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Nicaragua - GOVERNMENT

Nicaragua - Government


ON FEBRUARY 25, 1990, Nicaragua's voters elected Violeta Barrios de Chamorro as president, ending ten years of government by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional--FSLN). The choice was a dramatic one because voters hoped that the new government of the newly formed National Opposition Union (Unión Nacional Opositora--UNO) would bring an end to more than a decade of civil conflict and the harsh sectarianism of the Sandinista years and improve the rapidly deteriorating economy. In her predawn acceptance speech the morning after her election, President-elect Chamorro tried to establish a climate of reconciliation, stating that there were neither victors nor vanquished in the election. Soon after, recognizing the FSLN "as the second political force of the nation," she stated her commitment to respect the will of the 40 percent of the people who had voted for the FSLN. The losing candidate, President Daniel José Ortega Saavedra, about two hours later foreswore the FSLN's self-image as a "vanguard party" and delineated the FSLN's future role as a strong, but loyal, opposition party. Rhetorically, at least, the stage seemed set for the cooperation between the two camps needed to bring about economic recovery.

Almost three years later, however, efforts to move the country toward peace and prosperity seemed stalled. Although the Chamorro government continued to stress that it intended to achieve reconciliation, President Chamorro has had the full cooperation of neither the Sandinistas nor her own coalition. Instead, in early 1993 the government faced the dilemma of dealing with a Sandinista opposition that viewed reconciliation as a means of protecting its rights to confiscated property and a powerful element of the UNO coalition that viewed those property rights as ill-gotten gains and urged strong action against the Sandinistas to recover that property.

Whether the new government is consolidating democracy or reverting to the traditional authoritarian and elitist style of Nicaraguan politics is a central issue. President Chamorro's cooperation with the Sandinistas, particularly her decision to retain Humberto Ortega Saavedra as head of the army, has led her supporters to accuse her of capitulating and establishing a "cogovernment " with the defeated Sandinistas, rather than reforming the political system in cooperation with her electoral partners. Her government also has been accused by members of the UNO coalition of excessively concentrating power in the hands of a small group of members of her extended family, promoting the same brand of government practiced under the Somoza family dynasty: centralizing power in a small group instead of expanding it in a democratic fashion. Finally, the UNO has been criticized for failing to promote the concept of democracy at a grassroots level. Nevertheless, the distribution of power for the first time to the municipal level through the 1990 elections has created a new class of political officials who are struggling to assert power at a grassroots level. The Sandinistas also have continued the grassroots organizing efforts that originally brought them to power. Both phenomena hold promise, as well as dangers, for the future democratic of democracy in Nicaragua.





The Chamorro victory in the 1990 elections surprised most of the participants and many observers, both domestic and international. Many Nicaraguans did not view Chamorro as a politician and found her unprepared a for leadership role. The election date had been advanced nine months by the Sandinistas from the constitutionally set month of November 1990. This decision was taken in response to the meeting of representatives of the Nicaraguan government with the Nicaraguan Resistance (commonly referred to as Contras--short for contrarevolucionarios) at Sapoá. The talks represented a Sandinista effort to secure a definitive end to United States assistance to the Contras and an end to the civil conflict that was debilitating the economy and eroding the Sandinistas' base of support. The talks seemed designed to project the Sandinistas' image as peacemakers, and the Sandinista leadership was confident of winning the upcoming election.

From the moment on election night that the UNO victory was evident, there was widespread fear that the Sandinistas would block the Chamorro government from taking power. In hopes of securing a stable transition, Chamorro took a conciliatory approach toward the defeated Sandinistas. The three most influential international groups that came to observe the elections became a crucial element in ensuring a peaceful transition. Nevertheless, the negotiated transition created problems that would haunt the Chamorro government through at least the early years of its existence.

Negotiations on the transition began on February 27, 1990, in Managua. A meeting between the FSLN and UNO leaders took place in the presence of former United States president Jimmy Carter, Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General João Baena Soares, and the head of the United Nations (UN) electoral mission, former United States attorney general Elliott Richardson. The Nicaraguan parties agreed to continue negotiations on important transition issues and named two chief negotiators: Antonio Lacayo Oyanguren, Chamorro's son-in-law and campaign manager for UNO; and Humberto Ortega Saavedra, minister of defense and President Ortega's brother, for the FSLN.

Negotiations between UNO and the Sandinistas led to a series of arrangements on amnesty, property, and media laws, as well as a Protocol on Procedures for the Transfer of Presidential Powers, signed by representatives of the UNO and the FSLN, one month after the elections. The agreement gave the Sandinistas on March 27, guarantees that the changes they had instituted in their eleven years in power would not be overturned. The protocol pledged to carry out efforts toward reconciliation "on the basis of a national understanding that will take into account the achievements and transformations implemented thus far for the people's benefit, and all must be based on full respect for rights, Nicaragua's Constitution, and the laws of the Republic."

Specific guarantees were given on property rights: the protocol provided "tranquility and legal security to the Nicaraguan families who have benefited from grants of urban and rural properties by the state before 25 February 1990, harmonizing such grants with the legitimate legal rights of Nicaraguans whose property was affected, for which purpose actions must be taken according to law. Methods to provide adequate compensation to those who may be affected will be established." The protocol also provided guarantees of job stability to government officials and employees "on the basis of their efficiency, administrative honesty, and years of service. . ."

On paper at least, the Chamorro government secured guarantees that the military would submit to civilian rule, that it would be amenable to restructuring and downsizing, and that it would be nonpartisan because members on active duty would not be allowed to hold leadership posts in political parties. The Sandinistas, however, obtained guarantees of their continued control of the military because the protocol provided for respect "for the integrity and professionalism of the Sandinista People's Army (Ejército Popular Sandinista--EPS) and of the forces of public order as well as for their ranks [hierarchy and], promotion roster, and . . . [command structure] in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of the Republic . . .." These guarantees were confirmed on inauguration day, April 25, 1990, by President Chamorro's decision to retain the Sandinista minister of defense, General Humberto Ortega Saavedra, as army chief.

These transition agreements formed the basis for the relationship between the outgoing Sandinista and the incoming Chamorro governments. They facilitated a peaceful transfer of power. Along with the follow-up "transition" laws that the lameduck Sandinista-dominated National Assembly passed in the interregnum before Chamorro's inauguration, the transition agreements became part of the legal structure under which the Chamorro government would operate. In the first months of the Chamorro regime, the transition agreements provided the basis for Sandinista challenges on the scope and interpretation of laws. They also created a rift between the Chamorro government and most of the leaders of the coalition that had supported it, who charged that the Chamorro team had made unnecessary and detrimental concessions to the FSLN. The Chamorro government, however, argued that its options were limited. It had inherited a Sandinista-constructed constitutional and legal system and owed its existence to the Sandinista revolutionary process; its existence was not the result of a military victory that would have enabled to construction of a new political system that may have been more to its constituents' liking.




The Nicaraguan Constitution promulgated on January 1, 1987 provided the final step in the institutionalization of the Sandinista regime and the framework under which the Chamorro government would take office. It was the ninth constitution in Nicaraguan history. The Sandinistas' revolutionary mythology and aspirations were glorified in the preamble, and the Nicaraguan army was constitutionally named the Sandinista People's Army. Yet, even though drafted and approved by a Sandinista-dominated assembly, the constitution was not a revolutionary document. It established a democratic system of government with a mixed economy based on a separation of powers that could guarantee civil liberties. There was some discontent with parts of the new system. Early objections were raised that the executive branch was too strong, that property rights were not adequately protected, and that some of the language was vague and subject to widely differing interpretations. These objections continued to be an issue under the Chamorro government.

The Executive

The constitution provides for a strong executive branch, although the legislative and judicial branches retain significant powers of their own. Under the constitution, the president has broader powers than does the president of the United States. The president is commander in chief of the military, has the power to appoint all ministers and vice ministers of his or her cabinet, and proposes a national budget. The executive shares legislative powers that allow him or her to enact executive decrees with the force of law in fiscal and administrative matters, as well as to promulgate regulations to implement the laws. The president assumes legislative powers when the National Assembly is in recess. He or she has extraordinary powers during national emergencies, including the powers to suspend basic civil liberties and to prepare and approve the national budget.

The president's term was set at six years by a decree promulgated in January 1984, during the period when the country had no constitution. Elections held under that decree resulted in Daniel José Ortega Saavedra's beginning a term as president on January 10, 1985. The 1987 Constitution reaffirmed a six-year term for the president. Esquipulas II, the international peace accord that ended the Contra insurgency, however, set February 25, 1990 as the date for the next election. Violeta Chamorro assumed the post of president on April 25, 1990, more than eight months before the constitutionally mandated date of January 10, 1991. It was understood that Chamorro would serve for the additional eight-month period created by the advanced elections, as well as for the full six-year term from January 10, 1991 to January 10, 1997. The next elections are scheduled for late 1996, although pressure has been mounting for these elections, to be advanced also.

The Legislature

The 1987 constitution replaced the bicameral Congress, which had existed under previous constitutions, with a unicameral National Assembly. The makeup of the National Assembly, first established under the 1984 decree and confirmed by the 1987 constitution, consists of ninety members directly elected by a system of proportional representation plus any unelected presidential or vice presidential candidates who receive a certain percentage of the vote. In 1985 the National Assembly had ninety-six members and in 1990, ninety-two. Terms are for six years, to run concurrently with the president's term.

