Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 422 | Septiembre 2016



Nicaragua briets


National Geographic’s documentary producer Sam Cossman and former NASA astronaut Scott Parazinsky left Nicaragua at the end of August after capturing magnificent images of the lava lake that appeared some months ago in one of the Masaya Volcano’s craters. Fascinating video clips of their descent into the crater and close-ups of the boiling lava that will be used for an extensive documentary Nat Geo will present at the end of the
year have been appearing on Internet. Another result of this “adventure” is that 80 censors provided by General Electric, the effort’s sponsor, will remain in the volcano to monitor its activity. Upon departing, Cossman described how “everything changes…. The shapes of the volcano were different every day, like in a glacier. The lava is an ocean of fire in extraordinary movement. If you keep looking at it you end up hypnotized. It’s like looking at the surface of the sun.”


Official documents from the legal service department of PDVSA, Venezuela’s state oil company, which came into the hands of Nicaragua’s digital bulletin Confidencial, show that in 2012 government officials of Hugo Chávez, who was still alive at the time, began questioning Daniel Ortega’s diverting of Venezuelan state cooperation funds. They have evidence that some US$3.6 billion derived from the highly beneficial oil deal signed between Chávez and Ortega in 2007 were being diverted to CARUNA, a private cooperative of Nicaragua’s governing party. The documents state that these resources “are being administered outside of the legal framework of the agreement.” They also question Nicaragua’s payment to Venezuela in the form of food for 50% of the oil bill. For years, Alba Alimentos de Nicaragua reportedly paid Venezuela with Salvadoran coffee, Argentine beans, Honduran cooking oil, Guatemalan heifers and Brazilian sugar in a triangulation from which Ortega and his group rather than national producers reaped the benefits, thus violating the Petrocaribe agreements and the spirit of ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America. The Nicaraguan government hasn’t said a single word about what these documents reveal.


The second International Mining Congress was held in Managua on August 17-18, with national and international business people and investors linked to this sector. In 2013 the Panamanian magazine El planeta minero was already calling Nicaragua “the region’s most pro-mining company with a much less complicated permit process for exploration than its neighbors.” It also noted that in that same year our country had produced more gold than ever before in the region: nearly 10 million ounces. Gold is currently the third-largest contributor to Nicaragua’s gross domestic product. In its report on mining’s economic and social impact in Nicaragua, the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUNIDES) says that sector’s workers are the most likely to have social security protection and that “mining families have more assets than other families.” Smart phones, laptops, plasma TVs and motorcycles are the “assets” FUNIDES lists as a sign of the “development” mining has brought them.


Violence by groups of mestizo settlers against indigenous communities of the Caribbean Coast, particularly Miskitus, has been increasing in recent months, while the Army and the State in general are not recognizing this reality or intervening to protect the community members. In the last days of August the cadavers of two youths (28 and 30 years old) from La Esperanza, in the Upper Río Coco, municipality of Waspam, were found hacked up and already devoured by vultures. They had been kidnapped 11 days earlier by mestizo settlers as they were heading off to care for their cultivation plots. A team from the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) reported indifference by authorities in the area, as they had not shown up “even to verify this latest crime or prevent others or try to protect the communities.” The Center for Justice and Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN) has counted 30 murdered indigenous people since the end of 2015, many of them community leaders. The root of this violence is the lack of government action to fulfill the title verification process detailed by the indigenous territories’ demarcation law for dealing with mestizos who have settled in those lands illegally with the complicity of the government and the Army.


Patricia Ramírez, executive secretary of the Central American Integration System’s Regional Hydric Resources Committee, reported that an estimated 60% of the abundant water Central America still has is “being lost” due to waste, contamination and poor management of water distribution to the population. Ruth Selma Herrera, a former president of the Nicaraguan Water and Sewage Utility (ENACAL), seconded that assessment and referred to the obsolete pipes ENACAL uses to distribute water to homes, which frequently break producing leaks. “The losses in Nicaragua today make up 58% of un-invoiced water and this will only increase,” Herrera said. “They know it in ENACAL but don’t do anything about it.” In the fourth Water and Sanitation Forum titled “Nicaragua sana” (Healthy Nicaragua) held this month, it was reported that 450,000 Nicaraguas still defecate out of doors and some 800,000 have no access to “improved water,” which means a source adequately protected from contamination, especially from fecal matter.


