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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06MANAGUA715
2006-03-30 22:55:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Managua
Cable title:  

LEON: SANDINISTA BASTION WELCOMES AMBASSADOR, MCC

Tags:   KDEM  NU  PGOV  PINR  PREL  KMCA  EFIN  ECON 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #0715/01 0892255
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 302255Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5783
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0599
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
						C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 000715 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/30/2016
TAGS: KDEM NU PGOV PINR PREL KMCA EFIN ECON
SUBJECT: LEON: SANDINISTA BASTION WELCOMES AMBASSADOR, MCC
SUPPORT

REF: MANAGUA 0709 AND PREVIOUS

Classified By: Ambassador Paul A. Trivelli. Reasons 1.4 (B,D).



1. (C) Summary: During Ambassador's recent trip to Leon
department, the upcoming November national elections were on
the tongues of all interlocutors. The cradle of Liberalism,
intellectual Leon is now a Sandinista (FSLN) bastion, with
ten of its eleven mayors in the department FSLN militants.
Notwithstanding Leon's Sandinista bent, local government and
university authorities appear willing to participate in
U.S.-funded programs, if for no other reason than to improve
regional prosperity. Ambassador met jointly with Leon's
Sandinista mayor Transito Tellez and a baseball coach and a
young pitcher who participated in the World Baseball Classic.
He inaugurated a USAID-sponsored National Autonomous
University of Nicaragua (UNAN) Judicial Oversight Institute
and was interviewed live by VOA affiliate Radio Dario
(average of 30,000 listeners). While views vary regarding
which political party and candidates will float to the top in
Leon, most contacts concur that the FSLN will lead the pack,
in part, according to opponents, because the Sandinistas are
threatening to fire and withdraw scholarships from Leoneses
who do not support them. While Herty Lewites supporters
claim they will draw votes both from the FSLN and the
Liberals, Eduardo Montealegre supporters assert that despite
the Sandinista hegemony in Leon, he will attract a
substantial segment of young voters. End Summary.



2. (U) Taking advantage of Ambassador's March 23 trip to
Leon to inaugurate a USAID-sponsored National Autonomous
University of Nicaragua (UNAN) Judicial Oversight Institute
and to greet baseball coach Sandy Moreno and Little League
pitcher Geovanni Toval -- recently returned from a
Department-sponsored baseball diplomacy program -- Ambassador
met with local political, economic, and civil society
leaders. His message was clear: The U.S. supports clean,
transparent, and inclusive elections; we oppose caudillismo,
not/not a particular party; it is unclear whether the FSLN is
democratic; the PLC under Arnoldo Aleman is not acceptable to
the international community; we encourage Nicaraguans to vote
for an alternative; and while a united center-right would be
ideal, it is not essential to maintaining friendship and
cooperation between our two countries.



3. (SBU) Of Leon's eleven municipalities, ten -- including
the city of Leon - - are controlled by the FSLN/Convergencia.
The cradle of Liberalism, Leon was a center of conflict
during the 1980s civil war. A large portion of the
Sandinista soldiers came from the department, and today Leon
is a Sandinista (FSLN) bastion. One of the hubs of
Sandinista militancy is the UNAN, whose incoming rector,
Rigoberto Sampson, is one of the FSLN's National Assembly

deputies. Notwithstanding Leon's Sandinista dominance, its
residents -- including its Sandinista mayors -- pride
themselves over their participation in the U.S.-sponsored
Millennium Challenge Account compact program (the program
covers Leon and Chinandega departments).

EDUARDO DRAWS THE YOUTH VOTE?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



4. (C) Election talk is already abuzz in this university
town. While most interlocutors concurred that Daniel Ortega
will likely win the department, Montealegre and Lewites
supporters assert that their respective candidates draw more
support than meets the eye; poll respondents are reluctant to
express support for anyone other than Ortega because the fear
the FSLN will retaliate, Lewites and Montealegre supporters
told us. They claim that Sandinista tactics include threats
that non-supporters will lose government jobs and
"uncooperative" students will lose their scholarships.