The National Assembly has significant powers, and its cooperation is essential for the smooth functioning of the government. Under the constitution, representatives to the National Assembly propose legislation, which is made law by a simple majority of the representatives present if the National Assembly has a quorum (a quorum is half the total number of representatives, plus one) The National Assembly can override a presidential veto by quorum. The constitution also gives the National Assembly the power "to consider, discuss and approve" the budget presented by president. The National Assembly chooses the seven members of the Supreme Court from lists provided by the president and has the authority to "officially interpret the laws," a prerogative that gives the National Assembly judicial powers.

The Chamorro administration has faced a legislature that, despite its division between the Sandinista members and the members of the UNO coalition, has proved a formidable power in its own right--and one with which the executive branch is often in conflict. In the 1990 elections, of the ninety-two seats in the National Assembly, the UNO won fifty-one and the FSLN gained thirty-nine. The FSLN won thirty-eight seats in assembly races, and President Ortega was given a seat under the provision granting a seat to each losing presidential candidate who earns a certain percentage of the vote. Two other parties of the ten on the ballot gained single seats. One was won by the Christian Social Party (Partido Social Cristiano--PSC) in a legislative race; another was awarded to the losing presidential candidate of the Revolutionary Unity Movement (Movimiento de Unidad Revolucionaria--MUR), a breakaway faction of the FSLN. The only significant brake on UNO's power was that its majority of 55 percent fell short of the 60 percent needed to amend the Sandinista-approved constitution, a goal of some members of the UNO coalition. The slim UNO majority also presented practical problems for the UNO president because it was possible for relatively few defections from the UNO coalition to undermine the UNO government's programs and initiatives.

The Judiciary

Under the 1987 constitution, the Supreme Court is an independent branch of government, whose members are selected for six-year terms by the National Assembly from lists submitted by the president. From among those members, the president selects the head of the Supreme Court. The constitution also provides that the Supreme Court justices appoint judges to the lower courts. Supreme Court justices can only be removed constitutionally "for reasons determined by law."

In National Assembly-approved 1990 reforms to the Organic Law of Tribunals, the Chamorro government enlarged the Supreme Court's membership from the constitutionally mandated seven justices to nine, as a way of breaking what was perceived as Sandinista domination of the court. Those seven members had been appointed to their six-year terms in December 1987, and their terms were to expire in 1993. In 1990 President Chamorro also dismissed the court's Sandinista-appointed head and replaced him with one of her own choosing. The evaluation of this act depended on one's political point of view. According to Nicaraguan analysts, the nine-member court decided that it would take decisions only on the basis of consensus, a procedure some saw as guaranteeing Sandinista influence on the court, others saw as neutralizing Sandinista influence, and still others saw as effectively paralyzing the operations of the court.

Local Government

Municipal governments have introduced a new element to Nicaraguan politics that promises to substantially decentralize political power and influence. Established by the Law on Municipalities adopted by the Sandinista National Assembly in August 1988, the first municipal governments were selected in 1990. The municipal government structure with basic governing authority is the Municipal Council (Consejo Municipal). Under the provisions of the law, citizens vote directly for council members; the number of these depends on the size of the cities. Once elected, council members select their own leader, the mayor, who serves with their approval.

Administratively, Nicaragua is divided into nine regions, which are subdivided into seventeen departments (fifteen full departments and two autonomous regions in the Caribbean lowlands that are treated as departments). In 1992 the country had 143 municipal units of varying sizes. Of the municipal units, fifteen were cities with populations estimated at more than 50,000; Managua, the capital city, was the largest, with an estimated 1.5 million inhabitants. Of the remaining municipal units, thirty were cities with populations estimated between 20,000 and 50,000, twenty-three were towns of 10,000 to 20,000 inhabitants, and seventy-two had fewer than 10,000 inhabitants. The number of council members is based on the number of inhabitants; in 1992 Managua had the most, with twenty council members. Cities that are department capitals or have 20,000 or more in population have ten council members; towns with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants have five.

The responsibilities and powers of the municipal governments and their method of conduct are based on constitutional provisions and on the 1988 Law on Municipalities. Article 176 of the constitution provides that the municipality is the "basic unit" of the administrative political divisions of the country. Article 177 provides that municipal authorities "enjoy autonomy without detriment to the faculties of the central government." The Law on Municipalities enumerates the responsibilities of the municipal government, specifies its taxing powers, and establishes rules for its functioning. Among the responsibilities are control of urban development; use of the land, sanitation, rainwater drainage, and environmental protection; construction and maintenance of roads, parks, sidewalks, plazas, bridges, recreational areas, and cemeteries; verification of weights and measures; and establishment of museums, libraries, and other cultural activities. As is true in the United States, the primary taxing power of municipal governments is assessment on property, including houses and vehicles.

Public Administration

Nicaragua's public employees are not perceived as civil servants; new appointments are usually made on the basis of political patronage rather than through a selection system based on merit. Nevertheless, both the Sandinista government and the Chamorro government have respected the positions of those whom they found occupying public administration posts when each successive government took power. The primary motive of the Sandinista government, which took power after a revolution, may have been expediency, as it needed at least a core of persons who had occupied posts under the previous Somoza administration to instruct it in the workings of the government. In the case of the Chamorro government, the position of public employees was guaranteed by the transition pacts and was protected by law.

Public employee ranks include not only office workers but also medical and other professional personnel hired by the Sandinista government to work in public programs and state-owned businesses. Soon after the Chamorro government took power, the number of public employees was estimated in newspaper accounts at 150,000, most of whom were Sandinistas. Efforts to restructure the laws to eliminate some public employees led to a strike in May 1990. When the Chamorro government sought in early 1991 to cut the number of public employees, it had to offer incentives for workers who volunteered to leave, as well as additional incentives for businesses to hire former government workers or for the workers themselves to set up private enterprises. By the time the severance program expired in April 1992, some 23,000 workers had resigned to take advantage of the plan, and some 20,000 soldiers and police officers has been dismissed.


Nicaragua - POLITICS


Conflict Between the Executive and Legislative Branches

Almost from the day it took power, the Chamorro government was a stepchild. All groups recognized the necessity of a relationship with the Chamorro government, but even though Violeta Barrios de Chamorro personified the Nicaraguan people's desire for peace, neither the UNO nor the FSLN recognized the government as the legitimate representative of its political, social, and economic aspirations for Nicaragua. The strong constitutional powers of the executive branch theoretically should have given the president adequate control over the political and economic systems, but the transition agreements left the Sandinistas with control over the military and the police, thus curtailing the executive branch's power of coercion. The Sandinistas also continued to control the strongest labor unions, which became a powerful political bloc on the issue of economic reforms. Although increasingly divided, the Sandinistas provided, as Daniel Ortega had warned in his concession speech, a critical opposition that limited the government's range of action.

The president was further weakened by her estrangement from the political and economic coalition that had supported her during the election. Distrust initially was sparked by the transition agreements, which much of the UNO viewed as too accommodating to a political movement that had lost an election and would lose further support when no longer in power. The political parties composing the UNO coalition were quick to establish their own bases of support within the legislature and the municipalities. Although few of the parties reached for grassroots support, whatever was developed was done so by legislators and municipal officials to enhance their personal power bases or for their own parties, not for the central government or the UNO coalition. From the beginning of the Chamorro administration, UNO leaders were critical of the tight family networks that controlled the executive branch they began to accuse the president of nepotism and criticize the government for using its prerogatives for private gain.

Other influential voices on all sides also opposed the Chamorro government. Most of the media and the university leadership were joined with opposition forces of either the UNO coalition or the Sandinistas. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, which had forcefully contested the Sandinista government, also began strongly criticizing the Chamorro administration. Groups of businesspeople and farmers, the unemployed (including former Contras and dismissed Sandinista soldiers), and the unions all entered, sometimes violently, the contest over the future shape of the economy, property ownership, and the redistribution of wealth and land.

Although in stable, democratic countries the panorama would appear to be no more than the normal cacophony of competing voices, in Nicaragua the stakes were high. At issue was the government's ability to stimulate a war-torn, depressed economy in which nearly half of the population of 4 million was unemployed or underemployed by early 1992. Also at issue was the government's capacity to institutionalize democratic attitudes and procedures. Different political parties, interest groups, and other influential voices all had their own visions of what form the economy and a democratic government should take and what each group's share and role in both should be. Rather than leading the country, the Chamorro government was compelled to act as a broker among competing interests in resolving the two central issues of her early administration: the resolution of property issues and the establishment of peace through the demobilization and resettlement of the Contras and the Sandinista military.

Dispute over Property Rights

The dominant political issue in Nicaragua during the early years of the Chamorro government became the Piñata--the massive transfer and titling of confiscated and expropriated property, including homes, agricultural plots, and businesses, which the Sandinista government conducted during the interim lame-duck period between the February 1990 election and Chamorro's inauguration in April 1990. Named after the candystuffed papier-mâché figures that are hung for children to strike with sticks and break open, the Piñata created divisions and resentments throughout the political order. Within the Sandinista movement, rancor arose as the Piñata created new classes of "haves" and "have-nots." Within the UNO, it progressively became one of the more divisive issues as the executive branch of the Chamorro administration sought to protect the titles of the transfer and UNO groups within the National Assembly sought to invalidate them.

