Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 416 | Marzo 2016



Nicaragua briets


In the early morning of March 3, Bertha Cáceres, a leader of Honduras’ Lenca people whose entire life was dedicated to their human rights and the struggle to save their environment from transnational megaprojects, was murdered in her home. Bertha visited Juigalpa, Nicaragua, in August 2015 to participate in a forum for women leaders of different Nicaraguan social organizations who had recently committed to a movement against mining, mono-cropping and the interoceanic canal project. Only hours after hearing the news of her death, representatives of Nicaraguan organizations gathered in front of the Embassy of Honduras where they read a pronouncement stating that “Her murder is a crime attributable only to the companies owning the mining and hydroelectric projects that were illegally authorized by the State without the indigenous peoples’ consent. The government of Honduras is an accomplice and co-responsible for her death.” Bertha’s four children also accused the Honduran State and government. Upon learning of the crime, President Ortega sent a letter of solidarity and support, but to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández rather than to the Civic Council of Indigenous Grassroots Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), which Cáceres founded and coordinated.


The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a communique on February 23 expressing “concern” about the “increase of incidents of violence” against the Miskitu people in Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean region. The IACHR said that since November 2015 it had received information about the murder of six indigenous people, the kidnapping of ten, the sexual abuse of three women, the burning of houses and crops and acts of intimidation, harassment and threats against several communities that were forcibly evicted within a context of “territorial conflict.” For over a year now the indigenous people have been charging that the violence is being caused by the mestizos invading their territories from the other side of the country and that the authorities are not protecting them. In early February the inspector general of the Army of Nicaragua, General Adolfo Zepeda, declared that the northern Caribbean zones are calm, although he called for dialogue to end the conflict. The Miskitus insist that the government comply with the law and promote the “saneamiento,” or title clearance process established in the territorial demarcation law that would result in the departure of illegal settlers from the zone. The government responded to the IACHR communique on February 25 with a note full of rhetorical generalities to ratify its “unwavering recognition of the person, family and community” and its “firm and invariable commitment to continue making progress in assuring the common good and the promotion of the fair development of Nicaraguans throughout the national territory.”


On February 9, Erika Guevara-Rosas, director of Amnesty International’s Program for America, expressed AI’s opinion on the suit filed by three indigenous and Afro descendent communities of the Rama and Kriol Territory of Nicaragua’s Southern Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region against the interoceanic canal project, which would throw them ¬¬¬off their lands. “The fact that Nicaragua is planning to go ahead with a mega project that will destroy the lives of many communities without even properly taking their views into consideration is outrageous. Trading on people’s basic human rights for the sake of money is not only morally questionable but also illegal. Authorities in Nicaragua must ensure they listen to those who will be most affected by the building of the canal, and take their views into account for decision making.” In those same days, the Rama and Kriol Territorial Government (GTR-K) had presented a suit of protection against a January 10 document in which the government of Nicaragua states that the GTR-K had given its free and informed consent for the construction of the canal and the associated subprojects in the 263 square kilometers of their ancestral territory. In the suit, the plaintiffs denounce the pressures and anomalies with which the Ortega government officials prepared that document.


Five volcanoes in Nicaragua erupted in February. After 110 years of silence, Momotombo has been intermittently spewing ash, lava and incandescent material since December 1 of last year. In this same period the Masaya Volcano began to activate, producing tremors in the area and revealing an extensive lake of lava in its crater, with new mouths opening. Then on January 10 the Telica Volcano also caused earth tremors and spewed gasses, ash and white-hot material. Cerro Negro, the youngest in Nicaragua’s chain of volcanos also caused seismic activity in the area on February 13. Finally, at the end of the month, the San Cristóbal Volcano erupted, throwing out burning material. Scientists from the US Geological Survey’s Volcano Observatory, which visited the country in February, discarded any connection between the activities of the five volcanoes, but recommended that a map of dangerous volcanoes be prepared, as our country does not currently have one.


