NicaNotes: Costa Rica Provokes Regional Transportation Crisis

By Nan McCurdy

Costa Rica appears to be trying to cause hunger and shortages in Central America by blocking nearly a 1,000 trucks going south through Central America with food and merchandize, some of it for treating and dealing with COVID-19. The trucks are from every country in Central America, but the majority are from Honduras and Guatemala. The line of trucks is miles long and growing.

First, Costa Rica made drivers get tested and wait for three or more days. Some drivers from Central America tested positive (most news articles dis-inform that the drivers were Nicaraguan). Now they have decreed that drivers can only bring goods to the border and transfer to a Costa Rican company. The other nations, transportation organizations, and some of the Costa Rican business sector are telling the president to rescind the decrees.

President Carlos Alvarado says he is doing it to stop the spread of COVID-19, but it is already in all of Central America and his country has had nearly 900 cases. He is creating an international incident, and may well put some of the truck drivers out of business (about 85% of trucks that carry merchandize in Central America are privately owned as opposed to owned by big companies, so it may also be an effort to get the little guys out so the big companies can take over). Nicaragua is helping the drivers out with food. At Costa Rica’s southern border with Panama, truckers blocked traffic May 18 to protest the measures.

As part of the US-directed and financed 2018 coup attempt, the Nicaraguan opposition set up some 2,500 roadblocks around the country. In the Carazo department more than 400 trucks were stranded for well over a month. This crisis brings back terrible memories for Nicaraguans and anyone associated with the Central American truck drivers who suffered violence in 2018.

On the 125th anniversary of Augusto C Sandino’s birth, May 18, President Ortega pledged that Nicaragua will continue to facilitate the international land transit of goods in coordination with the other national and regional institutions in order to standardize efforts that allow for prompt attention at border control posts.

“That is Nicaragua’s decision, that is, it does not depend on us, it depends on Costa Rica … being willing to find a mechanism that will provide security to the transporters themselves,” said the President.

Daniel said that the stranded trucks are a problem generated by decrees issued by the Costa Rican government. “It is Costa Rica that has closed its borders with the measures that it began to establish,” he said. Daniel called on the Costa Rica government to solve this situation. He expressed his solidarity with the transporters who are stranded and cannot enter Costa Rica.

The president said that between the southern Nicaraguan town of Rivas and the border with Costa Rica at Peñas Blancas there are 942 transport trucks that have not been able to enter Costa Rica, 384 are from Guatemala and 284 from El Salvador. In this regard, he said that the Central American Integration System had agreed to coordinate a resolution so the flow of commercial traffic in the region would not continue to be affected.

On May 15, Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado signed decrees No. 42351-H and 42350-MGP-S, to keep the number of foreign carriers as low as possible to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19. Since May 18 trucks may only enter the facilities of Costa Rican land border posts to drop off or pick up goods there. The Decrees will affect the supply of essential products to combat COVID-19 as well as food.

The day the measures went into effect the Central American Council of Economic Integration Ministers asked the Costa Rican government to rescind its decision. Backed by 17 regional groups, the proposal calls on the countries of the isthmus to support the urgent drafting and immediate application of the Protocol for the Central American transport sector, which will establish coordinated procedures between the States to prevent contagion and guarantee the flow of trade.

Costa Rican Border Police blocking commercial trucking from entering their country.

The Central America Transport Federation (Fecatrans) demanded the elimination of the decrees because of the negative impact on the regional supply of products. The vice president of the Heavy Transport Union of Guatemala, Juan Carlos Limatuj, described as outrageous what drivers go through at the border post of Peñas Blancas (northern border of Costa Rica with Nicaragua).

The Panama Customs Director, Tayra Barsallo, called the Costa Rican measures “inhuman” and the Panamanian authorities asked for the elimination of the decrees.

The Panamanian transporters’ union closed the Paso Canoas border crossing on the canal side to stop Costa Rica’s cargo from entering Panama in retaliation.

The line of nearly 1,000 transporters at Peñas Blancas (the primary transportation border-crossing between Nicaragua and Costa Rica) keeps increasing. This puts the supply of products at risk, generates uncertainty due to the possible damage to perishable products and affects trade.

“We are asking the [Costa Rican] Government to suspend the decree because it affects the regional economy,” said Costa Rican Chamber of Exporters (Cadexco) President Laura Bonilla.

The National Chamber of Cargo Transporters (Canatrac) of Costa Rica is concerned about the long line of trucks at the borders. “First they did COVID-19 tests on all drivers with a three-day wait for results. We are aware of the health interests of our authorities, but we must find a balance between health, safety and the logistical safety of goods,” said Canatrac representative, Francisco Quirós.

On May 19, Costa Rica began militarizing its closed borders with more than 1500 trucks, food and merchandise stranded. Central American transporters, exporters and importers accuse Costa Rica of violating the rules governing free trade in the region.

US funded Nicaraguan opposition media outlet, Confidencial, as well as ABC News falsely claimed the problem was that Nicaragua had closed its border with Costa Rica.

