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TITLE:  NICARAGUA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                           
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                       NICARAGUA


Nicaragua is a constitutional democracy, with executive, 
legislative, judicial, and electoral branches of government.  
President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, who was elected in a 
free and fair election in 1990 as the candidate of the 14-party 
National Opposition Union (UNO), governs through an appointed 
Cabinet; she has delegated comprehensive executive authority to 
her Presidency Minister and son-in-law, Antonio Lacayo.  UNO, 
which broke with the President over her policy of governing 
with the assistance of the Sandinista National Liberation Front 
(FSLN), declared itself in opposition to the Government and 
boycotted votes in the National Assembly for most of the year.  
During 1993 the President continued to rule through executive 
decrees with the force of law, depending on the FSLN bloc and 
nine former UNO deputies (the "center group") to support her 
few legislative proposals.  In December three additional UNO 
parties decided to return to the Assembly, reducing the 
original UNO bloc to seven parties.

The President (as nominal Minister of Defense) and the Ministry 
of Government are legally responsible for overseeing the 
Sandinista Popular Army (EPS) and the National Police, 
respectively.  In practice, however, Nicaragua's security 
forces continued to be led by Sandinista officers who operated 
with substantial institutional and legal autonomy; EPS 
Commanding General Humberto Ortega and his general staff openly 
resisted presidential attempts to assert civilian control over 
the EPS.  With the deaths of nine former members of the 
Nicaraguan Resistance (RN) attributable to the police and the 
EPS, the number of serious human rights violations committed by 
the state security forces declined slightly in 1993, but most 
of these violations went unpunished.

Nicaragua's efforts to reactivate its predominantly 
agricultural economy were unsuccessful, as economic growth 
remained stagnant.  The country's balance of payments position 
was precarious; the investment climate, unsettled.  The 
estimated rate of open unemployment was 20 percent, while total 
unemployment and underemployment approached 50 percent.  
Nicaragua's estimated per capita income of $400 per year was 
one of the lowest in the Western Hemisphere.  Inflation, which 
by 1992 had been slashed to under 4 percent, increased to about 
20 percent during 1993; the purchasing power of salaried 
workers dropped 15 percent in the first half of 1993.  Although 
the Government's fiscal deficit has been cut by 80 percent 
since 1990, Nicaragua remained heavily dependent on foreign aid.


Major persistent human rights problems included:  continued 
political kidnapings and murders; extrajudicial killings, 
torture, mistreatment of detainees, and other abuses by 
security forces; and violence by paramilitary bands in rural 
areas.  The Government's continuing failure to prosecute and 
punish those responsible for human rights abuses and the 
backlogged and often partisan judicial system contributed to 
the impunity with which human rights violations occurred.  The 
Government was reluctant to challenge the police and the EPS 
over human rights violations.  Additionally, while the 
Government's repeated amnesties for those guilty of "political 
crimes" and related common crimes, including murder, were 
intended to promote national reconciliation, they arguably 
lessened restraints on those inclined to commit human rights 
abuses.  There were continued problems with violence against 
women (including rape and wife beating).

An Office of Human Rights within the Attorney General's office, 
created in 1992, remained unstaffed.  A Tripartite Commission 
on political violence, composed of the civilian Government, the 
Catholic Church, and the Organization of American States' 
International Support and Verification Commission (OAS/CIAV), 
sent the President 3 reports covering 50 murder cases; the 
reports recommended sanctions against some members of the 
police and the EPS.  Although two of the police officers were 
convicted of murder and legal action is pending against some of 
the other policemen named, no action was taken against any 
implicated EPS officers.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Politically motivated violence remained commonplace in 1993.  
The civil war, which formally concluded in June 1990 with the 
demobilization of the Nicaraguan Resistance (RN), left 
Nicaraguan society both politically polarized and heavily 
armed.  Armed groups continued to operate in various areas of 
the country, mainly in the north.  Their activities were 
principally criminal but often had political overtones.  They 
included kidnapings for ransom by former members of the EPS and 
killings of Sandinista cooperative members by rearmed members 
of the RN known as recontras.  In February, March, and April, 
there were several brutal murders of Sandinista peasants in 
northern Nicaragua.  These included the murder of Juan Davila 
and his two young daughters near Waslala by fellow members of 
their Sandinista farm cooperative; the torture and murder of 
three members of the Wenseslao Espinoza family near El Guaylo, 
again by fellow members of their Sandinista farm cooperative; 
the torture and murder of five peasants near Wilikito by 
recontra bandits; and the torture and beheading of four 
peasants by recontra bandits at El Jicaro.

There were credible reports that the police, army, or Sandinista
militants killed demobilized RN combatants during the year.  
According to OAS/CIAV, the National Police or active or 
demobilized EPS members killed 9 former combatants in 1993; 
FSLN militants or Sandinista farm cooperative members killed an 
additional 3; and unknown assailants killed 18.  Rearmed EPS 
veterans (known as recompas) killed 8 and recontras or other 
ex-RN members killed 12.  This number of 50 deaths brought to 
215 the number of ex-RN members who died under violent 
circumstances since the beginning of the Chamorro 
administration.  OAS/CIAV provided details of these human 
rights abuses to the Government.

