Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 120 | Julio 1991




Envío team

One year after the last of the US-backed contra forces were disarmed as part of the demobilization and repatriation process, groups of contras (known as "recontras") are arming themselves against Violeta Chamorro's government. Estimated at some 1,100 men, the recontras are concentrated in the northern regions of Las Segovias and Jinotega.

At the end of April, peasants near Quilalí reported that a large group of armed men coming from Honduras passed through the area. They also noted at least three supply drops from a small plane. The recontras, according to the peasants, intend to take over cooperatives and carry out assaults and attacks against selected Sandinistas. The long-term goal, some political analysts fear, is nothing less than toppling the Chamorro government and bringing Vice President Virgilio Godoy to power.

In early May, recontras attacked a Sandinista army construction brigade building a road between San José de Bocay and Ayapal in northern Jinotega. Nobody was injured in the attack. Vehicles in some areas of Region VI (Matagalpa-Jinotega) and Region I (Las Segovias) are routinely stopped, and their passengers harassed and robbed by recontras.

Also in early May, Barricada reported that groups were seen with new US arms near Jinotega. Things turned particularly ugly on June 6, when a group of recontras killed police Captain José Meza and his secretary, Elizabeth Centeno, as they traveled in a jeep on the road between Jinotega and San Rafael del Norte. The assassins riddled Meza's body with bullets and slit Centeno's throat. A Farm Worker Union (ATC) activist from the Chinandega region escaped from a murder attempt in early June.

Though he says the recontras are not a significant threat, Army chief General Humberto Ortega has said he will use force against them if need be, and accuses Godoy and Managua mayor Arnoldo Alemán of stirring them up in the countryside. On June 6, after testifying to the National Assembly about the recontra presence, Ortega characterized Godoy as "crazy," suggesting that the country would be in serious trouble if he were to assume power. Godoy spoke to a rally of about 250 people in Pantasma, Jinotega on June 2, where the mayor there introduced him as "the President of Nicaragua."

Several days after Ortega's National Assembly testimony, Presidential Minister Antonio Lacayo charged that he, Violeta Chamorro and several ministers are the targets of a rightwing plot to destabilize the government by assassinating key top officials. The National Police have undertaken a nationwide operation to track down what one Managua radio station says are "dozens of CIA employees" involved in the plot.

The National Workers' Front (FNT) reported to the second round of concertation meetings sponsored by the government that 69.4% of the Nicaraguan population are unable to meet their basic needs.

FNT leader José Angel Bermúdez said unemployment rates have soared to nearly 50% of the country's economically active population. He noted that construction workers suffer 77% unemployment and said the situation was even worse in the countryside. The FNT statistics cite 30.6% of the population living in poverty, 22.7% in extreme poverty and 16% as indigent.

Infant mortality has risen to 73 deaths for every 1,000 live births and calorie consumption has dropped drastically, to below existing international standards, for much of the country's population. Since March 3, when the government announced the implementation of its economic stabilization plan, earning power has dropped an average of 30%.

Bermúdez accused the government of working with "shock" measures that have "irreversibly affected the workers" and called on the government to bring down the heavy social cost of its plan.

Minister of Government Carlos Hurtado made his first official trip to Washington in late May, returning to the country amid a swirl of rumors about why he had been called to the US. Though Hurtado emphasized his meetings with the Drug Enforcement Agency and reported that the DEA will be offering Nicaragua technical and financial assistance, including the training of a special anti-drug police unit, many Managua reporters thought there was more to his trip.

Asked about the tenure of René Vivas as National Police Chief, Hurtado, who referred to the Vivas case as "closed" before his trip, said "that's in the President's hands." Managua radio stations had reported that Hurtado attempted to fire Vivas in April, and that Presidential Minister Antonio Lacayo had reversed his decision after receiving a visit from former President Daniel Ortega. As the US pursues its goal of radically transforming the country's armed forces, heavy pressure has been put on Hurtado to sack Vivas and restructure a police force more to Washington's liking.

In addition to his meetings with DEA officials, Hurtado met with National Security Council representatives and Undersecretary of State for Latin American Affairs Bernard Aronson.

