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  Number 341 | Diciembre 2009
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

Envío team

ERNESTO CARDENAL EVICTED
FROM HIS OWN HOTEL
On orders “from above” and using procedures riddled with irregularities, a group of police officers with an illegal judicial order evicted the legitimate owners of the Mancarrón Hotel in Solentiname from their own property on November 27. All of those evicted were members of the Association for the Development of Solentiname, chaired by poet Ernesto Cardenal. The purpose of the action was to turn all the association’s properties over to Nubia Acia, who has been involved in a dispute with the Association and with Cardenal for years. This marks a renewal of the presidential couple’s political vengeance against Cardenal that dates back to 2008 and is preventing the inauguration of a library and museum in Solentiname sponsored by the Spanish solidarity of Huelva.

“I am politically persecuted,” declared Cardenal to the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center when he went to request accompaniment in his demand for justice. In declaring its solidarity with Cardenal, the Nicaraguan Writers’ Center stated that “the community of Solentiname is the big loser. Ernesto Cardenal’s person, renown and magnificent mission, in which creation goes hand in hand with social commitment, are all the defense he needs. We demand that the Nicaraguan Institute of Culture and the Institute of Tourism fulfill their mandate, and that their representatives make President Ortega and his wife, the writer Rosario Murillo, see the negative political impact and the international reversal this new outrage against culture could have on their administration.”

DUTCH LEGISLATOR
RUFFLES FEATHERS
In the third week of November, Dutch Euro-legislator Johannes Van Baalen, president of the Liberal International, visited Nicaragua to urge its two main Liberal groups (Arnoldo Alemán’s Constitutionalist Liberal party and Eduardo Montealegre’s We’re Going with Eduardo) to accelerate their reunification to successfully confront the Ortega government. Nicaraguan Deputy Foreign Minister Manuel Coronel Kautz accused Van Baalen of meddling and belittled him for coming from what Coronel Kautz called a “paisucho,” an apparently Nicaraguan slang word most often translated as a “shitty little country.” Within hours the Foreign Ministry had to issue an apology to the Netherlands.

Days later President Ortega dubbed Van Baalen a “shameless Dutch pirate who came to profane our soil” and accused him of having sounded out the Army of Nicaragua to see if it would carry out a coup d’état along Honduran lines. In an interview with Radio Nederland, Van Baalen explained that he wanted to know if the Army of Nicaragua was remaining neutral toward the constitutional crisis provoked by the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Ortega’s reelection. After several days of silence, Nicaragua’s army chief confirmed that, in a meeting with the top military brass, Van Baalen had indeed asked about the army’s position on the national crisis. Van Baalen’s next stop after Nicaragua was Honduras, where he named the coup-appointed acting President Micheletti vice president of the Liberal International in recognition of his “contribution” to Honduran democracy.

Upon his return to his country, Van Baalen called Coronel Kautz’s insult to the Netherlands a “humiliation for our people” and warned that “Nicaragua is on the way to becoming a dictatorship, something we must avoid.” He added that “the Sandinistas are having a ball” with the Dutch aid, suggesting that it be cut off. Nonetheless, only a few days later, Holland made a $3 million donation to Nicaragua’s Ministry of Health through an agreement with the Pan-American Health Organization and, for the first time in 14 years, also donated $1.5 million to the National Police to strengthen its work against street and domestic violence and to train its agents.

For their part, the mayors of nine Nicaraguan municipalities that have been receiving Dutch development aid for years apologized to Lambert Grijns, the Dutch ambassador in Nicaragua, for the insults to his country. In the same days, Grijns—who currently also heads the Budgetary Support Group (GAP in Spanish)—declared that Nicaragua’s $18 million budgetary aid will remain frozen “due to what happened here a year ago” (the electoral fraud). He added that all the group members are waiting for “clear signals” from the Nicaraguan government “to restore confidence” so they can renew the GAP aid, which amounts to some $100 million.

NARVÁEZ CASE CLOSED; FIGHT AGAINST
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN GOES ON
At a march in Managua organized by the Network of Women against Violence on November 25, the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) reported that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) has officially closed the case filed jointly by CENIDH and Zoilamérica Narváez in 1999 against the Nicaraguan State. Narváez had charged the State with denial of justice after Nicaragua’s National Assembly refused to process her request to strip her stepfather Daniel Ortega of his parliamentary immunity so he could stand trial for over 10 years of rape and sexual harassment against her. Narváez informed the IAHCR last October that she was no longer pursuing the case. In making the announcement, CENIDH president Vilma Núñez said that “neither the frustration caused us by Zoilamérica’s decision to take this course in her suit nor the impunity surrounding the case will make us abandon our commitment to the victims of this epidemic known as sexual abuse. We will continue struggling to stop abusers from going unpunished and ensure the prevention, sanctioning and eradication of this cruel form of violence.”

