Justice and El Pacto in Nicaragua

Arnoldo Alemán, the former president of Nicaragua who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for stealing $100 million from the hemisphere’s second poorest nation, has had his conviction dropped and been set free by the Sandinista-controlled Supreme Court. He had served only four years of his sentence, little of which was spent in prison. At the time of the ruling, he had been under a type of house arrest that gave him free movement throughout the country.

Tim Rogers, writing for The Nica Times:

“The ruling to free Alemán came less than an hour before the National Assembly met to elect its new directorate, in what critics are calling a clear political negotiation for control of the legislative branch. Alemán two days earlier denied reports that he negotiating his freedom with President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista Front.

Though the Sandinista Supreme Court judges denounced the ruling, analyst insists the Sandinistas were clearly accomplices in a decision that could be considered the penultimate act of the power-sharing pact formed a decade ago by Ortega and Alemán.”

And writing again, for The Miami Herald:

“In a strong sign of a deal, shortly after the disgraced Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC) boss was freed, President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista Front won the presidency of the National Assembly, effectively giving the Sandinistas control over all four branches of government.Upon being notified of his freedom, Alemán, who had been serving out his jail term under the cushy conditions of house arrest at his sprawling hacienda compound outside Managua, thanked ”God and the Virgin” that “there is finally justice.”

Within two hours of the court ruling, the National Assembly, which had been paralyzed for more than two months following scandal-plagued Nov. 9 municipal elections, had reconvened and elected its new directorate, reelecting Sandinista lawmaker Rene Núñez as president of the legislature for another two years.

Although Alemán had denied earlier rumors that he was negotiating his freedom in exchange for giving Ortega power over the National Assembly, analysts insist there’s no other way to interpret Friday’s rapid series of events.

”This is a continuation of the pacto, a renovation of the pacto,” said political analyst Carlos Tünnermann, referring to the decade-old power-sharing pact forged between Ortega and Alemán.

Tünnermann and others speculate that part of the renegotiation of terms between Alemán and Ortega is an initiative to reform the constitution to allow Ortega to remain in power after his five-year presidential term ends in January 2012.

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