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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07MANAGUA1340
2007-05-24 23:36:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Managua
Cable title:  

MONTEALEGRE UNDER INTENSE PRESSURE TO MAKE DEAL

Tags:   PGOV  PINR  PREL  KDEM  NU 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO6090
PP RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #1340/01 1442336
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 242336Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0310
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANAGUA 001340 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/22/2017
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL KDEM NU
SUBJECT: MONTEALEGRE UNDER INTENSE PRESSURE TO MAKE DEAL
WITH ALEMAN


Classified By: Ambassador Paul A. Trivelli for reasons 1.4 (b and d)



1. (C) Summary: Opposition leader Eduardo Montealegre of the
Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) is under intense pressure
to make a deal with convicted ex-President and Liberal
Constitutional Party Leader (PLC) Arnoldo Aleman to unite the
Liberal forces. During a recent session with Washington
visitors, he discounted forming an electoral alliance with
the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) without the PLC,
concerned that PLC leaders would paint him as a Sandinista
sympathizer. Montealegre claimed that he would resign before
negotiating with Aleman, an option he is seriously
considering if the ALN is unable to obtain financial support.
Ambassador and DCM subsequently had breakfast with
Montealegre on May 24 to discuss these and other issues.
After a one-day mini-retreat with some of his closest
confidants in San Juan del Sur, Montealegre appeared much
more relaxed and resolute. End Summary.



2. (C) Poloff and INR analysts met with ALN leader Eduardo
Montealegre on May 22 to discuss the current political
situation. He commented that the ALN is starved of funds and
he is bombarded "from all sides" to strike a deal with PLC
caudillo Arnoldo Aleman to save the country from President
Ortega's increasingly authoritarian tendencies. Montealegre
appeared tired and depressed, commenting that he had
sacrificed time with his family and business only to be left
"alone" to oppose the caudillos -- at considerable personal
risk. He claimed that he is seriously considering leaving
politics.

Pressure From All Sides
- - - - - - - - - - - -



3. (C) Montealegre explained that most "democratic"
Nicaraguans are scared by President Ortega's 1980's-style
rhetoric and alliances with outcast regimes in North Korea
and Iran. Many have unfortunately come to the conclusion
that Aleman is a "reality" who must be dealt with as the
lesser of two evils. The ALN is starved of funds because the
private sector -- both in Nicaragua and abroad -- refuse to
support the ALN unless the party forms an alliance with the
PLC, even if it that entails making a deal with Aleman. He
is experiencing similar pressure from within the ALN, grass
roots Liberal supporters, and even civil society. When
queried by poloff, Montealegre commented that even some
members of Movimiento por Nicaragua (MpN) are now advocating
negotiations with Aleman. (Note: MpN was founded on
opposition to caudillismo and the Aleman-Ortega political
pact. End Note.)



4. (C) Montealegre assured us that he would resign rather
than ally with Aleman, but seemed pessimistic about
alternative strategies. He acknowledged that the MRS is open
to forming an electoral alliance for the 2008 municipal

elections, but "only because they want (former MRS
presidential candidate) Edmundo Jarquin to be mayor of
Managua." An ALN alliance with the MRS without the PLC would
"never work" because the PLC would accuse the ALN of "selling
out to Sandinista radicals" and re-capture Liberal support,
he claimed. Montealegre rejected all possibility of allying
with anti-Aleman segments of the PLC, calling his recent
appearances with former PLC presidential candidate Jose Rizo
a "media show" that has produced few tangible results.

Municipals Last Chance to Stop Ortega
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



5. (C) Montealegre implied that the only way to prevent
Ortega from a Chavez-like domination of Nicaragua is to
convincingly defeat the FSLN in the municipal elections. The
President is slowly taking Nicaragua down the path of "New
Socialism" by bribing and blackmailing the private sector
into submission, he said. Specifically, Montealegre
mentioned Ortega's plan to impose a two-percent municipal tax
on gas stations that would wipe out their profit margins and
force out competition in favor of the state-supervised
Petronic. In addition, Montealegre claimed that the FSLN has
already earned $30 million from sales of discounted oil from
Venezuela -- money they are using on infrastructure projects
to "buy votes" in rural areas. (Comment: Montealegre's
claims are plausible, although the donor community has not
received any information on expenditure of oil revenues. End
Comment.)

