State of Emergency – Energy
Recent continual energy blackouts further provoked turmoil in Nicaragua. President Enrique Bolaños ordered a rate hike of 11.83% on electricity, which has not yet gone into effect. The rate increase was only the first step in a series of executive measures that was to be implemented as part of the state of economic emergency announced Monday, May 30th.
In the hours after the declaration of the state of economic emergency, the president issued two decrees, legitimizing the authorization of the energy rate hike. The first decree reformed Article 176 of Electrical Industry Law, establishing that the president can declare a state of alert and energy conservation allowing for enforceable emergency rate increases at any point within a year following the declaration. The second decree established the actual state of economic emergency, authorized the rate increase and assured the public that it will not affect consumers using less than 150 kilowatt/hours – a group that represents almost 75% of all electric power users.
The motivation for these measures is to revive the electricity provider Unión Fenosa financially, so that it can make its payments to the energy generators and end the energy shortage that threatens the country. Unión Fenosa is the Spanish transnational company which bought Nicaragua’s formerly public-owned electrical utility company and has mismanaged it since that time, raising rates while failing to make needed improvements in infrastructure.
But less than a week after President Bolaños announced the state of economic emergency, he revoked the declaration, while leaving the energy rate increase in place. It was also determined that monthly revisions of the energy rate are in order following evaluation of current fuel oil prices. Fenosa is also being given a temporary deferment of debts for incomplete payment to two energy generators, Gesca and Hidrogesa – the value of which is more than US$10 million. (June 7, 2005)
Most Nicaraguans Disagree With Dissolution
Angus Reid Consultants
Many adults in Nicaragua are against a proposal to call a state of emergency to resolve their country’s political crisis, according to a poll by M&R published in the La Prensa. 49.7 per cent of respondents disagree with dissolving powers and calling a constituent assembly.
In 2001, Enrique Bolaños—candidate for the ruling Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC)—was elected with 56.3 per cent of the vote over Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). Bolaños lost the support of the PLC in January 2002, when his government decided to take legal action against former president Arnoldo Alemán. Last year, Alemán—who governed the country from 1997 to 2002—was sentenced to 20 years in prison for fraud, money laundering and embezzlement.
In November, PLC and FSLN lawmakers at the National Assembly introduced a series of constitutional reforms that restrict presidential powers, by allowing the legislative branch to ratify, summon and dismiss government ministers. In January, the Central American Court of Justice (CCJ) unanimously ruled that the Nicaraguan legislative branch must not go ahead with the proposed reforms. Bolaños has so far refused to sanction the amendments. Last month, a mission from the Organization of American States (OAS) visited Nicaragua to assess the political situation.
On Jun. 5, Bolaños said he could invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter—a political agreement signed in 2001 by OAS members—as a way to resolve the impasse. The charter, which is not a legal treaty, establishes that the OAS can be invited to intervene when a government faces an “unconstitutional alteration.” Ortega criticized any involvement from the OAS, saying the body “is financially supported by the Yankees and has always helped them.”
Polling Data: Q: Some people have proposed for the president to call a state of emergency, dissolve powers and call a constituent assembly to find a solution to the country’s problems. Do you agree or disagree with this proposal? Agree 41.9% Disagree 49.7% No opinion 8.4% Source: M&R / La Prensa Methodology: Telephone interviews to 820 Nicaraguan adults, conducted on Mar. 16 and Mar. 17, 2005. Margin of error is 3.3 per cent. (June 9, 2005)
Thousands of Nicaraguans Reject State of Emergency
Prensa Latina (Cu)
Thousands of Nicaraguan workers demanded members of the Congress Thursday to reject the state of economic emergency decreed by President Enrique Bolaños Monday. Delegations from different trade unions, organizations for consumer protection and human rights, and community movement members concentrated in front of the National Assembly, and their leadership declared they would remain there permanently because of the government”s escalating limitations of constitutional guarantees.
Participants in the protest held big banners saying: “No More Abuse of the Population,” “Transnationals Out of Nicaragua,” “No to Electric Power Prices Rise”, “Bolanos, You Sold Out to Transnationals,” and others. Representatives of the Civil Coordinating Office and other organizations spoke on the plenary about the negative consequences of an increase of 11.83 percent in electric power tariffs for Nicaragua, the poorest Central American country.
Julio Jimenez, from the Nicaraguan Transport Chamber, said Bolanos should protect the population and not benefit transnationals. Eduardo Irazabal, community worker, told Prensa Latina the population is upset with the government because of the exploitation of transnationals, and Eloisa Guerrero, a merchant, said the government was creating chaos in the whole country to justify foreign intervention. It is hoped that the Nicaraguan Parliament will make a decision Thursday about the state of emergency, and appoint a Superintendent and four new officials for public services, and three magistrates to the Supreme Electoral Council. (2 June 2005)
The OAS and Nicaragua: The Very Model of a Modern Intervention
The 35th summit of the Organization of American States (OAS) was held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in the first days of June this year. It marked another tactical defeat for the Bush regime’s State Department under Condoleezza Rice and her Latin American point man Roger Noriega. Noriega and Rice performed in tune with the aleatory mix of wishful thinking, hypocrisy and bullying that traditionally mar US diplomacy in Latin America.
With Noriega accusing Venezuela of organizing the popular uprising in Bolivia (1), Rice tried to convince Latin American leaders to expand OAS powers of intervention by creating new mechanisms to monitor democracy in individual countries and intervene where necessary. That proposal, widely regarded as directed at Venezuela, was rejected by an embarrassingly large majority of OAS members. The Brazilian foreign Minister Celso Amorin, apparently forgetful of his government’s role in Haiti, declared “democracy cannot be imposed.” (2) In contrast to the US failure to advance its aggressive agenda, a Venezuelan resolution proposing a Social Charter for the Americas was accepted. (3) …
In Nicaragua, the disappearance of political support for President Bolaños has created crisis conditions similar to those that led to the fall of Gutierrez in Ecuador and Mesa in Bolivia. In late May this year, the OAS sent a “technical mission” to monitor the institutional dispute between President Bolaños and the National Assembly. The OAS mission’s report sided inevitably with the beleaguered Bolaños administration, the imperial US proxy currently on duty in Managua.
In 2004, Bolaños narrowly escaped legal proceedings for misuse of electoral funds. Similar moves against Lucio Gutierrez in Ecuador were the prelude to his downfall. Likewise, in Peru, President Toledo is also accused of electoral infringements and campaign funding abuses. (6) All these Presidents represent anti-patriotic interests subservient to the regime in Washington. All their administrations have been tainted with corruption. Bolaños enjoys little domestic political support, like Toledo, Mesa and Gutierrez, hence the political crises that have either toppled those Presidents or brought them to the brink of defeat. …
(June 14, 2005)
(#)’s refer to references in original