Law 85 and Law 86, the two Piñata laws passed by the Sandinista-dominated National Assembly during the transition period, not only guaranteed the rights of squatters and tens of thousands of small farmers given land under the Sandinista agrarian reform, but also allowed Sandinistas to appropriate much other state-owned property. Estimates of the amount of property transferred ranged between US$300 million and US$2 billion. The property reportedly included thousands of "good to luxury homes," including beach houses, that were titled to Sandinistas at a small fraction of their value. Also given away were large stateowned properties such as cattle ranches, warehouses, and office buildings; state-owned businesses; and smaller items such as cars, taxis, trucks, machinery, office furniture, and equipment, including radio and television transmission towers. In what one Nicaraguan referred to as a private Piñata, the Central Bank of Nicaraguan (Banco Central de Nicaragua) transferred to Daniel Ortega and his close associates some US$24 million during the last three weeks of the Sandinista government. The result was the instant creation of a propertied and entrepreneurial class of Sandinistas and resentment from the poorer and mid-level Sandinistas who got little or nothing.

The issue of dealing with the Piñata became a political battlefront in 1991, when conservative members of the National Assembly sponsored a proposal to revoke the Piñata laws. In June 1991, the National Assembly voted to pass the matter to the Economic Commission for study, a move that sparked debate and protest from the executive branch because deciding the issue in a legislative commission would preempt negotiation among farmers, trade unions, and businesses over the resolution of property issues. The move also marked the emergence of National Assembly president Alfredo César Aguirre, one of the primary architects of the reconciliation policy toward the Sandinistas, as the leader of the legislative challenge to the executive branch's position.

As a result of reconciliation negotiations, President Chamorro decreed two laws that would allow residents to keep homes awarded them in the Piñata if they owned no others. They also would have to pay market value for the houses if they chose to sell them or convert them to rental property. In response to the president's action, the next day the National Assembly passed an alternative plan, Law 133, by a vote of fifty-two to thirtynine . Law 133 confirmed transfer of small homes and agrarian properties but required those who had received homes worth more than US$11,600 and farms larger than thirty-four hectares to pay market value for them within three months. The action by the National Assembly nullified the president's decrees of the previous day. The assembly vote in favor of law 133 was composed of all fifty-one UNO deputies and one independent; the thirtynine votes against it were from the entire Sandinista delegation in the first parliamentary session they had attended since the property law was introduced in June.

On September 11, 1991, President Chamorro vetoed as unconstitutional twenty-one of thirty-two clauses in the new property law. On December 10, a group of nine deputies from the UNO and the Sandinista delegation, calling itself the "Center Group," (Grupo de Centro--GC) demanded a vote on the veto. When the vote was held four days later, several of the UNO deputies of that group and the delegation of thirty-nine Sandinistas voted to support the presidential veto, touching off accusations that the executive branch had bought the UNO votes.

The conflict was defined by principal players as an important step in the process of establishing a state of law. National Assembly president Alfredo César Aguirre viewed invalidating the property title transfer as essential for preserving respect for written agreements because he felt the Sandinistas had abused the transition period by passing laws that contravened the transition agreements. Minister of Presidency Antonio Lacayo countered that the government was bound to respect the laws transferring title passed by the Sandinista assembly because that assembly had the legal authority to pass those laws, despite its lame-duck status. To revoke those titles, he argued, would be to approve ex-post- facto laws and undermine respect for proper law passage.

More important, however, was how the land-transfer issue catalyzed change in both the Sandinista movement and the UNO coalition. The Piñata was pointed to as one of the major causes of the vocal demands for democratization within the Sandinista movement and one of the principal reasons for the disaffection of mid-level and lower-ranking Sandinistas who sought new political alternatives. The Piñata also appeared to be one of the major causes of the solidification of the UNO bloc in the National Assembly, which became a significant source of power and a weighty counterpoint to the Chamorro government.

The threat to the Sandinistas was multifold, both materially and politically. Reflecting the seriousness of the problem, when the legislation to repeal the land transfer was introduced, former president Daniel Ortega warned that war could return and voiced what was widely interpreted as a death threat against UNO National Assembly deputies. Protesting the repeal bill, Sandinista demonstrators occupied six city halls, including the city hall of Managua, and three radio stations. Besides depriving top Sandinistas of their homes and new livelihoods, the repeal attempt also Piñata underscored the gap between the Sandinista elite and the poor.

The government's inability to resolve property issues was also blamed for the stagnation and the subsequent deterioration of the nation's economy. The lack of substantial domestic and foreign investment was viewed as a vote of no confidence in the government's handling of private property tissues and its commitment to impartial treatment of private investment. Despite mechanisms subsequently developed by the government to consider property claims on a case-by-case basis, the Piñata remained a volatile issue.

<>The National Opposition Union (UNO) Coalition
<>Small Non-UNO Parties
<>Sandinista National Liberation Front
<>The Ex-Contras and Recontras
<>Labor Organizations
<>Producers' Groups
<>The Church
<>The Universities
<>The Media


Nicaragua - The National Opposition Union (UNO) Coalition


A loose coalition of political parties, UNO traces its origins back to the Nicaraguan Democratic Coordinating Group (Coordinadora Democrática Nicaragüense--CDN), which was formed in 1982 by opposition groups that had protested actions of the Sandinista government as early as November 1980. In 1980 these groups had temporarily withdrawn their members from the corporatist legislature set up by the Sandinista government, the Council of State, to protest the imposition of three emergency decrees that restricted civil liberties and to call for municipal elections that the Sandinistas had stated would be held soon after the revolution. The CDN coalition consisted of three political parties and two factions of a fourth; two labor unions, the Confederation of Nicaraguan Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores Nicaragüenses--CTN) and the Confederation for Trade Union Unity (Confederación de Unificación Sindical--CUS); and the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (Consejo Superior de la Empresa Privada--Cosep), an umbrella organization uniting producer and commercial business groups along the lines of the United States Chamber of Commerce. These groups all formed the earliest opposition to the Sandinista government.

In the mid-1980s, as a result of Nicaragua's 1984 presidential and legislative elections, the opposition broadened with the incorporation of three political parties, which up to that point had cooperated closely with the government: the Independent Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Independiente--PLI), the Popular Social Christian Party (Partido Popular Social Cristiano--PPSC), and the Democratic Conservative Party (Partido Conservador Demócrata--PCD). In the late 1980s, while the CDN parties remained outside the legislative arena, the three other parties, which had run candidates in the elections, became known as the "parliamentary opposition." From inside and outside the legislature, opposition groups became increasingly vocal against the Sandinista government.

Their opposition to the Sandinistas, did not forge these groups into a firm coalition, however. Instead, the parties were known for personal rivalries and factionalism. There were animosities and distrust among the leaders of each of the groups, stemming from the degree of cooperation and confrontation each had taken toward the Sandinista government. The groups also held conflicting and ambivalent attitudes toward the United Statessupported Nicaraguan Resistance (Contra) forces that had carried out a war against the Sandinista government since early 1982.

Nevertheless, during the later years of the Contra war, the "civic opposition," as these political parties, unions, and business organizations came to be called, became of great interest to the international community, which was interested in seeking a negotiated solution to the Contra war through the Central American peace process. The political parties gained the support of international groups such as the Christian Democratic International, the Conservative International, and the Liberal International organizations. Esquipulas II, the Central American peace agreement signed by the presidents of five countries in Central America on August 7, 1987, gave a major role to the Roman Catholic Church and the opposition political parties in negotiating the terms for national reconciliation and democratization in Nicaragua. Although the arrangements specified in this agreement were never implemented as planned, the accord itself was a major factor in stimulating the Sandinistas to lift various constraints on the civic opposition, creating the opportunity for greater political activity. The accord also played a part in the Sandinista decision to advance the election from November to February 1990 and to allow an extensive system of United Nations (UN) and Organization of American States (OAS) monitors to observe the entire electoral process, beginning several months before the election.

By the time the various political parties coalesced into an electoral coalition in September 1989, the fourteen political parties that had evolved from the earlier opposition parties were committed enough to the goal of opposing the Sandinista government that they united around a single candidate. Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, who had largely stayed outside party politics during the 1980s, was chosen after two bitter rounds of voting eliminated the two other popular candidates. Virgilio Reyes Godoy (who became vice president) and Enrique Bolanos Geyer of Cosep. Both had been active in internal politics throughout the 1980s. At the time of the elections, of the UNO coalition's fourteen political parties, four were considered conservative, seven fell under a broad definition of centrist parties, and three had traditionally been on the far left of the political spectrum.

Of all the parties, the largest of the centrist group were the Democratic Party of National Confidence (Partido Demócrata de Confianza Nacional--PDCN), which was one of several breakaway factions of the Nicaraguan Social Christian Party (Partido Social Cristiano Nicaragüense--PSCN), and the PLI of Virgilio Godoy. Among the conservative factions, viewed as the most important was the Conservative Popular Alliance (Alianza Popular Conservadora-- APC) of Míriam Argüello Morales, a leading figure in conservative politics since the 1970s. All the other parties were seen as small groups. In the centrist camp, these were the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal--PL), the National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional--PAN), the Popular Social Christian Party (Partido Popular Social Cristiano--PPSC, another faction of the PSCN), and the Nicaraguan Democratic Movement (Movimiento Democrático Nicaragüense--MDN). In the conservative arena, the smaller groups were the Conservative National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional Conservadora--PANC), the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (Partido Liberal Constitucionalista-- PLC), and the National Conservative Party (Partido Conservador Nacional--PCN).

Two years after the inauguration, however, the UNO was still viewed as having a narrow political base. Only three of the fourteen parties, among them the PLI, whose leader was Vice President Virgilio Godoy Reyes, had done local-level political organizing across the country. Although some trade union organizations supported the UNO coalition, the UNO parties did not have the type of widespread organizations of labor, peasant, and women's groups that had provided support for the FSLN.

