Countries at the Crossroads 2004 - Nicaragua

  • Author: Michael Gold-Biss
  • Document source:
  • Date:

(Scores are based on a scale of 0 to 7, with 0 representing weakest and 7 representing strongest performance.)

Executive Summary


Michael Gold-Biss is assistant vice president for international programs at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas. Prior to this appointment, he was a consultant in business strategy and security based in Washington, DC.

There have been three reasonably free and fair elections in Nicaragua since 1990, when the Sandinistas lost to Violeta Chamorro. Electoral democracy is widely accepted, but the ability of the elected governments to promote and sustain significant progress in civil liberties, the rule of law, and anticorruption and transparency has been limited. Only in the area of accountability and public voice, and there primarily in the latter, has significant advancement taken place. While civil society is strong and vocal, it has not gained enough strength to counteract the continuing incompetence and corruption that characterize the state. No part of the state's machinery is immune from ineptitude and dishonesty. The long, still-unresolved saga involving the allegations of malfeasance and outright theft against former president Arnoldo Aleman, members of his family, and his cronies has further undermined the legitimacy and credibility of democratic governance among many Nicaraguans.

Since the election of 1990, which not only drove the Sandinistas from power but also ended the decade-long civil war against their government, Nicaragua's ability to change governments peacefully has been established. Among the accomplishments of the Chamorro government were the consolidation of democratic institutions, national reconciliation, and a decrease in the number of human rights abuses. Unfortunately the subsequent Aleman presidency became mired in allegations of corruption and partisanship. As economic conditions deteriorated for most people, the profligacy of "Gordoman" ("Fat man") and the evident dishonesty of his government became significant factors in the decline of popular support for democracy, as evidenced in Latinobarometro polls since 1996.1 Nevertheless, in elections in 2001 that were deemed free and fair, Aleman's former vice president, Enrique Bolanos, was elected. This election marked the third defeat of the Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN)'s Daniel Ortega and indicated the apparent decline of that party at the national level.

The government of Bolanos faces major political and economic challenges. At the political level, the soap-opera melodrama of Aleman's ability to elude indictment for fraud, until the national assembly lifted his immunity, appeared to prove to the average citizen that corruption went unchecked. President Bolanos had promised to improve the economy and create jobs while also fighting corruption and violence, but his efforts have been hampered by the continuing global recession, including the ongoing decline in the price of coffee, the country's major export. While Central Americans have made some progress in the effort to integrate their economies and Nicaragua has dramatically improved its standing with the United States (in part by sending a symbolic contingent of troops to Iraq), these initiatives show little promise of yielding positive short-term results.2 Nicaragua's economy is expected to grow, but this expansion will not keep pace with population growth.3 Up to 50 percent of the population is unemployed or underemployed.4

Crime and insecurity are significant throughout the country, constituting the greatest threat faced by both urban and rural Nicaraguans. Slightly more than half of the population lives in cities, and the state makes valiant efforts to increase its presence there, but in the countryside citizens are left to protect themselves as best they can. In remote areas peace commissions of local citizens are the only means for the resolution of disputes. In cities the growing threat of the maras (gangs) has forced the state to continue with joint police and military patrols. Efforts to train and professionalize the state security apparatus have yielded some positive results, but as a whole the training and capabilities of the police and the judicial system are sadly deficient.

Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the Western hemisphere. Income distribution is among the most unequal in the world. Although the civil war of the 1980s is over, the legacies of that conflict have proven difficult to overcome. This is especially true in terms of the ravaged infrastructure, which was also hit hard by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. A severe drought has further affected the ability of a third of the population to consume even the basic nutritional requirement of 2,200 calories a day.

While Nicaragua has changed significantly since the end of the Sandinista experiment, the state has not been able to escape from the political legacy of the Somoza years. Rapid progress in the areas of social, political, and economic development are not likely. However, civil society has emerged as an important actor that has recovered some of the public space previously closed by a repressive state apparatus. In particular, the media and private voluntary organizations have become the locus for popular empowerment.

