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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 155 | Junio 1994
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

Envío team

FSLN CONGRESS

In the last half of April, Sandinistas held departmental congresses all over the country to discuss the preparatory documents for the extraordinary congress the FSLN will hold on May 20 22, under the slogan "For Sandinista unity." These base level debates did not have the numerical participation expected, but they were passionate and rich. They reflected the need for changes in the current party leadership and structures and the urgency of more clearly defining the FSLN's objectives given the acute national crisis.

On April 15, the day before the first of these departmental congresses got underway, FSLN general secretary Daniel Ortega issued an open letter to FSLN members and sympathizers, and all Nicaraguans, referring to the need to "renovate and modernize" the party so it can "contribute to the liberating struggle of peoples who rebel against the policies of sustained growth, sustained consumption and sustained exploitation being imposed on the world today by industrialized or 'savage' capitalism through its neoliberal philosophy."
ALEMÁN ABSOLVED

Amid great expectations, the last two judges assigned to the suit filed by Sandinista municipal councilor Mónica Baltodano against Managua mayor Arnoldo Alemán for fraud, embezzlement and misuse of public funds, announced their provisional decision. The two judges, both women, determined that no body of crime had been proven, and that the case would be temporarily closed.
Baltodano will appeal the decision, which some analysts say was "announced" due to high level pressure and influence on the magistrates hearing the case. Some suggest that the pressures may have come from Minister of the Presidency Antonio Lacayo. Alemán will also appeal the announcement, but because he refuses to accept its provisional nature.

GENERAL ORTEGA WILL GO

With the complex negotiations regarding the new Military Organization legislation now finally over, General Humberto Ortega's future retirement was unofficially made known. He will leave the army between September 1994 and February 1995, and will be replaced as head of the army by General Joaquín Cuadra.

Gen. Ortega summed up the situation as follows: "What some in Nicaragua wanted was not done. What some abroad wanted was not done. And what I wanted was not done. What was done was what had to be done."
NO QUIET ON THE NORTHERN FRONT

In accord with the agreement he signed with the government in March, José Angel Talavera, head of the recontra group Northern Front 3 80, turned in his weapons on April 15. Talavera the man known and either admired or feared as "El Chacal" (the jackal) was joined by some 250 of his men, the last third of his group to disarm. With that, his organization was officially dismantled.

Combats continue, however, between the army and a scattering of recontra bands once identified with the FN 3 80 and now operating as marauding bandit groups. They still kill peasant Sandinista sympathizers with relish, but it is gratuitous; they have no demands and nothing they want to negotiate. In April alone, 30 of their members and 10 civilians died in the north central part of the country as a result of their actions and the army's pursuit. While the leaders of these armed bands appear to be war warped misfits unable to fit back into civilian life, many of their followers are more a product of the country's socioeconomic crisis.

Meanwhile, 47 farmers and technical professionals were kidnapped for ransom in the northern rural zones in the first three months of 1994, leaving 13 dead and 83 others affected. The ransom demands ranged between $500 and $50,000. Officials estimate that 33 bands live off of such kidnappings, particularly in Matagalpa and Jinotega.

Minister of the Presidency Antonio Lacayo announced a drastic plan on April 14 to put an end to these groups. The plan involves the army's few remaining helicopter gunships. "We will put an end to this impunity," threatened Lacayo. "If they do not want to go to jail, they will go to the cemeteries."
According to the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH), 104 violent deaths occurred in Nicaragua in the first three months of 1994, not including those resulting from strictly common crimes. If this rate continues, the year could produce more violent deaths than any of the three previous years of supposed peace.

RELIGIOUS TRAINING IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS?

Ministry of Education Humberto Belli's announced desire to reform the constitutional article establishing secular education in public schools so as to permit religious teaching has sparked strong debate. Nicaragua's Protestants (more than 20% of the population) strongly oppose his desire, since he is a staunch Catholic, and that is the religion that would, in fact, be imparted in the schools.

The issue has reached a boiling point in the department of Chontales, where a possible majority of the population is Protestant. The populous municipality of Nueva Guinea, in particular, was first settled in the 1960s by an evangelical pastor who encouraged only his brethren to join him in clearing a space in the hilly forest for a colony. Belli's orders that teachers lead the class in singing Catholic hymns has outraged many Nueva Guinea parents.

PASTORAL LETTER

Nicaragua's eight bishops published a Pastoral Letter on May 1, in which they analyze the country's current situation. The letter's first paragraph, titled "Vices," reads as follows: "Rancor, hatred and cruelty towards others, sins that Nicaraguans in general do not frequently commit, have turned into vices rooted in the heart of many as a consequence of years of atheistic education and a systematic and persistent campaign against Catholic morals, causing ambitions, loose morals, injustices, robberies and even atrocious crimes."
BOSAWÁS IN DANGER

The mineral prospecting concession made by the Ministry of the Economy to the US company Nycon Resources in the Bosawás nature reserve has triggered criticism from ecological groups, the Sumu people and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MARENA upgraded in January from institute to ministry status). Neither MARENA nor the Sumus were consulted prior to making this concession. Bosawás, historic Sumu territory, is one of Latin America's most important rainforest reserves.

A POPULATION CENSUS AT LAST

In November 1994, Nicaragua will finally do a population census. The last one was carried out in 1974, and since that time, any statistic has been done "by eye." A pilot census will be done on the population of Diriomo in May. The cost of the total census is $8 million, of which $5 million will come from international donations.

NEW THREATS FROM SENATOR HELMS

A Senate amendment pushed by Senator Jesse Helms would suspend any release of US financial aid to governments that confiscated properties of US citizens and have neither returned nor indemnified them. In Nicaragua, 125 people mainly former Somocistas who have now become US citizens are claiming 250 properties. According to the Nicaraguan government, only 22 cases are still unresolved. Helms' amendment demands that Nicaragua resolve this monumental problem by June or face an aid freeze for the third straight year.

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