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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 220 | Noviembre 1999
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

Nitlápan-Envío team

MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS AT RISK

Next year's municipal elections, scheduled for November 5, are at risk of being postponed due to a lack of funds. In the General Budget for 2000, which the President sent to the National Assembly on October 15, the line assigned to the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) does not cover even a third of the costs projected to guarantee the elections. The CSE requested the equivalent of $20 million for this purpose, but was assigned less than $6.8 million. According to the government, the CSE will have to seek the remaining funds for the municipal elections from international cooperation. The President and his coterie have on numerous occasions made clear their view that the municipal elections should be put off until 2001 and combined with the presidential elections. The FSLN leadership shares this view, believing, like the Liberals, that doing so will discourage voters from splitting their vote.

CONTROVERSIAL LAW PASSED

On October 19, the Liberal bench in the National Assembly, with a little help from its friends, pushed through the controversial Law for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants designed to serve the interests of transnational companies. The objective of the law is to allow the transnationals to take advantage of the biodiversity of the South to appropriate its genetic resources, patent them, genetically manipulate them and then market them around the world, including the countries of origin. The executive branch has been promoting this bill since the middle of the year as part of the agreement to protect intellectual property, which Nicaragua signed in 1998. The law is based on standards set by the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, which is made up of only 44 countries, almost all of them from the North, and was drafted without being discussed with the affected social sectors. Nongovernmental organizations and environmental groups in Nicaragua announced that they would invoke legal protections to prevent the law from being put into effect.

IAPA CRITICIZES NICARAGUAN GOVERNMENT

The 55th General Assembly of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), held in Houston, Texas, at the end of October, criticized the Alemán government for its anti-media policy and for what is known in Nicaragua as “fiscal terrorism.” The IAPA condemned “the discriminatory manner in which the government of Nicaragua distributes official publicity, using this resource to favor its supporters and punish its critics.” It also came down hard on the “discriminatory application of duty policies for the importation of equipment for journalistic use, as well as the use of tax norms to exert pressure against media organizations that criticize the government's administration.”

ATLANTIC COAST INDIGENOUS ALSO CRITICIZE GOVERNMENT

A consultation of over 100 indigenous communities in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) on the current bill to demarcate communal lands has been underway for the past two months, financed by the World Bank. In mid-October, a month into the consultation, the Council of Elders, the top authority for 386 Miskito communities in the region, threatened to declare the World Bank “non grata” for what it saw as a “politicization” of the survey in favor of the Alemán government. The government itself is already out of favor on the coast for selling huge expanses of lands claimed by the communities to private individuals and allowing these recently demarcated communal lands to be shuffled among fellow Liberals. The Council further charged that the inter-oceanic canal project, which will cross through communal lands, was never discussed with the indigenous population.

ZOILAMÉRICA CASE GOES TO WASHINGTON

On October 27, Zoilamérica Narváez, as victim and petitioner, and Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, president of the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH), as co-petitioner, presented a denunciation of the state of Nicaragua to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in Washington. The document charges the Nicaraguan state with obstruction and denial of justice and the violation of several human rights listed in the American Human Rights Convention and the Belem do Pará Convention through which states pledged to prevent, eradicate and sanction violence against women. The CIDH formally opened the case on November 8, assigning it the number 12,230. The specific charge against Nicaragua is its failure to respond to the suit Narváez filed in March 1998 against Daniel Ortega for prolonged sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Her case has been paralyzed since June of that year in the National Assembly, which has to date made no attempt whatsoever to analyze whether Ortega should be stripped of his parliamentary immunity, which he had invoked, so he can stand trial in the courts and the truth be determined.

OH, THE TANGLED WEB OF RELATIONS WITH CUBA

On October 26, the Nicaraguan National Assembly paid homage to the 89 members of the Cuban volunteer medical brigade that came to treat the Nicaraguan population in various remote points of the country following the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch. Each of the brigade members received a diploma recognizing their contribution. In the wake of Mitch, the Cuban government also offered scholarships to Central American students from the poorest rural zones to travel to the island to study medicine. Some 329 Nicaraguans have received scholarships to study medicine and another 80 to train as mid-level health technicians.

Ten days later, the Cuban foreign ministry stated that the government viewed the official attendance of Nicaragua's foreign minister, Eduardo Montealegre, at the upcoming IX Ibero-American Summit, being held this year in Cuba, as “strange, contradictory and disloyal” to President Alemán's anti-Cuban principals. Nicaragua's Foreign Ministry immediately sent an official protest to the government of Cuba and Montealegre stated in a press conference that “there is nothing strange and contradictory about our attendance. Bilateral relations are being confused with an event for the entire Ibero-American community, of which Nicaragua is a member.”

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