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  Number 363 | Octubre 2011
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Nicaragua

Last-minute pre-election fears, questions and warning signs

What consequences could a massive voter turnout have? Will the election become a two-candidate race at the last moment? Why did the Supreme Electoral Council dissuade electoral observation? These are only some of the questions still making the rounds, many of which will only be answered on election day.

Envío team

Following the fraudulent 2008 municipal elections, the specter of abstention began haunting many of the analyses of what could happen in the presidential elections three years later. “I’m not going to vote again” was often heard among frustrated voters in Managua and the main municipalities where the FSLN had altered results in its favor. The lack of credibility of those elections tainted the election of authorities in the two autonomous Caribbean regions two years later and has cast a pall over the general elections coming up on November 6.

The opposition inadvertently throws a boomerang

The eye-opening disillusionment of much of the population in 2008 has been heightened ever since by repeated opposition charges of anomalies surrounding the current electoral process: President Ortega’s illegal run for reelection, the illegal continuation in their posts of the electoral magistrates well after their term ended, party bias in the issuing of ID/voter cards, arbitrary exclusion of legislative candidates, the naming of departmental and municipal electoral authorities who openly favor the FSLN… All this and more, claim the charges, are giving the government the chance to pull off an even better-organized fraud than in 2008.

“Why vote if they’re only going to steal the elections?” The opposition’s constant carping has had the boomerang effect of encouraging abstention, which was obviously not the aim. Nothing would make the government happier than a high abstention rate, since the fewer opposition voters who turn out on election day, the fewer valid votes there will be and the greater the percentage that will go to Ortega, for the simple mathematical reason that the FSLN has more faithful followers who will go to the polls come hell or high water.

If there’s a massive turnout…

Despite that abstentionist prelude, polls have demonstrated throughout this year that while the specter of fraud is still with us, a determination to take part seems to be overriding the specter of abstention. In the last reliable poll available for this final pre-election analysis, conducted nationally by CID-Gallup between September 10 and 16, 79.5% of those polled said they will vote, 12.8% hasn’t yet decided and fewer than 7% insisted they will not.

What would a massive turnout mean? In the first place, looking at what happened in the past five presidential elections, it would indicate that once again the Nicaraguan population was demonstrating its faith in elections, certifying it as one of the Latin American electorates with the highest participation rates. The previous abstention rates corroborate it: 25% in 1984 (in the middle of a war), 18.9% in 1990, 27.4% in 1996, 14% in 2001 and 16.2% in 2006.

It also means that the governing Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) might lose the elections, given that it has been the minority in the past four general elections, all of which enjoyed a solid turnout. It pulled 40.8% in 1990, 38.7% in 1996, 42% in 2001 and 38% in 2006. Only in 1984, in the middle of the national fervor of building a revolution and fending off the US-financed war, did the FSLN get a whopping 63% of the vote, and against no fewer than six other parties on both the Right and the Left.

The political explanation for why the FSLN was able to win in 2006 with only 38% is that it ran against a nearly evenly divided Liberal opposition. The legal explanation is a constitutional reform resulting from the pact between current President Daniel Ortega and then President Arnoldo Alemán in which the latter ceded to the former a reduction of the percentage needed to win an election in the first round to 35%. In all other Latin American electoral legislations, such a low percentage would require a run-off between the two lead candidates.

“Without a pact we
would never have won”

Three years ago, Dionisio Marenco, then mayor of Managua and previously the FSLN’s lead pact negotiator, admitted to envío that “we conceived the pact as a way of getting the FSLN back into power. From that perspective it functioned very well, allowing the FSLN to return to government in 2006 by reducing down to 35% the percentage required to win as long as the front-runner has at least a five-point lead over the runner-up. When you look at the 2006 election results, they appear to have been made to the measure of that decision. Without that agreement the FSLN would never have won the elections.”

