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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 248 | Marzo 2002
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

CENTRAL AMERICAN SUMMIT PREPARES FOR BUSH AND FTA

Central America’s Presidents held a special meeting in Managua on February 28 to hammer out consensual positions on both the March 24 visit of US President George W. Bush and the Free Trade Agreement that the United States has decided to sign with the region. Their final declaration recognized the need to deal jointly with terrorism, corruption, drug trafficking and money laundering. In the summit, defined at its conclusion as a "relaunching of the integration process," the heads of state also worked on the idea of seeking negotiated solutions to the border conflicts that have been undermining relations between several of the countries.

Another issue they addressed had to do with the consequences that the war in Colombia will have on the region. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Army of Nicaragua announced during those same days that it will organize an elite force of 1,200 soldiers to combat terrorism and the trafficking of weapons, drugs and illegal individuals that could increase as an effect of the Colombian crisis. This fight, to be conducted with US cooperation, will be unleashed by air, sea and land. An Arias Foundation study made public in February calculated that 5 million weapons are in the hands of civilians in Central America, which has a combined population of 30 million.

CONPES GIVEN A SHOT IN THE ARM

On March 4, President Bolaños swore in the new and continuing members of the Social and Economic Planning Council (CONPES), an important consultative body representing state institutions and social, business, labor and political organizations, including universities and NGOs, set up to provide the President input on national planning. The reforms to the Constitution passed at the end of 1995, near the end of the Chamorro administration, granted the President the faculty to create such a body but it was only established in late 1999, and then due to pressure from the international community. In its two years of sessions, CONPES discussed such important issues as the poverty reduction strategy and follow-up commitments made to the Consultative Group in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, but President Alemán used it largely as a decorative figure.
Bolaños, in contrast, has declared that he will give CONPES its due place, and added organized sectors previously absent, such as journalists, youth and women. In the swearing-in ceremony, Bolaños laid out several challenges to CONPES, among them the definition of a development strategy and an institutionality strategy that does away with the party skew corrupting the main state institutions. He also called on CONPES to participate in his Crusade against Corruption.

THE END OF THE FUAC

At the end of February and beginning of March, the army also gave a serious beating to rearmed groups that have been carrying out criminal activities in the Mining Triangle for a number of years. Particularly hard hit were the remnants of the Andrés Castro United Front (FUAC), with "Tyson," "Tinieblas" and "Vengador"—all heads of splinter bands responsible for criminal atrocities—all killed in combat together with two other FUAC chiefs. The surviving members of their groups surrendered and turned over all their armaments to the army, which means the virtual end of the FUAC. The last leader remaining in the area, known as "Juan de la Montaña," was killed on March 14.

ELECTIONS IN THE AUTONOMOUS REGIONS

Elections were held on March 3 in the North and South Atlantic Autonomous Regions (RAAN and RAAS, respectively) to elect the 45 people who will make up the Regional Councils in each of the two regions. The disorder promoted by the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) and the lack of credibility among parties and candidates undermined the legitimacy of the process and were among the main reasons why 62% of the nearly 200,000 eligible voters abstained. According to official projections for the RAAN, the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) won 17 seats, the FSLN 15, the Miskito organization YATAMA 12 and PAMUC, another regional party, 1. In the RAAS, the PLC won 31, the FSLN 13 and YATAMA 1.

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