Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 303 | Octubre 2006




Envío team

In early September, the hospital in León suddenly began to fill up with patients suffering from severe cardiac, renal and cerebral problems, many of whom died within hours. It was quickly discovered that they had all being drinking what they thought was “guarón,” a cheap liquor sold in bulk in bars and neighborhood groceries. In this case, however, it turned out to be water mixed with methanol (wood alcohol). On September 16, the Police arrested the first of 17 people who participated in the scheme. The industrial chemical had been stolen, with the driver’s complicity, from a tank truck bound for Tipitapa, then distributed and sold as liquor mainly in León and Chinandega, even though the perpetrators knew it was a lethal toxin. It continued to be distributed and sold for days, despite news reports of the rising death toll. In massive operations, the National Police and the Health Ministry seized 86,000 liters of the poisonous liquid.

The final tally of this unbelievable crime was 850 people poisoned, of whom 50 died and dozens of the others were blinded or left with permanent eye lesions, among other health problems. President Bolaños made no reference to this tragedy until September 23, when he attended a Mass for the deceased and called for a national crusade against alcoholism, which is a serious and growing public health problem in the country.

On September 20, the new head of the National Police (PN), Aminta Granera, met with the Network of Women against Violence. First Commissioner Granera promised to review the procedures used in the special Women’s Police Stations, which receive charges brought by women. The Network criticized a number of problems that have been accumulating in the stations in recent years, especially abuses committed in mediation proceedings, and the constant reduction of crimes of violence against women to the category of “misdemeanors.”

Five days later, the PN launched a campaign against domestic violence, with the motto, “Break the silence: you can denounce the violence.” Announcing the campaign, Granera stated that 50% of the charges that the PN receives daily all over the country have to do with domestic and/or sexual violence, especially against women and girls. Nearly a third of all the cases involve sexual violence (32,000 charges in 2005 and 30,000 just in the first half of 2006). The PN has 23 Women’s Police Stations in the country and 11 more under construction. Granera highlighted the support of the Swedish government, which on September 20 provided $11.2 million to the PN, just over a tenth of which is earmarked for the Women’s Stations.

Fears have been raised that the profound energy supply crisis Nicaragua has been suffering since August, provoking outages of several hours every day, could create major problems on election day. It’s hard to predict a solution to the crisis given the protracted drought this year, the incapacity of the privatized generating plants due to lack of investment; the inefficiency of Union Fenosa, the Spanish transnational energy distributor; and disputes between the legislative and executive branches over what measures to take, even in the short term.

“Any problem with the electricity flow during the counting, data supply or transmission of results could generate chaos,” warned Roberto Courtney, director of Ethics and Transparency Civic Group, a national election observation organization. “If the energy can’t be ensured, it could even be dangerous to hold the elections that day.” As of mid-October, none of the actors with any say in the matter were guaranteeing electricity across the country for November 5 and 6.

In an interview with the Notimex news agency that appeared in Managua’s El Nuevo Diario newspaper on September 25, President Enrique Bolaños promised that God would prevent Daniel Ortega from winning the November 5 elections: “There are some who tremble and say that he [Ortega] is going to put an end to progress and get all fearful. But I have a great ally, who’s not going to let any dirty tricks happen to Nicaragua. I pray to God every day to light my way, to give me the strength to do things. ‘But you have to produce the results; I can’t do it,’ I tell Him, and by golly He always does. Nobody wanted to vote for CAFTA and suddenly they did. Then, when I asked for support for the Framework Law, nobody wanted to vote for it but in the end they did... So who do you think did it? The hand of God. The same thing with the constitutional reforms: just when it was believed that they were going to toss me out, suddenly Ortega came up with a different vision and we reached a solution, thanks to my ally up there. And just you wait and see if He doesn’t put His hand in during these elections as well. How’s He going to do it? He hasn’t told us, but when we see it, you’ll remember me and you’ll have to admit, ‘He was so right!””

During the Seventh Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas, held in Managua on October 2-4, the continent’s armies pledged to cooperate in the fight against organized transnational crime and other forms of terrorism. The creation of a Humanitarian Demining Center in Nicaragua, to be financed by international cooperation, was also unanimously approved. The Army of Nicaragua, which is very experienced in mine removal, offered to send a team to help demine areas of Afghanistan. Nicaragua itself will be declared a mine-free territory in 2007.

The largest drug bust in Nicaraguan history occurred on September 30, when the National Police seized some 3,000 kilos of cocaine in an operation, carried out virtually at random, near the beach of Pochomil. Five days later, a joint police and army operation captured a speedboat with 1,216 kilos of cocaine in front of the nearby beach resort of La Boquita. These two busts demonstrated the increase in drug trafficking in the country’s Pacific zone. Up to now, most of it has been observed in the Caribbean Coast.

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