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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 454 | Mayo 2019
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Nicaragua

Nicaragua briefs

CENTRAL BANK’S ANNUAL
ECONOMIC REPORT

On April 9, Ovidio Reyes, president of the Central Bank of Nicaragua (BCN), presented his institution’s annual report on the economy to the National Assembly. In it, he admits that the political crisis has affected various economic indicators related to the financial and monetary markets. Despite the figures, he discarded any devaluation of the national currency against the dollar. He especially referred to the flight of dollar deposits in the commercial banks, which he says is as high as 30.26% of total deposits. “We never thought we would have such a fall,” said Reyes. He also talked about
a severe reduction of the international currency reserves the BCN maintains
to guarantee macroeconomic stability, although he offered no figures. According to independent economists, a US$200 million loan from the Central American Bank of Economic Investment (CABEI) and a US$100 million donation announced by Taiwan could improve the reserves. Reyes also offered no economic projections for 2019. The CABEI approved the U$202 million loan to the government of Nicaragua on April 4 for two infrastructure projects. Economic analysts do not consider that the CABEI resources will be able to replace the loans from the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, already frozen in expectation of the upcoming application of the Nica Act, approved last December. Nor do they believe the loan can reactivate the stagnated national economy.

CANADA AND OTHERS
SUSPEND AID TO NICARAGUA
The government of Canada announced on April 14 that it would suspend some US$15 million in cooperation projects with Nicaragua due to human rights violations. “The repressive actions of President Ortega against his people
are unacceptable,” said Britanny Fletcher, spokesperson for the Canadian government’s Foreign Relations Ministry. She also announced that Canada will apply the sanctions corresponding to its own Magnitsky Act to Nicaraguan officials. Up to now it has only applied them to government officials of Russia, Venezuela and South Sudan. For the same reasons, Holland suspended its US$21.6 million in cooperation with Nicaragua last July, Luxembourg suspended $33.9 million the same month, and the European Union suspended US$3.9 million the following month.

THE CRISIS IS AFFECTING
THE AGRICULTURAL CYCLE

Due to the lack of credits available through the commercial banks resulting from the flight of deposits, the economic crisis will affect the new agricultural cycle, which is already underway. Micro-financing institutions have also received US$120 million less from their international funders , forcing them to reduce the credits for the products they traditionally finance.

FINANCIAL ESPIONAGE AND CONTROL

On April 23, the Ortega government published new regulations for the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF) in the official daily La Gaceta. Starting now, all financial institutions in the country must report to the UAF any family remittances sent by emigrants that are above U$500. In addition they must report to the UAF any other transactions (by cooperatives, credit houses, pawn shops, micro-financing institutions, casinos, car dealers…) that exceed the amounts established in the regulations for each business, which automatically makes them “suspicious” transactions. The UAF also requires remittance issuers to fill out a questionnaire with very precise personal information. These regulations violate the financial privacy of individuals and are considered new methods of espionage and control.

AX REFORM

In March, the American-Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) conducted a survey of its 115 affiliated companies regarding the effects of
the tax reform imposed by the Ortega government in January. This revealed that 75% of the companies have cut personnel, while 54% of the business executives said they will have to raise the prices of their products, 14% will
close branches and 9% will close their operations in the country. Presenting the survey results, AMCHAM president Mario Arana, who is also one of the six Civic Alliance negotiators, called the reform “unsustainable” and “a political instrument used to divide the private sector.” According to José Adán Aguerri, president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), 24 of the country’s 29 economic sectors have suffered an increase in their production costs as an effect of the Social Security reform and the tax reform.

THE COSTS OF THE
INVADED PROPERTIES

Among the agreements the regime signed at the negotiation table with the Civic Alliance is one whose 17 points include “guaranteeing the unrestricted right to all forms of property” and compensating the damages caused by the invasion of private properties between June and November last year. Like all the others, this agreement has not been honored. As of the end of April, 18 properties in 7 departments (50.5% in Chinandega) remain invaded, 14 of them belonging to Nicaraguans and 4 to US citizens. They total over 530 hectares (66.5% for agricultural use and 24% for livestock). According to Michael Healy, president of the Union of Agricultural Producers of Nicaragua (UPANIC), these invasions ordered by the regime have resulted in the loss of 9,000 jobs, while the theft and destruction involved has also caused losses exceeding US$24 million.

HOW DID WE COME TO THIS?

