Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 316 | Noviembre 2007




Envío team

A month and a half after Hurricane Felix ravaged the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN), Laura De Clementi, the representative of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Nicaragua, warned that the more than 25,000 affected families could face starvation if seeds are not quickly provided for the next planting. According to the FAO, 42% of all school-age children in Nicaragua suffer malnutrition, but the percentages in the RAAN were already far worse (up to 60%) even before the hurricane struck. According to De Clementi, less than half the Nicaraguan population eats three times a day, and once again things are worse in the Caribbean, with the emergency-produced hunger coming on top of structural malnutrition.

While there have been unending accusations of party favoritism in the government’s distribution of official aid to the victims of Hurricane Felix, the United States and Venezuela appear to be competing to show the inhabitants of the RAAN and the country as a whole who can give aid more abundantly and efficiently. As soon as air travel became possible, US planes and helicopters and Venezuelan planes were the first (after the Nicaraguan army) to arrive with food and medicines. As of November 8, the United States had donated US$14.8 million in medicines, food, water, clothing, seeds, work tools and temporary roofing, among other things. US Ambassador Paul Trivelli declared that they will always provide aid through “reliable partners,” such as nongovernmental agencies and religious groups.

The Venezuelan government has sent a ship and several planes with thousands of sheets of metal roofing, as well as chainsaws, tools and other kinds of aid. President Ortega never mentions the US aid but commonly reports on both the Venezuelan aid and the Cuban doctors who are treating all kinds of hurricane-produced or chronic ailments on site. In mid-October, Ortega announced that the Chávez government approved US$11.5 million for the reconstruction of the RAAN. Ortega has requested $392 million in aid from the international community.

FAO specialists estimated that although the exact amount of lumber felled by Hurricane Felix will never be known, it is enough to supply Nicaraguan for 120 years. The latent fear is that during the dry season the intense heat and traditional slash and burn agriculture will cause uncontrollable fires as they do almost every year. The difference this time is that they would make the regeneration of the forests affected by the hurricane impossible. Even if the area is allowed to regenerate, the process will take an estimated 30 to 60 years. For its part, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources announced a plan to deal with the thousands of hurricane-affected domestic and wild animals suffering from wounds, lack of food and the destruction of their natural habitats.

A National Forest Institute report says the damages are incalculable in the more than 1.5 million hectares of land affected by Mitch. According to the report, “The passage of the hurricane significantly altered the way of life of the indigenous and peasant communities in the region, affecting their economy, patrimony, history, customs and future. It paralyzed the efforts their inhabitants have been making to climb out of poverty, backwardness and dependence, and increased their vulnerability to the challenges posed by the modern economy.”

On November 5, a California court ordered the transnationals Dole Fruit Company and Dow Chemical Company to pay US$3.3 million to six former banana workers left sterile and suffering other health effects due to exposure to Nemagon (DBCP), a pesticide manufactured and distributed by Dow and used by Dole in its banana plantations in northwestern Nicaragua in the seventies. Amvac Chemical Corporation, which reached a $300,000 agreement with the plaintiffs before the trial, was also convicted. The jury voted against indemnifying six others included in this suit. Another 60 workers filed a separate suit in another Los Angeles court in 2006, and other suits are still pending. It is calculated that at least 5,000 workers in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama have been affected by Nemagon. Dole’s executive vice president called the six verdicts the result of cheap science, an appeal to raw emotions and false testimony. His company will appeal the sentence.

Meeting with Salvadoran President Elías Antonio Saca in San Salvador on November 5, President Daniel Ortega declared that Nicaragua will not accept the “European conditions” in the negotiations between Central America and the European Union (EU) over a trade agreement. He was referring in particular to the EU’s request that the Central American countries affiliate to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Demonstrating total ignorance of what this court is—based on the Statute of Rome, it pursues crimes against humanity—Ortega claimed that it would accumulate suits against the countries of the South, and compared it to the International Court of The Hague (they are two entirely different courts), which he inexplicably said had failed Nicaragua. He instead argued in favor of leaving hatred to one side and looking ahead, but contrary to his own advice, then promptly accused the Europeans of being “imperialist colonizers…, the first great depredators of Africa, Asia and Latin America.” Saca let it be known that El Salvador will not join the ICC either, but gave no reasons. The US government is the main critic and boycotter of this new court.

On November 4, in the midst of the disaster, a group of political forces somehow found the time to announce the creation of what they are calling the Great Unity of Democratic Forces. With no credibility to represent the frustrations and hopes of the Nicaraguan society, they claim they will confront the “dictatorship” Daniel Ortega intends to install in Nicaragua from the presidency. The organizations belonging to this new unity include the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance, headed by Eduardo Montealegre; the Conservative Party; and dissident members of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) who are in conflict with Arnoldo Alemán’s leadership. Among the most notable members of the latter group are the PLC’s presidential ticket from last year’s elections, José Rizo and José Antonio Alvarado. Also climbing on the bandwagon was Enrique Quiñónez, an Alemán clone who has recently been trying to take over his leadership role. Alemán criticized the initiative for obstructing efforts to unite all Liberals, which is a curious objection given that he has consistently boycotted such unity because it would ruin his deal with Ortega. Two weeks later, another opposition group emerged. It calls itself the Progressive Popular Alternative, and is headed by the Conservatives who follow Noel Vidaurre.

Print text   

Send text

<< Previous   Next >>


With Water, Water Everywhere, Who’s on the President’s Ark?


Gambling Away Our Future with Decisions We’re Making Today

Ticaraguans: Bi-national Identities on the Liquid Border

El Salvador
Business Social Responsibility: Poisoned by Lead and Vested Interests

The Reasons, Passions and Values Behind a Vote

Omoa Beach Smells of Gas, Impunity and Corruption

América Latina
Latin American Radio: Six Contributions to Development
Envío a monthly magazine of analysis on Central America
GüeGüe: Web Hosting and Development