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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09MANAGUA389 2009-04-08 20:48:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Managua
Cable title:  

NICARAGUA: SHOOTING ATTEMPT AGAINST ATTORNEY

Tags:   PGOV PREL SNAR ECON EFIN EIND NU 
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1. (SBU) Summary: On the morning of April 6, an unknown
assailant fired four gunshots at Attorney General Hernan
Estrada near his residence in Managua. Two of the bullets
grazed Estrada, but he only suffered minor injuries. Estrada
held a press conference in the afternoon where he blamed
religious leaders and the media for promoting violence in
Nicaragua. The incident has created a fervor of speculation
regarding possible reasons behind the attack. While the
shooting is deplorable, Estrada and the FSLN will likely use
it to their advantage to go after critics of the government.
End Summary.

ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT AGAINST ESTRADA


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2. (U) On the morning of April 6, an unknown assailant fired
four gunshots at Attorney General Hernan Estrada near his
residence in Managua. The Nicaraguan National Police told us
that Estrada was exercising (walking) when two unknown
persons approached him on a motorcycle. The assailant got
off the motorcycle, yelled insults at Estrada, and shot at
him four times at close range with a handgun. Two of the
grazed hit Estrada; one struck his neck and the other his
cheek. The assailant and the driver took off when they saw
Estrada begin to bleed. His neighbors took him to the
Military Hospital in Managua, but Estrada suffered only minor
injuries.

ESTRADA BLAMES RELIGIOUS LEADERS AND MEDIA FOR THE ATTACK


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3. (U) On the afternoon of April 7, Estrada held a press
conference to discuss the incident. Police Chief Aminta
Granera attended and sat next to Estrada. In reference to
media reports citing Monsignor Abelardo Mata's claim that
armed groups are organizing in northern Nicaragua in wake of
the fraudulent November 2008 municipal elections, Estrada
blamed religious leaders and the media for promoting violence
in Nicaragua. He demanded that religious leaders stop their
irresponsible actions, which he blamed for the violence
against him, stating that, "We Sandinistas know violence, and
we do not want to react against these attempts, as some in
the media have been promoting." Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes,
President of the Episcopal Conference, denied that the
Catholic Church was promoting violence in Nicaragua or
against Estrada. He said that the Church has always called
for peace, reconciliation, and political openness. He
defended Mata's statements, noting that it is the job of the
Church to convey the concerns of the people to leaders in
order to help find solutions to problems.

POLICE AND NICARAGUAN ARMY EMPHASIZE CAUTION


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




4. (U) Granera said that she would form a special team to
investigate the incident and strengthen Estrada's security
detail. She stated that while there is no information on
armed political groups in northern Nicaragua, there are
juvenile delinquents and street gangs. During a separate
interview with a local newspaper prior to the shooting,
General Adolfo Zepeda, spokesman of the Nicaraguan Army,
added that the Army had no information about armed political
groups in Nicaragua. He added, "We believe that the era of
politically motivated wars and armed conflicts remain in
Nicaragua's distant past."

SPECULATION ABOUNDS


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5. (C) The shooting has created a fervor of speculation
concerning the reasons behind the attack against Estrada.
Some U.S. property claimants contacted Econoff to opine that
the incident could be related to any of several contentious
land disputes involving Estrada (reftel). Dora Maria Tellez,
former Minister of Health during the first Sandinista
government and currently a leading member of the Movement for
Sandinista Renovation (MRS), told us that the incident could
have been orchestrated by the FSLN. She explained that the
shooting might be a warning from the FSLN to critics and

opposition parties that continue to protest against the
fraudulent November 2008 municipal elections. She suggested
that President Daniel Ortega would use this incident as a
pretext to go after FSLN opponents.

COMMENT


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6. (C) The shooting against Estrada, while deplorable, gives
him and the FSLN a pretext to go after critics of the
government. We expect that Estrada and the GON will continue
to use this incident to blame critics for fomenting violence
and instability throughout the country, while they hope to
undermine their credibility as opponents of the government's
actions and policies.

CALLAHAN