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  Number 471 | Octubre 2020
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Nicaragua briefs


On September 11, six months after the first case of COVID-19 was officially recognized in Nicaragua, the Citizen’s Observatory, which provides information independent of the government’s reports, summed up the situation stating that “the population remains uninformed about the real infection situation. There have been no prevalence reports; real data on the number of mild, moderate and severe cases are unknown; and even in the case of deaths, the true magnitude of the pandemic remains unknown.” It also mentions
that “the lack of a responsible response with appropriate guidance from national authorities has led the population to a series of sacrifices: of their physical and mental health, and of their lives.” The Observatory further noted that “the uncertainty caused by ignorance of best practices in treating the disease has also generated serious confusion in the pharmaceuticals market “...and “families have lost their trust in the healthcare system, especially in hospitals, both public and private, choosing instead to seek advice from alternative care sources, including on the Internet or over the phone.” As of September 23, the Observatory calculated 10,396 cases of infection and 2,735 deaths. Unlike the official data, which show consistently low infection cases since June, the Observatory’s graph shows a steady climb, with no sign of a plateau, much less a downward turn.


A new president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) was elected to a 5-year term on September 12. Mauricio Claver-Carone is a Cuban-American and one of President Trump’s right-hand men in the area of security. His election is a departure from the unwritten rule, in place for more than 60 years, that the head of this regional financial institution be from Latin America. The nomination of Trump’s candidate upset several governments in the region (Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina and Mexico), which proposed postponing the elections to March because the pandemic prevented a “more open and unhurried” in-person debate, in the words of former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, who withdrew her candidacy just days before Claver-Carone’s election. As the IDB’s majority shareholder, the US holds 30% of the votes. The 16 countries that voted in favor of Trump’s candidate add up to 23.9% while those opposed only total 22%. Before 2018 the IDB was the most significant source of loans for the Ortega government. Due to the human rights violations committed from April 2018 on, the Bank continued its disbursements of preexisting loans, but made no new loans to Nicaragua until August of this year, when it approved a U$43 million loan for “containing, controlling and mitigating” the coronavirus. Because it is considered humanitarian aid, it dodges the US NICA Act’s provision that US representatives on all multilateral lending institutions must vote against loans to Nicaragua. The votes held by the US and its allies would be enough to veto a regular loan request from Nicaragua.


“The Ortega-Murillo clan will have to realize they have lost a country and are like those hamsters spinning in a wheel, trapped in their cruelty. It’s time they stepped down and let others take the reins. But if the instinct to remain is greater than their power of reason, they must be held to elections free of cheating, face reality and stop stomping their feet and destroying Nicaragua. It is their only opportunity to save the nation from the hate and vengeance that, if things continue down the same path, will cause history to repeat a cycle of violence and destruction that will affect us all. If I’m sure of anything, it’s that we will not be another Cuba or another Venezuela.”


At the ceremony commemorating the 41st anniversary of the creation of the Sandinista Popular Army on September 2, Ortega accepted what he had refused to admit until then, which is that the pandemic is out of control: “No one can dodge this, even if they’re locked in a steel box, because apparently
these viruses can get you even there .”


In response to the terrible rape and murder of two girls in the Lisawe area of Mulukukú (see “The Month” in this issue for details), the bishop of the Siuna and Bluefields Dioceses, Pablo Schmitz, extended his sympathy to their mother, Carmen González Rodríguez, a local parishioner: “I join my pain to that of our sister for the perverse sexual abuse and brutal murder of her two daughters. Acts such as these reflect the society we have built, a violent, machista one that has no respect for life, does not take care of children and puts women—especially poor women, single mothers, teenagers and girls—in a cruel state of defenselessness and risk.” The bishop called the police “insensitive and incompetent” for having failed to address the complaints filed by the girls’ mother, who had twice reported the rape of one of her daughters. Bishop Schmitz confirmed that the parishes and chapels in his dioceses will be ready to serve as shelters and provide both legal and psychological care to women, teens and girls who are victims of machista violence. “If a woman needs a shelter in a parish church, it will be open, and the parish priests and nuns will be available to find a solution so women can escape danger and be free of the fear of rape
or murder.”


