Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 327 | Octubre 2008




Envío team

On September 26, Attorney General Hernán Estrada presented a letter sent by Zoilamérica Narváez—who charged her stepfather Daniel Ortega with sexual abuse in March 1998—to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), requesting that her case be filed. She said she had decided to close her suit, which the IACHR accepted in 2001, because it is being taken advantage of by political parties, particularly during election periods, which “far from helping maintain a climate of peace and reconciliation among Nicaraguans, affects my family as a whole.” Her phrasing in this letter coincides with the political and pseudo-religious criteria about the case expressed by Daniel Ortega and her mother Rosario Murillo at different moments. She also said she had reached her decision in order to offer Nicaraguan society “an example of the capacity to reach understanding and reconciliation through genuine dialogue.” She added that “at the proper moment” she will inform the IACHR of “the terms of the friendly solution on which both parties [she and the Ortega government] have reached consensus.” The next day her husband declared that her decision was the fruit of her “spiritual growth,” denying any pressures by the government.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin visited Nicaragua on September 17, accompanied by the country’s energy minister and deputy foreign relations minister. The delegation arrived from a previous stop in Venezuela and was received by President Ortega. In his welcoming speech, Ortega said that Russia “continues lighting up the planet” and announced that “we want to strengthen bilateral relations between Russia and Nicaragua in all fields: social, cultural, sports, scientific, technical, commercial and military.” He added that he hoped Russia’s investment would make the dream of an inter-oceanic canal reality for Nicaragua. The following week, army chief General Omar Halleslevens confirmed that Russia had been asked for military aid to repair or replace Nicaragua’s arsenal, 90% of which is Soviet made, including planes and helicopters. The Army of Nicaragua maintains relations of cooperation with the United States, France, Spain, Mexico, Taiwan and the Central American countries.
Nicaragua is the only country other than Russia that has recognized the independence of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions, which recently separated from Georgia with Russia’s military support.

When Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled the US Ambassador to his country in mid-September and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez followed suit as an expression of solidarity, there was speculation about what President Ortega would do. His announced decision was not to attend a meeting to which President Bush had invited the Latin American Presidents during their stay in New York for the 63rd UN General Assembly. In the end, Ortega failed to attend the General Assembly session as well, even on September 23, the day he was to give his own speech. There was never any official clarification of the President’s absence. Some government spokespeople and officials said he had stayed in the country to resolve issues of national interest, among them a cooking gas scarcity (see this edition’s “The Month” article for more details).

Both President Ortega and Nicaragua’s Human Rights Ombudsperson Omar Cabezas backed the expulsion from Venezuela of Human Rights Watch director José Miguel Vivanco, with Cabezas branding him a “fascist pig criminal.” Cabezas also called Nicaragua’s Permanent Human Rights Commission (CPDH) and Human Rights Center (CENIDH) “US tentacles present in Nicaragua” for joining the dozens of Latin American human rights organizations expressing solidarity with Vivanco.

Álvaro Robelo, a former banker who abortively ran for President of Nicaragua in 1996 and has always acted as an ally of the FSLN, was linked by Lorenzo Sanz, former president of the Real Madrid soccer club, to what Spanish Police identified as the attempted swindle of $10 billion from a Banesto bank branch in Córdoba, Spain. The police discovered that four people—Sanz, a Spanish employee of his, a Panamanian and Robelo—had deposited a money order in the Banesto branch for that fictitious amount from a fictitious bank in Hong Kong, attaching a copy of legal papers of a similarly fictitious humanitarian foundation that Robelo claimed to run for “social projects in Nicaragua.” All this paperwork was allegedly to establish a
line of credit from Banesta to be used in another financial entity in some tax haven. Sanz, who was arrested once the criminal transaction was found out, claimed he had been tricked by Robelo, whom he believed because he presented himself as a diplomat. Robelo, who is currently Nicaragua’s “itinerant ambassador for special missions,” evaded the Spanish justice system by presenting his diplomatic passport. The Nicaraguan government requested an official version of Robelo’s actions from its Spanish counterpart.

President Ortega and his party’s candidates for mayor and deputy mayor in Managua celebrated the Day of the Bible on September 27 in the recently inaugurated Bible Park in Managua, together with US preacher Sonny Holland, who heads the “Preaching Christ to the Nations” Ministry, and other evangelical pastors. After their sermons, Ortega took his turn, claiming that “the Bible is the solution to personal, family, national and world problems” and promising to publish 25,000 Bibles in the Miskitu language. Although the Ministry of Government warned that, in keeping with the law, hundreds of NGOs that had not complied with their administrative procedures would be fined, Ortega promised that no transgressing evangelical NGOs would be punished, as “God cannot be fined.”

Agriculture Minister Ariel Bucardo recently highlighted one of the most damaging cultural inertias in a country where a third of the population is malnourished: only eight liters of milk are consumed in Nicaragua for every hundred liters of Coca Cola and other carbonated soft drinks. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, the annual per-capita consumption of milk should be 140 liters. In Nicaragua, a cattle-raising country, it’s between 50 and 70 liters, the smallest amount in all Latin America, Haiti included.

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