To address the issue of ex-RN deaths, many of which were 
politically motivated, President Chamorro established a 
Tripartite Commission composed of the civilian Government, the 
Catholic Church, and OAS/CIAV in late 1992.  In February the 
Commission sent its first report, covering 10 murder cases, to 
the President.  It recommended prosecutions or sanctions 
against 12 police officers and 10 members of the EPS for 
participating in or covering up the deaths.  A military court 
convicted two policemen of killing one of the victims and 
sentenced them to 15 years in prison, but their actual 
incarceration could not be confirmed.  The EPS took no action 
against any of the EPS members named.  

Many incidents of political and extrajudicial killing dating 
from 1990 had not been resolved by the end of 1993.  In 
November 1991, a special presidential commission charged with 
investigating the February 16, 1991, assassination of former RN 
commander Enrique Bermudez was dissolved after it claimed there 
was a lack of evidence.  Since then, no progress in 
investigating the murder was reported.  At the request of the 
Government and the Tripartite Commission, a British police team 
reviewed the procedures used in the Nicaraguan police 
investigation, but it did not uncover any new evidence. 


The military courts have not yet prosecuted those accused in 
the 1990 killing of high school student Jean Paul Genie, 
despite the fact that a criminal court concluded in July 1992 
that EPS Commanding General Humberto Ortega covered up the 
murder of Genie by Ortega's bodyguards and ruled that only the 
military courts could try them.  In December 1993, the Supreme 
Court remanded the case to the military justice system, denying 
an appeal to try the case in civilian court.  The Inter-
American Commission on Human Rights has referred the case to 
the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, but the Government 
maintains that since the killing took place prior to Nicaragua's
adherence to the Court, the Court does not have jurisdiction.

There were no arrests in the November 23, 1992, assassination 
of Dr. Arges Sequeira Manga.  A terrorist group, the self-styled
"punitive forces of the left," publicly took credit for the 
murder.  The EPS claimed that all of Sequeira's killers had 
recently retired from its ranks, but the father of one publicly 
stated that his son was still on active duty.  The leader of 
the group, Lt. Colonel Frank Ibarra (the former EPS intelligence
chief in Leon), and two henchmen (both former intelligence 
officers) were tried in absentia in July 1993; the trial was 
suspended when the jury failed to reach a verdict.  In 
September, at the request of the President, the National 
Assembly passed an amnesty law covering "political crimes" and 
related common crimes committed by rearmed groups.  (The UNO 
opposition was boycotting the Assembly at the time.)  Although 
the President publicly maintained that Sequeira's killers were 
not included in the amnesty, the intent of the legislators was 
clearly to benefit Ibarra and his group.  Ibarra had well 
publicized contacts with the Government's special disarmament 
brigade in mid-1993, but that organization did not attempt to 
arrest him.  When the suspended trial resumed in November, 
another jury convicted Ibarra but acquitted the two other 
defendants.  Two weeks later, the trial judge dismissed all 
charges against Ibarra, ruling that he cannot be punished 
because he is covered by the amnesty.  On November 29, the 
public prosecutor asked the Leon court of appeals to overturn 
the decision of the trial judge.

Local human rights monitors charged that security forces 
continued to be staffed by many former members of the disbanded 
General State Security Directorate (DGSE), cited for repeated 
human rights violations under the Sandinista Government.  On 
September 2, President Chamorro announced the removal of the 
Defense Information Directorate (DID--the successor to the 
DGSE) from EPS control, its transfer to the Presidency, and the 
future appointment of a civilian to replace its chief, Colonel 
Lenin Cerna, who was responsible for human rights violations 
while he headed the DGSE.  On October 15, President Chamorro 
issued a decree creating the Directorate of Intelligence 
Affairs (DAI) attached to the Presidency, under the direction 
of a civilian and three vice directors (one appointed by the 
Ministry of Government, one by the Police, and one by the EPS).
Simultaneously the EPS named Colonel Hugo Torres, a Sandinista 
Comandante who headed the EPS political directorate, to replace 
Cerna as head of the DID and announced it would appoint Torres 
as the EPS representative on the new DAI.  Cerna was 
temporarily transferred to the post of Inspector General of the 
EPS, a move strongly criticized by local human rights groups.

