The ruling revolutionary junta put into effect today a provisional bill of rights that provides for almost all the basic rights guaranteed in the United States and promises social programs that would go beyond those available in many Western democracies.
The document will serve as a constitution until it is reviewed by a council of state that is now being formed. The council, to be composed of representatives from leading economic and social institutions, is to serve as the legislature until elections promised three to four years hence.
Only in the area of individual property rights does the document approved by the juanta today differ markedly from U.S. legal traditions.
"Property, whether it is individually or collectively owned, has a social function," the new Nicaraguan bill of rights says.
Property "can be limited with regard to its title, its enjoyment, its use and its disposition for reasons of security, public utility or public interest . . . or when it is required for agrarian reform."
The document also says that the Nicaraguan people reserve the right to dispose of the country's wealth and natural resources in the manner they see fit without regard to international obligations if these would serve "to deprive the people of their sustenance."
The document gives the Nicaraguan people "the right to freely and fully determine their political system and future economic, social and cultural development" and guarantees the "the direct participation of the people in fundamental acts affecting the country."
The bill of rights also provides the right to establish political parties, freedom of expression except in situations affecting national security, the country's economic well-being or public order.
Also guaranteed are freedom of association, freedom to move about the country and freedom to move about the country and freedom from searches of the home unless a judge has given written permission.
The death penalty, torture, inhumane or cruel punishment are prohibited and the law says no crime will result in a punishment of more than 30 years in jail. Persons must be notified of the reasons for their detention "without delay" and must be brought before a judicial authority within 24 hours after arrest.
No Nicaraguan shall be required to confess or testify against himself and he is to have adequate time to prepare his defense.
The bill or rights provides for equal treatment under the law and prohibits discrimination based on birth, race, color, sex, language, religion, opinions, origin, economic position "or any other social condition."
It gives unions the right to organize, guarantees the right to strike, prohibits differences in pay for the same work and provides for "reasonable" working hours for all workers.
Most Latin American countries have constitutions at least as sweeping that, however, are subject to breach when it comes to specifics.
The government "recognizes the fundamental right of Nicaraguans to be protected against hunger" and promises programs to provide sufficient food, clothes and other necessities for children, erradicate mainutrition and educate the poor about their dietary needs.
The document also says the government will work to improve hygiene, prevent and treat sickness and disease and provide free primary and secondary school education.
During periods of national emergency, portions of the document may be suspended and some of the rights do not apply to political prisoners now under investigation for crimes committed before the new government came to power last month.