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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 136 | Noviembre 1992
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

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TIDAL WAVE DATA

The army Civil Defense Department's tally of human damage caused by the September 2 tidal wave is 118 dead, 89 injured, 63 disappeared and 13,633 homeless. The UN Economic Commission on Latin America estimates economic damage at $26 million—slightly higher than the $100,000 alleged by Sen. Jesse Helm's suddenly famous senior assistant Deborah DeMoss, main author of the Republican Staff report to the Senate Foreign Relation Committee on Nicaragua.
DEMOSS TRIGGERS IRE

Deborah DeMoss—whose US TV call-in interview was shown twice on Managua's newly-operating Channel 8—has triggered ire from several quarters, thus becoming one of the few unifying elements in an otherwise polarized society. Minister of Government Alfredo Mendieta said her Republican Staff report was "full of mistakes" (or "a pack of lies," depending on which definition of mentiroso one chooses) and predicted that she would only be happy with changes in the police force "if we named Mother Teresa of Calcutta" as its new head. Outgoing Police Chief René Vivas, the main victim of US pressures on Nicaragua, called her accusation that a plan is afoot to exterminate former Nicaraguan Resistance fighters and that over 100 former contras had already been murdered "false, slanderous and tendentious." Vivas referred to the acknowledgement by a Ministry of Government official that some 60 of the 125 former contras listed in a CIAV-OAS report as having died either fell in combat as recontras, or were killed in internecine power fights or in personal conflicts. (Both El Nuevo Diario and Barricada have separately quoted several whose names are on that CIAV list, who appear quite alive and well.)
The boundless DeMoss also seems to have declared in Miami that the United States could intervene militarily in Nicaragua to arrest Sandinista leaders, similar to the US invasion of Panama.
Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Ernesto Leal icily remarked that "the times of intervention are now in the past," and then, according to La Prensa, hastened to file a formal protest against her statement with the US State Department.
NEITHER FISH NOR FOWL IN SI

Debate over whether the FSLN should join the Socialist International (SI) generated a lot of heat among Managua's Sandinista intellectuals before the FSLN Congress last summer. To the rank-and-file, however, it was a tempest in a teapot; the proposal to apply for membership passed with little discussion in the Congress itself. Now, in a brief September 19 communiqué, the FSLN announced that the SI, in its 19th Congress held several days earlier in Berlin, approved the FSLN's entry as a "member-observer." This curious new status is reported to be the result of differences between some major European parties that wanted to grant the FSLN and Colombia's M-19 full membership and others that did not. As "member-observers," both organizations have the right to participate in SI deliberations but not to vote. The FSLN has had observer status in the SI for well over a decade.
EUROPEAN AID TO RISE

European Community Secretary Abel Matute announced in mid-September that total Community assistance to Nicaragua would rise sharply in 1993. The EC is already Nicaragua's largest aid contributor, according to Matute, a Spaniard, who said that assistance to agriculture, infrastructure rebuilding, refugees and former combatants will "easily exceed $200 million." In the 1992-96 period, EEC aid to all Central America will total $600 million annually, up 80% over the previous five-year period.
PRIVATIZATION TO WORKERS

CORNAP, the government agency overseeing all state-held businesses and in charge of their privatization, has agreed to negotiate a proposal of the Sandinista Workers Federation (CST) regarding worker ownership of the enterprises still in state hands. CORNAP has already sold off 58% of the 351 that came under its control with the 1990 elections.
Of the remaining 120 businesses, the CST wants 100% of a list of 44 and between 25% and 60% of the other 76 to go to workers.
CORNAP proposes including workers as shareholders in only 66 of the businesses, turning none over to them as a whole. Meanwhile, the Agricultural Support Enterprises' Privatization Commission charged that CORNAP is trying to decapitalize five such support activities appearing on the CST wish list.
In an in-depth Barricada feature on September 28, workers defined the challenges of the new "Area of Workers' Property." They listed the key one as administration, both because it is a new experience and because of adverse international prices and domestic economic policies. Charts accompanying the article show that over 17,000 workers are now shareholders in 34 agricultural enterprises, comprising 107 farms and totaling 243,000 acres in coffee, cotton, cattle, sugar, rice, tobacco and bananas. Their share totals 7% of national agricultural production, while large private capital controls 44%, medium and small producers 30%, and former contras and army personnel, as well as already-existing cooperatives, the remaining 19%.
SOCIAL CHRISTIANS REUNITE?

