NicaNotes: Nicaragua in 2019 Would Make Anyone Proud

By Nan McCurdy

Carlos Fonseca Amador, the founder of the Sandinista Front for National Liberation would have a lot to be proud of in 2019, 43 years after he died in battle with the Somoza National Guard. Nicaragua continues to be a country in solidarity with others as it showed November 6 at the United Nations when it denounced the hardening of the US blockade against Cuba, a blockade which only hurts the people. The three countries that did not vote against the blockade were the US, Israel and Brazil.

Ten members of ALBA-TCP,  the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas – Peoples Trade Agreement met the week of Nov. 14 in Managua and issued a resolution that “Strongly condemns the coup d’état in Bolivia, demands respect for the institutionality of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly of Bolivia and supports the willingness of the Constitutional President Evo Morales to return to the country and convene a national dialogue as a political avenue to restore stability, peace and constitutional order to Bolivia.”

Hundreds of thousands of people marched for peace all over Nicaragua on Nov. 16 specifically repudiating US-supported regime change in Bolivia, asking for peace and the return of the former president, Evo Morales, with the proclamation “Evo, friend, the people are with you.”

Meanwhile, in Nicaragua, the FSLN has been back in the executive for thirteen years and has done much to improve the lives of the impoverished majority beginning with cutting poverty and extreme poverty in half (48.3% to 24.5% and extreme poverty dropped to 6.9%). Eighteen new modern hospitals have been built and others are underway for a total of 33 in the next four years. Ninety-seven percent of Nicaraguan families will have electricity by the end of 2019 and green energy production has gone from 22% to 62% during the Sandinista administration. 

Minister of Finance and Public Credit Iván Acosta presented the 2020 General Budget of which 56.7% will be earmarked for social spending, including 44.7% for health, education and universities.

The representative of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Ana Solís-Ortega, said on her arrival Oct. 8 that “PAHO has a special commitment to Nicaragua because it has achieved great progress in health indicators like national vaccine coverage, maternal mortality, child nutrition, and others. And Nicaraguan authorities maintain a clear perspective of what aspects need to be improved and the ways in which PAHO can support this work through technical cooperation.”

“Nicaragua has a perfect execution rate of its project portfolio and serves as an example for other Central American countries on how to plan investment projects and implement them efficiently,” declared Dante Mossi, president of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) on Oct. 13. Nicaragua and CABEI are carrying out 29 projects including hospitals, roads, electricity, water and sanitation aimed at the development of infrastructure and the fight against poverty.

Two loan agreements for US$600 million were just signed between the Ministry of Finance and the CABEI. The loans are for the Road Maintenance and Expansion Program and the Program for Expansion and Improvement of the Potable Water and Sanitation System benefiting 432,000 inhabitants in the departments of Boaco, Chinandega, Chontales, Estelí, León, Masaya, Matagalpa, Managua and the two Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean Coast.

Nicaragua was congratulated for its important achievements in gender equality and restoration of women’s rights, highlighting the recent publication of the UN Women and Inter-Parliamentary Union Women in Politics map, which highlighted that the Nicaragua Government cabinet is made up of seven men and ten women representing 58.8% of Ministers, making it the third place country in the word with the best gender balance. The recognition took place at the International Seminar on Violence against Women held October 8 to 10 in the Dominican Republic.

Alba Luz Torres, Minister of Labor (MITRAB), participating in the Initiative: “Latin America and the Caribbean Free of Child Labor,” held from October 22 to 25 in Lima, Peru, said, “Nicaragua has been working on the elimination of child labor through public policies and effective social programs for the eradication of poverty and the restoration of the rights of children and adolescents.”

The South Korea Ambassador to Guatemala, Seok-Hwa Hong, at the South Korean-Latin American Cooperation Initiative said on Nov. 5, “Nicaragua is an example in the region of successful execution of productive development projects. In the last twelve years, national agricultural production has increased by 86% and livestock production grew 65%, contributing to the fight against poverty and strengthening food security in the country.” Nicaragua leads Central America in livestock and beef exports. Two weeks prior, the National Assembly passed an Update that establishes the obligation of the government to promote policies that contribute to food security as part of the National Human Development Plan and to the sovereignty of the country. 

