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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 159 | Octubre 1994
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

Aldo Díaz Lacayo

INTERNAL FSLN ELECTIONS

Well over 200,000 Sandinista sympathizers, affiliates and militants around the country went to designated centers in their locale to sign up to vote for local, municipal and departmental party authorities during the last weeks of August. The FSLN's perhaps conservative public estimate was only 80,000 nationally, an amount nearly reached in Managua alone, where an unexpected percentage of young people registered.

These unprecedented open elections are part of the new democratizing process initiated in the party with the May Congress, when National Directorate members were individually and secretly elected by Congress delegates for the first time. The balloting for the local leadership levels will be direct, and will take place mainly the first weekend of September, although some districts postponed it for another week because they had not received enough registration sheets to complete the process in time.

The challenge for the FSLN over the next year will be to qualitatively organize such quantitatively sizable political capital, unquestionably still the largest in the country. Assuming that the newly elected leaders will be more genuinely rooted in and represent their local base, a large part of their upcoming task will be to take serious soundings of grassroots needs and ideas on how to address the country's multiple problems. All this input from the 145 municipalities in the country will then have to be analyzed and processed into a viable electoral alternative.

UNAG OPENS A BANK

The eighth private bank to be established in the country since 1990 has just opened its doors in Managua. Called the Bank of the Countryside (BANCAM), its main stockholder is the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG). BANCAM will provide credit to small and medium rural producers, according to standard banking criteria but with repayment schedules adapted to agricultural cycles. The inaugural ceremony was attended by top government officials, among others.

On September 3, Nicaragua's Day of the Peasant, UNAG president Daniel Núñez told hundreds of peasants gathered in San Juan del Río Coco, one of the conflictive municipalities in the northern department of Las Segovias, that the current credit policy is so restrictive that only 25,000 of the country's 200,000 peasant farmers are provided loans by the entire banking system.

XV CENTRAL AMERICAN SUMMIT

El Guácimo, in the Caribbean province of Limón, Costa Rica, was the site of the 15th summit of Central American Presidents, held on August 18 20. The essence of the meeting was to begin preparing the common agenda that Central America will take to the Hemispheric Summit the United States has called for December in Miami.

The agenda's centerpiece is a "sustainable development program" for the region. Various agreements along this line emerged from the Costa Rica meeting, among them a program of fixed deadlines for concrete actions in health, education, telecommunications, energy, petroleum products and an anti drug struggle.

ALEMÁN "ABSOLVED

The Comptroller of the Republic handed in the final report of his department's months long audit of the ledgers of Managua's municipal mayor's, Arnoldo Alemán. The audit was commissioned after FSLN councilor Mónica Baltodano filed former charges against Alemán for misuse of municipal funds.

The Comptroller's office declared Alemán and all of his UNO councilors free of suspicion. The triumphant mayor said that, "in the interest of national reconciliation," he would not sue Baltodano for libel, as he once threatened.

NO TO REFUGEES

Invoking the economy's "weakness," Foreign Minister Ernesto Leal issued a communique on August 23 stating that Nicaragua will not provide refuge to Cuban raft people, as the United States had requested. The official statement recalled that this was the same reason Nicaragua refused a few weeks earlier to receive Haitian refugees, "although the situation of Cuba and Haiti are not comparable."
ILLITERACY ON THE RISE

Fourteen years after the Literacy Crusade, the Literacy Workers Association of Nicaragua announced that illiteracy has climbed back up to 37% of the country's population, after reaching a low of 12% by the end of the 1980 crusade. The government claims the figure is only 28%. The most serious problem is in Managua itself, where the immigration of illiterate peasant families is growing rapidly due to the impoverishment of extensive rural zones.

DEBT WITH RUSSIA

Russia reached a preliminary accord with Nicaragua on July 13 in which it offered to pardon 85% of Nicaragua's sizable overdue debt: the equivalent of US$1.6 billion. It also proposed to reach a definitive accord in 90 days. The Chamorro government presented the agreement as another major success of its current strategy to renegotiate Nicaragua's overwhelming foreign debt.

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