NicaNotes: Infrastructure Advances Improve Lives of All Nicaraguans

By Nan McCurdy

During the neoliberal governments from 1990 to 2007, the Nicaraguan population suffered lack of electricity an average of five to twelve hours a day. Electricity was needed to pump water so Nicaraguans had even more hours without the precious liquid. In my Managua neighborhood, Ciudad Jardin, we prepared for the outages with candles, kerosene and stored water. We sat outside together in the dark in the early evenings – one good thing – and the kids played. But the frequent electricity cuts ruined refrigerators, televisions, etc. because, when the electricity returned, it would often spike.

I recently talked with some Hondurans who confirm that this is part of their suffering even today. They were visiting Nicaragua as tourists and could not believe the permanent electricity and water, as well as the great roads and bridges that make life more secure and save time.

An Inter-American Development Bank evaluation highlights that between 2008 and 2018, Nicaragua went from 15th to 9th place out of 19 Latin American countries in terms of infrastructure development and services. In terms of infrastructure and service quality, Nicaragua registered a percentage change of +43%, the third best change after Ecuador and Bolivia and the best in Central America. Nicaragua is also one of the countries with the fewest electricity blackouts and one of the best in potable water supply. In transportation, Nicaragua is in the fifth place in best roads in Latin America and first in Central America.

The year 2019 ended with 97.15% electricity coverage. While I was at the Majagual beach, San Juan del Sur, in December 2018, I witnessed the installation of electricity in the part of the village that had not yet receive it. Workers not only installed the lines, but provided basic installations inside the house and left the family with at least two light sockets and two plugs.

And this year, 2020, some US$117 million is being invested in 512 projects to guarantee more than 98.4% electricity coverage by December 2020. This includes more than 4,000 solar panels installed on the Caribbean Coast and in the Rio San Juan Department. Also, a memorandum of understanding was signed with EPR Solar in 2019 to build a 100 MW plant. This year a 50 MW plant in San Benito began functioning.

The president of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), Dante Mossi said, “Nicaragua will be the second country in Latin America to achieve 100% national coverage, a historic accomplishment that demonstrates the commitment of the Government to guarantee this basic right for the population. We must acknowledge and congratulate Nicaragua for obtaining US$115 million in funding from the United Nations Green Climate Fund to manage the effects of climate change. Approval of funds at this scale by the Green Climate Fund is unprecedented for the region and a clear recognition of Nicaragua’s work on environmental protection, as well as adaptation and mitigation of the effects of climate change. We have a lot to learn from the Nicaraguan experience,” Mossi said.

The Sandinista government has taken the country from 26% renewable energy in 2007 to 74.4% on Nov. 25, an advancement that few wealthy countries have achieved.

A commission of the OPEC Fund for International Development visited the municipality of El Tortuguero, in the South Caribbean Autonomous Region, where an electricity substation will be built, valued at US$20 million. This electricity substation will benefit the populations of El Tortuguero, La Cruz del Río Grande, Laguna de Perlas and El Ayote on the Atlantic Coast.

In 2020 there was the announcement of a new agreement with a US company, New Fortress Energy LLC, to build a natural gas-based energy plant in Puerto Sandino. This 300-megawatt plant will be part of the national interconnection system and will compensate for wind and solar energy variations. New Fortress CEO Wes Edens said, “Nicaragua has the economic and stability parameters for large-scale investments. It is a sign of our confidence in Nicaragua. We will also invest in training personnel so that they can manage the plant.” The construction will cost US$700 million.

There is also exciting news around potable water: In February the water company, ENACA, announced that drinkable water and sanitation will reach 95% of the population by 2023. In 2007 only 65% of homes had drinking water service. Currently about 91.5% of homes have service. In 2007 only 30% of homes in urban areas had sewage connections while now, 54% of homes in urban areas have sewage connections. By 2023, connections will reach 95% of urban homes. In 2020 US$115 million was invested in 41 water and sanitation projects.

ENACAL began operation of the new drinking water project in Bilwi, Puerto Cabezas, in the North Caribbean Autonomous Region on August 20. Water was installed in the homes of 16,000 families providing service 24 hours a day. US$30 million was invested from funds from the Inter-American Development Bank.

In October 2020 Nicaragua and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) began a mega wastewater project in Bluefields. This project will invest US$34 million over 24 months, generating 1,200 jobs. The drinking water project in Bluefields is near completion and will improve the lives of about 12,700 people.

