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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 179 | Junio 1996
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Aldo Díaz Lacayo


In an act to commemorate President Chamorro's sixth year in office, General Joaquín Cuadra, the head of the army, turned over to her the Loma de Tiscapa military installations, bastion of the Somoza dictatorship. She decreed the hillock a National Historic Park and announced that a new monument to Augusto C. Sandino will be erected on it. "I am transforming this site, symbol of dictatorship, militarism and the oppression of an entire people" she proclaimed, "into a permanent monument to freedom and peace." In her speech, the President also announced that she was fulfilling her desire to "pay homage" to Sandino, "a symbol of struggle for our sovereignty." She added that his heroic deed "should not be used by any party or ideology."


After a lengthy conflict between the executive and legislative branches, the National Assembly finally elected Christian Democrat Agustín Jarquín, a member of Managua's municipal council since 1990, as the new Comptroller of the Republic. Jarquín was not the executive's choice, but Claudia Frixione, who was elected as deputy comptroller, was. She is the wife of Francisco Rosales, Minister of Labor and prominent member of PRONAL. The two have their work cut out for them for the next five years. The number of corruption cases that have built up over the Chamorro administration have deposited a huge burden and great expectations on this post. Jarquín vowed that the Comptroller's Office would work professionally, firmly and without party bias.


Fernando Silva, a Sandinista legislative representative who has recently switched affiliations to join Edén Pastora's Democratic Action Party (PAD), was elected on April 12 to replace Mariano Fiallos as one of the five magistrates heading the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE). Rosa Marina Zelaya, who as executive director of the CSE has the greatest experience of the remaining magistrates, was elected to take Fiallos' place as president. In one of her first declarations, Zelaya, responding to persistent rumors, declared that it would be "extremely serious for democracy" and "very dangerous" if the elections were suspended or even if their date was changed.


The National Assembly voted to renew the presence of the Organization of American States' International Support and Verification Commission (CIAV) for yet another year. It will develop its mandate in the former war zones where rearmed groups exist today. The legislators from the various Sandinista benches voted against CIAV's continuation in Nicaragua, arguing that the way to confront the armed groups is to strengthen the army and the National Police. CIAV's presence, which was to have concluded in June 1996, has at moments been very controversial. Over the six years of its existence, it has been occasionally accused of complicity with groups of rearmed former contras. There is no clear evidence of how much of that alleged complicity was a result of CIAV policy, how much may have been carried out by local Nicaraguans hired in the conflictive areas who had personal sympathies with members of the rearmed groups, and how much was simply sloppy reporting by journalists unfamiliar with or in disagreement with CIAV's original one sided mandate which even CIAV officials now criticize. That mandate, assigned at the time of the demobilization of the Nicaraguan Resistance (RN), was to oversee the disarmament of the RN members, and provide emergency reinsertion assistance and ongoing human rights protection exclusively for them. The bulk of its financing for this task was provided by the United States. On its own, however, CIAV sought financing for more substantial reinsertion programs, involving production, housing and small businesses. Some of its projects even involved former combatants on both sides, including novel housing projects in which the two groups of recipients worked together to build the housing, then ended up living side by side.

Another problem CIAV faced was that, prior to 1995, its mandate was only renewed for six months at a time. The short term mentality this produced never allowed it to think strategically. Finally, both of these problems were addressed in 1993, when it was given a two year extension, and a mandate to assist in the reinsertion of all uprooted sectors that were not being attended by other organizations. CIAV proposed to focus especially on former combatants on both sides.It then faced another problem: since the United States was perceived as CIAV's main funder, and was unwilling to provide resources for anything other than narrowly defined human rights work, CIAV has had a hard time financing any of the program it designed for those two years.In 1995 CIAV was given what was assumed to be its last extension: one year in which to wind up its work and prepare others to take over. To that end it worked to create or strengthen peace commissions in the conflictive zones.


The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) is urging that exact boundaries be established for the country's 143 municipalities. In 92 of the 117 municipalities in which voters will use their new ID cards, arbitrarily determined new boundaries differ from those that establish the place where the cardholder will vote, which appears on the card. This new demarcation was decided on in January but did not appear in the official publication, La Gaceta, until April, when the ID voter registration card process had almost concluded. Since the October elections are also for municipal authorities, the CSE announced "unpredictable problems" with these boundary changes.

Another snag is that the CSE still has a deficit of $7.1 million for the 1996 elections and of $6.9 million for institutional functioning, according to declarations of the new CSE president, Rosa Marina Zelaya.


In mid April, Russia pardoned 98% of Nicaragua's debt to it, equivalent to $3.5 billion. The remaining 2% ($200 million) is to be paid over an 18 year period starting in 2001, on very soft terms. This reduces Nicaragua's enormous debt by a third, although it is a mere formality since nothing has ever been paid on this portion by either the Sandinistas or the current government. The debt with the former USSR was contracted by Nicaragua during the 1980s for supplies of oil and other inputs, but not for military equipment. All armaments were donated," explained the Russian ambassador in Managua, on announcing the pardon.


The Sandinista Workers' Confederation (CST) formally divided on March 24, when a majority of its members rejected the reelection of Lucio Jiménez as the confederation's top director. The split was also a rejection of the new businessman unionist status of many historical CST leaders who have been appropriating shares of the enterprises privatized to the labor sector in 1991 92. Some 60% of the individual workers and federations that had made up the CST formed a new Alliance of Union Federations. Among the numerous federations that made the switch are those of the telecommunications and electricity workers.


At least 121 Nicaraguans died as a result of using highly toxic pesticides in 1995. Another 1,268 people, many of them children, were also affected by direct or indirect contact with these deadly poisons. The average is dramatic: One death every three days, and over three affected daily. Despite an incipient effort to introduce organic pesticides in Nicaragua, these chemicals are still routinely used in agricultural work, particularly in cotton and banana crops. The country still imports pesticides on the "dirty dozen" list, which are prohibited in the United States and other countries of the North. The National Assembly is now studying a law to prevent the use or importation of these products.


The Nicaraguan government offered 65% of the stock of its commercial Nicaraguan Bank (BANIC) for sale to local or international investors.The goal, explained the government, "is not to privatize it, but to capitalize it."

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