Seeing thousands of Africans and Haitians stranded on the Costa Rican border because Nicaragua isn’t allowing them to continue their route across Central America to the United States, 54-year-old Nila Mar Alemán, a teacher in San Juan del Sur, one of the Nicaraguan beaches where migrants brought by coyotes are left, took pity on a young Congolese woman with a months-old baby girl suffering from pneumonia. The migrant had entered the country on a falsified Nicaraguan ID card. The teacher welcomed her into her house for two weeks until the infant was better, then accompanied them on the bus to the Nicaragua-Honduras border so they could continue their sojourn north, but both women were detained by the Police. The migrant and her daughter were returned to the camps on the Costa Rican border, which are sheltering thousands of migrants. The teacher was arrested and tried for the crime of “human trafficking” after being presented to the media in handcuffs. Nila Mar Alemán is a historical FSLN militant and some years ago was declared an exemplary teacher. Her detention has caused national indignation and demonstrations by her neighbors, teaching colleagues and students, who know her history of honesty. They are demanding her release and denouncing the criminalization of solidarity by a government that every day proclaims itself “solidary, Christian and socialist.”


The president of the Association of Astronomers and Astrophysicists of Nicaragua, David Pacheco, suggested to President Ortega that he review his November 2014 decree prohibiting the use in Nicaraguan territory of drones that fly higher than 3.5 meters above the ground. Pacheco noted that drones that only fly at that height are for games and emphasized that drones aren’t only used for war, but also to respond to natural disasters, for agriculture, to cover events and in diverse investigations, noting that they were used in the August filming in the Masaya Volcano by the National Geographic documentarist and his team.


On September 2, the anniversary of the founding of the Army of Nicaragua, its first chief, retired General Humberto Ortega, the current President’s brother, published a full-page paid ad in both national newsdailies in which he analyzed what has happened between the insurrection that overthrew Somoza and now. In one of the most significant paragraphs of his extensive text, he posited that what many are now calling Nicaragua’s new dictatorship is not military, and argues that a dynastic government isn’t viable. These are his words: “Our forms of a State do not constitute a military dictatorship, although the product of our society’s particular historical development since the caciques-conquest-colony persist in the structures being more pyramidal-authoritarian-centralist than democratic, and since 1990, with the necessary authority of the incipient democracy, the personalist-family style reappears in the presidency, different from a dynasty, which no one is proclaiming and is unviable.”


Two fuel storage tanks belonging to US-owned Puma Energy in its terminal in Port Sandino, Leon, burned for four consecutive days starting on August 17 according to official information. As of the close of this issue neither the government nor the company had reported the cause of the fire that alarmed neighboring communities, especially as no authority evacuated them. The fire caused environmental damage to the biodiversity of mangrove areas and other valuable natural goods of the coastal area. The government minimized the damage while the Humboldt Center, which was not allowed to tour the zone, called it serious. The lucrative state companies Petronic and Distribuidora Nacional de Petróleo (DNP), which are in the hands of the governing family, respectively control the importing and distributing of fuels, although Puma Energy continues to appear as a fuel importer, which independent media have not been able to confirm.


On September 1, Nicaraguan banker and Liberal politician Eduardo Montealegre, a minister in the governments of both Arnoldo Alemán and Enrique Bolaños, founder of the split from the Constitutionalist Liberal Party called the National Liberal Alliance, which ran second in 2006, and more recently head of the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) until the Supreme Court ruled that its legal status should be switched to a small contending split, announced in a terse message from the United States that he is resigning as coordinator of the National Coalition for Democracy, made up of the PLI, the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) and other smaller forces. While not clarifying whether he was also leaving political life, his message simply said, “Dear friends of the Coalition, I would like to inform you that I find it impossible to continue as coordinator of the Coalition. I thank you for the confidence you have granted me.” The PLI Liberals who belonged to the Coalition and lost the possibility of participating in the elections, including those who had been elected legislators in 2011 and were expelled from their seats, announced that they will reorganize into a new party to be called Citizens for Liberty. The MRS recognized the role played by Montealegre and acknowledged “the decision of Citizens for Liberty to go forward in their internal strengthening,” proposing “the construction of a Broad Front for Democracy” from “each territory and in all sectors.”

Print text   

Send text

<< Previous   Next >>


To vote or not to vote? That is the question

Nicaragua briets

The task right now is to avoid the consolidation of a family dictatorship

Thousands of African migrants on our borders

What does settler Catalino’s story tell us?

Two campaign paths crossing: Clinton-Kaine’s and Hernández’s

The challenge to avoid catastrophe is to reunite power and politics
Envío a monthly magazine of analysis on Central America
GüeGüe: Web Hosting and Development