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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 153 | Abril 1994
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

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DRUGS IN NICARAGUA

Operation Ocean, Nicaragua's most spectacular anti-drug operation ever, was carried out on January 12 on the beach at Popoyo, Rivas, In which the US Drug Enforcement Agency participated for the first time. After 10 days of prior surveillance, anti-drug agents captured some 450 kilos of cocaine and arrested 10 Nicaraguans and 4 Guatemalans involved in an international drug trafficking ring.

Nicaragua is fast becoming a strategic point on the Colombia-United States route. The price of a kilo of cocaine in Nicaragua multiplies by a factor of 8 upon reaching the United States and 13 if it goes to Europe. According to the National Police, thousands of arms used by the contras and recontras have fallen into the hands of drug traffickers.

The police anti-drug division reports 1,800 drug-related crimes (including possession and use) in 1993, up over 273 similar crimes in 1989. Nicaragua has the highest reported marijuana use in Central America, but it is cocaine use that has increased so alarmingly since the change of government. An estimated 6% of youth between 15 and 25 years of age today use some kind of drug, compared with only .5% in 1986.

The National Assembly will soon begin to debate a new drug law. Pressure from the US Embassy on the police and the Assembly representatives regarding this bill is strong. Nicaragua's current laws are obsolete and penalize the consumer, while leaving the trafficker virtually untouched.

NICARAGUANS IN THE USA

The migration restrictions that the US recently began applying could affect hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans. The Clinton government already denied a request by 60,000 Nicaraguans for political asylum, presented as a means of remaining in the country. Work permits for another 30,000 will soon terminate, making them the firs to be deported if the US government goes ahead with its announced plans.

Some 200,000 Nicaraguans live in Miami, but only 18% have permanent residency. At least 300,000 more live in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and another 40,000 in Washington. It is estimated that these Nicaraguans annually send $100-200 million in family remittances back home, an amount not far below Nicaragua's yearly export income.

A POLITICAL MURDER?

Political leader Perfecto Gutiérrez was shot to death in Managua on February 14. Gutiérrez had taken over as secretary general of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) the previous month, after Alfredo César was first suspended from that post and then expelled from the party for his intransigent ultra-rightist positions.

Although police records indicate that Gutiérrez' alleged killer was a known Managua robber detained on 15 previous occasions, he stole nothing from his victim. After the crime, the suspect disappeared without a trace. Gutierrez' widow and colleagues suspect political motives and an assassination "by hire."

CRISTIANI CRITICIZED

El Salvador's outgoing President Alfredo Cristiani visited Nicaragua on March 3-4, where he received the country's highest decoration for foreign heads of state from President Chamorro. Her action brought a rain of criticism from various sectors, but none with more righteous outrage than the Society of Jesus in Nicaragua.

While Cristiani was still in the country, the Jesuit issued a communiqué stating that "we consider that President Cristiani has covered up for and protected the intellectual authors of the assassination of our brothers from the UCA [Central American University] of El Salvador." They added that "the homage to President Cristiani is neither justified nor opportune as long as his government gives no clear signs of greater respect for human rights, greater efficacy in the struggle against impunity and more decided compliance with the peace accords."

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