Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 440 | Marzo 2018



Nicaragua briefs


In addition to the University of Texas symposium on “US Involvement and Engagement in Western Hemisphere Affairs” on February 1, where Secretary of State Tillerson spoke, another forum on a related topic was held two weeks later in Washington, sponsored by the Inter-American Institute for Democracy (IID). Its title was a bit less neutral: “Threats to the US in the Western Hemisphere.” This time the presentations specifically included Nicaragua, as well as Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela. Curiously, Honduras and Guatemala, which are rife with corruption and violence, were not on the agenda. Speajkers included OAS Secretary General Luis almagro; Venezuelan consultant Beatriz Rangel, who is a director at IID, US congressional representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Paul Joseph Cook (R-CA) and Ron de Santis R-FL), and Senator Bob Menéndez (D-NJ), all of whom are involved in defining US foreign policy. Other foreign policy experts and directors of various nongovernment centers also spoke, including security specialist Douglas Farah, and ex-Nicaraguan Ambassador Bosco Matamoros, who represented the contra organization FDN in Washington during the 1980s. There was consensus that the Nicaraguan regime has an authoritarian, dynastic and corrupt nature, while some analysts also claimed it is facilitating a money-laundering platform for organized crime.


Violeta Granera, coordinator of the Broad Front for Democracy (FAD), and Suyen Barahona, president of the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), spent half of February in Washington representing the FAD in meetingd with organizations interested in their view what’s happening in Nicaragua and participating in the forum on security threats to the US. They also delivered to the Washington office of OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro the 15-point proposal for a comprehensive reform of Nicaragua’s electoral system and transition to democracy the FAD released in Managua last December. Citizens for Liberty (CxL), the political party created last year in time for Nicaragua’s municipal elections, presented its own electoral reform proposal on March 5.


Nicaragua is experiencing a boom in industrial mining concessions. According to official data, 261 new areas had been granted by last December and another 54 were being processed. A reported 10% of the country has been given in concessions to mining companies such as Tritón Minera S.A. and Desarrollo Minero de Nicaragua S.A. (DESMINIC), both of them subsidiaries of the Canadian mining company B2Gold; as well as Colombia Mineros S.A., which bought HEMCO’s assets in Bonanza; and the British company Condor Gold, whose contract doesn’t expire until 2040. Those three companies have the largest concessions, but Nicaza S.A. has 14 in Boaco, Comalapa, San Lorenzo, Acoyapa, Juigalpa and Teustepe; Corazón Exportaciones S.A. has 4; the Nicaraguan branch of Minera Los Lirios Honduras S. de R.L. has another 4 and Blue Stone Gold Mining has 3. As a reaction to this, the National Environmental Movement in Response to Industrial Mining (MONAFMI) was formed several months ago, involving local leaders from different areas of the country. The Mining Development Program of the government’s National Human Development Plan says the State will foster private direct investment in small-scale and industrial mining, without mentioning anything about the risks to human, social and environmental development.


Health centers throughout the country reported a total of 10,846 cases of malaria in 2017, the highest incidence since the 6,654 cases in 2005. The year with the lowest number of reported cases was 2009, with only 610. Nearly that many (566 cases) were reported in the first three weeks of January this year. The World Health Organization says malaria has been on the rise in recent years not only in Nicaragua but also in three other Latin American countries: Panama, Peru and Venezuela. Together with the Inter-American Development Bank, the foundations of Bill and Melinda Gates and of Carlos Slim announced in the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2017 that they will join forces in donating up to US$222.6 million to deal with malaria in the seven countries of Central America and in the Dominican Republic through the creation of the Regional Initiative to Eliminate Malaria. There are two types of malaria, vivax and falciparum, both of which are transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. Falciparum malaria, which is much less common in Nicaragua, can be fatal.


The Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) and the World Organization against Torture (OMCT) presented the inhuman situation of prisoners in Nicaragua’s jails during the 167th period of sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), held in Bogota, Colombia, on February 28. After a visit to Nicaragua in 2014, the United Nations Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture called the situation it had observed “worrying.” The Nicaraguan government is no longer permitting either CENIDH or the OMCT to visit the jails, but the Subcommittee says the situation has “worsened.” Among other things, CENIDH charged that “El Chipotle,” the prison run by the Auxiliary Judicial Department, is specifically a detention center for “torturing those detained.”


The most terrible case presented by CENIDH to the IACHR in Bogota was that of 38-year-old small farmer Juan Rafael Lanzas, accused of a theft he did not commit. He was savagely beaten by the police in his home in the pre-dawn hours of December 29 then taken to the Matagalpa jail where he was held until January 11 in the most unhygienic conditions imaginable—he reportedly slept in the toilet. As a result, the wounds from his police beating became infected and ulcerated. At that point they finally sent him to the hospital, where both of his feet were amputated on January 22 due to gangrene. Charges his family filed with CENIDH led to the police finally issuing a report, which was limited to claiming that Lanzas suffered from a rare disease called “púrpura citopénica” even before his imprisonment. In the IACHR session, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosamena defined the Llanzas case as “palpable proof of torture.” A month later the bishop of Matagalpa, Rolando Álvarez, visited Lamzas, who still had half his body covered in ulcerated sores. “What is at stake in this case,” the bishop said, “is not only disrespect for his dignity and integrity, not only the arbitrariness and savagery with which he was treated, the brutal act perpetrated against him, but also the dignity and integrity of an entire people, because what they did to him could be done to any Nicaraguan tomorrow.”


On February 2, the International Court of Justice at The Hague set the maritime limits between Nicaragua and Costa Rica in both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, bringing to an end border disputes that began in 2010. In the Pacific, the Court granted 93,000 square kilometers of the maritime platform to Costa Rica and 71,000 to Nicaragua. In the Caribbean both States were claiming the same 27,000 square kilometers of sea, but the Court granted Nicaragua some 20,000 and Costa Rica only the remaining 7,000. It also ordered Nicaragua to abandon a “military encampment” Edén Pastora had arbitrarily established in 2015 in Nicaragua’s name in the disputed area at Daniel Ortega’s insistence. Costa Rica also asked for compensation of US$6 million for environmental damages at the site. The Court cut that figure to just over US$378,000, which according to experts in international law is what a single session of the Court costs. The experts also commented on how much better it would have been to resolve these disputes through dialogue, thus saving both counties significant expenses.


The Transparency Index, prepared each year by Transparency International based on a consultation with businesspeople and experts about their perception of corruption in their respective countries, put Nicaragua in 151st place last year among the 180 countries evaluated. In Latin America, only Venezuela was lower, in 169th place, while Uruguay ranked highest at 23. Nicaragua has had a very similar perception since 2007, the year Daniel Ortega took office.


The Nicaraguan government granted citizenship and the Order of Rubén Darío to David Spencer, a pastor and founder of the huge Hosanna neo-Pentecostal church in Managua. In his speech, President Ortega said that as head of State his inspiration “was and continues to be Christ because one cannot struggle, cannot have the strength to struggle, if one is not under the inspiration of God and thanking God for the opportunity He is giving us to emerge from poverty little by little. In Nicaragua it is being fulfilled that the last will be the first, that the last, the people in deepest poverty, will be the first…. We are getting there little by little and now God will help multiply the loaves.”

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