MANAGUA – President Enrique Bolaños, who steps down Jan. 10 to be replaced by Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, is urging the Nicaraguan military to continue working as a professional organization on behalf of the country, and not any particular party or personality.
Bolaños, who this week was decorated with the military’s top honor, said that the Nicaraguan Army has become a professional and apolitical institution during the past 26 years, and urged the military, which is predominantly Sandinista, to not forget that it represents the interests of the Constitution and the entire country.
“Friends,” Bolaños said, addressing a handful of military officers in attendance at Monday’s award ceremony; “soon there will be another government, and, after that, another, and then another. And this moves me to exhort that you all continue to work at the service of only the country, with the same professionalism and duty with which you served during my government.”
Bolaños added, “This army does have an owner; it’s the army of all Nicaraguans.” The military’s top brass, Gen. Omar Halleslevens – a Sandinista – echoed Bolaños’ message and vouched for the professionalism and non-partisan nature of the armed forces.
The Nicaraguan Army, which this year celebrated its 26th anniversary under civil command, is a direct descendent of the Sandinista Popular Army (EPS), which was demobilized in 1990 after the revolutionary government was voted out of office.
Though the military was dramatically reduced in size in the early 1990s, many officials still identify as Sandinista.
Ortega, who will become the next Commander-in-Chief, last week gave a press conference in Honduras, where he spoke of the importance of downsizing regional militaries and arsenals to lessen the potential for tensions between neighbors.
Honduras is where the U.S.-backed Contras set up their bases to attack the Sandinista government in the 1980s.
Following Ortega’s comments in Honduras, both Gen. Halleslevens and Defense Minister Avil Ramírez reminded the comandante that he needs to consult with them before talking about defense or military issues.