Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 192 | Julio 1997




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Francisco José Laínez, the prestigious Central Bank president in the 1960s who was named by Alemán as his Minister of Economy, resigned his post in May for what he said were 17 reasons. According to Laínez, "technicism, imposition and intolerance" reigns in the Alemán government "and the empire of the market is a dogma."
Laínez opposed the tax law and said he felt "used" and not taken into account. "I wanted to create greater efficiency, promote austerity, combat contraband, correct influence peddling and the undervaluing of imports and remove the number of exonerations provided by government functionaries because all of this could correct the fiscal deficit," he said, "but it wasn't possible and they wanted to resolve the problem with a tax reform that was unnecessary." President Alemán commented that he had been unable to pay attention to Laínez, who also recommended increasing the salary of public employees and reducing taxes.

Laínez's resignation is the first important one in the new government, and was ultimately sparked by the tax law's passage. He was replaced by Noel Sacasa who, together with Central Bank president Noel Ramírez, co-authored the tax law.

On May 1, as he had announced, President Alemán "shook the branches" of his Cabinet, replacing 2 ministers and 13 other high officials. Some of the latter were linked to Vice President Bolaños, such as Chester Noguera of the National Development Bank and Fernando Avellán of the Agrarian Reform Institute.

Both ministers, Carlos Quiñónez of Health and Blanca Rojas of Culture, said they had not been informed of the reasons they were relieved of their posts. Both reacted angrily, particularly Rojas, who called for Alemán's resignation "for incompetence." Rojas also announced that the tiny party she heads, the Central American Unionist Party (PUCA), had broken with the Liberal Alliance. In a communiqué issued on May 5, the PUCA said that the firing of Rojas and another 35 functionaries of the Institute of Culture revealed "the true arbitrary and absolutist features of Dr Alemán and his authoritarian tendency, inclined toward dictatorship and tyranny."
The new Minister of Health is Lombardo Martínez of the PLIUN, a 1980s' split from the Independent Liberal Party. The new Minister of Culture is former Social Christian Clemente Guido.

In its May convention, the remnants of Somoza's old party, the Nationalist Liberal Party (PLN), also decided to break with the Liberal Alliance and with Arnoldo Alemán himself. "Alemán commands, but doesn't govern," said PLN leader Enrique Sánchez Herdocia. "All he does is appoint and remove people from public posts." Also a National Assembly representative, Sánchez Herdocia personally broke with Alemán even before the new government was inaugurated on grounds not unlike the PUCA's, which earned him support from the FSLN bench to head the Assembly. Now, in a not-unexpected switch of tone, he is accusing Alemán of "negotiating a co-government with the FSLN" and of already seeking re-election in 2001.


On April 25, the anniversary of her inauguration in 1990, former President Violeta Chamorro spoke publicly for the first time since the change of government. In a "Message to the People of Nicaragua", which she read to journalists and published in the newspapers, she defended her administration's accomplishments and criticized the Alemán government. She particularly stressed the new government's "massive firing," right after taking office, of state technicians and professionals who had been trained with funds from international cooperation. She also criticized its plan to "control" NGOs by eliminating their tax exemption and forcing them to submit their project proposals, and its failure to hold a broad debate about the new tax law. "We should get over the idea that taking power means commanding," she said.


On May 18, in the celebration of the Pentecost, Nicaragua's bishops released a pastoral letter analyzing the national reality. With respect to the property conflicts, the bishops counseled that "those who unduly appropriated what is not theirs should honor justice by returning or paying for their ill-gotten gains" while those who "were unjustly dispossessed of their goods will contribute to the good of the nation by not trying to recover the last cent and even more of what they lost, but even by reaching the generosity of knowing how to lose something material, when this possession favors the more needy."
The letter also made one critical allusion to the government: "The appointments to public posts should not be based on friendship or kinship, or even as a prize for political work done, but on taking into account the capacity and honesty of the individuals and the best service to the national community."


The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) has set March 1 as the date for next year's elections in the North and South Autonomous Atlantic Regions (RAAN and RAAS, respectively). Coast voters will elect 45 members to the Regional Council in each of the two regions. These elections are held every 4 years. In 1994 a plurality of the 90 councilors elected were from Alemán's Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC).

The CSE estimates that over 152,000 people will vote, 60% of whom still don't have their ID-voter cards. The CSE requested 18 million córdobas (just short of $2 million) for these elections and for the provision of cards to all those on the coast as well as the Pacific side of the country who did not receive theirs in 1996. It received only 10 million córdobas.

