Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 413 | Diciembre 2015



Nicaragua briefs

Envío team


Thousands of Cuban citizens trying to enter Nicaragua from Costa Rica on November 15 were prevented from crossing by a cordon of Nicaraguan anti-riot police. All had left Cuba legally and were on route from Ecuador, which doesn’t require a visa for Cubans. They were hoping to make it to the United States where they would be favored by the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which grants Cuban nationals resident status by merely stepping on US territory. Because Costa Rica continued to issue transit visas to Cubans crossing its southern border with Panama even after Nicaragua began preventing them from leaving via its northern border, the bottleneck had grown to some 2,000 stranded migrants by then. At that point the Nicaraguan police were joined by an Army infantry battalion. Those who tried to evade this unexpected obstacle were forced back into Costa Rican territory by rubber bullets and tear gas.

The Nicaraguan government described its repression as a justified response to protect the country’s sovereignty and its defenders justified it by referring to the terrorist attacks in Paris two days earlier. The border was closed to all for two days, including Nicaraguans living or working in Costa Rica, and the Cubans were still denied admittance even after it was reopened.

Between January and October of this year, more than 20,000 Cubans abandoned their country for Ecuador; some say this increase is due to fears that continued Cuban-US negotiations will lead to repeal of the Adjustment Act, ending such privileged treatment for Cubans. These are not raft people. They have accumulated money, some by selling their homes, and can afford the costs of flying to Ecuador and hiring coyotes to take them north. Some even fly to the United States from Ecuador, while others opt for the somewhat cheaper and more problematic land route. According to the NGO Nicas Migrantes, 13,000 have come through Costa Rica, although figures show only 987 passing through Nicaragua, which charges $80 per head to allow them through.

The obstacle Nicaragua erected triggered a crisis that was addressed on November 24 during a meeting in El Salvador of the Central American Integration System (SICA), also attended by representatives of the four other countries affected by this massive transit: Cuba, Ecuador, Colombia and Mexico. By that date some 3,000 Cubans were stranded at the Nicaraguan border and it was learned that Costa Rica was still issuing transit visas to the stream continuing to come from Ecuador. While 11 of the 12 countries favored creating a humanitarian corridor, SICA couldn’t issue a joint declaration because Nicaragua remained entrenched in its position, which it expressed in its own document. According to the Ortega government, these countries had attended the meeting “with the objective of alerting the international community to the worsening of this crisis, which the Government of Costa Rica has used to legitimate the Adjustment Act and Wet Feet/Dry Feet Policy, designed and maintained by the United States of North America as part of its blockade against Cuba, denounced and condemned by the entire world. The Government of Costa Rica has created and manipulated this crisis, refusing to recognize and ignoring the causes and the responsibility of the United States in encouraging an unsafe, undignified, disorderly and illegal migration that affects Cuba and is now affecting the Central American Region.”

This position was seen as intransigent internationally and revealed yet again, this time dramatically, the pernicious lack of dialogue between the Nicaraguan and Costa Rican governments. While not referring directly to the Cuban migration, President Ortega’s speech to National Police Academy cadets the day after the SICA meeting reiterated Nicaragua’s determination to confront illegal migrants and investigate them to detect possible terrorists among them, this time referring to his government’s cooperation with Washington. “We have formed special units to share information with the United States,” he said. “When illegal immigrants come here it’s no longer going to be a question of seeking to move them out quickly; now we’re going to have to detain them longer.” Nicaragua’s human rights organizations and the Nicaraguan Civil Society Network for Migrations have criticized the excessive violence the government employed against the Cubans and supported the creation of a humanitarian corridor to streamline the passage of the increasing numbers of them through Central America on their way to the United States. One can only wonder how many elements of this issue, starting with the US welcome, would have played out differently had migrants from any other Latin American country been substituted for Cuba.


