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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 359 | Junio 2011
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

Envío team

THE CRISIS IN EL NUEVO DIARIO

In early May El Nuevo Diario’s journalists and public readers spend days of tense concern following an announcement by the newspaper that due to grave financial difficulties it was discussing the sale of the majority of its shares with the presidential family to save itself from bankruptcy. Although there was never any declaration by anyone in government about this possibilitiy, END’s director mentioned that he had two or three meetings with its Communication Coordinator, First Lady Rosario Murillo, to explore the conditions of the sale. The FSLN, as a corporation, already owns 13% of the newspaper’s shares.

Days later, the Pellas Group, Nicaragua’s most powerful economic group, announced that it would buy the majority bloc of shares, but within 24 hours, in a sudden and unexpected turnaround, the Pellas Group withdrew. Then, on May 14, businessman Ramiro Ortiz Mayorga, president of Banco de la Producción (Banpro), decided to invest resources to recapitalize the daily, becoming its majority stockholder with 61% of the shares. He pledged to maintain its news independence and labor stability. The news that the buyer would not be the Ortega-Murillo family caused relief and joy among the paper’s readers. END was founded in 1980, when Javier Chamorro, brother of Pedro Joaquín, the slain director of La Prensa during its years of opposition to the Somoza dictatorship, pulled out of that newspaper with the majority of the staff, including the best journalists, because of the extremely negative bias in its reporting on the young revolution. END has been the only left counterpart to La Prensa after Barricada, the FSLN party newspaper, folded in the mid-nineties.

LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATE SLATES
FILED MORE OR LESS ON TIME

On May 17, the FSLN was the first party to present the list of its 220 national and departmental legislative candidates for the National Assembly and for the Central American Parliament. Five days later, after the official deadline had passed, the other four parties in the race—the PLI-UNE Alliance; the PLC-PC, which calls itself the GANA Alliance; the ALN and APRE—filed their lists. The greatest conflict occurred in the GANA Alliance due to the exclusion of two female Conservative Party leaders from winning positions on the slate in favor of two male leaders from the same party. One of the women initiated a hunger strike in protest. Another major conflict erupted in APRE, when its presidential candidate, Miguel Ángel García—who had said that his campaign slogan would be “Daniel trembles with Miguel”—pulled out after learning that APRE was including two discredited Liberal legislators on its slate. His replacement is jurist and university lecturer Róger Guevara Mena. His running mate, evangelical pastor Elizabeth Dávila de Rojas, confessed that her opinion on these changes had not been requested. The legislative candidate lists of all parties suggest a parliamentary scenario very similar to that of these past five years, as over half of the all parties’ candidates who are high enough on the slate to win—especially those on the FSLN and PLI-UNE Alliance slates—aspire to reelection.

CID–GALLUP POLL:
DO WE HAVE A NEW TREND?

CID Gallup’s most recent national poll on voting intention, released on May 25, seems to indicate a change of trend from all preceding polls. Daniel Ortega still gets the highest number of votes, but has dropped from the mid-40% range typical of recent polls to 38%, the percentage he won with in 2006. Fabio Gadea occupies a comfortable second place with 28%, a decent increase over former polls. Arnoldo Alemán has barely changed, remaining in third place with 14%. The other two candidates, from the ALN and APRE, only total 4% combined, while 17% didn’t mark the ballot used by the survey. The governing party made no comment about the new poll; Alemán’s PLC pooh-poohed it and the PLI-UNE Alliance, which is running Gadea as its candidate, received it with pleasure since it is counting on the campaign polarizing over the months until it has narrowed down to Ortega and Gadea. Alemán insisted that the four opposition candidates should submit to an independent poll or to primary elections so that the one who comes out the winner of that test would head a single opposition option, thus ensuring Ortega’s defeat. Gadea and his alliance have ignored this initiative.

STILL UNCERTAINTIES
IN THE ELECTORAL PROCESS

The electoral process continues to have its uncertainties. On May 26, the Civic Group Ethics and Transparency released a report proving that the results are at high risk of fraud by governing party officials in 10% of the total 1,284 voting places. Throughout the month, the Catholic bishops urged the population to get out and vote, despite all the irregularities surrounding the process. Their insistence is an attempt to keep abstention from multiplying, which would favor the FSLN. Silvio Báez, the auxiliary bishop of Managua, put it this way: “Notwithstanding the unconstitutionality and illegality of the candidacy of one of the candidates, the lack of reliability of the Supreme Electoral Council, the irregularity in the processing and delivery of voter-ID cards, and the lack of confidence in the political class, which has shown itself to be inept at resolving the country’s problem, despite all that you have to vote.” René Sandigo, the bishop of Chontales, spoke out as well: “If the citizenry doesn’t vote, the most faithful sector of a certain party will win by a broad margin. But if all the citizenry votes and doesn’t win, it will be validation that there was fraud.” And finally, these were the words of the new bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez: “We ought to vote because in Nicaragua’s current circumstances, not doing so means electing the greater of evils.”

THERAPEUTIC ABORTION

The Strategic Group for decriminalization of therapeutic abortion published in El Nuevo Diario a “greeting” to the delegates of the leftist parties meeting in Managua in May for the 17th Sao Paulo Forum. In it they said: “Nicaraguan women are dying due to the prohibition of therapeutic abortion. The governing party has the possibility of changing the law. We request your intervention so there will be no more deaths or risks to the health of women and girls.” Together with a likeminded group from El Salvador, where therapeutic abortion has also been criminalizsed, the Strategic Group demonstrated with a similar message in front of the building in San Salvador in which the Organization of American States was holding a meeting. They were removed and reprimanded by the Salvadoran Police.

“THIS CAN’T GO ON”

In declarations to La Prensa, former Supreme Court Justice Sergio Cuarezma Terán, of the Liberal tendency, the only one who did not use President Ortega’s blanket decree to return when his term was up, described some of the country’s realities in these terms. “By legal mandate the institutionality has ceased to exist. Now the different institutions are a kind of personal farm of those who direct them. The issue is so serious that we no longer depend on legal norms, on the Constitution to receive responses as citizens and users of the State. We depend on the humor in which the public official woke up to work… We are dependent on arbitrary, individual or pecuniary decisions—of whoever holds the power in each parcel of the institutions of State—to receive administrative responses or justice. This can’t be; it can’t go on.” Although he believes that the country is still the safest in Central America, he believes that there are two types of violence in Nicaragua: institutional violence and criminal violence, and if this isn’t stopped, “the total violence will swallow up society as it has done in other countries of the area.”.

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