Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 320 | Marzo 2008




Envío team

Research by the Nutrition Unit of the Education Ministry’s Comprehensive School Nutrition Program (PINE) has revealed that 27% of Nicaragua’s public school students suffer chronic malnutrition and 23% are anemic. The figure for anemia is 25% at the preschool level, where it has the most serious consequences on cerebral development. The highest anemia level is found in five year olds (35%), then diminishes in the following years to rise again between 10 and 11, as adolescence begins.

PINE provides a free daily snack to a million students in 9,000 public schools all over the country. Many children would only eat once a day were it not for this food complement, which according to PINE represents 30% of children’s nutritional needs, enabling them to learn better and, in the majority of cases, to continue going to school. At the opening of the school term this year, Education Minister Miguel de Castilla acknowledged that most of Nicaragua’s students “go to school to eat rather than to learn.”

In February, Energy and Mining Minister Emilio Rapaccioli visited Iceland, which has made notable strides in geothermal energy, generated by steam from volcanoes. He was there to promote Icelandic private and public sector investment in Nicaragua and to request government aid for volcanic energy projects and the corresponding training of our technicians. Ten areas in Nicaragua’s Pacific region have been identified as having the geothermal potential to generate up to 3,000 megawatts, five times the country’s current domestic demand. Two transnational companies, Polaris and Ormat, are already generating some geothermal energy in San Jacinto Tizate and Momotombo, although with deficiencies. It is calculated that the Hoyo-Montegalán and Managua-Chiltepe projects could be producing 40 megawatts within four years with Finnish assistance.

In March the Ortega government obtained US$80.2 million from the Inter-American Development Bank and the Central American Bank for Economic Investment to finance renewable energy projects (wind, hydroelectric and geothermal). The target is to halve the dependence of the country’s energy grid from 80% to 40%.

On Valentine’s Day, seeking to win back women’s organizations that are continuing to demand that the National Assembly reverse last year’s vote criminalizing therapeutic abortion, 80 of the 92 legislators voted in an Equal Rights and Opportunities Law. This law obliges the state to promote women’s participation in all public arenas with programs and projects that ensure equity. The bill had been shelved for 11 years, during which time it was subjected to a series of reforms, modifications and pressures. In 2005, Nicaragua’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference intervened to stop it from being passed, among other reasons because it was “designed to impose the radical gender ideology promoted by the United Nations and other international agencies.” Exhibiting their ignorance and profound prejudices, the bishops stated that there are only two genders, and that the law’s use of the term “corrupts the essence of men and women, denying the natural differences between the sexes and substituting the masculine and feminine genders with six genders: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, transgender and undifferentiated.” That is probably why the word gender is now entirely absent from the law.


Cornelio Hopmann, computer expert and executive director of the eNicaragua Association, lamented that no Nicaraguan government representative attended the February 4-8 meeting in El Salvador to create a Support Group for the Use of Information in Development (GAID). Coordinated by the United Nations, the meeting brought together a hundred representatives of diverse sectors of Latin America and the Caribbean. Nicaragua was also conspicuously absent from the Second Ministerial Conference on the Information Society, held within the larger meeting on February 6-8, with official delegations from 31 Latin American and Caribbean countries. “Nicaragua’s disconnection, which was noted by all the delegations after the distinguished role Nicaragua had previously played , directly damaged its opportunities as a country,” wrote Hoppman. “While, at Nicaragua’s initiative, all regional and global declarations promulgated between 2002 and 2006 always contained a clause referring to the particular conditions of countries with IMF programs, no such reference was included this time. As a possible consequence, Nicaragua might not have favorable access to special funds and instruments from the agencies mentioned for the use of information and communication technologies as poverty-reduction tools in the 2008-2010 period.”

On February 5, Managua was declared Ibero-American Capital of Culture, an annual title the Union of Ibero-American Capital Cities has been awarding to different capitals in the continent since 2004 to get each one to share and exchange its cultural identity, historical heritage and artistic values. Managua’s Mayor Dionisio Marenco announced that his city’s efforts in this respect would include restoration of the amphitheater in the Tiscapa Crater Lake and various literary and arts activities. Quito, Ecuador; Sucre, Bolivia; San José, Costa Rica and Bogotá, Colombia were the recipients of this distinction before Managua.

