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  Number 459 | Septiembre 2019
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Nicaragua

Nicaragua briefs

ROWING TENSIONS BETWEEN
NICARAGUA AND COSTA RICA

In the middle of the night on August 12, Costa Rica’s police force confronted a group of Nicaraguans in the border zone who were smuggling merchandise into that country. One of the Nicaraguans, Henry Ruiz López, was fatally wounded. Ortega’s Foreign Ministry denounced the Costa Rican government to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for what it described as a “crime against humanity.” The Costa Rican Foreign Ministry explained that shots were fired on both sides, five Nicaraguans were detained, while others fled, and the one who died on Costa Rican soil had received Red Cross assistance. On August 27, Nicaraguan soldiers crossed into Costa Rica and shot Nicaraguan Ramón Loáisiga dead. According to the Ortega regime, he was a delinquent who had fled after assaulting a house-front grocery store. In this new round of growing tensions between the two governments, Costa Rica internationally charged Nicaragua with a “serious violation of territorial integrity and national sovereignty.”

NICAS SEEK REFUGE

According to the Arias Foundation for Peace and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 88,000 Nicaraguans have gone into exile abroad due to Nicaragua’s 17-month crisis, 68,000 of them in Costa Rica. Of the latter, 25.7% say they did so because of death threats, 38.3% due to repression and harassment, 18.9% out of fear, 13.2% due to the economic situation and 3.8% because of their political militancy. The UNHCR released a statement counseling Nicaraguans in Costa Rica to seek “reliable” information if they are thinking of returning because “an uninformed return could be very dangerous if the factors that made them flee still exist.” Only 34 of the 34,287 Nicas who requested refugee status in Costa Rica had received it as of the end of May. Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Ventura estimates that the numbr of Nicaraguans fleeing to Costa Rica may reach more than 100,000 by the end of 2019 “if the situation in Nicaragua does not normalize.” According to the UNHCR, another 20,000 Nicaraguans have sought refuge in Panama, various European countries, Mexico and the United States, in that order.


REGULATING THE SANCTIONS

On September 3, the US Treasury Department published regulations for the 11 sanctions issued over the past three years against Nicaraguan officials accused of corruption and serious human rights violations. The document establishes that all “goods and interests” are blocked and no transfer (change of ownership) is considered valid as of the date on which the sanctions were issued. Those sanctioned are also blocked from making investments; keeping funds and bank accounts; making payments, transfers, exports and withdrawals; receiving loans; or conducting any other transaction in a bank or financial institution under US jurisdiction or in its branches abroad. All banks have already been informed and must notify the authorities of all the accounts of those sanctioned that they have blocked. The blockade also includes savings banks, trusts, and various stock exchanges and their subsidiaries.

MULUKUKÚ MAYOR’S OFFICE
RAIDED BY SPECIAL FORCES POLICE

On August 9, Special Forces police and paramilitaries assaulted the municipal mayor’s office in Mulukukú in Nicaragua’s North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, confiscating documents and computers and keeping employees hostage for ten hours. They claimed that an audit needed to be done, in response to which the municipal government asked for more time to prepare the documentation. Mulukukú has always been governed by Liberals. Apolonio Fargas of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) won the mayoral seat in 2017 and the 11 Municipal Council members from the PLC and 4 from the Citizens for Liberty (CxL) party have an easy majority over the FSLN’s 6 seats. Fargas was a political prisoner for 112 months, accused without evidence of an attack on a police post in the municipality that left three police officers dead and two wounded. On the same day as the assault on his office, Special Forces police also busted into Fargas’ home, wrecking and pillaging the house and beating his son. Fargas was not in either place at the time and went into exile in Costa Rica days later.

