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  Number 358 | Mayo 2011
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

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CARDINAL OBANDO ATTENDS BEATIFICATION
Cardinal Miguel Obando attended the beatification of Pope John Paul II in Rome on May 1 at the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI. Obando was one of 20 cardinals who concelebrated the Mass that Sunday. In Rome he met with Byron Jerez, the former general director of income during the Alemán government, who was absolved of eight counts of corruption by courts in the hands of judges close to the FSLN. Jerez and his whole family were also invited by the Vatican. Obando, Jerez and his family were attended by the Holy See’s Protocol Director and a reception was later held for them and other personalities in the residency of Nicaraguan Ambassador to the Vatican, José Cuadra.

IMPROVED NUTRITION
Gero Vaagt, who represents the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Nicaragua, announced that Nicaragua has reduced the malnutrition rate of its population by 30%, thus becoming the first Latin American country to achieve such a high reduction rate. Despite this progress, 19% of the total population (more than a million people) still suffers from malnutrition and the ills associated with it. The FAO has allocated some $28 million to different projects in Nicaragua related to food security. The government has prioritized programs that guarantee food security in its rural sectoral policies, although without addressing the structural problems underlying it.

INTERNATIONAL AWARD TO A NICARAGUAN JOURNALIST
The young Nicaraguan journalist Octavio Enríquez was awarded the 28th annual Ortega y Gasset Journalism prize in Madrid on May 4 in the category of “best press work” for seven investigative journalism pieces revealing the enrichment of former FSLN National Directorate member and minister of the interior in the 1980s, Tomás Borge, published in the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa. The prize is the most prestigious in the Spanish language, and was awarded at a formal event attended, among others, by Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa and Spain’s President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Enríquez opened his acceptance speech with these words: “Once upon a time in Nicaragua there was a revolution. In those days my country was the navel of the world. The young guerrilla fighters of that time, the majority of them poor and armed with dreams, came to power. Thirty-two years later, they have turned into everything contrary to what they preached. Tomás Borge, Bayardo Arce and President Daniel Ortega, among others, are now millionaires in a small country where the frontier between what is public and what is private is ever more tenuous.” Borge, now Nicaragua’s ambassador to Peru, refused to comment on the prize, despite being the protagonist in the award-winning work.

WIKILEAKS NICARAGUA
In what they called an “exercise in journalistic independence and public transparency,” without measuring economic interests, two newspapers—La Nación in Costa Rica and El Nuevo Diario in Nicaragua—as well as Confidencial and “This Week,” respectively the weekly publication and Sunday-night TV news magazine program directed by Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, joined forces to make available to the public the complete collection of 1,432 diplomatic cables (48 of them secret and 638 confidential) referring to Nicaragua in the hands of Wikileaks. The information contained in some of the cables, with a context that permits a better interpretation of them, began to be published in both Nicaragua and Costa Rica on April 25. All cables will also be available on the web sites of La Nación (www.nacion.com/investigacion) and Confidencial (www.confidencial.com.ni). The first reportage prepared on the basis of these cables and published in both countries refers to Libyan Mohamed Lashtar, Gaddafi’s nephew and since 2009 Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s secretary and private adviser. The second reveals the control President Ortega exercises over the National Police, leaving its chief, First Commissioner Aminta Granera, with no autonomy in the institution. According to US Ambassador in Nicaragua Joseph Callahan, who sent the cable on this issue to his country’s State Department, “it is difficult to expect that Aminta Granera will have the power, influence or even desire to change this situation.” The third reportage is on the freeing of drug traffickers by Nicaragua’s Supreme Court.

HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT
Upon learning of the new annual report by the US State Departmentt on the human rights situation in the world, published in mid-April, which contains critical comments about the government of Nicaragua, Nicaragua’s Human Rights Ombudsman Omar Cabezas pooh-poohed it, saying that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is an “old cow” as well as a “capitalist and hypocrite.” Given the pre-electoral moment, President Ortega sent a note “rejecting the disrespectful declarations and “improper language” of Cabezas, who’s known for such crude expressions. Cabezas is one of more than 20 officials still occupying their top government posts even though their terms are up thanks to the unconstitutional decree issued by President Ortega in January 2010.