All three local human rights groups and a number of foreign 
ones denounced the September 1993 amnesty for political crimes 
and related common crimes.  The Government's avowed purpose for 
the first amnesty was to promote reconciliation following 
Nicaragua's civil war; for the second and third amnesties, to 
accomplish the disarmament and disbanding of rearmed combatants 
involved in rural violence.  In general, the Chamorro Government
has not been able or willing to try, convict, and punish 
offenders.  Many of them continue in the ranks of the police 
and the EPS and can only be tried by the military court system, 
which continues to protect its own.  Convictions by the military
courts are rare and actual punishment uncertain.  Although the 
civilian Government has recommended that the police enforce 
administrative sanctions against a few officers, the police 
took only weak action against some and cleared others.

     b.  Disappearance

Official forces are not known to have been responsible for 
disappearances during the year, and there are no reliable 
accounts of other groups having been responsible for such 
actions.

In August a government negotiating delegation including two 
prominent Sandinista members of the National Assembly were 
taken hostage in northern Nicaragua by a recontra group, the 
"380 Northern Front."  The group demanded the firing of EPS 
Commanding General Humberto Ortega and other governmental 
changes.  Soon thereafter, a group of masked former Sandinista 
army officers, styling themselves the "National Dignity and 
Sovereignty Command," took hostage in Managua the top 
leadership of the UNO coalition, including the Vice President 
of Nicaragua.  The Managua group demanded the release of the 
hostages in the north.  After 5 days of negotiation with 
special commissions appointed by the Government, both groups 
released their hostages.  The Government amnestied both groups.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

There were numerous credible reports during the year of 
beatings and other physical mistreatment of persons detained by 
the police, often to obtain confessions from detainees.  
According to the Permanent Human Rights Commission (CDPH), a 
prominent human rights group, the use of torture as an 
investigative tool is "systematic" in the national police, 
especially in the departments of Leon, Boaco, and Chontales.  
Police offenders enjoy almost complete impunity; only the worst 
cases are sent by the civil inspection unit to the military 
courts for action, and those accused are normally absolved.  
The CPDH charged that the Government has no policy to eliminate 
physical maltreatment of prisoners.

There were reports in February that EPS members targeted women 
for rape during field operations in the Central Zelaya region, 
particularly mothers, sisters, and wives of former RN members.  
However, it was not possible to obtain independent verification 
of these complaints.

Conditions in the prison system threatened the life and the 
health of the prisoners.  The Civil Inspection Unit of the 
Ministry of Government is responsible for checking prison 
conditions, which are also independently monitored by local 
human rights groups.  The CPDH attributes the conditions to the 
Government's "inexcusable indifference" and its failure to 
allocate adequate funds.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Arbitrary arrest and detention by the police were common.  The 
Police Functions Law establishes procedures for the arrest of 
criminal suspects, which require police to obtain a warrant 
from a police official prior to detaining a suspect.  After 
detention, police are required by the law to notify family 
members of the detainee's whereabouts, but in practice this is 
rarely done.  Detainees do not have the right to an attorney 
until they have been formally charged with a crime.  Local 
human rights groups criticized the law for providing inadequate 
judicial oversight of police arrests.  


The Constitution declares that all detained persons have the 
right to be brought before a judge within 72 hours, but in 
practice this right is ignored.  The Police Functions Law 
permits a suspect to be detained for up to 9 days before being 
brought before a judge; if released sooner, the police are not 
required to justify the detention.  Although the National 
Assembly specified the 3-day deadline in the reform Law of 
Penal Procedures, passed in 1991, it did not amend the Police 
Functions Law.  Local human rights groups reported that 
detainees routinely continued to be held indefinitely.

The Civil Inspection Unit of the Ministry of Government, 
established in 1991, continues to monitor and correct police 
wrongdoing, including illegal detention.  Although the 
Constitution provides that detainees are to receive access to 
legal counsel once they have been charged with a crime, in 
practice police do not act to protect this right.  The Reform 
Law of Penal Procedures provides for the release on bail of 
persons accused of certain crimes.  Previously, detainees were 
permitted to remain at liberty prior to trial only for 
compelling personal reasons, such as ill health.

The CPDH estimated the number of arbitrary detentions in 1993 
in the hundreds; it noted that arbitrary arrest is commonly 
used by Sandinista police officials in the provinces to harass 
political opponents, principally members of the UNO coalition 
parties and former members of the Nicaraguan Resistance.  

Exile is not practiced.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system comprises both civilian and military courts 
and is headed by the Supreme Court of Justice.

The Supreme Court consists of at least seven judges.  They are 
appointed by the National Assembly from lists of nominees 
selected by the President and serve for 6-year terms.  During 
1993 the Court consisted of nine judges:  five holdovers 
appointed during the Sandinista Government and four judges 
appointed by President Chamorro.  On December 13, the National 
Assembly accepted the nominations of four Supreme Court 
replacements, giving the Court a non-Sandinista majority for 
the first time since President Chamorro took office.  This has 
potentially positive implications for human rights because the 
Supreme Court appoints appeals court and lower court judges.  
Non-Sandinista appointees are widely considered by Nicaraguans 
to be more impartial than their Sandinista counterparts.


