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  Number 369 | Abril 2012
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Alejandro Jiménez, a Costa Rican known as “El Palidejo” (paleface), accused of murdering Argentine singer Facundo Cabral in Guatemala on July 9 of last year, was captured in Colombia on March 13 attempting to enter the country from Panama. Guatemala’s Public Ministry put an arrest warrant out on him based on declarations by Nicaraguan Henry Fariñas, who was driving the vehicle in which Cabral was traveling when he was fatally shot. According to Fariñas, the bullets fired by Guatemalan hit men were meant for him because Jiménez wanted revenge for problems in their common businesses. The 38-year-old Jiménez, who was a fruit and vegetable seller years ago and is now a millionaire, moved around Central America under a fictitious name using a Nicaraguan identity card, no explanation for his possession of which has yet been offered in Nicaragua. He was also wanted in Costa Rica for laundering drug trafficking money. The director of the Colombian police force claims he is a liaison between a Colombian drug cartel and the Sinaloa cartel, headed by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Costa Rica claims he has links with people in the Nicaraguan government, whose institutions have been totally silent about both Jiménez and Fariñás. The latter owns exclusive nightclubs in Nicaragua and other Central American countries and had contracted Cabral for a concert in Managua and another in Guatemala. The day of Cabral’s death, Fariñas, who was himself seriously wounded, was carrying a card identifying him as an adviser to the FSLN legislative bench.

Fariñas was detained at the Managua airport, presumably at Interpol’s request, on March 29, two weeks after Jiménez’s arrest, attempting to fly to Panama with a false ID after hiding in Nicaragua for some months. Everything indicates that, after being extradited to Guatemala, “El Palidejo” gave enough information about his partner that the Nicaraguan government had no choice but to nab Fariñas despite his links with powerful government officials. On April 1, the Nicaraguan Public Ministry accused Fariñas, his brother and one of his front men plus four others who are still at large of involvement in organized crime, money laundering and international drug trafficking. Fariñas and his group allegedly moved drugs through Central America for the Michoacan Family cartel, a criminal organization reportedly of a pseudo-religious inspiration. His detention coincided with “Operation Domino” against that very cartel, in which the police forces of Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama collaborated, capturing 55 people and seizing over 2,000 kilos of cocaine and 20 vehicles. After Fariñas was taken prisoner, the Nicaraguan police searched several of his costly properties and confiscated vehicles, thousands of dollars, jewels and other goods. The Public Ministry ordered the freezing of his bank accounts and the investigation of a dozen corporations as well as presumed shell companies, including Managua’s Élite nightclub, in which Fariñas reportedly laundered drug money.

According to the final report presented by two Nicaraguan NGOs to the Central American Court of Justice (CCJ) in late March, the 160-kilometer highway built by the Costa Rican government along its side of the Río San Juan, a border river that belongs to Nicaragua, has shattered the regional ecosystem that runs from Guatemala to Panama. The report lists all the national and international regulations violated by Costa Rica and includes 73 images of the highway’s environmental impact and of the fauna species threatened by its construction in a very fragile and valuable territory. The report was put together by 16 highway engineers and 14 biologists and ecologists. Prior to its release, Jeffrey Lacayo, a member of Costa Rica’s Maleku-Guatuso indigenous people, was in Managua to denounce the Costa Rican government to the CCJ for damages the highway was inflicting on his people’s archeological heritage and food sources. “My people are crying today in a country that is highly regarded for its ecological fame, but is waging war on nature.” Nicaraguan scientist Jaime Incer Barquero, a government adviser on environmental issues who participated in the report, has dubbed the Costa Rican road a “narco highway” because he believes it opens new possibilities for drug traffickers who travel through the region.

The Central Bank of Nicaragua (BCN) published the total foreign cooperation figures received by our country in 2011. The largest contribution is US$609.1 million from Venezuelan cooperation, $76 million more than in 2010. Of that amount, the resources received by the government via the favorable oil credit with Venezuela total $557.4 million, 65.4% more than in 2010, due to the rise in international oil prices. The oil agreement and its earnings are controlled by the Nicaraguan-Venezuelan company Albanisa, of which the governing party controls 49%. According to the BCN, $178.2 million of the oil resources go to social projects, $345.6 million to socio-productive projects and $33.6 million to unspecified “others.” The breakdown of these figures reveals an important drop in bilateral Venezuelan aid in the form of “solidarity country” donations, which totaled just $6.7 million in 2011, compared to $185 million the previous year.

In early April the government inaugurated a new airport in Greytown, also known as San Juan de Nicaragua, just north of the mouth of the Río San Juan. The airport facilities will significantly increase tourism in this historic site, entryway to the long dreamed of inter-oceanic canal through Nicaragua.

