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  Number 430 | Mayo 2017
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Nicaragua

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CLIMATE CHANGE

Although there are now more technological means in Nicaragua than ever before to predict climate trends, the country’s scientists say the atmospheric signs that allowed adequate prognoses for years “are being erased.” It’s happening this year with even more force, with some areas of the country experiencing deluges, others droughts with record-breaking heat and still others destructive hail. All this is affecting predictions about the imminent rainy season with no real certainty that what is happening is even related to climate change. In any event, Nicaragua isn’t prepared to deal adequately with whatever is coming. Last year 160 rivers dried up and haven’t yet recovered, while Managua’s six crater lakes are contaminated and are losing volume due to the extraordinary heat. According to estimates by the Humboldt Center, over a million hectares of forests have been lost in the past five years (2011-2016), largely due to clear-cutting for agricultural and cattle activities, as well as indiscriminate exploitation by Alba Forestal, a para-government company created with Venezuelan oil resources. Although this company was rumored by an anonymous government official to have been shut down last year, the leak was never corroborated. Equally serious is the fact that even though Nicaragua is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, its Ministry of the Environment and National Resources has had no increase in its skimpy budget in the past three years to ensure mitigation and adaptation measures against climate change.

Humboldt Center data indicate that 70% of Nicaragua’s territory should be used to conserve such natural resources as the forests and water sources. Yet the EcoPortal.net web site in Argentina reports that we are sixth among the ten most deforested countries in the world and the second most deforested in Central America, topped only by El Salvador. Referring to Nicaragua, this web site says “Central America’s largest country has experienced environmental problems that the government is not combating with effective measures, so the nation is facing increased water contamination and scarcity in the near future.” Writing in the National Forestry lnventory, which is only updated as of 2009, the Humboldt Center’s Velia Castillo says Nicaragua had some 3 million hectares of natural forest as of that date, some 70,000 of which are deforested annually with the advance of the agricultural frontier.

DENUNCIATION AGAINST MINING

Nicaraguans celebrate the Day of National Dignity on May 4, which commemorates General Sandino’s rebellion against the sellout politicians of his time. This year, a group of men and women gathered to honor his heroism beneath a chilamate tree in the indigenous community of Las Cruces, municipality of Monzonte, department of Nueva Segovia. This location is only meters from El Rapador, the site of one of Sandino’s historic combats against the US Marine invaders. But they also had a second mission: to denounce what they see as the “profanation” the Ortega government committed by conceding a gold exploitation permit to Canada’s Golden Reign mining company in the historic San Albino Mine, where Sandino once worked and which he later took over on two occasions to demand fair labor conditions for its workers. The mine is located in the community of El Jícaro and the concession was granted without the population’s consent and with no environmental impact studies. The indignant Segovians also charged that the government has conceded 39% of Nueva Segovia’s land for metallic mining in seven of the department’s municipalities: Murra, Quilalí, Wiwilí de Nueva Segovia, Santa María, Ocotal, El Jícaro and Jalapa.


THE PELLAS–AGUERRI–ORTEGA TRIANGLE

In its congress held in Managua in late April, the Ibero-American Association of Chambers of Commerce and Services (AICO) awarded medals of honor to powerful Nicaraguan businessman Carlos Pellas and to the Superior Council of Private Enterprise’s president José Adán Aguerri, who has held that post for ten years. In his speech, Pellas said that “through José Adán’s leadership we have sought to reconcile Nicaraguan society…. We all have our political orientations, but thank God we are at least living in peace, in harmony, and we owe a large part of that to leaders such as José Adán.” He also told those attending that they should become “Nicaraguan ambassadors; it’s the only thing we ask. So many people come here to stay at Mokul [a high-ticket luxury resort owned by the Pellas group] and are stunned by how pretty and safe Nicaragua is.” That same night several of the businesspeople who had attended the event visited President Ortega at his home. He enthusiastically assured them that “on January 10, 2007 [the date he recovered the government] a new course was traced for Nicaragua’s history and I can assure you that a new course was marked for the history of Latin America and the Caribbean as well, because here we are a single government of workers, businesspeople and the State.”

THERAPEUTIC ABORTION BILL “EXPIRED” WITHOUT DEBATE

On August 25, 2015, a group of professionals unveiled a citizen’s bill titled “Law to Interrupt a Pregnancy for Health Reasons to Save the Life of Women and Girls.” The legislation considers four causes justifying abortion: obstetrical emergencies that endanger the woman’s life; systemic illnesses that affect their health; congenital malformations of the fetus; and pregnancies resulting from sexual violence. It was submitted to the legislative branch in October of that same year after 6,000 signatures had been gathered, 20% more than required to introduce such a bill into the National Assembly. Almost two years later, at the end of April this year, the National Assembly board sent the proposal to the “expired” file without ever presenting it to the legislative health commission for its findings, let alone debating it. Not a single representative of the new Assembly supported the bill. The FSLN’s representatives also blocked it in the previous legislature, which concluded at the end of 2016, as they had an absolute majority at the time, although not the total control they have now.

CANCER BILL ALSO LEFT TO EXPIRE

The governing party legislative representatives, who are a majority in the National Assembly’s Health Commission, also sent the bill on the Struggle against Cervical Cancer to the “expired” file without having debated it following its introduction in 2011. The legislation would have established early detection units in all departmental hospitals and in mobile units that visit barrios and communities and conduct free exams for women. It also would have established plans to inform school students about prevention and detection. Gynecologist Armando Herrera, a former PLI legislator who is now a member of the Broad Front for Democracy (FAD), lamented the decision, noting that cervical cancer is the main form of cancer death among Nicaraguan women.

PRECARIOUS HOUSING

According to a study released in Managua on March 31 by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, at least 2 million of Nicaragua’s 6.15 million inhabitants live in precarious conditions in badly constructed, overcrowded and fragile houses without access to basic services.

IN DEFENSE OF “CRIOLLO” SEEDS

Fifteen organizations, associations, networks, federations and cooperatives working in the agricultural sector issued a communique on March 16 expressing their rejection of a plan by COSEP’s business elite, especially the National Union of Agricultural Producers of Nicaragua (UPANIC) “to introduce transgenic seeds and crops in Nicaragua, endangering the food sovereignty and security of Nicaraguan families.” They pointed out that COSEP “does not represent the country’s 200,000 small and medium agricultural producers” and warned that “the introduction of transgenic seeds and crops could endanger basic grains production and the economy, increase our food dependence, increase rural poverty and forever damage our biological diversity of criollo seeds” (the term used in Nicaragua for native seeds). They reminded the public that transgenic crops have been rejected in over 170 countries, so use of the transgenic seeds will affect Nicaraguan trade relations. In this respect, they cite the case of honey exports from Mexico and Chile, rejected in the international market due to the presence of transgenic pollen and recall that Nicaragua exports honey to Europe. They further argue that the introduction of transgenic maize is illegal and violates and contradicts four laws: on the Environment, on Biodiversity, on the Promotion of Agricultural Production and on Food and Nutritional Sovereignty and Security.

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