The military courts are responsible for investigating, 
prosecuting, and trying crimes committed by or against members 
of the armed forces or police.  These courts can thus under 
certain circumstances try civilians; in a controversial 1993 
ruling a military court extended its jurisdiction to convict a 
former member of the EPS.  Military courts often fail to 
investigate or try cases against members of the military; 
sanctions against soldiers are frequently light or the 
sentences are not enforced.  The Supreme Court's decision in 
December, on the last day of the terms of four Supreme Court 
justices, to remand the Jean Paul Genie case (Section 1.a.) to 
the military court will therefore be a test of the military 
court system's integrity.

In all criminal cases, the accused has the right to legal 
counsel, and defendants are presumed innocent until proven 
guilty.  Publicly funded attorneys to represent indigent 
defendants do not exist.  Obtaining justice is a slow process, 
and many persons are arrested and held without bail for months 
before they appear in court.  According to one report by the 
Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH), based on information 
from the chief of the national prison system, 52 percent of the 
prison population is awaiting trial.  The CPDH estimates that 
nearly half of all those incarcerated in the prison system have 
been awaiting trial for between 6 months and 2 years.

The 1991 Reform Law of Penal Procedures reestablished trial by 
jury and allowed individual citizens to denounce criminal 
activities directly to a judge.  Previously all accusations of 
criminal wrongdoing were processed first by the police, who 
determined whether the case merited further action.  However,  
the jury system has not proved effective so far.  Many 
prospective jurors seek to evade jury duty, thereby delaying 
trials.  Jurors are also generally regarded as excessively 
susceptible to argumentation based on emotion.

The civilian Government does not punish political activity, and 
there were no known political prisoners in Nicaragua in 1993.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The Constitution establishes that all persons have the right to 
privacy of their family and to the inviolability of their home, 
correspondence, and communications.  It also requires warrants 
for searches of private homes and excludes from legal 
proceedings illegally seized letters, documents, and private 
papers.  Local human rights groups claimed that officers from 
the Defense Information Directorate continued to operate as 
they had under the DGSE, operating wiretaps and other 
electronic surveillance, intercepting mail, and searching 
private homes and offices without judicial authorization.  
During 1993, there were credible reports that the EPS and 
police officials illegally entered homes and businesses.

In May President Chamorro, in connection with military 
operations against rearmed groups in northern Nicaragua, issued 
a presidential decree partially suspending for 30 days 
constitutional guarantees in 14 counties in the departments of 
Nueva Segovia, Madriz, Esteli, Matagalpa, and Jinotega.  The 
rights suspended were inviolability of the home, freedom from 
arbitrary detention, freedom from arrest without warrant, the 
right to be immediately informed of charges, the right to an 
appearance before a judge within 72 hours, and the right to 
legal action against authorities for an illegal detention.

This suspension was the Government's largely symbolic attempt 
to crack down on crime in the countryside, principally by 
organized bands of recontras and recompas.  Human rights 
monitors registered no complaints concerning the violations of 
these rights in the areas affected.  Some human rights monitors 
suggested that the police and the military, who routinely 
ignore constitutional guarantees in the countryside, became 
more scrupulous than usual about respecting them because of the 
international criticism generated by the suspension decree.

     g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian 
         Law in Internal Conflicts

There was considerable armed conflict in northern Nicaragua 
between the EPS and the recontra and recompa rearmed groups.  
In July some 500 EPS troops attacked one recompa group (the 
Peasant Worker Revolutionary Front) of 150 men that had 
occupied portions of the city of Esteli.  Credible reports 
indicate that 8 civilians, including 2 children, were killed in 
the attack, and 68 civilians were wounded, of whom 18 were 
children.  By most reports, the EPS used heavy machine guns, 
rocket-propelled grenades, and rifle-propelled grenades during 
its operations.  Nicaragua is so polarized that few can agree 
on the facts, much less the interpretation of the facts.  
Initial reports were that dozens were massacred.  A CENIDH 
report condemned the EPS for "disproportionate and irrational 
use of force" and declared that an EPS assault on Esteli's 
Davila Bolanos hospital "flagrantly violated the norms of 
humanitarian law."  U.S. Embassy officers visited Esteli after 
the event and confirmed that some fighting had taken place 
there, but they could confirm the deaths of only two combatants.

On October 18, shortly after the EPS began a major offensive 
against a recontra group in northern Nicaragua, four EPS 
helicopters fired rockets into the hills surrounding the 
village of El Guanito.  Although no one was injured in the 
90-minute attack, some 300 terrified villagers fled across the 
border into Honduras.  On December 22, reacting to an editorial 
criticizing such attacks as "genocide," EPS General Humberto 
Ortega filed a criminal libel suit against the editor of La 
Prensa.  The suit, which alleged that the newspaper had damaged 
the honor of the army, itself drew widespread criticism and was 
withdrawn 6 days later.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

These freedoms are provided for in the Constitution, which 
declares that "Nicaraguans have the right freely to express 
their beliefs in public or private, individually or 
collectively, in oral, written, and any other form."  In 
practice, during 1993 diverse viewpoints were freely and openly 
discussed in public discourse, in the privately owned print 
media, in the broadcast media, and in academic circles.  Freedom
of the press is qualified, however, by several constitutional 
provisions.  The Constitution also stipulates that Nicaraguans 
have the right to "accurate information," thereby providing an 
exception by which the freedom to publish information the 
Government deems inaccurate could be abridged.  Although the 
right to information cannot be subject to censorship, there is 
retroactive liability established by law, defined as a "social 
responsibility," implying sanctions against irresponsibility by 
the press.  Finally, "the mass media are at the service of the 
national interests," implying that the Government may suppress 
media activity it decides is not in the national interest. 