Despite everything, however, the FSLN’s victory in 2006 is sur¬rounded by justifiable suspicion that some irregularity is being concealed, given that results from 8% of the voting places have never been published. Was the Supreme Electoral Council’s silence about those votes part of the pact? If there was any irregularity, was it limited to the awarding of legislative seats? Or might it have been to prevent the gap between Daniel Ortega and the runner-up getting to within five points?

If there’s a polarized election…

Massive voting wouldn’t necessarily mean the FSLN’s defeat at the polls, however. For one thing the political panorama has changed considerably: the ghosts of war—which still hovered over elections as recently as 2001—have been put to rest. This is particu¬larly important to the younger genera¬tion, which is over a third of the voting population and has been particularly wooed by the FSLN’s campaign.

Moreover, for a massive turnout to mean the FSLN’s defeat, the electoral settings of 1990, 1996 and 2001 would have to be repeated. Those years the race narrowed down to the FSLN and only one other competitor. US-backed peace candidate Violeta Chamorro in 1990, political party strong man Arnoldo Alemán in 1996 and business leader Enrique Bolaños in 2001 all managed to pull the vast majority of votes away from the other anti-Sandinista candidates (in 1996 there were no fewer than 21 others), largely playing on that persistent oppressive memory of the war and fear that it could return with Ortegta, the FSLN’s eternal candidate.

In the years leading up to the 2006 elections, the FSLN used every manner of astute policies and legal and judicial contrivances to exacerbate growing tensions among the anti-Sandinista Liberals and then keep them split despite the US Embassy’s haranguing efforts to reunite them. In that year’s race, José Rizo, candidate for Alemán’s Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC), and the breakaway Eduardo Montealegre, who had recently formed a less authoritarian and less openly corrupt and opportunist Liberal party called the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN), divided Ortega’s opposition nearly down the middle, with the debuting ALN even finishing ahead of the PLC by 1 point with 28%. The fourth party, the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), which had split from the FSLN over a decade earlier, didn’t have the same polarizing effect on that side of the race, attracting only 200,000 votes, the majority in Managua.

We aren’t down to
just two sides yet

The electoral scene this year isn’t yet polarized between the FSLN and one opposition candidate, as Liberal candidate Fabio Gadea has been striving for, but nor is it mirroring 2006, because Gadea has pulled significantly ahead of Alemán, the PLC’s candidate. Making it even less like 2006, the MRS, stripped of its legal status by a bogus Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) ruling shortly before the 2008 municipal elections, is part of the heterogeneous alliance on whose ticket Gadea is running and in fact has supplied his running mate, Edmundo Jarquín.

The latest CID-Gallup poll has Daniel Ortega out front with 45.8%, Gadea running second with 33.5%, and Alemán third with 10.1%, while the other two parties in the race barely making it onto the chart. Although this spread has remained relatively unchanged for months, spokespeople for the governing party never miss a chance to predict that Alemán will place second, only adding to the suspicions that anomalies could mark the final electoral results.

Stripping Alemán bare

When, at Montealegre’s urging, Gadea made his surprise appearance as presidential candidate for the multicolored UNE-PLI alliance in August 2010, his priority was to undermine Alemán’s electoral support as the indispensable first step toward beating Ortega in a polarized field. His initial campaign tours and his propaganda messages on Radio Corporación, which Gadea himself directs, all centered on stripping Alemán of what remains of his Liberal support, particularly but not only by denouncing his pact with Ortega and what it has wrought.

Many pro-Alemán Liberals were convinced by those messages and cut their ties with Alemán, concluding that their leader’s real “sin” wasn’t the corruption institutionalized during his administration (“They all steal,” most voters shrug), but the pact he entered into with Ortega. They aren’t even excessively agitated by the pact’s rampant politicizing of the state institutions. What galls them is that the 35% concession resulted in the FSLN’s victory and the control it has now acquired over all those institutions (“Alemán betrayed us; he sold out,” they moan). Does the 10% of the voting intention Alemán has so far managed to hold onto mark the limit of Gadea’s growth? Will the PLC’s “hard-core vote” impede the polarization of the elections and guarantee Ortega’s victory? Ortega is certainly hoping so.