5. (SBU) Montealegre's Leon campaign manager, Ramon Masias,
is a lapsed PLC militant who abandoned the PLC after he
refused to defend PLC caudillo/convicted money launderer
Arnoldo Aleman. He shared with Ambassador one of Aleman's
favorite mantras: 'An ounce of loyalty is worth a quintal
(one hundred pounds) of wisdom,' adding that Aleman has tried
six times to convince Masias to return to the PLC fold. He
warned Ambassador that Nicaragua is "on the brink of a
political catastrophe" if Daniel Ortega wins in November.
Noting that Nicaragua's rural vote will be key to winning the
November election and that most of Nicaragua's rural voters
hate the Sandinistas, Masias acknowledged that it will
nonetheless be difficult to draw this support to

Montealegre's camp because -- thanks to Aleman's politically
astute program to build schools and health clinics in remote
areas -- rural voters are diehard PLC loyalists. Further,
though much weakened, the PLC still maintains working party
machinery, certainly more robu
st and experienced than Montealegre's. Mentioning that Radio
Corporacion reaches every corner of the department, Masias
suggested that well-targeted messages via radio could help
garner support for Montealegre. (Radio Corporacion's
baseball announcer already throws in pitches for Montealegre
in between calling balls and strikes.)



6. (SBU) Masias acknowledged that a four-way presidential
race presents its risks, but does not fear it, noting that
both Montealegre and Lewites enjoy considerable support in
Leon, particularly among the youth who are attracted to
Montealegre's youth and honesty. The FSLN's competitive
advantage is its funds to buy votes and its promises that a
Sandinista victory means food and jobs for everyone. Still,
if elections were held today, Eduardo would win 40 percent of
the vote, claimed Masias. He also dismissed FSLN assertions
that Herty garners no Sandinista support, noting that many
people are afraid to voice their opinion for fear of losing
their jobs or scholarships in the Sandinista-dominated
department. To Ambassador's query over the appropriateness,
or not, of his public messages, Masias was unequivocal: while
politicos may fuss over them in public, talking straight to
politicians is the only way to have impact. Further,
ventured Masias, the Nicaraguan people need to know that the
U.S. is helping th
em, although USG resources would be put to better use if more
funds went to the people and less to "expensive foreign
consultants."

CAFTA: BEST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN, EVEN IF WE ARE UNPREPARED
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
-



7. (SBU) A self-made leather producer, Masias claimed that
Nicaragua is not a poor country but lamented that its
politicians have made the people poor and the wealthy have
not learned to share. He believes that small industry will
be the key to Leon's economic future. To Ambassador's query
over local viewpoints on CAFTA, Masias replied that he is a
firm CAFTA supporter, that it will be the best thing that
could happen to Nicaragua, even though Leoneses are not well
prepared to compete and suffer from exorbitant energy costs
(over $1,000 per month for his small factory). In Nicaragua,
being an industrialist is a heroic exercise, explained
Masias, who considers commercial work much easier. He was
responsive to Ambassador's initiative for the private sector
to help its employees obtain national ID cards (cedulas) to
vote and to go to the polls on Election Day.

HERTY 2006 AIMS TO TAKE VOTES FROM FSLN AND PLC

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



8. (C) Herty supporters Julio Argueta (Herty 2006
coordinator); Humberto Altamirano (Movimiento Pro-Rescate
Sandinista), Alfonso Silva Roman (Movimiento para el Rescate
del Sandinismo, or MRS); and Luis Felipe Perez Caldera
(former Leon mayor and leader of the Movimiento para la Union
pro Leon) coincided that the FSLN maintains is dominance over
Leon. However, they argued that Lewites and Montealegre also
enjoy considerable support and that, on Election Day, the
results might tilt in the favor of these two dissident
candidates. They explained that Herty Alliance priorities
for now are to build a cadre of campaign activists and
monitors; so far the alliance has 1,000 supporters and aims
to reach 10,000. Most of these volunteers are young
Sandinistas and independents, they explained, noting that
people are drawn to Lewites' opposition to the Aleman-Ortega
pact, also the reason he garners the support of more
Sandinista "commandantes" than Ortega's mafia-run FSLN. The
FSLN is not internally democratic, and neither FSLN nor
Liberal elites care about social justice and jobs for the
poor; the Sandinista intellectuals are with Herty, claimed
Silva Roman.



9. (C) Silva Roman confirmed that the FSLN is threatening
Lewites supporters that they will lose their jobs and
scholarships if they continue supporting Herty. This fear of
reprisal prompts many poll respondents to claim they support
Ortega, but they will vote for Herty, claimed Silva Roman,
who added that Lewites sincerely seeks a constructive,
respectful relationship with the United States. The problem

is not the United States, but Nicaragua's political class;
most Nicaraguans desire positive relations with the United
States and most have family or friends there, he explained.