MANAGUA 00001340 002 OF 003



Montealegre: Unaware and Rudderless
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



6. (C) Although aware of the threat to Nicaraguan democracy
posed by Ortega, Montealegre, the leader of the opposition,
was unaware of significant events within his own party and
also failed to pursue a significant offer of assistance from
a sister organization. When poloff asked about recent press
reports that ALN leaders in the municipality of Niquinohomo
had recently decided to re-join the PLC, Montealegre did not
seem to know anything about the defection. He responded,
"Niquinohomo is a minor municipality, so I'm not concerned
about it." Montealegre met later the same day with an IRI
delegation to discuss ongoing activities. The delegation
learned that no one in the ALN had ever contacted the Mexican
PAN (Partido de Accion Nacional) party to accept an offer of
technical assistance and material support that had been
offered at an earlier IRI-sponsored meeting in El Salvador.
(Comment: Later the same day, PolCouns raised the PAN offer
with ALN caucus chief Maria Eugenia Sequeira. She recognized
that the ALN must follow up with the PAN and promised to do
so soonest. End Comment.)

Viable Opposition at a Crossroads?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



7. (C) Montealegre has often complained about a lack of
sufficient support from the USG, private sector, and civil
society. This time, however, he truly appeared tired,
frustrated, and ready to give up the struggle for a
democratic Nicaragua. Montealegre was clear that the ALN
desperately needs money to survive, not more advice or
technical assistance. He rejected negotiations with Aleman,
but could offer no alternatives. The only solution
Montealegre half-seriously proposed: spirit Aleman out of
Nicaragua on a Blackhawk. His apparent apathy to internal
party developments and our suggestions was disheartening.

But What a Difference Two Days Make
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



8. (C) During a May 24 breakfast with Ambassador and DCM,
Montealegre appeared much more relaxed and resolute after
meeting with his closest advisors in San Juan del Sur. He
indicated that he and his team are discussing the possibility
of Montealegre entering the mayoral race for Managua in the
municipal elections; his circle believing that supporting
Jarquin for the Managua slot would alienate a significant
segment of the Liberals. When asked whether running for
mayor might weaken his future presidential possibilities and
the ALN as a national opposition force generally, Montealegre
replied that he did not think so. He noted that the city of
Managua is "the second largest government in the country,"
that it has traditionally served as a stepping-stone to
presidential candidacies, that it can be used for further
political projection, and that it would be considered a
serious blow to Ortega if he and the ALN could snatch it away
from the FSLN.



9. (C) Montealegre then discussed the strategy that he and
his team were developing to work with the PLC (and MRS)
towards the municipal elections nationwide. He said they
plan to use a breakdown of the 2006 national elections as a
baseline to determine which party has the greatest strength
in each municipality, and start identifying leading
candidates on that basis, understanding that in certain areas
there may be a natural leader from the community who is not
from the party with the most votes. (Note: Nicaraguan
electoral law might limit this alliance strategy to some 30
towns. End Note.) He acknowledged that the hardest part of
the effort will be to reach the political agreement with the
PLC without having Aleman (and by extension Ortega) trash the
arrangement. Chances for success, he felt, would be best if
the parties not seek full ALN-PC unification, but simply a
working arrangement between the two parties. The Ambassador
concurred, and suggested that they start by identifying and
approaching key players and candidates who would stand to
gain from such a deal and bring them into the fold early.
Montealegre agreed, also committing to follow up with the
offers of strategic assistance from the PAN, as suggested by
the Ambassador.

Comment: The High Cost of Folding

MANAGUA 00001340 003 OF 003


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



10. (C) If Montealegre abandons the ALN, the alliance will
almost certainly splinter into its constituent parts, with
the National Assembly caucus following suit. The PLC would
win the most by absorbing Liberals frightened of Ortega and
desperately seeking refuge -- however illusory and ephemeral.
The MRS and Conservative Party would also gain adherents
from anti-pact independent voters, but probably not enough to
pose any serious electoral challenge to the FSLN or PLC.
Ortega would continue to control the PLC through his
co-pactmate Aleman. The FSLN would likely win the lion's
share of the municipalities and convince the PLC that it must
support constitutional reforms that would permit consecutive
presidential re-election.
TRIVELLI