Information multiplied throughout February about the death of dozens of howler monkeys in areas of Nicaragua’s south Pacific region. Although there are various hypotheses, all agree that the deaths are related to the grave effects of climate change and the cutting down of the forests in which these animals live. Drought and the loss of habitat have deprived the monkeys of both food and water. They may also be affected by some illness spawned by the drastic change of climate in the zone, with conditions similar to areas in Panama and Ecuador where unaccustomed deaths of this species have also been observed. After a month and a half of requesting permission, the environmental organization Paso Pacífico is hoping the Nicaraguan government will finally support its planned investigation into these deaths, with resources to conduct it. Howler monkeys are a tourist attraction in this area of the country.


News of accelerated deforestation in the country has appeared daily in the country in the first months of this year without the government showing any political will to halt it. The massive deforestation is intimately linked with a lack of water in rivers, gullies and rural wells. In large areas of the country the population lacks water, having to go long distances in search of it or receiving it in a contaminated state. In a visit to the northern municipality of Dipilto, Nueva Segovia, where the pine forests are being clear-cut, the presidential adviser for environmental issues, Jaime Incer Barquero, to whom the government never listens, stated with alarm that “never before in the history of Nicaragua has such intensive and extensive forest destruction been seen as in recent years.”


Following its visit to the country in early February, the International Monetary Fund left the government its recommendations in an extensive 79-page document. It reiterated the recommendation it has been making for years: that the government reduce the tax exonerations and exemptions and target the fiscal subsidies better, which would make public finances more efficient and equitable. The IMF also warned that, according to its projections, the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute (INSS) will be insolvent by 2024, which means the central government will have to transfer resources to finance its deficit. For this reason, it suggests addressing this long-term deficit right away, as it considers it a key issue. Demonstrating no concern, Bayardo Arce, the President’s economic adviser, said that challenge corresponds “to the next generation.”


Because February 6 is the centennial commemoration of the death of famed Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío, President Ortega issued a decree at the beginning of the year establishing the following among other things: “1. In the Year 2016, the year of the ‘Sun that illuminates, the New Victories’ all Fecund, Generous, Christian, Socialist and Solidary Labor of the Nicaraguan State will be dedicated to honor the distinguished Master of Masters, ‘Father and Magic Teacher, Celestial Poet,’ Poet of Nicaragua and the World, Rubén Darío. 2. As a consequence, all institutions of the State will guide their work inspired by the Word and the ‘Golden Dawn’ of Rubén. Sentences, Images that reflect his Greatness will guide our Task in the different Spheres and Arenas proper to the entire Nicaraguan State. 3. The Educational System, Universities, Technical Schools, Teacher Training Schools, Preschools, Primary and Secondary Schools and Institutes will study Rubén in his Primordial and Spiritual Legacy, which aggrandizes the Nicaraguan Soul. 4. All Representatives of the Government of Nicaragua Abroad will hold Events throughout the Year to honor him, publicizing them as he deserves…. 7. The Rubén Darío Order of Cultural Independence will be awarded to the Best Examples of Talent, Intelligence, Creativity and Performances in all Fields of our Human Activity.” (All capital letters are in the original.)


As a gift to celebrate Cardinal Miguel Obando’s 90th birthday on February 2, President Ortega presented him a presidential decree that, among other things, defines the Cardinal as “…endowed with gigantic Moral Energy and undeniable Civic Valor; we have seen him raise his hand to bless and always exhort to Dialogue, Pardon and Reconciliation as a means to achieve Peace…” The decree’s first article orders that “His Most Reverend Eminence Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo be named ‘National Hero of Peace and Reconciliation’ as a Duty of the Peoples in recognition of the Valor and Glory of their Sons who have offered and spent their Life to find the Reconciliation and Peace that the People of Nicaragua enjoy today.” (All capital letters are in the original.) Days later, Obando declared: “I did not seek it, but I thank the President for this kindness to me.” On March 2 the presidential decree was approved only by the majority representatives of the governing party in the National Assembly. In the 19th century, lawyer Miguel de Larreynaga and priest Tomás Ruiz were declared national heroes of Independence.

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