Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 313 | Agosto 2007




Envío team

On July 20, Panamanian criminal judge Adolfo Mejía subpoenaed former Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Alemán, his wife, father-in-law and former government tax director Byron Jerez to appear in court in Panama within 10 days to answer for the crime of laundering $58.2 million through Panamanian banks and ordered their “immediate preventive detention.” Mejía accepted the charges against Alemán in preliminary hearings last year. The reactivation of this suit, which has hung over Alemán’s head for the past five years, appears to have followed a request by President Daniel Ortega to his Panamanian counterpart Martín Torrijos, in Nicaragua a day earlier to attend the anniversary of the revolution. Ortega needs the Alemán case to continue aggravating divisions between the two Liberal parties.

The Nicaraguan government has given Cardinal Miguel Obando and the state Reconciliation Commission he chairs the task of resolving the country’s innumerable property problems, although he will have to seek the needed financial resources in Venezuela and from the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America (ALBA).
On July 25, some of the PLC mayors Cardinal Obando was meeting with booed him for his close alliance with Daniel Ortega with expressions such as: “Cardinal, piricuaco! Now you’ve warmed the viper! You’re no longer a Christian, you’re Sandinista!” The term piricuaco was a contra epithet for Sandinista soldiers during the war of the eighties, and the reference to the viper harks back to a parable Obando delivered only days before the 1996 elections suggesting that Daniel Ortega had not changed and could not be trusted. The parable was about a trusting peasant bitten by a snake that had implored him to be put inside his shirt because it was cold, assuring it would do him no harm. Arnoldo Alemán later apologized to the Cardinal for his “disrespectful mayors.”

Spain’s Vice President, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, visited Nicaragua in early August to sign her country’s seventh mixed cooperation commission agreement and write off a Nicaraguan government debt of 26.44 million euros. She said that Nicaragua is a priority for her government and referred to the need for gender equity in all projects. In response, Daniel Ortega’s welcoming remarks included this reference to the power he shares with his wife Rosario Murillo: “Here we are in the presidency engaged 50/50 in the battle, although there’s a lot of controversy because there are those who don’t like women having such responsibilities. They don’t want women to think, to contribute, they just want to keep them hidden in the house.”

Fernández de la Vega happened to be in Managua at the same time as top-level executives of the Spanish transnational Unión Fenosa, which distributes electricity in the country. They were here to negotiate a new arrangement, but the Nicaraguan government has yet to reach an agreement with them. During July, the power outages around the country lasted between five and seven consecutive hours most days.

A delegation of 21 Iranian government technicians, headed by Deputy Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian, visited Nicaragua on August 1-3. President Ortega presented the delegation a long list of projects in which Iran could invest: a deep-water port, two wharfs and a 70-kilometer highway in the Caribbean coast, improvements to Managua’s drinking water system, six hydroelectric plants, mechanization of the country’s agriculture, assembly plants for agricultural machinery, five milk processing plants, 10 milk storage centers and a polyclinic in Managua. In exchange, Nicaragua would export meat, plantains and coffee to Iran. The most immediate and sure investment is the construction of 10,000 low-income houses, 1,000 of which would be started in October. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez pledged to co-finance whatever investments Iran decides to make in Nicaragua. In his welcoming speech, President Ortega said that Iranians are “experts at manufacturing atomic bombs against hunger.”

On July 20, President Hugo Chávez laid the first stone of the refinery Venezuela has promised to build in Nagarote, Nicaragua, on a site already occupied by bases for oil tanks belonging to the state-run oil distribution company Petronic for some years now. The refinery, which will cost $3.5 billion and produce up to 150,000 barrels of oil a day, earning Nicaragua some $600 million annually, will be called “Bolívar’s Supreme Dream.” It will be owned by a new bi-national company created for that purpose called ALBANISA. The Nicaraguan government announced that Nicaragua’s share will be privately held and its earnings managed privately.
Chávez, who has promised Nicaragua an infinity of projects that have yet to materialize, including a highway, housing, factories and wells, also offered to construct a petrochemical complex alongside the refinery and scholarships in Venezuela for young Nicaraguans who want to study to be engineers in the new industrial complex. If the construction of the refinery does go ahead, it probably won’t be finished by the end of Daniel Ortega’s five-year term. During his two-day visit to Nicaragua, Chávez called on Nicaraguans to reelect Ortega (“you can’t let Daniel leave again”) and called Ortega’s opponents “parrots and “lackeys of the empire.”

On July 31, during celebrations honoring the founding of the Nicaraguan Air Force, President Ortega offered to destroy 651 of the Army of Nicaragua’s Soviet- made SAM-7 surface-to-air missiles if the United States would send Nicaragua’s public hospitals medicines, surgical material and high-tech instruments for treating cancer and other illnesses. The army would keep the remaining 400 missiles. Army Chief Omar Halleslevens backed the initiative, which was also very well received by public opinion and even by US ambassador Paul Trivelli. Relations between the Army of Nicaragua and the US government are growing increasingly harmonious.

The alleged extortion of foreign investors exposed on journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro’s TV news magazine program “Esta Semana” on May 27, has yet to be cleared up. The only thing clear is that those who denounced the extortion are being more affected than those accused. Charging ecological damage and a lack of permits, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources closed down the Arenas Bay tourist project belonging to the investors, who claimed they had been asked by FSLN political operators to pay $4 million in exchange for resolving property problems in their favor. The reported channel for the extortion, former FSLN legislator and mayor Gerardo Miranda, whose name has continued to be linked to new cases of irregular land appropriation, is receiving a salary as Nicaragua’s consul in Liberia, Costa Rica, even though his credentials have yet to be accepted. This highly publicized case has affected tourist investment in the country, particularly after details of similar extortion in tourist projects began to emerge.

Fifty-nine young men and women from poor families returned to Nicaragua on August 5 after five years studying at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana, Cuba. Fidel Castro inaugurated the medical school after Hurricane Mitch devastated several Central American countries in late 2000 and it currently includes 30,000 students from countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Nicaragua’s graduates will conclude their studies with a two-year internship in communities of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast under the guidance of 40 Cuban doctors who are working voluntarily in that remote area.

During the government of Enrique Bolaños and following a 15-year struggle and costly technical support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), 16 communities of Mayangna indigenous peoples in the Mayangna Sauni As territory of Nicaragua’s north Caribbean region finally received communal land titles covering 16,000 square kilometers in the Bosawás Reserve. The Mayangnas are now charging that the Ortega government revoked those titles in March and wants to expropriate their lands. They accused President Ortega of establishing a line of communication only with the Miskitu people on the coast, as part of his political-electoral alliance with their regional political party Yatama, headed by long-time leader Brooklyn Rivera. That alliance was forged after the autonomous regional government elections in March 2006, when Yatama failed to win enough seats in the Regional Council to govern alone and opted to ally with the FSLN rather than the PLC.

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