MANAGUA – Boaco’s deposed Mayor Hugo Barquero is calling for sustained civil disobedience following the Sandinistas’ forcible takeover of his municipal government.
Armed with legally questionable resolutions from the Sandinista-controlled city council and the Sandinista-controlled Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), riot police stormed the mayor’s office June 28 and dragged out the elected mayor and replaced him with Sandinista stand-in Juan Obando.
The move was immediately decried as illegal by the opposition, civil society, religious leaders and human rights organizations (NT, July 2). The legislative commission on municipal affairs is also investigating the matter and has expressed serious concern that due process was violated.
On June 30, thousands of Barquero supporters marched on Boaco demanding an end to the Sandinista-ordered police siege of their municipality and the reinstatement of their elected mayor.
The following day, the Sandinistas’ held an equally large march featuring state workers and party activists from Managua who were bussed into Boaco for the party’s show of force.
Barquero said the Sandinistas brought in 15 school busses full of party activists for the march.
“The Sandinistas traditionally don’t have much support in Boaco, so they had to bring in state workers, teachers and students who are obligated to march,” Barquero said.
Barquero, a Liberal party dissident who belongs to the political movement led by Eduardo Montealegre, said his supporters in Boaco were not impressed or intimidated by the Sandinistas’ show of force. Instead, Barquero, who claims he can put 10,000 people in the street without having to pay them, says his supporters refuse to recognize Obando, the Sandinistas’ substitute mayor, who claims he is a Liberal despite having been disowned by the Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC).
Barquero said the market vendors in Boaco have already stopped paying municipal taxes in protest, and the organizers of the municipality’s patron saint festivities, held each July, have decided to boycott this year’s event.
Barquero said his supporters are waiting for the Managua riot police to withdraw from the city before cranking up the protest again.
“The idea right now is to take our foot off the accelerator until the riot police leave town – and they are desperate to leave. But once they let down their guard, we are going to turn up the protest. Our people are ready to act,” Barquero told The Nica Times this week in a phone conversation.
In the meantime, he said, the idea is to keep some 300 protesters mobilized in the streets to “make noise and permanent demonstration.”
Barquero insists that the struggle against the Sandinista takeover of Boaco is “a fight for democracy” that is authentic and grassroots.
Barquero said most of the people involved in the Boaco resistance are members of civil society. He laments that opposition leader Arnoldo Alemán, party boss of the PLC, is trying to “take advantage of the situation” by turning it into a campaign event for his presidential reelection efforts in 2011.
During the June 30 march on Boaco, PLC organizers showed up in trucks and gave away free hats with the message “Arnoldo Will Return.”
A week after the so-called “municipal coup” in Boaco, legal questions continue to be raised about what happened.
Lawmaker Agustín Jarquín, president of the Commission on Population, Development and Municipalities, said the recent wave of removals of elected municipal leaders raises a series of “political and institutional challenges.”
Jarquín notes that Sandinista city councils working in conjunction with the CSE have removed eight elected officials in six municipalities in less than a month. The role of the Ortega-controlled CSE has been particularly suspicious, Jarquín said.
“We are worried that the CSE has acted in violation of the constitution,” Jarquín told The Nica Times this week.
Jarquín said the law establishes a process of no less than 15 days to remove an elected municipal official, in order to give officials ample time to appeal to legal recourse.
But in the case of Boaco, the removal of Barquero took less than 90 minutes – it literally happened while he stepped out of the office one morning two weeks ago.
Barquero also questions how the CSE resolution was signed by magistrate José Miguel Córdoba, who was supposedly in the hospital fighting for his life at the time the resolution was passed. Córdoba died July 1 of respiratory problems.
“There were violations of the legal norms, which contaminates the appointments of new officials,” congressman Jarquín said. “This is a polemical issue that puts the institutionalism of the government at risk and affects the country’s judicial security, political stability and business climate.
“This is an issue that goes beyond the local community and affects the image of the entire country,” the lawmaker added, “If people are sovereign, then they have the right to elect their officials. So (this situation) will have implications for Nicaragua.”
Despite his concern, Jarquín said the most his legislative commission can do is investigate the matter and present its recommendations to the National Assembly. But in the end, only the Supreme Court, which is controlled by Ortega, can reverse the situation.
In Boaco, meanwhile the ousted mayor says his supporters will take the issue to the streets.
“This is a struggle of the people,” he said. “People want to know, what happened to my vote?”