Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 276 | Julio 2004





Torrential rains that began falling in northern Nicaragua on June 24 produced a series of landslides on the Cerro Musún Natural Reserve in the remote mountainous municipality of Río Blanco, Matagalpa—not unlike the collapse of the Casita Volcano during Hurricane Mitch in October 1998. Roughly a quarter of the hill and all the houses, people, animals and crops on it were swept away, while another quarter was left uninhabitable due to the high risk.
As of July 6, 54 communities in Cerro Musún and 16 other rural districts of Río Blanco had been hit, 6 of them destroyed, affecting over 18,000 people. Nearly 1,000 families—more than 6,000 people—were left homeless, 25 people were killed and many others were injured. By a week later, the unrelenting rains had rendered even the 13 communities with temporary shelters incommunicado, making it impossible to get emergency supplies up. Some of these shelters had received little or no food, safe water or blankets before the steep roads washed out.
Former environmental minister and respected scientist Jaime Incer Barquero attributed the devastating dimensions of the slides to the uncontrolled deforestation by what he called “unscrupulous loggers” and “wrongly motivated peasants” who push the agricultural and cattle frontier deeper into the forest every day. As UNICEF wrote in a news bulletin on the disaster, “Month after month the peaceful if spartan life of hundreds of peasant families in the municipalities of Río Blanco and Matiguás, who grow basic grains for their own consumption, had been interrupted only by the terrible sound of chainsaws cutting down the precious-wood-bearing trees growing on their hills.” Incer Barquero warned that the deforestation is putting other hills at risk as well.
On the Caribbean coast, the rains caused the Río Prinzapolka to overflow its banks, affecting more than 11,000 people in 27 indigenous communities. Other rivers there also overflowed more recently as the rains continued. Only 10 days after the first two emergencies did the executive branch issue a decree declaring them “disaster zones” and appealing for international aid.


In June, horrendous crimes against two small girls—a 7-year-old savagely raped in Managua and a 9-year-old killed during a frustrated rape in León—shook national public opinion, bringing violence against women and children back into the limelight.

Sexual and other violence against females is a shockingly real and growing social epidemic in Nicaragua. According to gynecologist Ana María Pizarro, a specialist in the issue, the problem is even greater considering that literally nothing has happened since the state recognized violence against women as a public health issue in 2000. In the new Health Law, in fact, “there is not a single line on the issue and little girls are only considered to be malnourished and illiterate, but not abused, raped or forcibly made pregnant.”
Despite their daily appearance in radio, TV and newspaper reports, such crimes are regrettably minimized by politicians and still mainly considered to be “private affairs” or “feminist issues.” National Police Chief Edwin Cordero seemed to share this view when he declared that “the murder and rape of these two girls is being magnified as if all girls in the country were being raped. It’s not true; they are very specific cases and the media often magnify these things.” Numerous other cases reported in the following weeks belied that assurance.

Meanwhile, the case of an 11-year-old Managua girl who is three months pregnant after being repeatedly raped by her stepfather reawakened the collective national memory of the case of Rosita (February 2003), the 9-year-old who became pregnant after being raped in Costa Rica. With the help of her parents and members of Nicaragua’s women’s movement, she battled the opposition of authorities to finally get a therapeutic abortion. In this new case, too, the girl said she did not want the pregnancy, felt depressed and was frightened by the threats of her rapist. Nonetheless, the girl remained in the hands of the Ministry of the Family and Casa Alianza, which do not accept therapeutic abortion despite her age and size, the forced nature of the pregnancy and the fact that duly authorized therapeutic abortions are legal in Nicaragua. The Women’s Network against Violence expressed solidarity with the girl, insisted that her wishes be respected and demanded that the man responsible be arrested, a position publicly seconded by all top officials of the Office of Human Rights Defense Attorney, even though their institution is currently headless thanks to political squabbles among the legislators responsible for appointing a new chief. Meanwhile, not for the first time, Cardinal Obando warned that should an abortion be conducted, those responsible would be excommunicated “ipso facto.”

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