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  Number 472 | Noviembre 2020
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Nicaragura briefs


Amaru Ruiz, director of Fundación del Río, sounded a warning about the serious consequences of a recent shipwreck in Lake Cocibolca (also known as Lake Nicaragua). On October 4, a boat carrying between 1,000 and 2,500 pounds of cyanide sank, likely contaminating the water in the area near where the lake flows into the San Juan River. The three people on board the boat, which was traveling a well-known smuggling route from Costa Rica, were taking the highly toxic chemical to supply the unchecked illegal gold mining being practiced throughout the surrounding area. The Nicaraguan Army rescued the captain but the other two crew members drowned. When reporting the shipwreck, the Army neglected to mention the dangerous cargo the boat was carrying. Ruiz reported that between 2016 and 2019, the Foundation has documented more than 100 illegal gold mills in San Carlos, El Castillo, Bluefields, Nueva Guinea and even in the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve, as part of what he has classified as a risky “gold fever.” Many towns near the river get their water from Lake Cocibolca. “The event is worrying,” warned Ruiz; “as the presence of that heavy metal in these waters generates risks to human health and the health of any animal that drinks from it. The Environment and Natural Resources Ministry (MARENA) made no mention of the accident.


On October 1, the European Union added Nicaragua and Panama to its “gray list” of countries considered to show “strategic deficiencies” in the fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism. Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan are among those listed. The Central American Integration System has been lobbying since June to keep Nicaragua and Panama off the list. Panama has long been considered a tax haven, but Ortega’s relations with the Venezuela of Maduro and Los Soles Cartel appear to be one reason for Nicaragua’s inclusion. In March 2020, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) put Nicaragua back on the gray list after having removed it in 2015. That year the Ortega regime heralded the removal as an important achievement for the national economy. The FATF’s decision was due to international and national movements of cash by the Ortega-Murillo family, others in their inner circle and three of their US-sancioned businesses. Being on the list has serious repercussions: Nicaraguan banks have to be recognized by the FATF in order to have correspondent services with banks in the rest of the world. And the country must also havethe FATF’s backing to obtain external financing.


“Daniel Ortega is a foreign agent, a satrap,” charged political analyst and former Liberal legislative representative Eliseo Núñez in a La Prensa interview, “because a satrap is someone who governs in the name of another, a foreigner. Ortega has always governed in the name of foreigners: Soviets, Cubans, Venezuelans, and now he’s trying to govern in name of the Russians. This is the kind of Latin American citizen who believes the world is responsible for his mediocrity and that he has to fight against those behind his hardships, which he attributes to the ‘empire,’ the United States eventhough they are created by his own inability. In seeking people to support him in this crusade, Ortega has allied himself with other enemies of the ‘empire’ and these have paid to have him as the nearest nuisance the US could have. Nicaragua’s location, in what some have called the US’s backyard, is what has allowed Ortega to act as a useful idiot, although really not such an idiot because in the end he sends them a bill.”


The Archdiocese of Managua’s Justice and Peace Commission published a message on October 5 treferring to the regime’s three new repressive bills, since passed into law. It started by highlighting the jubilation with which parishioners greeted the decision to reopen Catholic churches for the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist, it quickly went on to say that “this joy is overshadowed by new threats to people’s liberty and physical integrity stemming from questionable draft legislation.” The message captures the feeling of the nation’s majority: “As we approach an election year, we share the people’s unease on reflecting that, for elections to be held, they must first meet sufficient necessary conditions. Citizen participation is unthinkable if there is a lack of the needed information provided by independent media, which are increasingly under threat.” The message also reiterated what was expressed in the bishops’ May 1, 2019, message:
“As regards election authorities, these must be renewed in accord with established rules, so they are trustworthy and independent, and the electoral process is neutral, impartial and observed both nationally and internationally. Free elections cannot be held otherwise, The people are the true sovereign.”


“Personally, I think that as long as Ortega, Murillo and the repressive top leadership are in power, there will be no room for fair, democratic and transparent elections in Nicaragua,” Auxiliary Bishop of Managua Silvio Báez, currently in forced exile, told Deutche Welle in an October 6 interview. “I believe it’s a fantasy to be thinking of elections right now. What can take place—and I think this is what the regime is betting on—is ersatz elections, the repetition of electoral fraud and voting that lacks both competition and transparency, perhaps with the aid of a few collaborationist parties. I don’t think the regime will grant free elections, as understood within a democracy. We must insist on electoral reforms that ensure Ortega will leave power. And then afterwards talk about elections that lead to genuine democratic change.”


In early October Pope Francis received former Nicaraguan Police Director Francisco Javier Bautista Lara (2001–2005) as Nicaragua’s new ambassador to the Vatican. The appointment was highly questioned in several circles because, although Bautista currently spends his time writing novels and other literary genres, he comes from an institution that after his departure was sanctioned for its serious human rights violations. “He’ll speak wonders about the Ortega government, but he’ll be doing so to the oldest diplomatic practice in the world,” was how analyst, ex-priest and ex-ambassador Edgard Parrales assessed that task’s chances of success.


Lottie Cunningham, from the town of Bilwaskarma in Nicaragua’s North Caribbean Autonomous Region, is a 62-year-old Miskitu nurse, environmental activist, lawyer and defender of the human rights of the region’s indigenous peoples. In October, she received one of four “Alternative Nobel” awards for 2020 from the Swedish Right Livelihood Foundation “for her ceaseless dedication to the protection of indigenous lands and communities from exploitation and plunder.” In 1997 Cunningham founded the Center for Justice and Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (Cejudhcan), which she still directs, as part of her daily struggle because she believes the unimpeded invasion the lands of indigenous and Afro-descendent peoples by armed settlers from the other side of the country with help from the current regime has one purpose: “To steal our lands and deny us our autonomy. They want to exterminate us. They want not only for us to lose our land, but also for this generation to lose its cultural identity.”


In a letter, Amnesty International’s Americas Director Erika Guevara-Rosas pointed out a hypocritical move by Luis Alvarado, Nicaragua’s interim representative to the Organization of American States (OAS). During its General Assembly on October 21 he used AI reports to discredit criticisms of the Ortega regime by representatives from Paraguay, Canada, Brazil and the United States. Guevara-Rosas wrote: “The Ortega government’s representative…uses our reports to criticize other countries, while describing our reports on Nicaragua as meddling.” She added that: “It was not in Alvarado’s interest to mention our open letter to the OAS Member States, in which we call for an end to the Ortega government’s repression in Nicaragua. Alvarado seems deeply interested in Amnesty’s reports on Brazil, the USA, Canada and other countries, but very conveniently neglects to mention our conclusive reports on the very serious human rights violations in Nicaragua.”


In the context of Global Girls’ Day, celebrated internationally on October 11, worrying official statistics were published in Nicaragua on girls who have become pregnant from sexual abuse. They show that between 2014 and 2019, 3,323 girls under 14 years old gave birth after being forced into maternity, an average of 2 girls a day.

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