Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 419 | Junio 2016



Nicaragua briets


It was learned in late May that as a precautionary measure the Brazilian government had suspended funds to the State electric utilities company Electrobras for its part of the construction of Nicaragua’s Tumarín hydroelectric project. Electrobras owns 45% of the shares of Centrales Hidroeléctricas de Nicaragua (CHN), which is in charge of the work but has done virtually nothing visible; another 45% is held by the private Brazilian company Queiroz Galvao and the remaining 10% by the Nicaraguan State. After delays of more than seven years, the passage of laws that exempted the project from requiring competing bids and ongoing official secrecy by the Nicaraguan government, it’s still not known what will happen to Tumarín, a project with an estimated cost of US$1.1 billion that apparently fell prey to the corruption crisis affecting Brazil. All that is known is that Queiroz Galvao is implicated in Brazil’s mega-corruption case known as “Lava Jato.” The Tumarín project was a centerpiece in the Ortega government’s energy expansion plans. At the time of the suspension, the Nicaraguan government had already invested a reported US$60 million in Tumarín. And in 2014 and 2015, when the Brazil scandal was already public news, it agreed to two credits totaling $208 million to develop the project. A hydroelectric plant on the Río Grande de Matagalpa known as run-of-the-river, Tumarín has been criticized by electrical engineer Fernando Bárcenas both for its unviability in these times of climate change, in which the Río Grande is shrinking significantly, and for the excessive cost of the energy it was planned to produce. (See the March 2015 issue of envío for Bárcenas’ article, “A correct energy strategy must be aimed at Nicaragua’s development”).


In mid-April the Communication Department of the Commercial Sciences University in Nicaragua presented the results of a survey on media conducted for the Violeta Chamorro Foundation by the Costa Rican polling firm Borge & Asociados last August. According to the survey, only 15% of those polled regularly read the national newspapers and 69.5% never do. For 64.3% the most credible TV news program is Channel 10%’s Acción 10, characterized by the “if it bleeds it leads” philosophy. Of those polled, 72.4% surf the Internet with their cell phone, and only 16.6% by computer. A full 90% have accounts with Facebook and other social networks, which they use to socialize and obtain information. The poll confirms that, while television is still the dominant informative medium, two-way information via smart phones is on the rise, opening up new possibilities for “citizen journalism.”


The partial reform of Law 735, the Law of Prevention, Investigation and Prosecution of Organized Crime and the Administration of Seized, Confiscated and Abandoned Goods was hurried through the review process and given the green light for its approval on April 13. Sent by the executive branch to the National Assembly on March 16, it leaves to President Ortega’s discretion who to bring on to the National Council against Organized Crime. The reform seemingly wasn’t aimed at improving the efficacy of the struggle against organized crime but rather, like all other laws Ortega has been creating or amending, to centralize more power in his hands and increase his discretionality in the exercise of that power.


In May, Nicaragua’s network of paved roads hit the 4,000-kilometer mark for the first time in the country’s history with the construction of 4.35 kilometers of road between Santa Lucía and the city of Boaco, both in the department of Boaco, and another 15.5 kilometers between San Dionisio and Esquipulas, in the department of Matagalpa. Both stretches of road were paved with adoquines, roughly 2-inch high, six-sided interlocking concrete blocks. According to the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (MTI), one of the current government’s most stable and effective institutions, 2,000 of these 4,000 kilometers are asphalt, 900 are adoquines and 200 hydraulic concrete, the most expensive but longest lasting material. MTI Minister Pablo Fernando Martíne reported that they are now working on the 80-km Nueva Guinea-Bluefields highway and the 44-km Mulukukú-Siuna highway.


Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, the archbishop of Managua, compared the upcoming elections to baseball and soccer games in an elliptical comment on Sunday, June 5. “Sometimes the team one thinks will win,” he said, “ends up losing because the other team does things better.”


In April, the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) certified and recommended the use of a vaccine invented by the global vaccines unit of the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur for use against the four strains of dengue. Its lab has been working on the vaccine for more than two decades and reports that its studies of the vaccine’s use showed a capacity to prevent 8 of every 10 hospitalizations and up to 93% of the most serious cases, which involve the hemorrhagic strains. The overall effectiveness of the vaccine is only 60%, which is reportedly low for vaccines, but it increases in cases of people who have already been affected by dengue at least once, which makes them susceptible to the hemorrhagic effects. Dengue, first found in the country in 1982, is now endemic. It is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also transmits yellow fever, zika and chikungunya. One of the WHO’s objectives is to reduce the contagion in countries with endemic dengue by 25% and their mortality rate by 50% by 2020. Sanofi Pasteur is capable of preparing 100 million vaccines per year. The first program using this vaccine has already begun in the Philippines.


On April 30, a monument was inaugurated in Ciudad Antigua, Nueva Segovia, to the 79 members of the Nicaraguan Resistance from that municipality who died in the war of the eighties. The monument, the first of its kind to be erected in Nicaragua, carries the names of the 79 under the motto “May they rest in the glory of God.” The inaugural act was presided over by the National Coalition for Democracy’s presidential candidate, Luis Callejas, a former Resistance member, who was joined by other PLI legislative representatives. In his dedication Callejas said that “we must respect this homage to the commandos of freedom who offered their lives for Nicaragua’s liberty in all the country’s municipalities. My heart has always been with the Contra.” The monument was promised by Ciudad Antigua’s municipal mayor, who won on the PLI ticket in 2012. The Liberal mayor of Wiwilí, a municipality in the same department, has promised a similar one.


According to Leonardo Mayorga, president of ProLeña, an NGO that promotes the use of biomass and other renewable energies, 800,000 Nicaraguan homes use firewood to cook, and this figure will increase
given the poverty of such households. According to his organization’s study, “Energía para todos” (energy for all), over 90% of the households using firewood have done so the past five years and nearly 80% are not thinking of changing. Considering that poor households average six members, it is calculated that each family consumes nearly four tons of firewood per year. ProLeña promotes and facilitates the use of “ecofogones” (ecological stoves), which burn firewood more efficiently and thus economically. It also promotes more efficient technologies to produce higher quality vegetable coal.


Sixteen scientists and environmentalists marked World Environment Day on June 5, by meeting on the slopes of the deteriorated Nejapa Lagoon in Managua to publicize a manifesto listing the main tasks the State, private enterprise, civil society and international cooperation need to undertake to guarantee the preservation of Nicaragua’s natural resources, especially its water, over the next 50 years with a vision of the country. In their manifesto they note that Nicaragua has been losing its forest cover (at an average rate of 40,000 hectares annually), its biodiversity and both the quality and quantity of its fresh water increasingly rapidly over the past 40 years. The country’s population has also increased its demand for resources, especially water.


In a forum held in June in Nicaragua’s Central American University titled “Water, environment and climate change,” it was reported, based on international projections, that the effects of climate change will increase Managua’s average annual temperature from the current 32ºC (89.6ºF) to over 40ºC (104ºF) by 2100 and that this will be irreversible unless measures start to be taken now.

Print text   

Send text

<< Previous   Next >>


Though Ortega holds a stacked deck, the opposition played its first cards

Nicaragua briets

Municipal autonomy isn’t a concession, but a right the government has undermined

Powerful winds are blowing against the Grand Canal

A country-laboratory for Washington’s security policies

Donald Trump wants to destroy the heterogeneous State
Envío a monthly magazine of analysis on Central America
GüeGüe: Web Hosting and Development