Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 294 | Enero 2006




Nitlápan-Envío team

On December 14, with public opinion turned to festive matters, Sandinista judge David Rojas definitively dismissed all 17 suits against Alex and Alvin Centeno Roque, two of the three brothers accused of involvement in the fraudulent collapse in August 2000 of Interbank, one of two banks based on FSLN capital. The case of the third brother, Saúl, who is still on the run, was sent to a jury.

It cost the state $200 million to bail out Interbank’s liabilities, which the Central Bank covered by issuing high-interest bonds that were quickly snapped up by other banks in the country. While all those involved in Interbank’s collapse have gone free, taxpayers are now saddled with a huge public debt to the other banks. Meanwhile, the Centeno Roque brothers, the alleged recipients of sizable unsecured loans, also amassed a fortune with an agroindustrial consortium during President Alemán’s term.

At the request of the Sandinista mayor of León, who in turn had been asked by Bishop of León Bosco Vivas, First Police Commissioner Edwin Cordero named the Virgin of La Merced First Commissioner Emeritus. Cordero presented her image with the staff of command and gold insignia in an act in León attended by Bishop Vivas and top National Police officers. Some questioned the highly unusual ceremony as yet another violation of the constitutional principle of a secular state.

Three days into the new year, President Bolaños decorated Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa with the Order of Rubén Darío in a ceremony in Managua. During the event, Bolaños highlighting the fact “he has strongly criticized totalitarianism wherever it has been imposed due to the weakness of the institutions. He has also criticized the caudillo tradition of economically and socially backward nations.”

Vargas Llosa told the media of the admiration he had felt from an early age for the 19th-century Nicaraguan poet Rúben Darío. He also offered his opinions of the current leftist governments in Latin America: “Castro has batted the record for dictatorial longevity in power, which is shameful for Cuba and for us; let’s hope he won’t last much longer and that Cuba can recover this lost half century.” Venezuela’s “Hugo Chávez is doing immense damage, not only to Venezuela but to Latin America.” Argentina’s “Kirchner is for me a profoundly disagreeable figure, a demagogue, a man without clear ideas… I wouldn’t shake his hand.” “I hope the Bolivians haven’t committed an act of suicide” (in electing Evo Morales). “Lula was a worrisome radical, but he has maintained a Liberal style policy that strikes me as the most sensible choice.”

It was learned in mid-January that Honduras’ outgoing First Lady, Aguas Ocaña de Maduro, is coming to work in Nicaragua with O Belén, a Spanish NGO dedicated to children, in an extension of the work she has been doing in Honduras in recent years. President Ricardo Maduro himself was decorated with the Order of Rubén Darío in Managua by President Bolaños on January 5, two days after Vargas Llosa. Ocaña, now divorced from Maduro, arrived in Nicaragua on January 27, to great media attention. Her first public visit was to pay homage to Cardinal Obando, and her second to Alemán’s wife, with whom she visited Managua’s Eastern Market, the Managua area most linked to crime and prostitution. With a confidence in her financial resources that bordered on the offensive, Ocaña offered bed, shelter, food and money to any poor woman or child she came across. Her third visit was to former President Daniel Ortega’s wife, Rosario Murillo, who put the 87 municipal governments now in FSLN hands at the service of Ocaña’s ostentatiously charitable inclinations.

The Prosecutor General’s Office decided to shelve all judicial procedures in the investigation into the theft of a Supreme Court account containing $609,000 from the capture of drug traffickers by the National Police in August 2005. The case, which the population and the media have followed by since September, is the largest corruption scandal involving the judicial branch to come to light so far.

In the end, though, it all came to nothing: the prisoners went free or received reduced sentences, the money was never recovered and the investigations were shelved without determining who was to blame. Supreme Court justices, judges, lawyers and notaries all allegedly participated in the theft, and Sandinista judges in the Managua appeals court handed down the determining rulings. In mid-December, PLC leaders accused the upper echelons of the FSLN of siphoning off the money to finance its electoral campaign, together with other sums from the capture of drug traffickers in other parts of the country. But this extremely serious charge also came to nothing.

A full day of prayer designated the “Day of Humiliation,” was held in Estelí on January 29, bringing together some 20,000 people from all over the country for the second consecutive year. Catholics and Protestants of all denominations and ages fasted and prayed for Nicaragua’s prosperity and its politicians’ sensitivity to the extreme poverty suffered by the people. They also prayed for miracle cures for diverse illnesses, while preachers roused the multitude as the “miracles” came to pass. Perhaps the biggest miracle was to see the Sandinista mayor of Estelí, Pedro Pablo Calderón, on his knees in the stadium where the act culminated, praying for the election of “a good ruler” in November. He also announced that he would issue a municipal ordinance declaring the last Sunday of every January the Day of Humiliation, “so all of Nicaragua will come to Estelí and rejoice and fill themselves with energy and fortify their spirit.”

An exploratory mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) consisting of Under-secretary for Political Affairs John Biehl and two top-level technical experts arrived in Nicaragua on January 24 to supervise Nicaragua’s electoral process in a commitment assumed by the OAS during the 2005 institutional crisis. Despite the current political tension in the electoral branch and the multiple signs of distrust he has perceived since his arrival, Biehl appeared optimistic that the March elections for autonomous authorities on the Caribbean coast and the November general elections will both be transparent.

A deadly Managua traffic accident that took the lives of two teenagers on December 11 has provided further proof of the impunity reigning in the country. It happened when a pick-up involved in a high-speed race with another vehicle down the Masaya Highway ran a red light and plowed into the car of Carlos Roiz and Ernesto Cantillano, killing them instantly.

It turns out that the truck that killed the two boys belongs to the FSLN Secretariat, and was returning from a party activity involving Daniel Ortega in Rivas, driven by someone very close to Ortega who abandoned the truck after the accident and has not yet come forward. Three hours later, FSLN treasurer Francisco López appeared at the police station with a driver he claimed was responsible, but witnesses say this other person took the rap for the real driver. One of the dead boys was the son of journalist and FSLN activist William Roiz, who claims that Ortega knows who the real driver was. Getting way ahead of any investigation, Ortega swore hours after the accident that “none of his children” was responsible and that the grieving families were being manipulated to damage the FSLN. The families of the two boys have joined forces to demand truth and justice.

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