Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 282 | Enero 2005




Nitlápan-Envío team

On December 1, as he had earlier promised, outgoing mayor of Managua Herty Lewites went for a dip in Laguna Tiscapa, a small crater lake in the center of the capital, to demonstrate the success of the first stage of the ozoning of its putrid waters. The previous day, the FSLN’s 73-year-old consecrated machista and exhibitionist legislator Tomás Borge had dived into and swum across the lake. Emerging on the other side, Borge boasted of his physical strength, claimed that the water was not clean and criticized Lewites’ aspiration to compete for the FSLN presidential slot in the 2006 elections. He insisted that the party’s only possible candidate was Daniel Ortega. After his own, less sensationalist swim, Lewites reaffirmed his desire to be the party’s candidate, reminding the gathered reporters that he has been a member of that party for 35 years and that Borge does not own it.

Meanwhile, journalists covering the “show” discovered that the lake is still receiving sewage from a runoff channel, its water is still turbid and parts of its shoreline stink.

On November 25, the day dedicated to the international fight to end violence against women, Health Minister José Antonio Alvarado revealed that, an average of once every 20 minutes, a woman who has been either beaten by her partner or sexually abused by him or a man she didn’t know enters the emergency ward
of one of the country’s hospitals. Calling the number of teenage pregnancies and births resulting from sexual assaults “incalculable,” Alvarado recognized that “violence in our country has the face of women and girls” and reported that in 2003 the health system invested 150 million córdobas to provide attention to rape victims. He acknowledged that this violence is Nicaragua’s “most acute psychosocial and structural problem.”

To deal with it, however, the minister recommended “moral renovation” and offered the following example: “When I visited the maternal center in Waspam, I asked which of them had suffered violence. Nine of the ten women raised their hand. The woman who didn’t explained to me that she was the daughter of a pastor and was married to the son of another pastor. This means that there are values in that house.” This appealing but biased interpretation is specifically belied by a recent survey showing that a high percentage of pastors in Nicaragua abuse their wives.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released figures from recent investigations in Nicaragua showing that 30% of the population—roughly 1.5 million people in real numbers—suffers some degree of chronic malnutrition and that nearly 10% of children between 1 and 5 years old are malnourished. According to research by Nicaragua’s Office of the Special Human Rights Defense Attorney, the infant malnutrition figure is much higher; it estimates that 45% of the country’s children (450,000) do not consume the calories needed for their development and 29% have a deficient intake of iron, essential to cerebral development. In the rest of Central America, this tragic situation is only exceeded by Guatemala. The FAO classifies Nicaragua as one of 14 countries in an “emergency humanitarian situation” due to the hunger suffered by its people, so many of whom cannot eat healthily enough or sufficiently to guarantee human development due to financial restrictions.

Special Environmental Defense Attorney Lisando De León has urged the National Assembly to approve laws defining crimes against the environment so he can act against the organized timber mafias deforesting the country, especially in the Caribbean coastal region. Up to now, De León’s office has only been armed with administrative resolutions that have no penal content. “If we continue waiting for laws to be passed,” said De León, “there will be nothing left to protect, because they are even cutting down the forests in protected areas. But most serious of all, we have information that economically and politically powerful officials from all four state branches are behind this illegal timber extraction business. We’re trying to present the evidence to President Bolaños, because officials of his administration are participating in this.” In late November, the National Forest Institute reported in a Latin American event held in Costa Rica that for every two trees felled legally in Nicaragua, eight are cut down illegally, making Nicaragua one of the countries in Latin America that is destroying its environment the fastest.

On December 6, a farm in San Ramón, Matagalpa, known as “Esperanza Verde” (Green Hope) beat out 100 other farms around the world to take first prize in the Conservation category of the international competition on Sustainable Tourism promoted for the fourth year by The Smithsonian Magazine and Travelers Conservation Foundation. It now plans to go after the To-Do prize sponsored by a German organization that rewards economic, environmental and socio-cultural sustainability on rural properties.

“Esperanza Verde” is a 14-hectare coffee plantation owned by a Durham-San Ramón NGO and has been run for seven years by Yelba Valenzuela, a determinedly enterprising 40-year-old woman from Estelí who is responsible for transforming the farm’s infrastructure, cleanliness, beauty, profitability and productivity.

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