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  Number 312 | Julio 2007
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

Envío team

DRUG TRAFFICKING AND
THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM
As the National Police (PN) continued hammering away at the logistics of the international drug trade entrenched in Nicaragua, three Sandinista judges on the Managua Appeals Court handed down a mind-boggling decision on July 1. They overturned the 10-year prison sentence meted out last December to three men caught transporting three tons of cocaine. Their ruling came only one day before the trial of 21 Mexicans, Guatemalans and Nicaraguans accused of belonging to a support cell for the Sinaloa drug cartel who were captured by the PN in April in one of its most impressive operations. Furious at the Appeals Court’s decision, National Police Chief Aminta Granera showed up at the first day of the trial against the Sinaloa members, flanked by other top PN commanders. “I have the right to see the results of our work,” she explained curtly, warning that “if they’re freed, we’ll just capture them again.” All 21 were convicted the very next day, but their appeal will be heard by the same court that released the others.

The Appeals Court scandal immediately triggered an unprecedented Supreme Court decision to unanimously suspend without salary the three judges involved and order that they be investigated. President Ortega implicitly acknowledged that he had requested this measure, thus demonstrating not so much his respect for the due process of law as his control over Sandinista judges and justices, who are also the majority in the Supreme Court.

A NEW HONOR FOR THE
1980 LITERACY CRUSADE
UNESCO has just added Nicaragua’s 1980 Literacy Crusade Archive to the International Registry of its “Memory of the World” Program. The collection, housed in the Institute of Nicaraguan and Central American History (IHNCA) on Managua’s Central American University campus, consists of photographs, videos, posters, manuscripts, field diaries, some 7,000 taped cassettes and other memorabilia. Over the past year, this material has been used in a traveling show on the Literacy Crusade called the Cultural Train, mainly geared to student groups. The IHNCA submitted the archive for nomination last year arguing that it represents the memory of a proud feat by Nicaragua’s youth and an expression of a unique cultural and educational process. That adult education effort, which lowered the national illiteracy rate from 51% to under 13% in five months, involved tens of thousands of young Nicaraguan volunteers, most of whom were sent to remote areas of the country where they shared the life of the peasant families they taught.

The objective of the “Memory of the World” Program is to preserve, digitalize and publicize documentary collections of great value. So far, 138 archives from different counties, regions and continents have been declared Memory of the World. The Literacy Crusade Archive is the first to be nominated and selected from the Central American region and shares a place in the International Registry with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Tordesillas Treaty, archives on slave trafficking, manuscripts by José Martí and the Simón Bolívar archive, among others.

MORE ON TOLAGATE
After the explosive revelations on the May 27 edition of the Esta Semana TV magazine news program, which documented the extortion of tourism investors in the Tola area of the department of Rivas, the government had no choice but to initiate an investigation. A National Assembly commission has been formed to look into the allegations. The Public Ministry is also investigating the case, but in all of its sessions so far it has demonstrated partiality in favor of the FSLN. The Attorney General’s Office is involved as well, but is particularly focusing on the property problems in Tola.

As envío detailed in last month’s issue, investor Armel González charged former Sandinista legislator and mayor Gerardo Miranda and other top FSLN cadres (Vicente Chávez and Lenín Cerna) of extorting under-the-table payment in exchange for sorting out problematic property clearances in meetings that allegedly took place in the FSLN’s Secretariat building, currently serving as Daniel Ortega’s presidential office. Miranda and Chávez have denied any involvement in the affair.

In what appears to be a related move, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) suspended Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance legislative representative Alejandro Bolaños Davis, González’s father-in-law, on the grounds that he lied about being born in the United States when filing to run for his National Assembly post. Bolaños Davis denounced the CSE for this “a posteriori” decision, calling it revenge for the fact that his son-in-law had taken on the FSLN and denounced its shadowy maneuvers. González himself is being tried for libel and slander.

MORE ON THE “MIL” CASE
As mentioned in this month’s “Speaking Out” article by human rights activist Gonzalo Carrión, millionaire businessman and former National Assembly candidate Manuel Ignacio Lacayo (known as MIL) was sentenced last month to two years in prison for refusing to pay $3,000 a month in child support for his seven-year-old daughter. Ignoring an earlier court decision, Lacayo offered to pay $1,000 plus health and education expenses, arguing that the larger amount was political punishment devised by his ex-wife’s powerful brother-in-law Lenín Cerna, currently the FSLN’s organizational secretary. Lacayo ran for office last year on the ticket of the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), which split from the FSLN in 1995.

His trial, sentence, capture (he was taken at night from a hospital bed) and prison stint, where he was held incommunicado in a cell next to the man who gunned down journalist and Sandinista dissident Carlos Guadamuz, attracted public attention because the judicial system almost never treats the wealthy like that. After even the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) was barred from visiting Lacayo, CENIDH president Vilma Núñez de Escorcia declared that his detention was “the start of the selective persecution of government opponents… which is how dictatorships begin.” For health reasons, Lacayo’s family finally reached a financial agreement with his ex-wife and he was released a week. He is now under house arrest and views himself as the new government’s first “political prisoner.”


BORDER CONFLICT WITH
COSTA RICA DRAGGING OUT
The hearing in the International Court of Justice at The Hague on Costa Rica’s claim to the right to navigate with armed military personnel on the Río San Juan—which separates the two countries but belongs to Nicaragua—was postponed from May to September. It is speculated that this is due to conversations between the two governments to reach an extra-judicial agreement, although President Ortega denied that his government would discuss Nicaraguan sovereignty over the river. It is known that businesspeople from both countries are interested in bi-national investment in the tourist opportunities offered by this beautiful region.


TAIWAN VS. CHINA
The Costa Rican government made a surprise announcement in early June that it had broken diplomatic relations with Taiwan to establish them with mainland China. Data provided by Costa Rica’s ambassador in Managua show that $1.07 billion of his country’s total exports of $6 billion last year went to China.

The decision caused quite a stir in the other Central American countries, which have been the “most important” of the barely two dozen small, impoverished countries in the world that maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan rather than China. A month after Costa Rica’s announcement, President Ortega stated during the official reception of Taiwan’s new ambassador that while Nicaragua would maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it also aspired to ties with China, since there is no “contradiction” between the two objectives. In 1990, the government of Violeta Chamorro broke the relations initiated with China by the first FSLN administration to establish them with Taiwan instead. Nicaragua has annually been rewarded by concessionary loans and donations for a number of sizable projects since that time. In addition, Taiwanese maquila investors provide some 18,000 jobs. Despite this, FSLN government officials say that it’s an “inevitable tendency” and “simply a matter of time” before Nicaragua reopens diplomatic relations with continental China.

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