Friction between the executive branch circle, named the Las Palmas group after the neighborhood in which President Chamorro lived, and the UNO legislators was first apparent in the contest for the presidency of the National Assembly. Held days before the president's inauguration, the struggle for leadership of the National Assembly was one of the first tests of power between the Political Council, composed of the leaders of the fourteen political parties, and Chamorro's advisers, whom many of the traditional political party leaders viewed as interlopers. One of Chamorro's closest advisers, Alfredo César Aguirre, was defeated for an UNO position by the Political Council's candidate, Míriam Argüello Morales, a leader of the APC. During this and subsequent debates, Vice President Godoy sided with the Political Council. Frictions between the Las Palmas group and the UNO were further exacerbated by President Chamorro's cabinet selections. All were members of her inner circle; none was a leader of a traditional political party.

The dynamic changed slightly with a shift of characters when César was elected leader of the National Assembly for the 1992 legislative session. Within months of his election, however, he had taken a leadership role on the volatile issues of Sandinista property rights and presence in government, this time against the government. The UNO bloc in the assembly seemed to be reuniting on the same issues, but this time under a younger generation of leaders.

Despite the importance of the National Assembly in shaping national policy, much of the nation's future was increasingly shaped by the evolving politics of the municipalities. The 1990 elections established a new class of political leaders. The UNO parties were weak in organization at the grassroots level, and the creation of new political posts at the municipal level offered opportunities and incentives for the development of a broad base of popular support for the UNO. Because of the UNO parties' weaknesses at the national level, however, the leading UNO mayors viewed themselves as enjoying a far greater level of popular support and legitimacy than the national UNO authorities. The local UNO officials, who had power in about 100 of the country's municipal governments, have at times taken united stands challenging the Chamorro government. In general, the UNO municipal authorities, the most visible of whom is Managua's mayor, Arnoldo Alemán, are more conservative than the Las Palmas group and have taken positions similar to that of the Godoy group and later the César group, at the national level.


Nicaragua - Small Non-UNO Parties


Several political groups that opposed the Sandinistas during the 1980s but did not run with the UNO coalition in 1990 had almost disappeared from the national political scene by 1993. These parties included one or more factions of the PCD, considered one of the larger opposition parties during the 1980s; the leaders included Clemete Guido, Eduardo Molina Palacios, and Rafael Cordova Rivas. Non-UNO parties also included smaller parties that were breakaway factions, led by prominent figures of parties that were affiliated with the UNO: Mauricio Díaz Davila's faction of the PPSC; Erick Ramírez Benevente's PCSN, a breakaway from the PSC; and Rodolfo Robelo's Independent Liberal Party of National Unity (Partido Liberal Independiente de Unidad Nacional- -PLIUN), a splinter group from the PLI. The only member of these groups to gain a seat in the National Assembly was Moisés Hassan Morales of the MUR, a breakaway faction of the FSLN; Hassan automatically gained a seat as a defeated presidential candidate.


Nicaragua - Sandinista National Liberation Front


The FSLN has maintained the cohesion needed to continue as a potent force in Nicaraguan politics despite an internal crisis touched off by its electoral defeat. From the moment that Daniel Ortega publicly conceded defeat, he launched an initiative to preserve the gains that the Sandinista government claimed to have secured for the Nicaraguan people and the property that the movement had acquired. However, the performance of the FSLN leadership before and after the elections regarding the social welfare issue became a topic of dispute among the leaders of the groups and between the leadership and the local members. The dispute was so severe that it threatened to destroy the cohesive party apparatus and discipline that the movement had created over almost three decades of struggle and power.

In his concession speech, President Ortega in essence foreswore the FSLN's identity as a "vanguard party" and called on the FSLN to play a role as a strong but loyal opposition party. In subsequent speeches, Ortega made clear that the FSLN, with 40 percent of the vote, still considered itself the largest single political force in Nicaragua. Although this new definition provided the basis for the FSLN's continued role in government, the tension between its two roles--its role as the country's largest political party and as a force in opposition to the government--proved problematic for the FSLN in the early years of adjustment to the Chamorro regime.

Despite the FSLN's success in maintaining a position for the party and benefits for its members in the postelectoral period, the electoral loss intensified preexisting political tensions within the FSLN, opened new ideological divisions, and brought a host of practical problems that posed great difficulties for continuing party activity. The short-term result within the first two years after the FSLN's electoral defeat was the creation of new power bases and elites. In addition, there were contradictory indications about the future of the party: one was that it might begin reconstituting itself along more traditional political party lines, and the other was that it would modernize, but not at the expense of its revolutionary social principles.

The most pressing practical problems were continued financing of the party apparatus and continued employment for party members. By the end of the Sandinista government, the organizational structure of the party coincided with the administrative structure of the state, including the military and security forces. Thus, according to one analyst, the loss of the government meant the loss of party structures and, in effect, the dispersal of the membership when the new government's economic program separated thousands from their work. For the FSLN, this change meant that its political apparatus shrank from several thousand persons to a few hundred after the election; for many members, it meant that holding on to their old jobs or obtaining new ones became the central focus of life. The Piñata was in part a result of the need to secure new means of support: ownership of property and companies established a financial base from which FSLN members could earn personal livelihoods and produce profits for continued party activities.

The ideological and political debate that took place after election was an outgrowth of ideas that had circulated but never had been formally raised before the election. These ideas acquired new urgency as the Sandinistas sought to understand the causes of their defeat. Positions were formulated in preparation for postelection party activities. The ruling body during the postelectoral years continued to be the National Directorate, which had been in place since 1979, minus Humberto Ortega, who, under the terms of the transition agreement, had been obliged to give up his place in order to remain at the head of the army, and Carlos Núñez Téllez, who died in October 1990. The new sevenmember National Directorate continued to meet regularly and drafted the guidelines for the document analyzing the electoral defeat that was to be discussed in the first postelection Sandinista Assembly in June 1990. That first meeting made clear the extent of the internal differences within the FSLN.

The three-day June 1990 Sandinista Assembly meeting held in El Crucero was attended by a large number of FSLN members. The membership consisted of all FSLN National Assembly members, department coordinators, mass organization leaders, and representatives of the National Workers' Front (Frente Nacional de Trabajadores--FNT). The open debate that characterized this meeting and the resulting El Crucero document that eventually was circulated were viewed as central in opening the party to candid public criticism. In addition, the Sandinista Assembly created an Ethics Commission to examine the activities of party members from the top leadership down and called for the FSLN's first national party congress. Party activities for the next year were geared toward preparation for the congress, held in July 1991.

Although calls for the democratization of the party did not produce changes in the top leadership, they had their effect at lower levels. In August and September 1990, for the first time, almost 600 executive committees and coordinators were elected, rather than appointed, at the municipal and departmental levels. These elections were seen as significant because they resulted in the election of people who would not have been selected under the previous rules. The elections were less than a fully democratic enterprise, however, because campaigning was not permitted, forestalling any uncontrolled discussion of the future of the party. The elections also led to debate about the membership of the party. The Sandinistas opted not to follow the model of standard parties by creating an open membership. They did establish, however, in addition to the categories of militants and aspirants, who numbered 18,000 and 17,300, respectively, in August 1990, a third category of membership--affiliates, numbering 60,400 that month. The party leadership also held about 200 local meetings in the summer of 1990 to discuss a draft statement on programs, principles, and a proposal for new bylaws that would be presented to the FSLN's National Congress. More than 3,000 elected delegates attended eighteen departmental meetings in mid-June 1991, to debate the issues and choose 501 representatives to the National Congress.

The democratization process did not reach to the very top of the FSLN leadership, however. Early expectations that the 501 National Congress delegates would elect individual members to the National Directorate were quashed when the National Directorate proposed that the National Congress vote on the candidates. The departmental congresses ratified this proposal and another giving the nonelected members of the Sandinista Assembly voting rights in the National Congress. In July 1991, nine candidates for the National Directorate ran unopposed as a slate. The slate consisted of the seven current members plus the former vice president and current head of the Sandinista bloc in the National Assembly, Sergio Ramírez Mercado, and the National Directorate secretary, René Núñez Téllez. Humberto Ortega was on the slate but declined a seat because of his army position. Daniel Ortega was elected secretary general of the party. Thus, some congress delegates' hopes of removing individual members were dashed, and the slate was elected by a 95 percent vote.

Nevertheless, the National Congress did adopt significant liberalization measures. It elected ninety-eight members to a new 120-member Sandinista Assembly. The National Congress also decided that future national congresses, to be held every four years, would elect the members of the Sandinista Assembly, the Ethics Commission, and the National Directorate individually by a secret and direct vote. This change was hailed as progress, although not the democratization that a significant but minority elite desired.

The National Congress also brought to the fore the ideological debate between two FSLN factions. On the one side were the pragmatists who sought accommodation with the Chamorro forces and professed a new, more social democratic orientation. On the otherside were the "principled" or radical forces, who sought a continuation of the old revolutionary model and saw progress as dependent on establishing a clear confrontational position against the Chamorro government. The National Congress also aired the FSLN leadership's self-criticism of the party, attributing the electoral loss to several of the party's own failings. Still, ideologically, the congress's result was indeterminate, preserving many of the party's revolutionary aspirations and anti-imperialist, anticapitalist principles but also urging modernization and adaptation to the current global situation.

