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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 177 | Abril 1996
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

Envío team

Rural Violence
Reports of kidnappings, intimidation and atrocious killings around Waslala and other areas in northern Nicaragua continued to pour in throughout February. Disarming the groups heading up these violent actions before election time is turning into a national urgency. It's also turning into a political objective of some parties. Alvaro Robelo, leader of Arriba Nicaragua, for example, announced a three?month plan to demobilize all those who have taken up arms again.
Government officials questioned Robelo's intrusion into what they called "the government's responsibility." Several legislators commented that his "plan" is simply to buy the weapons of the 25 rearmed bands currently operating in extensive rural zones. If so, it's already been tried. The government spent at least US$8 million buying weapons in the 1991?92 period of peak rearmed activity. Some suggest the money would have been better spent creating economic alternatives to banditry.

In mid?February, Estelí's bishop, Juan Abelardo Mata, sent a letter to President Chamorro stating that the armed violence in 26 northern municipalities "is generating the basis for a civil war." Bishop Mata says that the average age of the band members is 18 and that they "receive no other message than to annihilate an enemy." He and Bishop Pedro Vilchez of Jinotega have proposed peace plans for the north that do not involve the National Army, due to the fears that it still arouses in the population. Army chief Joaquín Cuadra would have no objection to the plans if they can genuinely disarm what are habitually called "rearmed groups"??though Bishop Mata's information indicates that the members, if not perhaps the leaders, are too young to have been armed combatants during the 1980s' war.

Germany Pardons Debt
On February 8, Germany pardoned 80% of Nicaragua's $875 million debt. The remaining 20% was restructured to be paid in 23 years starting in the year 2002. The Sandinista government contracted the bulk of that debt with what was then East Germany in the 1980s, in the form of credits for goods produced in that country.

Mine Threatens Water Supply
Nota:Inicio | Contactenos | Archivo | Suscripciones Bernardo Hombach, the bishop of Juigalpa, added his voice to denunciations of the gold mining concession that the Chamorro government gave to Greenstone Resources Ltd., a Canadian company, in La Libertad, Chontales, in 1994. The extraction work in Cerro El Mojón is carving up the mountain and risks drying up strategic water sources. The company's plan is to install the largest open pit mine in Central America; the 40?year concession covers almost eleven thousand hectares. There was no inter?ministerial coordination when drawing up the concession, and the Canadians, who it is estimated will have some $57 million in annual earnings, did not take any environmental impact disposition into account.

Controversial Dry Canal
A joint executive?legislative commission announced in mid?February that it had decided to push for construction of the "dry canal" across Nicaragua that will connect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans "in the near future." An international consortium of several economic powers, including Germany and Japan, has been created to implement the project. It is estimated that the consortium would invest $1.3 billion in the three years of construction and would generate 20,000 jobs. The announcement was met with serious questioning due to the environmental risks to which the project would expose the country.

State Banks Under The IMF Gun
The IMF mission that visited Nicaragua in February imposed new conditions on the already weakened state banking system. It pushed for the privatization of the Bank of Nicaragua (BANIC) and proposed that the National Development Bank (BANADES) close all but 7 of its 53 branches. The operation to recover BANADES' overdue loans to some 24,000 producers was also put in motion, although with more flexibility than originally planned.
Guillermo Bone, secretary general of the BANADES union, claimed that the government is using the state banking system as a latrine and a sewer." He charged that the bulk of the unrecovered debt portfolio is made up of huge credits belonging to "relatives or associates of the President and her ministers."

The Plight of Teachers
The following data were provided by a meeting to analyze the problems of the national teaching profession: 5% of Nicaragua's economically active population over 15 years of age works in primary, secondary or university education. With 32,000 teachers, it is the largest employment sector in the country, and these teachers attend 1.2 million students. A primary teacher's basic salary is only 411 córdobas ($50) a month.

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