Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 297 | Abril 2006




Envío team

The government of Venezuela announced on March 10 that it is bringing its “Miracle Mission” to Nicaragua. Over the next ten years, this initiative will provide free operations in both Venezuela and Cuba for cases of reversible blindness, particularly as a result of cataracts. Nicaragua has an estimated 30,000 blind people, 18,000 of whom have a reversible condition. The Venezuelan program aims to treat between 100 and 200 cases a month, chosen by the National Ophthalmology Center and prioritizing those least able to pay. While the cost of a cataract operation in a private Nicaraguan clinic ranges between $800 and $1,200, those selected for the “miracle” will pay nothing: not only will the operation and follow-up treatment be free, but so will travel and lodging for the patient, and even a companion, if necessary.

The initiative, in this case negotiated by Venezuela and Nicaragua’s Health Ministry and Association of Municipalities, is part of the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA) program, which Hugo Chávez’s government hopes will create bonds among Latin American countries that extend beyond mere trade. The “Miracle Mission” is already operating in 11 countries. Its overall goal is to return their sight to six million people by 2016.

On March 17, thousands of young people came to hear Spanish lay religious worker Kiko Argüello exhort young people to become priests and nuns during his third visit to Nicaragua. Argüello, on his third visit to Nicaragua, is the founder of the Catholic neo-Catechumenal movement promoted by John Paul II during his pontificate. President Bolaños also spoke at the event, choosing to criticize countries and societies that have accepted same-sex marriages. These “aberrant relationships,” he said, “should be called ‘seximonies,’ not matrimonies” because they are incapable of procreation. Sounding for all the world like the US rabid religious Right, he railed against governments that legalize such unions, insisting that “ Nicaragua does not accept such social models; Nicaragua is Christian!” Bolaños also took the opportunity to urge the youthful gathering to “vote for a government with Christian values.”

Former Costa Rican presidential candidate Ottón Solís, leader of the Civic Action Party (PAC), will provide pro bono electoral advice several days a month to former Managua mayor Herty Lewites’ presidential campaign on the MRS Alliance ticket. According to Mónica Baltodano of the FSLN’s Democratic Left, which is backing both Lewites’ presidential bid and his more long-term Movement to Rescue Sandinismo, Solís “has many affinities with us because he broke out of the hegemony of Costa Rica’s two traditional political parties. Costa Rican civil society longed to break its country’s two-party monopoly just as we want to break the FSLN-PLC monopoly.”

The 4th World Water Forum was held in Mexico in March, attended by government and civil society delegations from 146 countries. During the event, the Latin American Water Tribunal, consisting of eight Latin American and European jurists, “morally condemned” the governments of six Latin American countries. It singled out Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala for “favoring the interests of transnational companies over those of their own citizens” by granting open pit mining permits without respecting environmental laws or taking negative technical studies into account. Nicaragua was specifically condemned for the contamination of the Río Mico in La Libertad, Chontales. Although this chastisement has no legal weight, it is still a significant blow to the Bolaños government. On a more positive note, Nicaraguan civil society groups presented two low-cost initiatives to help ensure water and health to our country’s population: the rope pump to extract water in rural communities, and daily doses of sea water to treat and cure a broad array of ailments.

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