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06MANAGUA958 2006-05-03 13:19:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Managua
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1. (SBU) During an April 26 meeting with OAS Country
Director Pedro Vuskovich, visiting DAS Kirsten Madison, USAID
DAA Mike Magan, and the Ambassador underscored the importance
of continuous OAS observation and political leadership on the
ground throughout Nicaragua's entire election period.
Vuskovich advised that the OAS special electoral mission will
arrive in Nicaragua by the end of April or early May; and
that OAS-contracted technical director Patricio Gajardo will
remain in Nicaragua throughout the process.

2. (C) Magan underscored the need for close coordination
between the regular and special OAS missions. Vuskovich
concurred, explaining that his modest OAS mission is
channeling its efforts into supporting the special electoral
mission. Adding that observation is the best way to dissuade
fraud and to encourage high voter turnout, Vuskovich outlined
his perception of the OAS special mission's three main tasks:

-- Ensure political stability;

--Ensure the technical integrity of the electoral process;

--Address the structural weaknesses of the electoral process.

3. (C) Noting they had heard OAS special mission leader
Gustavo Fernandez' presence in Nicaragua might be
intermittent, Madison and Magan impressed upon Vuskovich that
it is paramount for OAS electoral mission chief Gustavo
Fernandez to be in country at all times. Vuskovich assured
Madison that Fernandez and/or his deputy Raul Alconada will
remain in Nicaragua, and he is confident they will make their
presence known as needed. The Ambassador emphasized the
value of such political weight to deal with an eventual
attempt by the CSE to disqualify a particular candidate. He
reminded Vuskovich that the OAS has also committed to forming
a "group of notables" to appeal to the presidential
candidates' desire for legitimacy and warn them of the high
political costs they will incur if they attempt fraud or to
disqualify a competitor.

4. (C) The Ambassador enumerated other concerns -- including
the interpretation of Electoral Law 6; the Liberal
Constitutional Party (PLC) magistrates' boycott of CSE
sessions; and, the difficulties of Nicaraguans who do not
identify with the Sandinistas (FSLN) to obtain national ID
cards and/or to register to vote. The Ambassador urged the
OAS to coordinate its efforts with other donors, as well as
with USAID and its CEPPS partners IFES, NDI, and IRI to
resolve these and other issues. He cited the fact that IFES
is working within the CSE, and that CSE President Roberto
Rivas has publicly acknowledged IFES's fine work in its
training of CSE employees. Vuskovich concurred that
coordination is vital. He then shared his frustrations in
dealing with Nicaragua's often unpredictable, context-driven
political culture, fretting that, instead of firmly adhering
to political ideology, Nicaraguan politicians are driven by
their personal interests of the moment.

5. (U) Participants:

Pedro Vuskovich, OAS Country Director

Deputy Assistant Secretary Kirsten Madison
Ambassador Paul Trivelli
USAID DAA Mike Magan
A/DCM A. Dickie
USAID Democracy Director Steve Hendrix
Polcouns Victoria Alvarado (notetaker)