Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 371 | Junio 2012




Envío team

At the end of May, Costa Rica’s National Roadways Council admitted to the Costa Rican newspaper La Nación that the highway President Laura Chinchilla ordered built parallel to and literally bordering Nicaragua’s San Juan River was done without plans, design or topographical and environmental studies. There has also been corruption in assigning the companies that did the work, whose cost is calculated at $40 million so far. President Chinchilla recognized both the corruption and the lack of studies but minimized her own responsibility in the disaster. The highway—at this moment a 160-km stretch of dirt road—is already depositing tons of sediment that has crumbled away in various places given the poor quality of the design, the terrible construction methods and the highway’s proximity to the river.

The disastrous effects are already being felt in the Río San Juan Biosphere Reserve, which Costa Rica and Nicaragua share, and will only increase now with the arrival of the rainy season, since the area the river travels through receives the greatest precipitation of any in the two countries. Curiously enough, although construction began at the end of 2010, there was no news or any reaction in Nicaragua until October 2011. Then two months later, Nicaragua sued Costa Rica in the International Court of Justice at The Hague for the highway’s environmental damages. The ICJ needs two years to hand down its ruling. Meanwhile Nicaraguan environmental organizations insisted that the government declare a “yellow alert,” which it only finally did on May 29 of this year. There is an urgent need for dialogue between the two governments to start repairing the damage for the common good of both countries.

In his May visit to Nicaragua, Marcelo Estevao, the International Monetary Fund’s Technical Mission chief, suggested that the country debate whether 6% of the national budget should continue to be assigned to the public universities, leaving very little for primary education—fundamental to the population’s development—and technical education—fundamental to the country’s development. There are currently more than 160,000 university students, while 30% of those graduating find no work in their field. The Nicaraguan State invests six times more in a university student than in a primary one. And while in Latin America as a whole an average of 18% of public investment in education is dedicated to university education, the figure is 30% in Nicaragua. The National Council of Universities called on thousands of students to take to the streets on May 23 in protest against the IMF’s “interference” and in defense of the controversial 6%. Estevao, however, clarified that “we don’t have a position on the 6%, on 4% or on 10%. We met with specialists on education issues, which we don’t claim to be, and discussed with them how the resources for education are used, but we have no specific position. That is a sovereign Nicaraguan affair.”

President Ortega received Iran’s Vice President Ali Saeidlo on May 29 during the latter’s tour of member countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). Saeidlo announced that Iran will soon pardon Nicaragua’s $164 million debt for oil purchases back in the eighties. He also offered Ortega a new credit of 200 million euros (nearly US$250 million) for different projects, confirmed that Iran will construct a milk processing plant in Nicaragua and invited Ortega to participate in the 16th Summit of the Nonaligned Movement, to be held in Teheran on August 30-31. Nicaragua joined the NAM when Ortega was President in the eighties. “We will be there God willing,” said Ortega by way of acceptance, and reiterated his backing for Iran’s nuclear program because it has “peaceful ends.” Through State Department Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Mike Hammer, the US government minimized the importance of Saeidlo’s junket: “The Iranians are looking for friends because they are very isolated.”

Economist Adolfo Acevedo warned that while the government’s insistence on quadrupling the number of councilors in all municipal governments through President Ortega’s reform to the Municipalities Law, passed by the National Assembly in May, may not mean new salaries or new travel and other expenses, “it will significantly increase the amount that will have to be assigned to operational expenses associated with the functioning of the Municipal Councils.” Acevedo suggested that the Ministry of the Treasury produce a technical report to project how much that increase would be, which could then be used to “make the most rational decisions possible.”

Amnesty International’s report on the state of human rights in the world, presented in London on May 24, says that rape and sexual abuse continue to be generalized in Nicaragua. According to statistics of Nicaragua’s Police Stations for Women and Children, two thirds of the rapes reported between January and August last year affected girls under 17 years old. In AI’s view, the official efforts to combat sexual violence against women and girls were ineffective. The government has no integrated action plan to eradicate sexual violence, protect survivors or ensure their access to comprehensive psychosocial support services for their recovery.

AI also reported that the prohibition of all forms of abortion remain in effect, with the 2006 law criminalizing therapeutic abortion allowing no exceptions. In February last year, it adds, when Nicaragua’s human rights record was evaluated in the United Nation’s Universal Periodic Review, 12 member States recommended that the total prohibition of abortion be revoked. Then in September, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child also asked the Nicaraguan State to decriminalize abortion, making it the fifth UN committee to recommend reform of the laws on total prohibition of abortion and thus end this serious violation of the human rights of women and girls. Despite having pledged to do so before May 2009, the AI report concludes, Nicaragua’s Supreme Court has still not resolved a suit on the unconstitutionality of the penal code reform criminalizing any form of abortion, even for compelling therapeutic reasons.

Recognized Nicaraguan scientist Pedro Álvarez, a member of Nicaragua’s Academy of Sciences, was awarded the Clarke Prize by the National Water Research Institute (NWRI), which is based in the United States, where he developed this work. Álvarez, who has received 40 other prizes and written five books on the subject, was chosen for his important contributions to the practice and teaching of water contamination control. He is a pioneer in two related fields: bio-remediation-decontamination of water using native bacteria, and environmental nanotechnology, which decontaminates water using membranes with particulates 10 times smaller than a human cell. Álvarez is currently editor of the distinguished journal Environmental Science and Technology, an honorary professor of both the Nankai and Kunmin universities in China, adjunct professor of the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Florianópolis, Brazil, and also chair of the International Water Association’s program on leading edge technologies for making water safe to drink and treating wastewater. Álvarez gave his compatriots the following advice: “We have to live off of our ecological capital and not eat it up or destroy it. To achieve that, a change of attitude and investment in primary education are needed.”

Aminta Granera, the general director of Nicaragua’s National Police, was unanimously elected the new president of the Commission of Police Chiefs and Directors of Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean and Colombia in the 19th meeting of that body held in Panama. She was proposed for the post by the deputy general director of Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigative Body, Francisco Segura. Granera’s election is interpreted as recognition of the efforts Nicaragua’s National Police have made in the fight against organized crime and of the “proactive, preventive and community-based” police model Nicaragua presents at all international forums. Granera later spoke at the Center for International Strategic Studies in Washington about her police force’s experience with respect to citizen security in Central America. The invitation to the event stated: “Although a large part of Central America is facing some of the highest rates of violent crime in years, Nicaragua seems to be a sea of tranquility. Despite its limited resources and high poverty levels, it enjoys much lower indices of violent crime than many of its neighbors.”

Colombia has just begun airing a 63-part television series on the life of Pablo Escobar, who was shot and killed by Colombian police in December 1993. The series, titled, “Escobar, el patrón del mal” (lord of evil), is based on research and data from a number of books, including La parábola de Pablo (Pablo’s parable) written by former Medellín Mayor Alonso Salazar, Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar (Loving Pablo, hating Escobar) by his lover Virginia Vallejo and El verdadero Pablo: sangre, traición y muerte (The real Pablo: blood, betrayal and death) by Astrid Legarde, which includes the confessions of “Popeye,” Escobar’s lieutenant. These texts contain a lot of information about Escobar’s life in Nicaragua in the eighties.

According to figures of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, more than a million Nicaraguans—19% of the country’s population—are suffering malnutrition. Although the FAO recognized that the figure had fallen from 52% since 1990, it is still one of the highest in Latin America.

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