CONFIDENTIAL: Lords of the Narco-Coast: Part II – Community Reaction

VZCZCXRO2713
RR RUEHAO RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS
RUEHTM
DE RUEHMU #0013/01 0071743
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 071743Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0368
INFO WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/USAID WASHDC 0004
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MANAGUA 000013 

SIPDIS
AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN PASS TO AMEMBASSY GRENADA
AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PASS TO AMCONSUL QUEBEC
AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PASS TO AMCONSUL RECIFE 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/01/07
TAGS: SNAR SOCI ASEC PGOV PHUM PREL KCOR NU
SUBJECT: Lords of the Narco-Coast: Part II - Community Reaction
Divided, FSLN Blames U.S. for Crisis 

REF: A) 2009 MANAGUA 1149 (LORDS OF NARCO-COAST PART I)
B) 2009 MANAGUA 1051 (PRIMER ON MISKITO INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT)
C) 2009 MANAGUA 1047 (MISKITO INDEPENDENCE RALLY TURNS DEADLY)
D) 2008 MANAGUA 1517 AND PREVIOUS (FRAUD IN RAAN ELECTIONS)
E) 2008 MANAGUA 419 AND PREVIOUS (GON SUSPENDS RAAN MUNICIPAL
ELECTIONS) 

CLASSIFIED BY: Robert J. Callahan, Ambassador; REASON: 1.4(A), (B),
(D) 

SUMMARY 

1. (C): On December 8, after a plane laden with cocaine and cash
crash-landed in the remote, small village of Walpa Siksa in the
North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN), a deadly confrontation
took place between Nicaraguan anti-drug units and drug smugglers
allied with some number of local residents.  This message is the
second in a series that reports on the Walpa Siksa incident and its
immediate aftermath, and explores what these events have revealed
about the actual state of organized trafficking operations in
Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast. 

2.  (C) In the aftermath of the incident, public reactions have
been divided.  Some regional politicians and leaders of the
indigenous Yatama political party have called the incident and
subsequent government operations in the region a new "Red Christmas
Massacre" - a reference to the Sandinistas' deadly attacks on
indigenous Miskitos in the 1980s, assertions the military contests
are false.  Religious leaders have denounced these same political
leaders for turning a blind eye to the increased drug activity.
Former Vice President (and ex-Sandinista), Sergio Ramirez, has
decried the presence of trafficking organizations as a national
security threat, while a senior current FSLN official accused the
United States, specifically the CIA, of "promoting" the drug trade
to destabilize the country.  Underneath all lies a subtext of the
perennial rivalry and racial conflict between Nicaragua's Pacific
(Hispanic) and Atlantic (Afro-Caribbean and Amerindian) cultures.
Yet, also through the dissonance, the Walpa Siksa incident and its
aftermath seem to indicate stronger linkages between drug smugglers
and local communities in Nicaragua's Atlantic region than
previously believed.  END SUMMARY 

REGIONAL POLITICIANS BLAME THE MILITARY - SEEK A NEW CRISIS  

3. (C) The Walpa Siksa village, where the December 8 incident
occurred, is in a region historically controlled by Yatama; the
regional, indigenous Miskito political party.  Much of Yatama's
leadership itself has been co-opted by the ruling Sandinista Party
(REF D) over the last few years.  Even so, regional politicians and
several Yatama leaders have taken to the airwaves, primarily on
their new Yatama radio station (reportedly funded by the
government), to condemn the Nicaraguan military for its continuing
operations in the vicinity of Walpa Siksa and Prinzapolka.  These
leaders, including Brooklyn Rivera, a Yatama National Assembly
Deputy; Reynoldo Francis, Governor of the North Atlantic Autonomous
Region (RAAN); Roberto Wilson, the RAAN Vice Governor; and
Elizabeth Enriquez Francis, former mayor of RAAN capital Bilwi (and
ex-wife of Governor Francis), have used Miskito-language radio
broadcasts from the new station to claim that the Nicaraguan
anti-drug unit had violated human rights in pursuing its
investigation and by detaining suspects from Walpa Siksa.  These
leaders vehemently denied that these coastal communities support,
house and abet drug smugglers, as had been charged by some critics.
Rivera told national media that "the soldiers are all from the
Pacific coast.  There has been racism, robberies and looting of
indigenous people's homes."  Other Miskito leaders claim that the
soldiers have killed livestock and stolen food donated to the
community by the World Food Program. 