On November 10, President Ortega received the credentials from the new ambassadors of Chile, France, Palestine and the Unites States in his residence, which also houses the presidential headquarters and the governing FSLN’s party secretariat. Ortega was especially cordial to US Ambassador Laura Farnsworth Dogu, who previously held the second most important post in the US Embassy in Mexico. After showing her around his residence following the official act, he said to her, “Rest assured, dear ambassador, that there were a lot of expectations today: What will the ambassador say? And some will criticize you tomorrow because you did not say what they thought you should say. Of course they are going to criticize you, like they criticize President Obama!” Among other things, the ambassador mentioned numbers that speak for themselves about the close links between the two countries: nearly 400,000 Nicaraguans live in the United States; last year nearly a quarter of a million US citizens visited or lived in Nicaragua, and approximately 300,000 Nicaraguans, more than 10% of the country’s labor force, have jobs as a result of US investments in Nicaragua.


Once First Lady Rosario Murillo had installed the 94th giant Gustav Klimt-like iron and steel “trees of life” in the capital, she announced that before the year is over there will be 40 more of these structures, which come in two heights (42 and 68 feet), weigh between 7 and 9 tons, are now in 7 different colors rather than the original mustard yellow and are lit by between 15,000 and 17,000 small bulbs for 4 hours each night. La Prensa again questioned this excess on its front page in early November, reporting that, while no institution would provide any official information, it had calculated the materials and labor costs for each of the 134 monstrosities at US$25,000, for a total of $3.35 million, and estimated the annual electricity cost at $1.1 million. The National Electricity Transmission Company and the Managua mayor’s office are the two institutions responsible for constructing, transporting and erecting the trees, though the cos is not reflected in their budgets. Responding to La Prensa, Murillo said this about her beautification project, which now lights up the main avenues of the capital so visibly they can be seen by passing planes: “The Managua mayor’s office is preparing everything for the installation of more Trees of Life, which we feel so proud of, to adorn the streets of our capital and make them so festive. We have received a number of communications reflecting the joy Managua families feel…” Not content with the actual trees, the government has also incorporated their design as part of its logo on official stationary and painted it on the side of at least one ministry.


Antonio Lacayo, President Violeta Chamorro’s son-in-law and minister of the presidency during her government (1990-1997), was killed early in the morning of November 17, when the helicopter he was traveling in went down over the San Juan River right after a loud boom was heard. The government designated an Air Force-Civil Aeronautics commission to investigate the accident, but the team had yet to announce the causes when this issue closed two weeks later. At the time of the crash, Lacayo was on his way back to Managua from the department of Río San Juan with two US businessmen linked to the Coca Cola company. The helicopter was flown by Captain Juan Francisco Lemus, a skilled pilot who joined the Nicaraguan Army at a very young age and had experience in the Middle East and other countries. According to the forensic findings, he and the other occupants died not from drowning but from “considerable impacts of an important intensity.” Lacayo had been working for years with the Pellas Group, which includes the Nicaraguan Coca Cola plant and distribution among its numerous holdings. On November 19, Jesuit priest Iñaki Zubizarreta officiated at the Mass preceding Lacayo’s burial. In his homily Father Zubizarreta said of his lifelong friend,“In a complex, difficult and polarized moment of tensions and war he made a definitive contribution to peace and reconciliation in Nicaragua. He knew how to steer the ship, together with doña Violeta, to help us start understanding each other better little by little. Where might we find people like him today, who could help us reconcile, live like brothers and sisters?”

Print text   

Send text

<< Previous   Next >>


Steeled against “risks” and “threats” Steeled against “risks” and “threats”

Nicaragua briefs

Interoceanic canal: “Stop that project!”

Money laundering is a huge challenge for our institutions and our societies

El Salvador
“El Buen Vivir” and the “Laudato Si’”

Challenging mental barriers and physical boundaries

They’re always watching us: The end of private life
Envío a monthly magazine of analysis on Central America
GüeGüe: Web Hosting and Development