NICARAGUA ON THE DRUG ROUTE

In a memorandum from President Trump to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on August 8, Nicaragua appeared among a list of the 22 main countries used to produce or traffic drugs. Of the other countries , all but five (Afghanistan, Burma, India, Laos and Pakistan) are in the Americas (the Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Venezuela), while Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico and Peru were also singled out as producing countries. Retired Army Major Roberto Samcam challenged the Ortega regime’s boast that Nicaragua is a “retaining wall” against drug trafficking by comparing the figures on the cocaine seized in three Central American countries between 2000 and 2018: “In Panama, 683 tons were seized, in Costa Rica 305 and in Nicaragua only 183.5. Retaining wall? Either the traffickers have an excellent vaulting pole to sail over the wall or it’s more porous than a cyclone fence.”

THE INTEROCEANIC CANAL
PROJECT: DEAD OR ALIVE?

In an August 13 speech commemorating the 39th anniversary of the creation of Nicaragua’s Naval Force, Ortega said that his regime has not “renounced” the construction of the interoceanic canal through Nicaragua, that he has a “commitment to make it reality” and that the project is in a “new phase.” The canal law approved in June 2013 and the framework agreement for implementing that law established that if the investor had not made the resources available for the work six years after its approval, the Nicaraguan government would have the right to cancel the concession for the canal and related subprojects. The six years have now passed without even a meter of land along the proposed route being moved. In June of this year, the Peasant Movement, which has been fighting the canal project since its inception, demanded that both the concession and the law itself be annulled. The investor who received the concession, Chinese billionaire businessman Wang Jing, owner of the HKND company created precisely for this project, lost 70% of his fortune in the stock market the following year. A year later, in 2015, his US$10.2 billion fortune shrank even further: to US$1 billion in just four months.

“WITH BISHOP BÁEZ’S HEAD”

In an interview with the Nicaraguan internet bulletin Confidencial in late August, Bishop Abelardo Mata of Estelí spoke about the Church’s role in the negotiations canceled by Ortega. Mata said the involvement of the papal nuncio, who was a “witness and accompanier,” responded to “the Holy Father’s desire for the Church to be in the front line seeking the reconstruction of the Republic from our position as pastors.” He also referred to the regime’s manipulation: “The nuncio, as a member of the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, has worked hard not to lose a space in which the government—not honestly, but maliciously in my opinion—has sold the idea that the Church, the pope and his representative, the nunciature, are with it and helping the dialogue process... I think the government has used Monsignor Sommertag [the nuncio]. Although I may be wrong, that is my reading as a bishop and a citizen.” He also mentioned the pressure the regime exerted on the Catholic hierarchy at the beginning of the negotiation: “When the government vetoed the participation of three of the bishops, there was a general feeling among us that we shouldn’t participate.” He added that “the price the Church paid for its diplomatic role was Monsignor Báez’s head,” referring to the forced exile of the auxiliary bishop of Managua, who left the country in April 2019 on Pope Francis’ orders.

MORE GOVERNMENT FALSEHOODS

In response to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of the Nicaraguan State in Geneva on May 15, after a six-year delay, the Ortega-Murillo regime reported to the Council that between 2014 and 2018 it had set up 61 women’s police stations to deal with cases of gender violence. The Nicaraguan Women’s Network against Violence, which coordinates social organizations dedicated to this issue, called the official report “cynical and false” as the stations had actually been created years earlier and the regime has pulled the plug on all of them since 2015. “Not a single active Women’s Police Station exists according to its original model of comprehensive attention,” the Women’s Network charged. “More serious still is that the State not only dismantled the stations, leaving women defenseless, but also permits, tolerates and works with parapolice groups that commit crimes of sexual violence against women in the oppressive context Nicaragua has been suffering since April 2018.”

“CHRIST IS MY ARMOR”
AND EVEN MORE FALSEHOODS

In an exclusive interview in Nicaragua with US journalist Max Blumenthal, editor of the Grayzone Project, Daniel Ortega continued his habit of sacrificing truth to his own interests, he told Blumenthal that “along this road, with so many attempts [on my life], a number of attempts since the 1980s, I have never used an armored car. Christ is my armored car! The people take care of me.” The truth is that Ortega has never been the victim of any attempt on his life and it is public knowledge that he uses more than one armored Mercedes Benz. Alongside Ortega during the interview was his wife Rosario Murillo, whose attempts to express herself in English belied the myth that she is fluent in several languages.

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