Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 423 | Octubre 2016



Nicaragua briets


René Núñez, a member of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) since his youth and one of the party’s most respected leaders, died in a Costa Rican hospital on September 10 after battling a year-long complication of a pulmonary ailment resulting from torture received in Somoza’s prisons between 1975 and 1978. Together with other Sandinista prisoners, he was released five years before the sentence was up in negotiations forced by the takeover of the National Palace in August of that year. Núñez served as minister of the presidency between 1985 and 1990 and as a member of the FSLN National Directorate after the party’s electoral defeat in 1990. With some intervals, he was also elected National Assembly president between 2005 and his death. During the election to replace him on September 21 of this year, it was decided, with one opposing vote, that in honor of his memory he should continue to hold the post posthumously for what remains of this year, as a new legislature begins in January with the representatives elected this November.


In a formal National Assembly session in homage to Núñez with his body on view, to which top government authorities and accredited ambassadors were invited, Daniel Ortega improvised a rambling funeral speech in which he implicitly defended the concentration of all branches of government, including the legislative, in his hands. He described it as a “democratic model aimed at stability and security rather than anarchy and institutional terrorism.” Jacinto Suárez, one of the governing party legislators closest to Ortega, had already made this idea even more explicit in declarations to BBC Mundo on August 29, defining it as a success because it means Ortega can accomplish more. “What do Presidents say when they leave power? ‘I couldn’t implement my government program because Congress didn’t let me.’ That isn’t happening here in Nicaragua. When we all go in the same direction, there’s stability, there’s a very strong system. I don’t see why it’s undemocratic for all the branches to go in the same direction.”


It was learned on September 5 that President Ortega had issued a decree reforming the Law on the Organization of the State, transferring functions from the Foreign Relations Ministry to the Ministry of Government and creating a new office in the latter to attend to diplomatic and consular personnel accredited in Nicaragua. Its faculties will include processing both diplomatic visas and ID cards for officials of cooperation agencies and nongovernmental organizations, as well as “receiving, classifying, distributing and protecting correspondence received in diplomatic pouches until they reach their final destination.” Security expert Roberto Orozco sees the move as “a measure to subordinate international relations to counterintelligence,” while constitutional lawyer Gabriel Álvarez says it reveals “the accelerated building of a police State.” No reactions by the diplomatic corps itself had been made public as of the close of this edition in early October.


The World Meteorological Organization reports that “global temperatures for the first six months of this year shattered yet more records, and mean that 2016 is on track to be the world’s hottest year on record.” Nicaragua’s Institute of Territorial Studies (INETER) reported that this has also been true in our country where the average temperature has risen 0.7º C in the past five years. Projections are that temperatures, the climate in general and the rainfall patterns will never return to what they once were. Nicaragua suffered the phenomenon known as El Niño, which brings drought and high temperatures, in 11 of the 15 years between 2000 and 2015, including the past three. This year the rainy season has been irregular, and if the aquifers of various areas of the country aren’t sufficiently recharged by the time it ends, we could be looking at extreme heat and water shortages next year. Experts from Nicaragua’s Humboldt Center have been insisting for some time that the authorities need to study possible and probable climate variation scenarios, which are more acute in some areas of the country than others, as intense heat affects human health and all economic activities. They also stress that, while global climate change is at the root of this warming, the accelerated destruction of the country’s forest cover is aggravating the situation hugely.


The World Risk Index 2016, prepared by the Tokyo-based United Nations University, ranks Nicaragua 14th among 171 countries for its vulnerability to hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, landslides and droughts. And Germanwatch’s Climate Risk Index puts the country fourth among the ten countries most affected by extreme climatic events between 1995 and 2014. The Nicaraguan government has still not offered figures on the economic and human losses caused by the drought that ravaged the country between 2013 and 2015.


More than a month and a half after two oil tanks belonging to the Puma Energy oil company in Puerto Sandino caught fire in mid-August, causing serious environmental damages, the government has yet to report the causes of the accident, following its custom of not providing information on issues of public interest. After a month, Puma Energy reported that it had hired an “international company” to conduct an “independent investigation,” whose results would be communicated “opportunely” to the authorities. Nothing further has been said to the citizenry. Shortly after the accident, Centro Humboldt experts attempted to do their own preliminary evaluation of the environmental damages, but in two separate trips they were denied access to the area where the damage was most severe. On both occasions they concluded that an attempt was being made to minimize the fire’s effects.


Catholics for the Right to Decide reported 42 femicides and another 51 frustrated femicides in Nicaragua between January and September of this year. The government minimizes these figures and only recognizes less than half of them by classifying these crimes as homicides when they are not committed by someone related to the victim.

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