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  Number 478 | Mayo 2021
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Nicaragua

Nicaragua briefs

RISE IN GOLD MINING

Raw gold has become Nicaragua’s number-one export since 2020, over beef, coffee and sugar. This year, the sector hopes to export US$750 million and reach US$1 billion by 2023. The United States received more than 45% of this gold. The rise is due to improved gold prices and to the increase of mining in Nicaragua under the extractivist model predominating since Ortega returned to power. In 2011, four years after he took office, 8.3% of Nicaraguan territory, 11,836 km2, had been conceded to gold mining. By 2018 it had expanded to 20.4%, 26,890 km2. According to the Humboldt Center, mining concessions and exploitation have been concentrating since then in favor of one company. Today, 72% of the conceded areas are in the hands of Canada’s Calibre Mining company.


VENEZUELAN GOLD
IN NICARAGUA

Research by security and organized crime investigator Douglas Farah, carried in Miami’s Diario de las Americas newspaper on April 11, indicated that Nicaragua is collaborating with Venezuela so that Maduro’s government can export gold and evade the sanctions the US Treasury Department imposed on the Venezuelan state mining company and its president in 2019 because its operations “prop up” Maduro’s “illegitimate regime.” According to the investigation, this explains the official growth figures of more than 50% in Nicaragua’s gold exports just in 2019. The Venezuelan gold is allegedly transferred in private flights from Venezuela to Managua. Farah’s investigation points out that exporting gold represents less risks than exporting cocaine, due to the control that exists in the Caribbean Ocean. It also produces more benefits because the pandemic has increased the price of gold relative to the price of cocaine.


MORE VACCINES ARRIVE; SOME
HEALTH WORKERS NOW INCLUDED

On May 4, 70,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine arrived in the country as a donation. They are being targeted to people 55 and older. The government reported that it planned to buy 1.9 million doses with a loan from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI). That same day the government finally began vaccinating health personnel, but according to the Nicaraguan Medical Unit, they are vaccinating selectively on political grounds.


POSSIBLE NEW STRAINS
REMAIN A GOVERNMEN SECRET

New strains of the virus are surely present in Nicaragua, just as in the rest of South and Central America. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) provided the regime means to recognize them, but the government has not informed either the population or PAHO of any findings. In mid-May, PAHO reported that due to the scant amount of information from the Nicaraguan government, it has been unable to reliably analyze the advance of the pandemic in our country.


ANOTHER CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

An increase in Covid-19 cases was observed across the country shortly after all the different activities promoted by the regime during Holy Week in April, in which almost 4 million people (nearly 2/3 of the population) participated, according to official figures. This new outbreak was seen throughout the month of May with increases in infections, hospitalizations and deaths in public and private centers; increased telephone consultations with independent doctors; the suspension of in-person classes in some schools and increased requests for funeral services. By the end of May, the Ministry of Health (MINSA) acknowledged 131 infections and one death during the last week of the month, while the Citizens’ Observatory, with more trustworthy figures, counted 489 infections and 40 deaths between May 13 and 19.


“A MACABRE EXPERIMENT”

“What has happened in Nicaragua may represent the only macabre experiment where a whole country has been deliberately exposed to an infectious pathogen,” said Jorge Huete, molecular biologist and vice rector of the Central American University. “Never before in the history of public health has any country ever promoted herd immunity as a strategy to fight an outbreak of such a devastating pandemic. The exposure to the virus in this cruel and premeditated manner has caused a great amount of suffering in Nicaragua. During the first ten months of the pandemic alone there were close to 10,000 deaths, according to mortality figures collected by Dr. Carlos Hernández, a public health specialist. The front lines of the health sector have been heavily hit due to the irresponsible management of the pandemic. The institutional damage has been deep, degrading the essential health institutions such as the National Diagnostic and Reference Center.... Those who formulated the public health policies are directly responsible for what could be considered the greatest health debacle in national history. It’s not only the incompetence of those in charge, but also their irresponsible actions. This has demonstrated that bad decisions cost lives; future emergencies shouldn’t be left in the hands of these same people.”


