Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 125 | Diciembre 1991




Envío team

Since Violeta Chamorro's inauguration, the lifting of the US trade embargo and the freeing up of many import tariffs has brought a flood of imported consumer goods to Nicaragua rarely seen during the 1980s, though most are out of reach for the great majority of the population. Myriad new commercial outlets in Managua brim with Frosted Flakes, Tylenol and other staples of US life. As this new merchandise enters the country, contraband trade is also growing, and one of the hottest new lines is illegal drugs, including cocaine.

The area most affected by drug trafficking is Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast. Community leaders in both Bluefields and Puerto Cabezas charge that the coast has become a stop-off point on the drug route between Colombia and the United States. One coast leader commented that "once the traffickers enter a country, it's only a matter of time before they start looking for markets."

In Managua, two streets in the working-class neighborhood of Santa Ana are now popularly known as the "Little Medellín Cartel." Commentators on the La Primerísima radio station charge that open dealing of both marijuana and cocaine takes place there and has touched off a crime wave of "great concern" to area residents. In October, Managua police officers made two large-scale cocaine busts, netting hundreds of pounds of cocaine.

In a related story, Guillermo Cortés reported in the daily Barricada in late October that the National Financial System is suspected of being used to launder drug money. The report states that low-denomination counterfeit US bills have been introduced into the country. The Nicaraguan Superintendence of Banks ran paid ads in all three news dailies warning that large quantities of false dollars are in circulation in the country.

US Federal Reserve officials are in Nicaragua, according to Cortés, to train bank employees in techniques to detect falsified currency as well as to explain how money-laundering procedures have been used in other countries so they can be on the lookout for them. Also working in Nicaragua are US Drug Enforcement Agency officials.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ernesto Leal declared on October 25 that the Nicaraguan government looks with "approval" on Cuba's integration into the Organization of American States (OAS). "Cuba is part of Ibero-America," commented Leal, "and thus we feel that the meeting of the Presidents of Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico with Fidel Castro is a positive step." In a surprise move, Presidents Carlos Andrés Pérez of Venezuela, César Gaviria of Colombia and Carlos Salinas of Mexico had invited Castro to the fourth "Group of Three" summit meeting, held in Mexico earlier in October. One report described the invitation by the leaders of these three powerful Latin nations as aimed at strengthening their summit's central purpose: "to define and implement cooperation strategies with the countries of the Caribbean and Central America."

Leal said that Nicaragua, as "a democratic and pluralistic country," would support the proposal by the three Latin American nations to integrate Cuba into the OAS and other inter-American organizations.

AMNLAE head and longtime Sandinista militant Gladys Baez charges that "the men in the National Assembly" are simply not interested in passing an alimony law. At a two-day weekend seminar in late October, women from many walks of life met to strategize about lobbying more effectively for an alimony law. Baez notes that a law was proposed during the Sandinista administration, but never came up for discussion or a vote in the National Assembly. Seminar participants said that the extreme economic crisis facing the country is particularly burdensome for women and children, and, while acknowledging that legislation in and of itself is not sufficient, argued that it would be a crucial advance. They said that many mothers are single or abandoned and have been left virtually defenseless in the wake of the harsh economic measures implemented in March.

One woman commented as she argued that men should bear economic responsibility for their children, "It's true that many men are unemployed now, but they always seem to have enough for their beers." Sandinista representative Marcia Quezada said that the bill women representatives to the National Assembly are proposing would guarantee that a percentage of what a man earns be deposited in the Family Protection Office of the National Social Security and Welfare Institute (INSSBI). Some women present, however, accused INSSBI officials, including "some women with no consciousness," of perpetuating unfair stereotypes and working to get children taken away from mothers if fathers come and complain about the private lives of their former wives or partners.

The bill has been discussed in the National Assembly's Commission on Women—whose president is UNO stalwart Azucena Ferrey and vice-president is former Sandinista guerrilla commander Leticia Herrera—and women on both sides of the aisle gave the proposed law their support.

In 1990 and 1991, the Sandinista Popular Army drastically reduced its troop size, and is now the smallest army on the Central American isthmus. The army reduction responded partly to Violeta Chamorro's campaign promises, but also was part of the region-wide Esquipulas agreements signed in 1987.

Now, though, at least one Central American army is resisting taking similar steps. Honduran Foreign Minister Mario Carias says, "We cannot think about the reorientation of an armed corps when dangers still exist in the area, including armed groups much larger than us." Carias claims that the Honduran army is the smallest in the region, adding that "we applaud the decision of Nicaragua to substantially reduce its army, but we are interested in knowing what this army’s new orientation might be, and we would also like to know what has been done with the weapons given to the Sandinistas by the Soviet Union."

While Carias focused his scapegoating on the Sandinista army, Honduras has long been worried about the larger threat from the Salvadoran military. After what was dubbed the "soccer war" of 1969 between those two countries, Honduras built the most sophisticated air force in the region. During the Sandinista administration, Honduras became host to the sophisticated US military infrastructure used to wage war against Nicaragua. This further entrenched the power of the Honduran military, which continues to wield significant control over the country's civilian government and sees demilitarization as a direct threat.

Bowing to that sentiment, Honduran President Rafael Callejas sharply attacked those who call for a reduction in the army. He labeled them "irresponsible" and accused them of trying to wipe out an important element of Honduran democracy.

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