GRANADA, Nicaragua – Former President Arnoldo Alemán’s days of incarcerated luxury at his private hacienda “El Chile” could be numbered, following a resolution by the Criminal Chamber of Managua’s Appeals Tribunal calling for Alemán’s transfer from house arrest to La Modelo prison in Tipitapa, east of Managua.
The court’s resolution was signed by the three-judge tribunal March 12, but not made public until Tuesday in a series of newspaper reports that apparently came as a surprise to Criminal Appeals Tribunal judge Martha Lacayo, who claimed she had signed the resolution four days earlier without realizing what it said.
Lacayo, who claims she has no party affiliation, accused the othertwo Appeals Court
judges – both sympathizers of the opposition Sandinista National Liberation Front – of hoodwinking her into signing the resolution by slipping it into a stack of other documents she needed to sign.
“THIS was a fraud. I am distancing myself from this. I don’t want to know anything more about it,” Lacayo told reporters during an awkward press conference Tuesday; adding, with no intentional irony: “If you want to know what the resolution says, it is right here for you to read.”
Before police executed the judges’ order to move Alemán to jail Tuesday afternoon, two other judges of the Civil Chamber of Managua’s Appeals Tribunal signed a separate resolution ordering a freeze of the transfer order.
The two contradictory resolutions from different Chambers of the same Appeals Tribunal baffled and irritated government leaders and political analysts.
“UNFORTUNATELY, once again, we see that our justice system is one that corresponds to political interests and not the interest of the nation,” said Minister of the Interior Julio Vega, who Tuesday afternoon was personally inspecting the jail conditions for Alemán’s transfer when he received notice that the second resolution had been handed down.
He blasted the situation as “absurd” and accused party leaders of the ruling Liberal Constitutional Party and opposition Sandinista Front of making a mockery of the judicial system and the country.
However, Vega stressed his responsibility is to enforce court orders, not interpret contradictory resolutions, and said Alemán would remain in El Chile until the Supreme Court stepped in and ruled on matter.
ALEMÁN, still considered the Liberal’s party boss, is serving a 20-year sentence for fraud and money-laundering.
The former President has been allowed to serve his sentence at his private compound, known as “El Chile,” for health considerations.
The former President is alleged to have between three and eight different “chronic and incurable” diseases, according to various family members and Liberal Party leaders. Alemán is reported to be diabetic with high blood pressure and other heart complications, although the specific nature of his other ailments is unclear.
Alemán’s wife, Maria Fernanda Flores, told TV news station 100% that she feared her husband’s life would be in danger from his “enemies” in La Modelo.
“The Sandinistas are capable of anything,” she said.
THE administration of President Enrique Bolaños this week stressed the urgency of passing pending judicial reforms aimed at avoiding just such a crisis of legal interpretation.
Sandinista party boss Daniel Ortega, meanwhile, blasted the Bolaños government for protecting Alemán by refusing to carry out the first Appeals Tribunal resolution.
While the newest crisis is putting increased strains on Nicaragua’s alreadyweak institutional democracy, even political observers appeared confused by the implications of what was happening.
“I can’t say what the ramifications are, I am still trying to understand this myself,” Carlos Fernando Chamorro, veteran political commentator and son of former
President Violetta Chamorro, told The Tico Times Tuesday.