Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 302 | Septiembre 2006



Nicaragua Briefs

Envío team

On August 10, the final day of festivities honoring Santo Domingo, Managua’s patron saint, the tiny statue was carried through the streets bearing a huge sign reading “Abortion is murder.” That same day MRS Alliance candidate Edmundo Jarquín was asked by a journalist if he favored therapeutic abortion. Jarquín responded spontaneously that he did and that the Alliance would respect the constitutional principle of a secular state. Asked under what circumstances he would condone therapeutic abortion, Jarquín said anytime the mother’s life was at risk.

The next day Bishop of Juigalpa René Sándigo said publicly that if Jarquín were elected, “We would have an abortionist, a killer, someone favoring the culture of death” as President and urged the population not to vote for him. On August 14, Jarquín responded in a communiqué that “my commitment is to life…. Because I am in favor of life, my government’s most radical commitment will be to combat everything that threatens the life of Nicaraguans: maternal-infant mortality, malnutrition, violence against women and children, unemployment and poverty. I profoundly regret that a declaration of mine in defense of life and in strict accordance with a legal norm that has existed for more than a century [in Nicaragua] and exists in almost all countries, could have triggered such an intolerant and overblown response by a Catholic Church authority, whose investiture I profoundly respect as a Catholic…. I understand that these declarations were made in an inopportune fit, and for that reason, while I would expect him to ask my forgiveness, I would humbly pardon someone who has characterized me in such an undeserved manner…. I regret such an attempt to drag the Catholic Church into taking sides in the electoral race and expose the country to the religious intolerance that is causing so much damage in other countries.” The following day, Bishop Sándigo stated that he had “no reason to ask forgiveness of anybody for preaching that children should not be killed” and that if anyone should ask forgiveness “it is he who kills and preaches the culture of death.”

Therapeutic abortion has been enshrined in Nicaragua’s Penal Code for over 100 years and is regulated by the Ministry of Health. Nonetheless, so-called “pro-life” activists, with insistent support from the Catholic hierarchy and evangelical church leaders, have been pressuring for years to have this practice curtailed and the legislation repealed, as has already happened in Salvador with disastrous consequences for poor women. Meanwhile, the Catholic bishops have announced a national march against abortion in all dioceses for October 6.

On August 15, in an interview on Radio YA, the FSLN station, Rosario Murillo, Daniel Ortega’s wife and campaign chief, weighed into the debated by stating that “We are deeply committed to faith… For that reason we also agree fully with the [Catholic] Church and [Evangelical] Churches that abortion is something that fundamentally affects women, because we can never replace the pain and trauma left by an abortion! In addition, it is an assault on faith, on life. That is why we say that we join the clamor of the Church and reflect the clamor of the Nicaraguan majorities who are against abortion. We have been emphatic about it at all times. The FSLN, the Nicaragua United Will Triumph alliance, says no to abortion, yes to life… Yes to religious beliefs, yes to faith, yes to the search for God, which is what gives us the strength every day to stay on the path. Yes as well to the vision of our people’s pastoral and spiritual guides, such as His Eminence the Cardinal, who gave us Nicaraguans the banner of Reconciliation, which Nicaragua United Will Triumph took up and which is now helping Nicaragua go forward.”

Four days after Bishop Sándigo’s outburst, the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference published a Pastoral Letter offering guidance about the electoral process. Seeking to maintain a neutrality they have failed to practice in previous elections, the bishops exhorted priests and nuns not to participate in party acts to avoid confusing the faithful. They told voters they should observe the candidate’s virtues as a person, his government program and the means to attain his promises. Nonetheless, they cited only three parameters that must be taken into account when voting: that the party be in favor of life “from the moment of conception until a natural death,” that it recognize the family “as a union between a man and a woman based on matrimony” and that it protect “the right of parents to educate their children.” On August 27, one of the priests most projected by the rightwing media, Father Neguib Eslaquit, a parish priest in the department of Carazo, openly violated the bishops’ recommendation by participating in the official opening of Liberal Alliance candidate Eduardo Montealegre’s campaign. In his bombstic propagandistic speech, he related “the nine talents of the Holy Spirit” with box number nine, which Montealegre is assigned on the ballot.

