Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 256 | Noviembre 2002




Envío team


On October 15, the executive branch submitted its 2003 budget bill to the National Assembly for debate and approval before December 15. As expected, all the institutions demanded greater assignations. One of the fairest claims came from the Association of Municipalities, which is demanding 10% of the budget in central government transfers to the local governments, most of which are bankrupt. Even the full 10% would allow the municipal governments to do little more than simply function and respond to their constituencies’ most minimal demands.

In a message to the nation, Bolaños explained that the budget was not being imposed by the International Monetary Fund but by the fact that Nicaragua is scraping the bottom of the barrel. He listed the reasons for this as the outgoing Sandinista government’s piñata, the squandering and mismanagement of state funds and the fraudulent collapse of several banks in 2000, with the consequent chain of contracted debts. According to experts, it is a “subsistence budget” in which most national sectors come out the losers. The big winners are the bankers with whom the domestic debt has been contracted, as well as top officials and politicians heading up the state branches and institutions and their advisers and consultants, all paid mega-salaries way out of line with the country’s misery and their own professional skills.


By October 22, the Panamanian government had frozen US$11 million in accounts linked to Arnoldo Alemán, Byron Jerez and their families. Nicaragua’s government calculates that between $30 million and $50 million from the guaca, Alemán’s embezzled treasure trove, was laundered in Panama through at least 7 banks and some 25 corporations and other businesses linked to both families. Attorney General Francisco Fiallos declared that his offices would go after money in the rest of Central America, the United States and Europe, but admitted that he has so far been unable to send investigative commissions further than Central America due to financial and personnel constraints.

It was learned on October 10 that the US government had frozen bank accounts belonging to the Alemán and Jerez families in that country. The amount was not disclosed, but Alemán claimed it did not exceed US$600,000, and was educational funds for three of his four children. While Alemán blamed President Bolaños for the measure, calling him “unscrupulous,” Attorney General Fiallos announced that it had been an initiative of the US Justice Department. He added that, in his view, it was the prelude to an imminent trial against Alemán and Jerez in the United States. Alemán’s wife announced that she would go to the United States and sue the government of Nicaragua to recover the money, but has done so.


In the most recent opinion poll conducted by M&R over the course of October, 85.3% of the total sample, including 69.1% of those who admitted to being Sandinistas, stated that Daniel Ortega should pull back and make space for new leaders in the FSLN. On the same question but substituting Alemán and renovation of the PLC leadership, 84.6% of all those polled and 50% of the admitted Liberals favor the idea. Asked if they supported Alemán’s highly touted plans to run for reelection in 2006, 80.4% responded that they did not. There was no corresponding question for Ortega’s candidacy because, while he is clearly preparing to run, he has yet to publicly announce the fact. Asked about their political sympathies, 26.7% declared themselves Sandinistas, 34.2% said they had no leanings toward any political party, and 35.6% said they supported the PLC—25.0% backing the Bolaños wing of the party and 10.6% backing the Alemán wing.


Taking advantage of a meeting of Central American Presidents in Berlin in late October, President Bolaños spent the last week of the month touring Germany, Finland and Spain to promote investments rather than donations for his country. Bolaños also sought to reactivate sister city relationships between 48 German cities and Nicaraguan municipalities. At the Berlin meeting, Bolaños sold Central America as a region with a market of 34 million people, 7% of the planet’s biodiversity and a long trade history with the United States, the world’s number-one consumer market.

In the first Assembly of the Club of Madrid, made up of political leaders and former governors from around the world, Bolaños emphasized a problematic aspect of his anti-corruption struggle. “What good does it do for countries like Nicaragua to track down those guilty of criminal acts when there are tax havens designed especially to hide the stolen funds? ...An electronic transfer can move millions of dollars from Managua to any European capital in a matter of seconds, but it takes years and long judicial processes to repatriate those ill-gotten funds, if they are ever recovered.”

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