Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 426 | Marzo 2017



Nicaragua briefs


Late last year, Nicaragua’s renowned poet Ernesto Cardenal accompanied his valuable personal archive of books,
letters, manuscripts, originals of poems, documents and photographs to Austin, Texas. The archive has been acquired by the University of Texas’ Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, which in partnership with the Teresa Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies (LLILAS) also houses the collections of Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortázar, Jorge Luis Borges, William Faulkner and James Joyce, among others. Then on February 11, the day before Nicaragua’s annual International Poetry Festival opened in Granada, the 92-year-old poet’s birthplace, Nubia Arcia, owner and manager of the Mancarrón Hotel in the Solentiname Archipelago, reactivated a lawsuit against Cardenal related to a two-decade-old land and management dispute regarding her hotel and the land on which it sits. The suit’s judicial resolution in June 2016 obliged Cardenal to compensate her US$800,000 for “damages and injuries.” At the poetry festival Cardenal declared that the suit is periodically reactivated as part of a process of “political persecution by the presidential couple” and in an interview in Nicaragua’s daily newspaper La Prensa, he explained that “Rosario [Murillo, herself a poet] always had a rivalry with me.” Within a week, international solidarity with the poet triggered by the news led to another political decision in which a judge annulled the fine on procedural grounds, but did not dismiss the suit itself.


In a tour of the North Caribbean Coast in late January, Fortunatus Nwachukwu, the Vatican’s nuncio in Nicaragua, caused indignation and rejection in the Miskitu communities of the upper Río Coco for the ignorance that comments by him displayed of the violence currently surrounding the land issue in the region, which the government is doing nothing to resolve. Several of those attending a meeting to hear him raised placards bearing the words “No to peaceful coexistence,” referring to the urging of army and government officials that they simply make their peace with all the mestizo settlers from the Pacific who have illegally invaded their lands, resulting in armed confrontations and deaths on both sides. The nuncio, who is Nigerian, responded in a severe and scolding tone: “There are those who are speaking the language of division. I have read what you are presenting here—‘No to peaceful coexistence.’ Do you want me to go tell Pope Francis that Christian Catholics in Nicaragua do not want peaceful coexistence with other Catholic Christians? Am I going to tell the Holy Father that you Catholic Miskitus do not want peaceful coexistence with other Catholics simply because they are not Miskitus? If that is the case, I’m going to get up and leave, because I am black, I am African, I am
not Miskitu and am not mestizo!” (In the Speaking Out section of this issue of envío, Nicaraguan Human Rights Center directors explain the current crisis caused by the government’s failure to comply with the title clearance process ordered by Law 445, the law on the demarcation of indigenous territories in the Caribbean Coast.)


The night of March 7, in its annual commemoration of International Women’s Day, the US Embassy in Managua invited different sectors of Nicaraguan society to a reception at the residence of Ambassador Laura Dogu. In her speech, Dogu praised CENIDH President Vilma Núñez as a “woman of courage” for her 56 years of work on behalf of her country. “From her early days as a student activist to her current work as founder and president of Nicaragua’s largest human rights organizations” said Dogu, “she has worked persistently for the fundamental rights of all Nicaraguans.” As she spoke, nine women ministers and deputy ministers of the government walked out of the event. The next day Rosario Murillo sent Dogu a letter signed by the nine officials in which they said they had attended the act “in good faith without imagining that we would be witnesses to an act of hostility against our People and Government.” Without referring to Núñez by name, they defined her as “a person whose diatribes, insults and practices have repeatedly offended the People and Government of Nicaragua with the intention of breaking our Harmony and Unity.” The signers went on to say that they “repudiate” the act and “reject the political and social interference” it represents, reminding Dogu that any diplomat “must respect the limits imposed by her Investiture and her Nationality, which is not ours” (all capitals were in the original).