ALEMÁN DELIVERS AN
ELECTORAL “SERMON”
During Holy Week, former President and PLC presidential candidate Arnoldo Alemán said the following on his television program: “For more than two thousand years after the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ to redeem the world from the sin in which it lived, the Lenten Season has been dedicated to reflection. Today I invite you to reflect with me, to think aloud about these glorious days, marked by the life, works and teachings of God’s envoy, who has left us beautiful lessons that we must incorporate each day, each hour and each minute that we live into our families, friends or those with whom we share community… We Nicaraguans must meditate a lot on Jesus’ martyrdom, on what had to happen, on his death and resurrection. We Nicaraguans need a rebirth, a resurrection that rescues the future and returns true hope to us… We Nicaraguans have lived the Calvary of nearly five years, which will end soon. In just a few months we’ll have the opportunity to make change. We must prepare ourselves with our faith, with the spiritual strength with which our parents and grandparents built the Nicaragua that is today threatened. We must believe that God is with us, that He has not abandoned us, and that with His omnipotent power He will guide the hands of millions of citizens next November 6 to make the change now.”

COOKING WITH FIREWOOD
According to 2005 data of the Nicaraguan Foundation for Sustainable Development, 42% of the Nicaraguan population still uses only firewood to cook its food every day, which means that the country consumes 2.5 times more wood for cooking than is used in industrial labors. Only 26% of the population cooks with gas and 12% combines gas with wood. A full 98% of the firewood consumed by cooking fires comes from the increasingly devastated forests on the Pacific. Some of the species used for firewood and charcoal are endangered and valuable.

DRUG TRAFFICKING
The Central American Network of Think Tanks and Advocacy Centers, to which the Nicaraguan Institute of Strategic Studies and Public Policies (IEEPP) belongs, published its study, “Security and Organized Translational Crime” in Managua in early May with support from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. In a long interview with El Nuevo Diario, the network coordinator and co-author of the document, Eduardo Stein Barillas, who was the Vice President of Guatemala between 2004 and 2008, revealed its main findings. According to the study, in Stein’s words, a first finding is the following: “Central America ceased being a drug trafficking corridor to become only a few years ago a warehouse. Now, with Mexico squeezed from the north and Colombia from the south, the cartels, with their respective struggle plans, moved many of their operations into Central American territory. Central America is now a major service station for illegality. Drug traffickers are using the region to run other kinds of illegal activities: networks of arms contraband, stolen vehicles, cultural goods, pirate merchandise, emigrant trafficking, and trafficking in humans. Organized crime is using Central America as an enormous aircraft carrier where it lands the material coming from the south and takes off in its flights to the main consumer markets, the countries of the north. To do this it needs to ensure spaces of impunity. Controlling territories and corridors of impunity also involves financing the electoral campaigns of mayors and legislators.”

Another finding of the study Stein talked about is this: “For some time it was being said that the narks were operating where there was no presence of the State. This is no longer true in the isthmus. They and organized crime also operate where there is a strong presence of the State and its institutions, because they have penetrated official offices and authorities of power through the public corruption established in systems with weak oversight controls. This happens most in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The threat of the narks is no longer just sectoral; they threaten the very existence of Central America’s democratic States.

Yet another finding of the study is that no government in the area can deal with organized crime by itself if it’s not solidly allied with the other members of the region, given that the governments are atomized locally while the illicit drug trade is organized at an international level. Contrary to the governments and their institutions, organized crime operates beyond Central America, following the “hammock” model: Central America supports the weight of the center, but the cartels are solidly tied at the extremes: with the countries of major coca production in the world, the Andean countries, and with the greatest consumer countries in the world, the United States, Mexico and Canada.” The study points out that 90% of the illegal drugs entering the United States pass through Central American territory.

One more finding in the study mentioned by Stein is this: “Although the use of force isn’t unnecessary, its results are dubious. In exchange, banking on prevention assumes concerted work that requires organization and precision. Prevention requires the countries to invest seriously in the apparatuses of justice, in police reforms and in their penitentiary systems. It isn’t possible to resolve citizen insecurity linked to organized crime if the justice system isn’t seriously strengthened in the countries where the cartels have already penetrated. But that involves strengthening and reforming the Police and the Penitentiary System. If all three of the legs of this tripod aren’t strengthened at the same time, the effort will be off balance. It is also necessary to strengthen the oversight systems, improve transparency and reform and unify the security and surveillance organizations. Until we improve the transparency mechanisms and accountability of public accounts in the state institutions, it will be harder to combat organized crime because the mafias use these schemes of corruption in their favor. We point to two issues in particular: money laundering and the role and performance of the comptroller generals’ offices. We’re convinced that transforming the functioning of the comptroller general’s offices would make it possible to identify the illicit trans-border illicit actions that those offices could then dismantle.”