The representative in Nicaragua of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Paola Valle, stated that “Nicaragua has a modern legislative system and these new norms will reinforce legal certainty and strengthen institutions in the productive, consumer and commerce systems, as well as the new climate change response system.” She also said the new standards are excellent inputs for the FAO 2020 Report on the legal contribution by Nicaragua to sustainable development goals. 

Nicaragua was recently elected to represent Latin America and the Caribbean on the Executive Committee of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility. This election recognizes Nicaragua’s commitment to sustainable management of forest resources. Nicaragua is applying the Emission Reduction Program that seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 11 million tons between 2020 and 2025, reducing deforestation and degradation of the forest on Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast by at least 50%. The World Bank representatives congratulated Nicaragua for designing a program that applied prior, free and informed consultation with the territorial governments of the Caribbean Coast and that meets all international standards for forest protection and emission reduction established in the Framework Convention of the UN on Climate Change (UNFCC).

US$110 million will be invested in the conservation of two of the largest reserves in Mesoamerica, the Bosawás Nature Reserve and the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve over the next few years. The financing comes from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Green Climate Fund and the General Budget of the Republic.

Alfredo Coronel, vice-president of the Free Trade Zones Corporation, announced on Oct. 24 that China plans to invest more than US$200 million in the Nicaragua’s textile industry. The company that will open in Mateare will create more than 3,000 jobs. October 31 the Central American Economic Integration Secretariat (SIECA) reported that Nicaragua is among the top producers and exporters of textiles and garments.

In celebration of World Food Day, the First International School Nutrition Forum was organized to evaluate progress in child nutrition as well as the School Meal Program. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) representative, Alexandre Florencio, said, “Nicaragua is an example because through the School Meal Program it has provided healthy and balanced meals to all schools in the country, beneficial for growth and academic performance of the children.” Antonella D’Aprille, representative of the World Food Program (WFP) stated that the Nicaragua School Meal Program is one of the largest social protection programs in the region, as it guarantees healthy meals to 1.2 million students, many of them in rural areas.”

Leonor Corea, director of the microloan program called “Zero Usury” reported that in the last 12 years Nearly 400,000 women from 140 municipalities have received US$23.9 million to establish and expand small businesses. Corea said, “In 2019, financing has been provided to 15,000 women contributing to revitalization of the national economy.” The “Zero Usury” program is part of the Plan for Strengthening Productive and Organizational Capacities within the framework of the National Model of Creative Economy. A crab processing plant on the Atlantic Coast that already generates 150 jobs announced Nov. 6 it plans to expand in 2020 in Bluefields to provide 200 more jobs. On Nov. 1, a Women’s Solar Oven project in Catarina won first place in the “Urban Innovation category” of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat).

Tourism is recovering after the 2018 failed coup. In London, Anasha Campbell, co-minister of Tourism, said tourism arrival figures were down by 29.7% in 2018. However, forward bookings for October to December 2019 were up by 98% compared with 2018. Before the political crisis that began in April 2018 and the British FCO travel warning, tourism numbers were flourishing, Campbell said. In 2017, Nicaragua experienced its “best year” and its 11th year of growth, with a surge in tourism numbers of 18.8%. On Nov. 5, Nicaragua was honored by “Agent Choice” with the “Environmentally Friendly Destination Award,” organized by the British tourism magazine “Selling Travel Magazine.” The winning destination is selected by travel agencies in the United Kingdom. The Hilton Worldwide hotel chain will be opening a second hotel in Managua under the DoubleTree brand in early November and will be powered by solar energy and have rooms for 400 guests.

Children and adults all over Nicaragua come to the capital to enjoy the Luis Alfonso Velásquez Park built in the 1980s and improved every year since 2007. The Park that covers more than 20 square blocks has an official youth baseball stadium, basketball and volleyball courts, a special course for rollerblading and multiple rides for different ages. It is one of the most visited spaces by families because of the wide variety of attractions for children and parents, who like the security, large trees, cleanliness and tranquility. Recently the largest trampoline in the capital was inaugurated, where children take advantage to perform their best acrobatics. “A trampoline is great fun for our children because they jump until they can’t. We are happy because our children have a great place to play,” said Tatiana Castillo. Antonio Berríos and his wife and grandchildren arrive early; walking in this space is an adventure they often do. They love the artificial lake and boats inaugurated in 2018.