The useful vote criterion

Gadea would need at least 13 points more than he’s getting in the polls to defeat the incumbent President, and the greater the spread between the two, the harder to fraudulently reverse it. That means lighting a fire under the 12.8% that is undecided about voting at all and the 10% who still don’t know or aren’t saying who they’ll vote for. It also means convincing more of Alemán’s remaining 10% to set aside their loyalty to him, because Alemán can’t possibly win but Gadea could. Gadea has dubbed it the “useful vote” criterion.

Putting Gadea in office wouldn’t get us a great leader, much less a provocative project or even a government program worth writing home about. The “useful vote” simply means voting pragmatically, for the “lesser evil.” The government propaganda and FSLN sympathizers constantly argue that the “opposition is useless” and “there’s no one else to vote for.” While that view is widespread among voters, it’s not unthinkable that the lesser evil concept could sway them by election day because there’s a mute current of discontent with the rigid and sectarian social control the governing party is imposing (“It’s getting out of hand,” is a frequent complaint).

Last-minute carom
shot into the pocket?

The leaders of the opposition to Ortega can rightfully be accused of inconsistency, incoherence and negligence, of failing to come up with an attractive and credible project, of being respons¬ible for many past errors that help explain today’s grave problems, of worrying more about legalities and institutionality than about social justice in such an inequitable country, and of spending their time attacking and disqualifying each other. But in 1990 the opposition also appeared—and indeed was—dispersed and without a project and the FSLN felt omni¬potent. The alliance led by octogenarian candidate Gadea aspires to repeat Violeta Chamorro’s utterly unexpected electoral sweep that year by a voting population that wanted an end to the war and the economic chaos.

In this case it might be ready to shake off the social control the FSLN is again imposing, inexcusably this time because there’s no war. It might be ready to halt what Bishop Silvio Báez has described as a “growing germ of dictatorship.” The combination of a massive voter turnout with a determi¬nation to cast their vote for someone who could actually win with their help could seriously complicate the governing party’s chances of consummating a fraud like 2008, if not render it impossible. That’s the political carom shot into the pocket Gadea and his alliance are banking on.

The FSLN could also
win in a clean race

On the other hand it’s also possible that the FSLN could win a clean vote. Its confidence lies in its total control over the CSE, a branch of state that gives such consistent proof of that control that “clean” is a questionable term to use at this stage. It also lies in the abundant resources available to it, far more than any previous governments have had, part of which it has used to rain gifts on broad segments of the poor population in the countryside and some cities.

If the FSLN wins a clean vote, what would carry more weight in its victory? Would it suggest that the illegality of Ortega’s candidacy was of little importance to the majority of those who voted for him? The CID-Gallup poll shows that 50% think this way. Or that people have become resigned to the impossibility of beating him? Has the overwhelming pro-Ortega propaganda ended up convincing the majority that his government is in fact Christian, socialist and in solidarity, even though the important promises of “zero unemployment” and “zero corruption” haven’t remotely been met? Or has the profusion of gifts, assistance and perks convinced the poor who have received all of it that only this government understands and cares about them? The same poll found that 63% believes Ortega favors the people.

Could that resignation also be explained by public employees’ pre¬vailing fear that they could lose their job if they don’t vote for Ortega? Or might Nicaragua’s huge younger generation, which wasn’t alive during the revolution or the war, much less the Somoza dictatorship, tip the election in Ortega’s favor?
All these factors combined could do it. The polls have consistently shown the President-candidate enjoying a comfortable lead over his competitors.