On Sunday, September 27, the four Social Christian party splits met (two by two) in what was called a "prelude to unification."
The occasion was the 35th anniversary of the founding of the first Social Christian party in Nicaragua. In one meeting, the rightwing National Action Party and center-right Social Christian Party (PSC) signed a unity protocol. A national political commission was elected to draft a new political strategy for the party. Among those on the commission is Alfonso Smith, National Assembly representative for the Miskito organization Yatama.
The other meeting was of the slightly left-of-center Popular Social Christian Party and the somewhat more right-of-center National Democratic Confidence Party, which had already fused into the Christian Democratic Union (UDC) some weeks earlier.
The UDC approved the search for both a "coexistence formula" among all the country's political forces and an "accord of principles" with the FSLN. UDC provisional coordinator Luís Humberto Guzmán is soon to present his proposals for solving the country's problems, including the creation of a Civic Committee Against Corruption and a social policy to alleviate poverty and unemployment that he hopes all political forces in the country will endorse. "The Christian Democrats are called upon to save Nicaragua from division and confusion," Guzmán claimed grandly—then adding somewhat more modestly, "We can't fail again."
FSLN ETHICS COMMISSION SPARKS POLEMIC

The FSLN Ethics Commission released an unprecedented public report on September 22, listing the names of four people who had refused to respond to charges of ethics violation by other party members. Several of the four manage Sandinista businesses and the accusations against them relate to their labor practices.
Three of the four argued that they are no longer party members and one that labor issues should be taken up by the Ministry of Labor, not the FSLN.
The controversy the report unleashed in FSLN ranks covers a range of issues. Among them are the commission's right to go public without consulting the FSLN National Directorate; the breadth of issues the Commission should rightfully address; whether or not former members are subject to FSLN scrutiny now; why only these cases were made public and not the other 12 of the 19 cases received that have been resolved; whether or not these cases are a smoke screen to cover over "piñata" abuses (a view shared and promoted by La Prensa); and whether or not the commission should set up departmental offices to seek corruption rather than passively receive complaints in its Managua office.
The commission based its right to publish its findings on the FSLN internal bylaws and its right to deal with labor issues in FSLN businesses on the grounds that they should conform to Sandinista ethical principles—even if the manager is not an FSLN member. The debate even pitted FSLN National Directorate member Bayardo Arce, who called the report "irresponsible," against FSLN Secretary General Daniel Ortega, who offered to personally ask the four to clear up the accusations. Three days later, the National Directorate ratified its support for the commission and urged members to answer if cited, but also recommended a clarification of the commission's sphere of action.
In the midst of the polemic, Sandinista National Assembly representative Julio Marenco said the piñata issue should be dealt with head on, in that each militant should declare the goods he or she had before 1979 and after the 1990 electoral defeat.
Marenco believes that this would show that the vast majority gained little or nothing personally from the party's 11 years in power. Ethic Commission member Victor Hugo acknowledged that the commission has suggested a similar idea to the FSLN Treasury, the National Directorate and the Sandinista Assembly.
THE REARMED: REBELS WITH WHAT CAUSE?

The army intensified its cleanup operation against rearmed groups in Matagalpa, Jinotega and the Boaco-Chontales area throughout September after a captured peasant revealed a supposed plan called "Victorious September 15" to involve some 800 recontras in attacks on large economic installations and road and town takeovers during Independence celebrations. While these attacks never materialized, the army claimed it was because the plan had been "neutralized."
The army's sweep against what it variously calls "bandit gangs" or pawns of the extreme Right has generated a mixed response.
Rural populations in the sweep areas, the Catholic Church and party leaders across the political spectrum argue that the social roots of violence should be dealt with too (or instead). The Nicaraguan Resistance Party (former contras) warned that the army operations could spark a violent reaction and the danger of a new civil war.
After several coffee producers in the north were kidnapped for ransom, however, this terrorized sector changed its tune. "We need the army and police to truly implement a plan to disarm these bands," one Jinotega producer told La Prensa at the end of September, "because, if not, production in this country will remain at zero."
The army has issued somewhat contradictory reports about the military level and objectives of the rebels and the reach of its own operation. Army spokesperson Ricardo Wheelock said 40 armed groups in the north were rustling cattle and assaulting the rural population, and that the army operation in that area involved 2,000 members and had killed six rebels and wounded hundreds.

Earlier in the month, he minimized the role of the recontra's "Commando 3-80," named after murdered former National Guard colonel and contra leader Enrique Bermúdez. By the end of September, however, he said the situation had become more complex, since the rebels now say they have Red-Eye missiles.
"Charrito," the main leader of the "3-80 Northern Front," had claimed this some days earlier in an interview in the Matagalpa mountains. At that same time, Radio Católica read a communiqué from the rebels warning journalists not to travel in army helicopters since they are military targets.

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