Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 172 | Noviembre 1995





Three strategically important and arduously contested bills will be debated in Nicaragua's National Assembly in October. The most important are the Property Stability Law, followed by the Law to Privatize TELCOR and revisions to the Electoral Law.

The Supreme Electoral Council has needed these electoral reforms for some time now in order to organize the 1996 elections. For example, the lack of a legal basis for the use of ID voter registration cards has led to delays in registering people for them, which could lead to a costly combination of cards and one time voter registration for people without them. As to the privatization of TELCOR, its union has warned that it will not allow the telecommunications institute, the most profitable of the few state enterprises left, to pass into private, and particularly foreign, hands.


The abundance of rains in Central America this season has caused disasters due to flooding all over the region (leaving tens of thousands of homeless in Chinandega and other areas of Nicaragua). It has also led to greater virulence of three already endemic diseases the length of the isthmus: dengue, cholera and malaria, and Nicaragua heads the list of Central American countries for the number of cases registered. In September all indices shot up in Nicaragua; some 1,500 cases of malaria were reported per week and over 100 cases of dengue or cholera were recorded daily.


The kidnapping and later release of four workers from the Supreme Electoral Council in Wiwilí on September 11 by the 200 member band headed by "El Charro" demonstrated the insecurity in which the elections could develop in the conflictive northern zones, where an estimated half million voters live (over 20% of the total electorate). According to the army, a homicide is committed and a skirmish between the army and armed bands occurs on the average of every two days. According to the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH), 1,538 people have been killed in rural zones between the April 1990 change of government and December 1994. CENIDH says that this violence is not only an expression of delinquency but is rooted in the economic demands the government has not responded to and its failure to fill its promises to Army and Resistance veterans.


Some 25,000 people demonstrated in Managua in a march of support for Cardinal Obando y Bravo and the Catholic Church on September 17. Cardinal Obando says he has received several death threats, and 15 Catholic churches and other centers have been damaged by explosive charges since May. In the judgment of National Police investigators, these bombs are not aimed at destroying the installations or causing human victims, but at creating a "state of opinion." Extremists of any political tendency could thus be behind them. At the beginning of October, the government asked for technical assistance from the FBI in investigating these actions at the cardinal's request.


The appearance in Colombia of Salvador Mayorga, one of the two pilots who flew a highjacked plane belonging to Nicaragua's La Costeña domestic airline there in a murky and seemingly hushed up case of drug trafficking, provided a spectacular piece of information. Mayorga, who sought protection in the Nicaraguan consulate in Cali, said that Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela, head of the Cali cartel, and his second command were the ones who left Nicaragua in that small plane. A week later, Rodríguez Orejuela was "captured" by the Colombian police. He had been making declarations favorable to Colombian President Samper when the narco electoral scandal against him broke. Since the death of Pablo Escobar, the Cali cartel has been responsible for 80% of the cocaine circulating in the world.


On September 18, a group of police killed a University of Central America student as a gang of thieves was attempting to rob him and his two companions. The police beat up the other two students and detained them, later alleging they had confused them with the gang members.

The incident seriously tarnished the image of responsibility and professionalism the National Police (PN) has been trying to build recently. Student pressure and the force's desire to recover its image led top PN officers to agree to an unprecedented open debate with hundreds of university students, who passionately questioned the errors of the police institution.


The Nicaraguan Russian San Jacinto Tizate project to generate electricity based on volcanic energy has been paralyzed since April because the Nicaraguan government has not provided the financial resources it had agreed to. The total cost of the project is $220 million (Russia is providing $170 million in equipment and technicians and Nicaragua was to put the other $50 million in money). Once this geothermal project is finished, some time in 1998, it will generate about 20% of the country's energy needs. It is the only strategic project Nicaragua has at the moment to respond to its structural energy crisis.


The Nicaraguan Environmental Movement (MAN) charged that the government has already provided 29 exploration and 20 exploitation concessions to transnational mining companies that affect over 30% of the nation's territory. The government is now allegedly studying four new concessions that would affect ecological reserves. "If the government agrees to them," warned MAN, it will be putting a cyanide and mercury bomb in Lake Nicaragua, in the Bosawás Reserves and on the shores of the Río Coco."
In turn, the Development Committee of the Cuá Bocay municipality charged that the 7,000 square kilometer Bosawás biological reserve, one of Central America's "lungs" and the second of Nicaragua's two together with the SI A Paz reserve in the southeast of the country is being destroyed by indiscriminate tree felling. "Only 20 years more of forest remains to Nicaragua," claimed the committee, in whose municipality lies some 70% of Bosawás.

These and other denunciations moved the Ministry of Natural Resources to declare a total forestry moratorium for the second half of 1995, although doubts exist about compliance with it. It is calculated that Nicaragua annually loses 150,000 hectares of forest to felling.


After erroneous preliminary figures showed up in the census carried out in April in Nicaragua, it was decided to release both the preliminary and official figures. The country's population has doubled since the last census, done in 1971. There are now 4,140,000, in round numbers. Of these, 45% are under 15 years old and 25.5% live in Managua (in 1971 it was 25.8%). In 1996, there will be an estimated 2,270,000 potential voters, also in round numbers.


The US Agency for International Development (AID) is currently investing $81.1 million in health programs in Nicaragua, among which it is putting a priority on family planning. According to USAID, 27% of Nicaraguan couples used birth control methods in the 1980s, and now, thanks to the planning programs, 49% do.


At the celebration of the October 16 World Food Day, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization stated that some 50 million Latin Americans and Caribbeans suffer from hunger. The five countries in the region with the largest populations suffering hunger and those with the greatest nutritional deficiencies are Haiti, Bolivia, Peru, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. UNICEF Nicaragua published this datum: one in every four Nicaraguan children is chronically malnourished.


On October 7, a male blue whale in rut, weighing 18 tons and measuring 18 meters long, was found beached on the sands near León. During the 24 hours it took the whale to die, thousands of Nicaraguans filed by to see such a spectacular animal. After its death, 30% of its body was carved up and shared out as food; the rest was buried on the beach.

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