Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 320 | Marzo 2008



Indignant (and Substantiated) Clues To the CENI Fraud and Renegotiation

Should the CENI bonds be honored or not? Why were they issued and who benefited most? Wasn’t there any better way to deal with the problem? Were there illegalities and, if so, who committed them? Was Eduardo Montealegre the only one responsible? This article helps clear up the essential questions on the complex and controversial CENI labyrinth.

Adolfo Acevedo

The Ortega government is accusing Liberal opposition leader Eduardo Montealegre of responsibility for the whole fraud related to the Central Bank’s Negotiable Investment Certificate (CENI) issue in 2001—ostensibly to cover the savings deposits of several banks that went under the previous couple of years. And yet his role in what has been dubbed the “theft of the century” was limited to renegotiating the resulting massive domestic debt when he was treasury minister in the Bolaños government

Virtually the only concrete accusation against Monte-alegre is that in renegotiating the debt with BANCENTRO, one of the two banks that received the CENIs, he increased the interest rate it would receive from 7.93% to 8.29%. He happened to be a major stockholder in BANCENTRO at the time, so he will never be able to explain away that conflict of interest, but that hardly qualifies him as a contender in this country’s “theft of the century” contest.

Which of the two renegotiations was “best”?

At the same time the Ortega government was loudly condemning Montealegre for renegotiating the CENI debt, it was actually doing exactly the same thing, this time with current Central Bank (BCN) president Antenor Rosales heading the effort. In an overall comparison between the two negotiations, they share one major flaw: their recognition that a) the entire CENI debt is legitimate and legal and b) the state has a sacred obligation to honor it at whatever cost.

But an undeniable fact in Montealegre’s favor is that he reduced the weighted interest rate of that debt six times more than Rosales. Montealegre got it down from 15.3% to 8.43%, a drop of 6.9 percentage points—or 690 “basic points,” to use Rosales’ preferred language—and extended the repayment period from five years to ten. Rosales only got the interest rate lowered a further percentage point to 7.43%—i.e. 100 basic points—and the payment deadline extended by two more years.

Even in an optimistic scenario—in which there are no arrears penalties because all payments are met on time—this new renegotiation will reduce the net value of the current debt balance by barely 6.5%, a mere pittance considering the magnitude of the CENI issue fraud. And of course, the very act of engaging in the renegotiation without questioning any aspect of the debt’s origins means we end up paying for all the fraud committed. How are we to explain that the very people excoriating Montealegre are applauding Rosales?

Were the CENIs really issued
to save the country?

Silvio Conrado, the FSLN representative on the BCN’s Council of Directors at the time the CENIs were issued and now the Ortega government’s representative to the Central American Economic Investment Bank, declared that the CENIs were issued to “save the country.” That is simply false. As clearly demonstrated by Rodrigo Vergara and Sebastian Edwards, well-known outside economic advisers to both the Alemán and Bolaños governments and the latter a former World Bank economic chief for Latin America, the CENI issue exposed the country to an exchange rate and financial crisis even greater than it would have faced by not issuing them.

It is worth asking why the CENIs were issued illegally if there were other options, such as the state capitalizing the intervened banks with secondary capital. If the banks had been bailed out at the start, the cost would have been several times less than what the bond issue represented. But of course, if that had been done, the state would have had to demand the removal of those who were running the banks and let them get so deeply in trouble. In any case, it would have been possible to issue legal government bonds rather than violate the law at every step of the way as was done with the CENIs, with each step becoming a “business opportunity” for the banks that absorbed the liquidated banks and increased the drain on the public coffers.

The four requisites in that private agreement

The fact is that the high-interest, short-term CENIs were issued as part of a private agreement to get the BCN to “pay the piper” for INTERBANK’s bad loan portfolio. When INTERBANK first admitted it was going under, it had asked for more capital, but the Superintendence of Banks (SIB) refused and got a court order to liquidate it. INTERBANK’s major stockholders, essentially Sandinista capitalists, then filed suit for protection, which prevented the government from proceeding with the liquidation. Next they negotiated a private merger agreement with BANPRO in which INTERBANK agreed to lift the protection only if the BCN approved the merger.