The most important medium for news distribution is radio.  
Listeners can receive a wide variety of political viewpoints, 
particularly in Managua.  In August Sandinista terrorists 
attacked the studios of two center-right Managua stations, 
Radio Corporacion and Radio Minuto, causing some $50,000 in 
damages and silencing the stations for 1 and 3 weeks, 
respectively.  In September, amidst antigovernment rioting over 
a proposed vehicle tax, terrorists attacked Radio Corporacion's 
transmitter, knocking the station off the air for 1 week.  The 
attacks were the fourth and fifth against the outspokenly 
anti-Sandinista and antigovernment Radio Corporacion in the 
past 4 years.  Radio Catolica, the Church-owned station, 
complained that a March 31 power cutoff to the station and 
earlier electrical problems were punishment for commentaries 
critical of the Government.  

There are seven television stations, four of which carry news 
programming with marked political overtones.  One state-owned 
station (confiscated by the Sandinista Government) was restored 
to its original owners in July; its news is produced by COSEP, 
the Higher Council of Private Enterprise.

There is no official state censorship in Nicaragua, nor is 
self-censorship practiced.  Fears that the broad language of a 
new antisodomy law, which penalized any person who "induces, 
promotes or practices in a scandalous manner sexual intercourse 
between people of the same sex," might be used to curtail 
freedom of speech and bar the dissemination of health and sex 
information did not materialize.  However, some governmental 
actions did pose threats to freedom of expression:  In May a 
criminal court's application of Chapter VII of the Penal Code, 
which deals with libel and slander, had a chilling effect on 
freedom of the press.  Despite provisions in the Code 
protecting criticism of the performance of public officials, a 
La Prensa journalist and the newspaper's director were 
convicted of libel for reporting charges of mismanagement 
against a former health minister, now an FSLN deputy in the 
National Assembly.  They were fined $1,600 by a Sandinista 
criminal court judge.

In June policemen beat two El Nuevo Diario (a pro-Sandinista 
newspaper) journalists attempting to cover a clash between 
police and striking customs workers in Managua.  No action was 
taken against the policemen responsible.

Academic freedom in higher education is recognized by the 
Constitution and was respected in practice by the Government.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution recognizes the right to peaceful assembly 
without prior permission.  It also recognizes the right to 
public assembly, demonstration, and mobilization "in conformity 
with the law."  Demonstrators must obtain permission for a 
march after registering its planned size and location with 
police.  This permission is routinely granted.


Numerous marches and demonstrations were held throughout the 
year by groups representing a range of political views.  
However, in April the Government, vaguely citing "security" 
reasons and possible antigovernment "provocations," revoked 
permission for the National Opposition Union to hold a march in 
La Concepcion to celebrate the third anniversary of its 
electoral victory over the Sandinistas.  In September the 
Government refused permission for an independence day 
celebration by Sandinista teachers and students in Managua, on 
the grounds that the event would have conflicted with an 
official celebration promoted by the Education Ministry at 
another location.  The unofficial event was held anyway, 
without government interference.  In June police used rubber 
bullets, tear gas, and clubs to break up a peaceful but 
unauthorized protest march by 150 military veterans in Managua; 
11 persons were injured and some 30 arrested.

The Constitution provides for the right to organize or 
affiliate with political parties.  Opposition and independent 
associations of all sorts coexisted in Nicaragua throughout 
1993.  Private associations of any kind may be formed without 
restrictions but do not have legal status until they receive 
this designation from the National Assembly.  Such legal 
recognition is routinely conferred.  Nevertheless, approval of 
the legal status of the Nicaraguan Resistance Party was delayed 
for 2 years; it was finally granted in 1993.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and this is 
respected in practice.  There are no constitutional or legal 
restrictions on any religious groups or foreign clergy.  
Although at least 75 percent of Nicaraguans are Roman Catholic, 
other religious groups practice without hindrance.  There are 
no constitutional or legal restrictions on places of worship, 
training of the clergy, religious publishing, religious 
education, or conversion.  Churches legally operate radio 
stations, and one of the television stations broadcasts 
exclusively Protestant evangelical programming.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides for the right to travel and reside 
anywhere in Nicaragua and to freely enter and exit the 
country.  There are no government restrictions on movement 
within the country.  The right of citizens to return to 
Nicaragua is not established in the Constitution, but, in 
practice, there was no restriction on their return under the 
Chamorro Government.  During the past 3 years, tens of 
thousands of refugees and expatriated members of the Nicaraguan 
Resistance and their families returned from Honduras, Costa 
Rica, the United States, and other countries, without 
restriction or legal disability.

