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Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Office of the former Ministry of Interior in Managua
    Courtesy James Rudolph


    Casa del Gobierno in Managua
    Courtesy James Rudolph

    Conflict Between the Executive and Legislative Branches

    Almost from the day it took power, the Chamorro government was a stepchild. All groups recognized the necessity of a relationship with the Chamorro government, but even though Violeta Barrios de Chamorro personified the Nicaraguan people's desire for peace, neither the UNO nor the FSLN recognized the government as the legitimate representative of its political, social, and economic aspirations for Nicaragua. The strong constitutional powers of the executive branch theoretically should have given the president adequate control over the political and economic systems, but the transition agreements left the Sandinistas with control over the military and the police, thus curtailing the executive branch's power of coercion. The Sandinistas also continued to control the strongest labor unions, which became a powerful political bloc on the issue of economic reforms. Although increasingly divided, the Sandinistas provided, as Daniel Ortega had warned in his concession speech, a critical opposition that limited the government's range of action.

    The president was further weakened by her estrangement from the political and economic coalition that had supported her during the election. Distrust initially was sparked by the transition agreements, which much of the UNO viewed as too accommodating to a political movement that had lost an election and would lose further support when no longer in power. The political parties composing the UNO coalition were quick to establish their own bases of support within the legislature and the municipalities. Although few of the parties reached for grassroots support, whatever was developed was done so by legislators and municipal officials to enhance their personal power bases or for their own parties, not for the central government or the UNO coalition. From the beginning of the Chamorro administration, UNO leaders were critical of the tight family networks that controlled the executive branch they began to accuse the president of nepotism and criticize the government for using its prerogatives for private gain.

    Other influential voices on all sides also opposed the Chamorro government. Most of the media and the university leadership were joined with opposition forces of either the UNO coalition or the Sandinistas. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, which had forcefully contested the Sandinista government, also began strongly criticizing the Chamorro administration. Groups of businesspeople and farmers, the unemployed (including former Contras and dismissed Sandinista soldiers), and the unions all entered, sometimes violently, the contest over the future shape of the economy, property ownership, and the redistribution of wealth and land.

    Although in stable, democratic countries the panorama would appear to be no more than the normal cacophony of competing voices, in Nicaragua the stakes were high. At issue was the government's ability to stimulate a war-torn, depressed economy in which nearly half of the population of 4 million was unemployed or underemployed by early 1992. Also at issue was the government's capacity to institutionalize democratic attitudes and procedures. Different political parties, interest groups, and other influential voices all had their own visions of what form the economy and a democratic government should take and what each group's share and role in both should be. Rather than leading the country, the Chamorro government was compelled to act as a broker among competing interests in resolving the two central issues of her early administration: the resolution of property issues and the establishment of peace through the demobilization and resettlement of the Contras and the Sandinista military.

    Data as of December 1993

    NOTE: The information regarding Nicaragua on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Nicaragua POLITICAL DYNAMICS information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Nicaragua POLITICAL DYNAMICS should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 27-Mar-05
Copyright © 2004 Photius Coutsoukis (all rights reserved)