Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 100 | Noviembre 1989




Envío team

In a pastoral letter dated September 24, the Nicaraguan Bishops' Conference made a clear call for Nicaraguans to register and vote in the upcoming elections. Not only did Cardinal Obando y Bravo read the letter in his Sunday homily, as reported in La Prensa, but the letter was reproduced in its entirety in the FSLN daily Barricada. Members of Nicaragua's Christian Base Communities, often critics of the Church hierarchy, called it an important pronouncement, as it sharply contrasts with the Church's silence during the 1984 elections, when church-state tensions were running high.

The letter states that by registering and voting, citizens, specifically Christians, will be able to contribute "to the construction of peace, electing the authorities who could carry Nicaragua to an authentic political, economic, moral and social development" and thus "open a door to the future." It stresses the need for free elections where people can vote their conscience: the vote should not be a result of coercion or bribes, people should be free to express their opinions and respect those of others, and mud-slinging among candidates should be kept to a minimum.

The letter was sufficiently ambiguous for all sides to claim they were favored: from the emphasis on the need for a free country "where the message of Christ could be respected" implying that a change in government is necessary to achieve this goal, to the closing statement blessing those committed to "making better days for Nicaragua," surprisingly close to the FSLN electoral slogan "Everything will be better.

For the third month in a row, Nicaragua's inflation rate has been kept to single digits. September closed with a rate of 8.8%, slightly up from August's nearly three-year low of 5.3%. Inflation in the market basket of basic goods was actually higher, at 14.6%, due to price readjustments in some products—like sugar, flour and cooking oil—based on production costs. But a smaller increase is expected in October.

The fiscal deficit shrank almost 22%, and savings account deposits continued to increase, showing renewed confidence and a sense of relative economic stability on the part of depositors. For the first time, there was money left in the coffers from tax revenue at the end of the month.

The government lowered interest rates on long-term credit for cattle, agriculture, industry and commerce. Mini-devaluations have brought the official exchange rate to 23,500 córdobas to the dollar, closer to the parallel bank rate, which has remained stable at 25,000:1 since June. Controls on the amount of córdobas in circulation combined with the unrestricted ability to purchase dollars at the bank have virtually eliminated the black market for dollars.

The government's goal for the next few months is to keep inflation under 10%. Though the controls are in place and working, the elections put a strain on already-tight resources and depend on international donations that have been slow in coming. October, for example, brought with it the additional costs of four weekends of voter registration and, therefore, the specter of increasing inflation.

September is traditionally a month with a low inflation rate because of the basic grains harvest. However, delays caused by this year's drought mean that these products will be entering the market later than usual—a good sign for October and November.

In addition, the harvest, especially the bean crop, is expected to be exceptional. In a joint effort to increase bean production, the Nicaraguan Basic Foods Firm (ENABAS), the Agricultural Products Firm (PROAGRO), the Union of Farmers and Cattle Ranchers (UNAG) and others distributed some 2 million pounds of seeds. The result was that producers planted 128,000 acres of beans, almost doubling the national goal of 71,000. The harvest is expected to bring in almost one billion pounds of beans. Rice production is also expected to increase. This cycle's harvest will include 17,000 acres of additional cultivated land over last year, for a total of 60,000 acres.

Production of nontraditional export crops also rose as farmers and the Peasant Development Centers sought alternatives to the problems of planting basic grains during the drought. In sesame, for example, producers planted 85,000 acres, 25,000 more than the 60,000-acre goal. Due to these nationwide efforts to increase production, a 27% increase is expected this year in total exports.

When the Sandinistas toppled the Somoza dictatorship ten years ago, President Jimmy Carter's policy of encouraging gradual reform in Nicaragua all but collapsed. Now, Carter has assumed a new role—observing the Nicaraguan electoral process. He paid a short visit to Nicaragua in mid-September representing the Council of Freely Elected Leaders. While in Nicaragua, he stated that his presence as an observer together with other members of the Council would "improve the prospects that the elections of February 1990 will be free, fair and respected as much by the Nicaraguan people as the international community."

There is every indication that Carter is welcome as an observer across the political spectrum: he came at the invitation of the government, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) and the rightwing UNO alliance. The daily newspaper Barricada declared "Open doors—red carpet for Carter" in their report of his reception by Daniel Ortega. UNO presidential candidate Violeta Chamorro said he would be a "marvelous observer." Carter, who was accompanied by former Argentine President Raúl Alfonsín, also met with the CSE, the private business organization COSEP and the Catholic Church. The last leg of the trip was a visit to the Atlantic Coast where he met with Interior Minister Tomás Borge, representatives of the Moravian Church and Miskito indigenous leaders about the autonomy process. Carter called for all sides to respect the electoral laws and the CSE, and said he hoped that US funding would be channeled through official sources. He says he is satisfied with the current state of the electoral process and believes that Nicaragua is complying with the Central American peace accords. He did, however, express concern that the opposition was not getting enough airtime on the state-run television stations.

One reason that both the government and the opposition are courting Carter is his considerable influence in the United States. He played an important role in shaping international opinion that the recent Panamanian elections were a fraud. In that election, he utilized an exit poll, which he also plans to use in the Nicaraguan elections. Given that this poll will come out four days ahead of the results of UN and OAS monitoring efforts, it could play a key role in shaping perceptions of the official results. At the moment, Carter believes that the electoral process in Nicaragua will be a success, and that the experience with Panama can be avoided. Upon his return to the US, he reported to President Bush that the elections would be "honest and free.

Although the Nicaraguan Defense Ministry listed only 44 contra military actions in August, down from the July figure of 132, these attacks climbed back up to 128 in September, indicating that the contras are continuing to ignore the Tela accords and violate the bipartisan contra aid package passed by the Congress in March. August figures list 67 contra casualties, including 44 deaths, while ten government soldiers died. The contras launched 20 attacks against civilian targets leaving 14 civilians dead, five wounded and 16 kidnapped. During September, there were 70 contra casualties, including 45 deaths, while 18 government troops died. Ten contra attacks on civilian targets left eight civilians dead, three wounded and 15 kidnapped.

The Defense Ministry detected 23 flights over Nicaraguan airspace by US aircraft during August, nine of which were attributed to CIA efforts to provide logistical support for contra forces operating in Nicaraguan territory. During September, 39 such overflights were detected. US and Honduran forces have also been conducting joint military maneuvers in Honduras under the name "José Santos Guardiola," involving some 5000 troops.

Print text   

Send text

<< Previous   Next >>


The Electoral Process Gears Up

Prison Inspections End Numbers Speculation

Voter Registration Proceeds Smoothly

Revolution Seeks Foreign Investors


Just The Facts: The 1990 Elections

Institutionalizing Autonomy

The Nicaraguan Environment.... A Legacy of Destruction
Envío a monthly magazine of analysis on Central America
GüeGüe: Web Hosting and Development