U.S. blasts Nicaraguan court, revokes visa of former Nicaraguan president's daughter

Plunging directly into a local political dispute, the U.S. Embassy on Wednesday fiercely denounced Nicaragua's judicial system, accusing it of trying to undermine President Enrique Bolanos.

The Embassy also confirmed that it had revoked the visa of a daughter of former President Arnoldo Aleman, who still commands the loyalty of most legislators from the governing party despite his conviction on fraud and money laundering charges.

U.S. diplomats used unusually tough language to criticize Supreme Court decisions on Tuesday that upheld Congressional measures stripping Bolanos of many powers and granting Aleman conditional release from house arrest.

In a Spanish-language communique sent by fax to news organizations, the Embassy called the court decisions "another example of the political manipulation and the complete polarization of the Nicaraguan judicial system.

It said the decisions were "motivated by political interests, based on dubious legal precedents" and called them "one more attempt to undermine institutional order in Nicaragua, affecting the term of President Enrique Bolanos."

Under a political deal, Aleman's Constitutionalist Liberal Party and the leftist Sandinista Front control appointments to the courts, election oversight bodies and the controller's office.

Infuriated by the prosecution of Aleman, the Liberals joined with their traditional foes, the Sandinistas, to pass laws stripping Bolanos of many of his powers.

The Embassy said the court rulings displayed "the negative and antidemocratic effects of the relationships between the leadership of two parties."

It said the Nicaraguan legal system "is strangling the Nicaraguan people."

Tuesday's rulings are "a clear example of a totally discredited judicial system that is trying to free a prisoner" accused of stealing government funds.

Aleman's wife, Maria Fernanda Flores, said if Bolanos does not adhere to the court's decisions, "he would be acting like a dictator or monarch."

An anti-Sandinista crusader who was once a favorite of U.S. officials, Aleman fell out of favor with many foreign governments as reports emerged of rampant corruption in his administration from 1997 to 2001.

Although most polls have shown that Aleman and Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega are widely unpopular in Nicaragua, they have held tight control of their parties and have been aided by laws making it difficult for opposition parties to reach the ballot.

Earlier in the day, Embassy spokeswoman Preeti Shah confirmed press reports that American officials confiscated the visa of Aleman's daughter Maria Dolores, a congresswoman, when she passed through Miami's international airport on Sunday en route to Spain.

Shah did not give reasons for the action, but Aleman and her father Arnoldo are named in a U.S. government civil complaint that alleges the former president purchased U.S. bank certificates with money stolen from the Nicaraguan government.

The U.S. government earlier had withdrawn visas of the former president, his wife Maria Fernanda Flores and a son, Carlos Miguel Aleman, as well as about a dozen members of his Constitutionalist Liberal Party.

Party leaders have defended ex-President Aleman despite a 20-year sentence on corruption charges imposed in December 2003, AP reported.

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