Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 365 | Diciembre 2011




Envío team

A new conflict flared up in latef November between the governments of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, when Nicaragua learned that its neighbor is building a highway 120 kilometers long on its side of the Río San Juan, Nicaragua’s river, that is no more than 20 meters from the riverbank in some places. The Nicaraguan government sent a letter to its Costa Rican counterpart protesting the failure to inform it about the construction and pointing out the serious environmental impact this could have on the river’s waters, both from the sediment, including oil products, that will fall into the river and from the tourist or productive development the highway will generate in the future. While President Ortega acknowledged that Costa Rica has every right to build a highway, it is bound by treaty to inform Nicaragua of any activities planned that could affect the river. He announced that he would call on the International Court of Justice at The Hague to order Costa Rica to stop the construction. Nicaragua also informed the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance of the irreparable damage the work is already causing, requesting that a commission immediately be sent to visit the area.

The government of Costa Rica denies the damages alleged by Nicaragua and has asked it to provide “scientific, objective and serious information.” Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla described Nicaragua’s protests as a “smoke screen” to draw attention away from the irregularities surrounding Ortega’s reelection. According to Chinchilla, “for the first time in 190 years of independent life, we Costa Ricans are going to be able to travel our northern border by a route that is not exclusively limited to the Río San Juan. That is an inheritance we are going to leave to Costa Rica that I feel incredibly proud of.”

In one of the last sessions of this legislative period, the FSLN’s parliamentary majority pushed through reforms to the 2011 budget on November 29, assured by the votes of its associates in the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN). The Liberals of both the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) and the We’re Going with Eduardo (VCE) bench abstained. The executive branch sent the reforms to the National Assembly for fast-track approval to assign the approximately US$131 million obtained through tax collection during the year that exceeded the forecast. Scandalously, the new items assigned by the government included an extra $3.2 million for the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), twice as much as was assigned to the Ministry of Education. As it is, the CSE’s discredited president, Roberto Rivas, has never cleared up how he spent the equivalent of nearly $18 million that cannot be accounted for in the institution. The CSE’s budget for 2011 was already a third of the entire education budget and Nicaragua’s elections are the most costly in Central America. Also noteworthy was that almost a third of the over-collection of taxes was allocated to paying off the debts of the electricity generating companies of the Albanisa consortium, which belong to the presidential family. The government argued that this was done to “stabilize the energy sector,” but the government had previously announced it was being “stabilized” through a loan from the Venezuelan oil cooperation.

Transparency International published its 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index in Berlin on December 1. The index is based on a scale of 0 to 10, in which 0 indicates the maximum perception of corruption and 10 the minimum perception. Nicaragua scored 2.5, behind only Paraguay (2.2) and Venezuela (1.9) in Latin America. On the global level, the countries whose societies perceive them as most corrupt are Somalia (1.0) and North Korea (1.0). At the other end of the scale, the most transparent countries were New Zealand (9.5), Denmark (9.4) and Finland (9.4).

According to Health Ministry data, 713 new cases of HIV infection were recorded in Nicaragua during the first half of 2011, including 401 men and 277 women. A total of 6,500 people are reported to be currently living with the virus, 85% of them between the ages of 15 and 44. Organizations fighting this epidemic calculate that for each infected person who knows he or she is carrying the virus, 10 to 15 others do not. In 2010 some 175,000 Nicaraguans decided to take the HIV test to see if they were infected.

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