This article was compiled from news items from October and November 2019 from Radiolaprimerisima.com, el19digital.com, informepastran.com, Nicaragua News, Canal8.com.ni, Canal2.com.ni. We can only wish that Carlos Fonseca all the tens of thousands of martyrs who made possible today’s Nicaragua were here to enjoy the fruits of their labors. 

 

BRIEFS 

By Nan McCurdy

Stable Economy in Clear Recovery.
The financial rating agency Fitch Ratings announced on Nov. 22 that the economic outlook for Nicaragua is stable and in clear recovery. The report highlighted that the positive economic outlook is due to the macroeconomic policy implemented in the country which has included stabilizing the Central Bank reserves and commercial bank deposits. Fitch also noted that fiscal adjustments and social security reform have reduced domestic financing needs and eased external financing requirements, reflecting a consistent fiscal policy response. Fitch says “the stabilization of deposits in commercial banks and the current account surplus have reduced the pressure” and highlights that the Central Bank reduced the annual depreciation of the Cordoba against the dollar from 5 to 3%, expecting this to reduce the costs of servicing the government’s debt. You can read the article here: https://www.fitchratings.com/site/pr/10102844 (Nicaragua News, 11/25/19)

Growth in Exports
Nicaraguan exports generated US$3.967 billion between January and September 2019, representing 2.1% growth in comparison to the same period in 2018 according to The Export Procedures Center (CETREX).  The Minister of Industrial Development and Commerce (MIFIC), Orlando Solórzano, explained that the products with the highest demand are textiles (28.3%), premium coffee (10.5%), car chassis (10%), gold (9%) and beef (9%). The main markets for Nicaragua exports are the United States with 61.4%, Central America — 16%, European Union — 7.9%, Mexico — 5.4% and Taiwan — 2.1%. (Nicaragua News, 11/21/19)

IMF Support for Government Economic Policies
On November 20, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published its economic report pertaining to the Article IV Consultation which measures the current standing and economic prospects of Nicaragua. The report highlights that the cumulative economic strengths and macroeconomic policies established in Nicaragua “have contributed to preserving macroeconomic and financial stability in the face of difficult circumstances.” The IMF also recommends that macroeconomic policies be maintained and that structural reforms be made to safeguard fiscal sustainability. The IMF recognized the efforts made by the Nicaragua Government to comply with the recommendations of the International Financial Action Task Force (FATF), to protect the integrity of financial transactions and mitigate exposure to illicit funds. (Nicaragua News, 11/21/19)

94% of Students Finish Their School Year
There are 78,000 high school graduates from public and private schools this year. Of those, 64,000 come from public schools. The goal for total number of primary and secondary students by 2020 is to reach more than 1.796 million, an increase of 55,000. Presidential Advisor Salvador Vanegas, commenting on education goals, said, “We are closing the year with 57,000 teachers. Of those, 37,000 have had specialized training in the use of technology, new math methodologies, scientific research, initial education and development, among others.” “We’re closing the year with good retention: the latest figures show a 94% retention. That means that 94 of every 100 students enrolled finish their classes,” he reported. “We closed the school year with 1.2 million school meals delivered daily throughout the year. More than 600 study centers have digital classrooms and next year we are going to reach 741 centers, all of this creates the conditions for educational quality to become a reality,” Vanegas said. This year, the public investment program remodeled more than 1,500 classrooms (Informe Pastran, 11/25/19)

Health of Nicaraguans Improving
“Nicaragua is making important health gains,” presidential health advisor Sonia Castro told INFORME PASTRAN. Maternal mortality has been reduced by 16% from 37 to 31 deaths comparing January to September of 2018 to the same months of 2019. Deaths of children under one fell from 1,223 to 1,150 or 6%.”Chronic malnutrition in children under 5 years old went from 21.7% in 2006 to 11.4% in 2019, a reduction of 46%,” Castro said.  From January to September 2018, 3,318,262 doses of vaccines were administered and in the same period of 2019, 4,113,835 doses were administered, an increase of 24%. “Operation Miracle” for people with cataracts performed 9,606 operations in 2018 which number increased to 10,617 between January and September 2019. In this same period, deaths from cervical cancer in 2018 were 224; this has been reduced in 2019 to 163, a reduction of 27%. Castro highlighted that malaria in 2019 has been reduced by 8% and tuberculosis by 20%. Cases of death from pneumonia were 380 in 2018 and so far this year there are 294 cases, 23% less. Regarding dengue fever, Castro explained that the lethality in Nicaragua is 0.018%, being the lowest in Central America or the United States. (Informe Pastran, 11/25/19)

