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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 433 | Agosto 2017
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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL VS. THE INTEROCEANIC CANAL

On August 3, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas, visited Managua to present the Nicaraguan section of its International Report 2016/17 on the state of the world’s human rights, titled “Danger: Rights for sale: The Interoceanic Grand Canal Project in Nicaragua and the erosion of human rights.” While here, she announced that Amnesty International is launching a “global campaign” to demand the repeal of Law 840, which awards what she calls a “shadowy concession” for the canal’s construction to the Chinese company HKND Group. In Amnesty’s view, the project “is an emblematic case in the Americas, because it reveals how powerful economic interests impose their will over the interest of the great majority.” AI is also calling on Daniel Ortega’s government to “impose a moratorium on the implementation of all aspects of the work on the project” until “legal and procedural safeguards are in place that comply with human rights standards, including effective consultation of those who will be affected and prevent forced evictions.” Guevara-Rosas was accompanied by Francisca Ramírez, coordinator of the anti-canal Council in Defense of Our Land, Lake and Sovereignty, who said her peasant movement feels represented in the AI study. She was also joined by Bianca Jagger, who directly challenged Ortega. “I feel so bad that Mr. Daniel Ortega is doing today exactly what the Somoza dictatorship did…,” she said. “Doesn’t he feel ashamed to be selling our natural resources?” Guevara said her team repeatedly attempted to meet with President Ortega to exchange information, “but we were met with silence.”

MORE, CURIOUSLY, ON THE CANAL

The new Global Witness report titled “Defenders of the Earth” opens with this statement: “It has never been deadlier to take a stand against companies that steal land and destroy the environment. Our new report Defenders of the Earth found that nearly four people were murdered every week in 2016 protecting their land and the natural world from industries like mining, logging and agribusiness.” The study reports that 200 people, nearly 40% of them indigenous, were killed in 24 countries in 2016 for protecting their lands and the surrounding nature from mining, the cutting down of forests and agro-industry. According to its bar chart, Brazil leads the 24 countries with 40 deaths, closely followed by Colombia with 37, with Nicaragua appearing in 6th place with 11. Almost all of Nicaragua’s deaths resulted not from conflicts with industries but from clashes between mestizo settlers from the Pacific area and indigenous communities in the Caribbean Coast region whose legal lands the settlers are invading. The government has done nothing to resolve this issue, which has been going on for several years.

Inexplicably, the report’s brief introductory summary by country doesn’t follow the chart’s order, but puts Nicaragua second after Brazil and before Colombia, and states with no evidence that Nicaragua is beginning to “rival [Brazil’s] dubious record.” Rather than refer to the coast’s complex situation, the summary introduces an unrelated issue: Nicaragua’s disputed interoceanic canal project. While Global Witness rightly describes it as “threatening mass displacement, social unrest and the violent suppression of those who stand against it,” the peasant movement opposing the canal has so far engaged in 90 local or national demonstrations against the threat to its members’ land rights the past four years, suffering repression, but so far little actual violence and no deaths. The government has made no mention of the canal in well over a yearand no work is being done, but as long as the law remains on the books, its threat of land confiscations remains. In July, after receiving no response from the government, the movement sent a delegation to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requesting repeal of Law 840, the canal concession law, because it violates the right to life, land, private property, equality under the law and other basic rights.

A DYNASTIC GOVERNMENT OR JUST A “STYLE”... LIKE TRUMP’S?

On July 25, in a new interview with Humberto Ortega, TV journalist Jaime Arellano strongly pursued a line of questioning about whether or not his brother’s government was dynastic. The retired general turned business magnate gave the following answer: “Given the lines on which we Sandinistas were educated, we’ll never tolerate dynasties like those of the past, much less family governments… I don’t believe those styles, which have currently been strengthened a lot as very markedly negative tendencies, are to enthrone Daniel as a dictator, to enthrone his children and his family and to subject us to a similar overthrow, which would be terrible, above all for Daniel himself. Sandinismo and the people of Nicaragua would never permit it.” Humberto Ortega appealed to the Army’s institutionality and added: “It’s being said that this government is a dynasty because his wife or his children have a strong impact. That’s not a dynasty. It’s a style, like in the United States, where Trump is surrounded by his son-in-law and his son, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to call the current US regime a dynasty. They’re styles.”

