Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 290 | Septiembre 2005




Nitlápan-Envío team

After a month without holding its scheduled elections and 25 sessions scheduled then aborted because the three PLC magistrates didn’t show up while the FSLN ones did, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) finally reelected Roberto Rivas to his 11th year as president thanks to Cardinal Obando’s influence. FSLN leader Emmet Lang was reaffirmed as vice president, thus leaving the FSLN largely in control of the electoral branch, at least as long as the rapprochement between Daniel Ortega and Cardinal Obando lasts. The CSE’s first act after its hiatus was to schedule the new elections for the Autonomous Regional Councils in Nicaragua’s Caribbean regions for March 2006.

With financing from the German NGO Bread for the World, various national organizations conducted a study of over 100 communities in the north, Pacific and central regions of Nicaragua to learn how the population feeds itself. It revealed that 42.9% of the 1,121 sample households did not have enough food to eat three times a day (the definition of chronic hunger) while 26.3% didn’t even eat twice a day (extreme hunger). Madriz and Nueva Segovia had the highest hunger levels, with 33.5% of the people surveyed not eating well any day of the year and 13% suffering “inanition,” going several days without eating at all. The households in that area with chronic hunger (69.8%) and extreme hunger (73.9%) have no access to land to produce food even for self-sufficiency.

The study concluded that “politics amounts to another cause of hunger and poverty in Nicaragua by dividing communities and preventing them from making use of all their capacities and resources.” The Caribbean Coast, where famine is cyclical due to climatological excesses, was not included in the study. In August, the indiscriminate burning of forests near more than 90 communities along the banks of the Río Coco in the northern Caribbean region sparked a massive movement of rats and field mice, which devoured the area’s crops. This plague and recent flooding from heavy rains left some 40,000 people starving.

Nicaraguan boxer Ricardo “Killer” Mayorga was crowned super welterweight champion after winning a bout with Italian fighter Michele Piccirillo in Chicago on August 13. Days earlier, Mayorga, famous for his eccentricities, crude language and abusive behavior, had announced that he would dedicate the fight to his “friend” Daniel Ortega. Taking the gesture to its extreme, he climbed into the ring wearing a red and black robe and shorts bearing the number 2, the FSLN’s electoral ballot number. On his return to Nicaragua, Mayorga was received by Ortega’s wife Rosario Murillo, accompanied by several of her children. One of her daughters handed flowers to Mayorga, who was then escorted home by dozens of FSLN vehicles.

Mayorga was accused of rape by a young woman in 2004 but was absolved by the Sandinista judge who tried his case. Following his victory and dedication to Ortega, Mayorga won another legal victory when Nicaragua’s Supreme Court refused the rape victim a retrial. The day he returned to the country, Daniel Ortega justified his “identification” with the boxer with the following words: “We’re all sinners; for some the sins are hidden, for others of us they are in plain view… There’s an attempt to politicize everything… We shouldn’t tarnish the will, the spirit, the fierceness and courage of a young man who has come up from the people.”


Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo were married on September 3 in the presence of their children, grandchildren and other relatives in a private religious ceremony concelebrated by Cardinal Obando and Fathers Eddy Montenegro, Francisco Castrillo and Benito Pitito in the chapel of the Catholic University, of which Obando is president. According to the FSLN’s communication office, headed by Murillo, it was a “renewal” of their marriage vows, in that a testimony was presented, “signed by Daniel, Rosario and the only living witness, Dr. Rafael Solís Cerda, verifying that there had been a matrimonial union in an improvised religious marital ceremony celebrated in Costa Rica in the middle of the insurrectionary struggle in October or November 1978 and officiated by priest and Sandinista Hero Gaspar García Laviana.” This time around, according to Murillo, the cardinal added “a beautiful message of profound spiritual content.” Daniel Ortega has been publicly criticized in recent years for receiving communion at least twice from Cardinal Obando’s hand during Mass, something that should have been prohibited because he was presumed to be living with a woman without having received the Catholic matrimonial sacrament. In their 27 years together, this is the first public revelation of a previous religious wedding.

Journalist Adolvo Olivas was murdered in the city of Estelí in the early hours of August 14 in an obscure incident involving a taxi driver who apparently shot him at point-blank range after driving him home. The alleged murderer had a record for drug trafficking activities and everything suggests that Olivas’ death was in reprisal for his recent investigations in this area. The killing rocked Estelí, other journalists and the country in general.

Every day the media report drug-related news of varying degrees of importance and drama (clandestine airfields, property of questionable origin, and homicides with all the signs of payback killings) giving some idea of just how far the drug trafficking tentacles have extended into city neighborhoods and rural zones throughout the country. So far the majority of those sentenced and imprisoned for drug-related crimes are poor women, known as “muleras,” which is the lowest rung possible on the drug dealing ladder. Others of a higher level are continuously released from custody with ridiculous fines, while those on the highest national rungs remain untouchable. Referring to the issue of public security in his government program, Sandinista presidential candidate Herty Lewites said on August 21 that, if elected, he would strive to stop “this country being taken over by drug trafficking.”

Various acts were held all over Nicaragua on August 23 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the culmination of the National Literacy Crusade. It was encouraging that virtually everyone—even traditional anti-Sandinistas—celebrated the values of that youthful national initiative, recognizing it as the revolution’s most beautiful achievement, almost the only one that had widespread social consensus. The FSLN’s official celebration took place in Sandino’s birthplace of Niquinohomo, attended by thousands of sympathizers and former literacy brigade members. It was presided over by Daniel Ortega, who got lots of mileage out of it for his own electoral projection. The acts and parties organized by the 25th Anniversary Movement, chaired by Jesuit priest Fernando Cardenal, who coordinated the original Crusade, built to a climax between August 21 and 23 in Managua’s Central American University.

Two literacy projects that again aspire to palpably lower Nicaragua’s illiteracy levels—which in recent years have re-approached those of pre-Crusade times—got underway in the same month. One is being implemented by university students around the country in coordination with the 86 mayors in municipalities governed by the FSLN and National Convergence, and the other by high school students under the guidance of the Ministry of Education.

On August 9, at the final National Assembly session before the mid-year recess, there was a confusing ruckus between Bolaños officials, who support the Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement with the United States (DR-CAFTA), and Sandinista unions, who oppose it. Meanwhile, the PLC and FSLN legislative benches were busy agreeing on a regulatory maneuver to postpone the debate over definitive ratification. Ultimate ratification is anticipated as the pro-CAFTA forces of the PLC bench and the handful of pro-Bolaños legislators can push it through even without FSLN consent. For months the PLC has used that advantage as one of its key chips in negotiating the fate of President-turned-prisoner Arnoldo Alemán. Many think the FSLN belatedly played up its anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist rhetoric and came out against CAFTA—well after the year-long regional negotiations in 2004 during which it had little or nothing to say—only to show that it still “owns the streets.”

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