Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 156 | Julio 1994




Envío team


At the beginning of June, US Congressman Robert Torricelli (D NJ) made a five day visit to "inspect" Nicaragua's political situation, accompanied by Bianca Jagger, once a defender of her country's revolutionary process. Since Torricelli, who heads the House Sub Committee on Hemispheric Affairs, speaks no Spanish, Jagger was occasionally called upon to interpret for him.

In the tradition of his Republican colleague in the Senate, Jesse Helms, Torricelli threatened that US economic aid will be cut if, by the end of July, the government has not returned or compensated all properties of US citizens confiscated during the revolution. The group he is speaking for mostly Nicaraguans who acquired US citizenship over the past decade says it numbers 650 and is claiming 1,400 properties worth a total of $600 million.

"It won't be good enough to resolve two or three cases a month," warned the hawk eyed Torricelli. "Patience is running out in Washington." His arrogant tone was a bit out of proportion to the $60 million the US government has assigned Nicaragua this year.

President Chamorro, Foreign Minister Ernesto Leal and Minister of the Presidency Antonio Lacayo have all declared that Nicaraguans who decapitalized, mortgaged or otherwise misused their holdings, then fled to the States and became US citizens, will not be treated the same as legitimate foreign businesspeople who were confiscated. While this distinction differs from the position enunciated by Ambassador Maisto, Torricelli himself reportedly said that such cases could be judged according to US law and might end up not covered by the González Helms amendment.

In any case, the Nicaraguan government is so far paying more attention than either Congress or the White House itself to the US policy enunciated late last year that Nicaragua must solve its own internal problems without running to Washington.


At a May 16 meeting of the Community of Donor Countries in Managua, the Nicaraguan government requested an extra infusion of economic aid: $180 million between 1994 and 1996. Minister of the Presidency Antonio Lacayo told the assembled representatives that $60 million per year would guarantee a 4% annual growth of the Gross Domestic Product. In turn, he said, this would assure that the "tired and disillusioned" population would vote neither for the extreme right (understood as Arnoldo Alemán) nor for the extreme left (understood as the FSLN). Lacayo said both alternatives would be "the same for the country's development."

On May 18, President Chamorro finally sent a draft of the new Code of Military Organization, Jurisdiction and Social Welfare to the National Assembly for debate and passage within the next two months. Three days later she announced that General Humberto Ortega will step down as head of the army on February 21, 1995, and that exactly two months earlier she will announce the name of his successor.

Thus far unclarified details of the new code have unleashed tremendous public debate among political and economic sectors. One such problematic detail is reportedly that the army high command, not the President, will elect the army chief. (Ortega has since said that the high command will recommend a list for the President to choose from, based on criteria of capability and experience.)
What has most galled the country's business sector, however, is that the bill proposes the creation of an Institute of Military Welfare, which would autonomously regulate the army's economic holdings and guarantee special social services to army officers. The army claims that this will permit it to provide social security to its members since the military institution is not covered by any other state system. COSEP, the big business umbrella organization, argues that this is a clear case of conflict of interest, allowing the army unfair competitive advantage over the private sector. (To this, Gen. Ortega retorted in one radio interview, "Would that there were any competition today, it would mean the economy is alive and kicking.") Ortega is scheduled to appear before the National Assembly's Defense Commission in early June to clear up confusions and defend the code.

Meanwhile, he discussed his own future plans in an interview published on May 29 in La Nación, a San José, Costa Rica newspaper. "I'm not going to rejoin the FSLN," said the former National Directorate member, "although I will always be Sandinista. I believe that I've already played a historic role in the party. As a person with a trajectory, an experience and certain authority, I'm going to dedicate myself to a very particular activity: to contribute to bringing Nicaraguans together. It would be feasible to create a movement with room for various existing parties and other leaders who have no party. I don't want to head such an effort, but I do want to participate in it."

According to army data, clashes with armed groups between January 1 and May 10 of this year have left 93 irregulars dead and 59 wounded, 13 army personnel dead and 26 wounded and 92 civilians dead and 34 wounded, an overall average of 3 deaths every two days.

Even though the Northern Front 3 80, the most sizeable armed group, completed its demobilization in April, several groups expressing political demands still exist in the north. In addition, numerous smaller bands dedicated to common highway banditry operate throughout the country's rural areas.


Small, medium and large producers in the old cotton capital of León and its surrounding districts marched through the streets of the city on May 31 to demand a moratorium on their debts, new credits and, in general, "exceptional" treatment. Spokespeople on the march pointed out that, with the rains already starting, only 15 of the 1,000 producers in the department of León have received loans through the bank and barely half of the cultivable land is being readied for this season's planting. "Without production León will die," chorused the demonstrators.

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