The official history is that this agreement was presented for approval to the Administrative Board named to sort out INTERBANK after it was intervened. That agreement, however, had four express requirements that the Administrative Board obviously did not have the power to approve. The first three of those requisites were highly onerous for the public sector: 1) the BCN, rather than BANPRO, would have to assume INTERBANK’s gigantic portfolio of fraudulent loans to the Roque Centeno brothers’ CONSAGRA Group at its own risk; 2) CENIs would have to be issued as a guarantee to BANPRO for any other shortfall that might be discovered between INTERBANK’s assets and liabilities as a result of its portfolio evaluation; and 3) they would have to be issued at a bank discount rate equivalent to the previous CENI auction. The fourth requirement was that the credit portfolio be appraised jointly by BANPRO, the INTERBANK stockholders and the SIB.

What really happened

It has only recently been ascertained that while the Administrative Board did indeed authorize BANPRO’s acquisition of INTERBANK, it submitted the offer to the BCN’s Council of Directors as it was not in a position to decide on the “requisites” demanded of the BCN. It was the BCN Council of Directors that accepted all the requirements.

Under the headline “BANPRO to the rescue, end of the banking crisis: INTERBANK absorbed,” the following news item appeared in the October 9, 2000, issue of El Nuevo Diario: “INTERBANK’s merger with BANPRO, which some prefer to call absorption, was announced in the Central Bank’s conference room by Enrique Deshon, president of what until yesterday was the intervened bank’s board of directors, and Arturo Arana, president of the acquiring institution. They appeared next to Xavier Bone of INTERBANK and Ramiro Ortiz Jr. of BANPRO.”

There are press photos of the full BCN Council of Directors’ meeting with BANPRO and INTERBANK’s Administrative Board. The directors at the time were BCN president Noel Ramírez (a BANPRO partner), Minister of the Treasury and Public Credit Esteban Duquestrada, Ricardo Parrales, private sector representative Gilberto Cuadra (another BANPRO partner), FSLN representative Silvio Conrado and private sector representative Benjamín Lanzas (a relative of then-President Arnoldo Alemán’s wife).

All this information pins the ultimate responsibility on the BCN Council of Directors for authorizing a CENI issue with onerous interest rates as a guarantee to one private bank acquiring another intervened one. As we in the Civil Coordinator have argued in our juridical assessment of the CENI issue, the Council lacked not only the faculty to do this, violating the BCN’s own organic law and the Constitution, but also had no power to assume part of the debts of an intervened bank, those of the Centeno Roque brothers.

Both illegal and discretionary

The BCN directors’ decision imposed disproportionate costs on the public treasury because the CENIs were supposedly issued in “representation” of the government and at the request of the Treasury Ministry, thus pledging future payment of the corresponding obligations through the General Budget of the Republic. All this was done illegally, because the BCN cannot issue public debt at the “request” of the treasury minister without National Assembly approval and may only issue CENIs to regulate the economy’s monetary liquidity. The ministry thus burdened the national budget with payment of a debt issued with no legal underpinnings whatever.

The BCN Council of Directors also usurped the power corresponding to the SIB or the corresponding liquidation board by establishing that the BCN and BANPRO would be responsible for appraising BANPRO’s share of the INTERBANK loan portfolio to determine the size of the debt to be financed through CENIs. In addition to the fact that the BCN did not have this faculty, some of its directors had interests in BANPRO, giving that bank a disproportionate voice in the appraisal’s conclusions.

In her journalistic investigation, El Nuevo Diario reporter Eloísa Ibarra wrote: “According to former INTERBANK stockholders, they agreed during their private negotiation with BANPRO to analyze the portfolio together, but [later] BANPRO backed out and made a direct arrangement with Noel Ramírez.” That arrangement was not only illegal and discretionary but cast into doubt everything else that had been done. It also marks the beginning of the population’s CENI calvary, because the country’s tax contributors have ended up footing a debt determined exclusively by BANPRO and a BANPRO-weighted Council of Directors, with no third party present.

Not all the INTERBANK
portfolio was unrecoverable

The appraisal of INTERBANK’s loan portfolio was to be done in a period of 180 days, deferrable for 90 days more, but in fact, the BCN never appraised it at all. It simply accepted BANPRO’s word, once INTERBANK had been absorbed, that virtually its entire $222 million portfolio was bad and issued CENIs to cover it all.

