This blogger could not think of anything to write about this week, but I do want to offer up the following brief summaries of news from Nicaragua that I think is important or at least interesting to international solidarity activists.
- Informe Pastran pointed out that the omnibus spending bill passed by the US Congress to fund government through the September 30 end of the fiscal year contains language restricting federal funds from countries that have recognized two breakaway republics – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – which succeeded from Georgia a few years ago. Nicaragua is one of several countries that have diplomatic relations with the two new countries. Presidential Economic Advisor Bayardo Arce responded to reporters’ questions about the effect of the language on US aid to Nicaragua. Arce said, “The United States government does not give anything to the government of Nicaragua as far as I know. I think there is some military aid, which I would say is a rather bad payment for the big favor we do them by stopping trafficking of the drugs that they consume in large quantities.” (Informe Pastran, May 12)
- Nicaragua Foreign Minister Denis Moncada and the Minister of Cooperation of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Romain Schneider, signed a US$39 million aid agreement May 9 in Managua. The funding will be used for the development of new projects in strategic sectors such as health, education and tourism. Schneider said that his country has increased the amount of cooperation with Nicaragua from US$31 to US$39 million dollars. [See above brief for comparison with US foreign aid to Nicaragua.] (Nicaragua News, May 10)
- Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) President Roberto Rivas announced municipal elections on November 5 this year. “All political parties must submit a list with at least 80% of their candidates, of which 50% must be men and 50% women,” he said. Rivas also confirmed that the Organization of American States (OAS) will accompany the November municipal elections, as part of the agreements signed with the Nicaragua government. Earlier this year, the OAS ratified that they are working with the Nicaragua government to strengthen democracy and improve electoral processes in the country. Foreign Minister Denis Moncada also confirmed the OAS role which has angered the portion of the opposition that boycotted last year’s presidential election. The OAS participation will make it hard for the opposition to attack the legitimacy of the outcome. (Nicaragua News, May 9, 15)
- The Nicaragua Center for Exports (CETREX) reported that coffee exports totaled more than US$220 million during the first four months of this year, which is an incredible 22.4% increase over the same period of 2016. The United States, Venezuela, Germany, Belgium and Canada are among the main markets of Nicaraguan coffee exports. (Nicaragua News, May 9)
- Carolina Garcia, director of Marketing Promotion of the Nicaragua Tourism Institute (INTUR), announced that an international advertising campaign is being implemented to promote Nicaragua as an attractive adventure tourism destination. “INTUR launched its latest advertising spot on the big screens of Times Square in New York last week. We will be making similar efforts in different countries to showcase and promote our volcanoes, beaches and nature reserves,” García said. (Nicaragua News, May 11)
- In news that for this blogger is at best a mixed blessing, the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism (INTUR) announced that 50 cruise ships docked in Nicaragua in 2016, a 31.6% increase over 2015. The visiting ships contained 62,517 passengers of which 32,826 visited at least one tourist attraction. A total of 1.5 million foreign tourists visited Nicaragua in 2016, leaving behind US$642 million in foreign currency, more than the country brings in from coffee or beef exports. (El Nuevo Diario, May 16)
- A celebration of the life of US solidarity activist Ben Linder and the two Nicaraguans who were executed by the Contras 30 years ago had been postponed in April in San Jose de Bocay due to the tragic death of a hydroelectric plant worker. That celebration has been rescheduled for Wednesday, May 24 at 3pm. Everyone is invited but must make their own transportation arrangements, according to an announcement by Amanda Jones-Dominguez. (Casa Ben Linder List, May 14)