Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 193 | Agosto 1997





At the end of June, Comptroller General of the Republic Agustín Jarquín ruled that the process by which the San Antonio and Victoria de Julio sugar refineries were privatized by the Chamorro government was a "reasonable" one that merited his seal of approval.

From the beginning of his administration, President Alemán has been challenging the transparency of the privatization of seven state refineries, four of them confiscated from the Somoza family. While neither of the two Jarquín ruled on belonged to Somozas, Alemán has shown particular interest in the case of the Victoria de Julio, the only refinery complex built in the 1980s.

Upon learning of the Comptroller's findings, President Alemán let it be known that he was not pleased and plans to annul the privatization of Victoria de Julio. His argument is that it was sold at too low a price, and thus constitutes part of the Chamorro "piñata," in which many state enterprises are reported to have been sold off to friends and relatives of government officials at rock bottom prices.

Victoria de Julio was built in Tipitapa with solidarity cooperation by the government of Cuba in the form of soft loans and donations and was one of several refineries privatized to workers as a result of intense negotiations in 1991. Workers from both refineries have been camped out in makeshift plastic tents on the lawn of CORNAP, the government agency in charge of privatization, during the entire review.
In another finding, the Comptroller upheld the charge made in March by a group of legislators that the executive branch had included 910 million córdobas (about US$100 million) in the 1997 national budget for payment of a supposed domestic state debt. The Comptroller certified that this debt was in reality no more than 75.3 million córdobas and that the figure provided in the budget "has neither support nor pretext."
The investigation, which has harmed the new administration's credibility, created tensions between the Comptroller General and Central Bank president Noel Ramírez.


On June 24, a Florida judge ordered that the deportation of Nicaraguans residing illegally in the states of Georgia, Florida and Alabama be halted until January 1998. Some 70,000 Nicaraguans who went to the United States prior to 1990 are in danger of being deported under the new US migration legislation.

President Alemán, in the United States to speak at the United Nations Earth Summit, visited US government authorities to intercede on behalf of the undocumented Nicaraguan exiles. According to Alemán, they were obliged to leave their country because "we lived through what Cuba is living today, a totalitarian dictatorship."
Between January and mid- June, the United States deported 267 Nicaraguans, a figure that began to mount when the new law went into effect. In that same period Costa Rica deported 30,180 Nicaraguans who were living and working illegally in that neighboring country.


According to a Central American University (UCA) study, 72% of Nicaraguan youths between the ages of 13 and 17 some 450,000 did not attend school in 1995. Nor did 25% of the children between 7 and 12 (about 475,000). The UCA claims that this situation has not improved in 1997.


After several years of excavations in various parts of the Segovias, in northern Nicaragua, two Nicaraguan archeologists found the complete skeleton of a young woman who lived 600-800 years ago in what is now San Antonio, Pueblo Nuevo, 50 kms. northeast of Estelí. Because the skeleton was found with a necklace of sea pearls around its neck the media immediately dubbed the remains those of an "indigenous princess."
The area of the finding is rich in archeological treasures (remains of animals, pottery vessels, etc.). This is the first time, however, that the full skeleton of one of our pre- Hispanic ancestors was found intact.


On June 15, Nicaraguan Fernando Cardenal was legally readmitted to the Society of Jesus, from which he was ousted in 1984 due to pressures from the Vatican. The papal hierarchy considered it incompatible for a Jesuit priest to hold a high post within the government of Nicaragua, and he refused to resign his post as education minister in the Sandinista government.

During the mass in which Father Cardenal repeated his vows for the second time, he stated: "I return to a place from which I have never left. The Society of Jesus was always my natural habitat, my home and my path. My Jesuit companions always supported me as true brothers and friends."


In Telica, León, President Alemán inaugurated the first industrial production plant for biodiesel in America on May 14. In fact, the only similar plants today are found in France, Germany, Italy and Austria.

Biodiesel, a non-contaminating fuel, is obtained by processing the seed of the tempate tree. (See envío, December 1993, for an article on tempate trees and their uses.) The Austrian government initiated research on tempate trees during the Sandinista government, and now financed this plant, which will annually process 1,700 metric tons of tempate oil to be used for both fuel and cooking. It will save Nicaragua $135,000 a year.

Although the government of Austria has made Nicaragua a priority of its foreign aid plans, the new Alemán government included the Nicaraguan embassy in that country on a list of some half a dozen embassies it planned to close as an austerity measure.


An Executive Decree establishing the regulatory provisions for the controversial new Tax Law was published on June 30. In it the presidential office introduced substantial changes to what had been stipulated in the law, approved by the National Assembly in April despite stiff opposition. The non-Liberal legislators strongly denounced the executive's unilateral and abusive move, which opens a serious new conflict between the two branches of government.


In the first half of June, the United Nations Development Program released its 1997 Report on Human Development in the 175 countries it classifies. Nicaragua occupies 127th place, above only Haiti (which is in 156th place) among Latin American countries. The UNDP Human Development Index takes into account three factors: life expectancy, access to education, and per-capita income.

According to the report, which is based on 1994 data, 13.6% of Nicaraguans do not live to 40, and 34% are illiterate. Despite those alarming figures, however, what places Nicaragua so low in comparison to other countries is its meager annual per-capita income: $450. It should be borne in mind that even this pathetic figure represents nothing but an average based on the nation's gross domestic product divided by its population.

In the 1995 report Nicaragua was in 109th place; in 1996 it dropped to 117. By this year's report, it had dropped another 10 points, putting it among the 50 countries in the world with the lowest level of human development.

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