That was also false. What triggered the bank’s collapse, intervention and liquidation was a $77 million “void” in the Centeno Roque brothers’ fraudulent portfolio ,leaving the bank unable to back its deposits by that same amount. The government had to cover that bad portfolio or else the financial void would have been transferred to BANPRO, and no one, the government least of all, wanted the collapse of another bank, which would have taken us right back to where we started.

But inexplicably, the CENI issue covered INTERBANK’s entire loan portfolio, not just the the Centeno portfolio. Why issue CENIs for three times the value of the Roque Centeno portfolio when an appraisal following INTERBANK’s intervention and the appointment of the Administrative Board showed that most of the rest of the portfolio was recoverable? The BCN was surely aware of those findings.

No one has offered a real answer. But as a result, over 80% of the remaining CENI “debt” is owed to BANPRO.

BANPRO had every reason to want CENIs

BANPRO had no lack of incentives to demand CENIs in lieu of taking over INTERBANK’s loan portfolio, not least because the CENIs earned much higher interest. Furthermore, the interest on CENIs is not subject to income tax, making the earnings even higher than a simple comparison of their nominal yield versus that of the loans would indicate. In addition, managing a credit portfolio means assuming all the administrative costs involved in following up on, administering and recovering it, while the CENIS involved no administrative cost whatever.

Last but not least, according to the “capital adjustment” norm, BANPRO would have had to contribute $22 million out of its own capital if it assumed INTERBANK’s loan portfolio, while receipt of the CENIs made it the largest and most profitable bank in the national financial system with no need to provide even a cent of its own capital. It’s thus clearly not true that the CENIs were issued just to cover to the unprotected savings deposits of the failed banks, and it’s not hard to see why those on the BCN Council of Directors with interests in BANPRO would favor their issuance.

Our proposal for what
should have been renegotiated

For the past few years, we in the Civil Coordinator have been offering our own proposal for renegotiating the CENI debt. We suggested paying only the part that demonstrably backed deposits, and doing so over a 30-year period at an interest similar to international rates, which would have reduced the current net value by 50%. This kind of sovereign restructuring was successfully done by President Néstor Kirchner in Argentina, reducing the current value of that debt by a full 80%.

A mere 15-30 day audit of the INTERBANK portfolio could prove whether the CENIs were issued fraudulently to BANPRO for triple the appropriate amount. If proven, BANPRO—which by now has probably been paid much more than the $77 million—would have to return the excess and reduce to zero the balance yet to be paid on that original “debt.”

If it turned out—which is doubtful—that there was still some outstanding amount to be paid for the CENIs, the audit would have to show that it effectively backs deposits. In such a case, it would be recognized as public debt through legally issued securities to be paid over 30 years and at an international interest rate, which is dropping significantly.

What Rosales said then and now

Antenor Rosales publicly attacked our proposal in 2006, before being named BCN president in the Ortega government. He argued that extending a debt’s repayment period only continues enriching the bankers over a longer period of time.

In principle he’s right; bankers aren’t nearly as interested in recovering the principal as in continuing to make a profit on their capital for as long as possible through interest payments, which are the main source of a bank’s earnings. As mentioned above, banks pay no income tax on the interest earned by CENIs—or Bank Bonds, as they are now being called—and involve no administrative costs. Their effective yield is therefore far greater than loans with the same interest rate, since that income is taxable and they are expensive to administer. The only way bankers are not enriched by extending the period is if the debt’s net present value is significantly reduced by slashing its interest rate—and in the case of our proposal also recognizing only the legitimate part of the principal.

Now, in 2008, Rosales has just announced his renegotiation of the Bank Bonds as a great victory, even though he has extended the repayment period another two years and the interest rate reduction was insignificant. If we consider the magnitude of the fraud committed, his “renegotiation” not only barely takes a nick out of the bankers’ enrichment, but also validates that fraud in its totality. While the Ortega government was calling the CENI debt “the robbery of the century,” and laying the responsibility for this enormous pilferage at Eduardo Montealegre’s feet into the bargain, Rosales again legitimated and further extended the fraud.

Other murky chapters of the story:
All written behind closed doors

The same offer made at the outset of the INTERBANK-BANPRO case was later made to the banks that acquired the other failed banks: they were given the option of evaluating and selecting the portfolio they would assume, while the BCN would issue CENIs worth the equivalent value of the rejected loans or assets or of the loans whose value was reduced or reclassified in line with the established provisions. This perverse incentive distorted the entire process as, like BANPRO, the other acquiring banks obviously had every reason to reject the liquidated banks’ loan portfolios and demand CENIs instead.