Artisanal Miners Join Social Security
This week the Nicaragua Social Security Institute (INSS) reported that 103 artisanal miners organized in 24 collectives dedicated to gold mining in Santa Cruz de la India and other communities in the municipality of Santa Rosa del Peñón were enrolled in Social Security (INSS). Membership guarantees comprehensive medical care for miners, their spouses and their children, as well as pensions when they retire. The integration of this group of miners into the social security system was achieved through awareness campaigns and workshops organized by the INSS, with support of the British mining company Condor Gold. (Nicaragua News, 11/22/19)

Granada Municipal Building Destroyed in Coup Attempt to Be Inaugurated
Granada Mayor Julia Mena reported that in mid-December the second stage of the Municipal Palace reconstruction will be inaugurated. The Palace, along with many other public and private buildings were burned and destroyed by vandals paid and directed by the opposition during the 2018 attempted coup. The municipal building has been rebuilt to maintain the same structure with which it was built in the eighteenth century. It will be open to the public with exhibitions of history, art, culture, painting schools, music schools, a museum and library. (Informe Pastran, 11/25/19)

New Drugs to Be Produced with Support from Russia
The government announced Nov. 25 that Nicaragua with the support of Russia will produce a new line of drugs and vaccines for the treatment of patients with chronic kidney failure and diabetes. Nicaragua and Russia with support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), are initiating this new challenge that contributes to guaranteeing the right to health of the entire population of the country and Latin America. Roberto López, executive president of the Nicaraguan Institute of Social Security (INSS), explained that to date 3.5 million doses of influenza vaccine have been created. “We still have important challenges for the future, such as creating a national drug regulatory authority that is certified by PAHO to guarantee the quality and effectiveness of the vaccines we are producing, and we still need to advance in the training of pharmaceutical and biotechnology personnel, for which we have the support of Cuba and Russia,” he added. (Radiolaprimerisima, 11/26/19)

Nicaraguan Government Promotes Culture
Luis Morales Alonso, director general of the Institute of Culture, represented Nicaragua at the Forum of Ministers of Culture of UNESCO in Paris, France. Morales said that since 2007, Nicaragua has a cultural policy that reaches all sectors of the country to promote culture. “Our model of alliances allows us to work together for the promotion of cultural expressions, and the protection and preservation of our cultural heritage,” said Morales in his speech. (Informe Pastran, 11/20/19)

More support for new highway project.
The Nicaragua Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MTI) and the Embassy of Taiwan signed a cooperation agreement on Nov. 21 for the “Río Blanco-Puerto Cabezas Road Infrastructure Improvements Project.” The agreement includes a US$1 million contribution and technical assistance for the project. MTI Minister Oscar Mojica stated, “This road is key to the development of agricultural and mining production in the area, as well as to ensure the safe transit of the population in the northern Caribbean Region of the country.” (Nicaragua News, 11/25/19)

MINSA Inaugurates Health Center and Health Fairs
The Ministry of Health inaugurated a new health center in Mateare, Managua, equipped with modern technology that will serve 60,000 inhabitants with specialties in dentistry, ophthalmology, orthopedics, natural medicine, imaging, pediatrics, among others. This week MINSA will hold 630 health fairs that reach 1,000 communities through mobile clinics, with the participation of 4,729 health workers and community networks. (Informe Pastran, 11/19/19)

Thousands of Families Receive Titles to their Homes
The Attorney General’s Office distributed thousands of property titles in the municipality of Tipitapa, Managua. Families with more than 20 years living in their home and others who rented or lived with friends or family now have a home because of help from the government, with legal title which gives them absolute security. (Informe Pastran, 11/19/19)