On August 11, the Panamanian judge who three months earlier had opened a suit against former Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Alemán for laundering money in Panama, issued an arrest warrant against him and requested Interpol’s support in carrying out the order, even though Nicaragua’s Constitution prohibits the extradition of its citizens. The arrest order also covers the others accused in the same suit: Alemán’s wife and father-in-law and Byron Jerez, who was tax director during Alemán’s term in office and his right hand man in the massive embezzlement of government funds. According to Alemán’s wife, this arrest order is just another expression of the pressure being exerted by the US government to get him to retire from politics. Both Alemán and his wife frequently participate in PLC meetings, even though he is nominally serving a 20-year sentence in Nicaragua for money laundering and embezzlement. The US government has revoked Alemán’s entry visa and in May of this year Spain and 10 other European Union countries prohibited his entry for 10 years.

Attorney General Alberto Novoa joined representatives from all continents at the fourth gathering of the World Network against Corruption, held in Cape Town, South Africa, on August 21-23. On his return, Novoa declared that Nicaragua is viewed internationally as an emblematic case for several reasons: the generalized corruption organized from a position of power during the Alemán government, the country’s degree of impoverishment, the fruitless attempts to repatriate the embezzled money, the efforts of society and the media to deal with the problem, the high-ranking positions held by those implicated in such grave acts of corruption, the privileges enjoyed by former President Alemán following his conviction, and the fact that he is also being tried in another country (Panama).

In an interview with the magazine La Jornada in Mexico, where he was being honored by the Autonomous National University, Nicaraguan poet-priest Ernesto Cardenal commented on Nicaragua’s general situation and specifically its electoral process. “There is democracy in Nicaragua,” he commented, “which was a fruit of the revolution even though it didn’t propose democracy so much as the country’s liberation toward socialism. After the revolution was lost, a corrupted, neoliberal, capitalist democracy remained in the country, but it was democracy nonetheless, in the sense that there are no political prisoners or repression or censorship of any kind. There are elections with full liberty after a half-century dictatorship….

It seems that the electoral campaign will be hard-fought. Two Sandinista movements are running, along with two other candidates of the Right. We are now in the Sandinista Renovation Movement, whose candidate is Edmundo Jarquín. The danger is that Daniel Ortega will steal the election, since he dominates the Supreme Electoral Council, which will have the final say. Any challenged decision would go to the Supreme Court of Justice, which Ortega also controls. We are hoping to win in the second round. Then we would be shunt of Ortega, who has been a curse for Nicaragua. A revolution frustrated, betrayed and corrupted is not revolution. I’ve said that authentic capitalism is preferable to a false revolution.”

On August 10, International Day of Indigenous Peoples, indigenous groups and community leaders from different areas of Nicaragua, particularly Matagalpa, paraded through the streets of Matagalpa city to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the “War of the Indians” there. Following the eviction of the region’s indigenous people from their lands for the mass cultivation of coffee and their forced labor on their own former lands, their frustrations finally boiled over when the Liberal government of Zelaya also obliged them to work for free on the installation of the telegraph system. In 1881, they took over Matagalpa in a huge and violent uprising, which was put down by equally violent repressive means.

After an energetic campaign to get the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) to extend the deadline for requesting ID/voter cards by two weeks given that a reported 800,000 eligible voters, particularly young first-time voters, still don’t have their card, the CSE reported that only 20,000 people took advantage of special posts set up for that purpose. These posts included open air tents erected one weekend along one lane of major Managua avenues, a clever idea that resulted in little more than serious traffic snarls.

On August 23, the four Regional Networks of Gay Groups, organized in the Pacific, North, East and Northeast of Nicaragua, addressed their community in a sizeable paid ad in El Nuevo Diario: “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Transvestite and Transsexual compañeros and compañeras: We mustn’t waste our vote by giving it to those who discriminate against us and pass laws that violate our rights. Full respect for human rights is only possible in a secular state.” Days later the Congress of Gay Organizations of Central America published what it called the Declaration of Managua, demanding legislation that doesn’t discriminate by sexual orientation, the creation of ombudsman’s offices to protect the human rights of people from the gay community and the repeal of legislation that penalizes “the full citizenship of non-heterosexual populations.” They also called on religious institutions to “help their members overcome traditional prejudices and discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Print text   

Send text

<< Previous   Next >>


Are We Ready to Leap Out of Poverty In a Single Bound?

Nicaragua Briefs

Nicaraguan Youth Gangs: From Throwing Stones to Smoking Rocks

The Odyssey of a Peasant Navigating the Seas of Power

How Can Consensus Be Reached When the Conflict Is Denied?

To Be Young and Poor: Turf, Violence, Fear, Silence

Inequality, Environmental Neglect And Apathetic Democracy
Envío a monthly magazine of analysis on Central America
GüeGüe: Web Hosting and Development