Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 329 | Diciembre 2008




Envío team

The Supreme Electoral Council’s highly challenged results gave the Liberal Alliance 37 mayoral seats, four of which went to candidates from Eduardo Montealegre’s movement: Granada, Boaco and Bluefields (the only three departmental capitals the alliance won) plus the Chontales municipality of San José de los Remates. The other 34 went to candidates from the PLC: Camoapa, Santa Lucía, Acoyapa, Comalapa, Santo Domingo, Villa Sandino, La Trinidad, San Nicolás, El Cuá, San José de Bocay, San Rafael del Norte, San Sebastián de Yalí, Santa María de Pantasma, El Crucero, Matiguás, Rancho Grande, Río Blanco, Terrabona, Ciudad Antigua, Mozonte, Murra, Quilalí, Wiwilí, Bocana de Paiwas, El Ayote, Waslala, El Rama, El Tortuguero, La Cruz del Río Grande, Nueva Guinea, El Almendro, El Castillo and Potosí. The CSE gave four mayor’s offices to the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN), now allied with the FSLN: Muelle de los Bueyes, El Coral, San Pedro de Lóvago and San Francisco de Cuapa, all in the department of Chontales. The remaining 105 mayoral posts went to FSLN candidates.

Elections will be held on January 18 in the seven municipalities of the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) whose elections were ostensibly postponed because the damage from Hurricane Felix had left them without suitable conditions. CSE president Roberto Rivas said that these elections would be held “with the same rules of the game,” leaving it to the listener to determine just what that might mean.

In late November, a Sandinista judge found the Italian-Nicaraguan Catholic missionary Alberto Boschi guilty of illegally bearing a firearm and inducement to use it to wound a journalist from the pro-government Channel 4 television station during disturbances headed up by the Councils of Citizens’ Power (CPCs) to confront youths of the Bridge Group in central Managua last July 30. The young people were trying to protest the squandering of public funds on the gigantic billboards with Daniel Ortega’s face that have inundated Managua. The trial was a farce: Boschi admitted backing and trying to help the young protesters but insists he has never had a weapon; the weapon supposedly used that day was never presented; the journalist was not wounded with a firearm in any event, but with a blunt object and he admitted he didn’t know who had hit him. Furthermore, he was wounded a quarter of an hour after Boschi and the group accompanying him had fled the area, after the CPC members had stoned his vehicle, smashing its windows. Boschi was a mayoral candidate for Ciudad Sandino on the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) ticket before the CSE canceled that party’s legal status and participation in the elections. Public opinion interpreted the trial and the strange ruling as “political vengeance” by the government. MRS leaders and youths from the Bridge Group consider Boschi to be the Ortega government’s “first political prisoner.”

Nicaragua’s feminist organizations found their traditional November 25 march through the streets of Managua to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women boycotted this year by another march, improvised the previous day, by the para-party, para-governmental CPCs, which organized women from the capital to march through the same streets and prevent the feminists from passing. Among the feminist participants was Vilma Núñez, president of the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH), who appealed to the National Police (PN) agents also preventing their passage to change their behavior. She also made the following appeal to the PN director, First Commissioner Aminta Granera: “Do not let yourself be forced to yield, Commissioner. You have a population that supports you. You returned to the Nicaraguan people the possibility of believing in someone when nobody here believed in anything anymore. Don’t spoil the wealth you have accumulated, trying to maintain the institutionality of the Police. More than maintaining Police institutionality you have the responsibility to respond to a people.” Núñez said that day that Granera was the woman whose human rights were most being violated today in Nicaragua, because she’s being “subjected to pressures, betrayals and infiltrations” promoted by President Daniel Ortega.

In the Sixth National HIV-AIDS Symposium and First National HIV-AIDS Health Providers’ Gathering, held on November 29 in Managua to mark World AIDS Day, Guillermo Porras, secretary of the Nicaraguan Infectology Association, said that thousands of Nicaraguans are living with the virus and still don’t know it. He added that Nicaragua’s health system still has serious problems in conducting early detection tests and subsequent monitoring tests and in ensuring access to antiretroviral therapy and medications against opportunist infections. Porras stressed that bureaucracy and inefficiency are affecting healthcare for people living with HIV-AIDS in Nicaragua and that if the Ministry of Health had an efficient program, with universal access to diagnostic tests, antiretroviral therapy and streamlined monitoring of the treatment, there would be clear benefits in terms of the number of lives saved and in the productive life years gained.

The Nicaraguan Association of People Living with HIV-AIDS estimates that Nicaragua has at least 20,000 AIDS cases. On the same day, the US Embassy in Managua reported that since 2005 the US government has donated $12.5 million to Nicaragua for prevention programs, attending to 121,836 people, and has supplied 74% of the country’s condoms.

At the end of November, the Nicaraguan government, through the Nicaraguan Institute of Culture (INC), vetoed the idea of Sergio Ramírez writing the preface to an anthology of the works of Nicaraguan poet Carlos Martínez Rivas, which the Spanish daily El País was planning to publish in May 2009, with a print run of 200,000 copies. This selection of poems would form part of a collection dedicated to massively disseminating the greatest 20th-century Spanish-language poets. Considering the veto “unacceptable,” El País decided to withdraw Martínez Rivas from the collection.