From that moment on, other murky chapters of this story began to be written, for example on the rejected assets and loans and the reclassification of the loan portfolios. There was no way they could be anything but murky as everything was done illegally and administratively, behind closed doors, from the issue of the CENIs on through their “reclassification,” “repurchase” and so-called “auction.”

The obvious question is why the decision was made to handle each step of that process with purely administrative procedures that skirted the law. The response is equally obvious: that silent, covert route expedited the discretionary handling needed to ensure that each step favored the interests of the acquiring banks and their cronies in government without exposing the process to scrutiny by the public or anyone else. Because the whole process was played out requiring nothing more than “administrative” decisions adopted and implemented behind closed doors, the majority of those decisions went unnoticed and will probably never be known. Were it not for the tireless investigation by El Nuevo Diario journalist Eloísa Ibarra, we might never have known what we do know today.

Fabulous enrichment in only 3-4 years

The use of CENIs not only burdened the BCN with an enormous imbalance in its capital wealth but also risked an exchange rate and financial crisis even greater than that produced by the collapse of several banks. CENIs are zero coupon bonds, which earn compound interest, so the interest payments alone turned the alleged $333 million gap between the liquidated banks’ assets and liabilities into a debt with a face value of $492 million, particularly after the reputedly fraudulent “reclassification” of their assets. In other words, the CENIs would earn $159 million in interest in a 3-4 year period, without their holders disbursing a single cent.

The signers of the “private agreement” between INTERBANK and BANPRO knew exactly what their request for the CENI issue at such high interest rates would get them: huge profits in just a couple of years. Does anyone really believe they signed to “save the country”?

The problem was juridical, not technical

Silvio Conrado belittled a 2005 resolution by the Comptroller General’s Office (CGR) nullifying the CENI issue. He claimed that as the BCN directors’ decision to issue them was “technical” and based on monetary policy, the Comptroller General’s Office did not have the faculties to question it. But the CGR resolution referred to a problem of illegality, not a technical problem.

It is one thing to argue that the state had to intervene in the banking crisis to avoid a greater macroeconomic one, and quite another to claim, as Conrado, that the CENIs were the way to do so. In fact, because they were issued with onerous terms as a condition for private groups to lift the legal protection against INTERBANK’s liquidation, they actually created a huge macroeconomic risk. The CENI issuance produced a debt equivalent to 95% of the BCN’s reserves that would have to be paid in a very short period of time. That is very hard to justify from a purely “technical” perspective.

Issuing the CENIs was a very expensive option

The Central Bank only has the faculty to issue bonds for what are known as “open market” operations, so why was it decided to issue Central Bank CENIs to “compensate” for the assets/liabilities gap of intervened and liquidated banks when it would have to be done illegally? The established legal requisites could easily have been complied with by covering this commitment with government bonds (Treasury Securities), which are longer term and have less onerous interest rates.

Issuing CENIS was a very expensive option, because of a prior, excessive issue of bonds, particularly in the nineties to compensate people whose property had been confiscated during the Sandinista government. This had already saturated the banks’ portfolios, so the banks were only willing to accept more at very high interest rates.

Apart from the illegality of the CENI issue, neither Rodrigo Vergara nor Sebastián Edwards could find a convincing economic justification for it. In a September 2001 document titled “La política macroeconómica en Nicaragua: evaluación y opciones” they commented on the apparent reason the BCN issued the debt instead of the Treasury: the conviction among private agents that the BCN is more credible. They argued that if that is the case, the cost of the debt issued by the BCN is less than if it had been issued by the Treasury, an argument that does not seem wholly convincing to them. In practice, central banks only have the seigniorage to cover the net interests on their debt (interests paid on the liabilities minus those received on the assets). If that does not cover it, the debt can be rolled over, as Nicaragua did. Nonetheless, at certain debt and interest rate levels, the debt can begin to grow in an ‘unlimited’ trajectory, making the situation unsustainable.

According to their analysis, the BCN must already have been in such a situation at the time, which suggests that the private agents accepted the BCN debt because they knew that ultimately the Treasury would respond. This contradicts the argument that Treasury securities would not have the same acceptance as BCN ones.

