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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 180 | Julio 1996
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

AD HOC VOTER REGISTRATION

Meanwhile, one time voter registration got underway the weekend of June 1 2 in the 26 rural municipalities that the ID card process did not cover due to time and budget limitations and the active presence of armed bands. The insecure climate still reigned on this first of two consecutive weekends for the estimated 3 400,000 potential voters living in these municipalities to register. Eight Miskitos were kidnapped by one band; two Sandinista youth had their throats cut when they went to register; the wife of a USAID official was kidnapped for 36 hours when she went to observe in a distant community, and 60 of the 62 registration tables in Bocana de Paiwas did not open due to threats and the inability to get materials in.

In May, 14 political parties, among them the FSLN, MRS, PRONAL, PLI and UDC, publicly called on the Supreme Electoral Council to suspend the electoral process in Matagalpa and Jinotega as long as the threat of the rearmed bands persists. The parties accused the bands of carrying out "armed proselytizing" in favor of Alemán's Liberals. Alemán brushed off the charge. Despite the dangers and what one diplomat called the "shake out" problems the Supreme Electoral Council experienced due to newly chosen personnel and a new, complicated and inadequate electoral law, close to half of the potential voters registered, according to
initial estimates.

TOP REARMED LEADER KILLED

Meanwhile, the Nicaraguan Army was engaged in battle with "Charro," the best known and most powerful leader of the rearmed bands, in the outskirts of Waslala on the same weekend. On June 2, seven army members surprised Charro in a bold and effective operation. A good number of the two dozen or so subalterns with whom he was meeting were killed or wounded. Two days later it was confirmed that 41 year old Ciriaco Palacios, alias Charro, was among the dead.

The army had deployed 1,300 of its members into the 26 most conflictive municipalities in mid May, to guarantee both the electoral process and the productive cycle. According to the army, the rearmed groups killed 95 civilians between January 1 and May 15. In clashes with the army, they killed 7 and wounded 70, and suffered 34 dead among their own number.

Charro was a remnant of the Northern Front 3 80, and together with Nortiel, refused to disarm when top 3 80 leader "Chacal" agreed to a deal with the government in 1994. Nortiel, who was killed several months ago, was the most cruel and feared of the two, while the mercurial Charro got mixed reviews because he protected the countryside from roaming bandit groups, as well as being responsible for numerous kidnappings, rapes and murders.

Charro had some 150 200 men under his command and was virtually the only authority in his center of operations around Waslala. His men immediately retreated, and it is hoped that Charro's death will speed up their disarmament.

PERMANENT DEA OFFICE?

Foreign Minister Ernesto Leal announced in mid May that Nicaragua is studying the possibility of requesting that a permanent office of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) be set up in the country. According to information from the National Police, recent detentions and drug captures indicate an "accelerated increase of drug traffic" in Nicaragua. There are also indications that the Cali cartel may be "operating on a large scale" here, "testing" people and trying out Nicaraguan air, land and sea routes.

NEW COMPTROLLER GENERAL

The New Comptroller General of the Republic, Agustín Jarquín, began his term with a great show of independence and commitment to justice. He ordered the minister of the Social Security Institute (INSS) to stop the privatization plan for this state institution. Following the "Chilean model" in this field, INSS was going to transfer the administration of pension funds (some 500 million córdobas) to private organizations. Jarquín argued that the project was unconstitutional, since social security is the state's role. INSS Minister Simeón Rizo had to obey his order.

In another decision, applauded by public opinion, Jarquín charged former Minister of Government Alfredo Mendieta (1992 95) and another 20 high and mid level officials and former officials of that ministry with various irregularities, after doing an audit. On May 28 he accused Mendieta of rerouting $80,000 plus 1.14 million in córdoba funds for personal or family use. The most talked about case is what is being called "caballo gate": the purchase of 32 purebred horses to create a Mounted Police, then giving them away to friends and officials or supposedly selling them to cattle associations.

Mendieta appeared before the judge to make his declaration on May 31, an event unprecedented in national history. He pled innocence and fingered former minister of the presidency Lacayo and of agriculture Roberto Rondón as responsible. On June 5, Lacayo officially denied any involvement in the case.

NATIONLESS CHILDREN

The UNICEF headquarters in Nicaragua pointed out that 45% of Nicaraguan children have not been registered in the Civil Registry, which means that they legally have no name or nationality. (Upwards of 45% of the Nicaraguan population is made up of minors under 15 years of age.)

NAME CHANGE

By a decision of the National Assembly, the reforms to the Law of Political and Administrative Division "reestablish the historic name Bilwi for the municipal seat of Puerto Cabezas" in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region.

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