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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 301 | Agosto 2006
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

Envío team

OAS ELECTORAL OBSERVERS
CRITICAL OF PROCESS
The following obstacles to the country’s electoral process are underscored in a report submitted to the Organization of American States’ Permanent Council in Washington by the OAS electoral observer mission in Nicaragua: The party-based composition of the electoral bodies, the impreciseness of the Electoral Law, a voter list with deficiencies, a cumbersome process for issuing ID/voter registration cards, operational and logistical limitations and a polarized and confrontational political tradition. The head of the mission, former Bolivian foreign minister Gustavo Fernández, stressed that while “the conditions aren’t optimal and could be improved,” he was in control of the situation. OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza appeared more optimistic about Nicaragua’s electoral process, arguing that you can’t expect perfection, and favorably comparing the situation observed in Nicaragua with the elections in Haiti. The OAS will issue another report one month before the November elections.

MASS FOR THE REVOLUTION
In what is now a three-year tradition, Cardinal Obando celebrated a formal mass for the Sandinista revolution on July 18 in Managua’s Cathedral. The Ortega-Murillo family attended together with other current FSLN leaders, FSLN members who currently occupy top state posts and Sandinista sympathizers. In his homily, the Cardinal said, “Only love is constructive; hate produces destruction and fury. A peace process can never be undertaken if men and women do not mature and there is no sincere forgiveness. Without this forgiveness the wounds will continue to bleed, feeding future generations in an endless vacuum.” In his own speech during the FSLN’s celebration at the Plaza of Faith the following day, Ortega lamented that his call for forgiveness has fallen on deaf ears. “It’s harder to forgive than to ask for forgiveness,” he said. “You can ask for it every day, but as there is so much hatred, so much rancor, they don’t forgive you. Let’s hope that their hearts will soften and they can come to understand that these are different times.”

TWO JULY 19 CELEBRATIONS
For the first time, Sandinistas opposed to the Ortega clique that controls the FSLN mounted their own sizeable concentration to celebrate the 27th anniversary of the 1979 revolution. Some 5-7,000 supporters turned out at the San Jerónimo Plaza in Masaya to remember Herty Lewites, the MRS Alliance’s recently deceased presidential candidate, hear several MRS leaders and listen to the music of various artists who are backing this political option, including Carlos Mejía Godoy, who is the vice presidential candidate on the ticket now headed by Edmundo Jarquín. “We didn’t spend a single cent on the event,” said one of the organizers, proud of the fact that the crowd got there on its own. This was in sharp contrast to the money lavished by the FSLN on transport and infrastructure to bring some 200,000 people to its own event, held hours later in Managua, from as far away as Madriz and Nueva Segovia . According to Mejía Godoy, the idea of the MRS Alliance “wasn’t to compete with the FSLN, but to give July 19 back its original sense of celebration.”

BOLAÑOS AND THE IMF
COMMIT “LICIT CORRUPTION”
As President Bolaños approaches the end of his term in office, analyses of his administration are becoming even more critical. Economist Néstor Avendaño has this to say: “I reaffirm that the public sector corruption of Bolaños’ administration was expressed in the reassigning of 60% of the US$980 million written off Nicaragua’s foreign debt by the international community, which was supposed to be earmarked to combat poverty but was instead used by the Ministry of the Treasury to make payments on the domestic debt, thus favoring the national bankers. This was done with the approval of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), making it jointly responsible for this licit corruption.”

”CANDIDATES DECLARE THEIR WEALTH …UP TO A POINT
At the end of July the five presidential candidates publicly declared their personal and family wealth in bank accounts, real estate and other possessions. In order of amount declared, Eduardo Montealegre (ALN-PC) was in first place with personal capital equivalent to over $5.3 million; Edmundo Jarquín (Alianza MRS) and José Rizo (PLC) each declared approximately US$1.2 million; Edén Pastora (Alternative for Change) acknowledged $300,000; and Daniel Ortega (FSLN) declared just under $218,000. Given the lifestyle of Ortega and his family, the patrimony he decided to make public unleashed an avalanche of critical and humoristic commentaries.

BOLAÑOS’ PROPOSED AGREEMENT
GETS NO TAKERS
In a final token of courtesy to the IMF, President Bolaños proposed in mid-July that the five presidential candidates sign a National Development Agreement committing them to maintain the country’s economic stability by sticking to all the conditionalities the IMF has established for Nicaragua. Among the points of the agreement would be condemning and avoiding strikes that demand “excessive disbursements,” supporting the budget that the National Assembly will approve in October—before the elections—and endorsing the portfolio of programs and projects already established by the current government in order to guarantee the disbursement of US$1.7 billion for their implementation over the next five years. The two Liberal candidates—Rizo for the PLC and Montealegre for the ALN-PC—refused to sign, the latter because he’s already campaigning on those same proposals and the former because “candidates are supposed to prepare such proposals, not the President.” The other three candidates, Ortega for the FSLN, Jarquín for the MRS Alliance and Pastora for the Alternative for Change, didn’t even respond.

TEENAGE PREGNANCY PRO AND CON
This year the festivals of Santo Domingo, patron of Managua (August 1-10), included a message that was an historical first for these massive religious street processions. Signs in huge letters placed beneath the flowers framing the tiny image read, “Say yes to life” and “Abortion is murder.” It was yet another expression of the refusal of Catholic and fundamentalist evangelical groups to engage in mature Christian reflection about interrupting pregnancies as a response to grave social and medical problems and especially to pregnancies resulting from rape. Their increasingly heated campaign is in the context of a move to repeal a century-old penal code article allowing therapeutic abortion.

The issue of child mothers returned to public debate this month when the Ministry of Health offered these dramatic figures: a third of all births in Nicaragua are to girls 16 years old and under and a sixth of those to girls from 10 to 14 years old. The MRS Alliance’s electoral program is the only one that refers to enforcing the constitutional principle of a secular state with secular policies. Among other things it would establish sex education in the public education system and promote a society in which forced and unwanted pregnancies begin to disappear.

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