Civil Liberties – 4.56

Nicaragua's 1987 constitution, which was amended in 1995 and 2000, incorporates the full range of civil liberties for the individual associated with contemporary liberal democracy. The country is a signatory of the 2000 Warsaw Declaration and, as a member of the Organization of American States and the United Nations, subscribes to all major human rights law. In late 2002, Nicaragua was invited by the Community of Democracies Convening Group to participate in its ministerial meeting. The most important impediment to the fulfillment of this panoply of human and civil rights continues to be the susceptibility of state and society to corruption.

Politically motivated violence, especially disappearances, has been virtually eliminated, but the police continue to be subject to allegations of extrajudicial deaths. The inspector general of the national police has remanded all cases of the use of deadly force to the court system. However, the ponderous nature of that system significantly delays any sanctions, and the inspector general defers any corrective action until a verdict has been reached. Penalties are commonly suspensions or confinement. The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) has asserted that the armed forces continue their involvement in human rights abuses, with several serious violations occurring during operations against former Contra forces.5 The human rights ombudsman's office, which is autonomous but funded by the government, has made efforts to investigate allegations of individual and systemic abuses.

Violence is endemic in Nicaragua, and law enforcement continues to be characterized by physical and other abuse of prisoners. Torture is illegal, but CENIDH reports several hundred complaints of physical abuse per year and routinely confirms half of them.6 The police's inspector general also records these and other cases, usually declaring CENIDH's findings to be valid. Officers found guilty are punished and some have been discharged from service.7 The continuing lack of resources has led to the ongoing use of voluntary police – civilians who are provided with a uniform but not training. In some cases these uniformed civilians have been armed. If these individuals are found to have committed an abuse, they cannot be punished beyond their dismissal. Private security forces have proliferated as crime has increased, but the police have not been able to keep pace.8 Impunity within the police is an echo of the wider lack of accountability of the state. Awareness of, and training in, human rights continues to be provided by various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).9

The prison system is overcrowded, and conditions are appalling. Nevertheless, the treatment of prisoners by guards has improved, largely due to increased local media coverage, international attention, and human rights training. Decaying infrastructure and lack of resources for upkeep contribute to instances in which prisoners have had to sleep on the floor and share limited toilet facilities. NGOs have had to step in to ensure that minimal dietary needs are met, while medical attention is virtually nonexistent. Here, as in other state facilities, including hospitals, family and friends help with food and medication. Treatment of female prisoners and minors is somewhat better, especially for the latter, who are housed separate from the general prison population. The number of under-age detainees continues to fall.10

Procedural changes have generally been implemented. For example, the police normally bring detainees before a judge within the required 48-hour window. However, this has not significantly reduced the delays that occur with complex cases, at times several months and with some prisoners languishing in prison after the six-month mandated period. A meaningful civil-law framework for settling non-criminal disputes is conspicuously absent.11

The constitution protects the rights of public assembly, demonstration, and mobilization. Organizers of public activities must obtain a permit, but this is regularly granted. In general the government has not used excessive force to maintain order during public events, including protests and strikes. Political parties are free to organize.

In Nicaragua freedom of association is protected by the constitution for all public and private workers, except the police and armed forces. The International Labor Organization has been critical of specific elements of the Labor Code that are still not aligned with international practices.12 The lengthy and complicated procedures and regulations governing labor relations could benefit from streamlining. In general workers can form unions without state interference. Laws also protect cooperatives, most of which are in the transportation and agricultural sectors. Labor leaders receive special protection from reprisals by employers. The government has sought to resolve disputes through informal negotiations that prevent unrest. On the other hand, illegal strikers can be, and have been, fired. In practice many unions are only symbolic, especially the smaller ones.

Formally, men and women are equal, as well as protected against any form of discrimination in the legal system. Similar protections exist in employment. In practice, however, women are subject to various forms of discrimination and harassment. Deeply rooted cultural practices of male dominance (machismo) and the exclusion of women from significant public roles (marianismo) are rampant. Episodic efforts to redress generalized injustice, for example in pay, have met with limited success. Similarly, though, there are measures on the books that protect women from domestic violence and rape, these have been under-funded and not pursued with great vigor.

