Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 279 | Octubre 2004




Nitlápan-Envío team

On October 5, ten months after the fact, President Bolaños presented to the National Assembly the presidential decree ratifying the Central America-US Free Trade Agreement finalized last December by the trade ministers of the Central American countries and the US (and recently signed by the Dominican Republic). Bolaños insisted on calling CAFTA Nicaragua’s “bridge” to progress and requested that the legislative representatives approve it as soon as possible.

But Bolaños played to a virtually empty house; this formal event was attended by none of the FSLN or PLC representatives and only two of those loyal to the President. The PLC and FSLN had agreed that there was no point debating it until after the US presidental elections, since Democratic candidate John Kerry announced months ago that he will review the text if elected. Undeterred, Bolaños’ officials have already begun to lobby for quick ratification of the agreement, starting with a meeting between Trade and Industrial Promotion Minister Mario Arana and the country’s bishops.

In mid-September, the Panamanian Public Prosecutor General’s Office announced that it will try Arnoldo Alemán, his wife, his father-in-law, his daughter and Byron Jerez, tax director during his administration, together with other front men from both families, for the crime of money laundering. It accused them of using 40 accounts in 12 Panamanian banks to transfer money to “paper” companies and other banks in other countries. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, this mafia allegedly laundered some US$60 million over a five-year period.

Alemán’s wife and lawyer traveled to Panama in early October to learn more about the case, declaring that only Byron Jerez was implicated in these banking operations and that there was no case against Alemán.

Nicaraguan Attorney General Alberto Novoa believes this money must be given up for lost, since all tracks were covered up. While Panama has frozen some money from these operations, Nicaragua cannot expect to recover that either, since it will remain in the coffers of the country where the crime was committed.

Daniel Ortega praised the Prosecutor’s Office for its move, especially because it reminds Bolaños that an accusation of electoral crimes is hanging over his year (for financing his campaign with undeclared funds allegedly embezzled from the state).

As of mid-october, Arnoldo Alemán, sentenced to 20 years in prison for serious acts of corruption, began his fifth month in a comfortable private ward of Managua’s Military Hospital, alleging protracted convalescence following minor surgery on two
fingers of his right hand. The head and other officials of the penitentiary system who are in charge of guarding the prisoner complained in mid-September that members of Alemán’s family were arrogantly demanding to visit him at any hour of the day and staying well beyond the time established. They also explained that the visits involved the introduction of liquor into the hospital, that Alemán typically received more than 10 visits a day and and they were deluged every day with over 100 requests for visits. They said that a team of five—a doctor, a nurse and three personal assistants—provide round-the-clock services to Alemán in his hospital “prison,” all of course at the taxpayers’ expense.

It is no secret that from his hospital bed Alemán continues to direct the national PLC structures and control all steps taken by the PLC bench in the National Assembly, PLC justices in the Supreme Court, PLC magistrates in the Supreme Electoral Council and PLC comptrollers in the Comptroller General’s Office.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) presented its new Human Development Report in Managua on September 29. In the latest of the global analyses it has been preparing annually since 1990, Nicaragua occupies 118th place among the countries included, up from 121st in last year’s report.

Some minimal progress was documented, for example, in narrowing the enormous income inequality between the few wealthy and the many poor. According to last year’s report, the poorest 10% of Nicaraguans received only 0.7% of the national wealth, while the wealthiest 10% enjoyed 48.8%, whereas the new report shows the poorest 10% receiving 1.2% and the wealthiest 45%. Cutting the sample slice a little thicker, the poorest 20% of Nicaraguans got 2.3% in last year’s report and 3.6% in the new report, while the wealthiest 20% got 63.6% and 59.7%, respectively.

Nicaraguans set aside their political infighting and their economic woes on October 2 to see Nicaragua’s Ricardo “Killer” Mayorga return to New York “with hatred,” according to his publicity, to defend his world boxing title against Puerto Rico’s Félix Trinidad. Those watching at home, in bars and casinos around the country froze as they saw Mayorga KOed in the eighth round.

Shortly before the fight, Mayorga had been acused of forcing a young woman with blows and other violence to have anal sex after she refused to consent to it. He was arrested within hours, but only a few hours after that boarded a plane for New York with cheerful waves and no indication of remorse after manager Don King had insisted that millions of dollars in earnings and bets were riding on the scheduled fight.

It is very likely that money was paid under the table to someone in government for Mayorga’s immediate release and permission to leave the country. We should not forget that Don King, like Mayorga a boxing gangster and ex-convict, was given the keys to Managua by Mayor Herty Lewites last year, not to mention various plaques from President Bolaños in recognition ofKing’s “love of Nicaragua.” In one of them, Bolaños named him nothing short of “honorable Cabinet member.”

Mayorga’s case polarized the country. On one side, encouraged by sports commentators, men—and women as well—expressed unconditional support for the champion and “national hero,” rejected his accuser (she had “asked for it” by going out alone at night with a man), shrugged off the crime (of course she knew what he was going to do), and made light of the law (let him fight first, then put him on trial; you can’t deny Nicas the emotion of this fight they’ve been waiting for).

On the other side, women—and men as well—criticized the macho boasting and vulgarity on which Mayorga has built his identity and reflected on rape, recognizing, perhaps for the first time publicly and in the media, that it can happen to a prostitute and even within marriage. It is hard to tell who “won” this round in an ongoing cultural and ethical fight.

Mayorga returned to Nicaragua four days after the fight and appeared before the judge. After a series of irregularites, she freed him on the equivalent of less than $10,000 in bail pending trial. Mayorga’s fans gathered in front of the court to acclaim him and insult the young woman who accused him, while women from the Network of Women against Violence held up banners and chanted slogans demanding an end to impunity in sex crime cases, as they had nights earlier in a number of public places in Managua broadcasting the match.

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