Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 266 | Septiembre 2003




Envío team


A task force of 115 Nicaraguan army personnel (sappers, doctors and their defense support) left Nicaragua for Spain, en route for Iraq, on August 12. Two weeks later, they began to carry out operations in Diwaniya, Iraq, together with 360 Honduran soldiers, 360 Salvadorans and a group from the Dominican Republic, all under the command of Spanish army officers in what was named the “Ultra Plus Brigade.”

The already strong national opposition to the presence of Nicaraguan troops in Iraq has steadily mounted since this “humanitarian aid” mission departed and details of their vulnerability and responsibilities—including combat if attacked—began to be known. The fate of the soldiers and the controversy around their mission in Iraq is the topic of daily news pieces in all media. The attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad and the bombing of the mosque in Najaf, near where the brigade is working, justifiably increased fears and fueled the controversy.

Since it was reported that the United States had financed the sending and equipping of the soldiers, the public has been demanding that President Bolaños give details of their supposed life insurance coverage. Bolaños would only say that “a country that requested confidentiality” had provided US$700,000 for the insurance. Rumors that it was Taiwan were quickly denied by that country’s Foreign Ministry.

Interviewed by La Prensa, army chief Javier Carrión revealed that the United States will give the Nicaraguan army some US$2 million in equipment “in exchange” for sending troops to Iraq, which he said was “more aid than we have had from them so far.” In the National Assembly, FSLN representatives flirted with the pro-Alemán Liberals to see if they could push through a joint decree to repatriate the contingent. Doing so would be an important political blow to Bolaños’ indecorous and complacent courting of the United States. Meanwhile, the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) filed an appeal of unconstitutionality against the presidential decree ordering the sending of troops, then set out to gather 5,000 signatures to introduce a citizens’ initiative to revoke it, so that its unconstitutionality would become a precedent whether or not the soldiers are returned. “The Army of Nicaragua’s constitutional mandate is to defend national sovereignty and Nicaragua’s territorial integrity,” argued MRS president Dora María Téllez, “and this does not authorize it to show up in Iraq for any other task. If the government wants to carry out ‘humanitarian tasks’ in Iraq it must send civilians.”


In mid-August, the Catholic bishops prevailed upon Liberal and Sandinista legislators to rule on 30 articles of the bill for Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women, based on the modifications
they suggested in a July 7 letter to the National Assembly. The letter stated that “radical feminist groups are promoting some supposed ‘rights’ that actually go against the nature of women.” And twitchy about the concept “gender,” they argued that “the law must include
a definition of the word gender adjusted to the fact that a woman’s sex belongs to the female gender and a man’s sex to the male gender. Anything to the contrary could be vulnerable to the interpretation of certain ideologies that promote the equality of any ‘sexual option’…. For purposes of this law, gender will be understood as the sexual biological identity of men and women. There are only two genders: female, which corresponds to the sex of women, and masculine, to the sex of men.”

The bishops challenged and disqualified the need to draft a law with “specific rights” for women and for the women of the Caribbean Coast’s ethnic communities. This promptly led more than 30 civil society organizations to create a Movement for the Defense of the Secular State.

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