Prostitution is legal and in some locations, such as the port of Bluefields, well regulated, with health protection including medical exams and certification for prostitutes. Pimping is illegal and most prostitutes work alone, although some have loosely organized to protect their meager earnings. Nicaragua is not a major actor in the trafficking of women and children, but there are documented cases of women being taken to other Central American countries under false pretenses and then forced to provide sexual services.13 The impaired nature of the Nicaraguan legal system has prevented a full account of these practices. Nicaragua's difficult economic circumstances have pushed several hundred thousand economic refugees and migrants to Costa Rica, where they are unwelcome and exploited economically, especially in rural areas.14

The treatment of minorities has been uneven at best. Approximately 5 percent of the population is indigenous; these people live mostly in the Northern Autonomous Atlantic Region (RAAN) and Southern Autonomous Atlantic Region (RAAS). The two regions cover 50 percent of the national territory, but account for only 10 percent of the total population. The largest indigenous community is that of the Miskito, with 180,000 people, and the smallest is the Rama, with 1,000; there are 10,000 Sumo and 3,000 Garifuna.15 The 2001 ruling of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights on logging rights in favor of these communities has not been fully implemented, although the required legislation has been passed. In July 2003 the national assembly finally approved the codification of the 1987 Autonomy Law that created these areas.16 The majority of the rest of the population is of mixed heritage (Mestizo), and race and ethnicity are not social issues.

The right to practice religion freely is honored. The Catholic Church has close ties to the state, but growing numbers of evangelicals and other denominations have made significant inroads. Churches, like other non-state actors, must acquire legal standing (personeria juridica), but this has not posed an obstacle to the establishment of new organizations. In general, the religious rights of citizens do not receive much government attention, and there is no religious persecution. Small Jewish and Muslim communities are present in the country.


The legal system would be likely to work better if the state could fully fund the implementation of the legal changes passed over the past few years. Similarly, the enforcement of laws protecting women and children would also be much improved by more money. However, some attitudes and practices, especially those that relate to the abuse and victimization of women and children, require state encouragement to change deep-seated attitudes. The increased activism of NGOs in the field of human rights has been a positive step forward in this regard, and these should be encouraged in addition to society-wide initiatives.

Rule of Law – 3.95

Major changes have been initiated in the country's legal system. There are both civil and military courts, although the 1994 military code has eliminated many of the prerogatives of the military, and civilian courts now try those accused of common crimes. Beginning in 1997 a justice reform system has produced a new Judicial Organic Law, a new Criminal Procedures Code, and a new Penal Code. However, inadequate resources and political confrontations between members of the judiciary and presidents Aleman and Bolanos have hampered the ensuing implementation of these changes. Still, the modifications have led to some reduction in the time elapsed before those accused of crimes come to trial.

The legal odyssey to indict, prosecute, and convict former President Aleman for fraud and embezzlement exposed the weakness of the legal system in resisting political pressure, although ultimately that system worked as it was supposed to. Different appeals, including a regional one, were exhausted and Aleman was convicted of money laundering. Additional charges are pending. A stronger judiciary with greater legitimacy would doubtless be better able to resist political intrigue and pressure from outside parties such as the executive.17 The judiciary is not immune to economic pressure either, but discrimination on religious grounds does not take place.

The Supreme Court made early inroads into the widespread incompetence and corruption of the judiciary, but in 2002-03 this slowed down. The legal system is still delayed by procedures than can be Byzantine. Judges with inadequate training and lacking prior practical legal experience have been appointed. Overall, education and training are deficient. The new prosecutorial system is not always active. A pervasive culture of corruption has yet to be fully addressed.18

The country's Criminal Procedures Code officially changed in December 2001 from Napoleonic to adversarial style. By the end of 2003 the system was to have been fully implemented. While it is too early to evaluate the implementation of this change, in principle it is a positive one. The change is a part of the judicial reforms begun in 1997, which included substantive elements such as the Code as well as a Judicial Organic Law. The public ministry has been reformed to allow for a prosecutor general (Fiscalia), separate from the attorney general's office (Procuraduria). The latter continues to be responsible for the defense of the government and the prosecution of crimes such as embezzlement of state resources. As with other efforts to make the state more responsive to the needs of citizens, a lack of resources has prevented the adequate implementation of measures such as access to independent legal counsel. Insufficient funding has not allowed full implementation at the national level, and in remote areas public order is maintained by peace commissions composed of citizens trained in conflict resolution by nongovernmental organizations.

Suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The public defender's office is meant to represent indigents, but only major cities have attorneys at hand. In areas without public defenders, judges continue to appoint lawyers from a roster, and many of those selected opt to pay a small fine rather than represent people in need. The public defender's office is seriously understaffed in the capital and has only limited staff in most other major urban centers. Nevertheless, cases in which defendants are tried without legal representation are slowly becoming rarer. Most of the constitutional requirements relating to due process are respected, including the appearance of the accused before a judge within 48 hours and the accused receiving a preliminary hearing within 10 days. The processing of defendants has begun to be enforced in a systematic fashion, but individuals can still languish in prison until a case is fully adjudicated.19

Before the introduction of the new penal process, trials were primarily conducted by judges. The new procedures allow for oral arguments by the prosecution and defense before a jury, with the judge serving in a neutral capacity. However, the full implementation of the system is hampered by reduced government expenditures and large caseloads, partly resulting from the increased crime rate during the past few years.20 Nicaragua's land-seizure legacy of the 1979-91 period is still being resolved. These confiscations are deemed to have been legal, but those affected by the seizures can seek redress. One avenue is an administrative process that compensates losses with low-interest public bonds. Since compensation is based on taxable rates, it has proven unpopular. If mediation and binding arbitration do not resolve a dispute, the case is returned to the court system for trial.

The national police and armed forces have undergone some professionalization and modernization. The police have not been subject to more political or economic pressure, especially corruption, than other parts of the state. A former Supreme Court justice stated in February 2003 that "The police and army in Nicaragua represent stability for the country; the army does so particularly. The army has kept itself out of politics."21

The Nicaraguan constitution fully and equally protects the rights of both nationals and foreigners, including property. Threats to these rights come instead from physical insecurity and corrupt practices. The state's inability to guarantee rights fully does not discriminate, and both nationals and foreigners are subject to such uncertainty. The free trade zones have received some measure of security, but even here private security companies are retained. In the final analysis, the rule of law is limited and even precarious in many areas, both in terms of its effectiveness and geographical implementation.


The rule of law depends partly on the legitimacy it is accorded by the citizenry. The government should concentrate on efforts to reduce corruption, in addition to investment of resources in training and infrastructure. Greater transparency in government and accountability of public officials should also be priorities. As scrutiny of public officials' records uncovers irregularities, disciplinary measures must be taken to help improve public confidence in the accountability of the state and its officials. The new Judicial Organic Law, the Criminal Procedures Code, and a new Penal Code are positive developments that should now be followed by steps to ensure their full implementation.

Anticorruption and Transparency – 2.69

Corruption and white-collar crime are serious and endemic problems in Nicaragua. The lack of state credibility and legitimacy that is associated with corrupt practices undermines the democratic process and exacerbates the problem of governability. As the press exposes ongoing cases of corruption and fraud, the inability of the state to police itself fuels popular dissatisfaction with elected and appointed officials.

The long efforts to indict, try, and convict former president Alemán confirmed for many the politicization of government and the legal system. Aleman's conviction and the continuing legal proceedings against him have temporarily polarized society, with his followers declaring the process politically motivated. Nevertheless, his transfer in August 2003 from house arrest on his estate to a Managua prison cell has proven to some observers that the rich and powerful can also serve prison time.22 Much of what is exposed in terms of dishonesty is the product of the country's press, which generally provides equal coverage of these practices on the part of both government and opposition.