The INC argued that it is the guardian of Martínez Rivas’ rights, claiming it was the poet’s will that his work remain “under the study of only Nicaraguan writer Pablo Centeno Gómez.” Nonetheless, Centeno himself repudiated the official veto of Ramírez. The INC had previously conditioned the Nicaraguan government’s “approval” to using a Spanish poet to write the preface. Sergio Ramírez, who received the news while participating in the Guadalajara book fair in Mexico, said “The next step will be to prohibit the circulation of my books in Nicaragua.” Other intellectuals in Guadalajara for the same event, among them Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, Fernando Savater, Tomás Eloy Martínez and Carlos Monsivais, signed a statement insisting that “No government can arrogate the power to veto or prohibit the word of a writer and such an act cannot be called anything but totalitarian.”

After its first communiqué of November 11 calling for a recount of the election vote tallies, the nine bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua met for three days in Jinotega, at the end of which, on November 19, they issued another document condemning the post-electoral violence, “which reopens deep wounds that our people have been getting past with a great deal of effort and good will.” They insisted that “it is essential to exhaust all constitutional, legal and democratic means” to resolve the electoral crisis and invited all the Catholic faithful to participate in processions in the country’s 300 parishes on Sunday, November 23. The bishops and parish priests would be bearing the Holy Sacrament, the Catholic faith’s most sacred symbol. The official media accused the bishops of having organized a “new political party” and of acting “at the service of the oligarchy.” Several government officials warned against the processions. In the end, they were held without incident all over the country. In several parishes the sermons by bishops and parish priests openly opposed the government. The bishop of Granada, Bernardo Hombach, said: “There are people who speak of peace and love, of reconciliation and unity, but peace cannot be a product of repression, or of terrorizing people.” The vicar of that same diocese, Alfonso Alvarado, minced no words: “The pro-Ortega Sandinistas are the Catholic Church’s main enemy.”

Immediately after the November 9 elections, the governing party emblazoned its costly propaganda on giant billboards and TV spots with a new slogan. The message now accompanying a picture of Daniel Ortega with a gesture simulating a blessing, is “Complying with the people is complying with God.” The government also installed flashy statues of the Virgin Mary on the capital’s many traffic circles, where dozens of state workers were obliged to go and pray and sing to the Virgin. The traffic circles have already been occupied since August by those said to be “praying against hate.” In exchange for a t-shirt, a national flag, a bit of money and three meals a day, these people, all of them reportedly indigent, have been living under a tent emblazoned with the CPC logo 24-7 by presidential order. The bishops used their November 19 document to publicly protest the continuous use and abuse of Catholic messages and symbols by the government, the President and the First Lady. “We cannot impassively watch the signs and language of Catholic religiosity being used for ends that are political and even totally contrary to the values they signify in themselves.”

At the end of November, after a meeting in Ayagualo, El Salvador, the bishops of Central America backed their Nicaraguan colleagues by electing Archbishop of Managua Leopoldo Brenes as president of the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America and Bishop of Matagalpa Jorge Solórzano as its secretary for the next four years. During a debate over the Catholic clergy’s political participation, Solórzano said: “Each case needs to be looked at to see what type of protests they are. If they are not politicized and involve the people’s rights, I believe a pastor must accompany the flock and not leave it alone.”

The serious drop in the international oil prices and the difficulty in finding international investors during a world recession led the Venezuelan government to initiate an “evaluation of its international investments,” including the construction of refineries in Ecuador and Nicaragua. While the Ecuadorian government announced that it would continue the project on its own, the Nicaraguan government hasn’t said a single word on the subject, leading to speculation that the first stone of the “Bolívar’s Supreme Dream” oil refinery laid by Presidents Chávez and Ortega in mid-2007 in Piedras Blancas, Nagarote, will also be the last. Touted to supply the entire Central American region by the end of Ortega’s term in office, the refinery was calculated to require investments of around $4 billion and it was announced in 2008 that the Venezuelan government had already approved $250 million to initiate the first phase of construction, but that never happened. This refinery and a nearby petrochemical industry were the starships of Venezuelan cooperation and ALBA projects in Nicaragua.

Some time ago, the Electoral Reforms Promoter Group, made up of diverse civil society organizations, presented proposed reforms to the 2000 Electoral Law, born of the Alemán-Ortega pact. The group’s proposal characterized the current electoral law as follows: “It permits the Supreme Electoral Council to discretionally decide many aspects of major importance to the equity and transparency of the elections, exaggeratedly and unjustifiably limits the participation of new political organizations in competing for the popular vote, denies arenas of participation to the citizenry, limiting their exercise of the vote, contains no concrete regulations on political party financing, with the exception of some specific ones for the electoral campaign, and foments the use of party-based criteria to select the administrative personnel and the authorities of the electoral process at all levels. One aspect of the proposal refers to publicizing the results, calling for the law to stipulate the need “to publicize all of the preliminary results detailed by voting table (JRV) and based on the vote tallies within 72 hours of voting and the details by JRV and municipality of the provisional and final results.” This never happened in the November 9 municipal elections. All that was released was the percentage of the vote won by each party in each municipality.

According to official 2006 data presented by the government of Nicaragua this year to the United Nations Commission on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva, 77.8% of the country’s population survives on less than $2 a day, of which 42.6% is trying to live on less than $1 a day. This means that the majority of the population in Nicaragua is living beneath the poverty threshold and 2.1 million men, women and children live in indigence.

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