Differences within the FSLN led to new forces within the party. Three factions have emerged, united on ideals and ends but not necessarily on means, according to analyst Aldo Díaz Lacayo. One faction, headed by Humberto Ortega, stresses the need for an alliance with the Chamorro government's "progressive bourgeoisie." The second faction, composed of those holding positions in state structures such as the National Assembly, and headed by Sergio Ramírez, calls for unconditional democratization. The third, headed by Daniel Ortega, is the party's union sector and is often viewed as the most traditionally Sandinista in style and ideology.


Nicaragua - The Ex-Contras and Recontras


The Nicaraguan Resistance was unable to establish itself as a political presence in Nicaragua after the 1990 elections, despite its part in bringing them about. The Chamorro government found little place in its government for the fighters and leaders of the Nicaraguan Resistance, described as the largest peasant army in Latin America since the Mexican Revolution, outside of national-level organizations set up to deal with the Contras' resettlement. Part of the reason for this exclusion was that prominent individuals within the new government, such as Alfredo César Aguirre, had served as part of the rival Southern Front, which disintegrated in the mid-1980s after the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) withdrew its aid. The expulsion also has of the Contraas been attributed to social factors because the Chamorro government is largely made up of Nicaragua's old elite and the Contra leaders are from the middle and lower classes. In addition, the restriction of the Contras was a political move: incorporating ex-Contras into the government would alienate many Sandinistas and make more difficult the reconciliation envisioned by Chamorro's government. Whatever the underlying reasons, the rationale stated by supporters of the Chamorro government is that even though the Contras were important to the electoral outcome, the victory was not a military one but an electoral one, and those who waged the electoral battle are those who are entitled to govern. A year after the election former Contras who felt abandoned by the new government and unable to influence it within the system began rearming.

Obstacles to the establishment of a Contra political presence in Managua began with arrangements for demobilizing and resettling the Contras set forth in transition agreements signed shortly before and after the Chamorro government took power. The first of the documents was the March 27, 1990 Toncontín Accord between the Nicaraguan Resistance and members of the UNO government-elect signed in Honduras. The Contras committed themselves to the concept of demobilizing and promised that all Contras remaining in Nicaragua would hand in their weapons by April 20, 1990. The definitive peace accord between the outgoing Sandinista government and the Nicaraguan Resistance was signed on April 18, 1990 and took effect at noon the following day. The agreement provided that all Nicaraguan Resistance forces would immediately begin to move into security enclaves under the protection of the UN Central American Observer Group, a UN peacekeeping force. The government was to withdraw all military, paramilitary, and security forces to a point at least twenty kilometers from the enclave borders by April 21.

These agreements seemed to be in trouble just hours after the Chamorro inauguration. Contra leaders, protesting President Chamorro's decision to retain General Humberto Ortega as chief of the army, stated that there would be no national reconciliation and that none of their troops would disarm as long as General Ortega remained in that post. Shortly thereafter, however, the Chamorro government and the resistance issued a joint Managua Declaration stating that the Contras would begin the process of turning in their weapons on May 8 and complete the process by June 10. In turn, the government announced on June 10 its plans to reduce the size of the army and to guarantee the Contras' safety.

The subsequent disarmament process was again halted in May when Sandinista unions went on strike and resistance leaders stated that the strike confirmed the Chamorro government's lack of control. Nevertheless, most of the rebels had surrounded their arms by the June 10 Toncontín deadline. Under separate arrangements, the remaining rebels agreed to hand in their weapons--the Yatama Contra forces by June 21 and the Southern Front rebels by July 25, 1990. Demobilized Contras received a change of civilian clothes, farm tools, a US$50 cash grant, rations of rice and beans, and a promise of land.

Within months, however, these agreements had broken down, and violence resumed as the ex-Contras were unable to settle on the land they had been promised in development areas, saw their economic prospects evaporate as the economy worsened, and felt their security threatened by the continued Sandinista presence in the military and in the police. The first incident occurred in July 1990, when some fifteen to twenty armed Contras, led by Commander Rubén (Oscar Manuel SobalvarroGarcía), briefly occupied the central bus terminal in Managua and exchanged fire with Sandinista labor union strikers.

A dozen members of the UN peacekeeping force negotiated the Contras' withdrawal. However, this incident was followed in 1990 by ex-Contra attempts to seize land held in Sandinista cooperatives and by their blockage, together with local peasants, of the Managua-Rama road, the country's major east-west highway, for eighteen days.

Incidents increased in 1991 as conflict between ex-Contras and Sandinista police and army officials continued. About the time the ex-Contras formally announced that they were taking up arms again (and were promptly dubbed the Recontras), the OAS cease-fire monitoring forces had documented the murders of some thirty-five former Contras. For some Contras, the February 16, 1991, murder of former Contra leader Enrique Bermúdez Varela in a Managua hotel parking lot underscored the state of insecurity and exacerbated their distrust of the Sandinista police. Bermúdez, who had taken up residence in Miami after the war, had been visiting Managua to conduct personal business and to urge the government to treat the ex-Contras better. The police allegedly handled investigations in a manner suggesting negligence, ineptitude, and a cover-up, although Sandinistas countered that Bermúdez may have been killed by disaffected Contras.

The Bermúdez murder came just as ex-Contras, as well as other peasants, were increasing pressure for access to land before the May planting season. Thousands of the some 18,000 to 20,000 Contras who had turned in their weapons had not received the land promised them under the demobilization agreement, and many others found they could not farm the land they had received because of a lack of promised tools and infrastructure. In early April, Commander Dimas (Tomás Laguna Rayo), one of several rearming commanders, claimed to have 200 newly rearmed Contras in the hills around Estelí who intended to take over territory to use as leverage to make demands on the government. Incidents between Recontras and Sandinista officials continued throughout the year with no major clashes. Estimates of Recontra strength increased from a few hundred to an estimated 1,000 personnel with assault rifles. By the end of the first year of demobilization, the OAS had verified fifty-two slayings, often of Recontras, about half attributed to Sandinista military or police.

The Recontras' first major action occurred in late July 1991, when eighty Recontras attacked a local police station in Quilalí and battled for six hours under the leadership of Commander Indomable (José Angel Morán Flores). In August 1991, Minister of Interior Carlos Hurtado Cabrera met with Indomable and Dimas to discuss Recontra demands: the disarming of Sandinista farm cooperatives, the removal of army bases from areas of Recontra activity, removal of police and army officials known to violate human rights, investigation of the killings of ex-Contras, and indemnification of ex-Contra families.

For several months thereafter, although the Recontra activities centered on disruptive rather than violent activities and there were few major battles, the Nicaraguan countryside threatened to return to violence. However, by early 1992 the government seemed to be gaining control of the situation. The uncertainty created by the Recontras was exacerbated in late 1991 by the formation of Recompas, rearmed former Sandinista soldiers. The Recompas, many of them junior officers, acted to bring attention to their demands for land and to respond to Recontra activities, including the assassination of a Sandinista police chief and his secretary. Eventually, there were reports of both groups working together on behalf of one basic demand: land and the equipment to work it. The government countered by ordering the Sandinista People's Army not to engage in combat and retaliatory actions and by offering to meet some Recontra demands. The OAS observer group played an important role in mediating disputes and calming tempers. In early 1992, the government offered Recontra leaders money to retire, offered both Recontras and Recompas from US$100 to US$200 for each weapon turned in, and promised both groups houses and land. That offer led to a surprising 20,000 weapons being turned in under OAS supervision, although estimates were that some 30,000 to 80,000 weapons were still held by civilians.


Nicaragua - Labor Organizations


The Sandinista unions played a major role in the politics of the Chamorro government's first years. The change of government sparked a competition in union organizing and activities that posed serious challenges to the new government. One challenge for the new Chamorro government was to create and maintain political bases by organizing workers; the other was to maintain political and economic stability when confronted by strikes led by Sandinista unions.

The first challenge resulted from a new freedom for unions to organize, created by a law the National Assembly has passed in the interregnum. This law changed the labor code to allow workplaces to have more than one union. The law was adopted because the lame-duck Sandinista majority feared that the government would replace the Sandinista unions with UNO unions while maintaining a closed shop. After the new law took effect, the unions that had supported the UNO moved to break the Sandinista monopoly on organizing in the public sector by organizing groups of the required twenty-five members to form a new bargaining unit. In some places, such as the San Antonio sugar mill, which with 5,000 workers was the largest union in the country, workers decided to retain the old union but voted out the board of directors who had been Sandinista supporters.

A greater challenge was posed by strikes initiated by the strongest unions--those affiliated with the FSLN. These unions were no longer bound by ties to a leadership in power to support austerity policies that had had adversely affected the workers. Within a month after the Chamorro government took office, the Sandinista unions become a political and economic force with which to reckon.

Despite the election of a government supported by the UNO- affiliated unions, the Sandinista unions are widely believed to remain the largest and most powerful organized labor sector, despite diminishing power and membership. Although there is a law requiring the registration of new unions, the exact number of unions is not known because there is no legal provision to account for those unions that had merged or ceased to exist. At the top of the labor-organizing hierarchy are four confederations: one affiliated with the Sandinistas, two with the UNO, and one with a Trotskyite orientation. The Sandinista- affiliated confederation, FNT, organized in mid-1990, claimed to have 400,000 members among its seven-member organizations during the early Chamorro years, although most observers believe that it has lost considerable strength. The members of the FNT include the Sandinista Workers' Federation (Central Sandinista de Trabajadores--CST), a confederation of labor unions; the Association of Agricultural Workers (Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo--ATC); the National Employees Union (Unión Nacional de Empleados--UNE), composed of white-collar workers; the Federation of Health Workers (Federación de Trabajadores de Salud-- Fetsalud); the National Association of Nicaraguan Teachers (Asociación Nacional de Educadores de Nicaragua--ANDEN); the Union of Nicaraguan Journalists (Unión de Periodistas de Nicaragua--UPN); and the Heroes and Martyrs National Confederation of Professional Associations (Confederación Nacional de Asociaciones Profesionales-Héroes y Mártires-- Conapro-Héroes y Mártires).