Major investment in commercial and tourist ports took place in 2020 improving technical and operational capabilities, as well as remodeling of facilities. The Nicaraguan Port Authority president said that US$30.8 million is being invested, US$3.3 million from the Port Authority and US$27.5 million covered by foreign investment.

On Oct. 13, the head of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MTI), Oscar Mojica, announced that from 2006 to 2019, 4,590 km (2,852 miles) of new paved roads were built, an increase of 600%. In 2006 there were only 617 km (383 miles) of roads in good condition.

The Bluefields – Nueva Guinea highway, inaugurated in 2019, for the first time allows road connection between the Atlantic and Pacific. The El Rama-San Ramón highway was inaugurated on Oct. 8 and it completes the connection between the Central Highlands and the South Caribbean. A major road between Granada and Malacatoya that benefits 40,000 inhabitants of the Granada department was also finished in 2020.

In 2020 more than US$300 million was invested to build 214 km of rural roads using hydraulic concrete to improve access and circulation in productive areas of the country.

There was also a record investment of US$214 million spent in Managua for roads, water and sanitation and infrastructure in 700 neighborhoods.  This includes the multi-million-dollar expansion of the John Paul II beltway around Managua. Managua mayor Reyna Rueda said “We have 601 new streets and we maintained 33.46 kilometers of the road network and built six vehicular bridges.”

Rueda also announced the reconstruction of 13 Child Development Centers and improvements and maintenance in nine Managua markets, the construction of more than 2,000 homes as part of the Bismarck Martinez housing project, the expansion of the capital’s existing garbage landfill, and the construction of a new municipal cemetery.

The Ministry of Education will close 2020 with 74% of schools improved or rebuilt as well as fourteen new schools.

In August construction began on the “Francisco Meza Rojas” Primary Hospital in Malpaisillo, León Department, benefiting 33,000 inhabitants. The hospital in Quilalí will be finished in June 2021. It will provide primary care in pediatrics, surgery, internal medicine, physical therapy, nutrition and more to 52,700 inhabitants of Quilalí, located 264 kilometers north of Managua. Nicaragua has built 18 new hospitals and seven more are currently under construction.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) ranked Nicaragua as the fourth country in Latin America in terms of health investment. The IDB report “Latin America Post Covid-19,” details that Nicaragua invests 5.2% of its GDP in health, while Costa Rica spends 5.6%.

Despite the coercive and illegal economic measures known as sanctions applied by the US, infrastructure in Nicaragua has improved enormously since 2007 in electricity, water, roads, schools, hospitals and more. International banks recognize that Nicaragua has excellent, transparent execution of project resources, in other words, it does a lot with the money it has as well as the money it borrows in order to bring maximum benefits to the population.

(Source: NicaNotes issues during 2020.)

Briefs

By Nan McCurdy

Exports Again Break Records
Nicaragua’s exports established a new record of US$2.7 billion, according to official figures from the Center for Export Processing (CETREX), confirming the projection that Nicaragua could close 2020 at US$3 billion. Exports are positive for economic reactivation, the trade balance, productivity and employment. Five products led exports until November, gold, beef, coffee, sugar, and beans, followed by peanuts, farmed shrimp, fresh white cheese, lobsters, tobacco and fish. (Informe Pastran, 9 Dec. 2020)

IMF Loan Announced
The Central Bank reported that the International Monetary Fund will loan Nicaragua US$186.77 million to help with its response to the coronavirus pandemic. The funds will be used to finance an emergency health care program (40% of the resources) and an emergency food program (10%), to be implemented with the assistance of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the World Food Program (WFP), respectively. Some funds will be channeled as support for other pandemic-related expenditures. (Informe Pastran, 9 Dec. 2020)

US$300 Million Loan from CABEI
A loan from the Central America Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) to finance the implementation of the Program for Economic Reactivation and Social Protection has been approved. In the discussion about the CABEI Loan, National Assembly Deputy Wálmaro Gutiérrez, said that the US$300 million are for the emergency caused by COVID-19 and for economic reactivation after the hurricanes. Informe Pastran, 9 Dec. 2020

Corn Island Solar Plant Wins Award
On December 4, Spanish company Solartia received the International Project of the Year Award at Solar & Storage Live, the largest renewable energy event in the UK, for the Caribbean Pride project: a hybrid micro-grid in Corn Island, Nicaragua. The project was executed by the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the water company ENATREL. This award recognizes the best international solar energy and energy storage project for its impact and development. Located on Corn Island, Nicaragua, a small island of 12.9 square kilometers in the Caribbean Sea, Caribbean Pride is a hybrid micro-grid that has improved the quality of life of more than 8,000 people who now enjoy clean and affordable energy. (Informe Pastran, 11 Dec. 2020)