4. (C) Rivera, Francis, Wilson, and Enriquez have all called for
and even led several protests against police and navy forces
stationed in Bilwi, creating a new crisis in the region.  They have
denounced the "human rights violations" by the anti-drug unit
against the "innocent" indigenous people and claim that the
military "occupation" of Walpa Siksa is rife with abuses.  This
racially-charged agitation led some in the Miskito community to set
up illegal road blocks at the town of Sinsin, preventing traffic on
the only road between Bilwi and Managua.  There were also attempts
to take over the Bilwi International Airport and the capital's main
wharf.  These Yatama leaders and radicalized supporters have
demanded that the Navy cease all operations on the Atlantic Coast,
withdraw from the region, and immediately release the roughly two
dozen suspects detained in Walpa Siksa and Prinzapolka.  (see
SEPTEL).  Rivera also told reporters that the Walpa Siksa community
elders had decided to abandon their community if the military did
not depart or carried out its plan to establish a permanent
presence in the area. 

MORAVIAN CHURCH LEADER CONDEMNS GOVERNMENT COLLUSION 

5. (U) The Moravian Church is the largest denomination on the
Atlantic Coast and a large majority of indigenous Miskitos belong
to it, making the church the moral authority in the region; even
more so than the Catholic Church.  On Friday, December 13, Moravian
Church Superintendant Cora Antonio issued a grave statement against
the local Walpa Siksa community leaders, police officials and
military officials in the Atlantic, whom she claimed knew about the
narco-trafficking base in Walpa Siksa, but took no action until the
recent plane crash.  Antonio, who will finish her two-year term in
January 2010, complained that drug smugglers had established their
networks unchallenged by the GON and exploited the extreme poverty
on the Coast.  She also claimed that elected officials, including
Francis, Wilson, and Lidia Coleman, the mayor of nearby
Prinzapolka, as well as police and military authorities, "knew from
the beginning of the installation of this narco-traffickers' base,
but never did anything about it."   She also stated that in certain
Caribbean communities the narco-traffickers exercised the highest
authority, above that of the community judge, the village elders,
even the pastor or "sindico," and that they frequently commanded
the "last word" on community decisions.  Antonio also said the
Moravian Church had recently removed a reverend from the Walpa
Siksa village out of fear that he would be physically attacked for
preaching against drugs from the pulpit. 

WIHTA TARA ALSO SAYS MILITARY SHOULD LEAVE 

6. (U) Other non-FSLN-aligned indigenous leaders took aim at the
President Ortega and at the military's recent actions.  The Wihta
Tara of the Miskito Nation, aka the Rev. Hector Williams, who
denounced the Managua government and called for Miskito
independence, told the media that Columbian drug traffickers had
already left, so the military should leave as well.  NOTE: The
Wihta Tara (Miskito for "great judge"), was elected by the Council
of Elders of the Miskito Nation and leads Miskito separatist
movement that mounted protests which were violently suppressed this
past October (REF E)  END NOTE.   Williams stated that "the army is
after the money that they think is hidden in the community."
Building on the racial inequality theme, another separatist leader,
Steady Alvarado, publicly questioned why the military felt it could
take actions in the indigenous communities that it would never
attempt on the Pacific Coast.  The Miskito Council of Elders itself
issued a statement on December 12 blaming President Ortega directly
for the "tortures, persecutions and death of our community members
in Walpa Siksa."  It also accused Ortega of being "incapable of
neutralizing" drug trafficking activity on the Atlantic Coast, and
for again "bearing a grudge" against the Coastal peoples, "like he
did during the Navidad Roja (Red Christmas Massacre)."  NOTE: The
Red Christmas Massacre occurred in 1981, when Sandinista military
operations in the Atlantic Coast killed dozens and forcibly
relocated hundreds of Miskitos thought to be collaborating with the
Contras. END NOTE. 