An extremely condensed version of the town’s incredibly rich history begins with San Juan del Norte, as it was called at the time, founded in 1541 by the Spanish, who were then ousted in 1821 with Nicaragua’s independence. In 1841 Miskitus occupied the town with British assistance, and seven years later the British occupied it directly, renaming it Greytown in homage to the British governor of Jamaica, Charles Grey. The following year, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s steamships began bringing gold seekers from the US eastern seaboard bound for California by way of the Río San Juan. The town quickly became a prosperous, luxurious and cosmopolitan city, but its glory days were short- lived. In 1854 a US Navy ship bombarded Greytown, burning it down, supposedly in retaliation for local actions against US citizens. It was rebuilt, but with river traffic dwindling to nothing, it was reduced to a tight-knit little backwater town immensely proud of its architecture, customs and history.

During the contra war of the eighties the population fled to Costa Rica and the town was again burned to the ground in mid-1984, according to one version when Edén Pastora’s troops launched an RPG-7 missile of white phosphorous brought from the United States, which set fire to the dry grasses, and according to another by a direct attack from US boats offshore. In any event, when the first heads of family returned from the Costa Rican refugee camps after Violeta Chamorro’s election, all that remained were the ruins of San Juan’s splendor, devoured by the rainforest’s exuberant nature. They were told it would be impossible to rebuild on the same spot because land mines buried there had not yet been removed, so a new town, now called San Juan de Nicaragua, was built on virgin land a bit further inland. The new airport, built where the town used to be, includes a 200-meter runway, a passenger terminal, administrative offices, control tower, fire station and complementary works.

In an unusual ceremony on March 21, army chief General Julio César Avilés, gave President Ortega the Army of Nicaragua Order in recognition of his “extraordinary work in defense of the Homeland, its Territory, its Independence, Self-determination and Sovereignty, and the firm support given the Army of Nicaragua to fulfill its Missions and Tasks to benefit our People.” The General Command, the Corps of Generals and Colonels, the members of the Military Council and the Unit Commanders all participated. In his address, Ortega categorically rejected the idea of decriminalizing drugs floated by the new Guatemalan President, Otto Pérez Molina. “It would mean legalizing crime… It would say we’re beaten… If one country can’t hesitate in saying ‘No to decriminalization!’ it’s Nicaragua. Because here the people, with the Army and with the Police, are engaging the fight with drug traffic and organized crime and are defeating it! With Sandino’s slogan ‘I’ll neither sell out nor surrender,’ we will neither sell out nor surrender to drug trafficking and organized crime!” Ortega did not attend the March 24 summit called by Pérez Molina in Antigua to discuss the issue, backing his boycott with the argument that the US government is heading up a debate on this issue.

The business attaché of the Embassy of Luxembourg, René Lauer, declared in Managua that, unlike many other European countries, his country will not leave Nicaragua or reduce its cooperation, although it also has no plans to increase it. Luxembourg’s main counterpart in Nicaragua is the National Technological Institute (INATEC), which provides technical training to private and public employees and to individuals interested in its varied courses. According to Lauer, “Nicaragua needs people who know how to work and how to exercise a technical profession; it doesn’t just need university diploma holders. We are supporting INATEC to provide a quality system of qualifications that permit a graduate in welding, in electro-mechanics, even a hotel maid, to have a diploma recognized by everyone so they can get a job.” Luxembourg also supports projects in health, tourism and micro-finances.

Nicaragua still has 30.3% illiteracy, the highest rate in Central America after Guatemala, according to 2012 information from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). In 2009, after a municipal-level literacy campaign using Cuba’s “Yes, I can” method, President Ortega declared Nicaragua “free of illiteracy,” stating that it had dropped to barely 3.6%, a figure several NGOs working on literacy programs questioned at the time, while admitting that they might be using more rigorous definitions of literacy. In response to these worrying figures, the government announced it will conduct a census to determine the real figures.

A study by the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investments Fund shows Nicaragua ranking second out of 26 Latin American and Caribbean countries in clean energy generation, behind only Brazil. The renewable energy projects being developed in Nicaragua today include aeolian (wind), geothermic (volcanoes), mini-hydraulic (water) and biomass (based on sugar cane residues). All these projects are based on private investment. Emilio Rappaccioli, Nicaragua’s minister of energy and mines, says the electricity generated by these projects next year will represent 51% of national generation and save Nicaragua US$300 million in the billing of 3 million barrels of fuel that curently feed the country’s thermal plants. Even the Ortega government’s harshest critics recognize its opening to such investments as a major achievement that’s modifying the country’s energy grid, up to now 65% dependent on oil.

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