Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 285 | Abril 2005




Nitlápan-Envío team


Dozens of impoverished peasant families, some of the men and women terminally ill from the direct and indirect effects of Nemagon and other pesticides used profusely for years in banana plantations in northwestern Nicaragua, made yet another arduous journey by foot from Chinandega to Managua in early March. As on prior occasions, they set up camp in a park across the boulevard from the presidential offices and the National Assembly, stringing hammocks under makeshift black plastic roofs and counting on solidarity for food. They are demanding indemnification from the US transnationals responsible for their physical condition as well as 227 million córdobas in health service costs from the Nicaraguan government. It is estimated that these poisons have wreaked their havoc on over 17,500 victims, many of whom have already died painful deaths, while many others can no longer work.

Those affected began their struggle 13 years ago, with virtually no response from the government and absolutely
none from the peddlers of these poisons, particularly Nemagon, which continued to be sold to Nicaragua well after it was banned in the United States. The demonstrators announced that they had organized into three groups of 30: those who would immolate themselves if their demands were not listened to, those who would be buried alive and those who would be crucified. After days of indifference and indolence, government officials signed an agreement with the peasants on March 18, pledging to provide medical, food and economic aid as well as legal backing for their demand against the transnationals.

But the protestors, now used to the government’s unkept promises, did not break camp. As of April 13, when the English edition of envío went to press, they were still there, a morbid and silent reminder to the government and legislative representatives who drive by everyday in their luxury SUVs of the impunity of transnational companies. Other protestors have added new banners, stating their solidarity with the Nemagon victims and urging legislators not to ratify CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States that promises transnational companies even greater privileges.

With it still unclear when the National Assembly will debate CAFTA and whether or not it will pass, a delegation representing the country’s most powerful business chambers and headed by the president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) visited Arnoldo Alemán at his hacienda-jail on March 18 to request that his PLC legislative bench approve the agreement. Alemán is regularly visited by a large part of the country’s political class, but this foray by representatives of the business class caught many people by surprise.

On March 28, Cardinal Obando visited the prisoner as well, to thank him for his “support” during the cardinal’s years
at the head of the archdiocese. Vice President José Rizo stated on that occasion that Alemán views the cardinal as his “confessor.”

On March 15, the PLC and FSLN benches in the National Assembly approved a reform to article 68 of the Constitution eliminating the tax exonerations previously granted to the media for the importation of spare parts and equipment as a contribution to freedom of expression and the right to information. The idea is that the National Assembly will subsequently grant such exonerations itself. The reform is known as the “Arce Law,” since it was pushed through by FSLN representative Bayardo Arce, himself once a journalist. Many of the nation’s journalists view the law as punishment for the media’s denunciation of the Ortega-Alemán pacts and the corruption of the power groups the two men represent. President Bolaños vetoed the reform, thus keeping the controversy on the front burner.

The government of Nicaragua decreed a week of official morning for the death of Pope John Paul II, the longest period anywhere on the American continent.
On April 7 Nicaragua’s National Assembly held a formal session with speeches by the papal nuncio and representatives of all parliamentary benches. Speaking for his party, Tomás Borge said, “We in the FSLN have inherited and appropriated [the pope’s] thinking and conceptions of life.” Referring to the pope’s first visit to the country on March 4, 1983, he lamented what had happened said that the Church, “in its extraordinary attitude of forgiveness,” had already pardoned the FSLN. PLC bench chief Enrique Quiñónez called Borge’s words “blasphemy.”

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