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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06MANAGUA1532
2006-07-11 21:27:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Managua
Cable title:  

HRDF PRODEM PROJECT PROMOTES CREATING SPACE FOR CIVIC PARTICIPATION IN THE FACE OF "CAUDILLISMO"

Tags:   PHUM  PREL  NU  KCRM  KDEM  KWMN 
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VZCZCXYZ0009
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #1532/01 1922127
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 112127Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6960
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
						UNCLAS MANAGUA 001532 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, DRL JFARRAR AND NTONGOUR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL NU KCRM KDEM KWMN
SUBJECT: HRDF PRODEM PROJECT PROMOTES CREATING SPACE FOR CIVIC PARTICIPATION IN THE FACE OF "CAUDILLISMO"



1. (U) SUMMARY: On June 21-22, Foreign Affairs Officer and
POL Intern attended a Catholic Relief Services
(CRS)-sponsored conference for mayors from four of
Nicaragua's departments. CRS is executing a $350,000 Human
Rights and Democracy Fund (HRDF) grant to undertake the Civic
Participation and Democratic Planning pilot project (PRODEM)
in Honduras and Nicaragua. The HRDF grant term is from
August 1, 2005 until January 31, 2007. PRODEM is operating
in 10 Nicaraguan municipalities in the departments of
Chinandega, Chontales, Matagalpa and Nueva Segovia. The
conference provided all participants with an excellent
opportunity to exchange views and to challenge old
assumptions about dynamics between public officials and the
citizenry in municipal governance. END SUMMARY.



2. (U) The purpose of the conference -- titled "Encuentro de
Alcaldes Que Promueven La Participacion Ciudadana8 -- was
for PRODEM mayors to share their experiences in accommodating
citizen participation in municipal decision-making and to
learn new approaches to democratic governance, including the
importance of incorporating the views of women in development
decisions. The two-day event provided ample opportunities
for the mayors to deliberate over topics that challenge the
traditional &caudillismo8 way of running municipalities.

INTRODUCING HUMAN RIGHTS REPORTING/HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY FUND
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3. (U) Foreign Affairs Officer spoke before the conference
on the Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and
Labor (DRL),s human rights reporting and HRDF activities.
The presentation emphasized aspects of the PRODEM project
that support USG democracy and human rights policy objectives
including: strengthening the capacity of civil society,
especially women,s groups, to negotiate with local
governments; increasing citizen familiarity with national
laws that protect democratic rights and with legal mechanisms
that enable citizens to have a voice in municipal
decision-making; creating space for permanent constructive
dialogue between mayors and other municipal officials and
civil society; and, realizing important social and economic
development benefits through civic participation in municipal
affairs.



4. (U) Among the 32 participants were 13 mayors (11 from
Nicaragua and 2 from Honduras), advisors to some of the
mayors, and staff members from PRODEM,s social partners who
are executing the project for CRS, including CARITAS and
Justicia y Paz, and CRS officers. Of the Nicaraguan alcalde
attendees, 2 were FSLN and all of the others were PLC
members. Only one of the mayoral participants was a female,

a vice-mayor representing her Honduran municipality.



5. (U) The conference appeared to be well-organized and
professional, and it stimulated significant animated
discussion among the participants. The first day,s program
included power point presentations on achievements thus far,
findings from surveys about perceived project strengths and
weaknesses in the public participation process, and
interactive discussion sessions. The social partners and
mayors from Ciudad Dario in Nicaragua and Tuepasenti in
Honduras collaborated in giving individual presentations on
experiences and lessons learned from their own
municipalities. These sessions generated robust feedback
from other mayor attendees.



6. (U) On the second day, Alejandro Bravo, a Nicaraguan
political scientist, discussed the historical evolution and
practical application of democratic decision-making from its
elective (ancient Greek), representative (Roman) and more
recent participatory forms, stressing the importance of
participatory democracy in addressing the weaknesses (and
vulnerability to corruption) of traditional representative
democracy. Mexican-born anthropologist Araceli Garcia
Gallardo's presentation focused on gender dimensions of civic
participation. She underscored the reality of unequal power
relations between the sexes in the public sphere, and on how
to overcome biases regarding women,s traditional
&reproductive8 role in relation to men,s &productive8
role in social and political decision-making.

MAYORS' VIEWS ON CIVIC PARTICIPATION
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7. (U) Opinions and perceptions from the alcalde participants about the virtues of civic participation in municipal decision-making and on advances of the PRODEM project varied. The Mayor of Trinidad admitted that citizens in his municipality aren,t interested in civic participation; he seeks new ways to motivate them to participate in PRODEM. However, Chichigalpa's FSLN mayor countered that in his "cabildos8 (town meetings), more than 300 men and women actively participate. Another mayor asserted that many citizens are afraid to come to town meetings because they believe the mayor will tax them if they show up. Others suggested that more citizens would participate if they could afford transportation from remote rural areas.



8. (U) One PLC mayor opined that citizens from opposing political parties were reluctant to participate in PRODEM activities. Another mayor averred that citizen attendance is low because the town meetings are often held during regular work days and many rural folk lack motivation to attend events consider irrelevant to their needs. The mayors agreed that Nicaragua,s civic participation laws are new and thus many people have minimal awareness of the opportunities they offer. Nonetheless, several mayors indicated that PRODEM activities have raised awareness among them and their constituents concerning the importance of civic participation in municipal decision-making in identifying community priorities, sometimes with constructive results, including the purchase of road building equipment.

OBSERVATIONS BY THE SOCIAL PARTNERS
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9. (U) CRS Acting Director Jefferson Shriver and the
Justicia y Paz and CARITAS social partners shared the
following observations:

-- Through PRODEM, studies reveal that as of March 2006,
civic participation by women in these municipalities has, on
the average, risen from a very low baseline to about 30%.
(COMMENT: the objective is to have 50/50 male/female
participation by the end of the project).

-- PRODEM's goal is not to undermine mayoral authority, but
to enable citizens to complement that authority through
broad-based decision-making.

-- PRODEM's major thrust has been to find ways to improve
citizens' access to information about the importance of
municipal decision-making for their welfare, and regarding
when and where town meetings and PRODEM support activities
are held.

TRIVELLI