Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 202 | Mayo 1998




Envío team


On a lonely Pacific Coast beach of the department of Rivas in mid-April, a little before the "presidential drug jet" scandal broke, the National Police captured 1,640 kilos of cocaine which were on their way to the United States. Valued at about $50 million, it is the biggest drug bust in the nation's history. Four Colombians were captured on the high seas and a Guatemalan and a well-known Nicaraguan doctor were picked up on land and charged with the smuggling. The drugs were mixed in with weapons and vehicle spare parts.

Days later, Supreme Court Justice Francisco Rosales charged that drug trafficking rings are hurriedly buying up both private and state lands on both of Nicaragua's coasts.


A group of 19 citizens from different political origins made its debut with the publication of a "Declaration of Civic Participation." The document denounces the development model adopted in the country and the personalism prevailing in politics. Its authors pledge to work on a pluralist reflection that will hopefully lead to the formulation of valid proposals for the nation. Among the members of this new group are former Supreme Electoral Council president Mariano Fiallos, UNAG president Daniel Núñez, former minister of education Carlos Tunnerman, former rector of the National Autonomous University Alejandro Serrano Caldera, and minister of the presidency during the Chamorro government Antonio Lacayo.

In their declaration the members of this new reflection group stated, among other things: "Without failing to recognize some achievements, the general signs with respect to social justice, equity and morality in the exercise of public office are not the most stimulating. Nor is the political model, which seems to be progressively established around groups of power and strong men and would seem to be a retooling of practices of the past that it would be better to irreversibly move beyond.... The mission of the principal political protagonists denotes a worrisome inconsistency and ranges between confrontation, one of whose characteristics is empty and degrading verbal violence, and upper-echelon pacts, which benefit personal and group interests more than the general interests of the nation."


By executive decree, President Alemán created a new "superministry": the Interministerial Competitiveness Commission, whose mission will be to coordinate the privatizations the state is carrying out as well as relations between the state and the private sector. Alemán named Arturo Harding as the executive secretary of this new commission. Harding was the comptroller general during the last years of the Chamorro government, a post in which he was strongly questioned for his inoperativeness in the tasks of auditing the use of public goods.


The wage demand of physicians employed in the public health system, which started with sporadic protests in mid- February, escalated into a full-fledged strike paralyzing state hospitals around the country that has continued throughout April and into May. The doctors' initial demand was for a 1,000% wage increase, but over time they have lowered it to 200% after repeated clashes with Ministry of Health negotiators who held to the government's unyielding line. At the end of April, Cardinal Obando y Bravo began to play a role as mediator in the government- doctor negotiations. The doctors also requested the mediation of Carmelo Angulo, representative of the UN Development Program in Nicaragua, but President Alemán rejected the idea. On May 6, the government proposed a 100% increase, in response to which the doctors threatened to escalate their protest activities. So far the doctors' protests have been characterized by unity, collegiate leadership and carefully non-political statements. Although other sectors supporting the doctors hope that any gains will open a breach in the government's intransigent wage freeze policy for other state employees, the doctors themselves have maintained a fairly elite line to explain why they have a right to a salary increase.


In a communiqué made public on April 28, the Nicaraguan Bishops' Conference expressed its consternation at the assassination in Guatemala of Bishop Juan Gerardi. "The bishops of Nicaragua," says the communiqué, "demand of the authorities of the Republic of Guatemala that this shameful murder be clarified in an exemplary manner; impunity in any part of the Central American area directly affects the security of all inhabitants of the region."


The conclusions of the XII Central American Psychiatry Congress, held in Honduras at the beginning of April, are that 30% of the 33 million Central Americans suffer mental problems ranging from chronic depressive states to insanity. In Nicaragua and Honduras, this index is even more alarming, in that it is estimated to reach 50% of the population. The Congress noted that the critical socioeconomic conditions in the region have a lot to do with the increase in psychiatric disorders suffered by its populations.

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