Just winning isn’t enough

But the FSLN doesn’t just want to win. It wants to sweep the elections. It doesn’t just want Ortega to stay in the executive office. It wants to control theNational Assembly, which it couldn’t manage during this term. That means at least assuring the simple majority of 48 representatives. But not even that’s enough: the FSLN wants nothing short of the absolute majority of 56 representatives. With that it could make major changes in the Constitution and other high-ranking laws without having to buy votes or horse trade with Alemán.

Such a sweep may not sound credible in the current national political setting and electoral framework. But FSLN founder Tomás Borge urged his party to “do what we have to do no matter what they say.” That mandate could explain the CSE’s obstinate determination to put obstacles in the way of international electoral observation, delaying the arrival of the missions until the last minute and closing the doors entirely to national observers.

“Accompaniers” are coming…
except the Carter Center

With the date for accrediting ob¬servers—which the CSE insists on calling “accompaniers”—now past, the perspectives are worrying. For one thing, the regulations on observers’ actions published by the CSE on August 16 differ from those in 2006 and violate the international principles for election observation. The observer organizations reacted particularly strongly to reading that they would have to tell the CSE their route in advance and draft their final statement together with it. The CSE insisted they had misunderstood; that it just wanted to know where they were going so it could provide security. Requesting flexibility on those most controversial points on behalf of the international observers and especially the national ones, the European Union got what it was after from the CSE, but only for its own mission’s 40 observers..

In response, the Carter Center issued a communiqué on September 9 in which it expressed its pleasure that new conditions had been negotiated and “urged” the CSE to “officially extend the same terms to other experienced international and national observation organizations.” It added that “because the CSE claims that the Reglamento for Electoral Accompaniment has been misinterpreted, we further suggest that the Reglamento be repealed or modified to clearly elaborate the provisions of access, freedom of movement, and freedom of speech required in the Declaration of Principles… and to comply with Nicaraguan law.”

The statement went on to say that the Center “remains concerned about problems identified by various Nicaraguan political and civil actors in the early phases of the current electoral process, before any formal observation began,” including the “incomplete and cumbersome process of obtaining ID cards, lack of representativeness in the naming of electoral officials for departmental and municipal councils and voting sites, and a voters list that is outdated and inflated. In addition, we note the 2010 extension of the mandates of the CSE magistrates outside of the constitutionally prescribed procedures.”

Explaining that the late publishing of the regulations made it impossible for the Center to organize an observation mission like the ones it had sent to Nicaragua for all presidential elections since 1990—one in which it played a crucial role—it nonetheless said that “if acceptable conditions are officially established and made available to all experienced national and international organizations who desire to observe and who likewise commit to follow the obligations of observers listed in the Declaration of Principles for International Electoral Observation, we will be able to consider a limited experts mission to be present for the Nov. 6 elections.” Calling the request “offensive,” the CSE’s discredited president, Roberto Rivas, crudely insulted Carter’s institution by remarking that he had heard that it was being called the “Cartera [billfold] Center.” Rivas closed the issue by saying the Carter Center had “excluded itself.” In the final days of September, however, it granted the Organization of American States’ 80 observers flexibility similar to what it gave the EU.

Meanwhile, the CSE welcomed with open arms a small mission from the Commission of Electoral Experts of Latin America (CEELA), a technical group founded in 2005 and promoted by the Venezuelan government. It was the only observation mission that came for the 2008 municipal elections, and it voiced no objections to their obvious and widespread irregularities.

What the governing party wants from the “accompaniers” is legitimization of what it hopes will be favorable results on the heels of the challenged 2008 elections. That’s why it was no surprise that the CSE accredited some international missions at the 11th hour, albeit reluctantly. Arriving so late and with so few people, the EU and OAS missions won’t be able to observe in much depth on the ground, but they may give the electorate some confidence, which in turn might dissuade abstention.

