INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Kill the Messenger: A Case Study in Fsln Political Tactics

Published: Mon 21 Dec 2009 07:38 PM
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SUBJECT: Kill the Messenger: A Case Study in FSLN Political Tactics
CLASSIFIED BY: RobertJCallahan, Ambassador, State, Embassy Managua; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)
1. (C) Summary: Since President Daniel Ortega entered office in
2007, his Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) party has
attacked its political opponents as well as those within its party
structure it views as opposition. The latest examples of this are
a Managua city councilmember and the water regulatory agency's
consumer division chief. The councilmember was politically
attacked for his constant criticism of and demand for transparency
from the FSLN-controlled local government. The division chief was
fired from her position for not following orders from Ortega's
office to support the political attack on the city councilmember.
These are not the first in the FSLN's attacks, and are not likely
to be the last. End Summary.
FSLN Attacks Opposition
2. (C) Since the new Managua city council entered office in
January 2009, Luciano Garcia has been the only critical voice in
the city council. He is from the Conservative Party, but was
elected from the Vamos con Eduardo-Constitutional Liberal Party
(VcE-PLC) ticket. Since the beginning of the year he has
consistently voted in opposition to FSLN attempts to politicize the
city's functions (e.g., giving the FSLN partisan Citizen Power
Councils authority in local governance). Garcia has also requested
from the mayor and secretariat (both FSLN members) clarification on
the use of city funds (e.g., why the city paid for the fueling of
800 motorcycles on the eve of the FSLN's annual July 19 anniversary
of the revolution). Garcia's outspokenness has annoyed the
governing FSLN, particularly Managua Mayor Deisy Torres and City
Council Secretary Fidel Moreno. Both of these FSLN militants are
reportedly close to First Lady Rosario Murillo. As a result, the
FSLN appears to have set-up a political attack to discredit Garcia.
3. (SBU) On November 24 at 5:30 pm, the Nicaraguan water company
(ENACAL) inspected the home of Garcia and reported that the city
council member had an illegal water connection for over a year.
ENACAL charged that through the illegal connection Garcia was able
to lower his water bill from 3,000 cordobas a month in 2008 to 300
cordobas a month in 2009. This inspection was conducted in the
presence only of official media (Channel 4 television and Radio
Ya). These media organizations then reported on Garcia as a thief
who robbed from the people of Managua. As a result of the
inspection, ENACAL charged Garcia a seven-month fine and
reconnection fees. Garcia then filed a complaint with the
regulating agency for the water company (INAA), the established
procedure for these cases. INAA conducted its own site inspection
accompanied by members of ENACAL. Based on the INAA inspection,
Lizeth de Trinidad, Consumer Division Chief, issued a decision
finding in favor of Garcia and instructing ENACAL not to charge the
fees nor fines. The following day, de Trinidad was fired.
4. (C) Garcia told us that the ENACAL inspection and charges were
false and politically motivated based on his criticisms of the
FSLN-run City Hall. Aside from the INAA decision, he presented to
us other evidence of his innocence including his water bills for
the past two years that discredited ENACAL's charges and reports
from two human rights organizations which found no evidence of an
illegal connection. Despite INAA's decision, Garcia fears the
government will continue the case and possibly file criminal
charges against him. He also told us that since the beginning of
this case, other government entities have harassed him. Aside from
his work on the city council, Garcia owns clothing stores and an
import business. Both the Directorate General for Taxes (DGI) and
Directorate General for Customs (DGA) have been financially and
administratively harassing his businesses. Garcia's fear of
further reprisals has led him to remove himself as the legal
representatives of his businesses and place most of his assets in
the names of family members. His ability to defend his public
image, meanwhile, was hurt by the PLC's public statement siding
with the FSLN against Garcia.
FSLN Fires Within
5. (C) The other victim in this case was Lizeth de Trinidad, the
Consumer Division Chief at INAA who was fired for her decision in
favor of Garcia. De Trinidad had worked for the agency since its
creation 16 years ago. She had worked her way up in the
organization and was one of four division chiefs at the agency.
Her position as division chief was a senior position within the
agency, and she reported directly to the president of INAA. She
told us that her decision in Garcia's case was based on the merits
of the matter and the INAA inspector's work. (The inspector, she
noted, had over 30 years experience.) Due to the political
implications of the case, de Trinidad consulted with the INAA
president's executive assistant, Carlos Berrios, prior to issuing
her decision; Berrios had concurred with de Trinidad's decision.
(Note: The INAA president was out of the country at the time.)
6. (C) De Trinidad issued her decision on November 2 and that
afternoon received a telephone call from Salvador Vanegas, an
assistant to President Daniel Ortega, telling her to attend a
meeting at the offices of ENACAL. She told us that present at the
meeting were Vanegas, Ruth Selma (Executive Director of ENACAL),
and Berrios. Vanegas told the group that they would hold a press
conference after their meeting and that de Trinidad would retract
her decision and state that Garcia had indeed stolen water from the
city. When de Trinidad refused, Vanegas told her to submit her
resignation letter. She again refused, stating she had done
nothing wrong and that ENACAL could contest the decision through
legal means. On November 3, Vanegas went to INAA and had Berrios
fire de Trinidad. (Note: Because of her position, only the INAA
president could fire de Trinidad.)
7. (C) De Trinidad admitted that the case against Garcia was
groundless and politically motivated. She also confirmed that she
was wrongfully terminated from her position, but would not seek
legal recourse to avoid any problems. While she is not an active
member of the FSLN, she told us that the only party she has ever
belonged to or identified with is the FSLN, with whom she worked in
the 1980s. She said to us, "I know this government, I know these
people, and I don't want to confront them. I don't want any
problems for my children, my husband or my mother."
Comment
8. (C) Many Nicaraguans tell us that the FSLN threatens the
opposition, but actually attacks those from within its ranks. Such
was the case of Garcia and de Trinidad, and there are many more
like these. The attacks against opposition figures is meant to
discredit their public image, intimidate them into silence, and
keep them busy with other matters so they don't have time to focus
on the FSLN's waste and fraud in government. Meanwhile, the FSLN
attacks its own members or sympathizers, confident there will be no
adverse political or legal consequences. Unfortunately, to a large
extent the FSLN has been successful with this approach.
CALLAHAN
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