SANDINISTA MAYOR - EX-YOUTH COMMANDO TURNED PRAGMATIST?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



10. (C) Mayor Transito Genaro Tellez, who is a candidate for
the MCA-Nicaragua (MCA-N) board, asserted to Ambassador that
he is a public servant for all residents first, and a
Sandinista second. Attempting to distance himself from
Daniel Ortega, he claimed he challenged the FSLN leaders when
Ortega preferred another mayoral candidate. Tellez also
criticized Sandinista dissidents Alejandro Martinez Cuenca
and Herty Lewites for failing to support him at that
juncture. He had nothing but praise for the MCA-N
initiative. To Tellez, the MCA-N deserves credit for
reviving Leon's mayors' association, which was on the road to
extinction until the Millennium Challenge Account reunited
the group and gave them something to work for. He is
optimistic that the MCC will bring prosperity to the region
and improve bilateral relations, concurring with Secretary
Rice's remark that the U.S.G. has made considerable
investment abroad but it has had little impact. To Tellez,
the new MCC assistance scheme is a better approach. Proud of
his Sandinista roots, Tellez explained that he had cut his
Sandinista teeth as a member of its youth commando in the
1980s.



11. (SBU) A self-declared political reformist and journalist
by training, Tellez claimed he prefers to change the FSLN
from within. He appeared receptive to Ambassador's message
that, while the U.S. harbors serious doubts over Ortega's
democratic credentials, we would look favorably on the FSLN's
evolution into a modern, left-of-center party. Nonetheless,
Tellez dismissed Herty as an agent of change, asserting 'he
already had his chance' and enjoys little support in Leon.
Rather, the change must come from below and from the younger
generations, not from the old Sandinista leadership in
Managua, averred Tellez, who noted that five of Leon's mayors
are young and are questioning the old ways. Tellez remarked
that election fever has already arrived in Leon, noting
eight Sandinista pre-candidates will vie in May primaries for
National Assembly seats. He predicted Daniel Ortega will be
Nicaragua's next president, reasoning that the governments of
the past 16 years have failed to meet the people's needs and a
spirations.



12. (SBU) As an example of moral decay and national
government ineffectiveness (over the prolonged public
hospital doctors' and medical workers' strike), Tellez cited
a recent grisly discovery by city employees of six human
fetuses in a hospital dumpster. Moreover, patients have no
access to medicines, and while during the 1980s the
illiteracy rate dropped to 10 percent, it has since climbed
to 30-40 percent. Tellez also claimed that Ortega has
changed his ways and will not return the country to the days
of the 1980s. Ambassador pushed back, asserting that Ortega
continues to use hostile 1980s rhetoric, most recently
blaming the U.S. for the worldwide drug scourge and even
accusing U.S. lawmakers of being complicit.

PRIVATE SECTOR
- - - - - - -



13. (SBU) Receptive to COSEP cedulation and voter outreach,
BANPRO managers Xavier Lopez Guerrero and Juan Carlos
Gurdian; BANCENTRO branch manager Carlos Fernandez Sera; BAC
branch manager Hipatia de Montalvan; and, Jose Saldivar,
Manager of ARNECOM, which produces electric chassis for Ford
Explorers, echoed Masias' assessment of CAFTA. While the
Leon area lacks preparation to compete in CAFTA, they
concurred that it will ultimately benefit from it, noting
that as a university town, Leon has a talented pool of job
applicants to draw on. According to the bankers, after
Managua, Leon is the area where banks are thriving most, with
record deposits. Despite the uncertainty of the November
election outcome, customers continue to renew their
certificates of deposit, although most will expire by January
2007 at the latest, they said. ARNECOM is even expanding its
production and investments, although it does have a
contingency plan: in the event that the Sandinistas win and
Ortega implements draconian policies
against the private sector, they can relocate to another
country.


CIVIL SOCIETY: WE MUST PROMOTE CITIZEN RIGHTS, NOT JUST
ELECTIONS
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- -



14. (SBU) Movimiento por Nicaragua (MpN) and Etica y
Transparencia (ET) representatives who met with Ambassador
argued that that civil society must not only prepare
Nicaraguans for elections, but also help them exercise their
rights and responsibilities as citizens and to lobby for
better public services. Leon ET coordinator Hermogenes
Santiago Media Rodriguez and MpN coordinators Allison Maria
Loasiga, Jorge Antonio Sarria, and Carmen Maria Salgado,
explained they are encouraging Leoneses to challenge
electricity provider Union Fenosa for its exorbitant yet
mediocre service (see para 17). On the political landscape,
Salgado asserted that Tellez had stacked the already bloated
municipal government with his cronies and was not popular,
having won with only 12 percent of the eligible voter pool.
If it had not been for PLC leader Enrique Quinonez, current
ALN-PC Assembly Deputy Maria Eugenia Sequeira would have been
mayor, she claimed (Quinonez interrupted a Sequeira rally,
barging onto the stage and attacki
ng participants). MpN activities for the November election
include helping citizens obtain and verify their cedulas and
educating them on the process and the candidates through
spots on a Radio La Carninosa. ET is auditing the cedula
process and the voter roster (padron), and will have an ample
cadre of electoral observers, explained Media Rodriquez.



