Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 348 | Julio 2010




Envío team

The Army of Nicaragua announced on June 18 that the National Humanitarian De-mining Program begun 21 years ago has finally concluded, leaving Nicaragua free of mines. As a result of the program, 12 million square meters of territory in 74 of Nicaragua’s 153 municipalities were cleared of anti-personnel mines, directly and indirectly benefiting 2.5 million people. During the program, 179,970 mines were removed and 1,029 mined objectives were cleared, including 70 bridges, 378 high-tension electricity towers, 2 air strips, 7 hydroelectric stations, and 6 tele-communications repeaters. Also cleared were 33 mine-ringed areas and 533 minefields in border and seaboard areas, including 313 kilometers of the border with Honduras and 96 of the border with Costa Rica. In compliance with the 1997 Ottawa Convention, the army also destroyed 133,000 anti-personnel mines stored in its arsenals. During the de-mining works, six army zappers were killed and 44 injured, while 84 civilians were killed and 1,234 injured by mines not yet deactivated. The program cost over $81 million, which was largely paid for by the Organization of American States, as well as several countries. Nicaragua contributed $15 million.

July 1 was the first anniversary of the fatal shooting of world triple crown boxing champion Alexis Argüello, the most famous and beloved figure of Nicaragua’s sports world. At the time of his death he was mayor of Managua, after running on the FSLN ticket in elections shrouded in accusations of electoral fraud. While Argüello’s oldest daughter Dora is still demanding an exhumation of his body and rejects the official forensic findings that he committed suicide, the government built a statue to him in the center of Managua. Argüello’s children made strong statements in the days leading up to the anniversary. “I’m convinced they came to kill my father,” declared Dora, whose position is backed up by her siblings—Argüello’s older children, who like Dora live in the United States—and the boxer’s younger children from a second marriage. “Alexis’ children do not support what the government is doing, defiling and dirtying the name of our father,” declared Dora. “We know he’s the sporting glory of this country, but we want no recognition from Mr. Daniel Ortega.” One of her brothers added from the United States: “They were taking power away from him. When they realized he was going to hold a press conference the following day to tell all the people he was going to resign, someone pulled the trigger, but it wasn’t him.” The governing party allegedly sought to prevent that conference due to the high political cost it would have had.

Gary Kasparov, who was world chess champion between 1985 and 2000 and retired from the sport five years later, visited Managua on June 5 at the invitation of the Nicaraguan Chess Federation. Kasparov gave journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro an interesting interview, in which he explained the dual purpose of his visit to Nicaragua. The first was to drum up votes for his fiercest rival at the chess board, Anatoli Karpov, for president of the International Chess Federation, controlled for the past 15 years by someone Kasparov considers a “peon of the Kremlin.” The second was to publicize his political struggle to democratize Russia and denounce the administration of it prime minister and former president Vladimir Putin. In the interview, Kasparov explained that “we aren’t trying to win elections in Russia; we’re trying to hold elections. We’re struggling to get the country back to being a normal democracy. For me it’s a moral imperative…. People still don’t recognize that, by current standards, Russia doesn’t belong to the community of democratic States…. The Russian economy is in a terrible state. The infrastructure, which dates back to the Soviet era, is falling apart. These are the true results of 10 years of Putin in power. And another visible result is that Russia has the second largest number of billionaires in the world. When Putin set foot in the Kremlin there wasn’t a single Russian on the Forbes list. Now there are nearly 100.”

On June 23, the president of Nicaragua’s Central Bank announced that the IMF will finally conduct the fourth and fifth review of its program with Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan government wants this program extended until 2011, but the IMF is still concerned about the presidential measure that caused it to postpone its mission’s visit to Nicaragua for the fourth review: a monthly bonus equivalent to some $25 that President Ortega decided to issue between June and December to nearly 200,000 low-paid public employees using privately-managed Venezuelan resources. The IMF is concerned not only about the effects of this amount of money on the national economy, but also the contempt for institutionality represented by the measure. The IMF is requiring various adjustments in exchange for endorsing the program, the most sensitive of which is a profound reform of the Social Security System.

A one-hour session of the UN Human Rights Council—the world’s main human rights forum—was held in Geneva on June 9 to evaluate Nicaragua’s compliance with the recommendations the Council made following its Universal Periodic Examination of that UN member State in February. The Ortega government sent a very low-level delegation to Geneva to present its official report while the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) presented an alternative report. The Nicaraguan State rejected the majority of February’s recommendations, which included adherence to the Treaty of Rome, which created the International Criminal Court, and to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). It also again refused to reinstate therapeutic abortion, arguing that it is an issue of “national sovereignty.” Another set of rejected recommendations related to restoring the independence of the judicial branch. In her intervention, CENIDH President Vilma Núñez said that “after the February session, the State has shown no change of attitude toward implementing the recommendations…. As an example, we cite that the hardly transparent mechanisms and procedures that led to the 2008 electoral fraud remained for the [Caribbean Coast] regional elections of 2010 and threaten the legitimacy of the 2011 general elections.” CENIDH also charged that “violence against women in all its forms continues, as evidenced by the treatment suffered recently by the inmates of La Esperanza [women’s] penitentiary.” It documented this charge with the case of Isolda Herrera, a detainee who denounced to CENIDH that on April 5 all inmates were lined up and sent in groups of six for a body check that included being stripped naked and made to do three back squats before six female officials who then subjected them to a vaginal inspection. In November 2006, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that vaginal inspection must be considered a sexual violation and an act of torture that violates women’s human rights.

In mid-June, the Network of Women against Violence presented an analysis of the feminicides committed in Nicaragua in the first six months of this year, all of them cruel and vicious: half of the 38 women had been raped and decapitated or dismembered; a quarter were poisoned and an equal number hung or garroted. Twenty-two of the 30 known killers are still fugitives, demonstrating that their capture is not a priority for the authorities. The Network noted that the use of mediation is becoming commonplace when women charge that they are suffering violence, arguing that this exposes the women to greater violence and even death. According to the Matagalpa-based Grupo Venancia, only 3 of every 100 charges of violence filed by women ever get to court.

In 2006, the latest study to determine the degree of drug addiction among the Nicaraguan population discovered that 27% has some sort of dependence, with use initiated at very early ages: 12 to 13 years old. This percentage means that over a million of the 235 million addicts in the world are Nicaraguan. The drugs considered were cocaine in all its forms, marihuana, glue and also alcohol, nicotine and some medications. A related aspect is that it has been calculated empirically that 75% of the assaults, murders, suicides and rapes committed in Nicaragua are by people under the effect of some kind of drug.

Julissa Reynoso, the US Department of State’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central American and Caribbean Affairs, visited Nicaragua in the third week of June and met with President Ortega and a large part of the national political class. In an extensive interview with the daily newspaper La Prensa, Reynoso assured that “we have no candidate, although of course we support the process. If the Nicaraguan population decides to support Mr. Alemán or Mr. Ortega or Mr. X, that is your decision. The point is that we have no opinion, affirmative or negative, positive or any other way, regarding any of the candidates that could be viable in the coming year.”

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