- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2005

Nicaragua’s top diplomat is seeking support from the Organization of American States in Washington to defeat an attempt by political opponents back home to strip Nicaragua’s president of executive powers or impeach him altogether.

“The OAS has a democratic charter and the history of the OAS is intertwined with Nicaragua. It has a strong moral voice in the region and it means a lot to the people,” Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Norman Caldera said yesterday.

“I hope that when the National Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday, they will wait to hear what the OAS has to say before they decide to pass the constitutional reforms,” he told reporters at the Nicaraguan Embassy.

Nicaragua’s National Assembly is to take up a series of constitutional amendments that would strip President Enrique Bolanos of much of his power.

The constitutional changes were first introduced by two ex-presidents, Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista Party and Arnoldo Aleman of the Liberal Party, who control Nicaragua’s National Assembly.

They also are attempting to charge Mr. Bolanos with election-law violations to remove him from office.

The OAS said earlier that the constitutional amendments go against provisions in the OAS Inter-American Democratic Charter that deal with independence of branches of government.

The OAS also has voiced its concern on the institutional and political conditions in Nicaragua.

OAS envoy Dante Caputo, the former Argentinean foreign minister, will arrive in Nicaragua next week before the National Assembly convenes.

The roots of this conflict between the two former presidents and Mr. Bolanos go back to 2000 when Mr. Ortega and Mr. Aleman formed a political alliance.

The Central American Court of Justice has declared the constitutional amendments “inapplicable.”

The court maintains that the amendments violate the basic democratic principles of separation and balance of powers.

So far, the National Assembly has ignored this declaration.

In January 2002, when Mr. Bolanos came to power, he began a crackdown on corruption in the government, and Mr. Aleman was convicted of embezzlement and corruption charges as a result.

Mr. Aleman was accused of diverting about $100 million to banks in Panama — an amount that is equivalent to the government’s budget for one year — when he was in office.

Mr. Caldera met OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza on Thursday and is scheduled to meet State Department officials.

The U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua has already said that it supports the Nicaraguan president.

The embassy issued a statement criticizing an Aug. 30 decision by Nicaragua’s Supreme Court supporting the amendments, calling it an example of political manipulation and partisanship in Nicaragua’s judiciary.

“The president has the support of the police and the army to continue. This constitutional and legal conflict has not led to the lack of governing abilities,” Mr. Caldera said.

But he added that the matter rests with the National Assembly, and that he is hopeful that they will not work against democracy.

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