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Cable sobre el fraude en las elecciones municipales de Nicaragua en 2008

Un miembro del Consejo Supremo Electoral dice en la Embajada de EE UU en Managua que las elecciones municipales de hace tres años fueron amañadas por el gubernamental Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) pero oficialmente nunca se reconocerá

ID: 193816
Date: 2009-02-25 15:39:00
Origin: 09MANAGUA203
Source: Embassy Managua
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Dunno: 08MANAGUA1505 09MANAGUA80 09MANAGUA96
Destination: P 251539Z FEB 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 000203


E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/22/2019

C. 2008 MANAGUA 1505

Classified By: Ambassador Robert J. Callahan, reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: Nearly four months after the governing
Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) claimed "victory"
in the November 2008 municipal elections, there has been no
indication that the Nicaraguan government intends to address
the credible allegations of fraud or complaints regarding the
partisan manipulation of the electoral system. Government
officials, including Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) staff,
privately have admitted to us electoral fraud but downplayed
suggestions that some CSE magistrates would be removed prior
to the end of their terms in 2010. Up until mid-January
opposition parties in the National Assembly were attempting
to annul the elections through the enactment of legislation,
but that initiative ended when the FSLN gained control of the
legislature through agreements with the Constitutional
Liberal Party (PLC) (ref A). The GoN's position regarding
the stolen elections was neatly stated by Deputy Foreign
Minister Valdrek Jaentschke who told Managua's suspected
mayor-elect Eduardo Montealegre, to "get over" the election
fraud. End Summary.

CSE Admits Fraud, GoN Takes No Action

2. (C) In two meetings since the November 2008 elections,
CSE Chief of Staff Barreto, with surprising candor,
acknowledged that the FSLN had stolen the elections. Barreto
suggested that the FSLN, through the CSE, had rigged the
electoral system throughout the year prior to the local
contests, but that election-day results were not as planned
leading to gross alterations of the tally sheets in order to
give the FSLN the huge win the CSE announced. Despite the
massive fraud, Barreto stated the CSE magistrates would not
make any "corrections" to the election results and believed
it unlikely that any other branch of government would address
the fraudulent outcome. Additionally, he found it unlikely
that any of the CSE magistrates would be removed from their
position before their terms expired. (Note: All the CSE
magistrates' terms end in 2010. The removal of any
magistrate prior to the end of his/her term would require 56
votes in the National Assembly, which implies the votes of
FSLN deputies. This seems highly unlikely. End Note.)
Moreover, Barreto thought that CSE President Roberto Rivas
would likely maintain a seat on the electoral authority body
after his term expired because Rivas served as a "bridge"
between the FSLN and the PLC and was able to cater to the
needs of both parties.

3. (C) The GoN's public response to the domestic and
international criticism of elections fraud has been to
dismiss the reports citing a history of "flawed" elections in
Nicaragua while simultaneously pushing forward quickly to
claim victory and install their candidates. On November 21,
a day after the CSE announced the official results, President
Ortega presided over a FSLN street party to celebrate the
FSLN's "victory" at the polls. A week later First Lady
Rosario Murillo met with all the mayors-elect to set the
agenda for the municipal governments' plan of "citizen power"
(the FSLN's patronage system based around the Citizen Power
Councils, CPC). On January 14, Ortega presided over the
CSE's swearing in of the new municipal governments (ref C).
Murillo again met with the mayors on February 19 in a
'Citizen Power' working session. Since the installation of
the new mayors, the FSLN has publicly and privately urged the
opposition and the international community to accept the
official results as a political fact. This was clearly
stated by Deputy Foreign Minister Jaentschke. In a
conversation with the Ambassador, Eduardo Montealegre, and
Jaentschke to celebrate the U.S. innauguration of President
Obama, Montealegre alluded to the fact that the GoN had
robbed him of the Managua mayorship. Jaentschke's response
(in English) was simply, "Oh Eduardo, get over it."

