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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 431 | Junio 2017
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NICARAGUA’S INTEROCEANIC CANAL NOT ON CHINA’S RADAR

In a two-day summit held in China in mid-May, attended by representatives of 110 countries including 28 heads of State, President Xi Jinping unveiled the “One Belt, One Road” mega-initiative, billed as the most ambitious economic project in the world to strengthen global trade. The initiative, which involves developing a new economic land belt and a 21st-century maritime Silk Road to better connect China with Europe, Africa and the rest of Asia, all to boost trade ties, was first announced by Xi in 2013. Since then, according to the official Xinhua News Agency, many countries and various international organizations have gotten involved in the project, with 40 countries along the planned routes having already signed cooperation agreements with China before the summit and more doing so during it. On Xi’s visit to the US on April 7, he also invited President Donald Trump to join the initiative.
Nicaragua wasn’t at the summit and the interoceanic canal through Nicaragua, considered by its promotors “the largest engineering feat in the history of humanity,” wasn’t even mentioned, although that’s not particularly newsworthy in itself since Latin America isn’t on the “New Silk Road” route. A more telling sign for Nicaragua is that Chinese entrepreneur Wang Jing, Ortega’s partner in the Nicaraguan megaproject, hasn’t been seen in the country since December 2014. His only more recent sign of life was the congratulatory message he sent to Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo on their electoral win last November.

WHAT’S WITH THE PLC AND THE CANAL LAW?

In early June, Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) political boss Arnoldo Alemán—Daniel Ortega’s partner of convenience since 1997—submitted a proposal to the National Assembly to repeal Law 840, which grants Wang Jing any part of the national territory he wants for 100 years to build an interoceanic canal and other sub-projects. This came as something of a surprise, as the PLC’s two National Assembly representatives in 2013, the year Ortega ordered his governing party bench to approve the law, didn’t object at the time, and their party has never argued for its repeal these ensuing four years. This sudden interest made Alemán’s “theater” in presenting the bill ring rather hollow. Monica López Baltodano, legal adviser to the anti-canal peasant movement known as the Council in Defense of the Land, Lake and Sovereignty, denounced the PLC’s move as yet another Ortega government strategy to divide the movement. If true, however, the joint planning was quite clumsy as the FSLN bench, which has way more than enough parliamentary votes to do what it wants whenever it wants, gave the PLC no time to woo the movement before quashing the bill. López also pointed out that the PLC’s document was lifted point by point from the text of a citizen’s initiative backed by thousands of people and presented by the movement last year. She accused the PLC of “plagiarizing, muddying and heaping rotten garbage on the most important social struggle and authentic initiative to defend national sovereignty in many years. They are trying to divide the peasant movement and destroy it… but they didn’t even have enough interest to write a single paragraph by themselves.”

NICARAGUA PLACED THIRD IN MONEY LAUNDERING

Nicaragua ranked third in a recent study that measured illicit financial flows—in other words, money laundering—as a proportion of Latin American countries’ foreign trade. The study, released this January by the Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and simply titled “Flujos financieros ilícitos en América Latina,” calculated that some US$1.5 billion was laundered in Nicaragua between 2007 and 2014 through the manipulation of vehicle, fuel and medicine prices. Roberto Orozco, an expert on security issues, confirms that the import and sale of medicines has become “a new way of laundering money.” The ECLAC study also mentions other, more traditional methods used in Nicaragua for the same purpose: the purchase of properties, cattle and vehicles. The report explains the prevalence of money laundering in our country as the result of generalized corruption, weak judicial bodies, multiple murky state-related businesses, and companies with governing party ties that handle sizable cash transactions. These same factors also ensure the impunity of officials accused of collaborating with drug traffickers. Another study, this one published by the magazine Environmental Research Letters, blamed drug traffickers for up to 30% of the annual deforestation in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, turning our countries’ biodiverse forests into agricultural lands that facilitate the traffickers’ control of these territories.

NEW BOOKS: MURALS OF THE REVOLUTION…

British art historian David Kunzle presented his book, 1979-1992, at the Central American University’s Institute of History of Nicaragua and Central America (IHNCA) on May 17. The book illustrates the more than 300 murals painted all over Nicaragua in the eighties by both national and international muralists in an artistic fervor unrivaled in the country’s history. By the end of the nineties, the majority had already disappeared, some through lack of maintenance and others intentionally painted over, as happened in Managua on the orders of then-Mayor Arnoldo Alemán. Kunzle’s book is the only presumably complete inventory that remains of all those murals. Originally published in English in 1995 by the University of California, it has been translated into Spanish and expanded by the IHNCA, thanks to Kunzle’s donation of his photographic archive of 2,000 slides and the University of California’s cession of rights to the IHNCA. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) financed the publication.

…AND A CATALOG OF VOLCANOES

Nicaraguan scientist Jaime Incer Barquero presented his most recent work, Los volcanes de Nicaragua, two weeks later, on June 1. It’s the product of his expeditions through Nicaragua to study its chain of volcanoes over a 40-year period and his review of original unpublished sources in national and international archives and libraries. The book, he says, “recounts the histories, legends, explorations and discoveries related to our country’s volcanoes over the past 500 years.” It contains very interesting data on the 8 historically active volcanoes, 20 dormant volcanic cones, 60 minor volcanic structures and 11 crater lakes that make up that chain.

RATS AND RAT POISON

To celebrate the 122nd anniversary of the birth of national hero Augusto César Sandino on May 18, President Daniel Ortega made one of his increasingly rare trips away from home to visit Niquinohomo, Sandino’s birthplace. In his speech, Ortega referred to the peace and stability Nicaragua enjoys today, which he said “has to be ensured second by second, minute by minute, day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year.” He warned that “we can’t let our guard down because the enemies of peace are always out there, like rats,” concluding that “peace is the main rat poison.” Although Ortega didn’t mention the Nica Act directly, he did refer again to those who question and blame him for the sanctions against his government the US Congress is likely to approve in response to the lack of free elections and corruption in Nicaragua. According to Cid Gallup’s latest national poll, conducted from May 11 to 19, 26% of those surveyed consider Ortega responsible for the Nica Act, 25% blame the Republican congress people, 32% don’t know or didn’t respond and 17% blame the opposition Ortega defines as the “rats.

INTERNET USE RISES…FOR BETTER OR WORSE

Studies by the Nicaraguan Chamber of Internet and Telecommunications report that 4.8 million of Nicaragua’s 6.82 million inhabitants now have 8.3 million cell phones, meaning that many have two. Of those, 2.8 million are smart phones, 2 million of which have fixed Internet access. The studies also show that barely 9% of Internet users employ it for educational purposes. There is now mobile telephony and Internet coverage in 122 of the country’s 153 municipalities. A study by students of Managua’s Central American University reveals that 50% of the population is connected to Internet through Wi-fi, mainly thanks to the government having installed it in parks for free use. The majority connects for 2 to 4 hours a day, dedicating virtually all this time to the social networks, especially Facebook.

FEMICIDES

The organization Catholics for the Right to Decide has reported 21 femicides and 28 failed attempts in the first five months of this year, rates similar to those for the first nine months of last year (42 and 51, respectively). Cid Gallup’s May poll asked “Do you believe femicides are the woman’s fault or the man’s?” While 27% blamed only the man and 9% only the woman, the majority (54%) answered that the woman is also to blame. The polling firm’s survey manager called these results “lamentable.”


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