WFP Recognizes Government Hurricane Preparation
The director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the World Food Program (WFP), Miguel Barreto, recognized the preparation work done by the Nicaraguan government to prevent deaths with the onslaught of hurricanes Eta and Iota, reported Prensa Latina.  Barreto ended a three-day visit to Nicaragua on Dec. 12, during which he visited the area of hurricane impact. “I am pleasantly surprised by the effort that was made in the preparation stage,” the senior official of the United Nations agency told local media at the airport. He emphasized that the anticipatory work was essential to avoiding loss of life. Barreto added that the World Food Program is working alongside the government in the School Feeding Program. (Informe Pastran, 14 Dec. 2020)

CABEI Loan for Biosphere Reserves
On Dec. 15 the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) approved a loan of US$84 million for the Bio-CLIMA Project: Integrated Climate Action to Reduce Deforestation and Strengthen Resilience in the Bosawás and Río San Juan Biosphere Reserves. The resources will help combat climate change by reducing emissions from deforestation, forest degradation and livestock, as well as by improving carbon stocks. It will directly impact the vulnerable population of the Caribbean supporting adaptation and reducing the negative effects that climate change has on their livelihoods, improving living standards, generating jobs, reducing poverty. Dante Mossi, stated that “the execution of Bio-CLIMA is very relevant due to the serious damages caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota. It is estimated to benefit 665,821 inhabitants.” Bio-CLIMA will allow Nicaragua to increase its carbon absorption capacity by 14% in relation to the reference scenario for 2030 by promoting agro-ecological production of permanent crops under tree shade, which are more resistant to the impacts of climate change; reducing grazing and introducing cocoa agroforestry and silvopastoral systems, establishing planted forests on idle or degraded forest land; prioritizing the use of natural regeneration of native tree species; restoring and conserving ecosystems. (Informe Pastran, 15 Dec. 2020)

Muy Muy-Matiguás-Rio Blanco Highway
On Dec. 17 the government will inaugurate the second section of the Muy Muy – Matiguás – Río Blanco highway, in the Department of Matagalpa. The government invested US$17 million in the 17 km. of hydraulic concrete generating 164 jobs and benefitting 60,000 people. (Nicaragua Sandino, 15 Dec. 2020)

Leon Drinking Water Project
The Nicaraguan water company began the improvement and expansion of the drinking water system in the city of León, an investment of US$38.7 million financed by Nicaragua and by the Central America Bank for Economic Integration. On completion in 2022, the 57,870 families (with a total of 318,285 people) in León will have good potable water. (Informe Pastran, 9 Dec. 2020)

World Bank Loan for Covid-19 Response
The World Bank announced Dec. 10 the approval of a US$320 million loan to support the Nicaragua Covid-19 Prevention and Management Plan. The Representative in Nicaragua, Kinnon Scott, stated that “the Bank will be working closely with the Government and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), to support the response to the pandemic being implemented to mitigate the effects of the emergency and promote economic recovery.” The loan will be used to purchase medicines, laboratory and hospital equipment to strengthen the healthcare system and support the population, according to the Bank. (Nicaragua News, 11 Dec. 2020)

Ortega Accuses US of Contracting Terrorists for 2021 Elections
Forbes Magazine covered the Dec. 11 speech of President Daniel Ortega at the graduation ceremony for Army cadets in which he accused the United States of looking for “terrorists” to “put in a president” who would serve US interests in the elections scheduled for 2021 in Nicaragua. Ortega said that the United States “is conspiring, looking for ways to bring together all the terrorists, the coup-plotters, those who brutally murdered and burned [Sandinistas] in April 2018, giving them money [Note: Since 2017, USAID has provided the Nicaraguan opposition with more than US$102 million], and trying to unite them so that in the 2021 elections they can put a president in who will be at their service, down on their knees, in the face of imperialist policy.” In his speech Ortega stated that “We are facing a country that has been unmasking itself before the world. They want to give democracy lessons in all parts of the world, to decide which party should win in all parts of the world. They should look in their own mirror, there [in the US] they are fighting among themselves and accusing each other of fraud (…) They are shameless. With what authority do they decide which elections in other countries are democratic? We have never harmed the United States, but the Yankees and some European powers feel they have the right to treat us as if we were a colony. Sandino’s killers are in the north, they are still in the north.” (Forbes, 14 Dec. 2020; https://forbescentroamerica.com/2020/12/14/ortega-acusa-a-eu-buscar-terroristas-para-elecciones-de-nicaragua/ )