OTHER EPIDEMICS

That same Dr. Hernández, a member of the Multidisciplinary Scientific Committee, created in response to the lack of official information about the pandemic’s evolution in Nicaragua, also reported on the prevalence and increase of dengue, an endemic disease in the country, with the rains of May. The distrust and fear created by the government’s repression the past three years has hurt the Health Ministry’s mosquito containment model—home visits to fumigate. Many people now don’t open their doors to MINSA. Hernández says “the model isn’t working; water is leaking into the boat from all over…. Leadership is needed….” Hernández points out that “control over dengue has been lost” and statistics show it: “In 1985, 17,000 cases were recorded and we were frightened. In 2000 we reached 20,000 cases and it was also an epidemiological alert. In 2013, 60,000 cases were counted and in 2019 we hit 180,000. We were the country with the highest number of dengue cases in the continent. In 2020, the number of people infected with dengue was 53,000. A decrease for sure, but still 53,000 cases. People spend a lot of money buying repellants, mosquito nets, screens. They spend and spend, but the mosquitoes are still there.” Hernández said the population doesn’t only have to face Covid-19 and dengue, but also malaria, zika and chikungunya, similarly transmitted by mosquitoes, as well as other parasitic diseases that multiply with the rains. In the case of malaria, which has a strain that is fatal, independent doctors suggest that a national “alert” be declared, as cases have tripled in the Caribbean, even before Hurricanes Eta and Iota, and the disease is extending into Chinandega.


DID THE ARMY PARTICIPATE
IN THE 2018 REPRESSION?

The national debate about the Army’s participation in the massive violation of human rights, including crimes against humanity, during the months of April to June 2018 was reopened in May, when a video went viral showing groups of men and women in similar uniform-like civilian clothes undergoing military training and shouting “This 2021, after 42 years, we continue to defend the revolution with Daniel and compañera Rosario Murillo!” The grounds where this training was taking place belong to the Nicaraguan Army. When asked by independent reporters, the Army’s spokesperson said the people shouting those slogans were police and when the police chief was asked if this was so, he did not respond. FSLN sources told Confidencial that the regime is conducting training in military combat techniques with the party’s youth during four-day courses. The trainers are former military with experience from the war in the 1980s and the arms belong to the Police. On April 30, however, the director of the digital “Café con Voz,” Luis Galeano, interviewed Federico Aguado, a retired Sandinista Popular Army captain who collaborated with the blue and white youth during the April 2018 rebellion and today is exiled in the United States. He confirmed that from the first day of the regime’s violent repressive response to the protests, the Army has been collaborating with personnel, weapons and intelligence information.


THE FSLN’S
ELECTORAL ALLIANCE

The FSLN registered in the Supreme Electoral Council on May 12 accompanied by a series of parties that collaborate with the regime, giving it the image of being a big political alliance, as it has been doing since Ortega returned to the government in 2007. The Nicaragua Will Triumph’ United Alliance’ headed by Ortega’s party this year is made up of the Nationalist Liberal Party (PLN), the Christian Unity Party (PUC), the Alternative for Change Party (AC), the Nicaraguan Resistance Party (PRN), the Multiethnic Indigenous Party (PIM), the Yapti Tasba Masraka Raya Nani Movement Party (MYATAMARAN), the Autonomous Liberal Party (PAL) and the Progressive Indigenous Movement of Moskitia Party (Moskitia Pawanka). They are nothing but letterheads and in exchange for their alliance, they receive economic resources from the regime. None of them would exist if put to the test of CSE regulations used as a pretext to disqualify genuinely sizable parties such as the Sandinista Renovation Movement and the Conservative Party at different moments over the years.


DENNIS MARTÍNEZ
BACK AS A PITCHER

The World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC) is holding Baseball Pre-Olympics in Florida from May 31 to June 5 to select the teams that will go to the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo. During the event Nicaragua will be pitted against the US, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. Nicaragua’s Dennis Martinez, retired US Major Leagues star pitcher, will pitch the first ball in the game between Nicaragua and the US. “Every time I stand on the mound,” said Martínez, “I try to give the best of myself. The pitch I’ll throw on May 31 will be with all my strength because it will be in honor of the political prisoners, the martyrs of April, the mothers who cry for their children, the youth who see a grim future, and in general for the Nicaraguan people who are crying for justice and freedom and asking for change.”



INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM TARGETED

The absurd accusation against Cristiana Chamorro because of “clear signs of money laundering” in the Violeta Chamorro Foundation that Cristiana directed until February not only had the obvious intention of impeding her presidential candidacy, but also targeted independent journalists and media that received training, equipment and financial and technical support from the foundation. Even those who were not direct recipients of assistance had been encouraged by it to maintain a critical line against the dictatorship. After Cristiana’s hearing before the Prosecutor General on May 21, a long list of other communicators also received summonses over several days. Among them were María Lilly Delgado from Univisión, Fabio Gadea, owner of Radio Corporación; Aníbal Toruño from Radio Darío; Kalúa Salazar from Radio La Costeñisima and Verónica Chávez from the TV channel100% Noticias. It was one more in a brazen string of operations to guarantee the “worse elections possible”—in this case casting a wide net of intimidation over independent journalists.