EARTHQUAKE RUBBLE DEMOLISHED
On April 18, a hundred state workers and a nearly equal number of volunteers who live there began the work of demolishing what remains of a number of large buildings destroyed by the earthquake that flattened much of Managua in December 1972. The task should take about a month and a half. Over 300 squatter families have been living on various floors of the concrete shells of some of these buildings. They will be gradually moved to houses offered them by the government in other areas of Managua.

INTERNATIONAL AWARD TO
A NICARAGUAN JOURNALIST
The young Nicaraguan journalist Octavio Enríquez was awarded the 28th annual Ortega y Gasset Journalism prize in Madrid on May 4 in the category of “best press work” for seven investigative journalism pieces revealing the enrichment of former FSLN National Directorate member and minister of the interior in the 1980s, Tomás Borge, published in the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa. The prize is the most prestigious in the Spanish language, and was awarded at a formal event attended, among others, by Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa and Spain’s President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Enríquez opened his acceptance speech with these words: “Once upon a time in Nicaragua there was a revolution. In those days my country was the navel of the world. The young guerrilla fighters of that time, the majority of them poor and armed with dreams, came to power. Thirty-two years later, they have turned into everything contrary to what they preached. Tomás Borge, Bayardo Arce and President Daniel Ortega, among others, are now millionaires in a small country where the frontier between what is public and what is private is ever more tenuous.” Borge, now Nicaragua’s ambassador to Peru, refused to comment on the prize, despite being the protagonist in the award-winning work.

WIKILEAKS NICARAGUA
In what they called an “exercise in journalistic independence and public transparency,” without measuring economic interests, two newspapers—La Nación in Costa Rica and El Nuevo Diario in Nicaragua—as well as Confidencial and “This Week,” respectively the weekly publication and Sunday-night TV news magazine program directed by Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, joined forces to make available to the public the complete collection of 1,432 diplomatic cables (48 of them secret and 638 confidential) referring to Nicaragua in the hands of Wikileaks. The information contained in some of the cables, with a context that permits a better interpretation of them, began to be published in both Nicaragua and Costa Rica on April 25. All cables will also be available on the web sites of La Nación (www.nacion.com/investigacion) and Confidencial (www.confidencial.com.ni). The first reportage prepared on the basis of these cables and published in both countries refers to Libyan Mohamed Lashtar, Gaddafi’s nephew and since 2009 Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s secretary and private adviser. The second reveals the control President Ortega exercises over the National Police, leaving its chief, First Commissioner Aminta Granera, with no autonomy in the institution. According to US Ambassador in Nicaragua Joseph Callahan, who sent the cable on this issue to his country’s State Department, “it is difficult to expect that Aminta Granera will have the power, influence or even desire to change this situation.” The third reportage is on the freeing of drug traffickers by Nicaragua’s Supreme Court.

HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT
Upon learning of the new annual report by the US State Departmentt on the human rights situation in the world, published in mid-April, which contains critical comments about the government of Nicaragua, Nicaragua’s Human Rights Ombudsman Omar Cabezas pooh-poohed it, saying that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is an “old cow” as well as a “capitalist and hypocrite.” Given the pre-electoral moment, President Ortega sent a note “rejecting the disrespectful declarations and “improper language” of Cabezas, who’s known for such crude expressions. Cabezas is one of more than 20 officials still occupying their top government posts even though their terms are up thanks to the unconstitutional decree issued by President Ortega in January 2010.