CHÁVEZ’S BIRTHDAY

On July 28, Hugo Chávez’s birth date, Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo made an appearance in the Managua plaza named for the deceased Venezuelan President to commemorate him. Vice President Murillo, a poet, dedicated this message to him, written in her own inimitable style, capital letters and all: “What Days these, Eternal Comandante. Today, on the 63rd anniversary of your birth, your Words and Works inspire us. That Legacy, Vision and Valor inspire us, that Heroic Heritage of Ourcaribbeanamerica that You rekindled with your Word, your Grammar, your enlightened paths, your Eyes, Comandante, your Eyes, which today dazzle before each Sun, each Spade, and all the Eyes of a difficult Alba[*], arduous, burdensome, but Alba, Daybreak, Illumination[**], Birth, if you will, Eternal Comandante. Because we continue being born! With Fidel, You, and now Nicolás [Maduro, Venezuela’s current President], and your brave people, all our Peoples, we are writing Pages of another History, but the same one: Sacred History, History of the Homeland, History of Liberty, Protagonism, Sovereignty, Full Life, Good Living, to live it in the roar of the Commitment that it means to Be Human, Dignified. To Be, or not to be, that continues to be the question!... Thank you, Comandante of Love! So we are. Here we are. Always in Front: Always Ahead: Always with Faith and Hope, sure that walking, we are arriving and leaving, adding, advancing. Always Further!”

___________________
*Alba means dawn, but is the acronym for Chávez’s Bolivarian Alternative for the People of America.
**Alumbramiento means both illumination and childbirth.

“NICARAGUA WILL NOLONGER BE THE SAME”

Some 3,400 Evangelical pastors and activists descended on Nicaragua at the end of July with full government backing. Of them, 400 were doctors who came to engage in a week-long campaign they titled “One nation, one day—Nicaragua shines.” They traveled to different points in 12 of the country’s 17 departments, where they gave religious talks and provided medical care in the areas of odontology, ophthalmology and general medicine to what they reported were a thousand people a day. In one of the conferences in Managua, Pastor Samuel Rodríguez said Nicaragua “is a model in which God’s image is respected in each human being.” Fidel Moreno, secretary of the Managua mayor’s office, who attended that conference, backed up the pastor’s words by saying that “Compañera Rosario mentions in all her daily addresses that the Christian spirit of this people is unbreakable and this government is distinguished by its Christian values, socialist ideals and solidary practices. The commitment each of us makes to serve our people better is rooted in our faith.” On Saturday, July 29, thousands of people attended various mass events to close the campaign. In the one held in Managua, Dominic Russo, the project’s leader, said “Nicaragua is the hope of the world and it will no longer be the same after this.”

NICARAGUA – VENEZUELA

On August 4, the day Venezuela installed its new National Constituent Assembly, the Ortega-Murillo government sent Venezuela’s government the following message, replete with Vice President Murillo’s customary heavy hand with capital letters: “With absolute Respect for the Sovereignty and Commitment of the Venezuelan Government and People to Peace and Protagonist Democracy, we want to salute the Installation this morning of the National Constituent Assembly in that Sister Country. On recognizing that Day of the People as a Special Day in History and for the History of our Sister Venezuela, we also send greetings with our Affection and Solidarity of always to President Nicolás Maduro; to Cilia; to the national Constituent Assembly President; beloved Compañera Delcy Rodríguez; to the Vice President, Compañero Aristóbulo Istúriz; to the Second Vice President, Compañero Isaías Rodríguez; and to all the compañer@s who, proud of their People, their History, and conscious of the responsibilities of the Future today took a firm step forward, assuming the Challenges they recognize with a realistic eye and profound patriotic sentiment. Many congratulations to the Venezuelan People, Families, Assembly Members, Head of State Compañero Nicolás, and all that beloved People who today are opening a New Page of their Victorious History.”

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