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  Number 232 | Noviembre 2000
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

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BUDGET GAMES: 2001

President Alemán sent the National Assembly the budget bill for his last year in office on October 31. The following are some of the more salient facts to emerge so far. First, the projected fiscal deficit of nearly 6 billion córdobas (some US$470 million) is the highest in Nicaragua’s history and 3% higher than the ceiling the international financial institutions have set to be able to endorse an economy’s health. According to the bill, spending is almost 35% greater than in 2000 and income only 13% greater—with almost 92% of the latter coming from taxes. The Civil Coordinator, which represents some 300 nongovernmental organizations, noted that the budget is riddled with discretionary lines (confidential and "incidental" expenditures) "which could be converted into funds for illegal, inappropriate or ineffective use in an electoral year." Finally, though it may seem incredible in an age that lauds decentralization, the budget contains no central government transfers to the municipalities whatever. Alemán is thus implementing the final step of a three-year plan to financially strangle municipal government by reducing such transfers from 2% down to nothing. At the same time the municipalities are seeing their previous right to tax municipal businesses whittled away by central government, which answers more to these companies than to local government or the people.

PRESIDENT’S LATEST INSULTS TOUCH A MILITARY NERVE

In late October, during a visit to what the government dubbed the Works Fair—organized with taxpayers’ money as part of the Liberal’s electoral campaign in Managua—a visibly disturbed President Alemán threw out several astonishingly disparaging comments to reporters about important public figures. First, he referred to recently retired army chief Joaquín Cuadra, who today heads a new political grouping called the National Unity Movement (MUN), as "the little general" and predicted that the MUN will end up excluded from the presidential elections. He also referred to General Emiliano Chamorro, one of the Conservatives’ most revered historical figures, as a "bastard." To cap his disrespect he claimed he had never received any pressure from the US government, but that if he does, "I´ll send them to hell and declare them non grata." In response, retired generals Osvaldo Lacayo, Hugo Torres and Julio Ramos fired back a long protest letter to President Alemán, asking him to show respect for all active and retired officers of Nicaragua’s army. Javier Carrión, the current head of the army, and the other army top brass quickly seconded the request.

NEW PRO-ALEMÁN RADIO STATION

On November 7, when the PLC’s defeat in the Managua mayoral race was already clear, President Alemán inaugurated Radio La Poderosa (The Powerful One), a sleek new radio station in the capital with costly modern equipment. This new spot on the dial, whose slogan is "the hard-hitting station," will be at the service of Alemán’s interests.

CONSERVATIVE’S POST-ELECTION STRATEGY

Several weeks after the elections, the Conservative Party (PC) summoned its party activists to a two-month campaign (December 2000-January 2001) that will culminate on February 25 in a party convention that will designate legislative and presidential candidates for the November general elections. PC leaders declared that they will choose one of three strategy options: ally with the incumbent Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) to prevent an FSLN victory, head up a national alliance to oppose the two parties in the pact (PLC and FSLN) or run alone, as they did to little effect in the municipal elections. They insisted that the only option they have already discarded is an alliance with the FSLN, making clear that that their main objective is to prevent it from winning.

WHO WILL BE ON THE FSLN TICKET?

In declarations to national and international reporters the day after the November 5 elections, FSLN secretary general Daniel Ortega defended his right to run again for the presidency and announced that he was willing to "assume that challenge" in 2001. His remark unleashed intense controversy within the FSLN as well as among independent Sandinistas. In mid-November economist Alejandro Martínez Cuenca and businessman Manuel Coronel Kautz, both of whom are linked to the Ortega sector of the party, put themselves forward as presidential pre-candidates as well. They thus added their names not only to Ortega’s, but also to that of National Directorate member and National Assembly legislator Víctor Hugo Tinoco, who informally threw his hat in the same ring in October and made the bid official on December 1. Following the announcement several months ago of an electoral alliance between the FSLN and former Comptroller General Agustín Jarquín and the group of Social Christian leaders who support him, Jarquín has also been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate for the FSLN, or perhaps as Daniel Ortega’s running mate. Tinoco’s candidacy is the only one that appears not to have Ortega’s blessing. The decision will be made on January 21, in a kind of internal party primary.

ORTEGA AND THE MOONIES

Together with black US sports and show business personalities and thousands of African-American families, Daniel Ortega participated in the Million Family March in Washington on October 16. The demonstration was called by Black Islamic leader Louis Farrakhan, whom Ortega had accompanied on a trip through six war-torn African countries only days earlier at the request of Libyan President Muhumar Khadaffi. The march on Washington was financed by the economically and ideologically powerful Moon Sect, which has long been accused of CIA connections and now appears very close to Ortega. Before his African tour, Ortega visited Libya to request Khadaffi’s economic assistance for the FSLN’s 2001 electoral campaign.

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