CAREER AWARD FOR
CARLOS FERNANDO CHAMORRO

On May 25th, Confidencial director Carlos Fernando Chamorro won the Ortega y Gasset award given by the Spanish newspaper El País for his career as a journalist. He received the award by unanimous vote of the jury, which called him “an emblem of the defense of freedom of expression” and said his career has been characterized by a practice of journalism, in capital letters, carried out in the face of adversity and violence. When Chamorro learned of the award, he said “I accept it with great honor, as a spokesperson with an encouraging message for independent journalism in Nicaragua that is defending freedom during times of persecution. This prize is recognition of the journalistic resistance of Confidencial and all Nicaraguan press facing the worst dictatorship in our history. I hope it will help make the human rights crisis we are experiencing in Nicaragua visible internationally, along with the Nicaraguan media’s resistance in defense of freedom of press, which, as my father, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, would say, is the first of all freedoms. I am grateful to my colleagues, who have accompanied me in this adventure to make quality journalism, without giving in to censorship or self-censorship, to report the truth and to monitor power. I also hope that the Ortega y Gasset Award will strengthen the unity of national journalism, in its commitment to bring back hope for change to the country, based on the truth. Upon receiving the award, I remember the sacrifice of journalist Ángel Gahona [killed in April 2018 in Bluefields], the resistance of journalists Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda unjustly imprisoned [from December 2018 to June 2019] and all the victims of the repression and example of the persecuted, besieged and exiled journalists, and those who today are facing a new escalation of criminalization.”
NICARAGUAN STUDENT
WINSINTERNATIONAL AWARD

Óscar Enrique Ruiz, Industrial Biotechnology student at the Polytechnic University (UPOLI) in Managua, won second place in the worldwide YSP-SINERGY contest for Latin America in May, with his project “Arsenic Degrading Bacteria.” The research points out what this highly toxic metal causes and how it is present in the environment in its natural form or from human activities. Ruiz’s project evaluated the degradation of arsenic in well water in Kinuma and El Bizcocho, two rural communities in the department of Chontales, where high levels of arsenic have been found. Ruiz used 29 microorganisms in his experiment, 27 of them bacteria known through international information as bio-degraders of arsenic. His experiment showed that when these bacteria are in contact with the contaminated water, they metabolize the arsenic and eliminate its toxicity.


INTERNATIONAL AWARD
TO NICARAGUAN COMPOSER

The musical piece “Mayahuabá,” composed and performed by Nicaraguan singer-songwriter Ceshia Ubau, with accompaniment by Guatemalan singer Said Palacios and Nicaraguan Daris Hernández, won third place in the World Music category at the 20th edition of the International Songwriting Competition on May 3. The Garifuna word mayahuabá means “Don’t Cry Anymore” and the song was inspired by massive Central American migration. “It is dedicated to the people of our region who migrate from different types of contexts, hoping to improve their living conditions,” said Ubau, who migrated to Costa Rica after the April 2018 rebellion. “To migrate is to mourn,” she said; “I know that process. And Central America has a lot to offer. We are resilient people because we share a violent context, but based on this very context we have tried to transform this violence into art and culture.” The video clip of the song was first launched on YouTube on October 19, 2019, in commemoration of the Day of Indigenous Resistance. Young migrants from Nicaragua, Haiti, El Salvador and Venezuela participated in the recording, which was produced in Costa Rica with support from UNESCO. The competition that awarded “Mayahuabá” has 22 musical categories and a prestigious panel of judges that includes the Italian songwriter Laura Pausini, the British band Coldplay and singer Dua Lipa. “Mayahuabá” won its award in competition with 26,000 songs from 158 countries.


“NICARAGUA’S SCENARIO IS OUR FUTURE”

“I’ve been in Nicaragua, and witnessed with horror the killing of opponents,” Carlos Martínez, a Salvadoran journalist with the Internet newspaper El Faro, told La Prensa in an interview published on May 2. “In El Salvador that’s not yet the case, because the majority of the population still trusts and believes it’s right for President Bukele to accumulate all the power, even if he does so through illegal means. Nicaragua’s scenario seemed very far away for us…. We also presumed we had institutions in which the power was divided among different political parties and therefore a balance and certain independence existed in the Office of Attorney General. All those democratic advances that cost us so much were dismantled with a stroke of a pen. This man has advanced in dismantling democracy and the institutions in less than two years at a speed that not even the dictator Daniel Ortega was able to achieve.…. In record time and with the applause of all his followers, Bukele has brought us close to the situation you are suffering in Nicaragua under the regime of Daniel Ortega and his wife. Nicaragua’s scenario today is our future…. For now, the President has majority support, so he doesn’t need to go out and kill, imprison or disappear opponents, but this government’s frame of mind is heading toward this if it becomes necessary. I see no signs that it won't head in that direction in the future. What separates us from Nicaragua now is that the President still has huge popular approval.”

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