Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 243 | Octubre 2001




Envío team


With the world immersed in crisis following the attack on the United States, Managua hosted the III Conference of States Party to the Ottawa Convention (1997) between September 12 and 17. The initiative aims to get all countries in the world to sign on to the prohibition against the use, production, storage, purchase or sale of anti-personnel mines and to ensure the destruction of all mines buried or stored in the signatory countries. So far, 120 countries have signed the Convention, of which 72 sent delegations to the conference in Managua. During the conference, the Nicaraguan government lobbied participants to sign a resolution vigorously supporting the United States, but its effort fell flat because the United States is the world’s largest producer of mines and is one of the countries that has been unwilling to sign the Convention.

The Army of Nicaragua has a National De-mining Commission, which began work in 1993 and has so far destroyed some 67,000 planted mines and another 90,000 it had stored. According to army sources, about 70,000 mines remain to be destroyed.


On August 31, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in San José, Costa Rica, ruled in favor of the Mayangna-Sumu community of Awas Tingni in a case against the Nicaraguan State presented to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in 1995, after the national judicial system failed to provide an adequate response. That year, the Chamorro government had granted a 30-year concession to SOLCARSA, a Korean lumber company, to fell 62,000 hectares of forests located in the indigenous community’s ancestral lands. Although the contract itself was eventually canceled in response to national and international pressure from environmental groups, the suit, which also dealt with more fundamental land issues, continued its course through the hemispheric court. In the end, the court ruled that the Nicaragua state had violated the Mayangnas’ property rights, judicial protection and equality before the law. It ordered Nicaragua not only to demarcate the traditional lands of this indigenous community but also to establish legal mechanisms to demarcate the lands of all other native communities in Nicaragua. It also ordered the government to invest US$50,000 in public works for this community and cover the US$30,000 in legal costs. This is the court’s first ruling related to the territorial rights of indigenous communities and thus sets an important continental precedent.


Ever since the controversial sale of 40% of the stocks of the state-owned Nicaraguan Telecommunications Enterprise (ENITEL) on August 31 to TELIA, a Swedish consortium linked to a Honduran company, Managua Mayor Herty Lewites has been waging a judicial battle to annul the privatization. His initial writ argued that it was unconstitutional because the Managua Appeals Court, upholding a lower court ruling on his earlier suit against ENITEL for its huge debt to the Managua government, had suspended the bidding hours before the buyers were decided. The case got as far as the Supreme Court.
On September 18, Liberal justice Josefina Ramos, president of the Supreme Court’s constitutional bench, called a session to hear the case. Despite an obvious lack of quorum, the bench ruled that the shares of the public service had been duly privatized and declared the case closed. When Mayor Lewites filed a new writ against that illegal decision, Ramos again called her bench to session, this time illegally completing the quorum with Liberal justices from other benches of the Court, and annulled the new writ. President Alemán, who Lewites claims is one of the covert purchasers of ENITEL, had already announced this conclusion to the conflict even before Ramos acted it out. The two illegal sentences created an unprecedented conflict in the judicial branch, already politically polarized by the Alemán-Ortega pact.


With election day only weeks away, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) made one last effort to reduce abstention due to the lack of voter registration cards. It sent 1,300 young people out to 33 municipalities to deliver their new ID-voter card into the hands of some 234,000 people who have never gone to pick them up and substitute documents to another 108,000 people whose permanent card is still not ready. In a recent poll by the Central American University’s Institute of Polls and Public Opinion Surveys (IDESO), nearly 19% of the unprecedented 44% of registered voters who did not vote last year said that it was because the CSE had failed to issue their card.


Writers Gioconda Belli, Ernesto Cardenal and Sergio Ramírez issued a signed message on October 10 that said in part: "The ideals of Sandino continue to represent national dignity, full democracy and the just distribution of wealth…. Democracy in Nicaragua today is being held hostage to the arbitrary desires of two caudillos, Arnoldo Alemán and Daniel Ortega, who, through a shady pact have cut away the pluralistic political options, forcing many to choose what they consider a lesser evil or else abstain from exercising their vote… We cannot vote, either for Enrique Bolaños, who as Vice President has been co-responsible for all the abuses committed by the current government, or for Daniel Ortega, who in his ambition to recover power has disrespected democratic principles. Both represent the past. Nicaragua needs a moral renovation, which involves burying corruption, and it needs governors who have compassion for the poorest and most needy, those who today have been turned into electoral cannon fodder, deceived by promises that can never be met. Our hope is that a new generation of Nicaraguans will take up that challenge…. We cannot renounce our critical conscience. And out of respect for democracy, we cannot vote until full freedom of choice is restored."
Like the Supreme Court, the electoral branch of government is polarized, and for the same reason (thanks to the pact, all CSE magistrates are either PLC or FSLN members). FSLN presidential candidate Daniel Ortega has charged on numerous occasions that the incumbent Liberal Party (PLC) is using its control over the state institutions to prepare an "electronic fraud." One of the most recent controversies was triggered by a strange agreement reached by the CSE magistrates to allow the three parties running to substitute any of their candidates until just hours before election day.

The CSE also got the Army and the Police to pledge that they will have enough members outside the municipal, departmental, regional and national computing centers to prevent gatherings of party sympathizers that could lead to violence. "This does not imply militarizing the elections," the electoral authorities assured a largely skeptical public.

Print text   

Send text

<< Previous   Next >>


The Armageddon Effect: The Final Test

Who Are the Undecided and the Abstainers?

Fundamentalism, Exclusion, Identity and Annihilation

El Salvador
Dollarization, Two Earthquakes and Now War

Pain and questions in the Guatemalan Press

How Wide Will the War on Terrorism Cast its Net?

Dual Societies: A Ticking Bomb

The World on the Ropes


Envío a monthly magazine of analysis on Central America
GüeGüe: Web Hosting and Development