In the same march, one of numerous demonstrations around the country commemorating International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the organizers emphasized that 69 Nicaraguan women have been murdered so far in 2009, the majority by relatives or other people known to them. Seven of the victims were under 10 years old and had been raped. In this same year at least 1,500 women have been victims of femicide in Central America as a whole. The organizers denounced the lack of action from both the Prosecutor General’s Office and the courts, given that most victimizers are not punished.

National Police Chief Aminta Granera commemorated the day by inaugurating a new women’s police station in Nueva Guinea. She stated that just in that municipality the rapes of 35 women and 11 girls under 13 years old had been reported to the National Police between January and November, acknowledging that such crimes are typically under-reported. She added that 30% of all charges received by the police at a national level correspond to cases of domestic and sexual violence.

NATIONAL ARMY HAS A NEW CHIEF
In compliance with army regulations, General Omar Halleslevens, the outgoing head of the Army of Nicaragua, sent President Ortega the Military Council’s nomination for his replacement on November 20. Following military tradition, the Council proposed the current Chief of Staff, Major General Julio César Avilés. Although Ortega had until December 21 to accept or reject the candidate, he revealed Avilés’ name the very next day and ratified his appointment in an unusual way. Before thousands of his supporters at the rally to celebrate the FSLN’s “victories” in the fraudulent municipal elections a year earlier, he read out Avilés’ curriculum, then asked the multitude to vote for him. “If you are in favor, beloved brothers,” he exclaimed, “raise your hand! Here the people rule, the people decide! God, through the people, makes kings and removes them! It’s not Daniel naming the Army Chief here; it’s the People President! The People President does the naming!” With that all hands in the crowd naturally shot up in a sign of approval and Ortega signed off on the appointment. The new head will assume his post in February of next year.

ALEXIS ARGÜELLO’S CAUSE
OF DEATH CHALLENGED
Declarations by the eldest daughter of three-time world boxing champion and mayor of Managua Alexis Argüello, a son who lives in the United States and a former wife of 14 years began appearing in the Nicaraguan media in mid-November, each time accompanied by new information. All support the suspicion that Argüello did not commit suicide in the pre-dawn hours of July 1, as reported by the National Police and Institute of Legal Medicine and officially announced by the government. His relatives now believe someone else must have fired the bullet that killed him, or that he was severely beaten before making the fatal decision to take his own life.

The Institute of Legal Medicine leaked several photos of the deceased never previously seen either publicly or by his family to the daily rightwing newspaper La Prensa, which published them on November 20 and 21. They show bruising on Argüello’s nose, mouth and shoulders. His ex-wife and children hold the Ortega government responsible for covering up what truly happened, in collusion with Argüello’s last wife. The government institutions responded by reiterating the suicide verdict, criticizing the leak and agreeing to a possible exhumation and reopening of the case should the family request it. President Ortega personally “responded” by announcing that he would have a monument to Argüello built in Managua.

PRESIDENTIAL COUPLE INAUGURATES
PARK OF HAPPY BOYS AND GIRLS
On the evening of November 27, President Daniel Ortega and First Lady Rosario Murillo inaugurated what is variously called the Fair of Happy Children, or the Park of Happy Boys and Girls. Consisting of circus and puppet shows, mechanical and other games, it has been set up in Managua’s largest plaza, across from the Lake Xolotlán boardwalk, refurbished by Arnoldo Alemán when he was President. According to Murillo’s estimate, over a million poor children transported free of charge by the government from all over the country will enjoy the free fair during the afternoon throughout December. The centerpiece of the fair is a 75-meter high artificial Christmas tree, the highest ever built in Nicaragua, plus a costly 30-square meter ice rink.

Coinciding with the start of the Immaculate Conception (Purísima) celebrations and Christmas festivities, the government also installed new mega-billboards all over Managua and along the highways showing a giant photo of Daniel Ortega’s face with an exalted expression and bearing this mixed message: “Nicaragua in ALBA: Christian, socialist, in solidarity.” The dozen wire-and-light Christmas trees Murillo ordered installed in the center of traffic circles in and around Managua last December, which have remained lit every night throughout the entire year in apparent celebration of the Sandinista Revolution’s 30th anniversary, have now been expanded to three tiers.

ORTEGA CREATES OBANDO MEDAL
It was learned on November 17 that President Ortega had decreed the creation of a “Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo Medal of Reconciliation and Peace” over two weeks earlier. The President will award this medal to national and international legal entities that help promote peace and reconciliation. It’s worthy of note that the medal bears the name of a living person, which is unusual in this type of decoration.

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