The Constitution offers asylum "to those persecuted for their 
struggle for democracy, peace, justice, and human rights," and 
political refugees expelled from Nicaragua cannot be sent back 
to the country persecuting them.   However, in May the 
Government summarily expelled to Spain three members of a 
Basque terrorist group (the ETA) who had been given asylum and 
Nicaraguan citizenship in 1990 by the former Sandinista 
Government.  Their citizenship was administratively annulled 
without a hearing.  CENIDH, foreign human rights groups, and 
some officials of the National Police charged that the 
expulsions were illegal and unconstitutional.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens exercised their right peacefully to change their 
government in the first election under the 1987 Constitution, 
which took place in February 1990.  It was contested by the 
14-party UNO coalition, the FSLN, and several smaller parties, 
and was declared free and fair by international observers.  The 
Constitution centers political power in the executive branch, 
which consists of the President, Vice President, and a Cabinet 
appointed by the President.  The President is both Head of 
State and Head of Government, as well as Commander in Chief of 
the defense and security forces, while the Vice President has 
no constitutionally mandated duties or powers.  Both are 
elected for 6-year terms by direct popular vote.

Legislative power is vested in the National Assembly.  Its 
members also serve 6-year terms.  Ninety members are elected 
under a proportional representation system from nine 
departments or regions; defeated presidential candidates are 
also allocated seats in the Assembly, provided they received a 
minimum percentage of votes in the previous presidential 
election.

Throughout 1993, UNO boycotted National Assembly votes after 
the January 9 elections to the Assembly directorate gave the 
majority seats on the directorate to the Sandinistas and a 
group of "Centrists" (defecting UNO deputies).  In February the 
Assembly agreed to fire the Comptroller General following his 
charges that the Government had bribed some of the Centrist 
deputies to support its legislative program.  The Government 
depended on the majority coalition of FSLN and Centrist 
deputies to pass its legislation, while the UNO coalition 
demanded that the Government act to restore the legislative 
majority given UNO by the voters in the 1990 elections.  Three 
member parties of UNO decided late in 1993 to return to the 
Assembly, which led to their expulsion from UNO.  At year's 
end, UNO intended to participate in ordinary sessions and 
perhaps vote on constitutional reform towards the latter stages 
of the reform process.

In theory the rights of citizens to change their government 
remains limited by Article 5 of the 1987 Constitution.  That 
article guarantees the existence of political pluralism 
"without ideological restrictions, except for those who seek a 
return to the past or advocate the establishment of a political 
system similar to it."  There have yet to be cases which would 
define this exception in practical terms.  However, in June El 
Nuevo Diario, citing this article, advocated the withdrawal of 
legal status from the Independent Liberal Party and the Liberal 
Constitutionalist Party, which it accused of forming a 
political alliance with the followers of the late President 
Somoza and former members of the defunct National Guard.

Elections are administered by an independent branch of 
government, the Supreme Electoral Council.  All elections are 
by secret ballot, with all citizens aged 16 and over having the 
right to vote.  There are no restrictions in law or practice 
against women, indigenous people, or other minorities voting or 
participating in politics.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Government generally permitted local and international 
human rights monitors to operate freely in Nicaragua in 1993.  
Nevertheless, its attitude regarding international and 
nongovernmental investigations of alleged violations of human 
rights was mixed.  The Government invited international 
investigations of limited scope in a few specific, 
well-publicized cases, but it generally ignored complaints of 
less notorious abuses brought by local human rights groups.  
Civilian authorities cooperated with local human rights groups 
in the presentation of human rights seminars for school 
children and for the police.  However, police and prison 
officials frequently refused to allow access to jails and 
prisons by human rights monitors, even when permission had been 
granted by the Ministry of Government.  The military refused to 
cooperate with investigations by human rights monitors.

There are three active local human rights organizations: the 
Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), the Permanent 
Commission for Human Rights (CPDH), and the Nicaraguan 
Association for Human Rights (ANPDH).  There were no reports of 
repression against human rights observers by the civilian 
authorities in 1993.  However, the CPDH was the target of mail 
tampering and telephone tapping, presumably by the Defense 
Intelligence Directorate.  In March CENIDH human rights 
activist and justice of the peace Leonel Gonzalez was shot to 
death in rural Chontales department by three unidentified men 
dressed in military uniforms; the murder remains unsolved.  In 
April Alberto Blandon, a representative of the Catholic Church 
on the Tripartite Commission, was threatened with death by 
members of a recompa band, and his farmhouse was looted.  In 
June ANPDH activist and local UNO leader Salvador Icaza fled 
Nicaragua after repeated police harassment and death threats.  
The CPDH reported that its local collaborator in Boaco was 
beaten by police and that shots were fired at her vehicle.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of 
"birth, nationality, political belief, race, gender, language, 
religion, opinion, national origin, economic condition, or 
social condition." 

