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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 386 | Septiembre 2013
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Nicaragua

NICARAGUA BRIEFS

Envío team

NEVER-ENDING TERRITORIAL
SQUABBLES WITH COSTA RICA…
In a speech on August 13, President Ortega obliquely responded to Costa Rica’s insistence that oil explorations initiated by Nicaragua in August in the Caribbean Sea are in an area yet to be delimited, which Costa Rica claims as its own. He called Guanacaste, Costa Rica’s northwestern-most province on the Pacific side, “Nicaraguan territory” and warned that he is considering taking the case to the International Court of Justice at The Hague to try to recover it.

In 1824, three years after Nicaragua and Costa Rica declared independence from Spain, the township of Nicoya chose to annex to Costa Rica because of their close economic ties, and was followed by Guanacaste because Nicaragua, with which it was economically more identified, was engulfed in civil war. The short-lived Central American Federation ratified the changes in 1826, and after several failed border treaty attempts those limits were established in the Cañas-Jerez treaty of 1858. Nicaragua continued to protest the treaty’s validity, however, until it agreed to submit the issue to US arbitration. Once a few points of interpretation were cleaned up, President Grover Cleveland recognized its validity in 1888.

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla’s response to Ortega was fast and furious. She warned that she would take the issue to the UN Security Council on the grounds that his statement was “a threat to amputate an important portion of our territory” (the province of Guanacaste comprises 20% of Costa Rican territory). There were also anti-Ortega protests in Guanacaste. Undaunted, he again referred to the possibility of suing to recover the province on September 2 and 3.

… AND WITH COLOMBIA
The initiation of oil explorations in August also revived tensions between the governments of Nicaragua and Colombia. The exploration concession was granted to the US company Noble Energy in waters that had belonged to Colombia until the November 2012 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that returned sovereignty of more than 90,000 sq. km in the Caribbean Sea to Nicaragua. Colombia has yet to accept or issue any official statement about the ruling.

In June, Colombia informed the United Nations that Nicaragua was also planning to expand its continental platform and has announced on several occasions that it is preparing “a response” to the Court’s adverse decision. Nonetheless, ICJ decisions are not appealable and there is no history of the Court ever reversing one. The waters awarded to Nicaragua include half of the more than 300,000 sq. km. Seaflower Biosphere Reserve, a biological treasure rich in ecosystems that includes the Americas’ most extensive coral reefs, among the most valuable in the world. Nicaraguan environmental expert Jaime Incer Barquero has recommended that because Nicaragua and Colombia each now own half of the reserve, “efforts need to be made to turn it into an area of binational management.” President Ortega has on various occasions proposed a dialogue with Colombia based on respect for and acceptance of the ICJ decision.

ANTI-DENGUE VACCINE
Socorro Gross, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) representative in Nicaragua, announced that her organization is in the final testing phase of an anti-dengue vaccine that should be available in the country in 2015. Nicaragua will acquire it through an agreement it has had with PAHO for over 30 years, though which it purchases vaccines and other medications via a revolving fund.

TEENAGE PREGNANCIES
According to research by the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) and NicaSalud, financed by the US Agency for International Development, 25% of all births in Nicaragua are by girls and adolescents under 19 years old. In rural areas, the percentage climbs to 30%. The investigation found that although rural adolescents know birth control methods exist, they don’t have access to them and fear being judged by their partner, family or the community if they look for and use them. Margarita Quintanilla, the project’s research coordinator, says that the prohibitions and silence on issues of sexuality in rural areas lead to secret dating and girls eloping with their boyfriends.

ARMY TO PROVIDE SECURITY FOR
TUMARÍN HYDROELECTRIC DAM
The Army of Nicaragua signed an agreement with the Brazilian-financed company Centrales Hidroeléctricas de Nicaragua (CHN) to provide security for the Tumarín hydroelectric dam CHN will build in La Cruz de Río Grande, in the central Caribbean area. The dam will be the largest in the country and generate more than 250 megawatts, half of Nicaragua’s current consumption. After inexplicable or at least unexplained delays and having received a number of privileges from the State, the construction is now scheduled to begin this November and conclude in 2017. The Army’s signing of an agreement with a large private company has been questioned as “unheard-of” by tax law expert Julio Francisco Báez, who has repeatedly warned that the executive branch is privatizing the State to benefit a minority in a process in which state institutions are being turned into co-partners of major companies investing in Nicaragua.