Tribute Paid to Victims and Heroes of 2018 Attempted Coup
The National Assembly honored the victims and heroes of the 2018 US-supported terrorism, on Dec. 10 in the framework of International Human Rights Day. Dr. Gustavo Porras said that this is the first special session with real content on the subject of human rights. “It is for the defense of the human rights of our terrorism victims.” Inspector Damaris Martinez, a police woman who was a victim of terrorism, gave details about what happened to her during the attempted coup in 2018. An officer with seven years of service in the National Police and the mother of two children, Martínez described the humiliations to which she was subjected by the US-led terrorist groups. She said that she has the honor of speaking on behalf of the 22 police officers who were killed in the attempted coup. She recalled Francisca Aguilar and Lieutenant Zaira López as well as the more than 400 police officers shot by the terrorist groups with firearms and who are still undergoing medical and psychological treatment.

Martinez said that at about 11:00 am on April 20, 2018, she was in front of the traffic lights of the National University of Engineering (UNI), when a group of armed and hooded people attacked the police from inside that campus. She added that she was hit by mortars in her intimate parts and legs, resulting in third, second and first degree burns for which she had to be taken to the hospital. “When I woke up I only remember that I told a doctor, don’t let me die,” said Martinez.

Manuela Flores is the grandmother of Carlos Miranda, murdered on April 11, 2018, in the Mayor’s Office of District 6 of Managua. She said that Carlos was the only son of her youngest daughter and asked that “justice be done against the terrorists that took the life of my 19-year-old grandson and so many of the country’s children.” “Those terrorist coup plotters got nowhere because the people of Nicaragua decided that they want peace; we have a government that supports us in all aspects –  in health, in education in everything,” she stated. More than one hundred family members of people killed as well as survivors of torture were present in the National Assembly on the 72nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Radio La Primerisima, 7 Dec. 2020

Advances in Rights of Indigenous Communities
For Ronald Whittingham, Law 28 – the “Statute of Autonomy of the Regions of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua,” approved on August 9, 1987, represents a great advance for his people since it “recognizes the right to education, health, and housing.” Whittingham is President of the Indigenous and Afro-descendant Territorial Government of the Karatá community in the municipality of Bilwi on the Northern Caribbean Coast. He added that with the issuance of Law 445 – Communal Property Regime of the Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Communities of the Autonomous Regions of the Atlantic Coast, the right to possess title to their lands was recognized. Whittingham described the law as “the governing body for the titling of lands,” having titled so far 36.5% of the Indigenous territory.

Since 1905 there was no ownership of the lands, only the right of possession, those who had dominion were the governments. It was with the arrival of the Sandinista Front [in 2007] that the process of demarcation began and the Indigenous people were recognized as the owners. The demarcation establishes that in order to conclude the process of restitution of rights to Indigenous people, colonists must be evicted from the demarcated and titled territories, a process with the legal name “saneamiento.” Whittingham said that the saneamiento stage is a very complicated issue, since there are “Indigenous from the same communities who have sold land, sometimes up to 500 manzanas (1,250 acres),” despite the fact that Law 445 clearly states that Indigenous lands are not to be sold or given away, but can be leased.” He concluded by saying that these problems are the responsibility of the community, as “it is the community that has to decide how to solve the problems for the saneamiento stage to be effective.”  See video here: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias-generales/destacado/avances-en-los-derechos-de-las-comunidades-indigenas/ (Radio La Primerisima, 13 Dec. 2020)

Campaign against Forest and Agricultural Fires
The Nicaragua Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) announced the beginning of a campaign for the prevention and control of forest and agricultural fires in the National System of Protected Areas. The campaign includes activities to strengthen the network of environmental observers to ensure early detection of fires, reforestation campaigns and environmental training for communities living in protected areas. (Nicaragua News, 14 Dec. 2020)

Quilalí Hospital on Target
The new primary hospital in Quilalí is on target to be finished in June of 2021. It will provide primary care in pediatrics, surgery, internal medicine, physical therapy, nutrition and care with natural medicine and relaxation therapies to the 52,700 inhabitants of Quilalí, located 264 kilometers north of Managua. The hospital will have equipment such as fluid infusion pumps, x-ray, mammography, cryotherapy, electrocardiography, among others. (Radio La Primerisima, 14 Dec. 2020)