Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 144 | Julio 1993




Envío team


General Humberto Ortega informed the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) in April that Nicaragua's army, still constitutionally called the Sandinista Popular Army (EPS), today has a roster of 15,000. In 1990, at the time of the change of government, it had 90,000, down from 134,000 in 1987, the war year in which the draft reached its peak. Ortega says that this makes the EPS now the smallest army in Central America.

The report to the OAS also states that Nicaragua's military budget has been reduced from $182 million in 1989 to $36.5 million in 1993. According to General Ortega, this is the smallest per-capita budget of any army in Latin America.


During a visit to Nicaragua at the end of April, OAS secretary general Joao Baena Soares rejected the creation of a "truth commission" in Nicaragua similar to the one in El Salvador. Minister of the Presidency Antonio Lacayo had accepted the idea, suggested by two Republican senators, during a trip to the United States in March. According to Baena Soares, El Salvador's case is different, and, furthermore, the International Commission of Support and Verification (CIAV), a supervisory institution of the OAS, already exists in Nicaragua.

With regard to the CIAV-OAS, the Nicaraguan government petitioned the secretary general to extend its presence in Nicaragua for two more years and to broaden its mandate. Up to now CIAV was limited to protecting the human rights only of demobilized members of the Resistance; its mandate would now cover the rights of all national sectors. The OAS approved both requests.


In an extra-ordinary meeting of the President of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, held in Managua on April 22, the host country joined what had been called up to then the "Triangle of the North" and is now called the "CA-4" group. In the declaration issued at the end of the meeting, all the Presidents agreed to perfect the free trade zone between their four countries and take all steps necessary to achieve their economic union.

Nicaragua enters the CA-4 as the largest country in Central America, but also as the poorest. In 1992, it imported products from the rest of Central America valued at $230 million and exported only $41.7 million worth of goods to the same region. El Salvador and Guatemala agreed to grant Nicaragua "preferential, asymmetric and transitional" treatment for two years with respect to trade (having to do with duty payments) and "exceptional" treatment in areas related to financing, investment and its debt.


The rainy season began in Nicaragua on May 8 this year, announcing its arrival with such a torrential downpour that four street children were killed in Managua when a wall they were sleeping next to collapsed. The heavy rains also destroyed the shanty houses of 620 people in Managua and over 1,700 in Ticuantepe, a rural community on the outskirts of the capital. Despite continuing good rains since then in many areas, including the capital, the drought that has afflicted other regions for the past several years has still not broken.


In February and March of this year, 9,906 crimes were reported in Managua alone, the vast majority of them cases of armed robbery. Of the 5,163 perpetrators detained by the police, 87% had never been involved in crime before, and 53% were out of work.


After a year and a half of bureaucratic boondoggling, the Council of Political Parties finally gave legal recognition to the Party of the Nicaraguan Resistance (PRN), which groups together the vast majority of the demobilized former contras (it claims some 40,000, including families). The new party was born as an initiative independent of UNO, and still maintains a distance from that far-right coalition of parties now opposing the government.


Sergio Ramírez, head of the Sandinista bench in the National Assembly, vigorously denounced the Ministry of Finance for illegally cutting 39 million córdobas ($6.5 million) from the national budget after it had been approved by that legislative body. It did so without informing or consulting with the parliamentarians, and does not have their ex post facto approval of the cuts.


Representatives of Nicaragua's 35 Sumu communities held a seminar in April that they titled "Mayanna Disyamdi" (which translates to "The Sumus Are Dying Out"). In it, they demanded titles for Sumu communal lands that had not been legalized during the previous government. (At the 1986 anniversary celebration of the revolution, then-President Daniel Ortega publicly presented the leader of Wasakín, a century-old community of over 100 families and thus one of the largest, with title to 85,000 acres of communal land. In the ensuing years, however, the promise to draw up legal deeds for the Sumus' other traditional lands took a back seat to the regional peace effort.)
The Sumus also demanded conservation of the valuable natural resources on their lands, among which are abundant forests that are being indiscriminately clear-cut for lumber exports. The Sumus have requested funding for reforestation, but so far to little avail.

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