Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 205 | Agosto 1998





In early August President Arnoldo Alemán made an eight-day official trip to Argentina and Uruguay. As has already become common on other presidential travels, the delegation accompanying him put in doubt whether his trip was for work or pleasure. On this occasion, 48 people joined him: other government officials with their wives and a good number of friends and family members of the President himself. Given the scandalous spending that such an unnecessary number of people involved, calculated at a minimum of a quarter of a million dollars, the Comptroller General decided to investigate where the funds used to pay for the trip had come from. The trip was also denounced by various legislators of different political stripes and by all the media that are not government controlled.


According to a study by the Institute for Human Promotion (INPRHU) based on the registries of businesses that deal in family remittances, Nicaraguans working abroad send an annual US$450 million in cash to their family members in Nicaragua. Of this amount, $200 million arrives from the United States and the other $250 million from Costa Rica (as of 1997, over half a million Nicaraguans, the majority of them impoverished rural peasants and workers, were working in neighboring Costa Rica).

This means that the labor of the poor is the country's main hard currency generator. In 1997, Nicaragua's total export earnings, from all categories, was valued at $704 million; even coffee, which traditionally makes up half of Nicaragua's export income, doesn't come close to the amount sent home by the country's exported workers.


President Arnoldo Alemán and Comptroller General Agustín Jarquín, together with their respective advisory teams, met for two hours on July 17 to try to push past their most recent serious conflicts. Among other issues discussed was the exploitation of forest resources, a lucrative business being disputed by the different economic groups, and the Comptroller's desire to audit the upcoming privatization of the public utilities—water, electricity and telecommunications.

Days later the comptroller presented various pieces of legislation that he argues would guarantee efficacy, efficiency and transparency in the exercise of public affairs. One of these is a bill against illicit enrichment and influence-peddling, neither of which are currently typed as crimes in Nicaragua's penal code.


Immediately following the 19th anniversary celebration of Nicaragua's revolutionary triumph, the working group of the Sao Paulo Forum met in Nicaragua for two days. The forum was created in 1990 to discuss the future of Latin America's left and the design of alternative economic and political proposals in light of the profound changes taking place in the world; it now includes a hundred parties. The meeting in Managua was to prepare for the 8th session of the forum, to be held in Mexico at the end of October.

In its final declaration, the working group spoke out against left-bashing in what many interpreted as an implicit allusion to Zoilamérica Narváez's charge of sexual abuse against her adoptive father Daniel Ortega: "The Sao Paulo Forum alerts its peoples to the fact that, insofar as the prevailing political system is generating a mounting wave of inefficiency and corruption, the practice has grown over recent years to engage in campaigns of disparagement and personal attacks against political leaders of the left. The goal of these campaigns is to undermine the credibility of the popular forces' capacity to articulate and develop an alternative project." To the degree that it was an intentional closing of ranks around Daniel Ortega, it created serious misgivings among those who believed in the lucidity of their leaders and had assumed they would recognize the overriding social and ethical importance of legally airing this controversial case.


The National Army is working on the design of a permanent system to guarantee security in the still-un pacified rural areas of the country. The system would involve the participation of the army (in the mountainous zones), the police (on roads, highways and in the urban centers), and the armed and organized rural producers themselves, who would defend their own farms. All would be coordinated in their respective actions.

According to army figures, 791 civilians and 105 military personnel have died since 1994 as a result of the activities of the armed groups, who themselves suffered 541 dead. Among the crimes commonly committed by these bands, the one most on the rise is kidnapping for hefty ransoms. In 1998, an average of one agricultural producer was kidnapped every two days.

Army sources claim that some 44 criminal bands involving about 300 armed members are currently operating in the countryside. That does not include the northern Caribbean Coast region, where the army calculates that 250 members of the Miskito organization YATAMA have taken up arms again; other sources say the numbers could be four times as high as that. There is evidence that the YATAMA fighters are enjoying increasing legitimacy in the coast as a result of the ethnic demands they are defending and the Liberal government's show of disrespect toward them.


In mid-July the Organization of American States' Inter- American Human Rights Commission sued the government of Nicaragua for violating the indigenous rights of the Mayangna community of Awas Tingni by not guaranteeing the demarcation of its ancestral territory and by irrationally exploiting its natural resources without consulting the community. The ongoing dispute between the Nicaraguan government and the indigenous communities of the Caribbean Coast, which exploded during the Sandinista government, returned briefly to international headlines in 1995 when the Chamorro government granted the Korean company Solcarsa license to exploit 62,000 hectares of forest on indigenous lands. The territory is also near the biological reserve of Bosawás, declared Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO. After Nicaragua's Supreme Court finally ordered the company to suspend operations in 1998 due to brazen disrespect for the rules of the contract, Solcarsa faked its departure, while "another" company with a different name continued the deforestation.


On June 24, former Nicaraguan President Violeta Chamorro officially inaugurated a new foundation that bears her name. It will develop social programs and is focusing particularly on upgrading the profesionalism of Nicaraguan journalist in an effor to increase effective democracy. Some, however, also see it as a platform from which a candidate -- Violeta herself, perhaps? -- could effectively go up against the Liberal and Sandinista frontrunners in the 2001 presidential elections. The ex-President and her four children, who among them cover a wide political spectrum, make up the foundation's council of directors, and the members who have joined the foundation represent a spectrum that is every bit as wide.

Print text   

Send text

<< Previous   Next >>


Women: The Other Face of Power

After Our Silence

Challenges Before 2000 A Dream for 2020


Re-election: Centerpiece of the Pact

A Political Crime That's Threatening The Peace Process

Masks, Silences and Winds from Below
Envío a monthly magazine of analysis on Central America
GüeGüe: Web Hosting and Development