Cablegate: Scenesetter for Secdef Rumsfeld

Published: Fri 22 Sep 2006 04:44 PM
DE RUEHMU #2093/01 2651644
P 221644Z SEP 06
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (U) SUMMARY: Post welcomes the Secretary of Defense,
the Honorable Donald Rumsfeld, to Nicaragua for attendance
at the Seventh Defense Ministerial of the Americas. In
conjunction with the Office of the Secretary of Defense,
the Minister of Defense of Nicaragua and the United States
Defense Attachi Office, Managua, an agenda has been
developed which addresses regional interests, especially as
they pertain to regional security and stability, upcoming
elections with major political parties, professionalization
of the Nicaraguan Military and status of the Man Portable
Air Defense Systems which the Nicaraguan Armed Forces
currently maintain. This scenesetter offers military
political, and election 2006 overviews. Planned SecDef
activities and itineraries have been coordinated under
separate cover. This cable is organized as follows:
- Military Background
- Political Background
- The 2006 Elections
Military Background
2. (U) Formed from the cadres of the 1970Qs revolutionary
phase, the Nicaraguan Armed Forces are based in the
Sandinista Revolution. All of the senior military officers
have their roots in this time period. The last two Chiefs
of the Armed Forces have focused their tenures on the
professionalization of their forces. The issue of
Nicaraguan ownership of thousands of Man Portable Air
Defense Systems (MANPADS) has been an overarching National
Security issue with the USG in terms of limiting, reducing
and, eventually, completely eliminating their stocks of
these weapon systems. While early progress was made with
1000 being destroyed between May and November of 2004, the
goal of achieving 80% reduction of these stocks by the end
of 2005 has fallen woefully short, due in large part to the
passage of Law 510 by the National Assembly that any
further destructions must be initiated and approved by 2/3
(supermajority) of the Nicaraguan National Assembly. In
March of 2005 progress was made in the form of an amendment
to Article 139 of Law 510 which changed this vote from 2/3
approval to one of a simple majority.
3. (U) In 1979 the Sandinista National Reconstruction
Government, with the approval of Violeta Chamorro and
Daniel Ortega, expropriated in excess of 60 properties
which were owned by citizens of the United States, Many of
these properties were turned over to the Nicaraguan Armed
Forces for the military to use as they saw fit. This usage
ranged from office spaces to private homes for active and
retired General Officers. To date more than 20 properties
have either been returned to their original owners, or the
owners have been compensated in some manner for the
property. Approximately 36 properties remain under dispute
and in the hands of the Nicaraguan Armed Forces.
4. (U) It is recommended that the following issues be
raised both with Minister of Defense Avil Rammrez Valdivia
and Army Chief (CHOD) General Moises Omar Halleslevens
A. Efforts to improve civilian-military relations and
civilian control over the military are appreciated and are
to be commended.
B. The USG looks forward to the next destruction of
MANPADS. The USG is pleased to note that the National
Assembly, while requiring a vote to continue destruction,
restructured the passage process to only require a simple
majority (47 of 90 deputies) rather than a supermajority
(56 of 90 deputies) of the Assembly.
C. The GON has presented its MANPADS destruction as a good
faith effort towards regional arms limitation through SICA
(the Central American Integration Secretariat). USG
supports this effort and applauds efforts to promote a
Central American security strategy towards regional
security threats, especially terrorism and illegal
trafficking in persons and narcotics. The USG realizes
that these cooperative regional efforts will require
continuing support from the United States.
D. The situation involving the property rights of more
than 30 United States citizens whose properties were
confiscated and are being held by the Nicaraguan Army
continues to be of concern to the USG. Steps must be taken
to settle these claims as quickly and equitably as
5. (U) It is expected that the Nicaraguans will raise the
following issues:
MANAGUA 00002093 002 OF 003
A. Greater U.S. financial assistance for the Nicaraguan
military. It is suggested that any answer be couched in
terms of acknowledging the challenges facing the country
and the region, but expecting the destruction of MANPADS to
move forward (this last piece may be OBE if the National
Assembly votes for destruction during the September
B. USG to exert pressure on the Government of Honduras to
destroy its F-5 bomb racks as part of the SICA Arms
Limitation Initiative, which would help Bolaqos maintain
support for the destruction of NicaraguaQs MANPADS.
C. CFAC (Conferencia de Fuerzas Armadas-Armed Force
Conference) has been regarded as the mechanism for regional
cooperation, but has limitations. GON is concerned that it
is a military organization and minimizes civilian
participation, as well as the fact that it excludes Costa
Rica, Belize, and Panama. It is suggested that any
response acknowledge the importance of CFAC as it pertains
to regional stability and cooperation, understanding that
civilian oversight and transparency with regional alliances
is a relatively new concept which will take time, effort
and patience to resolve. The countries which are excluded
are so owing to the fact that none of these countries have
standing militaries, yet still face the same threats that
menace the region as a whole, and as such these countries
should be encouraged to participate.
Political Background
6. (U) Since the inception of democratic rule in Nicaragua
in 1990, political power has been contested between two
majority forces: the Liberals on the right, and the
Sandinistas on the left. The civil war and economic
mismanagement in the 1980s, and the Sandinista giveaway of
government property to party leaders in 1990 (the
"pinata"), turned a significant majority of the population
against the Sandinista Front (FSLN), preventing the FSLN
from winning national elections in 1990, 1996 and 2001.
