Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 198 | Enero 1998




Nitlápan-Envío team


A bill sponsored by Cuban-American Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Díaz Balart and voted into law under the name "Aid to Victims of Communism" at the end of November, will allow 150,000 Nicaraguans who went to the United States before December 1995 as "illegal aliens" to become permanent residents. The same law covers 5,000 Cubans in the same situation, but only offers the possibility of appeal to the 350,000 Salvadorans and thousands of Guatemalans in similar conditions. The law expresses the tight alliance between the most intransigent sector of the Cuban exile community represented in Congress and the Alemán government. It also expresses the double misfortune for emigrants in the United States who are the victims of rightwing governments, not leftwing ones.


Environmental groups and those in solidarity with Nicaragua's indigenous communities demonstrated in front of the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington and in other US cities in support of autonomy on Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast and to demand respect for the biological and forest reserve of Bosawás, located on indigenous communal lands in the North Atlantic region. The protests were mainly directed against the Korean lumber company Sol Del Caribe (SOLCARSA), which received a concession from the Chamorro government to exploit 62,000 hectares of forests on this reserve. The concession was declared unconstitutional in February 1997 by Nicaragua's Supreme Court, but the Koreans never left. They have continued deforesting the area and turning precious hardwood trees into plywood sheets. If there has been any change at all, it is that the Korean managers now admit they played fast and loose with Nicaragua's environmental laws, claiming that they did not think the rules were being enforced by the government.


As part of a tour throughout Central America, Spain's President José María Aznar visited Nicaragua on November 11-13. On his visit, Aznar announced that Spain had granted Nicaragua credits amounting to US$133.3 million with very soft conditions. In exchange, the Liberal government was asked to resolve before the end of 1997 the cases of 47 Spaniards whose goods were confiscated by the revolution. These Spaniards are claiming 173 properties and do not accept the Chamorro government's resolution to their cases. Like the Nicaraguan Association of Confiscated, they are demanding either the return of their properties or compensation in cash rather than bonds.

The two Presidents also signed an extradition treaty, aimed at impeding members of the Basque organization ETA from taking refuge in Nicaraguan territory. This treaty was promptly questioned by the Supreme Court because it clashes with Nicaragua's Constitution, which does not allow extradition for political reasons.

Among the initiatives between the two Presidents, one was particularly worrisome: Alemán requested and received Aznar's support to organize what is being called the Department of Intelligence Affairs (DAI), an institution that will depend totally on the Presidency of the Republic and the Ministry of Government, and will have no links with either the army or the police. National analysts evoked Arnoldo Alemán's comment shortly after taking office when he was asked if he was considering imposing a re-edition of the Somocista dictatorship. I can't do it, he answered "because I don't have an army."


The VII Iberoamerican Summit, held on Margarita Island, Venezuela, on November 8-9, had as its theme "The ethical values of democracy." President Alemán went with a plan to actively work to serve the US plan of preventing Cuba from being the site of the IX Summit in 1999. This plan failed, because Spain and Argentine, for various reasons, underestimated it.

Nonetheless, Alemán stayed on the same track, dedicating his speech not to Nicaragua, but to questioning the government of Cuba, which he called, without naming it, a "totalitarian and authoritarian dictatorship, fortunately on the road to extinction." Alemán's anti-Cuban rhetoric was tacitly interpreted as one way the Nicaraguan President paid the Cuban community in Miami for its favors, but it did not have the echo he had hoped for. Cuban Chancellor Roberto Robaina commented while still in Venezuela that "we do not respond to hysterical declarations." On his return to Nicaragua, Alemán said, "I ended up seeing Fidel Castro, but I couldn't even shake his hand because he never came near me."


As 1997 ended, Minister of Education Humberto Belli announced that 740 of Nicaragua's 4,700 public schools (600 primary schools and 140 secondary schools) had already joined the school autonomy project. The goal for 1998 is for all schools to be autonomous. With autonomy, a project enthusiastically promoted by Belli with the full support of the World Bank, parents and teachers make the educational and administrative decisions about their school. One of the first decisions they are encouraged to make refers to the fees for enrollment, maintenance of the center, school activities, etc. In practice, autonomy has ended the gratuity of basic learning required by the Constitution and has had the effect of giving financial issues increasing dominance over pedagogical ones.


National Police sources announced that Managua is safer than other Central American capitals. While a crime is committed an average of every 20 minutes in Managua, one happens every 7 minutes in El Salvador and one every minute in Guatemala.

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