Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 199 | Febrero 1998





On January 10, during the installation of the XIV Legislature in the National Assembly, as President Alemán began to read his annual report, the 36-member Sandinista bench began an unexpected shouting match, calling him a "liar" and a "dictator." The disturbance lasted an hour, the length of the report, making it impossible for the reading to be heard in the hall. With this historically unprecedented act, the Sandinistas were protesting the election on January 9 of the Assembly's new board of directors. Following Alemán's orders, the Liberal majority elected four from Alemán's Constitutionalist Liberal Party, two Liberal allies and one Sandinista. According to the proportional pluralism established in the Assembly statutes, the FSLN should have had at least two if not three of the seven seats on the board. The Sandinistas also denounced the election's illegality to the judicial branch.


Nicaragua and the United States signed a mutual Framework Agreement of Protection of Intellectual Property on January 7. The agreement is aimed at controlling the "piracy" of brands, designs, patents, TV cable service, business information, vegetable varieties and the like with regulations and fines. Nicaragua is the first Central American country and the fourth in all of Latin America—after Ecuador, Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica—to sign the accord, which, as might be guessed, favors the strategic economic interests of the United States. The agreement must be ratified by the National Assembly before going into effect in the second half of 1999.


A "Ministerial Resolution Relative to Work in the Free Zones Located in the Republic of Nicaragua" was signed by the government, the workers and national and foreign businesses on January 23. This followed the airing of a "Hard Copy" TV episode exposing assembly plant conditions in Nicaragua, a visit to the country by US labor rights activist Charles Kernaghan, and the silent but active work of Nicaraguan union leaders and protests, denunciations and even strikes by workers, who are mainly women, in the different assembly plants in Managua. The resolution requires that the plant bosses allow union organization and guarantee fair and healthy working conditions, legal salaries, labor stability— particularly for pregnant workers— and prohibits any form of bodily mistreatment or sexual abuse.


On January 30, Tomás Borge, director of the FSLN daily newspaper Barricada, made a surprise announcement to the staff and press that the paper was temporarily closing. He claimed lack of paper and an insurmountable financial crisis triggered by the state's publicity boycott of the Sandinista media. There had already been one attempt to close Barricada last December, and at the time it finally shut its doors it owed its 230 workers two months' back salaries, overtime and Christmas bonuses.

Various Sandinistas, without underplaying the publicity boycott, blamed Tomás Borge's erratic and erroneous management. Then on February 6, six days after his announcement of the temporary closure, Borge retracted his decision. In yet another unexpected move, Barricada ceased being property of the FSLN and began its transformation into a leftist newspaper that will reportedly reflect national interests and those of a broader, today divided, confused and dispersed Sandinismo. If that is in fact the direction it ends up going, it would be better termed a "re- transformation" since that is the project that the old Barricada staff led by Carlos Fernando Chamorro had already gotten well underway two years ago when Chamorro was removed from his post after a long struggle with the more hard-line leadership.


The National Police seized 1,210 kilos of smuggled cocaine belonging to Colombian drug traffickers on Little Corn Island, in the South Atlantic, on December 7, which they burned in Bluefields the following week. No one was arrested in the operation. It was the second largest smuggling case in the country's history. The largest amount was seized in keys off the coast, also last year.

The growing use and traffic of cocaine and crack in the Atlantic Coast is becoming alarming. The National Police captured another 327 kilos of cocaine in various points of the coast on three different days shortly after the December 7 operation. And then on February 4, 536 kilos of cocaine were detected hidden in a tanker truck that was crossing the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border.

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