Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 411 | Octubre 2015





On September 3, paradoxically the Day of the Peasant, the presidency ordered the Ministry of the Family, Community, Cooperative and Associative Economy to forcibly take control of the offices of the National Federation of Agricultural and Agro-industrial Cooperatives (FENACOOP), an umbrella organization of more than 400 coops representing thousands of peasant families. Complying with an illegal order to liquidate the organization, ministry workers broke down its doors and locks with iron bars. The ministry had ordered an audit of the federation in April, and in a violation of all normal procedures had decided within hours to dissolve it. This final aggression was implemented despite a number of legal initiatives taken since then. Sinforiano Cáceres, FENACOOP’s president for more than 20 years, charged that the move was a personal reprisal for his outspoken critical thinking and a shot over the bow of Nicaragua’s other 11 cooperative federations: “Either subordinate yourselves or the same thing will happen to you.” Cáceres, who has Sandinista roots, is respected nationally for his proactive leadership. Since 2003 he has written seven “Speaking Out” articles for envío, consistently demonstrating his commitment to the development of the rural world.


On September 8, another commemorative day, this time the International Day of the Journalist, prestigious Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui visited Managua to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Nicaragun TV news magazine program “Esta Semana,” directed and hosted by Carlos Fernando Chamorro. She spent more than an hour commenting on various important events in her country’s current dynamic, particularly the disappearance of the young teaching school students of Ayotzinapa and the corruption scandal involving the building of a luxurious house for President Peña Nieto’s wife. Aristegui also discussed the “false Televisa team” case, a drug-trafficking scandal involving Nicaragua and the powerful Mexican media firm Televisa. Despite having covered the case from Mexico, she admitted that “we still don’t know the ins and outs of what happened there…. The trial was totally irregular both here [Nicaragua] and there [Mexico]…. In Nicaragua the trial became increasingly more opaque…. We never learned anything…. It’s a disgraceful story.” It became public on August 26, 2012, when Nicaragua’s National Police presented 18 Mexicans captured at the northern border traveling in six vans with the Televisa logo and equipped with costly communication technology. They were discovered to be carrying $9.2 million from drug sales. Information from Costa Rica revealed that this same caravan with the same journalists had traveled round trip between Mexico and that country at least 16 times during the previous two years. Televisa denied any links to the group or vehicles, but Aristegui’s team demonstrated that the vehicles did indeed belong to it.


In his speech on September 8, also celebrated as Nicaragua’s Day of the Entrepreneur, reelected Superior Council of Private Enterprise president José Adán Aguerri referred to a few institutional topics, among them the November 2016 presidential and legislative elections: “There needs to be independent national and international observation and the production and distribution of ID-voter cards unaffected by any party manipulation. The votes must be counted transparently and efficiently. The upcoming electoral processes must provide a scenario that permits the reeducation of the political class to the fact that political dialogue and consensus-reaching are necessary to continue down the path of economic and social development the country needs.”


The new US ambassador, Laura Farnsworth Dogu, arrived on September 28 to replace Phyllis Powers, who has finished her three-year stint. Powers had originally been confirmed as ambassador to Panama in August 2010, but in December of the following year, when Jonathan D. Farrar’s nomination to be US Ambassador to Nicaragua was stalled by two rightwing Cuban-American senators, Obama chose Powers instead and Farrar finished her post in Panama City. In her last interview in Nicaragua, journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro asked Powers for her views on the next Nicaraguan elections, almost exactly a year away. She answered that “the transparency of elections in any country is important to the United States. We believe that each country, each citizen, has the right to faiir and transparent elections, where they can vote and their vote will count and be meaningful. The reports of the OAS and the European Union with their recommendations in 2012, months after the 2011 elections, were very important for us and still are…. It’s a shame that nothing came of those recommendations. The Nicaraguan citizenry still has questions about the transparency of future elections and we support the idea that they deserve transparent elections for everyone.” Asked about the interoceanic canal, she said, “I am still waiting for the publication of the environmental risk study. I also know that investors are waiting for the feasibility study, to hear who’s going to do the design and what opportunities there are. There are still questions for serious investors from the United States. No one is calling us at this time, but there is interest. It’s obvious, because it’s a very big project, but until there are those studies…”


Thousands of Catholic and Evangelical residents of Rancho Grande, Matagalpa, participated in a pilgrimage on October 3 against Canadian mining company B2Gold’s open-pit gold mining project in Cerro Pavón, a hill near their town. The pilgrimage, called by the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, concluded with a Mass in which he quoted from Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical “Laudato Si’” to issue a powerful NO to mining in the municipality. Rancho Grande is a lush agricultural area that provides food for much of Matagalpa and its population is steadfastly united against the mine, despite the company’s attempts to buy people off and the government’s support for the project. Later that same day, the governing party organized a countermarch to defend B2Gold, bringing in people from as far away as León in government-paid buses. Bishop Álvarez, who has supported the population’s opposition from the outset, called the government’s measure “intimidating.” Fortunately, there were no incidents.

