Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 455 | Junio 2019



Nicaragua briefs


In the latest CID-Gallup poll, which surveyed a national sample of 1,205 people between May 7 and 21, a total of 77%—among them 47% of those who identified themselves as Sandinistas—said the country is “on the wrong path.” This high percentage is partly explained by the serious impact the economic crisis is having on people’s lives. According to the well-known polling firm, which was founded in in Costa Rica in 1977 and began doing polls in Nicaragua two years later, this is the highest percentage of Sandinistas ever to take a critical stand on the country’s course. To the question “When do you think there will be normality in the country: when there are elections or when Ortega leaves power?” 33% said elections and 41% when Ortega leaves. Only 12% said things are normal now. With respect to the negotiations between the government and the Civic Alliance, 66% has no confidence in them and thinks the government is just buying time to postpone early elections, while 34%, the majority Sandinistas, believes the talks should continue. The poll took longer to conduct than usual because the government authorities imposed difficulties on the pollsters out in the field.


A National Assembly session on May 14 passed a law titled “Strengthening and Promoting the Traditions, Customs and Gastronomy of the Nicaraguan People as Non-material Cultural Heritage of the Nation,” which says a little something about that legislative body’s role in dealing with the tragic national reality. But even more is revealed by one of the defenders of the new law, whose rousing speech warned that Nicaraguan foods are being “threatened and penetrated” by “foreign” products like raisins and canned petit pois. His curious choice of invading foods aside—he said nothing about the avalanche of nutritionless junk food packets and cola drinks that have replaced healthy snacks for children— the speaker was Representative Filiberto Rodríguez, who together with another FSLN militant allegedly directed the mob involved in burning down Radio Darío in León on April 23, 2018. The two men he reportedly paid to take jerrycans of gasoline to do the deed died in the explosion they themselves caused. Portuguese legislator Ana Gomes Rodríguez has proposed Rodríguez for the European Union’s sanctions list, yet here in Nicaragua he is still a member of the ruling party’s legislative bench, having faced no problems for his part in the crime.


The framework agreement for executing and implementing the interoceanic canal project, signed on June 14, 2013, as a complement to Law 840, approved by the National Assembly the previous day, ceded a good part of Nicaragua’s territory for the construction of the canal to Chinese investor Wang Jung. But it contains an interesting escape clause few have ever mentioned, which establishes that if the investor does not have the resources available for the work after six years, Nicaragua has the right to cancel the concession for both the canal and any related subprojects. There has been no information on any resources being invested in this controversial non-starter megaproject for years now, and as a result the peasant movement known as the Council in Defense of the Land, Lake and Sovereignty, which has been fighting the project since its inception six years ago, is now demanding the concession’s abrogation.


An investigation of 382 Nicaraguans who arrived in Costa Rica after April 2018 provided the following general profile of the Nicaraguan exiles: the men-women ratio is 65%-35%; the majority (63%) are between 16 and 30 years old, one’s “fully productive” age; and 29% have only high school education, 53% have done at least some universwhile ity level studies, and 11% have some technical or post-graduate experience. Managua, Masaya and Carazo are the birthplaces of 40.8% of them. While a full 90% either have or have requested refugee status, 86% would return to Nicaragua the minute the conditions change. The reasons they left Nicaragua include persecution, harassment, fear and even death threats (the latter listed by 25.7%). Only 13.2% left for economic reasons. The study was sponsored by the Arias Foundation and conducted in Costa Rica by Nicaraguan sociologist Elvira Cuadra and retired Nicaraguan Army General Roberto Samcam.


In April the Ortega regime announced a “program for the assisted voluntary return of Nicaraguans abroad,” which it said had been agreed to with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). It was later learned that the regime had sent a formal request for the IOM Office for North America, Central America and the Caribbean to support the program on April 15, but the IOM only said it would analyze and study the proposal “once the details were learned.” In that public response, the IOM added it would participate in a work framework agreed to with all sectors of society, including civil society organizations. It reminded the government that “assisted voluntary return” must respect “the principles of respect for human rights, dignity, security and the confidentiality of personal data” regarding those who accept the rreturn.” On May 27, in one of its then-daily communiques aimed at the negotiation table, the government claimed that “hundreds” of Nicaraguans were already accepting the return program. IOM participation was not mentioned.