Committed to Environmental Protection
The Nicaragua Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) and the Mayoral office of Managua began the oxygenation process of Lake Tiscapa, an old volcanic lake in the center of Managua. The US$433,290 investment installed oxygenation machinery that will remove sulfur, methane and chemical particles from the lagoon. It is funded from the Municipal budget with support of the Netherlands. The National Autonomous University (UNAN) Center for Aquatic Resources Research (CIRA) will monitor the process continuously. (Nicaragua News, 11/22/19)

Thousands Walk to End Violence against Women
Thousands of people walked on Nov. 25 from University Avenue to the “Paseo de los Estudiantes” in Managua, and in every municipality in the country to support policies that promote women’s rights and are guaranteed by the Sandinista Government. They marched under the slogans “Dignity, Rights, Nonviolence,” “Brave Women,” and “With Peace You Don’t Play.” Marchers proclaimed that Nicaragua is the only country in the region with tranquility and security where women have more options to develop in all aspects of life: economic, social, cultural, and sports. November 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a date that Nicaraguans commemorate by calling for peace and non-violence, a right earned and recognized by the FSLN. (Radiolaprimerisima, 11/26/19)

Tourism Improving In Nicaragua
Nicaraguan tourism figures are positive, said INTUR Co-Director Anasha Campbell during a meeting November 18. In statements to TV Noticias of Channel 2, she explained, “The failed coup d’état significantly affected tourism, however, as of May of this year, the numbers have been positive: in June 2018 there were only 49,000 tourists and in the same period of 2019 there were more than 100,000 visitors. These figures are due to promotional campaign, Nicaragua Siempre Linda, which aims to restore tourism,” said Campbell. Nicaragua also participated in 25 international fairs. Nicatur 2019 was promoted with the participation of 63 wholesale travel agencies and 32 international media. Public-private missions were carried out in the United States, Canada, Mexico, France and Central America. Tourism in Nicaragua is generating 48,687 direct jobs, 51% of which are occupied by women. In the case of indirect jobs, this figure triples. (Informe Pastran, 11/19/19)

Among the Most Important Destinations to Visit in 2020
The End of Year edition of the British magazine “Wanderlust,” highlighted Nicaragua in its “Hot List 2020” as one of the most important destinations to visit in 2020. The magazine states that Nicaragua is a nature lover’s paradise with its “Smoky volcanoes, pristine beaches, lakes, lagoons and jungles full of exotic animals.” The article emphasizes destinations such as Granada, León, Ometepe, Little Corn Island and Río San Juan, which according to the magazine encapsulates the touristic and natural variety that Nicaragua offers to the world. (Nicaragua News, 11/22/19)

Rift between Opposition Groups
A group of activists who call themselves an association of political prisoners protested in a private meeting that the political Alliance dominated by businessmen and the UNAB-MRS do not support them and, on the contrary, they put obstacles in their way because they do not want them to go on hunger strike, nor do they want them to take over the Catholic churches. In a meeting led by José Melo, father of Scannierth Merlo Lacayo, whose audio of the meeting was leaked, Merlo accuses the alliance and UNAB-MRS of sabotaging them saying that he had to speak directly with the U.S. ambassador to the OAS, Carlos Trujillo. This group complains that they have not been given any of the US$17 million USAID dollars. At the meeting some of those who claimed to be on hunger strike admitted that they were eating in the church and that they left not of their own free will but because the priests in charge of the Managua Cathedral and Sister Arelys demanded they leave the church. “We were told to go,” they said.  One of the women present said that Alliance activist Leslie Rayo called them on the phone to ask them to leave the Cathedral and tell them to coordinate with the Alliance. Merlo said they are not receiving money from the businessmen that USAID had given for them. (Informe Pastran 11/25/19)

Priest at Managua Cathedral Chases, kicks and hits Families Praying for Peace
On November 18 more than one hundred families, members of Christian Base Communities, went to the Managua Cathedral to pray for peace. Tomas Valdez asked that the churches not be used for promoting hate but as a place for prayer. As seen on multiple videos the priest on duty at the time showed great anger as he chased after and attempted to kick people. The people were indignant and surrounded him scolding him. The next day the Christian Base Community members, the Papal Nuncio, and other priests prayed for peace and for the unity of Christians. Valdez called on all priests to make sure that the churches are for everyone. The violent priest has since been relieved of his duties at the Managua Cathedral. (Informe Pastran, Radiolaprimerisima, Nov. 18 and 19, 2019)