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NICARAGUA: THIRD-FORCE POLITICAL MOVEMENT SPLINTERS & FORMER MILITARY CHIEF JOAQUIN CUADRA ORGANIZES NEW PARTY.

A coalition offering itself as an alternative to the two major political parties fell apart in June, but former armed forces chief Gen. Joaquin Cuadra formed a new party to run a candidate for president in 2001.

The third-force movement came out of the growing disdain for the power-sharing pacts negotiated between the governing Partido Liberal Constitucionalista (PLC) and the Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN) since 1997 (see EcoCentral, 1997-04-24).

In late 1999, an independent political group, the Coordinadora para la Defensa de la Democracia, emerged to protest constitutional reforms proposed in PLC-FSLN pacts. The group quickly turned its attention to the arrest and jailing of former Comptroller General Agustin Jarquin (see NotiCen, 1999-11-18) and to President Arnoldo Aleman's management of international-aid funds following the destruction brought by Hurricane Mitch (see NotiCen, 1999-12-09).

In February, several small political parties organized a third-force coalition to oppose the PLC and FSLN. Included in the coalition were the Proyecto Nacional (PRONAL), Movimiento Nosotros Podemos, Unidad Social Cristiana (USC), Alianza Popular Conservadora (APC), Movimiento de Unidad Revolucionaria (MUR), Movimiento de Renovacion Sandinista (MRS), and Movimiento Democratica Nicaraguense (MDN).

Only PRONAL and MRS have won enough votes in the last general election to gain legal standing as registered parties.

Included in the coalition leadership were Luis Humberto Guzman of the USC, former President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (1990-1997), Dora Maria Tellez of MRS, Cuadra, and Jarquin. Guzman said the coalition could take up to 30% of the vote in the November municipal elections.

Potential presidential candidates among third-force leaders were Chamorro, Cuadra, and Jarquin.

But Sandinista Assembly deputy Edwin Castro shrugged off the third-force threat. Seeking party registration under the MDN banner, the third force was an unlikely union of disparate political persuasions. "If they think they can beat the FSLN with that, they are wrong," he said.

In early June, with 86,000 signatures on its petition to qualify for the November elections, the MDN stunned its third- force partners by joining with the Partido Conservador de Nicaragua (PCN). PCN president Noel Vidaurre said the fusion was "irrevocable and indissoluble" and would confront "the two-headed dictatorship" of the PLC and FSLN.

Some third-force members accused Aleman and FSLN secretary general Daniel Ortega of engineering the defection. Whatever the reason, the move left the remaining third-force parties without the necessary signatures to qualify for legal status in the coming elections.

With the absorption of the MDN by the PCN, some remaining elements of the third force decided to support MRS, which will run Tellez for mayor of Managua.

The Consejo Supremo Electoral (CSE) refused to return the 86,000 signatures, forcing the coalition to begin again collecting the minimum 65,000 signatures by July 25 to participate in the November elections.

The MRS is pressuring the CSE to nullify the signatures collected for the MDN. Former CSE president Mariano Fiallos said nothing prevents the CSE from ruling in support of the MRS petition, freeing the people who signed the petition to sign for some other party.

Chamorro asked the CSE to return her signature on the MDN petition, but CSE vice president Emmet Lang said the signatures belonged to the MDN and only it could release them.

Commenting on the fate of the third force, Aleman denied his party had anything to do with the coalition's collapse. He said that, in Nicaragua, there were only two political forces, "the good and the bad," or the PLC and the FSLN respectively.

In late June, Cuadra, a former Sandinista, launched another third-force attempt, registering the Movimiento de Unidad Nacional as a political party. Cuadra described the party as centrist, avoiding the political extremes of the PLC and FSLN.

Cuadra attacked the electoral reforms of 1999 worked out in a PLC-FSLN pact. He said the new, stiffer requirements to achieve legal party status "do not allow for healthy, democratic competition."

Following Cuadra's announcement, Ortega invited him to rejoin the FSLN. Cuadra declined, saying, "I am convinced that the solution to Nicaragua's problems is not in either of the pactista parties."

Cuadra said his party is open to anyone, including Liberals, Sandinistas, and third-force voters who wish to support the party after the November elections. The party is looking for new people who are free from the vices of the political class, Cuadra said.

By September, Cuadra expects to have the necessary signatures to run a presidential candidate.

Although he has not announced his candidacy for president, Cuadra started what sounded like a campaign, attacking Aleman as a "tinhorn dictator."

In an interview with the Costa Rica daily La Nacion, Cuadra said, "The Aleman administration has taken the country into very dangerous deterioration. There is a deterioration of institutionality, no independence of [state] powers, and much toleration of corruption."

He said Aleman had ruined the chances for reconstruction after Hurricane Mitch because he could not account for the aid funds, "since the money for reconstruction was used to build houses and mansions for government officials."

As for FSLN, "it is are part of the disorder," Cuadra said. It is now a traditional party "fighting for power." [Sources: Notimex, 02/22/00, 02/25/00; La Prensa (Nicaragua), 02/18/00, 02/21/00, 02/23/00; El Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua), 02/15/00, 02/22/00, 02/23/00, 03/04/00, 06/01/00, 06/08/00, 06/11/00, 06/12/00, 06/14/00, 06/23/00, 06/24/00; Spanish News Service EFE, 06/25/00]
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Title Annotation:International Pages; Government Activity
Comment:NICARAGUA: THIRD-FORCE POLITICAL MOVEMENT SPLINTERS & FORMER MILITARY CHIEF JOAQUIN CUADRA ORGANIZES NEW PARTY.(Government Activity)(International Pages)
Publication:NotiCen: Central American & Caribbean Affairs
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:2NICA
Date:Jun 29, 2000
Words:912
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