Transparency International's 2003 Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Nicaragua 88 out of 133, with a score of 2.6 out of a possible 10 points. This assessment is corroborated by Latinobarometro's 2002 survey, in which 65 percent of Nicaraguans indicated that corruption had increased "a lot."23 Furthermore, 41 percent of the population indicated a "direct experience with corruption," and 68 percent of public officials were perceived as corrupt.24 While contemporary public dishonesty is a legacy of half a century of Somoza rule and a decade of Sandinismo, the colonial era also plays an important role in the tradition of a predatory state that takes more from the people than it gives back.

The official state apparatus of Nicaragua is gradually being rationalized and rendered accountable through the adoption of modern procedures that ensure transparency. Nevertheless, many of the regulations the bureaucracy follows in its internal functioning as well as its contact with the general population are still convoluted. They thus lend themselves easily to the introduction of illegal incentives to expedite procedures or obtain approvals and documentation. Rules exist to prevent conflicts of interest but are not fully enforced. Soon after taking office President Bolanos was accused of nepotism when 25 of his relatives were identified in government.25 An important obstacle to implementing effective anticorruption campaigns in Nicaragua is their politicization as government and opposition exchange such charges. While public exposure by the press of wrongdoing tends to identify individuals who have committed fraud, bureaucracies as a rule are still places of great opacity where state funds can easily disappear.

The role of the state in the economy has diminished greatly, although this process has partly coincided with a domestic and regional economic contraction, exacerbated by the post-September 11, 2001, decline in tourism (which has been promoted in order to move the Nicaraguan economy away from a dependence on coffee). Local opposition to the liberalization of the economy has increased, as no apparent benefits have become evident from this process. Foreign direct investment is limited and mostly concentrated in the duty-free zones in the shape of maquiladoras, or export-processing factories. The structural adjustment policies forced by the international financial community have also created mistrust of liberalization as the already limited social programs of the state have been cut back.

While international and regional organizations, especially the multilateral banks, along with the industrialized world have imposed strict anticorruption standards on loans, enforcement remains inadequate. The United States, through the Agency for International Development, has funded oversight programs, which may yield results in the medium term. The United States has also revoked the visas of current and past public officials identified with corrupt practices. In August 2003 the U.S. Justice Department opened proceedings against Aleman for money laundering.26 In the immediate future, however, foreign investors in Nicaragua appear to see bribery as a cost of doing business.

The deficiencies of the rule of law noted above and the fact that the party of President Bolanos holds only 9 out of 92 seats in the national assembly have precluded the adoption of comprehensive and rigorous laws and ethical standards to govern the state and public officials' practices. Elected and appointed officials do not usually disclose their economic interests, although investigative journalism tends to uncover them. Acrimonious differences between government and opposition cloud the awareness of any conflicts of interest through allegations and counter-accusations. The reform of the legal system has created a more independent attorney general's office, allowing it to focus exclusively on prosecutions. Notwithstanding this, cases of fraud are difficult to prosecute in the country's charged atmosphere. The state's expenditures are officially audited, but Aleman's abuse of public funds, particularly government credit cards, was not made public until the press investigated leaks in this area. Even though his lavish travel was a matter of public record, no government agency or official undertook steps to review these expenses during his presidency.

The state is still opaque to most Nicaraguans. The media have shed light on some state corruption, but the public does not have genuine access to government information. Economic and political crises, a devastated infrastructure, and low literacy rates have also served as obstacles to public scrutiny of the state.


To open up the functioning of the government to public scrutiny, the state must engage in ongoing campaigns that bring official news to the media. While the print and television media have provided many insights into the functioning of the state, low literacy rates and poverty have not always allowed information to flow to most people. The state must play a proactive role in sharing with the people, for example through regular news releases as well as town-hall-style meetings revealing the accomplishments of and challenges faced by the government. In the final analysis, those government officials found guilty of malfeasance must be subject to the same penalties as the average citizen. The effective indictment, prosecution, and conviction of corrupt public servants would build public confidence that inroads against impunity are possible. In addition, international donors should place a greater emphasis on anticorruption measures and transparency.

