Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 373 | Agosto 2012




Envío team

The debate between the government and the business elite over the tax reform the International Monetary Fund (IMF) requires as a condition for approval of a new agreement with Nicaragua is scheduled to begin in mid-August. In the negotiations, the government will present the results of its “little reform” in 2009. It has said that the reform’s content must be ready by September 30 at the latest so the projected tax collection estimates can be reflected in the 2013 budget. President Ortega referred to this topic during the July 19 celebrations, making it clear that the new reform will not touch the privileges enjoyed by sectors of big private business—his allies—through important exonerations in their tax payments: “There can’t be a tax reform imposed on the poor; points of equilibrium must be sought that permit the strengthening of our country’s productive capacities and on that basis maintain the support of stimuli where necessary. Exonerations are nothing other than a stimulus, protective measures that developed countries have used and still use but have forbidden us to use.”

According to the Wealth-X World Ultra-Wealth Report for 2011-2012, 180 Nicaraguans possess ultra high net worth (UHNW): personal fortunes defined at a minimum of US$30 million. In Central America, that puts Nicaragua ahead of El Salvador (140) and nipping at the heels of Honduras (185), but way behind Guatemala (310). There are no figures for Costa Rica and Panama. Brazil holds the record in Latin America with 4,725 UNHWs, putting it in third place among all countries investigated. Mexico follows with 1,900, which is more than in the whole African continent combined. Latin America, the most unequal region on the planet, has 15,100, 8% of the world’s total. Not surprisingly, the United States tops the world list at 57,830, whose combined wealth is US$7.6 trillion.

During the stopover in Nicaragua of Japan’s Peace Boat on its 76th global voyage, President Ortega met with delegations from the ship, including its founder and director, Tatsuya Yoshioka, and survivors of the Fukushima nuclear disaster caused by the March 2011 tsunami. Ortega remarked that the lesson of that tragedy is that, even with all their technological progress, human beings “can’t control nature… Who can stop an earthquake or a tsunami? Only God. We can’t challenge nature; challenging nature is challenging God!” Ortega also referred to the limits reality imposes on works based on atomic energy and “the great risks to using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” pledging to struggle for the disappearance of both nuclear weapons and atomic energy. It was a surprising declaration, given that during a meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad on his junket through Latin America on January 10 of this same year, Ortega defended Iran’s right to develop its nuclear program and the “right of countries to develop atomic energy.” On that occasion, also in the context of the need for world peace, he referred to Iran’s detractors as follows: “They don’t attack those who have atomic armaments, but they do accuse and threaten those who are developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, as is the case with Iran.”

At the fourth national gathering of sexual workers on July 13, National Police Chief Aminta Granera, speaking in the name of her entire police force, asked forgiveness “for the lack of respect and the humiliations to which many of you have been subjected by some of our police officers…. As a woman and as director of the National Police, I feel ashamed of the attitude of some of these compañeros. I can assure you that your words, your suffering, your experiences will not remain in a vacuum and that your demands for security will find a response.” According to a report that was prepared by NGOs in five different areas of Nicaragua and presented at the same event, 77% of these women are engaged in this livelihood out of economic need; 95% would leave it if they could get other work; and 14% admitted to having been victims of sexual abuse as girls.

On World Population Day, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that some 1,700 Nicaraguan girls between 10 and 14 years old get pregnant every year, representing 25% of the country’s annual pregnancies. UNFPA official Óscar Vizcarra declared that those pregnancies “can be catastrophic for their lives and limit the country’s development,” pointing out that all of them “are the product of some kind of sexual, physical and psychological violence.” As of October 2006, when Liberal and FSLN National Assembly representatives joined forces to criminalize all forms of abortion, the pregnancies of young girls and teenagers can no longer be legally terminated, even in the most extreme therapeutic cases. On July 16, organizations belonging to the Strategic Group for the Decriminalization of Therapeutic Abortion staged a new protest in front of the Supreme Court of Justice to demand that it respond to the suits of unconstitutionality filed against this legal resolution some four years ago, which continue to be ignored.

On July 25, Deputy Foreign Minister Manuel Coronel Kautz, named by President Ortega to head up Nicaragua’s recently created Grand Inter-oceanic Canal Authority, announced that two Dutch companies are about to initiate a pre-feasibility study to analyze a route for that canal that would go along the Río San Juan and across Lake Cocibolca. It is one of six proposed routes for either a water- or land-based canal. The study, which will cost US$720,000, will be ready at the end of January 2013. According to Coronel, the five other proposed routes already have advanced studies. The presidential adviser for environmental issues, scientist Jaime Incer Barquero, recently pointed out that the Río San Juan no longer has the required depth for this megaproject and has joined other Nicaraguan environmentalists in warning of the environmental and social disaster that a canal would cause to both the river and the lake, whose waters are the country’s most valuable resource in terms of ensuring water to Nicaragua’s population.

The Nicaraguan delegation at the Río+20 Conference in June took the Vatican’s side in its effort to avoid any mention in the final documents of “reproductive rights” and “reproductive health services” as expressions of public policies that seek “sustainable development.” The Vatican, which reads these terms as euphemisms for guaranteeing women’s right to abortion, was supported by the delegates of Russia, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Syria, Egypt, Malta, Poland and Costa Rica. The countries in favor of including those two concepts were the United States, Bolivia, Peru, Uruguay, Mexico, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland and Iceland. (For a different position by Christian Churches, see the ad by the Latin American Council of Churches on the next page).

On July 12, Spanish Ambassador to Nicaragua León de la Torre turned over to the Managua municipal government 42 hectares of La Chureca garbage dump already filled and sealed after years of work financed by Spanish cooperation. Spain will continue the project through the construction of housing, a health center and a recycling plant that will employ the 258 families who currently pick through the garbage in search of anything of value in this gigantic open-air dump. Juan Mariscal, coordinator of the Spanish cooperation agency, said this is the most costly project (40 million euros) ever undertaken by Spain’s international cooperation anywhere in the world.

Nicaragua’s very discreet participation in the Summer Olympics in London consisted of six athletes: Dalia Torres (swimming, women’s 100 meters butterfly), Lucía Castañeda (weight-lifting, women’s 63 kg), Ingrid Narváez (athletics, women’s 400 meters), Yasser Núñez (swimming, men’s 100 meter freestyle), Edgar Cortez (athletics, men’s 800 meters) and Osmar Bravo (men’s light heavyweight boxing, 81 kg). None of them won a medal, but Bravo at least passed the first classification.

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