Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 215 | Junio 1999




Nitlápan-Envío team


On May 20, a group of Posoltega survivors consigned to a common grave more than 35 bags of unidentifiable skeletal parts from the two thousand plus victims of the Casita Volcano mudslide last October 30. Each bag contained the remains of two to four people. A brigade of 20 Posoltegans had volunteered to gather up the bones uncovered by the first rains. The burial brought some spiritual peace to family members of the dead, though they are still suffering the effects of the psychological trauma and are living in unbelievably deplorable physical conditions.


A new scandal erupted in May around Managua Mayor Roberto Cedeño, President Alemán's right hand man between 1990 and 1995, when he himself was mayor of the capital. The daily paper El Nuevo Diario offered proof that for some time Cedeño had been paying the electricity and phone bills for his two private houses as well as other family expenses with municipal government funds. Found out, Cedeño not only admitted it was true, but used his "low" $4,000 a month salary to justify the practice.

The public reaction was one of indignation, while Liberal and Sandinista politicians unanimously requested that the Office of Comptroller General (CGR) and the National Assembly do an in-depth investigation into these deeds, ostensibly with an eye to ousting Cedeño from office. The rapid PLC-FSLN alliance in this case, however, gave rise to suspicions that other objectives may lurk behind, such as testing out candidacies for next year's municipal elections and striking yet another blow on behalf of President Alemán's campaign against Comptroller General Agustín Jarquín.
Those who suspected that the call for a CGR investigation was mostly designed as a false show of respect for the institution the Liberals themselves have been virulently attacking for months were vindicated only a few days later. The executive branch tried to whip up another scandal around the fact that state funds also pay for two of the four phone lines in Jarquín's house. As the President's men once again called for his head, Jarquín explained that he works from home but keeps his public and private affairs strictly separate precisely by having several different lines and paying for the private ones himself.
On the other side of the fence, Vice President Enrique Bolaños showed his particular mettle as head of the National Commission of Integrity. In his considered opinion, blowing the whistle on cases like Cedeño's is to fall into a "sad campaign of excess Puritanism."


Meanwhile, the controversy triggered by a central government proposal to divide Managua into five separate municipalities, each with its own mayor and municipal council, dominated the attention of various political sectors in early May. The government justifies its idea as another supposed step toward "decentralization." The issue thus became one more piece in the municipal elections campaign, which is already underway even though the elections themselves are scheduled for October of next year, well over a year away.
Managuans are largely opposed to carving up the capital, while the FSLN, which appears willing to sell out just about anything to institutionalize a division of the government spoils rather than the traditional practice of winner take all, had a more modest proposal: to create only three municipalities instead of five. Radio Ya, which represents Ortega's wing of the party, proposed putting the issue to a referendum among the capital's population. It would be naïve to discard the possibility that the initial proposal, which would entail complex studies, plus the referendum proposal, which adds even more time-consuming complexity, may be related to postponing the municipal elections until 2001, a goal shared by the government and Ortega's sector of the FSLN. By joining the legislative, presidential and municipal elections, as in 1996, voters will be far more inclined to vote a straight party ticket. This would close out independent municipal candidates and assure the majority of votes for the two strongest parties, the PLC and the FSLN.


On May 18, a little over 14 months after the bombshell press conference in which Zoilamérica Narvaéz publicly charged her adoptive stepfather Daniel Ortega with sexual abuse throughout much of her childhood and sexual harassment even after she married, her case entered a new stage. While she is preparing to submit the case to the consideration of the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights, she says she still holds out hope of obtaining justice within her own country instead.

To that end, she paid yet another visit to the National Assembly, this time to give each legislator a copy of the written testimony she presented to the courts in June 1998, in which she chronologically summarizes the mounting abuse and harassment, and her own reactions to it. She accompanied the document with a copy of an extensive interview and a personal letter in which she tells the parliamentarians, among other things, that "I have in my hands all the proof needed to demonstrate the truth of everything I have charged. My responsibility to myself requires that I prove to the society I am part of that my denunciation is true. I am fully aware that my case is emblematic for Nicaragua. Opening paths so that other female children and youth can dare to speak and defend themselves, so that many women can recover their dignity, so that other abusers do not remain hidden, destroying lives, may depend on its resolution, on getting to the truth and on applying justice. A just solution to my case can help men and women take up the path of their own reconstruction and heal all the damage that this trauma leaves. If this happens, it is Nicaragua that will come out ahead."


With President Alemán off in Stockholm, his outspoken vice president, Enrique Bolaños, went back on the attack with one of his favorite political themes: questioning the existence of Nicaragua's army. Bolaños has consistently proposed that it be dissolved, or transformed from "an army of war into an army of peace," which he envisions as a kind of civil guard doing humanitarian good deeds. The vice president's criticisms of the army sparked various responses from army chief Joaquín Cuadra. In response to Bolaños' publicly stated belief that military officers "are not to offer opinions but to obey," General Cuadra reminded him that "it has been more than sufficiently demonstrated that we officers are subordinated to civilian authority. We are here to work and to serve. We have supported the democratically elected governments, but this does not mean that we do not have criteria of our own. Our opinions, given in the proper context and the proper forum, contribute to the reconstruction of our country. We officers are not ignorant brutes, as some seem to think." Far from it, Joaquín Cuadra is often mentioned as one of the potential candidates with the best chance of winning the 2001 presidential elections, at the head of a broad-based national alliance.

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After Stockholm and Before the Pact

El Salvador
A Tough New Government And a Lost Opposition

Society and Parties on Diverging Paths

Electoral Results: All in the Same Boat


Posoltega: Where the Land Burns

América Latina
Violence against Women: A Centuries-Old Plague
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