Between 2018 and 2019 the Central American Bank for Economic Investment (CABEI) has approved US$8.3 million for Nicaragua’s National Police, $5 million of it for police facilities where hundreds of people have been tortured. Information about new CABEI projects to finance police vehicles and equipment triggered an international www.change.org petition to pressure CABEI not to fund an institution that is the regime’s main repressive agent. The campaign gathered tens of thousands of signatures in only a few days. CABEI executive president Dante Mossi shrugged off the pressure, stating that the bank “does not take a position on the domestic issues of its member States.” The signatures accompanied a letter sent to the bank’s Assembly of Governors, informing it of the repressive police policies. National Police Director General Francisco Díaz has been sanction by the US Global Magnitsky Act for human rights violations and the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts’ 2018 report stressed the need for him and other National Police directors to be investigated for crimes against humanity. CABEI is currently the only multilateral bank providing Ortega with funds as it is the only one in which the Us has no representtion. In line with the Nica Act.US representatives on all multilateral banks willl be obliged to veto Nicaraguan projects The Nica Act provisions do not go into effect until mid-June, but neither the Inter-American Development Bank nor the World Bank have approved any projects for Nicaragua for months.


In a May 28 article in the Nicaraguan daily newspaper La Prensa, Amaru Ruiz, director of the Foundation of the River, wrote a searing article about Alba Forestal, a lumber company linked to Albanisa, the now-sanctioned Venezuelan-Nicaraguan business consortium run by ruling family loyalists. Alba Forestal began innocuously enough, taking out all the Caribbean Coast trees uprooted by Hurricane Felix in August 2007 but over the next four years, between those trees and the ones it felled itself in Kukalaya, Layasiksa, Waskin and other Caribbean indigenous communities, Alba Forestal extracted some 73,855 containers of lumber. “To explain it better,” wrote Ruiz, whose ecological foundation was one of the NGOs whose legal status was canceled by the Ortega regime in December of last year, “those containers full of lumber could fill a 900-kilometer-long highway.” He reported that in 2014, Alba Forestal S.A, which then controlled Nicaragua’s entire international and national lumber supply, csureptitiously hanged its corporate name to N&H Wood Products. At the time, it was speculated that Alba Forestal had simply gone out of business due to the bad press it had been getting from repeated reports of caravans of its trucks taking illegally cut logs out of the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve, right under the Army’s eyes. “The deforestation business,” concluded Ruiz, “has not only enriched the [ruling] family capital, but has modified the environmental legislation in favor of these companies.” He said the current objective of these lucrative commpanies belonging to “the family” and “big national capital” that are deforesting the country is to extract pinewood from the department of Nueva Segovia.


In May it was learned that former Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes (2009-2014) charges the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry US$2,700 a month for advisory services while his son Roberto Funes Cañas charges $1,450 as a “technical adviser.” Funes is a fugitive of Salvadoran justice and he and part of his family were granted political asylum by Daniel Ortega in September 2016. He has five penal cases open against him in El Salvador and Interpol has put out a “red alert” to capture him. In March 2019 El Salvador’s Court of Justice requested Funes’ extradition, which was rejected by the Ortega government. Funes is accused of embezzling and laundering US$351 million from the Salvadoran presidency’s private budget lines; other money laundering activities; accepting kickbacks amounting to US$3.5 million; and giving gifts to then-prosecuting attorney Luis Martínez—himself now in prison—to ensure his impunity. He is also being investigated for divulging a report related to another Salvadoran corruption case (Flores-Taiwan), and last but not least was accused by the Prosecutor General’s Office of evading $270,000 in income tax.


El Salvador’s new President, Nayib Bukele, did not invite Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, Honduras’s Juan Orlando Hernández or Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega to his inaugural ceremony on June 1. Nicaragua was represented by Juan Sebastián Chamorro, executive director of the Nicaraguan Foundation of Economic and Social Development and a member of the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy’s negotiating team. “in the name of the Nicaraguan people,” Chamorro said afterward, “we have asked [Buykele] to support us in the internaional forums, above all the Organization of American States” .

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