Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 274 | Mayo 2004




Nitlápan-Envío team

On April 24, the two Liberal benches in the National Assembly combined their 48 votes to approve a resolution supporting President Bolaños’ decision to reduce Nicaraguan armaments within the framework of a “reasonable balance of forces” of the region’s armies. The first step he ordered was the destruction of some of the more than 2,000 SAM-7 surface-to-air missiles left over from the eighties. The first 333 of these $50,000 shoulder-held missiles that can down a plane were destroyed on May 5 in a military shooting range, to which the press was not invited for security reasons, and an equal number will be destroyed at the end of July.

Bolaños’ decision was unilateral. So far, no other Central American country has taken any step whatever to join the “regional military equilibrium” that the US government has been proposing for some years. A Nicaraguan army spokesperson announced that the institution has no problems with the initiative adopted so enthusiastically by Bolaños as long as only “some” missiles are destroyed, since it considers them defensive weaponry. On a visit to Cuba, Daniel Ortega called the Bolaños government’s decision unconstitutional and said that it amounted to licking the US government’s boots.

William Hurtado, the confessed killer of journalist Carlos Guadamuz, was sentenced on April 19 to 21 years in prison—18 for the murder and another 3 for the attempted murder of Guadamuz’s teenage son Selim, who managed to down the fleeing assassin while being shot at. The trial of both Hurtado’s wife and the owner of the gun used that day was postponed. Both Hurtado’s defense lawyer and Guadamuz’s family appealed the sentence, the former considering it excessive and the latter too lenient. Meanwhile, the public is convinced that Hurtado was just a hired gun, and that the investigation will never pursue the real brains behind the crime. In early May, Hurtado was hospitalized for several days due to psychologically related problems: facial paralysis and a nervous breakdown. The defense announced that it would ask for his client’s release on bail for health reasons or that he at least be granted house arrest.

Alarming figures on the country’s critical education situation were published during Nicaragua’s celebration of the worldwide “Education for All” campaign, which establishes the targets all countries pledged to achieve by 2015. Although there is a dispute between official and independent statistics, it is calculated that some 700,000 to 900,000 children between the ages of 3 and 17 (out of a total national population of 5.5 million people) are not getting an education due to a shortage of schools and teachers, and more particularly to the poverty caused by the lack of jobs for their families. Dealing with this problem would mean doubling the current education budget, which has actually seen significant reductions over the last four years, having already taken a beating for the past dozen years with the implementation of a series of social-budget-slashing structural adjustment programs. In addition, some 3,000 of the country’s 7,600 schools have no water or electricity, 35% have deteriorated infrastructure and there is a shortfall of 400,000 chair-desks.
Further complicating matters, there is now proof that high school enrollment is dropping in the areas surrounding the free trade zones, or maquilas, which represent the government’s only job creation strategy. Many young people prefer to give up learning in favor of exhausting work days that at least ensure them some income, which is the scarcest commodity of all these days.

In the early morning of May 4, some 10 hooded men handcuffed, gagged and then stabbed to death one female and three male police officers in the Bluefields command center. They then stole a number of weapons. One wounded officer managed to survive by throwing himself through a window. The crime’s characteristics led to the suspicion that it was the work of drug-related organized crime. Initial assumptions that the authors were foreign hit men were quickly replaced by the hypothesis that it was perpetrated by former police officers kicked off the force for proven links to drug dealing. Police and army teams dedicated special efforts to get to the bottom of the crime, but it had still not been cleared up by mid-May, when this issue of envío closed. The crime shocked the nation by revealing the saturation of drug trafficking and use in Nicaragua’s Caribbean region, and the consequent social decomposition. Whoever its authors turn out to be, it was unanimously viewed as the harshest blow by organized crime against the country’s security forces to date.

The worldwide condemnation and repulsion—including by the Vatican—triggered by the images of torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers in a Baghdad prison took an improbable turn in Nicaragua. Of the two national newsdailies, La Prensa, which always avoids issues that affect the US image, did not publish the photos, while El Nuevo Diario did and on the front page. President Bolaños condemned this decision as follows: “We see scenes of degrading acts committed by soldiers, unquestionably copied from the indecent televised movies that daily invade our homes. Our newspapers are assaulting family privacy and morality by publishing this pornography right on the front page. We are sinking into a moral decadence where profit and corruption prevail to the detriment of the weakest. For that reason, we need well-formed priests and above all saints willing to serve the Church in the most marginalized areas of our society...” He was speaking at the May 2 inauguration of the luxurious seminary to form Catholic priests from the Central American region, which was attended by Kiko Argüello, Spanish founder of the neo-catechumenical movement. Nicaragua is part of the “coalition” that backed the United States in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

On May 3, applying the law to suspend entry into the United States of people who have committed or benefited from acts of corruption while holding public office, the US government revoked the entry visa of Nicaraguan Supreme Court justice Rafael Solís, who is tight with the FSLN upper echelons. The same law was used to revoke the visa of Judge Ileana Pérez, who faithfully follows the FSLN leadership’s orientations in carrying out her judicial work. The US Embassy did not specify which acts of corruption triggered the application of this measure.

It was nothing short of picturesque that on that same day, the “visa-less” Justice Solís was invested as a knight of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem by Bishop Bosco Vivas in León Cathedral. This order—which dates back to the unfortunate times of the Crusades—is bestowed upon “honorable individuals” who have pledged to live as good Christians. In the ceremony, Solís, Liberal Justice Carlos Guerra and a dozen other soon to be Knights and Ladies were invested with thick red capes adorned with the great white crosses originally borne on the crusaders’ banners.

In May, El Nuevo Diario published some of the results of groundbreaking research on the lives of 320 women belonging to four Protestant denominations, two of them mainline and two Pentecostal. A shocking 62% of those interviewed admitted suffering conjugal violence. More than physical violence, the majority spoke of psychological and emotional violence, which they described as devaluing, insulting, ridiculing and swearing at them. The overall national statistics on violence against women are somewhat lower, with 52% of those questioned admitting to being the victim of violence from their partners. According to the Protestant women who headed up the study, there was a correlation between the households in which woman suffer violence and the denominations that use fundamentalist interpretation of some biblical texts to preach that women must be submissive and maintain the marital tie at all costs because the man is “the woman’s head.”

After long negotiations, President Bolaños’ Great Liberal Union (GUL) and the Conservative Party (PC) signed a letter of intent on April 15 to form an alliance for the November municipal elections. The witness of honor was former Salvadoran President Armando Calderón Sol, as a show of the support that El Salvador’s ruling ARENA party is giving to both political organizations. The GUL-PC alliance is presenting itself as the “center” alternative for those who reject the PLC-FSLN bi-party polarization. The GUL filed for the alliance’s legal registration, changing its own name to the Alliance for the Republic.

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