Fear of a repeat of
the Chamorro upset

Despite all its advantages, the governing party fears a repeat of the 1990 Chamorro upset, when the FSLN lost the elections despite all the polls and massive turnouts at FSLN rallies that gave it every reason to believe it would remain in office. It’s doing everything it can to prevent that happening again. It knows that if the turnout is massive and the election polarizes at the last minute because both Alemán loyalists and fence-sitters suddenly become persuaded that their vote is “useful,” the results could be very close. In such a situation, international legitimacy would be indispensable to the FSLN, and, it hopes, less meticulous and demanding than the national observa¬tion organizations.

Thumbs definitively down
on national observers

Are national observers really more meticulous and demanding? It would certainly appear so from the fear shown by the CSE, which excluded them from the 2008 municipal elections, the 2010 Caribbean autonomous elections and now the 2011 general elections. They have several important things going for them that the international observer organizations don’t have: they are in Nicaragua permanently and thus keep track of all relevant details and changes that could escape the notice of international observers who flit from country to country; they know the terrain; and they have the numbers. The three national observation organizations combined can put seasoned volunteers at virtually every polling site in the country and they know what they’re looking for.

After studying the conditions imposed by the CSE’s regulations, Ethics and Transparency (E&T) announced it would not seek accreditation. Hagamos Democracia did request it but was turned down. And the Institute for Development and Democracy (IPADE) has simply been left hanging.

Despite such rejection and foul treatment, the three national organizations have called for a massive vote. “A massive turnout without fears is essential to the health of the electoral process and its precarious legitimacy,” said E&T. They have also announced that, with or without permission, they are well organized to have their observers present on election day. Meanwhile their idea of a citizens’ campaign to turn each voter into an observer and monitor is taking shape.

The most crucial
and vulnerable ballot

The governing party’s determination to win not only the presidency but also enough seats to control the legislature explains the exclusion of national observers. The ballot count for the 70 departmental representatives is pivotal to getting a parliamentary majority. Because the departments are allotted anywhere from 2 to 19 seats depending on the size of their population, the volume of votes per representative is much smaller than for the 20 national “at large” representatives, making the “adjustments” needed to fill the quotient to win each seat much easier.

The national-level Assembly seats and of course the presidency itself are considered harder to change sufficiently to win by fraud, since they involve the entire electorate. E&T, however, has warned that only 10% of the votes would have to be altered to vary even those results.

With a total of 120 observers this year, the OAS and EU missions won’t be able to hit even a small percentage of the nearly 13,000 polling places reportedly functioning this year. Nor can they cover all 154 municipalities of the 15 departments and two autonomous regions when the ballots are brought in, the tallies from each polling place added up and the results transmitted back to Managua. Not even the record total of over a thousand observers in 1996 did it in that year’s disastrous elections.

More last-minute questions

These are only some of the more important eleventh-hour questions, but here are a few others to chew on. Is the CSE capable of blocking the participation of Gadea or his legislative candidates at the last minute, as has been rumored insistently? Or is the rumor itself just a tactic to confuse and fend off the possibility of a last-minute polarization? Will it eliminate them after the elections, once the composition of the legislative body is known, if the FSLN’s parliamentary bench needs its numbers buttressed?

How does one calculate the lost impact of the electorate—mostly opposition—that couldn’t vote because, despite all their complaints, demands, protests and even highway takeovers, they never got their new ID/voter card?

In the governing party’s determination to achieve a sweeping electoral victory, what plan has it assigned to the computer network that will transmit the data? And how will the unaccredited national observers make use of information technology to deliver on their promise to be present all around the country to ensure a transparent ballot count and, therefore, to monitor the transmission? In that regard, what about the rumor that the FSLN plans to shut down public access to Internet on election day? Would it? Could it?

Who will the CSE choose to be “electoral police”? How will opposition party monitors be able to work at tables controlled by the governing party? Will they be given certified tallies of the results and be able to hang on to them, given that these tallies are the only proof to back up charges of anomalies? And finally, will there be violence on electoral day… or the day after?