President Daniel Ortega chose to express his political disagreements with Mayor Marenco by not attending the formal event. In another expression of these conflicts with his old comrade, Ortega took away Marenco’s legal faculty to issue property titles to residents of the capital so he could do it personally within the current process of deeding barrios and settlements.


By a unanimous jury decision, Nicaraguan writer Gioconda Belli won the Seix Barral publishing company’s Biblioteca Breve 2008 prize for El infinito en la palma de la mano (Infinity in the palm of one’s hand), a story that recreates the life of Adam and Eve before and after “the fall.” The novel received the 30,000-euro award for its “singular focus, its evocative capacity and its anthropological recreation of the myth of origins.” Gioconda dedicated her new novel to the victims of the Iraq war, the geographical location of the mythical heaven on earth.

On February 23, President Ortega conferred the Rubén Darío Order of Cultural Independence, the Nicaraguan government’s maximum distinction in the field of culture, to deceased writers Miguel Ángel Asturias of Guatemala and Gregorio Selser of Argentina. Three days later, at the commemoration of the Monimbó insurrection against the Somoza dictatorship, he awarded the same honor to 22 more writers, musicians, photographers, folklorists, potters, artisans and painters, among them US photojournalist Susan Meiselas, Mexican poet Thelma Navas, Nicaraguan academic Margarita López and Nicaraguan poets Isolda Rodríguez and Francisco Valle. Then on March 1, national journalist’s day, the river of decorations became a cascade with another 39 journalists, photojournalists and photographers honored. First Lady Rosario Murillo announced that seven filmmakers will also be awarded the Order. The discretionary selection, devaluing the significance of this decoration, was presumably an attempt to garner gratitude and thus the support it has been denied by important intellectuals, thinkers and forgers of national opinion.

In declarations to Nicaragua’s conservative daily newspaper La Prensa, Julio López, a penetrating political analyst, one-time FSLN insider and revolutionary government official in the eighties, characterized the situation of the party to which he has dedicated much of his life: “The FSLN we knew no longer exists. It disappeared… The Sandinista Front has been emptied of all its historical, political content, its class approach to reality and the ethics of the Sandinista revolutionaries. Daniel and Rosario are creating a new, real party, in the form of the CPCs [Councils of Citizens’ Power]. That’s their party. But you need to be careful because saying that they emptied the Front of content might make it seem as if there’s nothing left. But there is. There are structures in the FSLN that have functioned in all the electoral processes; they form a powerful national network directed by cadres with a huge sense of command and power. This whole command structure consists of former cadres from state security, the intelligence and counterintelligence apparatus. They have a pragmatic vision and a vision of and vocation for power, and their experience makes them see politics with a police mentality. This has and will have its consequences, because they are also people accustomed to conspiracy, to covert actions.”

Authorities of the Caribbean indigenous political party, Yatama, formally allied to the FSLN to govern the Regional Council in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN), have requested that the elections not be held in three municipalities—Puerto Cabezas, Waspán and Prinzapolka—on the grounds that vast zones are still in a state of emergency following the passage of Hurricane Felix on September 4 last year. During a visit by Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) President Roberto Rivas to the regional capital of Bilwi to hear the arguments, opponents of the proposal insisted the elections be held. They denounced the regional authorities of both parties, arguing that they are seeking to impede the elections because their lack of transparency and inadequate post-hurricane assistance to the devastated communities in those municipalities have lost them popularity and people want a change. The final decision on such a request, however, appropriately lies with the National Assembly rather than the CSE, as it involves changing the electoral law.

In the presence of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, President Daniel Ortega broke diplomatic and trade relations with Colombia on March 6. Correa was in Nicaragua at the time in search of Latin American solidarity with his country, which suffered a military incursion by the Colombian government against a FARC guerrilla encampment that resulted in the deaths of around 20 people, including the FARC’s number two man, “Raúl Reyes.” Ortega said his decision was an act of solidarity with Ecuador, but also mentioned Colombia’s disrespect of Nicaraguan sovereignty in the Caribbean Sea, a dispute now being studied by the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Ortega’s move was an attempt to gain political advantage for Nicaragua in that dispute at a very favorable moment and to contribute to Venezuela’s policy of isolating Colombia. Relations were quickly reestablished on March 8, however, following a reconciliation among the Presidents of Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia during the 20th Rio Group Summit meeting held in the Dominican Republic.

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