ALEMÁN DELIVERS AN
ELECTORAL “SERMON”
During Holy Week, former President and PLC presidential candidate Arnoldo Alemán said the following on his television program: “For more than two thousand years after the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ to redeem the world from the sin in which it lived, the Lenten Season has been dedicated to reflection. Today I invite you to reflect with me, to think aloud about these glorious days, marked by the life, works and teachings of God’s envoy, who has left us beautiful lessons that we must incorporate each day, each hour and each minute that we live into our families, friends or those with whom we share community… We Nicaraguans must meditate a lot on Jesus’ martyrdom, on what had to happen, on his death and resurrection. We Nicaraguans need a rebirth, a resurrection that rescues the future and returns true hope to us… We Nicaraguans have lived the Calvary of nearly five years, which will end soon. In just a few months we’ll have the opportunity to make change. We must prepare ourselves with our faith, with the spiritual strength with which our parents and grandparents built the Nicaragua that is today threatened. We must believe that God is with us, that He has not abandoned us, and that with His omnipotent power He will guide the hands of millions of citizens next November 6 to make the change now.”

COOKING WITH FIREWOOD
According to 2005 data of the Nicaraguan Foundation for Sustainable Development, 42% of the Nicaraguan population still uses only firewood to cook its food every day, which means that the country consumes 2.5 times more wood for cooking than is used in industrial labors. Only 26% of the population cooks with gas and 12% combines gas with wood. A full 98% of the firewood consumed by cooking fires comes from the increasingly devastated forests on the Pacific. Some of the species used for firewood and charcoal are endangered and valuable.

DRUG TRAFFICKING
The Central American Network of Think Tanks and Advocacy Centers, to which the Nicaraguan Institute of Strategic Studies and Public Policies (IEEPP) belongs, published its study, “Security and Organized Translational Crime” in Managua in early May with support from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. In a long interview with El Nuevo Diario, the network coordinator and co-author of the document, Eduardo Stein Barillas, who was the Vice President of Guatemala between 2004 and 2008, revealed its main findings. According to the study, in Stein’s words, a first finding is the following: “Central America ceased being a drug trafficking corridor to become only a few years ago a warehouse. Now, with Mexico squeezed from the north and Colombia from the south, the cartels, with their respective struggle plans, moved many of their operations into Central American territory. Central America is now a major service station for illegality. Drug traffickers are using the region to run other kinds of illegal activities: networks of arms contraband, stolen vehicles, cultural goods, pirate merchandise, emigrant trafficking, and trafficking in humans. Organized crime is using Central America as an enormous aircraft carrier where it lands the material coming from the south and takes off in its flights to the main consumer markets, the countries of the north. To do this it needs to ensure spaces of impunity. Controlling territories and corridors of impunity also involves financing the electoral campaigns of mayors and legislators.”

Another finding of the study Stein talked about is this: “For some time it was being said that the narks were operating where there was no presence of the State. This is no longer true in the isthmus. They and organized crime also operate where there is a strong presence of the State and its institutions, because they have penetrated official offices and authorities of power through the public corruption established in systems with weak oversight controls. This happens most in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The threat of the narks is no longer just sectoral; they threaten the very existence of Central America’s democratic States.

Yet another finding of the study is that no government in the area can deal with organized crime by itself if it’s not solidly allied with the other members of the region, given that the governments are atomized locally while the illicit drug trade is organized at an international level. Contrary to the governments and their institutions, organized crime operates beyond Central America, following the “hammock” model: Central America supports the weight of the center, but the cartels are solidly tied at the extremes: with the countries of major coca production in the world, the Andean countries, and with the greatest consumer countries in the world, the United States, Mexico and Canada.” The study points out that 90% of the illegal drugs entering the United States pass through Central American territory.

One more finding in the study mentioned by Stein is this: “Although the use of force isn’t unnecessary, its results are dubious. In exchange, banking on prevention assumes concerted work that requires organization and precision. Prevention requires the countries to invest seriously in the apparatuses of justice, in police reforms and in their penitentiary systems. It isn’t possible to resolve citizen insecurity linked to organized crime if the justice system isn’t seriously strengthened in the countries where the cartels have already penetrated. But that involves strengthening and reforming the Police and the Penitentiary System. If all three of the legs of this tripod aren’t strengthened at the same time, the effort will be off balance. It is also necessary to strengthen the oversight systems, improve transparency and reform and unify the security and surveillance organizations. Until we improve the transparency mechanisms and accountability of public accounts in the state institutions, it will be harder to combat organized crime because the mafias use these schemes of corruption in their favor. We point to two issues in particular: money laundering and the role and performance of the comptroller generals’ offices. We’re convinced that transforming the functioning of the comptroller general’s offices would make it possible to identify the illicit trans-border illicit actions that those offices could then dismantle.”

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