The UNO-affiliated unions are grouped in two confederations. One is the CTN, headed by Carlos Huembes Trejos. Formed during the 1960s, it is affiliated with the Christian Democratic regional labor group, the Confederation of Latin American Workers (Central Latinoamericana de Trabajadores--CLAT), and the Christian Democratic international labor organization, the World Confederation of Labor. The CTN has an estimated 40,000 members. The other UNO union is the Permanent Congress of Workers (Congreso Permanente de Trabajadores--CPT) umbrella group, organized in the late 1980s, which includes five organizations. Most prominent of these is the Confederation for Trade Union Unity (Confederación de Unificación Sindical--CUS), formed in 1968 with the support of the Inter-American Regional Organization of Workers and the Confederation of Nicaraguan Workers (autonomous) (Confederación de Trabajadores Nicaragüenses [autónoma]--CTN[a]) of Agustín Jarquín Anaya, a break-away faction from the CTN. The CPT also includes the Federation for Trade Union Action and Unity (Central de Acción de Unificación Sindical--CAUS) of the Communist Party, the General Confederation of Workers-Independent (Confederación General de Trabajadores- Independiente--CGT-I) of the Nicaraguan Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Nicaragüense--PSN), and the National Teachers' Confederation of Nicaragua (Confederación Nacional de Maestros Nicaragüenses--CNMN).

If the numbers of members given by labor organizations are accurate, some 650,000 of an estimated total active labor force of 1.1 to 1.2 million persons are affiliated with a union. Some analysts believe that number, which is more than 50 percent of the labor force, is very high. Whatever the size of their membership, at least the Sandinista unions have had a major influence in shaping the direction and pace of the Chamorro government's economic policy.

The potential of the Sandinista unions to disrupt the government was first demonstrated within two weeks of the Chamorro government's inauguration. Estimates are that 30,000 to 60,000 out of some 150,000 government workers impeded work in government offices, schools, banks, public transportation, and telephone and airport operations in mid-May 1990. The strike began as a result of the Chamorro government's decisions to reexamine the lame-duck legislation passed by the outgoing Sandinista Assembly as well as other government actions during the transition period. In labor matters, the Chamorro government annulled the lame-duck collective bargaining arrangements and suspended the civil service law giving job security and increased benefits to public employees. President Chamorro also announced that tenants would be allowed to cultivate unused expropriated farmlands while property claims were being settled, and she established a commission to review claims to confiscated lands. Other measures taken early in the Chamorro government included the National Assembly's passage of an amnesty law pardoning all political crimes as of the effective date of the legislation and annulment of a March law giving amnesty to Sandinista government officials for crimes committed in the course of performing official duties.

The Sandinista-affiliated UNE called first for a work stoppage of selected workers and then for a general strike. Formally, workers demanded a 200 percent pay increase and restitution of the civil service law, but calls in the streets encompassed a variety of political demands, including President Chamorro's resignation. At first the government declared the strike illegal, threatened to fire striking workers, and refused to meet with Sandinista union leaders. When the strike persisted, the government decided not to test the loyalty of police and military forces by ordering the use of force to dislodge strikers from occupied buildings and instead negotiated with leaders of the public workers' union.

The strike resulted in the Sandinistas gaining some but not all that they had asked for: a 25 percent wage increase on top of the 16 percent that the government had already promised, the right for unions to take part in drafting regulations to implement the civil service law that had been revised by the UNO National Assembly, and the rehiring of workers fired after March 19, 1990. Some analysts viewed the strike as actually hurting the Sandinista unions. Politically, however, the Sandinista unions had demonstrated their power to force the government to reconsider its actions. The strike also strengthened Sandinista demands for national dialogue on the property issue. Many viewed the strike as a fulfillment of Daniel Ortega's promise during the election aftermath that the Sandinistas would rule from below. The FSLN's leadership denied, however, that the FSLN had orchestrated the strike.

The next large-scale strike of 85,000 to 100,000 workers was called on June 27, 1990 by the newly formed FNT. It began in earnest on July 2 and ended on July 11 only after several people had died and hundreds more had been injured. The FNT's initial seven demands, subsequently expanded, encompassed a grab bag of issues, including a higher minimum wage, reenactment of the Sandinista civil service law, suspension of two decrees on property restitution, and measures for public support of construction, basic services, health, and education. The unions were widely viewed as the winners when an agreement was finally reached to end the strike. This agreement provided for increased wages; benefits for dismissed workers; guarantees for continued transportation subsidies; suspension of the program renting unused and disputed land to previous owners; FNT participation in plans for reactivation programs and programs to maintain jobs; including subsidies to failing textile and construction companies; and talks on a minimum wage law. The government's economic concessions were broad and backtracked on its economic reform and adjustment program.

Economically, the May and July strikes cost the government an estimated US$270 million, according to one source. Politically, the July 1990 strikes and settlement pact also dealt several blows to the Chamorro government. First, the tensions between Chamorro's UNO backers and her small executive team over reconciliation gestures toward the Sandinistas widened into an open rupture as the Chamorro government bent to the Sandinista unions. Vice President Godoy announced that he was forming a Committee of National Salvation to deal with the strike and received the backing of Cosep, UNO leaders in the National Assembly, and UNO-affiliated union leaders. Thus, the Chamorro government's short-lived truce with its UNO backers was over. Second, the Sandinista unions demonstrated the destabilizing possibilities of their "rule from below" study. Although the Sandinista military and police had dismantled street barricades put up by the strikers and had not been openly disloyal to the government during the strike, the government still appeared unwilling to test their loyalty and did not order the military and police to use force against or arrest the strikers. These events foreshadowed a situation in which the price of social peace would be either substantial concessions from the government or actions by the Sandinista leadership to back up statements of support for the government's economic plan by exercising control over their affiliated unions. The relationship between the Sandinista directorate and the unions became a source of controversy, with members of the directorate denying that they had encouraged the union protests. Critics doubted, however, that Sandinista party discipline had declined to the point that the unions could act autonomously. The Chamorro government signed agreements ending the strike directly with the unions, not with the Sandinista leaders, however, indicating that the Sandinista leadership's control over the unions was limited.

The political situation in July 1990 further encouraged the government to cultivate good relations with Sandinista leaders and unions because, as the July disturbances suggested, the government had no alternative. Yet the Sandinistas' ability to incite followers to the streets waned quickly after the summer strikes. A call from the Sandinista leaders and the FNT for a nationwide strike in October 1990 prompted little response. An FNT rally against the government's economic policies turned out 3,000 rather than the expected 60,000 demonstrators. Probably as a result, the FNT agreed to join President Chamorro's discussions among unions, producers, and the government to reach a national understanding, the concertación, on economic and social policies. The concertación agreement, signed in October 1990, brought several months of peace before the property issue ignited. Another damper on Sandinista union activity may have been Humberto Ortega's cautionary remarks to the July 1991 Sandinista National Congress; he noted that irresponsible union demands and actions would condemn the country to crisis and imperil revolutionary goals.

The concertación agreement also appeared to temporarily defuse economic unrest. Strikes soon after the accord were of the uncontrolled variety, more likely to alienate than attract followers. However, a crisis developed in October 1991 when Daniel Ortega criticized the government as harking back to Somozaism with its policy of returning land to former owners and with the announcement that the mayor of Managua was contemplating the creation of a municipal police force. Ortega indicated that the people might have to exercise their right to civic rebellion, even with arms. President Chamorro accused the FSLN of calling for armed insurrection.

Protesting the new policy of privatization, Sandinista union members occupied a meat-packing plant and slaughterhouse in September 1991; five sugar refineries, a soap plant, and many large farms were taken over by early November. Workers demanded that they be granted a 25 percent share in ownership when properties were returned to the private sector, something the Chamorro government had promised in August 1991 agreements. In Managua, police battled with students and health workers who marched to the Ministry of Labor armed with clubs and homemade bombs. The violence escalated after the FNT's rejection of a November 7 agreement between the FSLN directorate and the government to end the strikes. There reportedly were also violent incidents in Matagalpa and Estelí, and riots in Managua, where Sandinista followers destroyed Radio Corporación, attacked Contra offices with rocket-launched grenades, and looted and set fire to city hall. Earlier, armed men had fired on the home of Vice President Godoy. The rioting ended when President Chamorro said she would call in the army and Daniel Ortega appealed to Sandinistas for order.

The 1991 incidents displayed the distance between the Chamorro government and the UNO-affiliated unions. The CPT complained when Vice President Godoy stated that the army and police chiefs should be dismissed for not stopping the rampage that caused an estimated US$3 million in damage. On November 13, the CPT went further, deploring the executive branch's tolerance of and complicity in Sandinista terrorism and crimes, a complaint that continued in 1992 and 1993.

The labor problem continued to present a serious challenge to the Chamorro government through at least the midpoint of her term. Former President Ortega emerged openly as the champion of labor union mobilization against the Chamorro economic policies. In the midst of a strike of transport workers in September 1993, Ortega urged Sandinistas to support marches protesting a vehicle ownership tax and a gasoline price increase. He tied these new taxes to the need for a change in the government's economic policies and the need to resolve property issues.