 

BRIEFS

By Nan McCurdy

Thousands Sent Home from Prison
The Ministry of the Interior released 2,815 inmates May 13, including elderly people with chronic illnesses who were serving sentences in the country’s various prisons, all of whom received the benefit of the family life regime (house arrest). Eighty-eight are women and 2,727 are men, from all the country’s prisons. At the government’s request the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was an observer at the family reunification event. The Government, through the Ministry of the Interior, continues to work to ratify its commitment to peace, good governance and the protection of health and life. See photos: http://www.radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias/general/283505/gobierno-excarcela-a-2815-reos/ (Radiolaprimerisima, 5/13/20)

Public Health and Food Security are Priorities
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) published an article on “Food Security in Nicaragua in the Context of the Health Crisis Created by COVID-19” written by Professor Yorlis Luna, Specialist in Ecology and Sustainable Development. The article states that “Nicaragua is implementing a COVID prevention and management plan adapted to its reality and the strengths of its public healthcare system to protect lives and maintain the popular economy that produces 90% of the food consumed.” The article also details that medical brigades are visiting families in their homes to raise awareness about COVID-19 prevention measures generating confidence that the public healthcare system is accessible to all regardless of economic status. “The public policies being implemented by the Government based on the principle that healthcare and food security are sovereign rights, together with the creativity of the population, ensure that the country is in a solid position to guarantee an effective response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.” (Nicaragua News, 5/14/20)

More People with COVID-19
The Health Ministry, as well as the Central America System of Integration (SICA), on May 19, reported the Covid-19 numbers are as follows: since the beginning, the total of all registered cases are 279; out of these, there are now 63 currently active, 199 have recovered and 17 have died. It is hoped that the public education efforts and Nicaragua’s robust community health care system will continue to keep the number of cases low. (Nicaragua News, 5/20/20, Radiolaprimerisima, 5/19/20)

COVID-19 Information Line a Success
The Health Ministry reported that the COVID-19 emergency line (132) has received 110,000 thousand calls over the past month, requesting information on COVID-19 prevention measures and steps to follow when possible symptoms arise. (Nicaragua News, 5/13/20)

Government Loans for Small Producers
The Nicaragua Ministry of the Family Economy is granting US$132,352 to 500 small producers in Nueva Segovia and Estelí Departments for the purchase of water storage tanks and silos. The investment is part of the Creative Economy Program being implemented throughout the country. (Nicaragua News, 5/13/20)

Property Titles Issued in Tribute to Sandino
2,500 property titles that guarantee legal security were delivered to families by the Sandinista Government through the Attorney General’s Office as a tribute to General Augusto C. Sandino on the 125th anniversary of his birth. (19Digital, 5/18/20)

New Road from Achuapa to San Juan de Limay
Representatives of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MTI) made a site visit to evaluate progress on construction of the new Achuapa-San Juan de Limay highway that will connect the Departments of Estelí and León, benefiting 31,231 inhabitants. Work on the highway is 83% complete and is expected to become operational later this year. The US$12.3 million infrastructure project is being financed by the General Budget. (Nicaragua News, 5/14/20)

El Castillo Getting Potable Water System
The Nicaragua Water and Sewage Company (ENACAL) is building the potable water and sanitation system in El Castillo community, Río San Juan Department, benefitting 424 inhabitants. El Castillo is the site of a Spanish fortress built in 1673 to protect against the invasions of English pirates. The US$823,529 project is being financed by the Emergency Social Investment Fund (NUEVO-FISE) of the government. (Nicaragua News, 5/13/20)

Electricity Grid Expands
The National Electrical Transmission Company continues work extending the National Electrification Program to different parts of Nicaragua, building and expanding electrical substations with an investment of three hundred million dollars. Salvador Mansell, Enatrel’s President said that electric substations are being built in Bilwi, Rosita, Waslala, San Juan del Sur, Ocotal, El Sauce, Santa Clara and La Dalia and expanded in San Benito, Los Brasiles and Terrabona. There are 18 substations with about thirty 70-km transmission lines. In June, 1,200 solar panels will be installed in San Carlos and El Rama. Mansell also said that ENATREL will inaugurate electrification projects in Estelí, Boaco, Madriz and Matagalpa benefitting 1,564 inhabitants who will have electricity. 177 projects out of 515 projects planned have been finished. (Radiolaprimerisima, 5/14/20)

Irish Solidarity Group Demands End of EU Sanctions
The Nicaragua-Ireland Solidarity Group expressed their solidarity with Nicaragua and condemned unilateral sanctions imposed on Nicaragua by the European Union pointing out that sanctions violate international law and are acts of aggression against the country.  On May 4, the European Union added additional measures to its illegal and punitive sanctions against Nicaragua imposed in October 2019. Several multilateral bodies, including the United Nations, have called for the lifting of sanctions on countries as they struggle to protect their populations from COVID-19. The latest episode of punitive measures comes immediately after additional US sanctions (House Resolution 754 passed on 9 March).  The EU measures clearly imitate many of those enacted by the United States and add to the US aggression and propaganda against Nicaragua. Nicaragua Solidarity Ireland reiterated the demand for an immediate and unconditional end to the interventionist sanctions imposed not only on Nicaragua but on a large number of other countries, sanctions that have a severe impact on the daily lives of people and on the sovereignty of independent countries. (Radiolaprimerisima, 5/17/20)

Elderly Developing New Skills
The Sandinista Government has developed a program for the elderly, who are now integrated into schools to develop their skills and demonstrate that people never stop learning in spite of age and that it is their right.  Pictures are of people in the municipality of San Ramon. http://www.radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias/general/283718/imagenes-impacto/ (Radiolaprimerisima, 5/17/20)

Naval Force Rescues Fishermen
The Naval Force rescued five fishermen who left the Pacific Coast fishing village of Masachapa on May 17 to fish and were located about 90 km from the coast in an area known as “El Hueco.” Soon after they left, four days of very large waves began and they were lost at sea for eleven days until a Nicaraguan Navy boat rescued them. The men were dehydrated and survived by eating fish. See reunification pictures here: http://www.radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias/general/283715/fuerza-naval-rescata-con-vida-a-pescadores-de-masachapa/  (Radiolaprimerisima, 5/17/20)