Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 194 | Septiembre 1997




Envío team

The conflict between the universities and the government over the total or partial provision of 6% of the national budget for university administration continued throughout July. One of the moments of greatest tension came on July 23, when unnecessary violence broke out during a march commemorating the student massacre by Somoza in 1959, causing the destruction of several vehicles and the wounding of five policemen. After that incident, the presidential office and the National Council of Universities began talks to reach some agreement.

On July 11, the 104th anniversary of the historic Liberal Revolution of General José Zelaya, Arnoldo Alemán's Constitutionalist Liberal Party announced that various Liberal fractions that had created their own parties over time (PLIUN, PUL, PALI), as well as those that have more recently spun off of both the PLI and the PLN and have no legal status, had united with it to create what will now be called the Grand Liberal Party. In the mass event attended by over 15,000 people from all over the country, President Alemán made an aggressive and vociferous anti-Sandinista speech, similar to the early days of his electoral campaign.

On July 21, in a stronghold of the former Nicaraguan Resistance called Ayapal in the northeastern mountains of Jinotega, what were supposedly the last 425 members of the "recontra" group known as the Northern Front 3-80 turned in their weapons to President Alemán. Negotiations for their disarmament have been underway since February. Days later, army and police spokespeople in Matagalpa declared that the region is honeycombed with FN 3-80 arms caches, and that 70 of its members have not yet formally disarmed.

In the negotiations with the government, the FN 3-80 was promised that its members could join the Rural Police, a system set up under the National Police during the Chamorro government's earlier negotiations with rearmed ex-contras. Several high National Police officers, however, later declared that, given their criminal records, no member or leader of 3-80 could join the force to "protect" the rural zones in which they have been operating.

On the Sandinista side of the equation, old and new rearmed groups resumed political-military activity in April, and intensified it in July. The older groups are the Andrés Castro United Front (FUAC), in the mining area of Siuna; the Ramón Raudales Northern Front (FNRR), in Matagalpa; and the Revolutionary Workers and Peasants Front (FROC). The Diriangén Northern Front announced its existence on July 21, the same day the FN 3-80 disarmed.

At the beginning of August, the government initiated moves to negotiate the disarmament of the FUAC, made up of some 800 well armed men with ample military experience, many of whom were in the army between 8 and 12 years during the revolution.

In the massive event on July 11 to formalize the founding of the Grand Liberal Party, President Alemán also belligerently announced that annulment of the Chamorro government's privatization of the state sugar refineries was a priority of his administration. At the top of the list is the modern Victoria de Julio refinery complex.
On July 18, on Alemán's orders, the Attorney General requested that the privatization of this refinery be annulled because it was sold at a price supposedly below its market value and allegedly involved irregularities. Only days before, the Comptroller General's office, which had studied the case, gave the sale a clean bill of health.

The actions of the Attorney General, who intervened the refinery with a court order on July 21, unleashed a political and judicial controversy. Among those who took a stand were two English transnational companies with shares in the refinery (the consortium E D & F MAN, which owns 30%, and Nouveau Latin American, with 17.5%). Former President Violeta Chamorro also spoke up, criticizing President Alemán for his obstinacy in trying to roll back this privatization. Spokespeople for the transnationals announced that they will paralyze other million dollar investments they have in Nicaragua if the government goes forward with the intervention.

Alemán is reported to have a commitment to get this refinery for anti-Castro Miami businessman Jorge Mas Canosa, not only as an important asset, but also as a symbol: this is the only refinery that the state owned not as the product of expropriations during the 1980s, but as the result of a donation to the Sandinista government by the government of Cuba.

President Alemán, his family, and a large entourage of government functionaries made a five-day official trip to Taiwan at the beginning of August in search of bilateral aid and private investment. The Taiwanese government pledged Alemán over $150 million for 10 infrastructure projects, of which the most important is the rehabilitation of the Port of Corinto. At the beginning of July, the Presidents of Honduras and Nicaragua agreed to the construction of a superhighway, or interoceanic corridor, between Corinto and Honduras' Cortés Port.

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