The Institute of Forensic Medicine (IML) recorded 6,719 cases of sexual abuse from 2014 to 2018, 42% involving girls under 14 years old. Women’s organizations have always highlighted the under-reporting that characterizes this kind of crime. According to the IML’s data on the murder of minors, which
is more verifiable, 43 girls between the ages of 0 and 13 years were murdered in Nicaragua between 2014 and 2018, as were 20 aged 14 to 17. There are no IML figures for 2019. Its figures for adult femicides are 51 in 2017, 57 in 2018, 63 in 2019 and 58 as of September 2020.


Continuing its repression of the Catholic Church, the regime closed the Agricultural Technical Institute in the Estelí diocese in September, alleging technical-administrative issues. The Institute offered basic high school courses and agricultural technical studies to over 150 teens and young adults from rural areas. The bishop of Estelí, Juan Abelardo Mata, denounced both the Institute’s closure and a “policy against foreign priests,” referring to the harassment being experienced by Salvadoran, Costa Rican and Venezuelan priests working in his diocese, as well as the threats against Colombian priest Luis Carrillo, who was forced to leave the country after the regime denied his residency application.


For some weeks, Dennis Martínez, retired US Major League baseball star from Nicaragua, has been writing a weekly column in La Prensa newspaper titled “From the mound.” The August 10 column mentioned the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) and the elections to be held on September 8 to choose a new president after 13 years of successively re-electing José Adán Aguerri. In that column Martínez said: “Candidates include Michael Healy and Mario Hanon. If I had the opportunity to vote, it would be for Hanon. I see in Healy a way of thinking that I don’t really like, and Hanon is an honest, even-keeled, capable person with a different perspective. In short, he inspires trust. COSEP has on its hands the start of a new stage and an attempt to correct the mistakes of the past. Please, be an example of democracy! The people have shown they want real change; are you up to it?” Apparently, they weren’t. By a vote of 14 of the 22 business chambers under the COSEP umbrella, Healy, who had been Aguerri’s vice president for the past three years, won the presidency.


Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), declined in September to renew Paulo Abrão’s four-year term as executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), alluding to “dozens of [administrative] complaints” against him. The IACHR took Almagro’s action as a “serious precedent,” since it is an institution autonomous from the OAS. In his farewell letter of September 17, Abrão regretted that there had been no “respectful institutional dialogue” based on this autonomy, on the protection of those who work at the IACHR and on the due process that must take place before any sanctions are applied. He also expressed “special affection for Nicaragua.” In a long interview given to 100% Noticias on September 19, Abrão said that “Nicaragua has become part of my cause, my life, and not just my job. To me, you are an example. You can always count on me as a friend and ally. With my individual voice I will always amplify your voices.” He visited Nicaragua in May 2018, during moments of serious repression by the Ortega regime, and was moved by his corroboration, through dialogue with the victims, of the Nicaraguan people’s pain and courage.


The Nicaraguan Alliance of Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Peoples (APIAN) denounced the September 27 detention of a delegation of 18 indigenous and Afro-descendant people belonging to the Rama Kriol Territorial Government by the Nicaraguan Army in the Nueva Quezada community of the Indio-Maíz Reserve. The group was made up of territorial authorities, park rangers and community members. The military personnel forced them off lands where they work and to which they belong. The people arrested were on a tour organized in coordination with the central government’s Ministry of the Environment and the Bluefields mayor’s office to assess local environmental problems and monitor the land invasions and new settlements launched by mestizo settlers in Rama and Kriol territories. The Alliance charged that the Army’s actions were illegal and arbitrary.

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Before night sets in

Nicaragua briefs

“It’s time to be clear: Without unity we won’t defeat Ortega”

“The sexual violence committed by the State of Nicaragua is a crime against humanity”

“Justice will come. It’s merited… and we will be there”

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