Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 204 | Julio 1998




Nitlápan-Envío team


The incumbent Constitutionalist Liberal Party celebrated its annual convention on July 11. Many of the party's neighborhood, district and municipal meetings held prior to the convention were characterized by pitched battles, scandals and mutual accusations. The new PLC leaders were chosen directly by President Alemán, leaving neither debates nor any surprises for the convention.


Clashes occurred between the governments of Nicaragua and Costa Rica in June, after Nicaraguans living along the border municipality of Cárdenas (with 5,400 inhabitants) expressed to Costa Rican newspapers their desire to be annexed to that country. They feel abandoned by their own government, which is not attending to basic services or stimulating productive activity in Cárdenas or any other zone in the south of the country.

The first response of the Nicaraguan foreign minister was to denounce Costa Rica's "expansionist intentions," which the government of that country emphatically denied. Later, in a decision aimed at improving his government's image in the zone, President Alemán ordered all his ministers to make an official visit to Cárdenas. The problem of the "abandoned" Nicaraguans is not yet over, and has even sparked denunciations about similar situations in northern districts along the border with Honduras.


On June 5, Environment Day, environmental economists reported that, just in the past six months of 1998, Nicaragua lost some $400 million to the thousands of fires that destroyed half a million hectares of forests and over 300,000 hectares of agricultural zones.


On June 8, President Alemán addressed the United Nations Assembly on International Cooperation Against Illicit Drugs and Linked Crimes, held in New York. For the first time since taking office, he distanced himself from US policy on this issue. In an obvious allusion to the US certification policy, he said that "we do not consider it reasonable that a partner or ally could claim rights that allow it to set itself up as arbiter, unilaterally vested with functions that should correspond to expressly authorized international bodies." The summit was held as the United States and Nicaragua are studying a Maritime Anti-Drug Agreement, in which the Nicaraguan Army strongly opposes two points being proposed by the US: introducing armed US ships into Nicaraguan territory to carry out drug seizure operations and capture drug traffickers, and doing so without any participation by the Nicaraguan police or army.


The National Assembly has approved the Law of Promotion, Protection and Maintenance of Breastfeeding. The new legislation, passed at the end of June, has 49 dispositions aimed at encouraging mothers to breastfeed their newborns and at regulating the sale of industrialized milk products. According to highly respected epidemiologist León Argüello, the law was only approved "thanks to the sustained effort of civil society through the NGOs, with relative support from the Ministry of Health." Official data indicate that 80% of Nicaraguan mothers breastfeed their children at birth, but only 11% continue doing so over the child's first six months. Nicaragua annually spends $58.8 million to import substitutes for mother's milk.


On June 30, over 600 men, women and children sacked a warehouse of the Condega municipal government, in northern Nicaragua, taking all the basic grains and other food products stored in it. The supplies had been donated by the World Food Program (WFP), earmarked for communal "food for work" projects organized by the municipality. The WFP gives food donations to 90% of the country's municipalities. Days before, in another poor northern community, San Juan de Limay, hungry peasants stole all the food from a children's dining center.


On July 6-10, Managua's Central American University hosted the II Congress of Mesoamerican Society for Biology and Conservation, a body created two years ago in Honduras to help protect the Mesoamerican ecosystem. Over 300 scientists from all over the continent participated in the event, and more than 100 papers, many of them completely new, were presented. According to congress organizers, it is perhaps the greatest event held in the country's limited scientific history.

Nicaragua is pulling up the rear in research on the area's wealth of flora and fauna, and the gap is widening rapidly. According to distinguished Nicaraguan scientist and former environmental minister Jaime Incer Barquero, the country has some 15,000 species of plants but has only studied 15% of them. The same is true of the almost 300 species of birds, the 30,000 species of insects and the many mammals, reptiles and fish that live in Nicarguan territory. "At the rate of destruction in our country," warned Incer, "these treasures will disappear without our ever knowing anything about them."


The first steps in the construction of a new presidential palace were taken in July. If all goes according to plan, it should be finished by the year 2000, which means that President Arnoldo Alemán could be its first occupant, however briefly.

The building will occupy 8,000 square meters on a 41/2-acre lot in an area of the city razed by the 1972 earthquake. The palace will have a lot of bulletproof glass and will, of course, have a balcony from which the President can speak to the people on special occasions. It will cost between $4 and $5 million, which was totally donated by the government of Taiwan for that purpose.

According to government officials, the objective of building the palace is to give the presidential function "dignity." Architect Roberto Fuentes Cardenal, an adviser to the President, said upon announcing the project that the current presidential building was originally conceived as offices for the Central Bank, and its lack of security has turned it into a "rattrap."

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