ARMY CHIEF DENIES RIGHTS VIOLATIONS - YIELD "NOT ONE INCH TO
NARCOS" 

7. (U) General Omar Halleslevens, Commander of the Nicaraguan
military, told reporters that the Army would not leave Walpa Siksa,
nor would it stop searching neighboring communities for drug
traffickers.  He insisted that the Army would remain and would take
appropriate measures to protect the area from again becoming a
haven for drug trafficking.  Halleslevens denied accusations that
the military had violated human rights, saying "our line has been
from the very beginning to respect life, human rights, private
property and the law ... as we are completing our duty to support
the police in applying the law."  He further declared that the
military would "not give a rock, nor even an inch of the national
territory, to narco-traffickers" and called on government
institutions and the population to support law enforcement in its
fight.  NOTE: Thus far, Post has no/no credible evidence of human
rights violations by law enforcement related to this operation.  We
continue to monitor the situation closely and will report relevant
developments if they occur.  END NOTE. 

FORMER FSLN VICE PRESIDENT CONDEMNS NARCOS, BLAMES GOVERNMENT 

8. (U) Adding to the chorus of concern about the absentee national
government was author and former Nicaraguan/FSLN vice president,
Sergio Ramirez, who said in an op-ed that the strong
narco-traffickers presence on the Caribbean Coast threatened
Nicaragua's sovereignty and territorial integrity.  He believed
that the "narco-traffickers will promote the separation of the
Caribbean Coast (REF E) and already have the social base to do it"
because of the significant resources drug smugglers enjoy and the
rampant political corruption in the region.  Ramirez also said the
confrontation between the anti-drug units and the Walpa Siksa
community demonstrated that criminal organizations had achieved
enormous influence on the Atlantic Coast while the "government does
not do anything to stop the problem." 

FSLN LEADER BLAMES THE U.S., CIA FOR THE CRISIS, MAY CANCEL
ELECTIONS 

9. (U) In contrast, during December 16 interviews, Steadman Fagoth,
a Miskito indigenous leader, former Contra commander, and now
ardent Ortega supporter, told FSLN-controlled media that United
States had created the Walpa Siksa crisis.  Fagoth, who is also
president of the Government's Fishing Authority (INPESCA), spoke to
Multinoticias Channel 4, owned and operated by the Ortega-Murillo
family, and to "El 19," the official on-line newspaper of the
Sandinista Government.  He claimed that the United States, through
the CIA, was trying to provoke an uprising in the Atlantic Coast
against the government by supporting narco-criminals.  He added
that Alberto Luis Cano, the fugitive Colombian drug leader and
passenger of the crashed drug airplane (see SEPTEL-Part I) had been
hired by the CIA to promote an uprising among the native
population, by playing on the racial animosity between Nicaragua's
Pacific and Atlantic populations.  Perhaps Fagoth's most troubling
comment was that because of the current unrest, the government
might delay regional elections scheduled for March 2010.  

COMMENT 

10. (C) In the cacophony following the Walpa Siksa incident,
statements of FSLN official Steadman Fagoth are perhaps the most
politically ominous.  Fagoth is a regular proxy for Ortega's
Atlantic policy.  His remarks frequently represent test balloons
for how Ortega perceives the situation and how the President seeks
to position himself against any fallout.  Fagoth's anti-U.S.
accusations are outrageous, but not unexpected -- that the United
States and CIA employed a drug trafficker to created this crisis,
destabilize the region and overthrow the government.  He made
similar accusations about the United States and CIA when the Wihta
Tara announced the separatist movement several months ago.  In
2008, the GON delayed RAAN municipal elections (REF E) on dubious
grounds.  Thus Fagoth's comment about delaying the March 2010
regional elections may indicate Ortega's true intent: freeze
everyone in place. 

11. (C) The Walpa Siksa incident and its aftermath aggravated
underlying tensions and divisions that persist in the Atlantic, and
may have exposed new evidence about the nature and extend of
narco-trafficking activity.  Serious concerns about threats to
national security and sovereignty have been raised by critics of
the government.  Some community leaders, such as Moravian
Superintendent Cora Antonio, have spoken out about what they see as
rampant drug corruption and political collusion by RAAN political
leaders.  We find it odd that these same political leaders, such as
Rivera, Francis, Wilson and Enriquez agitated against military
counter-drug operations, and virtually denied the existence of any
narco-trafficking activity.  At a minimum, their efforts to fan
latent racial resentments seem self-serving re-election efforts in
the run-up to regional elections.  For its part, the military
denies any human rights abuses in this, its largest anti-drug land
operation in the Caribbean in years.  In a subsequent message we
will provide more detail about the figures caught up in the Walpa
Siksa incident and outline some of the networks and relationships
that we believe traffickers may have been able to establish.
CALLAHAN