Data as of December 1993


Nicaragua - Producers' Groups


The two major groups of producers, the UNO-affiliated Cosep and the Sandinista-affiliated National Union of Farmers and Cattlemen (Unión Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos--UNAG), began distancing themselves from the political arena after the 1990 election and concentrating more narrowly on serving their members' economic interests. On opposite sides of the political scene during the Sandinista years, both unions had played important political and economic roles. Different political positions after 1990, however, brought them closer in their attitudes toward the country's economic situation.

Formed in 1978, COSEP acts as a coordinating council for commercial and agricultural organizations. Cosep was viewed during the early Sandinista years as the major force in the anti- -Sandinista opposition, trying in the early 1980s to engage in dialogues with the Sandinista government even as it adopted a highly confrontational stance. Cosep's position, however, was weakened in the mid-1980s by the flight of the middle class and by members' fears that their property would be confiscated, and in the late 1980s by pressure from the peace negotiations. Although one Cosep leader, Enrique Bolanos Geyer, had been a potential presidential candidate for the 1990 elections, Cosep supported Chamorro in the electoral campaign after she won internal elections within the UNO. Two Cosep members refused cabinet posts in the Chamorro government, however, protesting Chamorro's decision to maintain Humberto Ortega as chief of the army. The organization has continued to oppose decisions that allow the Sandinistas considerable influence in government, fearing that such a practice will produce an unfavorable investment climate.

UNAG is one of the Sandinista mass organizations; it was founded in April 1981 to organize small- and medium-sized farmers in support of the FSLN. Although always pro-Sandinista), UNAG tried to downplay ideology in the countryside in the 1980s and fought for nondogmatic, inclusive policies that would not alienate peasant property owners and would defend the interests of all efficient rural producers. After the Chamorro government took power, UNAG continued efforts to broaden its base. It sought to attract discontented, landless Contras to its ranks and to maintain its political influence by trying to develop joint positions on agricultural policy with Cosep and its large agricultural producers.

The two producers' groups continued to represent very different political, ideological, and economic positions. These differences were made clear during the Chamorro government's 1990 attempt to negotiate the economic and social national concertación. UNAG decided to participate in the negotiations even before the Sandinista unions agreed to do so. Cosep participated only after expressing objections that the result had been predetermined in previous discussions between the Sandinistas and the government. Cosep later refused to sign the final document, charging that the final agreement was unfair because the government had agreed to union demands that land and other confiscated and expropriated property should not be returned to former owners. The concertación opened a permanent breach between Cosep and the government.


Nicaragua - The Church


The Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, which had been regarded by the Sandinista government as among its harshest critics, also became critical of the Chamorro government well before its second anniversary. From the beginning, the church's hierarchy had a role in the new Chamorro government: Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, Archbishop of Managua, was named one of the guarantors of the peace accords signed during the 1990 transition period. The Roman Catholic Church also had a part in shaping society under the new government, according to some sources. Cardinal Obando was influential in revamping the national education system and curriculum to eliminate Sandinista influence. The educational revisions were carried out by Minister of Education Humberto Belli and his vice minister, Sofonías Cisneros Leiva, both of whom were close to Cardinal Obando, and by members of the City of God charismatic Roman Catholic sect.

For a short period at the beginning of the Chamorro government, the Roman Catholic Church abandoned the high-profile political and social posture it had assumed during the Sandinista years. However, the low profile was reversed when, on November 24, 1991, Cardinal Obando and Nicaragua's nine bishops, speaking as the Bishops' Conference of Nicaragua, signed a lengthy pastoral letter. This letter deplored the country's economic situation and faulted the government for a failure to establish justice. The letter also accused the government of corruption and accused, without naming them, the Sandinista labor unions of inciting violence. Finally, the letter criticized levels of military spending and the luxurious life-styles of many officials in the government in the face of poverty. In a statement that appeared to counter pressures from the United States for Nicaragua to open the economy totally to market forces, the bishops stated that poverty had reached "levels unprecedented for several decades" and noted their belief that "the free market alone cannot resolve underlying social problems."


Nicaragua - The Universities


Nicaragua's two principal universities, the Central American University (Universidad de Centroamérica--UCA) and the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua--UNAN), are viewed as strongholds of Sandinista thought and sympathy, but are not considered influential in the political system. In 1992 Xavier Gorostiaga, a well-known proSandinista economist and a Jesuit priest, was the rector of the UCA, a Jesuit-run and church-financed institution. Alejandro Serrano Caldera, who served the Sandinista government as president of the Supreme Court and Nicaraguan ambassador to the United Nations, was the rector of the state-financed UNAN in 1992. Both are well-known intellectuals who are viewed as bringing academic credibility and strength to the universities.


The universities have actively sought to protect their own interests. During the transition period, the country's four state and two private universities were granted academic, financial, and administrative autonomy by the outgoing Sandinista legislature through the University Autonomy Law. The universities were also given the right to elect their own rectors, faculty council, and other governing bodies. Students, faculties, and administrators protested the Chamorro government's attempts in May 1990 to have the National Assembly suspend the electoral agreements in order to provide time for their review. The government backtracked, and the National Assembly eventually passed a law containing only minor reforms. University protests were not effective against the Chamorro government budget cuts for the universities, which passed the National Assembly in December 1991 with Sandinista support.


Nicaragua - The Media


Noted during the Sandinista years for its virulently partisan and sensationalist character, the communications media began to show small signs of moderation and objectivity as the Chamorro regime progressed. However, partisanship was still a key word in the printed and broadcast press, and Sandinista dominance over the communications media largely continued, despite the transfer of power in the government. After the 1990 elections, however, importance differences of opinion emerged in the relationship between the Sandinista-dominated media and official FSLN positions.

The greatest news source for most Nicaraguans is the radio. Some radio stations are considered so influential that opponents of their political position target them for attacks. The rightist Radio Corporación, for instance, was heavily damaged twice by Sandinistas, in the early years of the Chamorro government and the Sandinista Radio Ya was attacked by unknown assailants.

The three major dailies of the Sandinista period continued to dominate the print media market in 1993. La Prensa, founded in 1926, with an estimated circulation of 30,000 in early 1992, continued the family tradition built by the president's late husband, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal. At the time of the transition, La Prensa was run by the president's daughter, Christiania Chamorro de Lacayo also the wife of Antonio Lacayo. Christiania Chamorro's tight control over La Prensa and reported refusal to permit criticism of her mother's government led to a rebellion among the editorial board and staff within a year after the 1990 election. The editorial staff, which included other family members, took the opportunity presented by Christiania Chamorro's official trip abroad with her mother in November 1990 to publish articles harshly critical of the government for its relations with Sandinista leaders. In January the staff forced Christiania Chamorro to resign as editor and removed Violeta Chamorro from the board of directors. The changes were seen as an attempt by the editorial staff to establish La Prensa as an independent paper rather than the official voice of the government.

One of the two pro-Sandinista newspapers also moved in the 1990s to a position more critical of the Chamorro government and the FSLN. Barricada, founded in 1979, with an estimated circulation of 20,000 in 1992, declared in early 1992 that it would no longer serve as the house organ of the FSLN and would instead take independent positions. Always regarded by many observers as the most professional of the three major newspapers, Barricada became the first public forum in which Sandinista leaders expressed internal disagreements in February 1992. The shift in popular outlook may have been made possible by the division of powers among the Sandinista commanders after their electoral defeat. Bayardo Arce Castaño became head of the FSLN's newspapers, radio stations, and television programs and was planning to establish a Sandinista television station. Significantly, the first disagreement aired in Barricada was between Arce and Daniel Ortega. The third main daily, El Nuevo Diario, which had an estimated circulation of 40,000 to 45,000 in 1992 and was founded in 1980 by Xavier Chamorro Cardenal, one of Violeta Chamorro's brothers-in-law, continued its loyal and uncritical posture of the FSLN, despite expectations that with the end of the Contra war the newspaper would take more independent positions.

Several weekly newspapers also were published in the early 1990s. The COSEP group brought out La Nicaragüense, a group headed by former vice president Sergio Ramírez published El Seminario in the early 1990s, and a Sandinista group continued Semana Cómica, a satirical tabloid. A new weekly newspaper, El Centroamericano, also appeared in León in the early 1990s.




The Chamorro government had great difficulty translating its electoral victory into increased foreign aid, although much of its foreign policy during its first years appeared aimed at that end. The high levels of international interest that attended the Sandinista years (1979-90) and the 1990 electoral process quickly waned after the Chamorro inauguration. The end of the Cold War and the transfer of dependence from the Soviet bloc to the United States created a dilemma for the Chamorro government, which viewed foreign assistance as crucial to its economic recovery and development, and which had acquired a popular image during the campaign as the political force that would attract foreign funding, particularly from the United States. The Chamorro administration sought to address the declining international interest, particularly in the United States, with an active international lobbying effort. The United States, which many Nicaraguans had believed would help Nicaragua substantially if Chamorro were elected, became ambivalent about the Chamorro government when the UNO's policy of accommodation toward the Sandinistas persisted. As a result, the Chamorro government rapidly followed the path of other Latin American governments, seeking to diversify its foreign relations and decrease its reliance on the United States, despite United States predominance in the country's economic and political affairs.