Accountability and Public Voice – 4.56

Nicaragua's constitution guarantees the right of citizens to elect their leaders in free and fair elections held every five years. The past three electoral cycles, the last of which brought Enrique Bolanos to power, were deemed largely free of fraud or intimidation. While international observers found instances of irregularities, these tended to be procedural and were not systematic or orchestrated by the state. The 92-member national assembly includes 20 deputies elected from nationwide lists and 70 from the departments and autonomous regions. Two seats are reserved for the outgoing president and the presidential candidate with the second-highest vote count.

The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), an independent branch of government, oversees the electoral process. In 2000, constitutional reforms expanded the CSE from five to seven magistrates, added procedural requirements for a run-off second election, increased the number of Supreme Court judges, and instituted a two-thirds majority rule in the national assembly to lift the president's immunity from prosecution. If a party receives less than 4 percent of the popular vote in a general election, it loses its legal status; only three parties competed in the last electoral cycle. In late 2002 the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the CSE's determination that 29 minor political parties could not participate in the previous national elections. While the CSE has been able to guarantee elections that are free of serious instances of fraud or intimidation, it has been beset by internal political strife, especially as relating to the inclusion of minor parties and allegations of impropriety in national elections.27

The Nicaraguan civil service, as is the case in much of the developing world, is mostly deficient in training and professionalism. While rules and procedures ensuring an independent civil service are on the books, they have yet to be fully implemented. Each national election tends to bring a general house-cleaning of as many civil servants as possible in order to vacate positions for clients and supporters of the winning party. Even mid-ranking civil servants run the risk of losing their positions.

While there are no legal obstacles to the political participation of women and minorities, their representation is limited. Women have served in most senior positions in government, but in the 2001 cycle only 21 were elected to serve in the National Assembly; two of the deputies assert indigenous heritage. The political system has undergone a serious loss of credibility resulting from the inability of elected leaders to improve the lives of average Nicaraguans significantly.28 The legal travails involving former president Aleman have further tarnished the authority of the state. No effective measures, such as enforceable campaign contribution limits, govern campaign financing. Influence peddling and corruption are common.

The state has become sensitive to the capabilities and resources of nongovernmental actors. Civic organizations have tried to fill the void of government services in almost every sector of society, ranging from the provision of food in soup kitchens to the promotion of some legal order in remote areas of the country through citizen peace commissions trained in conflict resolution. There are no formal limits on the ability of civic organizations to be heard in open sessions of the legislature, but since most lack the resources to make such a pilgrimage on a regular basis, it tends to be a moot point. In general, the government tends to treat organizations with international linkages with some care. At a legal level, organizations wishing to conduct fund-raising events must receive approval from the national assembly, which grants it routinely.

While at a formal level special interests do not play a significant role in national or regional elections, political and economic actors with significant resources to run campaigns do tend to drown out the weaker candidates and parties. The armed forces have maintained a strictly apolitical position regarding the political process, even in those years immediately after the Sandinista defeat in 1990.

Nicaragua's constitution provides for the full protection of speech and expression. In practice, the media have become the public auditor of state activity. Law 732, which forces all journalists to register with the College of Journalists (Colegio de Periodistas de Nicaragua), was adopted by the national assembly in March 2001 and is still under review by the Supreme Court. A controversial measure that would have seriously limited the freedom of the press, a bill titled the Law to Regulate the Crime of Insult (desacato), was dropped in late 2002. It would have increased the penalty for offending state institutions or the president to five years. Today, Article 348 of the Penal Code mandates prison terms of six months to four years for this crime.29 In practice it has not been enforced, although it is still frequently referenced when the state is subject to allegations of impropriety.30 In its 2002 report, Reporters without Borders described a physical attack on six journalists by supporters of ex-president Aleman, the closing of the La Poderosa radio station by the government, and the forced destruction of film by a journalist from La Prensa by the police.31