Four minimum requisites

When E&T, Transparency International’s Nicaraguan chapter, presented its third report on the electoral process on October 4, it stated that there are only “minimum conditions” to vote. It then detailed the minimum requisites needed to produce a credible process, even with all the anomalies that have come before, none of which E&T has failed to point out.

There are only four requisites, but they’re pivotal: 1) the counting of the ballots in the presence of monitors from all participating parties, 2) the issuing of faithful copies of the scrutiny tallies to all party monitors, 3) immediate publication of the scrutiny results on the outside wall of each voting site with free access so the population can see them, and 4) the CSE’s publication of the results, voting site by voting site, within a reasonable time. In the case of the tainted 2008 municipal elections, 30% of Managua’s ballots were reportedly never published on the CSE web page.

Signs from “the three angels”

Two months ago we recalled what a former top FSLN government official said years ago: the strategy to return Daniel Ortega to Nicaragua’s presidential office required neutralizing three “angels” who had closed the doors to his return to the “paradise” of power: big national capital, the US government and the Catholic Church hierarchy.

In recent days these three angels—who sheathed their fiery swords in 2006, legitimizing Ortega’s victory—have given warning signs about what could happen in the elections.

The angel of the North. Things in the US government aren’t the same as they were in 2006. In particular the climate in Washington is less favorable toward Nicaragua. In June, Cuban-American Senators Bob Menéndez and Marco Rubio, alerting their hard-line Senate colleagues to Ortega’s “electoral machinations,” stalled the approval of Jonathon Farrar as the new US ambassador to Nicaragua, considering him to have been too soft while chief of the US Interests Section in Cuba. While they wouldn’t oppose Farrar’s appointment anywhere else, they believe a “stronger person” is needed in Managua. There has also been discussion in the House of Representatives about the “interference and resistance” applied to democratic processes by member countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), including Nicaragua.

In this changed climate, the US Embassy in Managua, currently operating with no ambassador, requested authorization for an electoral observation mission and the accreditation of national observation organizations. It was the same request the Carter Center made.

CSE President Rivas qualified the request as “interference” and “lack of respect,” then repeating his disrespect toward the Carter Center commented that “they might as well send another William Walker to declare himself President of Nicaragua.” Without further engaging Rivas and with none of the underlying saber-rattling common to the Embassy in previous electoral periods, US officials have repeatedly made it clear to the governing party that the elections must be transparent.

In a visit to Nicaragua to get his organization’s observers accredited, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza showed that he was fully apprised of the irregularities that have taken place over the course of the electoral process. The OAS would risk its prestige if it backed fraud or any maneuver that smacked of it. And the governing party would risk its legitimacy if it engaged in one. There’s no question but that the OAS mission “observes” could become a double-edged sword for the governing party, knowing the US government’s determining influence over both Insulza and the hemispheric body he currently heads.

Hence, while the “angel of the North” hasn’t yet unsheathed its sword, it has begun giving signs of preparing to do so. Any lifting of it would trigger a chain reaction: an important change in US relations with Nicaragua would affect relations not only with the OAS but also the International Monetary Fund and more importantly the Inter-American Development Bank—the Ortega govern¬ment’s main source of financing—which in turn would spark reactions from the second “angel”: big national capital.

The business angel. The business “angel” in Nicaragua also gave unexpected warning signs. So far big private capital has characterized itself by actively echoing the Ortega economic team’s discourse, praising the macroeconomic stability, increased exports and economic recovery despite the international crisis.

While again repeating that, José Antonio Baltodano, who represents one of Nicaragua’s three big capital groups, sent the government a strong message in a meeting organized by the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUNIDES), of which he is executive director. Baltodano’s analysis of the national political situation expressed concern over the crisis of institutionality. And similar to what he did in the “Let’s Grow Together” Investment Forum in August, although this time much more forcefully, he listed “strengthening institution¬ality and the rule of law” as a “top priority” for the economy.

