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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 338 | Septiembre 2009
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

Envío team

FREE OF ILLITERACY
On August 22, the government took advantage of the 29th anniversary of the conclusion of the 1980 Literacy Crusade to proclaim Nicaragua “free of illiteracy,” based on UNESCO’s certification of national illiteracy at 3.56% of the population. This rate was obtained at the end of the “From Martí to Fidel” program, which started in FSLN-governed municipalities in 2007 and involved 57,000 young volunteer literacy teachers who used the Cuban “Yes I can” method. The campaign has taught some 700,000 people the basics of reading and writing, 75% of them young adults between 15 and 30 years of age. At the celebration act, President Ortega promised that there won’t be a single illiterate person in the country by 2021, when Nicaragua celebrates the bicentennial of its independence from Spain.

He also used the occasion to issue a decree institutionalizing the original Crusade’s anthem as Nicaragua’s official education anthem. The decree formally recognizes Carlos Mejía Godoy’s authorship, one of several signals that a bitter dispute between Mejía Godoy and the Ortega government in June 2008 has been satisfactorily concluded for both parties. At the time, the well-known and beloved singer-songwriter prohibited the government from using his songs in its official events.

POLICE ON THE KNIFE’S EDGE
National Police First Commissioner Aminta Granera received the Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Order from the National Assembly on August 25, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of her institution. In her speech to the National Assembly, Granera, who is one of the country’s most popular and trusted public officials, responded directly to concerns about the National Police’s increasing passivity in the face of aggression from government shock troops against opposition activities ever since Daniel Ortega took presidential office: “I am aware that in certain situations, the National Police walks on the knife’s edge and that in these cases not all sectors understand and approve our actions…. The police must guarantee respect for freedom of expression and the right to mobilize. Save particular cases in which some inclination to tolerate aggression has been displayed, which are the subject of investigations and internal sanctions, police actions have had to be contained, striking a balance between preserving public order and taking greater action so that Nicaragua will never again have to mourn a death due to the exacerbation of political sectarianism.”
Following the attacks on members of the Civil Coordinator on August 8, journalist Mario Sánchez, who was most subjected to aggressive actions that day, put Granera to the test by submitting 118 videos and photos in which one can clearly see the perpetrators. To avoid any doubt, Sánchez identified the ringleaders with full names, places of work and addresses.

EDUCATION-NUTRITION
With international financial support, the Ministry of Education is developing “school kiosks” through its Comprehensive School Nutrition Program in a laudable effort to improve the nutrition of students attending both public and private schools. The initiative consists of replacing the sale of junk food and soda with nutritional food. It also involves educating, informing, singling out, sanctioning and even closing kiosks that continue selling the children food with no nutritional value.
The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has selected the Nicaraguan experience as a model for other countries. José Valls, the official in charge of the FAO’s food programs, called Nicaragua’s program “impressive” because it integrates food security into the educational system at a national level. Another component of the program is the school snack, which is provided free to nearly a million boys and girls enrolled in the poorest schools as an incentive to continue attending.

PRESSURES FROM THE
“NON-PAYMENT MOVEMENT”
Yet another expression of the economic crisis the country is suffering is the pressures against micro-financing institutions and banks exercised for some months now by dozens of borrowers organized into the Non-Payment Movement, demanding approval of moratorium laws. President Daniel Ortega himself initially encouraged and backed the movement. Later he and his economic adviser, journalist turned FSLN comandante turned banker Bayardo Arce, publicly pledged to discourage it, although it is now known that the movement is receiving covert support from governmental entities. The micro-financing institutions have reiterated their willingness to hear each case individually. On September 4, the Nicaraguan Association of Micro-Financing Institutions (ASOMIF) and the Association of Private Banks of Nicaragua (ASOBANP) suspended approval of new loans in seven municipalities—Ocotal, Jalapa, Río Blanco, Sébaco, El Rama, Nueva Guinea and Camoapa—where the movement’s pressures have been the most intense, including demonstrations, acts of aggression, kidnappings and threats to set fire to bank branches. ASOMIF reported that its member institutions now have arrears of $36.98 million ($10.43 million from overdue debtors in Río Blanco alone). It warns that failure to recover this arrears portfolio will endanger the transfers the institutions receive from Europe and multilateral financing institutions, adding even further to the country’s acute economic crisis.

H1N1 VIRUS
In a decree issued on August 27, President Ortega established a 60-day health emergency to check the advance of the human influenza epidemic provoked by the H1N1 virus and mitigate its consequences, thereby reactivating the health care structures created four months earlier. As of September 8, 1,324 people had been identified as infected with that flu, 6 of whom died. Ortega admitted that “we have lowered our guard.” At the same time, the health minister reported that his ministry has 100,000 treatments for adults and 10,000 for children.


A METEORITE FORMED PANTASMA?
An expedition in July by the Nicaraguan Scientific Association of Astronomers and Astrophysicists (Astronic) to the Pantasma Valley in Nicaragua’s northern department of Jinotega determined that this circular valley, with a diameter of over 12 kilometers, was formed by the fall of a meteorite long ago, as shown by the composition of the rocks studied at the edge and in the center, where the impact occurred. A more specific study of the meteorite’s composition is in its first stages.
Two years ago, while “traveling” on Google Earth a German named Leo Kowald found a hollow in the Pantasma area that he suspected had resulted from the impact of a meteorite. Prior to the expedition, David Castillo Pacheco, Astronic’s president, had commented that the hollow was outside Nicaragua’s volcanic mountain range, thus discarding the possibility of it being the relic of a crater. At the time, Castillo stressed the valley’s similarity with those observed on the moon, known to be formed by meteorites.

DISABILITIES
In an lengthy interview with the official media on September 2, First Lady Rosario Murillo reported that there are 50,000 people with disabilities caused by recent wars in Nicaragua whose prosthetics are now worn out, and that her government will launch a campaign called “All with a voice” which will call on the population for what she calls “solidarity social promotion,” dedicated in this case to working with disability. She also announced a pilot project in one department of Nicaragua to identify the genetic causes of disabilities beyond those provoked by military conflicts. The project will be supported by Cuba and Cuban doctors.
Although Murillo did not mention it, it would be very important to study disabilities caused by genetic mutations traceable to the crime of incest. The prevalence of fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers imposing sexual relations on daughters, granddaughters, nieces and sisters that end in pregnancy and birth is increasingly evident in Nicaragua and should be considered a public health problem. Unlike other Latin American countries, Nicaragua has done no studies to provide indicators of the consequence of incestuous sexual abuse on the population’s health.

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