>THE WATER SITUATION WILL BECOME CRITICAL
On World Water Day, March 22, with the wells in numerous rural areas of Nicaragua already dry, experts warned that the country will face a crisis in the next five to ten years due to the rapid draining of underground water sources, the contamination and/or “death” of rivers and arroyos and the indiscriminate cutting down of the few remaining forests, which has accelerated ¬in the past decade. Underground sources provide 90% of the water consumed in Nicaragua. The cutting down of trees, the lack of works to stop rain runoff and help the infiltration process, the uncontrolled—and unbilled—extraction of water for industry and agroindustrial irrigation, and increasing temperatures and repeated droughts caused by climate change are depleting these aquifers and could exhaust them in the near future, even as the population continues to grow. The experts also noted with concern the lack of compliance with the General Water Law and the National Water Authority’s total ineffectiveness.
ABOR PROTECTION BILL TO THE ROUND FILE
In mid-February, the National Assembly’s Labor Committee members, who are from the FSLN and the PLC, definitively tossed out a bill aimed at regulating and ordering labor outsourcing, subcontracting and brokering presented to the Assembly in April 2009 with the backing of all the country’s unions. They argued that there are already enough laws in Nicaragua to protect workers’ rights. They added that the decision was shared by the government, the business sector and the unions, although various union reps said they opposed the decision and proposed that the Labor Code at least include a specific chapter to regulate “outsourced” work, which is increasingly frequent in the country. Sociologist Ricardo Zambrana, who helped draft the bill, said “the Ortega government blocked that initiative for eight years due to its commitment with certain upper echelons of private, state or para-state businesses, which have systematically and precisely failed to comply with the current legal framework…. This initiative isn’t being rejected in order to add it to the existing legal framework, but rather to continue disrespecting that framework, as has happened up to now.”
FRANCISCA RAMÍREZ A FINALIST FORTHE FRONT LINE DEFENDERS AWARD
Francisca Ramírez, coordinator of the Council in Defense of Our Land, Lake and Sovereignty, which has been demanding repeal of the canal law ever since its approval in 2013, was one of 5 finalists out of 142 nominees from 56 countries for the annual Front Line Defenders award for human rights defenders who have risked their personal safety and even their life to protect and promote the rights of their community. The other four are from Ukraine, Vietnam, South Africa and Kuwait. The winner will be announced on May 26 in Dublin, the organization’s headquarters. In announcing the finalists, Front Line Defenders’ executive director Andrew Anderson said: “Human rights defenders tell us that international visibility is vital to their work, particularly as governments and corporations work to defame, slander and delegitimize their peaceful struggle for rights. Our award recognizes the courage of Nonhle, Francisca, Abdulhakim, Emil and Nghien. Their struggle has not gone unnoticed and we in Ireland support their fight for rights.”
INDIGENOUS GOVERNMENT DEMANDS INFO ON RECONSTRUCTION FUNDS
Two weeks after Hurricane Otto passed through southern Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica on November 25 last year, causing significant environmental and personal damage to communities in the municipalities of San Carlos, El Castillo and San Juan de Nicaragua in the department of Río San Juan, the Ortega-Murillo government received $1.11 million from the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, a World Bank project. Nonetheless, the indigenous and Afro-descendent communities have received virtually no support to rebuild their lives. Nor has the government responded to continual demands by the Rama and Kriol Territorial Government of Greytown, Río Indio and Río Maíz to explain what happened to those resources earmarked for the reconstruction of the communities.
RETIRED GENERAL TO HEAD ENERGY INSTITUTE
In late March an Army communique reported the retirement of General Oscar Mojica, who headed the Chiefs of Staff, and General Adolfo Zepeda, the Army’s inspector general, respectively ranked two and three in the line of command succession. While the communique failed to provide any explanation, security specialist Elvira Cuadra believes the changes respond to a new balance of forces in the internal dispute between the “historic” FSLN members and the “new wave” loyal to Vice President Murillo, forecasting a “new political positioning” among the Army top brass. Days later, President Ortega sent the National Assembly his appointment of General Mojica to head the Nicaraguan Energy Institute (INE) with a request for fast-track approval. The PLC’s candidate for the post following the resignation of Liberal David Castillo was jurist and energy expert Óscar Carrión. The passed-over candidate said “Ortega aims to continue militarizing the state institutions, especially in the energy sector, where he has millions in personal interests.” He said Mojica “has no appropriate technical or professional knowledge for the positon and his Army origins will translate into blind obedience to the executive branch even though INE is an institution that must have autonomy.”
NICARAGUA RENEWS RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL
In a brief communique, the Nicaraguan government announced its decision to “renew” relations with the government of Israel, suspended as of June 2010 following an Israeli attack on ships carrying humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip. The suspension had caused unease among many Evangelicals, who declared that the move would rain hellfire and damnation down on Nicaragua, based on a literal interpretation of verse 12:3 of Genesis in which God tells Abram: “I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse.”
RTHERN COSTA RICA
In February the Nicaraguan government decided to close its consulates in Los Chiles and Ciudad Quesada, both in northern Costa Rica. Karina Fonseca, director of the Jesuit Service for Migrants in Costa Rica and envoi correspondent in that country, said their closure will leave the Nicaraguans who live and work there “unprotected,” urging “an immediate review because Nicaraguans require those consular services to make the
best possible application for the migratory regularization processes” Costa Rica requires. The closed consulates are referring users to the Nicaraguan consulates in San José or Liberia to handle their paperwork needs. Félix
Ríos, diocesan promoter of the Catholic Church’s Social Pastoral in Ciudad Quesada, calculated that more than 50,000 Nicaraguans live in the area of the closed consulates, a figure that increases to 80,000 during the coffee, sugar cane, pineapple and citrus harvests. It will take between one and two days for these workers to get to San José to comply with whatever paperwork is required, spending money they don’t have and losing days of work they can ill afford. “It’s not just a question of how many people are in the area,” adds Rios, “but of the conditions they’re in and their need for consular protection.”
MRS JOINS INTERNATIONAL PROGRESSIVE ALLIANCE
Last December the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) became a full member of the Progressive Alliance, an international organization of progressive, socialist, labor and social democratic parties founded in 2013. It has 114 member organizations from Europe and Latin America, which either used to or still belong to the Socialist International. MRS President Ana Margarita Vijil and Vice President Héctor Mairena, who represents the MRS in Europe, participated as delegates to the Alliance’s first convention, held in Berlin in mid-March, where its programmatic documents were approved and the committee that will head it for the next two years was chosen together with its coordinator, Konstantin Woinoff of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). During the convention, Vijil and Mairena reported in depth on Nicaragua’s situation.
FIRST RETURN OF DEPORTED NICAS
On March 8, the first 30 undocumented Nicaraguan migrants deported from the United States as a result of President Trump’s anti-immigrant policy arrived in Managua on a flight provided by the US Immigration Service.