Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 334 | Mayo 2009




Envío team

At the Seventh Summit of Latin American Bolivarian Alternative (ALBA) countries, held just before the Summit of the Americas in Cumaná, Venezuela’s President Chávez promised President Ortega $50 million from the recently created ALBA Bank to help cover the $65 million gap left by the suspension of the US development program known as the Millennium Challenge Account in response to November’s electoral fraud. “We don’t need gringo money with ignoble conditions,” Chávez told Ortega in the meeting. “Let them take their millions! We have a way to solve our problems and know how to do it.”

Days later Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) legislators showed up at the Venezuelan Embassy in Managua to deliver a letter to President Chávez asking him to clarify whether that cooperation will be given as a donation, a concessionary loan or a regular commercial loan between states. If it is either of the latter two, they asked him to indicate the interest rates and repayment deadline or else state if the money will go directly to mixed or private enterprises, as has happened with other Venezuelan cooperation funds for Nicaragua.

On today’s political stage, six groups are organized to oppose the FSLN government and Daniel Ortega’s reelection aspirations. Four of these are known entities: the MRS; the Nicaraguan Resistance; the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC), which has the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) as a parliamentary appendage and is the FSLN’s partner in the pact, although its legislative representatives signed a public commitment on May 7 claiming to oppose reelection; and the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), which is currently reorganizing with the ALN’s founder and 2006 presidential candidate Eduardo Montealegre at the head. Two new coalitions also appeared in April, one headed by the Conservative Party and Social Christian personalities, and the other by rightwing political commentator Jaime Arellano.

National Assembly representative Mónica Baltodano announced on April 14 that she had decided to leave the three-member MRS parliamentary bench in order to represent only the political positions of her own organization, the Movement for the Rescue of Sandinismo. “Rescue” is a Sandinista organization that split from the FSLN in 2005 to back the presidential candidacy of former Managua Mayor Herty Lewites, expelled from the FSLN for daring to show interest in challenging Daniel Ortega for the party’s candidacy in its presidential primary. According to Rescue’s official communiqué, the reason for Baltodano’s decision was continuous “political differences” within the MRS Alliance, created to give Lewites a ticket to run on. The most public difference came during the 2008 municipal elections, which the MRS Alliance was prohibited from running in: the MRS encouraged voters to choose the candidate with the best shot at beating Ortega’s candidate while Rescue urged them to damage their ballot so it would be counted, but as null. In the end the fraud plus the Supreme Electoral Council’s decision not to reveal the number of annulled ballots rendered both strategies moot.

The communiqué stated that “the positions of MRS spokesperson Mundo Jarquín [originally Levites’ running mate, who became the alliance’s presidential candidate upon Levites’ death in mid-2006] regarding El Salvador’s electoral affairs exceeded our patience when we saw the license with which he assumed the practical role of supporting ARENA.” To avoid losing the administrative prerogatives of a parliamentary bench (defined as a minimum of 3 representatives), Conservative representative Javier Vallejo offered to take her place. FSLN representative Edwin Castro called Baltodano’s decision “positive” and said that “the FSLN is open” to receiving Rescue back into the fold, a possibility Baltodano forcefully rejected.

The Nicaraguan government’s official announcement on April 15 that former Thai primer minister Thaksin Shinawatra is serving as an at-large Nicaraguan ambassador “on a special mission to bring investments to the country” caused a national and international scandal. Shinawatra, who now holds a Nicaraguan diplomatic passport “corresponding to his high investiture,” to use the Ortega government’s words, is a fugitive from justice in his own country, after being sentenced to two years in prison for crimes of corruption committed during his term in office. He is also accused of disturbing the peace by promoting uprisings against the current government from exile. Interpol has issued an arrest order against him in all countries, including Nicaragua. Shinawatra visited Ortega for the first time in February, claiming interest in “Nicaragua’s economic potential.” Deputy Foreign Minister Coronel Kautz called the accusations against Shinawatra “stories” and said he is an “extremely important” man. In addition to being a politician he is a millionaire businessman and admits to having passports from several countries.

In late March, accompanied by some ten thousand fervent people, an ecclesiastical tribunal was set up in San Rafael del Norte, Jinotega, to gather testimonies and evidence for the canonization of Italian Franciscan friar Odorico D´Andrea, who worked in that parish from 1954 till his death in 1990. The process begun in Italy in 2002 will continue in Nicaragua. A multitude of miracles are attributed to the friar, who is beloved in the area, one of the most noteworthy being that his body has remained uncorrupted due to a process known as “saponification.”

A national M&R survey conducted in April shows fewer Catholics and more Evangelicals than six years ago, with 54.4% of those interviewed identifying themselves as Catholics and 27.7% as Evangelicals. (In 2003 the percentages were 70.5% and 16.5%, respectively). Another growing identification is that of “believers without a denomination,” which has grown to 13.5% compared to 8.8% in 2003. Barely 0.4% identified themselves as “nonbelievers.” M&R manager Raúl Obregón added that for every Catholic church in the country there are between three and five Evangelical churches of one denomination or another. The pastoral vicar of Managua attributed the drop in Catholics to today’s uncertainty and relativist tendency regarding religious issues.

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