Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 351 | Octubre 2010




Envío team

In late September, El Nuevo Diario published the details of a mega-project that experts say will cause a mega-environmental disaster in Nicaragua. The Brito project, an agreement between the governments of Nicaragua and Brazil, will cost an estimated $600 million and involves the construction of gigantic walls to channel the Río San Juan and the Río Brito into a gigantic hydroelectric dam fed also by the waters of Lake Cocibolca to produce 250 megawatts of electrical energy. According to scientist Salvador Montenegro, director of the Research Center on Aquatic Resources (CIRA) of Nicaragua’s National Autonomous University, the effects will be many and all will be disastrous for the biodiversity of the lake and the rivers, for the land, water and marine ecosystems, for small-scale fishing and for the communities that will be flooded out or forcibly moved to make way for tourism in the area. Days after the publication of this information, the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry began to take an interest in the project, about which it knew nothing even though this neighboring country’s ecosystems and tourist infrastructure will also be harmed. Its promoters reportedly recognized its potential negative effects when presenting the project in late August. It was also learned that Albanisa, the private company of mixed Venezuelan and Nicaraguan capital linked to the presidential family, is behind the project. The Ortega government considers this project strategic and has announced that it will be a major piece of the “Alba-Alimentos Socialist Irrigation Program” aimed at exporting food to member countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA).

Expo 2010, the largest of its kind in the world, was held in Shanghai in the People’s Republic of China during September and October, with an estimated half a million people from China and other countries visiting every day. The Nicaraguan government and a dozen Nicaraguan businesses involved in agriculture, energy, finances, trade, construction and industry had booths in the exposition. Bayardo Arce, President Ortega’s economic affairs adviser, and Ajax Delgado, secretary of the Nicaragua-People’s Republic of China Friendship Association and an executive of the state investment promotion agency ProNica, represented the government. Nicaragua is looking to sign a trade agreement with continental China although it has not had diplomatic relations with the huge Asian country since the Chamorro government broke them in 1990 to switch to Taiwan. Chinese businesspeople are interested in importing Nicaraguan rum, tobacco, coffee and bananas, and in exporting industrial products such as electricity-powered vehicles, household appliances and agricultural machinery to Nicaragua. Nicaragua’s pavilion received an average of 5-7,000 visitors a day, most of them from China.

On September 21, Paul Oquist, President Ortega’s adviser for public policy issues, represented the Nicaraguan government at the United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Oquist reported that since 2007 the Ortega government had succeeded in reducing extreme poverty by up to 14.6%, “halfway to the goal” of reducing it by half by 2015. He mentioned “an independent study financed by Holland and Switzerland with technical assistance from the World Bank” which states that extreme poverty in Nicaragua is 9.7%, an assertion that he said is ratified by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program as the result of the reduction of malnutrition levels and would imply that Nicaragua had already met this MDG. While those two organizations have indeed recognized a drop in world hunger from over a billion people to an estimated 925 million this year, their report shows Nicaragua as the Central American country with the highest percentage of people suffering hunger (21%). Oquist added that there are also advances in the other goals, “save HIV-AIDS, which has increased, but Nicaragua continues to have the lowest rate in Central America.” He stood behind the official data that illiteracy has been reduced to only 3.3%, a figure debated by experts in Nicaragua. He also praised the initiatives of Venezuela’s President Chávez: “Nicaragua has benefited from the most brilliant innovation in development financing of this century: Venezuela’s solidarity through the Petrocaribe agreements, which convert half of poor countries’ hydrocarbon bill into long-term soft credits to reduce poverty.”

September 28 was the Day of Struggle to Decriminalize Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean. To mark the occasion, representatives of Nicaragua’s Strategic Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic Abortion, made up of women’s organizations, doctors and lawyers from the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH), managed with no little difficulty to reach the walled perimeter of President Ortega’s housing compound—also his presidential offices and FSLN secretariat headquarters—to deliver a petition of 37,000 signatures gathered by Amnesty International around the world demanding the restitution of therapeutic abortion in Nicaraguan legislation. The signatures were accompanied by 6,000 postcards with the same message, collected in a campaign specifically organized by Amnesty International in Italy under the motto “Demand dignity.” As expected, neither the President nor any other official received the group or made any reference to this international demand.

In addition to trying to clear President Ortega’s path to reelection with illegal resolutions, on September 24 the now illegal Supreme Court of Justice—made up only of six FSLN justices, two former FSLN justices (whose terms have ended but are staying on) and their six associate justices—definitively dismissed the case against Alex and Saúl Centeno Roque, responsible for the bankruptcy of Interbank, of Sandinista capital, in 2000. The brothers have been protected by the FSLN over all these years even though they defaulted on $75 million in loans. On October 5, the Court repeated the ruling for those who were responsible for the collapse of the state bank BANIC the following year, in which top officials of the Arnoldo Alemán government had invested capital. That makes 253 illegitimate rulings just since August 11, when the FSLN justices illegally brought in associate justices to substitute the six remaining PLC justices.

In response to information that Hurricane Matthew could devastate Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean region, already hit by several damaging hurricanes and tropical storms in recent years, President Ortega ordered a national radio and television hook-up on September 24, after decreeing a “green alert” for that part of the country. Once it was learned that the hurricane had lost its anticipated intensity, the hook-up broadcast Ortega addressing a group of evangelical pastors. At one point, he opened a Bible and read Psalm 91, which begins “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” Then, after reporting on the storm’s change of course, the President added, “The storm was advancing on an uncertain course, because He who knows all, we already know who that is. Science says ‘It’s going in that direction,’ but then He who decides, we all know who that is…” He closed with these words: “Note how the hand of God is with Nicaragua. He commanded that the hurricane disappear, and the hurricane disappeared!"

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