In a postscript as this issue was going to press, the government abruptly announced that the Ministry of the Enviornment and Natural Resources declared the open-pit mine project “non-viable.” Skeptics, however, found pleny of wiggle-room in the language being bandied about—“cancellation of contract” in some reports ”suspension” in others—and warned that until there is a signature on the dotted line of the contract cancellation, opponents of the mine should not let down their guard.


Nicaragua’s speech to this year’s United Nations General Assembly on October 1 was attributed to President Ortega but read by former Army chief and current Vice President Omar Halleslevens. Delivered to a largely empty hall, it was typically laden with rhetoric and repeated the same concepts over and over. Ortega wrote that in today’s world, so different from the one that saw the emergence of the UN, “selfishness, arrogance and meddling have altered and completely broken the right to peace, sovereign security and life for millions of human beings, blaming “the growing greed of global capitalism” for all “the military, food, environmental, labor and humanitarian crises of infinite proportions and consequences the world is experiencing today,” adding that “there is no region on the planet where the imperial hand does not reveal itself today in the form of intrigues.” The only concrete message of the text, sent from “blessed and always free” Nicaragua, was a proposal to “reinvent, democratize and refound the United Nations.” Curiously, although the project to build an interoceanic canal through Nicaragua has been billed as “the greatest work in the history of humanity” and the eyes of the world are trained on it, there was again no reference to it, an absence noted in speeches to international and national audiences for nearly a year now.


In recent years, Nicaraguan migration to Panama has grown to such a degree that this country is now our emigrants’ second destination after Costa Rica. The Costa Rican Consulate in Managua issues 300 visas to Nicaraguan emigrants per day, largely to people planning to cross Costa Rica by land to get to Panama, where they typically feel less rejected than in Costa Rica. Most of the women are young and get jobs as housekeepers while the men mainly go to work in construction, in contrast to Costa Rica, where the majority of jobs are in agricultural labor. According to data from both Nicaragua’s Central Bank and money transfer agencies, family remittances from Panama hit US$10.9 million in the first quarter of the year, climbing to US$14.6 the second. It’s still a long way from the money sent home from Costa Rica, however, which amounted to US$68.5 million in the same second quarter.


In the latest Cid Gallup poll, conducted between September 1 and 7 with a sample of 1,202 people across the country, 56% said they or some relative had suffered dengue or chikungunya, two viral diseases transmitted by the same vectors: the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitos. Chikungunya has symptoms similar to dengue. It causes high fevers and intense joint pains that can last months and are worse in joints also prone to arthritis. The two epidemics are attacking both urban and rural sectors and most of those suffering it have self-medicated, rendering the official Health Ministry records less than reliable.

Another significant fact from the same poll refers to the drinking water service: 44% of those surveyed do not receive water permanently inside their houses, with 22% receiving it only a few hours in the day or night, 14% receiving it every two days, 4% only once a week and 5% do not have household service at all.


Fulfilling the anxious expectations of representatives of Nicaragua’s big national capital, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the second wealthiest man in the world after Bill Gates, spent a day in Nicaragua on September 10 at the invitation of Bayardo Arce, President Ortega’s economic affairs adviser. It was his second visit. Slim, who has amassed a fortune of over US$77 billion, met with Ortega and the country’s private enterprise leaders. He reportedly exhorted them to invest in education, underscoring the importance of modern quality education to pulling the country out of poverty. The government offered Slim “an ample portfolio” of options to invest in Nicaragua. Asked about the interoceanic canal project, Slim chose not to comment. Arce and the business leaders discarded any idea that he would be interested in investing in that mega-project.


As part of the celebration of the 36th anniversary of Nicaragua’s police department, President Ortega, as its Supreme Chief, published a full-page ad with a personal message in both El Nuevo Diario and La Prensa, the two national newspapers. This uncustomary practice is perhaps explained by the critical moment the National Police finds itself in after the Las Jagüitas massacre several months ago and other actions that have demonstrated unconditional adherence to the governing party. Should there be any doubt about that loyalty, it is resolved by the text, whose abundance of capital letters are telltale signs of the First Lady’s authorship, as this extract demonstrates: “Our National Police, Sandinista Police, Police of the Family and Community, Police of Faith, Hope and Solidarity, has turned 36…. Our Police, Revolutionary, born, raised and growing now, in the New State of an Ever Heroic History, is serving the People with dedication and firmness, and closely shares its Battles and Triumphs…. With the indestructible Legacy of the Heroic Revolutionary Deeds, of its founder Tomás [Borge], and of its Heroes and Martyrs, it continues contributing to the Common Good, the Good Heart, which we in Nicaragua certainly know about, in Evolutionary, Christian, Socialist and Solidary Continuity.”

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