Nicaraguan journalists are constrained by the "polarization and politicization of the media."32 The ongoing practice of providing advertising revenue to media supportive of the current government constrains the freedom to investigate allegations of impropriety fully and also hurt smaller publications that do not have government ties. Journalists feel vulnerable due to job insecurity, low income, and the absence of a code of ethics. The secrecy surrounding government is also an obstacle to effective journalism. While individual journalists have exposed the corrupt nature of the government, as a whole the dependence of the large outlets on the government for advertising revenue is a major obstacle to autonomy. Citizens are formally presented with information on the legislative calendar, but given Nicaragua's literacy rate of 67 percent, what is published in the newspapers or available on the Internet is simply beyond the reach of most citizens. While radio and television offer some access, it is not necessarily reliable or timely. Much of what happens in government is the purview of the privileged, and this certainly is the case concerning what is included or excluded in most legislation. This is, of course, not unique to Nicaragua but is especially true here because the population is so poor.


State processes must be made more transparent and those who engage in illegal practices must be effectively sanctioned. Investigative journalism should be encouraged, for example through training for journalists.


1 "The Stubborn Survival of Frustrated Democrats," The Economist, 1 November 2003, 33.

2 "Nicaragua Data Profile" (Washington, DC: World Bank, 2002),

3 "Central Bank of Nicaragua forecast 2 percent growth in 2003," Xinhua News Agency, 20 November 2003.

4 Nicaragua, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002 (Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 31 March 2003),

5 Nicaragua, Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State),; also see Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH) Web site,

6 See, for example, "Informe sobre el incidente de violencia en el Sistema Penitenciario de Tipitapa" (Report on the Incident of Violence in the Penitentary System of Tipitapa) (Manauga: CENIDH, 11 June 2003),

7 Nicaragua, Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State).

8 Nicaragua, Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State); Consular Information Sheet: Nicaragua (Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of State, 7 November 2002),

9 1998-2003 Assistance Program (Managua: USAID Mission to Nicaragua, 2003),

10 Nicaragua, Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State).

11 Ibid.

12 "Nicaragua," in Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work: A Labour Law Study (Geneva: International Labour Organisation, 2003), 28-32,

13 Trafficking in Persons Report 2003 (Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of State, 11 June 2003),

14 George Rodriguez, "Costa Rica, Nicaragua Implement Joint Border Controls," Global News Wire, 24 July 2003.

15 Nicaragua, Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State).

16 "Topic 1: At Last! Genuine Autonomy for the Atlantic Coast," Nicanet: the Nicaragua Network,, 7 July 2003.

17 Nicaragua, Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State); "Country Report Nicaragua," The Economist Intelligence Unit (London: The Economist, 1 September 2003),

18 "Nicaragua – Poll: Most Nicaraguans Wish They'd been Born Elsewhere," EFE News Service, 10 February 2003.

19 Nicaragua, Country Reports (U.S. Dept. of State).

20 Consular Information Sheet: Nicaragua (U.S. Dept. of State).

21 Katherine Hoyt, "Human Rights Situation in Nicaragua: An Interview with Vilma Nuñez," Nicanet: the Nicaragua Network,

22 Johann Graf Lambsdorff, "2002 Corruption Perceptions Index," in Global Corruption Report (Berlin and London: Transparency International, 2003), 265; "Topic 1: Alemán buffeted by Series of Legal Blows," Nicanet: the Nicaragua network,, 18 August 2003.

23 Marta Lagos, "Public Opinion of Corruption in Latin America," in Global Corruption Report (Berlin and London: Transparency International, 2003), 283.

24 Ibid., 284.

25 Pablo Rodas-Martini, "Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean," in Global Corruption Report (Berlin and London: Transparency International, 2003), 95.

26 The Nicaraguan constitution bans extradition.

27 Nicaragua, Country Report (U.S. Dept. of State).

28 "The Stubborn Survival of Frustrated Democrats," The Economist, 1 November 2003, 33.

29 "Nicaragua," in 2002 World Press Freedom Review (Vienna: International Press Institute, 2003),

30 "Nicaragua," Attacks on the Press in 2002 (New York: Committee to Protect Journalists, 2003),

31 "Nicaragua," in Freedom of the Press throughout the World – 2003 Report: Americas (Paris: Reporters sans frontieres, 2003),

32 "Nicaragua," Attacks on the Press in 2002.

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