15. (SBU) While Salgado, who is an economist, concurred with
Ambassador that Nicaragua has progressed over the past ten
years, she averred that jobs are what people relate to, not
economic indicators. "You can't eat macroeconomics," she
quipped, citing tourism, agro-industry, and small industries
as potential growth areas that could benefit from CAFTA.
However, infrastructure and public services must improve to
enable Leoneses to compete. For example, only 21 of Leon's
196 bakeries have potable water, she said. The group
concurred that Nicaraguans desire a political change and were
receptive to Secretary Rice's assertion that the problem is
not the Left but how to make the Left democratic. "Civil
society's job will not end with the election; the MpN must be
the fly in the eye of whatever government that comes to
power," opined Salgado.

MCC COMPACT - WE NEED IT, WANT IT, AND WON'T LOSE IT
- - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



16. (SBU) An atmosphere of enthusiasm and anxiety pervaded
the Ambassador's meeting with the Leon and Chinandega
development councils (Nicaragua has a network of local
development councils at the departmental and municipal levels
and under the framework of the National Development Council
(CONADES) established by the Citizen Participation Law).
Without exception, participants Enrique Padilla Chinandega
UPANIC (Agropecuarios Producers of Nicaragua); Agrecio Osejo,
FSLN Mayor of Somotillo-Chinandega; Alberto Aviles (GON's
representative in Chinandega (associated with
presidential-hopeful/APRE member Jose Antonio Alvarado);
Jilma Balladares VP of CDD Leon and President of Fundapadele
NGO (constructs low-budget housing); and Ernesto Medina,
outgoing UNAN rector had nothing but praise for the MCC
compact. However, also without exception, they were clearly
anxious that the program's fate could hinge on the outcome of
the November election, specifically that the U.S. will
withdraw the program if Daniel Ortega wins. Somotillo's
Sandinista mayor summed up the group's sentiment on the MCC:
"We need it, want it and will make sure we do not lose it,"
also asserting that Nicaragua's changes were irreversible and
even an Ortega victory would not return Nicaragua to the
1980s. To this concern, Ambassador replied that the MCC will
continue so long as the new Nicaraguan government maintains
the required score in the MCC's assessment scale, which
measures democracy/human rights, governability/rule of law,
and economic and investment openness.

ALL GANG UP AGAINST POWER GIANT UNION FENOSA
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



17. (SBU) All interlocutors voiced pride for their region
and all shared a common dislike for power giant Union Fenosa.
In exchange for exorbitant fees, Fenosa provides inadequate
access to electricity and mediocre service with frequent
outages that damage equipment, businessmen and officials of

all political ilk complained. (Note: This perception is not
unique to Leon. End Note.)

LEON: DEMOGRAPHICS AND VOTING PROFILE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



18. (U) Total Population (2005 est.):
Total Urban Population:
Total Rural Population:

Votes Received by Party, 2004 Municipal Elections
PLC: 41,511
FSLN: 66,574
APRE: 5,815
PRN: 871
AC: 811
CCN: 1,972
PLI: 1,567
MSL: 144
PLN: 1,233

Votes Received by Party, 2001 National Elections
PLC: 73,708
FSLN: 83,119
PC: 5,794

COMMENT
- - - -



19. (C) Notwithstanding Leon's Sandinista proclivity, local
government and university authorities appear willing to
participate in U.S.-funded programs, if for no other reason
than to improve regional prosperity. However, according to
some, such as National Assembly Camino Cristiano Party (CCN)
deputy Delia Arellano, who recently joined Montealegre's
caucus, the Sandinistas are duplicitous in their engagement
with the Americans in Leon (Reftel). Specifically, she
alleged that the Sandinistas are disguising the benefits of
the MCA-N program as FSLN-sponsored goodies to attract more
support. She claims evidence of this comes from evangelical
pastors in the area, who have informed her that the
Sandinistas have approached them on these supposed FSLN
programs to attract them to the FSLN. While we have heard
these allegations before, we have yet to confirm any of them.
We will facilitate a meeting with the MCC director and these
evangelist leaders to clarify their assertions and to explain
in more depth the compact program.
TRIVELLI