Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 268 | Noviembre 2003




Envío team


When President Bolaños presented next year’s national budget bill, he also proposed cutting 10% of the salaries of 230 top officials who earn over 50,000 córdobas a month (US$1 = 15.4 córdobas) for a year and suspending the lifetime pensions of former Presidents and Vice Presidents, his own included. According to his magnanimous proposal, the 32 million córdobas saved would go to increase the teachers’ base salary, which is a miserable 904 córdobas a month.

His offer was met with another, more rational and equitable idea proposed by a group of legislators headed by members of the FSLN bench. Their Law Regulating the Salaries of Public Administration and State Officials would determine the salaries of top officials in relation to the average minimum wage, whereby, for example, the President, who has the country’s highest state salary, could not earn in excess of 70 minimum wages, currently set at 990 córdobas a month. This would virtually halve the current presidential salary of over $10,000 a month. Even more important than the math is that the cut would be a permanent law and not just
a one-year gesture to lower the heat around the government’s mega-salaries. If approved and implemented, the annual savings would be around 300 million córdobas, but Bolaños has already announced that he will veto the bill if it passes.


The Ministry of the Family announced that it will introduce legislation to promote responsible paternity and maternity in an attempt to palliate the effects of so many Nicaraguan men’s irresponsibility toward the children they procreate. Announcing its initiative, ministry officials buttressed its importance with statistics from the Supreme Electoral Council, which is responsible for the Civic Registry. That data shows that 10% of the children born and registered in the past three years (2000-2002) were not recognized by their fathers and were registered under their mother’s surname. According to the ministry’s own figures, justice is delayed in 70% of the cases filed by women demanding child support from fathers Nicaragua and its society who divorced them, are separated or simply abandoned the household. Cases that should be resolved in a month drag on for six months or a year, if they are resolved at all.

Among other things, the bill proposes free and streamlined administrative procedures to guarantee a child’s right to recognition by his or her father and institutionalization of the DNA paternity test, which has only recently begun to be used in Nicaragua.

The child support law itself was passed during the Sandinista government, as was a more wide-reaching law on the responsibilities of mothers, fathers and children. But effective implementation largely depended on consciousness-raising efforts and belligerent follow-up by the women’s movement, which fell by the wayside as the war and the need for national unity took increasing precedence.


The site of the mudslide that buried over 2,000 people when part of Posoltega’s Casita Volcano gave away during the passage of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 was declared National Historic Patrimony on October 30, the fifth anniversary of the tragedy. The declaration was the centerpiece of a formal National Assembly session held in the Jesus Nazarene Church in the town of Posoltega.

That same day Benjamín Villarreal, Posoltega’s parish priest, reported that residents felt offended by the privilege of house arrest granted to Byron Jerez, who among other crimes is accused of siphoning funds from the international aid for Mitch victims to build the luxurious terrace in his sprawling beach house. “Despite so much aid, Posoltega is still worse off today than before the tragedy,” commented Father Villarreal.


On November 5, the day after Colin Powell departed Nicaragua, President Bolaños was in Houston, Texas, decorating former US President George Bush with the Grand Cross of the Order of Rubén Darío “for his contribution to Nicaragua’s democratic process.” Bolaños was presumably referring to the assistance granted to the Chamorro government during the second half of Bush’s administration, which while generous was nowhere close to the reparations anticipated following the contra war.

Nicaraguan society was offended by the move on several counts. First, this is the man who after serving under Ronald Reagan for the first eight years of that war, which the US financed partially by scandalously illegal means, oversaw its continuation during the first half of his own administration in complete disregard for the regional peace negotiations underway and the opposition of a majority of the American public. Second, the works of Nicaragua’s 19th-century poet Rubén Darío are known and beloved by broad sectors of the Nicaraguan population, and the decision to decorate a man like Bush with the symbolic memory of such a brilliant author upset many. In particular, his “Ode to Roosevelt” was critical of US imperial pretensions in Latin America. And finally, many Nicaraguans were already chafing at the text the US Embassy had passed out to foreign journalists accompanying Colin Powell through the region only two days earlier, which so rudely and arrogantly caricatured Nicaraguan’s way of thinking and living that the US Ambassador in Managua was forced to apologize publicly. (See “Sorry Uncle Powell, the Sams Are Ours” in this issue for quotes from the text.)
Nicaragua Falls Three Places in New Human Development Report

Nicaragua fell from 118th to 121st place among the 175 countries studied by the United Nations Development Program in its annual Human Development Report, and was shown to have made the least progress of any Central American country in 2002. The report interprets this drop not as a worsening situation relative to other countries, but rather as a “stagnation” of the quality of poor people’s lives.

Worse yet, the future holds little hope for them. In October, the Health Ministry reported that some 400,000 children under two years old (60% of the population of that age) are suffering from anemia due to malnutrition caused by their family’s poverty. Anemia in the first years of life is associated with mental retardation in adults, so that such severe poverty, even if alleviated in society, creates a generational chain effect in the earning power and quality of life of the families most severely affected.

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