NICARAGUAN MIGRATION
STILL GROWING APACE
According to the study “Perfil migratorio de Nicaragua” (Nicaragua’s Migratory Profile), financed by the International Organization for Migrations and the International Latin American Foundation for Public Policies and Administration, some 800,000 Nicaraguans have emigrated in recent years (40,000 annually) and both temporary and permanent migration are growing. The study indicates that 139,000 professionals over 22 years old emigrated in the past 40 years, the greatest brain drain in the Central American region. The study confirms that the main reasons for this emigration are socioeconomic, fundamentally lack of employment. In 2012 Nicaraguan emigrants sent home a record US$1.14 billion, 10% of the country’s gross domestic product, in the form of remittances to their families. The study also underscores the well-known fact that the main emigration flows are to the north (the United States) and south (Costa Rica and Panama), although emigration to Europe, particularly Spain, has been growing. It is now estimated that 40,000 Nicaraguans are working in Spain, 80% of them women.

ONE CATHOLIC’S INTERPRETATION
OF NICARAGUA’S FAMILY CRISIS
The Archdiocese of Managua’s Family, Life and Childhood Pastoral Commission held its fifth congress in Managua on August 25, in Masaya on September 1 and in Jinotepe on September 8 to analyze the situation of families in Nicaragua. Catholic school parents’ associations and members of Catholic movements attended. Priest Silvio Fonseca, who chairs the commission, called the problems affecting families in Nicaragua “dramatic.” He argued that the crisis began with the promotion of birth control, which he called “aggressive,” and continued with “the plague of unilateral divorce.” He further listed the interruption of pregnancies, unwed couples and same-sex marriages as threats present in society. Fonseca also criticized Law 779 against violence toward women, which he sees as “marked by the ideology of gender.” Fonseca announced that he will work to “save the Nicaraguan family, which seems to have strayed from its principles.”

A WHITE-COLLAR SWINDLE
OF NUNS AND WIDOWS
In mid-August the sisters of the Society of St. Teresa of Jesus filed suit in the Public Prosecutor General’s Office against businessmen Álvaro Montealegre; Roberto Bendaña, Montealegre’s brother-in-law; and Hugo Paguaga, all of them directors of a Panama-based company. The accusation charged the three men of swindling them as their company had not issued the sisters half a million dollars due for two fixed-term investment certificates they acquired in 2012 and 2013. A widow and her two daughters filed a similar suit against the men days later, having received similar excuses to those given the nuns. In their declarations to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the three businessmen reportedly pointed the finger at each other. The case has had extensive media coverage and a major impact due to the social class of the defendants and the political implications, given that Montealegre is the brother of banker Eduardo Montealegre, the Independent Liberal Party’s political coordinator, and Bendaña is a Liberal politician who has previously expressed his presidential aspirations to the media.

HIGHWAYS AND BRIDGES
According to a study by Japanese cooperation, which supports Ministry of Transport projects, only 14% (3,200 kilometers) of Nicaragua’s 22,000 kilometers of road infrastructure is paved, and 73 bridges are needed.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
On August 22, the Supreme Court finally declared that, contrary to the suits of unconstitutionality filed by evangelical lawyers and churches against the “Comprehensive Law against violence toward women” (Law 799), it does not affect any constitutional principles. Although the Court did not specifically hand down a ruling, the declaration was the positive part for the law’s supporters. The negative part was that the Court also sent the legislative branch a proposal to reform the article of the law prohibiting mediation to resolve gender violence cases. The Court suggests permitting mediation—if the woman agrees—when the aggressor is not a multiple offender and only for “minor” offenses, defined as those that carry a five-year prison sentence in the law.

Women’s organizations rejected this reform based on their experience of the serious consequences of the mediation mechanism in cases of violence against women. The Catholic and evangelical church hierarchies and jurists who filed the suits were not pleased with the Court’s ruling, as many totally oppose the law and even want to see it repealed, not just reformed.

In the 12 months since June 2012, when the law went into effect, 89 femicides (the killing of females by males because they are female) have been recorded. Sixty women and girls have been murdered in the country between January and August of this year alone, according to monitoring done by Catholics for the Right to Decide.

SCHOOL SNACK
With support from the UN World Food Programme, the Minister of Education will provide a million preschool and primary school children from 10,000 public and subsidized schools in the country’s 153 municipalities with a free “snack” every day during the last quarter of the school year. The snack, which the parents will prepare, consists of rice and beans, soy oil, tortillas and fortified cereal. The idea is to help develop the young children’s bodies and minds, while also providing a very important incentive for children in the poorest areas of the country to attend school and remain in class.

COOKING WITH FIREWOOD
Some 800,000 families, 60% of Nicaragua’s population, cook with firewood, which causes pulmonary illnesses not to mention severe deforestation, as they consume some 3 million metric tons of wood a year. The government has initiated a strategy to get families to plant trees to supply the firewood they need and both German and Austrian cooperation are promoting the use of more efficient firewood stoves. A World Bank study has found that 2.8 billion of the planet’s 7 billion people cook with wood, 20 million of them in Central America.

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