Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 405 | Abril 2015




Envío team

An International Monetary Fund mission visited Nicaragua for a week between March 4 and 11. Even though Nicaragua has not had a program with it since 2012, the IMF visits the country once a year as a “trusted adviser.” In a press conference at the end of its review, IMF deputy managing director Min Zhu said that Nicaragua’s “economic growth has exceeded that of the other countries of the region and its social indicators have improved, although reducing poverty continues to be one of the challenges facing Nicaragua.” He added that it needs to invest more in education and in innovation to improve its productivity, which is well below Central American levels. The Alliance for Fiscal Justice, made up of eight civil society organizations, sent Min an open letter on March 5 reminding him that Nicaragua’s tax law has “completely” ignored the IMF’s recommendations to reduce the exonerations received by the country’s big companies. The letter argues that “protecting those fiscal privileges undermines Nicaraguans’ economic development” and asks the IMF to write up and publish an “Evaluation of fiscal transparency” for Nicaragua, as it did for Bolivia and Costa Rica. They also asked it to require the government to provide “exhaustive” information about “the amount and destination of Venezuela’s cooperation resources” and expressed the “great concern” in the country about the financial panorama of the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute, aggravated following a reform the government decided to implement with IMF approval.

Russian Foreign Minister Serguéi Lavrov visited Nicaragua on March 25 to ratify agreements on “agriculture, transport infrastructure, civil aviation, machinery construction, satellite navigation and the pharmaceutical industry.” Lavrov’s previous visit was almost exactly a year ago. Following the closed-door meeting between Ortega and Lavrov no more information was released about the fighter planes that Army Chief Julio César Avilés had announced would be sold or donated to Nicaragua by Russia. Avilés insists that Nicaragua needs to acquire four ships and four to six planes to defend its sovereignty and notes that acquiring them will depend on the availability of cooperation from some countries, mentioning Russia, Holland, Spain and Brazil. On his junket, Lavrov also visited Cuba, Colombia and Guatemala and while in the latter announced that Russia will install a regional training center in Nicaragua for security and police officers from all of Central America.

Army of Nicaragua First Lieutenant Yader Montiel, head of the medical corps of the Army’s fifth region, was sentenced on March 20 to three months in prison for “violating Army decorum” while on leave at his mother-in-law’s house in San Miguelito on Christmas Eve. His “crime” was to have criticized the violent police repression of peasants in the nearby district of El Tule for protesting the possible expropriation of their lands for the building of the interoceanic canal. Montiel said things like: “Another Red Christmas…. We’re returning to the eighties and again staining the homeland with the blood of our peasant brothers.…” He was arrested on January 8 after a snitch reported his comments to top authorities of the governing party but was not tried and declared guilty of the charges against him until March 10. In the courtroom he said: “If you condemn me, society will absolve me.” The Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) defined him as the “first political prisoner in the Army” and a “prisoner of conscience.” The case, a clear violation of the human right to freedom of conscience and expression guaranteed all citizens, caused major concern as the Army was seen to be sending a warning to its own ranks and the rest of society, and as it also revealed the espionage promoted by the governing party.

On the morning of Good Friday, April 3, employees of the Moyogalpa mayor’s office on the island of Ometepe used heavy machinery belonging to the National Port Authority to level a hotel alongside the town’s port area belonging to Liberal tourism and transportation businessman Milton Arcia. He valued the hotel, which had been under construction for over 10 years and was to have been inaugurated this August, at some US$7 million. Arcia and three other men, one of them a leader of the anti-canal protest on the island, were detained for several hours by the National Police after attempting to resist the demolition. Local townspeople protesting their arrest were confronted by anti-riot police, reportedly causing tourists there for the holidays to flee the island. In a press release, the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) called the demolition “arbitrary and illegal” while some members of the business elite allied with the government seemed to distance themselves from Arcia by only lamenting the lack of due process. An administrative agreement dated (some suspect pre-dated) March 27 and signed by the attorney general but only made public on April 9, six days after the hotel was flattened, declared the over 4,000 square meters of land it sat on as “public utility” for the “expansion and development of a port zone.” Sources close to the government, however, told the weekly news bulletin Confidencial that only after the fact First Lady Rosario Murillo ordered the Port Authority to quickly draw up a plan to include a new wharf, jetty and promenade. Arcia vowed to exhaust the national legal avenues and go international if necessary.

According to data of TELCOR, the state telecommunications authority, Nicaragua now has 7,552,545 cell phone numbers, while the estimated population is 6.2 million. It is calculated that the number of mobile phones will increase by a further 709,454 this year. Meanwhile, the cost of cell phone calls in Nicaragua is the highest of any Central American country.

After ten years of research, three Nicaraguan scientists belonging to the Alliance for Wildlife Areas (ALAS) published the country’s first-ever Illustrated Guide of Birds of Nicaragua. Also after ten years, the Illustrated Guide of Amphibians and Reptiles of Nicaragua was updated by nine scientists and reissued with funds from German cooperation. The guide provides photos and information on 249 species, 11 of which are endemic.

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