In effect, the BCN’s issue of CENIs to cover the bank failures without receiving a compensatory monetary inflow from the Treasury Ministry, as should have happened under normal circumstances, created an enormous capital wealth imbalance for this key financial institution: its liabilities expanded disproportionately with no counterpart on the assets side, putting the country’s financial and monetary stability at huge risk.

The National Development Strategy presented by the Bolaños government in 2003 acknowledged that the voluminous BCN debt, backed only by its own reserves, risked an enormous crisis of exchange rate and financial confidence. Edwards and Vergara described this risk as follows: The problem of the large CENI stock is not only the financial cost it entails, but also the risk that some event that produces uncertainty will lead to an important part of the maturities simply not being renewed, which would seriously weaken the Net International Reserves (NIRs). The most immediate macroeconomic problem facing Nicaragua is precisely the existing fragility of those reserves. Although there have been periods in the past in which they were also quite low, the problem of the CENIs is new and puts an additional burden on them. Moreover, actively using monetary policy to stimulate the economy or to rescue depositors, for example, could put the NIRs under unsustainable pressure. It is thus also necessary to solve the BCN’s capital worth problem resulting from the bank bailout.

Accepting them was expensive, too

A November 2002 Inter-American Development Bank document titled “Economías de los Países Centroamericanos y República Dominicana. Evolución y Desafíos a Largo Plazo” argues that the regulations must prevent banking institutions from assuming excessive exposure to risk. As banks basically loan their depositors’ money, and their earnings depend on the volume of transactions they conduct and the margin of intermediation involved, they have incentives to loan more than is prudent and to debtors who are too risky (those willing to pay higher interest rates).

The Superintendence of Banks should have exercised its prudential role in this case, preventing banks from acquiring such high-risk securities. As a by-product, that would have helped these bonds be assumed by legal means, legitimizing them in the process.

Both BANCENTRO and BANPRO knew very well they were assuming a high risk by accepting securities issued by an entity with a huge short-term debt. Exposing such a high proportion of their assets to a single instrument whose issuer was for all intents and purposes insolvent constituted an irresponsible and excessively risky exposure of the resources administered by those two banks. From a strictly financial perspective, one might wonder why they accepted the CENIs under these circumstances, thus putting savers’ deposits at enormous risk.

The CENI holders argue that they did so because they trusted the government would ultimately pay them. But in 2001, the year following the plunge in coffee prices, the government was also over-indebted and in serious fiscal difficulty. It thus needs to be asked again: why was the decision made to issue a debt that further unbalanced a technically bankrupt BCN and created the risk of an even greater crisis if in the end the bankers assumed the government would foot the bill?

The untenable weight of the domestic debt

Issuing the CENIs abruptly burdened the fiscal sector with a spectacular bulge in the domestic debt service. According to International Monetary Fund estimates, the overall debt service, the bulk of which had been contracted by the BCN, would increase by some $100 million in 2002, another $100 million in 2003 and an additional $200 million in 2004.

This has produced an ongoing crisis within the entire monetary, exchange rate and financial system, subjecting the central government’s finances to huge tension given the need to generate and transfer enormous amounts of money to the BCN every year to avoid the collapse of its reserves each time the securities it issued came due. This has been achieved by drastically restricting investment in human capital and other fundamental priorities in a country with limited resources whose population has overwhelming social needs. Just as one example, the CENI payments made by the new government in the months immediately following Hurricane Felix’s passage over the northern Caribbean region deprived tens of thousands of people of indispensable resources to respond to their emergency.

Very important additional fiscal resources have had to be earmarked for the BCN to attenuate the enormous capital wealth imbalance that was created and thus recapitalize itself in line with IMF conditions. Even the money freed up by the writing off of a large part of the foreign debt through the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, which was supposed to be used to increase social spending, has been diverted to deal with these enormous fiscal pressures.

The FSLN had the ball and dropped it

In his speech to the National Assembly on January 11, 2008, President Ortega reminded his audience that those responsible for the CENIs had violated the Central Bank’s Organic Law, which does not give it faculties to cover the collapse of private banks. He then announced that his government would not continue paying the CENI holders, arguing that their issue was “a criminal act.”

The FSLN could have resolved the problem of the CENIs’ legality once and for all, even before becoming the governing party, through Ortega’s influence in the Supreme Court—which he no longer even tries to hide. All he had to do was get its justices to issue a resolution, in strict accordance with the law, denying the suits for protection filed against the 2005 CGR resolution annulling the CENI issue on grounds of its illegality. But that didn’t happen.