     Women

While there is no de jure discrimination against women, they 
continued to suffer de facto discrimination in the male- 
dominated culture prevalent in much of society.  Women occupied 
some senior positions in government, the trade union movement, 
and social organizations, but were underrepresented in 
management positions in the private sector and formed the 
majority of workers in the traditionally low-paid education, 
textile, and health service sectors.

Local human rights organizations continued to monitor violence 
against women, including rape and wife beating.  Because 
victims often are reluctant to publicize their charges, it is 
likely that such abuse is significantly underreported.  Local 
human rights groups report that police sometimes intervene to 
prevent injury in cases of domestic violence but that the 
perpetrators are rarely charged or tried for their acts.  The 
Ixchen centers and the Luisa Amanda Association of Nicaraguan 
Women, a Sandinista mass organization, provided medical and 
psychological counseling to women, as well as legal advice in 
divorce cases and to victims of rape and other violence.

     Children

The Government is publicly committed to children's human rights 
and welfare, but funding levels for programs for children are 
inadequate.  There were a number of newspaper reports in 1993 
detailing the existence of child prostitution in Managua, 
Corinto, and Bluefields.  Child prostitutes were said to number 
some 500 in Managua alone.  The press attributed the practice 
to extreme poverty and homelessness.  There was no suggestion 
that such prostitution is organized.  Prostitution itself is 
not penalized under Nicaraguan law.  Although the Government 
created a National Commission for the Protection of Children in 
1992, it had no program directed at child prostitution, which, 
one of its officials observed, "does not exist from a legal 
point of view."

     Indigenous People

The indigenous people of Nicaragua are concentrated in four 
major areas.  On the Atlantic Coast and in the Eastern 
Highlands are the Miskito (numbering 160,000), the Sumu, the 
Rama, and the Black Carib (these last three exist in very small 
numbers).  These peoples are considered identifiable tribes by 
the Government. 

The Miskito tribe is the largest ethnic group in the North 
Atlantic autonomous region (the Raan, one of two such regions 
created in 1987 from the former department of Zelaya).  The 
indigenous people of the Raan (the Miskito and the Sumu) have 
their own political party, the Yatama, with strong 
representation in regional and municipal councils.  Two members 
of the National Assembly are Miskitos.  As in previous years, 
there were complaints that the indigenous peoples of the 
Atlantic Coast were excluded from meaningful participation in 
decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and the 
allocation of natural resources.  According to some human 
rights monitors, the central Government has granted business 
concessions in the autonomous regions without consulting the 
two relevant regional governments.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Most Nicaraguans are of mixed mestizo background, and skin 
color does not appear to be a barrier to political or economic 
success.  The Government has been criticized for its failure to 
expend resources in support of the Atlantic coast population, 
which is composed largely of ethnic, racial, and religious 
minorities (particularly, members of the Moravian church).  
Successive central governments in Managua have traditionally 
neglected the minorities on the Atlantic coast.  This has often 
taken the form of making decisions on exploitation of resources 
in the region without adequate consultation.

     People with Disabilities

The Government has not legislated or otherwise mandated 
accessibility for the disabled.  Despite the visible presence 
of many disabled veterans of the civil war, there was no 
attempt to assist the disabled, nor public calls to do so, in 
1993.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution guarantees the right of workers to organize 
voluntarily in unions "in conformity with the law."  Legally, 
all public and private sector workers, except the military and 
the police, are entitled to form and join unions of their own 
choosing, and they exercise this right extensively.  New unions 
must register with the Ministry of Labor and be granted legal 
status before they may engage in collective bargaining; some 
labor groups report occasional delays in obtaining this 
status.  Nearly half of Nicaragua's work force, including 
agricultural workers, is unionized, according to labor leaders.

Nicaragua's unions are independent of the Government.  
Affiliation to or activity in political parties or associations 
is grounds for dissolution of a trade union under the existing 
Labor Code; however, the Government does not enforce this 
provision.  Many unions and federations are affiliated with 
political parties, most notably the FSLN, the Nicaraguan 
Socialist Party, the Christian Democratic Union, and, until 
1992, the Nicaraguan Communist Party.


The Constitution recognizes the right to strike.  The Labor 
Code requires a 60-percent majority of all the workers in an 
enterprise to call a strike.  It also restricts strikes in 
rural occupations where produce may be damaged.  Workers may 
strike legally only after they have exhausted other methods of 
dispute resolution, including mediation by the Ministry of 
Labor and compulsory arbitration.  In practice, unions regard 
these lengthy procedures as too expensive and time consuming 
and frequently ignore them when initiating a strike.  There 
were numerous strikes in 1993, but most were declared illegal.

