stop by PLC
headquarters. The mayors have requested a follow up
meeting with the Ambassador to include additional
politicians who are dissaffected with Aleman's control of
the party. End Comment.
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