Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 366 | Enero 2012




Envío team

By an almost unanimous vote, the National Assembly passed the Comprehensive Law against Violence against Women on January 26. As is typical of Nicaraguan legislation, the law abounds in declarative concepts, but it also includes concrete advances. Among other things, women’s organizations consider two of their most important gains to be 1) the classification of femicide as a crime punishable by 15 to 30 years in prison, and 2) the elimination of mediation in charges of domestic violence. Other new penal classifications created by the law are labor, psychological, institutional and patrimonial violence.

The law will go into effect in six months, although no budget has yet been allocated for the specialized courts that will process the suits brought under this law. The Supreme Court announced that it will initiate a pilot program and the special Police Stations for Women and Children will begin studying the amount of financial and human resources they will need to implement the law’s contents. Many women’s organizations view the approval of the law right after the new FSLN-dominated National Assembly took up its labors following the allegedly massive fraud in last November’s elections as another sign of the Ortega government’s search for legitimacy.

In eight Mayangna indigenous territories located in the Bosawás area in northwest Nicaragua, the new school year kicked off in January with a pilot project for 42 primary schools. The project, supported by UNESCO and the government of Norway, is using textbooks on Language and Person and Nature and Culture in the Mayangna language, which is the first time the roughly 30,000 Mayangna people have ever had textbooks in their language.

The January deaths in controversial circumstances of “Yajob” and “Pablo Negro,” both former contra members and until their deaths heads of an armed group opposing the Ortega government, was further evidence that armed groups are operating in some areas of the country, a claim repeated insistently for the past year by Estelí’s Bishop Abelardo Mata and now corroborated by Jinotega’s Bishop Carlos Hernández. Adding his voice to the concern, René Sándigo, bishop of Juigalpa and president of the Nicaraguan Bishop’s Conference, categorically stated that “there are those who have taken up arms in Nicaragua. The bishops aren’t lying. It’s not the invention of any bishop. It has been verified. There is a certain ideological inspiration in these groups, which could gather strength, and it is of concern that they are being funded by drug traffickers.” The bishop asked the government to dialogue with these groups, but so far the Army of Nicaragua has insisted that the only delinquent groups in the rural zones are those who live from rustling cattle and stealing other goods.

A mapping of risks, processes and public policies related to the effects of climate change in Nicaragua conducted by the Humboldt Center indicates that 87% of Nicaragua’s population will be facing a serious deterioration of its quality of life by 2050 due to a lack of access to quality water and food insecurity. According to Víctor Campos, the center’s deputy director, study’s prognoses are moderate but the risk of them occurring is very high. More than 2 million Nicaraguans in 94 of the country’s 153 municipalities (45% of the total population) are already experiencing the adverse effects of climate change. In response to this situation, the Humboldt Center recommended that the government gear its public policies to adaptation plans rather than the mitigation plans it has been designing so far.

Nicaragua is still disputing the highway Costa Rica is constructing along its side of Nicaragua’s San Juan River. Nicaragua’s position has been extremely conciliatory, while the Costa Rican government has been provocative and defiant. It is a total flip from the inflammatory nationalist rhetoric President Ortega brandished against Costa Rica last year after the neighbor country denounced Nicaragua’s dredging of the river as a military invasion on a tiny point of its territory. That conflict ended up in a very expensive lawsuit in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which will take years to resolve. With respect to the highway, environmental organizations from both countries took the case to the Central American Court of Justice (CCJ). In mid-January, after visiting the area to see the alleged environmental disaster, the CCJ ordered that Costa Rica “immediately” suspend constrruction of the highway given the severe damage it is causing the river, designated patrimony of Central America. Costa Rica’s position was categorical: it doesn’t recognize the CCJ’s jurisdiction and will continue the construction. The tourist investment plans announced by both Costa Rica and Nicaragua for that area strongly suggest that the public dispute hides alliances among business consortiums from both countries.

After four intense days of a public trial with dozens of witnesses, four people were found guilty on February 4 of the murder of a father and his two sons in the indigenous community of El Carrizo (San José de Cusmapa, municipality of Somoto, department of Madriz). The four men convicted were José de Jesús Herrera,
the FSLN’s political secretary in the municipality; Eusebio Cruz, a member of the Municipal Electoral Council; Elvin López, a former deputy police commissioner; and Mauricio Días, a police officer on active duty at the time. The judge found two other police officers also accused of participating in the massacre innocent. There was strict control of the media during the trial so no image of the accused would be leaked, and when they left the courthouse after being sentenced, members of the police force took pains to protect them and cover their faces.

The crime occurred on November 8, two days after the elections, when these officials, euphoric about the FSLN’s victory, went to the community at night and fired at the Torres Cruz family from close range because of its political sympathies for the opposition. In addition to the three deaths, another two members of the family were injured. The defense repeatedly tried to claim that the deceased had attacked the accused first and had even plotted an uprising against the government, but was unable to prove it given the weight of the prosecuting attorney’s evidence. Despite imaginable pressures, the institution and the judge acted in accord with the law.

The government announced it would reforest 15,000 hectares annually with 9 million saplings of 54 forest and fruit species to halt the so-far uncontrollable advance of the agricultural frontier and the indiscriminate cutting down of forests. First Lady Rosario Murillo, the presidency’s Communication, Citizenship and Social Welfare Secretary, indicated that some 350,000 young people will participate in the reforestation campaign, organized into 1,500 volunteer brigades and supported by a 580-member army ecological battalion.

At the summit meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), held on February 4-5 in Caracas, Venezuela, President Ortega announced that Nicaragua’s National Assembly will ratify Nicaragua’s adoption of ALBA’s single currency, the sucre. He further reported that the country will engage in large-scale cacao production through an agreement with Russia, and proposed the formation of a Great Cacao Consortium within ALBA, inviting Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador to participate together with Nicaragua. Ortega also asked the ALBA countries to study the construction of an interoceanic canal in Nicaragua.

With the continuing rise in international gold prices, Nicaragua forecasts a 15% increase in gold production for 2012, which would mean some $420 million in export income. The Nicaraguan Mining Chamber reported that Nicaragua produced 156,000 ounces of gold in 2010 and 200,000 in 2011, with 230,000 ounces projected
for this year. Nicaragua is the Central American country richest in gold and silver and now has 50 companies extracting these two metals, which have provided work to geology graduates. Other effects of the boom in gold prices include a drop in jewelry store sales and a multiplication of pawn shops in Managua. Those involved in the pawn shop business estimate that some 3,500 people, mostly women, pawn their gold jewelry per month, and few recover them.

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