The Labor Code prohibits retribution against strikers and union 
leaders for legal strikes.  However, this protection may be 
withdrawn in the case of an illegal strike.  In the last months 
of 1992 and the first months of 1993, the Education Ministry 
fired more than 50 teachers who had participated in a series of 
brief, extralegal strikes organized by the National Association 
of Nicaraguan Educators (ANDEN), the Sandinista teachers 
federation; later in the year it refused to recognize the legal 
status of the ANDEN leadership or to negotiate a new collective 
bargain with ANDEN.  In June the Nicaraguan customs agency 
fired some 150 members of the Sandinista-affiliated customs 
workers federation, including the union leadership, during a 
strike declared illegal by the Labor Ministry.

In March the national police violently evicted striking sugar 
workers occupying the San Antonio sugar mill and arrested 63 
persons.  One policeman and five workers were injured in the 
clash, and one worker, Francisco Picado, was found dead in 
circumstances that were never clarified.  The International 
Confederation of Free Trade Unions noted that rural workers 
were subjected to abductions, intimidations, and detentions in 
1992 in connections with land privatization and evictions.

In May the International Labor Organization's (ILO) Committee 
on Freedom of Association (CFA) issued a report critical of the 
Government for failing adequately to investigate and punish 
acts of violence allegedly committed by the police against 
striking workers in 1990 and 1991.  In 1993 the CFA also 
investigated a complaint alleging unfair dismissal of ANDEN 
leaders, excessive registration procedures, and prohibition of 
the trade union check-off.  The ILO's Committee of Experts 
(COE) noted that the draft text of the new Labor Code did not 
remove restrictions on the right to strike of rural workers, 
grant the right to associate of public servants, nor reduce the 
number of workers in an enterprise required to call a strike to 
a simple majority.  The draft legislation was not enacted in 
1993.  Unions freely form or join federations or confederations 
and affiliate with and participate in international bodies.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution provides for the right to bargain 
collectively.  The Chamorro Government's labor negotiations 
continued primarily to be ad hoc efforts to resolve pressing 
labor conflicts, usually in the public sector.  Despite 
unfavorable economic conditions and unfamiliarity with the 
practice, following 10 years of central planning, collective 
bargaining is becoming more common in the private sector.

In 1992 the ILO's COE maintained that the labor law provision 
which subjects collective agreements to the prior approval of 
the Ministry of Labor before they can come into force violates 
the Convention on the Right to Organize and Collective 
Bargaining ratified by Nicaragua in 1967.  The Government took 
no action to modify this provision in 1993.

During 1993 8 firms, employing some 2,000 workers, operated in 
the 1 export processing zone.  Although the zone's firms 
receive tax concessions, Nicaraguan law does not exempt them 
from compliance with any of its labor provisions.  Nevertheless,
there was no functioning trade union with a certified 
collective contract in the export processing zone.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and 
there is no evidence that it is practiced.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Constitution prohibits child labor that can affect normal 
childhood development or interfere with the obligatory school 
year.  Education is compulsory to age 12, and children under 
the age of 14 legally are not permitted to work.  Nevertheless, 
because of the prevailing economic conditions, more than 
100,000 children reportedly work up to 12 hours a day.  Many 
are employed on family farms.  Many children aged 10 or older 
work for less than $1.00 per day on the same cotton farms, 
banana plantations, and coffee plantations where their parents 
are employed.  In a form of indentured service, some 
13-year-olds work in auto repair shops for little pay in 
exchange for auto mechanical training.  Many small children 
work in the busy streets of Managua hawking merchandise, 
cleaning automobile windows, and begging.  Although the 
Ministry of Labor rarely enforces it, the Child Labor Law is 
generally observed in the small modern sector of the economy.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Over the objections of the labor representatives, a commission 
made up of representatives from government, labor, and the 
private sector set sectoral minimum wages in mid-1991.  The 
labor groups argued that the monthly minimum wage rates 
(ranging from $30 in the agricultural sector, through $39 for 
central government employees, to $50 in the banking sector) 
were inadequate given the high cost of living.  According to a 
1991 estimate by the Government's National Commission on the 
Standard of Living, the minimum wage did not provide a family 
of four with the income to meet its basic needs.  In January 
1993, the Government devalued the official exchange rate 
without raising the minimum wage rates.  Enforcement of the 
minimum wage is lax, and some workers are reportedly paid less, 
particularly in the agricultural sector.  However, Ministry of 
Labor surveys indicated that some 86 percent of urban area 
workers earned more than the minimum wage.

The Constitution guarantees an 8-hour workday with weekly rest 
and establishes the right to a safe and healthy workplace.  The 
standard legal workweek is a maximum of 48 hours, with 1 day of 
rest.  The Ministry of Labor's Office of Hygiene and 
Occupational Security is responsible for verifying compliance 
with health and safety standards.  Although extensive, these 
standards are not strictly enforced due to an insufficient 
number of inspectors.  Workers have no specific right to remove 
themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to 
continued employment.



[end of document]

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