Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 352 | Noviembre 2010




Envío team

As a consequence of the copious rains this winter, an outbreak of leptospirosis was detected on September 24 in the northwestern departments of León and Chinandega and ultimately spread all over the country, with 536 people infected as of November 9. On October 16, after the 16th fatality from the disease, President Ortega declared a national health emergency. Cuba sent Nicaragua a donation of Cuban-made rat killer called Biorat and health brigade members administered doses of preventive antibiotics to four million people. These actions held the death toll down to only one additional fatality. Leptospirosis is an infectious disease transmitted by a bacterium that lives in the urine of infected rats and domestic animals, and is transmitted through the skin when any wound or abrasion comes into contact with water contaminated with the urine of the sick animals. The initial symptoms are similar to those of dengue, a disease transmitted by certain mosquitoes that have also proliferated due to the excess rainfall. Adding to the country’s woes, the rains also destroyed many crops during the second planting cycle. They ruined the cultivations of 62 communities on the banks of the Río Coco in the northern Caribbean Coast area, affecting 24,000 people who called for a “food emergency” to be decreed.

The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), an NGO dedicated to defending and promoting human rights on the American continent, and the Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) presented Nicaragua’s situation to the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on October 26, during its 140th period of sessions. The IACHR, which considers Nicaragua’s situation risky, decided to make the hearing private, which meant no government representation from Nicaragua. The two organizations explained the deterioration of the state institutions, detailing the steps of the ongoing crisis in the Supreme Court. According to CENIDH President Vilma Núñez, Nicaragua has reached a “dead end because the domestic denunciation mechanisms no longer function and those designated for resolving the problems are the main originators of the crisis. For this reason we made a call to the international community to take note of Nicaragua’s situation. Apparently they are waiting for more dramatic events before they start worrying.” CENIDH lawyer Mauro Ampié, who also participated in the hearing, later said they told the IACHR that the Ortega government is characterized by intolerance to criticism and instrumentalization of the State, two characteristics of totalitarian governments. CEJIL lawyer Marcia Aguiluz, also at the hearing, said “there are very clear events in Nicaragua that demonstrate the inexistent separation of powers and the OAS must openly discuss this situation, which is affecting democracy. If the OAS response is to remain silent, we don’t know what could happen in that country.”

On October 14, Nicaragua’s environmental minister announced that President Daniel Ortega had “frozen” the controversial Brito hydroelectric mega-project, which Nicaraguan environmentalists had warned would cause a mega-disaster in the valuable ecosystems of the San Juan and Brito rivers and Lake Cocibolca. Due to earlier public and media pressure, the government decided it would consult Nicaragua’s scientific community on the project’s possible impacts, the results of which led the government to put a stop to the work of the Brazilian company Andrade Gutiérrez. The project would have generated 250 megawatts of electrical energy at an estimated construction cost of $600 million. The company, which already had authorization to do a project viability study, declared days after the “freezing” that none of the government’s activities or the results had been communicated, and that it will stay in Nicaragua to do the project. Salvador Montenegro, director of the Research Center on Aquatic Resources, who has been the most outspoken opponent of the mega-project, insisting on its negative environmental, economic and social repercussions, praised the government for dialoguing with the scientific community to make the debate “transparent, objective and public.”

At the end of October, President Ortega sent the National Assembly the budget bill for 2011, which is fundamentally no different from this year’s, although a $10.4 million cut in the Transport Ministry’s budget was eye-catching, given the urgency to repair all the roads and highways severely damaged by the unusually heavy rains this year. The main changes, however, are the increase to the Supreme Electoral Council to cover the election year, and greater payment on the domestic debt, which somewhat sacrifices social spending on health, education and public investment. Social spending this year has represented 49.32% of the government’s overall spending while it will total 47.26% in 2011.

According to the most recent data of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 19% of Nicaragua’s population (some 1.1 million people) still suffers malnutrition, even though the country has made some progress. The figure was 20% in recent years, which put Nicaragua in the same group as Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Bolivia, the countries with the highest malnutrition rates in Latin America.

On October 12, Day of the Race, Joel Dixon, the Foreign Relations Ministry’s Deputy Minister for Indigenous and Afro-Descendent Affairs, announced Mexico will finance a Nicaraguan government census on the country’s indigenous population, estimated at 10% of the total population. In those same days, an ancient tamarind tree that is the symbolic patrimony of the Sutiaba indigenous people of León toppled over as a result of all the rains. According to local legend and oral tradition, the conquistadors used that tree to hang indigenous cacique Adiact, who fought against the Spanish.

Nicaraguan poet and writer Gioconda Belli presented her latest novel, El país de las mujeres (The country of women) in a joyous and crowded event in Managua on October 22. That same day, El Nuevo Diario published the “Manifesto of the Party of the Erotic Left,” one of the “historic documents” that form part of Belli’s tale. Point 4 of the Manifesto reads: “We announce to women and men that they can now stop waiting for the honorable man and put their bets instead on us women of PIE (Party of the Erotic Left). We are of the Left because we believe that a left to the jaw is what should be given to this country’s poverty, corruption and disaster. We are erotic because EROS means LIFE, which is the most important thing we have and because we women have been responsible not only for giving it but also for conserving and taking care of it. We are PIE [the Spanish word for “foot”] because we sustain nothing other than our desire to go forward, to make the path as we walk and to advance with those who follow us.”

The “Everyone with a voice” brigade, made up of 68 Cuban medical specialists, bid Nicaragua goodbye on October 21 after President Ortega bestowed the Rubén Dario Order of Cultural Independence on the group. The specialists conducted a year-long psycho-social study covering the whole country and provided more than 200,000 consultancies. In the course of their activity they identified 32,700 people with mental or intellectual disabilities and 93,575 with physical disabilities, many of them war victims. The brigade determined that 4,139 of the identified cases were “critical.” First Lady Rosario Murillo, who among many other things is coordinator of the Council of Communication and Citizenry, declared that “we never would have obtained this information without Fidel’s humanism and brilliance.” An estimated 80,000 school-age boys and girls have some type of disability, only 10% of whom receive special education due to the lack of teachers and centers. Given how extensive the practice of incest is in various parts of the country, it is possible that genetic mutations, a risk of this abominable practice, are at the root of some of the disabilities detected, although the brigade made no reference to it and no national institution has ever considered it.

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