Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 397 | Agosto 2014




Envío team

Tiang Je, an executive of the HKND Group, the Chinese company granted the interoceanic canal construction concession, announced that they would build an explosives factory in Nicaragua to make 1.2 billion tons of dynamite. These explosives will be used to break up the mountains the canal will pass through and to dynamite the bedrock of Lake Cocibolca [also known as Lake Nicaragua] to reach the depth of 30 meters required for the gigantic post-Panamax ships to be able to cross it. Lake Cocibolca has a hidden “mountain range” whose visible peaks are Ometepe, Zapatera, and the Solentiname archipelago, which are all islands of volcanic origin. The consequences of dynamiting the lake bed are unpredictable.

HKND’s chosen canal route will affect the San Miguelito wetlands in southeast Nicaragua, one of the more than 1,900 wetlands of international importance protected by the Ramsar Convention, in effect since 1975 and of which Nicaragua is a signatory. According to the Humboldt Center, in addition to this “Ramsar site,” another five protected areas will potentially be affected by the canal construction: Cerro Silva, the Southeast Biosphere Reserve, the Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge, the Ometepe Island Biosphere Reserve and the Solentiname Archipelago. The Humboldt Center identified some 18 species of mammals, birds and fish in critical danger due to the canal.

HKND reported that the canal will be 278 kilometers long (nearly 173 miles), 105 of which will be the 52-meter wide channel to be excavated in Lake Cocibolca to a depth of 30 meters. This will require the extraction of nearly 1.1 billion tons of accumulated sediment. The canal will also be flanked by 10-kilometer-wide strips to the north and south that will be owned by HKND, requiring the expropriation of the properties of thousands of small, medium and large farmers currently working that land. Based on the selected canal route, the Humboldt Center has calculated the canal’s direct and indirect area of influence at 6.52 million square kilometers of land. Twelve municipalities will be directly affected by the canal (Bluefields, Nueva Guinea, San Carlos, El Castillo, San Miguelito, Altagracia, Belén, Tola, Buenos Aires, San Jorge, Rivas and San Juan del Sur), six of which (Bluefields, Nueva Guinea, San Miguelito, San Carlos, Tola and Rivas) are in the canal’s direct path. The Center calculates that some 282 communities of different sizes will be directly affected by the canal, and obviously even more will be indirectly affected, although it’s impossible to calculate the exact number of people living in them as there are areas of very dispersed populations, particularly in the Rama and Kriol territory.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin made a quick stopover in Nicaragua on July 11, on his way from Cuba to Argentina in a
six-day junket through Latin America that ended up in Brazil, where he participated in the BRICS Summit (an acronym referring to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). He only spent an hour and 20 minutes in Nicaragua, and got no further than the International Airport in Managua, during which time he spoke with President Ortega. According to Russia’s RT news agency, Putin touched on the construction of the interoceanic canal and the installation in Nicaragua of the GLONASS satellite navigation system, Russia’s alternative to the US GPS system. Putin called Nicaragua “a very important partner” in Latin America and highlighted the cooperation between the two countries over the last 70 years. Ortega said he was honored by the visit, which he called “historic,” comparing it to a “bolt of lightning.” According to some sources, it was Fidel Castro who suggested that Putin visit Ortega.

The same day, US Chamber of Commerce Vice President Jodi Hanson Bond visited Nicaragua and met with President Ortega, who expressed Central America’s concern about the effects on the region of the Transpacific Strategic Partnership Agreement, a regional free trade proposal being negotiated those very days in Ottawa by 12 countries of the Asia-Pacific region. The previous day Ortega met with the World Bank’s managing director, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who on his visit congratulated Ortega on his economic policies. Then on July 24 the President met with Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno and on July 29 with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, on his way to Costa Rica. At the end of his visit Ban Ki-moon congratulated Ortega for his “great leadership capacity for the Nicaraguan people” and “his work together with the United Nations in the search for peace, security, development and human rights.” He added that Nicaragua had made major achievements in the environment and in social and economic development, “including citizen security, as Nicaragua is one of the model countries where people can live and walk around with no threat.” He invited Ortega to the UN summit on climate change and showed particular interest in the country’s advances in generating renewable energies, a priority issue for this UN leader.

Nicaragua’s dry corridor, which is part of one that runs throughout Central America, has been hit by a particularly aggressive drought this year. The first maize and beans planting in the affected municipalities has been lost and thousands of head of cattle have died due to lack of pasture and water, with another 700-800,000 head in critical condition. After campaigns in which the gravity of the crisis was not fully accepted, Álvaro Fiallos, president of the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG), declared on July 28 that “right now we’re talking about saving cattle, but we’re going to have to go in to save people, which is even more important.” A severe scarcity of food is expected for August.

Sources in Costa Rica’s Managua Consulate say they are processing 800 visas a day and that the people waiting in interminable lines outside the Consulate every day are almost all Nicaraguans. The number of Nicaraguans requesting double-entry visa is particularly growing, with the Consulate receiving requests for them from 9,000 Nicaraguans just between last December and July of this year. The vast majority of such applications are from young men and women who plan to go on to Panama to work and need a Costa Rican visa to cross that country by land. Panamanian Migration recorded 40,183 Nicaraguans entering last year.

President Daniel Ortega began his speech on July 19 saying: “Over the course of our life, in the moments of joy and the moments of pain, I have always invoked God and have thanked God… To come to Sandino I first came to Christ. To come to the Cuban Revolution I first came to Christ. To come to Marx, to Lenin, to Engels, I first came to Christ. To come to the people I first came to Christ. And I want to say here in public for the first time: I have always called on God, saying: ‘Lord, make me an instrument of peace; where there is hate, let me sow love; where there is injury, forgiveness ….” Evangelical pastor Augusto César Marenco, of the Apostolic Christian Center Ministry later commented on one of the government’s digital pages: “The divine hand operated in him to say something he had never said before. He has had to see the prayer many people have made… We are seeing the results of what God can do in a man…. I think he is experiencing something that has to be divine to be able to say that… I see a connection that is divine. That man has definitely been touched by God.”

At the July 19 commemoration, First Lady Rosario Murillo enthusiastically read out an “emotional and special” message from Cuba by Fidel Castro. This is its full text: “Dear Daniel, I salute the Sandinista victory of July 19 with the same enthusiasm as if it were July 26, 1953, or January 1, 1959. Nicaragua has become a now irreversible bulwark of the anti-imperialist struggle. “You and Rosario, as Bolivarian leader Hugo Chávez, inevitable champion of the struggle for socialism and the anti-imperialist revolution in Latin America, also did later, will occupy a place of honor in the history of the peoples of this continent, which will someday also include the laboring and intelligent people of the United States.”

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