4. (U) In its final report on the elections, the domestic
observer NGO Ethics and Transparency (EyT) determined that
the CSE orchestrated fraud in at least 40 municipalities.
EyT documented a string of abuses including the failure of
the CSE to accredit domestic and international observers,
closing polling stations early to prevent opposition
sympathizers from voting, and the expulsion of party poll
watchers from the voting and counting places. EyT also
documented enormous irregularities in the counting process,
including some places where more votes were counted than
there were eligible voters. EyT Executive Director Roberto
Courtney, in summing up the accounts of fraud, commented that
"Nicaragua cannot go into future elections with this
Electoral Law and this CSE." In response to the report, CSE
spokesman Felix Navarrette told the media that the complaints
had no basis in fact and the elections were a "closed case."

5. (C) The National Assembly had been the only branch of
government likely to address the fraud. On November 16 the
opposition parties in the National Assembly introduced
legislation to annul the election results, which led to the
paralyzation of the legislature (ref C). However, on January
16, through a FSLN-PLC agreement, the Assembly elected a new
executive committee which gave administrative control of the
legislature to the FSLN, and as a result effectively ended
the possibility that the draft legislation would make it to a
floor vote. FSLN deputies have publicly stated their
opposition to the bill. Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN)
deputies, now voting with the FSLN, also have stated that
they will not vote for the legislation, ensuring the
opposition will not have the necessary votes to pass the

FSLN Seeks Cosmetic Changes

6. (C) In private discussions, the FSLN and the PLC have
proposed two scenarios for addressing the electoral fraud,
both of which are fraught with difficulties and are likely to
weaken democracy further: a FSLN-PLC negotiated agreement to
return a number of mayorships to the PLC; and, 'reform' of
the electoral law. Contacts within the PLC and in the media
have reported that Aleman was negotiating with Ortega for the
return of 15-20 mayorships throughout Nicaragua. Rommel
Moreno, opposition mayoral candidate in Corinto (Department
of Chinandega), told the Ambassador that Aleman had told
Moreno that Corinto was one of the cities Aleman was trying
to get back. Embassy contacts have stated that neither
Managua, Leon, nor any "big" city would be returned in such a
negotiation, but that most of the cities "returned" to the
opposition would be in the PLC's traditionally strong region
of the north (Jinotega, Nueva Segovia, etc.). The likelihood
of an Ortega-Aleman agreement on mayorships is increasingly
low as time passes, and Aleman himself has stated recently
that the FSLN will not return any mayorships. Regardless,
such an agreement would not resolve the broader concerns
about electoral fraud and would strengthen the "pacto"
between the FSLN and PLC.

7. (C) Reform of the electoral law has been proposed as the
other method by which the government might address the
November 2008 electoral fraud. The PLC has been vocal in
promoting electoral reform that would break up the power of
the CSE, but without changing the ability of the FSLN and PLC
to divide control of the new institution among themselves. A
broad coalition of civil society groups is working on
proposals for more genuine electoral reform but are reluctant
to press forward out of concern that that electoral reform
would open the door to broader constitutional reform (a key
FSLN goal). Electoral reforms would require 56 votes in the
National Assembly, thereby opening the potential of another
FSLN-PLC negotiated agreement to divide power. Second, many
are concerned that reforming the Constitution for electoral
reform would open the door to the FSLN's main objective of
reforming the Constitution, which also requires 56 votes, to
allow for presidential re-election and/or a semi-parlimentary
system, with the FSLN being the main beneficiary. Once the
56 votes are in place to pass electoral reform there would be
little to stop them from also passing sweeping constitutional
changes as well.


8. (C) The governing FSLN admits electoral fraud and expects
(or maybe hopes) the opposition and the international
community will accept it and move on. Aware that the donor
community has suspended assistance as a result of the
election fraud, Ortega and his government decided to pay the
price rather than admit fraud or return any local power to
members of the opposition. Civil society, including NGOs,
independent media and the Catholic Church, has kept up
demands for the government to address the fraud, both
retroactively through an internationally monitored audit and
forward-looking by addressing the deeper problems of the
partisan CSE and the flawed electoral system. As with most
crises, Ortega and the FSLN believe they can ride out this
problem and in the end come out on top. Should the pressure
continue, however, Ortega has hedged his bets by proposing a
"national dialogue" to address the political and financial
crises affecting Nicaragua. FSLN leaders have avoided
specifics on the terms of the "dialogue" and, while it is
possible they would use it to offer some concessions on the
electoral system, any changes would be part of a broader
package that advanced Ortega's longer-term political goals,
including constitutional reform and re-election.

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