7. (U) Nicaragua's opposition forces came together under
the United National Opposition (UNO) to win the 1990
elections, but soon splintered apart. The Liberal
Constitutional Party (PLC) emerged as the dominant Anti-
Sandinista force.
8. (U) Discontent grew within the FSLN after the 1990
"pinata" of FSLN leader Daniel Ortega and Ortega's
continued electoral defeats during that decade. Some
leftist elements broke away from the FSLN during this
period, most notably the Sandinista Renovation Movement
(MRS) under the leadership of revolutionary activist Dora
Maria Tellez.
9. (U) The PLC and Arnoldo Aleman emerged victorious in
the 1996 national elections, but were unable to gain a
supermajority in the National Assembly, which would have
allowed the party to name Supreme Electoral Council (CSE)
and Supreme Court (CSJ) magistrates without Sandinista
votes. This situation led to a political pact between the
PLC and FSLN to divide control of the institutions of
government between the two parties, which has continued to
the present time.
10. (U) Before the 2001 election, the PLC was able to
bring most of the smaller democratic parties into an
alliance. Aleman personally selected Enrique Bolanos as the
alliance's presidential candidate as well as many of the
National Assembly and Central American Parliament deputy
candidates. Bolanos won the election and instituted an
anti-corruption campaign.
11. (U) In 2003, Aleman, who pilfered tens of millions of
dollars from state coffers, was convicted of fraud and
money laundering, stripped of his parliamentary immunity
and sentenced to 20 years in prison. This process caused a
great upheaval in the Liberal ranks and when the dust
settled, a small number of Liberal and Conservative
deputies broke from the PLC alliance to form a new
political caucus to support Bolanos, but the vast majority
remained loyal to Aleman. The disaffected Conservatives and
Liberals, unhappy with Aleman's continued influence in the
PLC, formed the Alliance for the Republic (APRE), a party
loyal to and supported by the Bolanos administration.
12. (U) Ortega manipulated the pact with the PLC and
Sandinista control of the judiciary to allow greater
degrees of freedom for Aleman in exchange for concessions
to the FSLN in the CSE and CSJ. He is now allowed to move
about Managua freely under Qmedical paroleQ.
MANAGUA 00002093 003 OF 003
13. (U) Having won comfortable majorities since 1990, the
Liberals lost badly in the 2004 municipal elections. The
Sandinistas won 88 of 152 municipalities, the PLC 58, APRE
five, and the PRN one. The Sandinistas claimed victory
with a plurality of the vote in most of their 88
municipalities, with the PLC, APRE and other minor parties
dividing the anti-Sandinista vote.
The 2006 Elections
14. (U) Three candidates emerged in 2005 to challenge the
Aleman-Ortega pact. Excluded from the majority parties by
the two caudillos, Sandinista dissident Herty Lewites broke
from the FSLN to head the MRS ticket, and Liberal dissident
Eduardo Montealegre formed the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance
(ALN) out of PLC dissidents, the PC, PRN, and other small
democratic parties. PLC outcast and prominent Bolanos
Administration official Jose Antonio Alvarado ran as the
APRE candidate.
15. (U) The Christian Alternative (AC) party left
Lewites' alliance, changed its name to Alternative for
Change and chose the erratic Eden Pastora as its
presidential candidate. Jose Antonio Alvarado became Jose
Rizo's running mate in the PLC, but APRE joined the ALN.
16. (U) The political upheaval did not end in May -- MRS
candidate Lewites died from heart complications in early
July. Lewites' running mate Edmundo Jarquin assumed the
candidacy and MRS leadership convinced popular Sandinista
revolutionary songwriter Carlos Mejia Godoy to accept the
vice presidential nomination. Despite predictions among
some pundits that MRS votes would migrate to the FSLN, or
perhaps the ALN, JarquinQs poll numbers remain similar to
LewitesQ. However, the shift of Liberal politicians back
and forth between the PLC and ALN, depending on their
calculation of personal benefit, continues
17. (U) The bad blood caused by the ongoing PLC smear
campaign and RizoQs insistence on remaining a Presidential
candidate, make a union of the liberal parties increasingly
unlikely. With the Sandinistas also divided into two
parties, it appears there will be five candidates on
November 5.
18. (U) The latest CID-Gallup-sponsored official poll
released at the end of August showed the following results
for the parties:
FSLN: 29%
ALN: 23%
PLC: 14%
MRS: 14%
AC: 1%
None: 19%
19. (U) As with earlier polls, the CID-Gallup poll showed
that the FSLN would lose in a second round and the ALN
would be the likely winner. Thus the FSLN is focusing all
its efforts on a first round victory by leveraging a pact-
inspired change in the Electoral Law that enables a front-
running candidate to win the election in the first round
with only 35 percent if there is a five percent lead over
the next most popular contender.
20. (U) On September 13, CNN and Channel 2 co-sponsored a
presidential debate featuring Montealegre, Rizo, Jarquin
and Pastora. Daniel Ortega did not participate, declaring
the debate format "artificial." According to M and R,
113,000 households in Managua watched the debate and
Jarquin was perceived as the winner, followed by
Montealegre. Jarquin, about whom there were initial doubts
because he lacks LewitesQ charisma, continues to perform
well and draw voters from both the FSLN and ALN.
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