Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 350 | Septiembre 2010




Envío team

After the climatic phenomenon called El Niño caused severe droughts last year, its sister phenomenon, La Niña, has devastated the entire Central American region with persistent and copious rain this year. As of September 9, Nicaragua’s rainfall had already resulted in 41 deaths (most due to imprudence), more than 33,000 people losing their homes and belongings, 15,000 damaged homes and serious damage to 13,000 kilometers of the country’s road network—particularly rural roads—with communities in some 20 municipalities isolated due to flooding. In Managua, hundreds of residents from dozens of barrios on the shores of Lake Xolotlán were evacuated to shelters. The lake had already risen three meters over its normal level, flooding Salvador Allende Port, one of the capital’s popular tourist attractions. The communities of Tepalón and Malacatoya in Granada have been the most affected so far, although the northern part of the country has also been seriously hit, particularly Estelí. And obviously the production losses are huge. Some 350,000 hectares of maize, rice, beans and sorghum have been ruined, with the red beans so popular with Nicaraguans most affected. There are also very serious losses in sugar cane, bananas and livestock.

On August 24, Nicaragua celebrated the 30th anniversary of the culmination of the National Literacy Crusade, when thanks to the participation of some 100,000 youth volunteers the illiteracy rate was reduced from 52% to 12.9% in five months. The government commemorated this feat with an event to which it invited the Crusade’s deputy coordinator, Francisco Lacayo, but not ex-FSLN member Fernando Cardenal, SJ, the national coordinator.

The National Assembly, in contrast, did invite Cardenal to its celebration. In his speech to the parliament he lamented that education is not a national priority, as reflected in the low education budget: under 4% of the gross domestic product. Cardenal noted that much more is invested in education in the equally impoverished countries of Zimbabwe and Bolivia than in Nicaragua. He also pointed out that neighboring Costa Rica “began seriously investing in education in the late l9th century, while in Nicaragua we are now in the 21st century and still haven’t begun.”

UNESCO representative in Nicaragua, Juan Bautista Arríen, participated in both celebrations. He has endorsed the current reduction of illiteracy in Nicaragua, which according to official figures is now less than 4% following the campaign “Yes, I can,” which the current government promoted using a Cuban method. Other education specialists don’t give this figure much credibility and calculate that illiteracy still exceeds 20%.

On August 18, President Daniel Ortega granted an extensive interview to journalist Elena Rostova for her program “A solas,” broadcast on Russia’s overseas channel. In response to a question on his relations with the US government, Ortega stated that “what has changed is the method, for the moment. I say for the moment because they don’t have the conditions to apply a coup in Nicaragua. If they did, they would have already tried, but they can’t count on the army or the police. They have no military instrument to provoke a coup. Otherwise they would have done it; of that I’m sure.” US Ambassador in Nicaragua Robert Callahan responded that “Unfortunately, an accusation of that nature, absolutely unfounded, really jeopardizes our efforts to create better relations based on mutual respect.” On September 2, at the commemoration of the founding of the Army of Nicaragua, Ortega repeated his accusation, but posed it in a way that took a bit of the heat off of President Obama. He referred specifically to the “US intelligence agencies,” calling them “strategists of evil…which go over the head of the Congress and the President,” claiming that they have contingency plans to unleash coups d’état in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. Callahan walked out of the event in protest.

The Movement of Producers of the North, better known as the Nonpayment Movement, is trying to convince the government to purchase the debt of some 14,000 producers in arrears to the tune of almost US$25 million with the country’s micro-financing institutions. In exchange, they are offering to back President Ortega’s reelection. A sizable group of “Nonpayers” made this offer to the governing party’s Secretariat on August 12, the final deadline established by the Moratorium Law approved some months ago to facilitate renegotiation of these debts. Former FSLN mayor of Jalapa, Omar Vílchez, the movement’s leader, announced that the debtors would place banners on their property saying: “I am a member of the Yes-Payment Movement, Daniel Ortega President 2011,” as a shield to avoid evictions. The Nonpayers proposed paying back their debt to the State in a 10-year period at “fair rates,” which they did not specify. Alfredo Alaniz, director of the Association of Micro-financing Institutions of Nicaragua (ASOMIF), pointed out that if the government does buy the debt, all Nicaraguans will effectively be paying for it because the money would come from taxes. ASOMIF calculates that 50% of its overdue portfolio is in the hands of the Nonpayment Movement.

According to Nicaragua’s Catholics for the Right to Decide (CDD), in 2009 the Institute of Legal Medicine examined 4,960 people who charged that they had been victims of sexual violence. A total of 88.6% were female, and 85.9% were children and adolescents of both sexes between 0 and 17 years of age. The Institute found sexual violence in 4,464 of the cases presented. Based on these data, the CDD raised a voice of alarm: an average 12 people a day suffer sexual abuse in Nicaragua. It wondered how many of the women and girls who werre raped ended up pregnant as a result, and concluded that “we continue to demand decriminalization of therapeutic abortion for women whose pregnancies are the product of rape.”

On August 15, the National Police (PN) delivered another major blow to the Mexican Gulf Cartel’s largest transport network in Nicaragua. After seven raids in Managua, the PN seized 14 trailer- trucks and haul trailers fitted with secret compartments for transporting drugs between Central America and Mexico, thus disarticulating an important cell of this organization in our country. According to the PN, it is “the heaviest blow we’ve dealt to the drug-traffickers’ transport logistics and organized crime.” As a result of the operation, three Nicaraguans linked to the Cartel were arrested. The PN reported that the drivers of the trailer-trucks were paid between $10,000 and $15,000 for each trip they made in these vehicles. At the 31st anniversary of the PN on September 6, First Commissioner Aminta Granera described the battle against drug trafficking as this year’s most important National Police achievement. Days earlier, President Ortega complained of the paltry recourses the US government is giving Nicaragua for the battle against this fight.

Some 650 kilos of firewood are burned in Nicaragua’s kitchens every day, according to a report of the Strategy to Improve Firewood Efficiency in the Pacific. The use of firewood for cooking is commonplace in both rural zones and cities. Managua and Masaya consume the most, particularly in bakeries, tortilla-making operations and other informal and inexpensive eating establishments, in addition to poor homes. As a result, 32 tree species are in danger of extinction. The high cost of tanks of propane makes gas stoves—the main alternative to firewood—too expensive for the majority of families.

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