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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 251 | Junio 2002
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

Envío team

FLOOD DISASTER

The rains that fell across the country, especially the Pacific, between May 27 and 29 obliged the government to decree a state of natural disaster on May 30. Flooding, overflowing rivers and drainage channels and the destruction of hundreds of kilometers of roads and highways affected a third of the country’s municipalities. In Managua, the volume of rain doubled the amount that fell during Hurricane Mitch in October 1998. Some ten thousand people were reported incommunicado and/or homeless. A preliminary estimate puts material losses at approximately 150 million córdobas (nearly US$10.6 million). The good news is that there were no deaths.

The disaster led the PLC to postpone until July 7 a march scheduled for June 2 in Masaya to support former President Arnoldo Alemán and challenge his successor, Enrique Bolaños. As the original date grew closer, Alemán’s supporters began to fear that the march would not attract the over 30,000 people predicted, and thus prove a failure. Using the flooding as an excuse, the Liberals claimed that the march would cost 2 million córdobas and said they preferred to dedicate the money to support the flood victims. Considering that the country lives in a constant state of disaster due to high poverty and vulnerability levels, it is telling that the party even considered investing such a large sum in "defending" its increasingly wealthy leader.

THE ZOILAMÉRICA CASE

On May 28, the Managua Appeals Court, dominated by judges loyal to the FSLN, ratified the irregular sentence handed down in December 2001 by Judge Juana Méndez on the sexual abuse case filed by Zoilamérica Narváez in 1998 against her stepfather Daniel Ortega. In an attempt to close the case, Judge Méndez had inappropriately invoked a "statute of limitations." she appealed that sentence on January 7 and, after learning the Appeals Court verdict, took her case to the Supreme Court on June 6, requesting that it review and annul the first two verdicts.

The most novel part of this recent step is that for the first time her own government is backing her. The Office of Attorney General, in representation of the state, accompanied her in presenting her annulment appeal, thus honoring its commitments to the OAS Inter-American Human Rights Commission, which last October declared that her suit against the Nicaraguan state for denial of justice was admissible. In March of this year, the commission requested that the state reach a "friendly solution" with her to rectify the damages done to her by the state’s denial of justice and violation of her human rights.

SEXUAL ABUSE

Against the backdrop of the worldwide crisis in the Catholic Church following the revelation of numerous cases of sexual abuse of boys and girls by priests that their superiors then covered up, El Nuevo Diario published groundbreaking articles in May on two such cases in Nicaragua. The victims endorsed both. One, which took place in the fifties, involved a now-deceased priest in Managua and was related by a 60-year-old man who had been one of his victims. The other, more recent case involved a German priest who has worked in Nicaragua with street children for some years and was related to the newspaper by a man in his twenties who described the abuse he had suffered.
Also in May, shocked Nicaraguans indignantly followed the trial of Tulio Rafael Aguilar, a well known university professor in León denounced by an organized group of women for having abused dozens of children from very poor families, some of whom worked in the street, in exchange for money or food. Aguilar began or concluded his crimes by photographing the young children naked or when they were being abused, as hundreds of shots testified. He was sentenced to prison pending appeal on May 29.

FIRST LADY’S SPEECH FROM ANOTHER WORLD

During the XXVII extraordinary UN General Assembly session on children in May, President Bolaños’ wife, Lila T. Abaunza, delivered Nicaragua’s official speech, which defined family as follows: "The family is woman and man, man and woman together, created by God. He rests in her and she reposes in him… There is no kind of family other than the family in full comprehension and love." Referring to the social problems that put this definition into question, she said, "In my country, as in the rest of the world, there are many, many genuine households that mitigate their poverty and misery with love alone… Nonetheless, not all fathers, mothers and families are like that… A great percentage of the children born today are children of single adolescent mothers, who deprive their child of the right to have a father and a stable family. That is how irresponsible paternity and maternity begins." Nicaraguan women’s organizations challenged the First Lady’s speech for being influenced by a religious ideology that contradicts the state’s laity. They also reminded her that only half of Nicaraguan boys and girls live in the nuclear family she described as ideal, not for lack of love but for a multitude of economic, social and even ideological problems. Furthermore, they stressed that while irresponsible paternity abounds in Nicaragua, "irresponsible maternity does not exist; what exists is ignorance of sexuality due to the lack of appropriate sex education in the schools."

ALARMING FIGURES

UN Food and Agriculture Organization figures show that Nicaragua has the highest malnutrition rate in all of Latin America. Of a total population of approximately 5.2 million, nearly 1.7 million (31%) are malnourished due to poverty, particularly those living in the rural areas. According to the 2001 Living Standards Measurement Survey, sponsored by the United Nations Development Program and conducted by Nicaragua’s Institute of Statistics and Census, 37.3% of the country’s housing has only one room and only 24.4% has piped drinking water. The average house has 5.6 inhabitants. A curious figure is that 81% of the houses belong to their inhabitants but a great number of their owners do not have documents to prove it. According to the report, the maternal mortality rate in 2000 was 250 deaths per 100,000 live births, 30% of which were adolescent mothers. In Nicaragua, adolescents account for 27% of pregnancies, which is also the highest rate in Latin America.

EUROPEAN UNION PRESSURES FOR REGIONAL ECONOMIC INTEGRATION

The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, including Nicaragua, participated in a Summit with the 15 countries of the European Union (EU) on May 17-18 in Madrid. Due to failed attempts at regional integration, the EU refused to sign a Free Trade Agreement with Central America and postponed the start of negotiations until 2004. With that deadline set—itself considered an achievement by Central America—European pressure has increased for the region’s countries to quickly establish total economic integration. During the summit, President Bolaños persuaded the EU to release some US$180 million in frozen funds to Nicaragua over the next five years.

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