Now in government, the FSLN could have analyzed the irregular and fraudulent acts surrounding the CENI issue. It could also have told the CENI holders that it would recognize as public debt the part that demonstrably backed deposits, even though the bonds have no legal value. Doing any of this would have put the legal problem to rest, repaired the damage done to the BCN’s capital wealth, resolved the burden of this debt and responsibly acknowledged the part that should be recognized.

The government’s contradictory declarations

Despite having all the elements to resolve this debt fully in line with the law, President Ortega seems to have preferred to keep the fundamental CENI problems unresolved, creating an impressive imbroglio with his contradictory declarations. Behind that smokescreen, this debt has again been recognized as one that must be “honored.”

In its relationship with the big economic groups that hold these securities, the government has treated the debt as if it were fully legal and created in good faith, therefore declaring it would “honor” the commitment to pay it. As this means materializing what President Ortega himself has called the “robbery of the century,” it would appear that his personal political interests don’t coincide with the public interest.
One argument the government has used to defend honoring this debt at all cost—to others, of course—is the supposed “loss of credibility” for future bond issues if it doesn’t do so. But how is it possible that we have to pay $200 million a year, in cash, to the country’s wealthiest capitalists in order for the average $45 million in securities the government issues each year to have “credibility”?

Taking that argument to the extreme, if the government were to stop paying the $200 million and lose the “credibility” to place those $45 million worth of new government bonds, the result would be positive, with a net savings of least $155 million annually: the $200 million it would stop paying minus the $45 million it wouldn’t need to issue. Again the question: who really benefits from the “business” of “maintaining credibility”?

The President has also argued that he’s obliged to pay the CENIs to avoid confronting “global capitalism.” I continue to think that a standoff with global capitalism was ten thousand times more likely by intervening ESSO’s oil storage tanks in Corinto than refusing to pay at least part of a miserable debt in a miserable country with some miserable homegrown bankers when it’s relatively easy to demonstrate that the debt resulted from fraud and other acts of corruption. The President probably fears the commitments he has acquired with the powerful groups unlawfully holding these debts rather than any confrontation with global capitalism.

What’s with the criminal investigation?

One thing is to irresponsibly assume the whole illegal debt and another is to responsibly assume a debt shown to back deposits, even if the method of issuing it was illegal. Still another is to let bankers and their accomplices evade their criminal responsibility for that illegality. There is an obvious need for an impartial criminal investigation.

Nonetheless, no one has ever wanted to audit the Interbank loan portfolio, using the slightest pretext to avoid it. Moreover, the bankers that ought to be investigated for benefiting from the CENIs, together with their researchers, just renegotiated the CENI debt with BCN President Rosales.

In contrast to Rosales and Ortega legitimizing the whole debt, the criminal investigation the government has been conducting for the past couple of months would appear to be based entirely on the presumption that everything done in the CENI case was illegal. Yet, curiously, the inter-institutional commission created for the purpose still hasn’t managed to prove anything. By not seriously trying to assign responsibilities, the government is ipso facto revealing that it is really using this investigation as an instrument of pressure and threat against its political adversaries. Will it let the Supreme Court again use its inscrutable juridical “creativity” to finally “conciliate” the two contradictory ways the case is being handled?

If everything was illegal,
more people are responsible

If everything was done legally, there’s no crime to pursue. Even the “renegotiation” Eduardo Montealegre headed as Bolaños’ treasury minister would be nothing more than the “voluntary refinancing” of a legitimate and legal debt, meaning Montealegre couldn’t be accused of criminally renegotiating an illegal debt.

On the other hand, if Montealegre did renegotiate an illegal debt and a crime was therefore committed, then everyone who had anything to do with it is implicated, including the government team currently headed up by BCN President Antenor Rosales, which committed the very same crime by again negotiating its refinancing.

In conclusion, the government of Nicaragua has sidestepped yet another chance to correctly, definitively and fully resolve the case of the CENIs in the public’s interest. The officials closest to President Ortega know perfectly well the capacity that this debt’s illegality grants the government to politically blackmail selected adversaries. Their manifest determination has been to milk it to the last drop.

Adolfo Acevedo Vogl is an economist who works with the Civil Coordinator. This article is an edited synthesis by envío of his extensive writings on the topic.

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