Reforms to the Electoral Law, which was strongly questioned after the 1996 electoral crisis, must be approved before the elections. Various parties have warned of a probable fraud favoring the Liberals.

Meanwhile, Electoral Attorney General Marco Antonio Baldizón, who had to deal with all the serious limitations in the October 1996 elections, was relieved of his post. Baldizón called his firing a "settling of accounts" by the Liberal government, because he tried to take hundreds of PLC members to court for violating the Electoral Law on voting day. He even went after Alemán himself, who violated it by introducing thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, the fruit of donations, for his campaign without paying taxes or declaring it with the CSE.


Despite his party's majority in the RAAN Regional Council, Alemán is not getting on too well with Miskito leaders there. On a May 4 visit to Bilwi (the original name of Puerto Cabezas, which has been reinstituted), President Alemán found the historic flag of the Mosquitia still flying over the central park. For the first time since it flew over the Atlantic Coast in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the coast was a British protectorate loosely run by an autonomous Miskito king, the flag had been raised the day after Alemán's electoral victory.

Alemán's order that it be lowered sparked incredible tension within the Miskito Council of Elders. The council considered that Miskito dignity had been offended and held the government responsible for "any fratricidal confrontation" that might result. Representatives of 280 Miskito communities met in Bilwi on May 30 to discuss how to respond to the President's affront to the flag.

Meanwhile, on the Pacific Coast, specifically the department of León, the Council of Elders of the Subtiava people withdrew the title of "Beloved Son of Subtiava," which it had granted to Arnoldo Alemán in 1996. The Subtiavans said that the President had made himself "unworthy" of this title and had "disillusioned" them.


The Supreme Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) circulated a letter to all its members in early May asking them not to place any publicity for their businesses in the "leftist" media. In its unfortunate letter, COSEP wrote: "Businessperson: by your tolerance or that of your publicity agency, do not become an accomplice of the left, or be an artifice of your own destruction. They will hang you with the rope you give them."


After closing a number of its embassies in third world countries, the Alemán government decided to close five more in Europe (France, Great Britain, Austria, Holland and Russia), as well as six in the Americas (Canada, Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and Peru). The justification for the measure was a lack of resources. It caused concern in the community of countries that cooperate wit Nicaragua. Austria, for example, has given priority to Nicaragua in its development aid program.


Various government ministers and other functionaries paraded through the streets of Managua on May 22, to support the creation of the Ministry of the Family. Many students who also participated in the march told journalists they had been obliged to take part, and could not explain the activity's purpose.

Several weeks earlier, on April 29, thousands of women from different social groups in the women's movement had marched through the same streets to reject the creation of the same ministry, whose principles seem oriented to a moral and social conception that belongs to another era.


After a firm but careful legal battle, Comptroller General Agustín Jarquín succeeded in winning approval for substantial reforms to presidential decree 17-97. In its original language, that decree would have virtually created a second comptroller general's office, dependent on the executive branch. According to legal experts, the reforms transformed what would have been a parallel comptroller's office into one that will forecast public transparency and follow up the decisions of the Comptroller. But they also point out that this new office could make it easier for the executive branch to "hide" acts of official corruption before the Comptroller's office can investigate them.


With the exception of the President of Panama, who refused to participate, the Central American Presidents met in Costa Rica with US President Bill Clinton. The two central themes were: the situation of the illegal Central American emigrants in the United States, and Central America's incorporation into the Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico, the United States and Canada.

The result of the migration discussion was only to " sensitize" Clinton, who only promised to postpone deportations for three months. With respect to the NAFTA discussion, nothing new emerged. "There is no consensus among the Central Americans," forewarned Nicaragua's Vice Foreign Minister, "and the United States doesn't win much by signing it." The only concrete result of the meeting was an "open skies" agreement in the region, which favors US airline companies.


In the name of some 700 rearmed contras from the Northern Front 3-80, leader "Pablo Negro" signed a "peace" agreement with President Alemán on May 30. He pledged to concentrate his troops into eight "peace zones" in the north-central part of the country and disarm by July 15. The disarmament of the "recontras," promised by Alemán for February, has been repeatedly postponed with different demands. On this occasion the government pledged to incorporate the 3-80 chiefs into the National Police. José González, FSLN director in Matagalpa, holds the 3-80 responsible for over a thousand murders since the group began operatin in 1990.

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