(posted April 19, 12:00 p.m.)- The latest showdown between the government and the private sector ended in a satisfactory compromise this Friday when Nicaragua’s telecom regulatory institute (TELCOR) agreed to modify a controversial administrative decree that businesses leaders claimed was illegal and overreaching.
The original decree, passed March 22, ordered all private telecommunications companies to get government approval before hiring any new general managers, directors, or systems information chiefs. The government claimed the decree was intended to ensure national security, but business chambers said it was an illegal measure that violated a series of laws governing the telecom sector and free enterprise in Nicaragua. Critics also worried that the decree could be used as a tool for domestic spying by intercepting phone calls, emails and other electronic communications.
Predictably, the country divided along partisan lines, with the Sandinistas repeating their party’s boilerplate in defense of the decree while the private sector repeated their arguments that the government was over-reaching and violating the tenants of free enterprise and rule of law.
After a month of brinksmanship, with the private sector flatly refusing to obey the decree, the government backed down. A compromise was reached late this week whereby the telecom businesses will still need to notify TELCOR of who their managers and directors are, but won’t have to submit candidates for government approval before hiring.
“I think that TELCOR realized that the way they published the decree was wrong, and that the content of the decree was very intrusive and therefore unacceptable,” Roberto Sansón, operations director for CLARO, the largest telecom service provider in the country, told The Nicaragua Dispatch today. “The response from the business sector and the telecommunications companies was very strong and the and that’s how we made (the government) realize. TELCOR opened up, accepted the criticism and radically modified its decree. And for that, we are pleased.”
The Nicaraguan-American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) also released a statement today expressing its satisfaction that “a solution based on consensus was reached harmoniously.”
CLARO’s Sansón says he doesn’t know if the government will try to push the same reform again in National Assembly, where the Sandinistas control a super majority and can legislative unilaterally, but says “I hope not.”