In what some UNO representatives clearly hoped would be the first of many rollbacks, the National Assembly repealed Law 92, which declares the 1986 World Court ruling against the United States a national birthright of all Nicaraguans. Only one UNO representative voted against the repeal. The argument most frequently used by the UNO bench during the heated debate was that removing Law 92 would allow Nicaragua to pursue "friendly relations" with the US, though in fact the law did nothing to prohibit negotiations or amicable relations with the United States. Violeta Chamorro now has the power to withdraw Nicaragua's World Court case, which the US has long been pressuring her government to do. Washington has particular interest in the case's withdrawal since the eruption of the Gulf crisis, in which the US has repeatedly invoked international law to justify its actions and demanded that Iraq pay reparations to Kuwait—just what the World Court ordered the US to do in the case of Nicaragua.

The Sandinista bench participated in the debate but then walked out of the Assembly chambers en masse before the vote was taken. Former Vice President Sergio Ramírez led the walkout, declaring it a question of dignity. The FSLN formal statement on the repeal accused the UNO bench of "selling their votes,” adding that "we will not be a party to this act of betrayal, which also acts against the stability of the country."

Sandinista activists expressed outrage over the repeal, with more than one describing it as an attempt to rewrite history. One Sandinista pointed out that it's unlikely that the UNO government will negotiate any sort of compensation with the US, which some UNO representatives used as a justification. "The US doesn't negotiate," he said, "and this government knows that very well."

A bitter internal struggle was aired publicly in the pages of La Prensa for several days running in mid-May. The problems erupted after La Prensa president Cristiana Chamorro filed a story from the donors' meeting in Paris that mentioned in favorable terms the role played by FSLN representative Sergio Ramírez in the meeting. Ramírez attended representing the FSLN to emphasize Nicaragua's need for financial assistance.

However, the story La Prensa published on May 17 made no mention of FSLN participation. Then, on May 18, La Prensa dedicated its entire third page to an article originally published in the Mexican daily La Jornada, charging that "all state offices and institutions had been sacked" and accusing officials of the Electoral Council of absconding with computers and other equipment before the inauguration of the UNO government.

In an unusual move, Cristiana Chamorro published two signed corrections on the front page of the May 20 edition. The first reads, in part, that "La Prensa wishes to make it clear that the FSLN's participation at the Paris meeting contributed to the meeting's success." She noted that she had reported this from Paris, but that "unfortunately that news was mutilated by the editor who mistakenly put his political interests above the truth, something that has no place in honest and responsible journalism." Chamorro also defended the integrity of the Electoral Council, whose members, she said, "have been recognized by all Nicaragua for their honesty."

Chamorro's public apology was followed the next day by a letter signed by La Prensa's two directors, Pablo Antonio Cuadra and Horacio Ruiz, lamenting what they called "this painful submission" to the government line, terming Chamorro's position "an inappropriate surrender" and calling for an apology. Chamorro shot back with a response the next day, refusing to budge an inch.

There are strong rumors that Ruiz will be leaving La Prensa shortly to assume the editorship of El Nicaragüense, the weekly newspaper run by COSEP that hopes to go daily soon with US financing.

A Managua Municipal Council meeting erupted into controversy on June 5 when Mayor Arnoldo Alemán announced the creation of a "corps of municipal inspectors." Alemán says the inspectors' role would be to serve as watchdogs and fine people breaking municipal laws, including garbage dumping and failure to pay municipal taxes. He also proposed selecting honorary inspectors among neighborhood residents who could bring violations to the municipality's attention.

Sandinista Council members questioned the effectiveness of repressive measures when, in many cases, city services (such as garbage collection) are inadequate. Javier Álvarez, former deputy mayor of Managua and current FSLN Council representative, warned that this seemingly benign corps of inspectors "would be like the White Hand in Managua," referring to a hated paramilitary group that functioned with impunity under the Somoza dictatorship.

Alvarez, along with FSLN colleague Monica Baltodano, recalled that Alemán, as a law student years ago in León, formed a similar paramilitary organization there that persecuted student leaders. Alemán was visibly angered by the discussion.

In the end, his draft law was approved, with a four-person committee formed to look into details and make possible modifications.

Print text   

Send text

<< Previous   Next >>


The FSLN's Dilemma--Stability at What Cost?

AIDS in Nicaragua

AID/FISE: Solving the Unemployment Problem?


One Year of Coast Autonomy: Little to Celebrate
Envío a monthly magazine of analysis on Central America
GüeGüe: Web Hosting and Development