Sandinistas accuse US agent in Nicaragua electrion fraud
By Toby Mailman, Weely News Update on the Americas, Special Report, 5 November 1996
MANAGUA, Nov. 4--The latest in the series of events calling the Oct. 20 Nicaraguan elections into question is an allegation by the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) that agents of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) were involved in organizing "irregularities and actions of questionable legality" in connection with the election process.
The FSLN sent a letter to USAID director Brian Atwood on Nov. 2 charging that at least one agent had openly expressed opinions and made proposals to influence local authorities of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), which is responsible for overseeing the entire electoral process. The letter described the agent's actions as "open interference in the internal matter of Nicaraguan elections," and asked Atwood for an immediate investigation.
The FSLN letter recounts all the anomalies in the election process, including problems with the voter identification documents and the distribution of ballots, as well as the appearance after the elections of boxes of marked ballots in the homes of members of the rightwing Liberal Alliance, the party of the self-declared presidential winner, Arnoldo Aleman. The letter says that the statements by the USAID agent "lead us to have serious suspicions of active and illegal participation by international officials financed by your [U.S.] government in all the irregularities which have appeared in the electoral process," adding that this damages the democratic process in Nicaragua.
A USAID dispatch, also dated Nov. 2, said the agency's US$9 million donation was strictly for technical assistance, according to a work plan approved by both the CSE and USAID. The plan included support for organization and logistics for preparation and distribution of voting documents and electoral materials, the USAID communique said.
Last week the FSLN formally petitioned the CSE to void the elections in Managua, since the results in more than half the polling stations in that department were questionable and, according to the FSLN, were not resolved by a recount. This would, for all intents and purposes, mean voiding the elections throughout the country, forcing a second round. To date the CSE has not responded publicly to this request.
Also last week, Radio Ya, a local radio station owned by FSLN Managua mayoral candidate Carlos Guadamuz, broadcast what was alleged to be a recording of a telephone conversation between two Costa Ricans, indicating that they and a Nicaraguan named Mario Montenegro were involved in the organization of electoral fraud. According to one source who wished to remain anonymous, the Nicaraguan telephone company has an intelligence service which could very well have recorded the conversation and turned over the recording to the radio station.
And according to today's edition of Barricada, the FSLN's official daily, Liberal Alliance member Jaime Cuadra Somarriba, possibly to be named defense minister if Arnoldo Aleman assumes the presidency, was discovered last night at about 7:00 opening bags of marked ballots in the warehouse of the computation center of the department of Matagalpa. With him were a number of his party's electoral observers and the head of the Departmental Electoral Council (CED) for Matagalpa, Alberto Blandon. The apparent motive was to impede or alter the recount being carried out under the orders of the CSE, resulting from accusations of irregularities, anomalies and fraud in the Oct. 20 elections.
[The following is an unofficial summary of an article from Barricada, 10/31/96, sent to the Weekly News Update on the Americas from Managua.]
LIBERAL ALLIANCE OFFICIAL WATCHER GIVES SECRET DOCUMENT TO BARRICADA; LIBERALS ADMIT FRAUD IN MANAGUA
A team of Liberal Alliance lawyers has elaborated a top-secret document for Arnoldo Aleman, in which they admit that the number of inconsistencies in the JRVs [polling places] is so high that the elections in Managua, and thus throughout the country, are null and void. A Liberal Alliance electoral official, who declared himself "horrified by the barbarities we committed in Managua," gave Barricada a photocopy of this document, entitled "Review of Managua's Situation."
The Liberal official revealed that this document was prepared by order of Cesar Membreno, a Liberal Alliance leader and the president of Managua's department electoral council (CED), "with the objective of putting the true situation of the capital in black and white so that Arnoldo would know what was happening."
The situation described by the lawyers is frankly catastrophic: "Assuming that Managua had 2,200 JRVs, and of these 1,400 have grave inconsistencies, 262 have no paperwork as backup of the votes, 150 whose functions cannot be identified as a concrete demarcation (false JRVs) and 62 whose acts have only one signature, we conclude that 1,874 JRVs are affected, which is equivalent to 85%."
Membreno's lawyers state the possibility of recognizing 100 more JRVs, bringing the total to 2,300. In this case, nullified JRVs would total 81%. But in both cases, "Article 175 of the electoral law would be applied."
This article states the following: "The CSE [Supreme Electoral Council], with the knowledge of reports or appeals, can reject or declare void the election of one or various candidates, at any time before the taking of possession. The declaration of nullification will be given if the existence of the reported or appealed defects is proven and if it is verified that the nullified votes correspond to more than 50% of the voters listed in the electoral census. The election's nullification will then be declared. If the nullifications are of such magnitude that they affect the general results of the elections, the CSE will declare all election or elections verified null and void."
That is to say, according to this article of the electoral law, the Arnoldistas know that Managua's elections are void and thus must be repeated. Even worse, the nullification of elections in Managua voids the elections throughout the country. This implies that elections would have to be carried out again throughout the country, as the number of voters in the capital [about 28%] has a definite impact on the national results.
Despite this, the Liberal Alliance lawyers propose to Aleman and Membreno what they estimate to be a way out, if they twist the law. The lawyers allege that "the definition of 'grave inconsistencies' does not appear in any part of the electoral law," and propose formulating their own interpretation. "Having resolved the problem of the grave inconsistencies--that is to say, having defined what is embraced by the spirit of the law-- the number of JRVs affected would be reduced to 474, or 21% of Managua's total," the secret document states. And it continues, "this situation could be explainable within the concept of the functions the JRVs and the CED are supposed to carry out, and within the framework of errors and nullifications stated in Title 12 of the Electoral Law."
Article 169 of the electoral law establishes that "voting will be void in any JRV:
1. when said JRV was illegally constituted;
According to the AL lawyers' analysis, at least 1,874 JRVs violated one or various of the points established in this article. But the lawyers give another argument in their secret document: "The law presents sufficient arguments to sustain a position pointing toward a new election in Managua. It is also evident that there are sufficient arguments of legal character to sustain an opposite thesis."
And finally, they say that, "taking into account the recognition given to the elections both nationally and internationally, it would be worth the effort to attempt to establish a position that underlines the legitimacy of the electoral process up to its current point."
The Liberal Alliance official who gave the secret document to Barricada stated that he is ashamed of the comportment of the AL leaders. "I believed in them sincerely. I don't like the Sandinistas, but I believe in true liberalism. This which I am experiencing is pure Somocismo" [the politics associated with the deposed dictatorship of the Somoza family].
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