“How is it possible that we could have come to these extremes of dehumanization and ethical and social poverty,” said Gerardo Baltodano, outgoing president of the Nicaraguan Foundation of Social and Economic Development (FUNIDES) at its assembly on May 2. “How is it possible that institutions built to protect society have now turned with utter violence against it? … The origin of the problem is the style of leadership that predominates in Nicaragua, which believes society, our public and civil society institutions, as well as our business and labor institutions, are run better under the control of a few leaders, a caudillo as some call them…. Society, its governance, it is erroneously argued, is so important that its administration must be controlled by a handful of people and not be ruled by the uncertainties of the decision-making process produced by democracy. Following this logic, security, order and economic growth were valued over the rest of the elements that make up human development to the point of delegitimizing social demonstrations as they were the cause of disorder; privatizing information, as it was so valuable that it should not be shared with the common citizen; and opposing the growth of civil society, which pursued environmental care or the right to diversity, fpr being a nest of radicals….”

A NICARAGUA “DOWNGRADED”
FOR ITS HUMAN RIGHTS FAILURES

The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions’ Subcommittee
for Accreditation recommended “downgrading” Nicaragua’s Human Rights Defender’s Office to Category B for its lack of independence and its failure to honor its mandate to respond to “credible denunciations of serious human rights violations, including those committed by the authorities.”
The Global Alliance is charged with accrediting national human rights institutions according to their compliance with the October 1991 Paris Principles adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights.

AGAINST THE MEDIA

According to the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, there were 1,080 cases of violence against freedom of information in Nicaragua between
April 2018 and April 2019, among them aggressions, attacks, threats, defamation, censorship, intimidation, verbal and judicial harassment, legal
and administrative restrictions, theft of equipment, and confiscation and burning of possessions. One journalist, Ángel Gahona was murdered, and two others, Lucía Pineda and Miguel Mora, have been in maximum security cells since the end of December.

SAVE INDIO–MAÍZ

The Indio-Maíz biological reserve in southeast Nicaragua, certified by UNESCO as a natural reserve in November 2003, continues to be invaded by settlers who are destroying its rich biodiversity and deforesting it for cattle raising. According to environmental scientist Jaime Incer Barquero, this is silting up the San Juan River, which forms the border with Costa Rica, to such a degree that within 20-30 years it will have dried up. “We are a country,” said Incer Barquero, commenting on this tragedy, “that has not come out of its caveman era. We are the only country in the world whose protected areas are unprotected.” In April, representatives of Indian River, a Rama indigenous community, and Korn River, a Creole community, both of which are in the reserve, published a plan of action to save it. It includes protection of the forest by increasing the number of forest wardens, demarcating the lands, regulating fishing and hunting, regulating the human settlements and doing a census of the livestock of both the communities and those who have migrated into the territory.

CLIMATE CRISIS

The intense temperatures Nicaragua has been suffering virtually without letup since March, but even more intensely since mid-April, have exceeded those recorded in recent years. Abdel García, climate change coordinator for Nicaragua’s Humboldt Center, announced that the country is now experiencing the “characteristics of a desert climate,” not those of a typical tropical climate, which he describes as a greater difference between the maximum and minimum temperature in a single day. García relates this to the consequences of climate change and laments that while this requires special attention, the corresponding institutions “are not paying any attention to the fact that all forms of life in the country are in danger.”

MAGALY QUINTANA

On May 5, 65-year-old feminist Magaly Quintana died in Managua of a cerebral hemorrhage. She had been a fierce defender of the lives of women in the most diverse arenas since her youth,Two of her latest causes, to which she dedicated her intelligence, passion and compassion, were the defense of therapeutic abortion, made illegal in 2006 after being on the books since before the turn of the 19th century, and the Observatory of Femicides. She directed both tasks from the organization Catholics for the Right to Decide-Nicaragua, which she also helped found. Nicaragua’s women’s movement mourned her loss deeply. Days before her death she had appeared on the nation’s independent media to report that between January and April 2019, 21 women had been killed in Nicaragua just for being women and 30 more had survived or escaped attempts to kill them.

DEFENDERS OF THE HOMELAND

The Council of Defenders of the Homeland (CODEPAT), made up of
Army and Interior Ministry retirees, was given legal status in the Registry of Associations on April 24. It will dedicate itself to the “establishment of ethical and moral values, respect for the Homeland and the Patriotic Symbols.” The purpose of this is organization is to legalize the paramilitaries organized for repression since the April rebellion. Among CODEPAT’s statutes is to recruit former soldiers with experience and youths who have reached the age of 18.

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