Baltodano defined our institutions as “deficient and fragile” and said the population perceives them “as subordinated to power rather than power being subordinated to them.” He also spoke of the importance of “restoring the balance of powers and their exercise by the best-suited officials so that the republican system can function.” And he referred to the need “to restore the credibility of the electoral process,” avoiding “the continued erosion of its legal framework,” and to “improve the quality of justice, favoring its indepen¬dence.” According to FUNIDES, 85.5% of the country’s 62 largest companies say that Nicaraguan justice is not “reliable.”

In referring to the economic consequences of the “non-credible” 2008 municipal elections, he warned what would happen to the national economy if anything similar occurs this year. “The electoral process has to be transparent; individual votes have to be respected and it has to be credible nationally and internationally.” In a later interview, Baltodano commented that what he had said openly and publicly was “silently” backed by his national business colleagues. With that, the second angel has issued its warning but is keeping its sword sheathed for now.

The third angel

The Catholic Church hierarchy is the angel the governing party has worked most directly to neutralize. Perhaps its error has been to apply the same tactics it uses with its political opponents: dividing in order to conquer and buying in order to silence. But it doesn’t always work.

It must be recalled that the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference was the first national sector to denounce the irregularities in the November 2008 elections, and did so in unusually direct language, basing its charge on first-hand testimonies from its sizable social base. It was also in the context of the tensions generated by that fraud that, only a few months later, in April 2009, the Vatican appointed Silvio Báez as auxiliary bishop of Managua. The FSLN has never before come up against a religious personality of Bishop Báez’s talent and bearing.

This July, just before the celebration of the revolution’s anniversary, Báez was involved in an important clash with the governing party over his accusation that the government was manipulating religious symbols. It was the smoke before a fire. Everything seemed to have calmed down when barely a month later La Concepción parish priest Marlon Pupiro was murdered in what appeared to be a blind and cruel fury. Catholic Church officials from bishops to parish priests are more than distressed by the absurd findings of the hurried National Police investigation of this crime. While the police explanation doesn’t hold together, leading the population to come up with several more plausible hypotheses, Church officials believe it’s a cover-up of those really behind the crime, which they think may have had political motivations. As both the hierarchy and the congregation of Pupiro’s parish ratcheted up their insistence on learning the truth and seeing justice done in this murky case, other parish priests began to report that they are being harassed and threatened and that what they say during Mass is being monitored. It evokes the persecution and harassment suffered in the eighties by priests and their parishioners who opposed the Sandinista government.

This delicate situation followed criticism of the electoral branch by bishops and priests for not properly issuing ID/voter cards to sectors of the population that don’t support the government. Thus this conflictive pre-electoral prologue, heightened by the tensions sparked by the Pupiro case, could place the government in a precarious situation if it is tempted to act without total transparency on election day. The Catholic “avenging angel” is poised to speak out again.

E Day is almost upon us

Alert to all these questions and fears and watchful of all these signs, which will probably increase right up to E Day itself, we’re preparing to analyze what happens in and around the elections.

Official Achievements
The pro-government bimonthly magazine “Correo” lists the FSLN government’s main achievements as reasons for reelecting Daniel Ortega. Among them: 36,000 houses for sectors in extreme poverty; micro-credits with zero interest to 217,000 women as part of the Zero Usury program; more than 100,000 productive bonds (animals and seeds) to peasant women and families within the Zero Hunger program; 11,349 classrooms repaired; the issuing of 136,000 property titles projected for the end of 2011; nearly 4,000 basic food distribution posts selling at low prices in 75% of the municipalities; nearly US$1.4million in agricultural credits; a monthly $30 bonus to 152,000 low-income public employees as a “salary complement”; and 10 sheets of metal roofing and 2 pounds of nails to 320,500 poor families.

Editor’s Note: As Nicaragua’s general elections are held virtually on the date the Spanish-language edition of envío goes to the printer, we’re delaying the November issue to analyze that event. We will thus combine it with the December edition, as we traditionally do every five years.

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