By the end of the first year of the Chamorro government, Nicaragua was still highly dependent on foreign aid. Promises of foreign aid in 1990 totaled over US$700 million, more than twice the country's export earnings from its major products--coffee, cotton, and bananas. Nicaraguan experts estimated that it would take three years of aid at that level to generate economic recovery and growth and to service a US$9.9 billion debt. Soon after the government took office, it estimated the country's foreign aid needs at US$907 million for 1990 and US$582 million for 1991.

<>Relations with the United States
<>Relations with Central American Countries


Nicaragua - Relations with the United States


Although it had provided substantial support to UNO forces for the elections, the United States did not prove a staunch and uncritically supportive ally of the Chamorro government. Although initially the United States did gave signals that it was willing to support the Chamorro government strongly, the relationship deteriorated, when some officials within the United States government began to object to the Chamorro government's conciliatory policy toward the Sandinistas.

On March 13, 1990, in a first gesture to the Chamorro government-elect, United States president George H.W. Bush lifted the United States trade embargo imposed five years earlier. Bush also announced that he was presenting the United States Congress with a proposal for US$300 million in emergency supplemental appropriations for Nicaragua for the 1990 fiscal year (FY), which would extend through September 30, 1990. He also asked the United States Congress to add more than US$200 million for Nicaraguan aid to the budget request for FY 1991, which began on October 1, 1990. The emergency supplemental proposal included US$128 million for immediate economic needs and US$75 million for other economic, social, and political programs. The United States also contributed US$50 million to help clear Nicaragua's US$234 million arrearages with international financial institutions, in the hope that other countries also would contribute sizable funds. For repatriation efforts, the Bush administration's request included US$32 million for the demobilization and repatriation of the Contras and their families, and US$15 million for the repatriation of other Nicaraguan refugees.

In addition, Bush announced an immediate US$21 million aid package for the Chamorro government. The package included US$650,000 toward the Chamorro government's transition period expenses, US$13 million in surplus foodstuffs, and US$7.5 million for Contra repatriation. The Bush administration also announced that it had begun the process of restoring Nicaragua's sugar quota, its eligibility for preferential treatment under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) and the Generalized System of Preferences, and its access to benefits of the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

In its first action to assist President Chamorro, the United States Congress, although not acting as quickly as the Chamorro government wished on funds critical to its spring planting season, approved the emergency supplemental package on May 24, 1990. For FY 1991, the United States Congress did not specifically earmark funds for Nicaragua, but it indicated in the report accompanying the foreign aid legislation that it expected to provide Nicaragua with as much as possible of the administration's US$200 million request for the country. (The United States Congress also specified that no funds were to be provided for Contras who had not disarmed and were not abiding by the terms of the April 1990 cease-fire.) Continuing resolutions from October 1, 1991, through September 30, 1992, providing appropriations for FY 1992, allowed the Bush administration to continue funding Nicaragua at the FY 1991 US$200 million level, just under the administration's US$204.7 million request. The Bush administration obligated US$262.2 million in FY 1990, US$268.9 million in FY 1991, and an estimated US$185.5 million in FY 1992.

As a result of the actions, during FY 1991 and FY 1992 Nicaragua was the second-largest recipient of United States aid to Central America, behind El Salvador. In addition, in September 1991, the Bush administration signed an agreement with Nicaragua cancelling US$259.5 million in bilateral debt to the United States.

In exchange for its assistance, however, the United States expected the Chamorro government to adopt free-market reforms, privatize industries, restore property to former owners, and drop the international lawsuit that the Sandinista government had brought against the United States for the Contra war. All these provisions proved highly problematic for the new government. Complicating the matter, the United States conditioned disbursements of certain obligated funds on progress toward fulfillment of economic objectives. At times, pressures from the Bush administration and members of the United States Congress for political reform in Nicaragua appeared to be prerequisites for further aid from the United States.

United States discomfort with the continuing Sandinista leadership of the Nicaraguan military was highlighted in late 1990 and early 1991. During this period, Salvadoran guerrillas shot down two Salvadoran air force aircraft and a United States helicopter with Soviet surface-to-air missiles obtained from the Nicaraguan military. The ancients resulted in the deaths of three United States soldiers. Even though the Chamorro government arrested four officers in connection with the October 1990 sale of the missiles to the Salvadorans and the Nicaraguans said that the Salvadoran guerrillas would be forced to return unfired missiles, the incident accentuated United States fears that the Chamorro government was being used by the Sandinistas.

Subsequent reports that Nicaraguan army soldiers had tried to smuggle arms and munitions to a Marxist group in Honduras, the assassination in Managua of former Contra leader Enrique Bermúdez, and the Salvadoran guerrillas' continued use of Nicaragua as a safe haven exacerbated United States concerns. For its part, the Nicaraguan government objected to the United States request to the Soviet Union that it cut the supply of spare parts needed by the Nicaraguan army to maintain its helicopters and trucks.

In April 1991, President Chamorro paid a state visit to the United States. She addressed a joint session of Congress in the hope of easing growing United States doubts about her administration and obtaining a long-term commitment for United States aid. Although President Bush and the United States Congress praised and applauded President Chamorro. she received no commitments other than a promise that the United States would lead efforts to obtain aid to clear Nicaragua's arrearages with international financial institutions, opening the way for new support.

At the time of President Chamorro's visit, a central issue in United States-Nicaraguan relations was unresolved. The United States wanted the Chamorro government to drop the suit that the Sandinista government had brought against the United States in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on April 9, 1984. In the suit, the Sandinista government charged that the United States had violated international law in recruiting, training, arming, equipping, financing, supplying, and otherwise encouraging, supporting, aiding, and directing military and paramilitary actions in and against Nicaragua. The ICJ ruled against the United States on June 27, 1986. But because the United States rejected the decision the case remained unresolved in April 1991.

In its decision, the ICJ ruled, twelve to three, that the United States had violated obligations not to intervene in another state's affairs, not to use force against another state, not to violate the sovereignty of another state, and not to interrupt peaceful maritime commerce. The ICJ also ruled that the United States had not abided by its 1956 Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation Treaty with Nicaragua. The ICJ ordered the United States to make reparations to Nicaragua but left a first attempt at setting the form and amount of reparations to agreement between the two parties. Because the United States rejected the ICJ's decision, no attempts were ever made at agreement, and in the 1990 transition period the National Assembly passed a law requiring future governments to proceed with the claim. Although the Chamorro government initially resisted spending its political capital to meet United States demands to drop the claim, President Chamorro told President Bush during her April 1991 state visit that she had introduced legislation to the National Assembly to repeal the law. In June 1991, forty-nine to one after the Sandinista deputies had walked out, the UNO coalition in the National Assembly voted to revoke the law. The Chamorro government subsequently notified the ICJ that it was dropping the claim.

Despite the Bush administration's public words of firm support for the Chamorro government's ongoing economic reforms, the Nicaraguan government's relations with the Sandinistas were a continuing irritant and a cause for the Bush administration's difficulties in shaping and implementing its Nicaragua policy. As Nicaragua sought foreign funds to help sustain the army, in late 1991 the United States discouraged an offer from Taiwan to give between US$2 million and US$3 million for nonlethal assistance to the Sandinista military. Earlier, the United States apparently had ignored a request from the Chamorro government to help fund retirement and retraining benefits for 2,700 army officers. Without indications that the Sandinista military and police were firmly under President Chamorro's control, there seemed little prospect in 1992 that the United States would endorse her reconciliation policy.


Nicaragua - Relations with Central American Countries


The elections in Nicaragua and the end of the Contra war, all achieved as part of the ongoing Central American peace process that began in 1983, raised hopes that Central Americans could turn to other issues of concern in the region. The Chamorro government maintained that it favored political and economic integration in Central America. In June 1990, President Chamorro joined the four other Central American presidents in a summit meeting in Antigua, Guatemala, part of an ongoing series of presidential summits that had taken place since the Esquipulas II agreement of August 1987. The five presidents announced on June 17, 1990, that they had agreed to a plan for regional cooperation in trade, financing, investment, and production. The plan included the revival of the Central American Common Market (CACM- -see Appendix B) through a revision of tariff and nontariff barriers to trade.

Central America sought to increase trade as an important step to economic recovery and long-term growth, both through broad and steady access to the United States market and through increasing trade within the Central American region. As mandated by the 1987 Esquipulas II accords, Central Americans took steps to advance integration efforts among themselves. Various efforts to bring all the countries together have resulted in some liberalization of trade. Nicaragua participated in the first step in January 1991, when in a two-day meeting in Tuxtla, Mexico, the presidents of the five Central American countries signed an agreement outlining free-trade arrangements that would be phased in by December 31, 1996. This trade integration would start with each country bilaterally negotiating agreements by economic sector with Mexico. Subsequently, however, Nicaragua did not move with the same speed as other Central American countries toward regional economic integration; its delay was attributed to domestic economic conditions. Nicaragua also lagged on a regional political measure, namely, participation in the Central American Parliament. In a September 1991 meeting in San Salvador, the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras decided to hold an inaugural session of the parliament the following month. Nicaragua, however, had not yet held elections for the twenty delegates each country would send to the body; this delay was attributed to the cost of holding special elections and to domestic political reasons. The three participating countries gave Nicaragua, Costa Rica (which had not yet ratified the treaty), and Panama (which had expressed interest in joining regional integration measures) thirty-six months to take the steps necessary to participate. After finally holding elections for its delegates, the Central American Parliament, with delegates from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua in attendance, had its first meeting in Esquipulas, Guatemala in 1993.


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CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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