Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 250 | Mayo 2002




Envío team


May 4 was the date scheduled for the inaugural session of the new Regional Councils elected in March in the North and South Atlantic Autonomous Regions (RAAN and RAAS). This session consisted solely of electing and swearing in their new regional coordinators and seven-member boards. Although the PLC won by an ample margin in the RAAS, it won only a plurality in the RAAN, and a later alliance between the Miskito regional party YATAMA and the FSLN gave them the majority for this important vote.
The notoriously pro-Alemán president of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), Roberto Rivas, presided over the election and swearing in of the new officials in both regions. From that privileged position, he colluded with the PLC bench in the RAAN to ensure that the YATAMA-FSLN majority could be circumvented through a spurious technicality. The ploy was obviously aimed at guaranteeing the economic interests that Alemán and his circle—Byron Jerez included—have in the Atlantic Coast.

Emmett Lang, a Sandinista magistrate in the CSE, immediately challenged Rivas’ ruling, and amid the political/legal maneuvers between the two, the atmosphere heated up dangerously, both inside the hall and outside on the street where a sizable gathering of Sandinista and YATAMA demonstrators awaited the results of the vote. Even before the display inside, they were harboring a grudge at earlier CSE maneuvers to favor the PLC during the elections themselves.

When the PLC councilors and Rivas withdrew from the plenary to consult, Lang conducted a new vote since a quorum was still present. Not surprisingly, mostly YATAMA and FSLN board members were elected, and duly sworn in. When Rivas got wind of this he refused to recognize the new board. With the news of this situation filtering out to the street, things got violent, as army and police anti-riot forces, anticipating trouble, surrounded the crowds. At the time of this writing, Bilwi (Puerto Cabezas), the capital of the RAAN, was still militarized, there was sporadic violence, and the stand-off within the Regional Council had not been resolved.


On April 21, during his speech on the first 100 days of his administration, President Bolaños said the following: "When a million and a half dollars is stolen in government, some think it’s peanuts. But that is the amount needed to increase the minimum wage of all government employees by twenty percent, or to build a thousand houses for the poor. When banks go under and seven billion córdobas are diverted to cover the losses, as happened in Nicaragua, that is the theft of the entire medicine budget for 25 years or the whole education budget for five years."
With that, he announced an 18-20% increase in the basic wage of over 12,000 state workers, including teachers, health workers and police officers. Bolaños stressed that this increase was possible thanks to the austerity program that the executive branch has been implementing during the past three months.

The unions and federations under the pro-Sandinista National Workers’ Front (FNT) umbrella questioned the raise, complaining that the formality of the speech masked the insignificance of the increase. On May 1, International Workers’ Day, Sandinista union demonstrators participating in the march shouted out, "Alemán and Bolaños are the same thing."
On the other side, the traditional business representatives grouped under the Supreme Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), their own umbrella organization, declared that it would be impossible for them to use the wage hike decreed by the government as a benchmark for their own minimum wage, considering it too high.

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