Vilma Trujillo, a young peasant woman from the district of El Cortezal in the Northern Caribbean municipality of Rosita died on February 28 in Managua from major burns covering her entire body. On the order of the pastor and congregation of the “Celestial Mission” of the Assemblies of God in that isolated corner of the country, she had been subjected to a “purification” rite to rid her body of a supposed demon. After being forced to fast for several days with her hands and feet tied, they insisted that a revelation had told them she had to be surrounded by fire to expel the demon. The young woman spent several hours pleading for help in the middle of an improvised bonfire outside the church. Someone finally had enough compassion to pull her out, but it was too late to save her life. The news moved Nicaraguans and sparked a significant international echo. The pastor as well as two men and two women of the community were arrested and will be tried for the crime. The Assemblies of God, an umbrella for hundreds of different denominations and thousands of pastors in Nicaragua alone, distanced themselves from what happened, calling it exceptional. Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, the Catholic archbishop of Managua, said in his Mass on March 1 that “while it is true that the devil can reside in a person, that is not the correct way to expel him. We [Catholics] have exorcisms and never cease the praying.”


After three consecutive years of drought, last year’s rains were too little to recharge the country’s superficial and subterranean water sources. At the start of this year, two months into what is normally a six-month dry season in the western side of the country, a water shortage is already beginning to be felt in various zones, especially the “Dry Corridor,” which has 5,500 local rural water systems supplying a million people. According to monitoring by the Humboldt Center, 8-15% of the country’s farmers are “harvesting water,” which involves building tanks to capture rainwater runoff. The Ministry of the Family, Community, Cooperative and Associative Economy has been promoting this method for two years with financial support from Swiss Development Cooperation. However, according to Álvaro Vargas, president of the Federation of Cattle Ranching Associations of Nicaragua, in an interview in La Prensa, the government “only benefits like-minded farmers with this technology, choosing farmers according to their political beliefs.”


Francisca Ramírez, coordinator of the anti-canal Council in Defense of the Land, Lake and Sovereignty, charged in February that she was being harassed by a government envoy insisting that she agree to a “closed door” meeting with government authorities. Speaking on the TV program “Coffee with Voice,” the envoy, Alcides Altamirano, denied that he was harassing her, but refused to clarify which authorities wanted to meet with her. He criticized the peasant leader because “she’s always asking to be listened to and then refuses to engage in dialogue.” Ramírez insists that “we peasants are only willing to engage in an open and public dialogue because we have nothing to hide.”


According to official Costa Rican information, that country’s two Consulate headquarters in Nicaragua (Managua and Chinandega) received 10,347 visa requests from Nicaraguans in January of this year alone, with a total of 9,657 granted. Each day the Consulate attended an average of 550 individuals, some 300 of whom made an appointment through a call center, paying $3, while the remainder were attended without an appointment after spending up to eight hours waiting outside the consular offices.


The Humboldt Center reported that over the course of 2016, Nicaragua dealt with emergencies of different degrees of seriousness, including earth tremors, droughts, flooding, fires and volcanic activities, 33 of them of geological origin, 65 of climatic origin and 15 of human origin. According to the report, these emergencies are usually dealt with reactively rather than preventively and structurally.


According to social network expert Manuel Díaz, Nicaragua has 1.2 million Facebook accounts, similar to its number of Internet users. Discarding repeat accounts, the estimated 1 million represent under 20% of the population. Díaz calculates that there are many fewer active Twitter users, only some 100-150,000. As for telephone communication, the Nicaraguan Chamber of Internet and Telecommunications (Canitel) says there are now 8.2 million cell phones in Nicaragua, of which only 30% are “smart.”


A special commission met on February 3 to evaluate the possibilities of rehabilitating Managua’s old Cathedral, which withstood the December 1972 earthquake, but was left with severe structural damage. A first appraisal of the damage was done in the 1980s, measuring the extremely high economic cost of reconstruction. Other studies were done in 1994, and in 2014 Italian specialists prepared an assessment with recommendations for saving the building’s fragile infrastructure. The government is currently evaluating the viability of recovering this valuable national heritage.


Studies done by experts in the laboratories of the University of California show the Acahualinca prints of humans, mammals and birds, discovered accidently by construction workers at the edge of Lake Xolotlán in Managua in 1874, to be over 6,000 years old. They were preserved in mud and ashes from a volcanic eruption that occurred between 4,000 and 6,000 BC.

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