By Jorge Capelán
This week is very important in Central America, especially in Nicaragua. On September 15, the region celebrates the signing of its declaration of Independence from Spain in 1821. On September 14, another historic milestone is celebrated: The defeat of US filibuster William Walker and his troops by Nicaraguan forces in 1856. Walker had repealed laws prohibiting slavery in an attempt to get the support of US southern states. US President Franklin Pierce recognized Walker’s as the legitimate government of Nicaragua an endeavor to bring Nicaragua under US control that failed over and over again with the Nicaraguan people throughout history.
“Youth, divine treasure”, quoted resident Daniel Ortega from Nicaragua’s greatest poet Ruben Darío as he received the torch of freedom and peace handed over by students during the celebration of Independence each year. “Today that we are receiving the torch of freedom and peace which makes its way through the Central American countries. The young people, boys, girls, students, accompanied by all the people, receive this torch from the hands of our Honduran neighbors, and travel the country, hand in hand, arm in arm, with the torch of freedom and peace, a symbol of Central American people defending ourselves.”
This week, the government sent State workers on a week-long vacation to attempt to benefit small restaurants and tourist facilities throughout the country. Another measure to stimulate the economy and help small businesses is eliminating sales tax for part of the week at tourist venues like food stands, restaurants, hostels and hotels to stimulate spending. The attempted coup two years ago caused serious damage to the tourism sector, until then one of the most dynamic areas of the economy.
Tourism showed great signs of recovery from November 2019 to February 2020 but then the covid-19 pandemic paralyzed foreign and most domestic tourism all over the world, but that didn’t discourage Nicaraguans. With the help of the State, the tourism industry, composed mostly of small and medium-size family businesses, is reorienting itself towards the domestic market. Since the tourism industry wasn’t exclusively focused on foreign hard-currency paying tourists, this hasn’t been as traumatic as in other countries.
Thanks to the soft approach to the covid-19 pandemic adopted by the Sandinista government, which has not had massive curfews and lockdowns but focused on information, preventive measures and above all, on the continued efforts to strengthen the public health system, Nicaragua today can breathe an atmosphere of near normality and work where the prospects everywhere else in the region are of uncertainty if not despair facing the aftermath of the pandemic.
One example is that Nicaragua’s exports have grown by at least 14.1%, much higher than other countries in the region. This is from The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean’s Aug. 6 report entitled “The effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19 pandemic on international trade and logistics.” This shows the decision made by the government of President Daniel Ortega not to paralyze the country during the pandemic was a good one. Other nations are paying high costs because of taking out big loans and closing their economies.
By prioritizing real economy and efficiency in the administration of scarce resources, the Sandinista government has been able to absorb two major blows to the economy: The 2018 failed coup and 2020 pandemic; and it’s been done without sacrificing its social goals and programs, or the much-needed investment in infrastructure like roads, bridges, ports, electricity, water and sanitation services. By the way, this year’s electricity coverage target seems to be surpassed with over 99% of the population having access to it. Thirteen years ago, before the Sandinistas came back to the presidency, only 54% of the people had electricity in their homes.
This week many Nicaraguans have enjoyed some days of leisure, going out for a meal, visiting another town and spending the night, going to the beach, or a volcano or a waterfall, hiking in the mountains, seeing family and friends, while at the same time others have had additional work and earned money to provide for their families. Nicaragua is promoting a sharing economy.
Among the public tourist installations available to the population, most of them free of charge or heavily subsidized, even for the small vendors that sell food or souvenirs, popular places are the beautiful Salvador Allende port on Lake Xolotlan in Managua, the nearby volcanic crater lakes such as Xiloa and Apoyo, beaches such as Pochomil and Las Peñitas or even mountain terrains such as the national parks of La Flor or many coffee plantations and hotels in the vicinity of Apanas Lake in Jinotega. All over the country, small and medium-sized hotels, B&B’s and restaurants are offering discounts or especially suited packages to Nicaraguan tourists.
Even those who decide to stay at home and go out nearby contribute to the lively local economy buying all sorts of goods and services. That’s how things are done here in Nicaragua. And it works.
By Nan McCurdy
Nicaragua Protests False UN Report
On Sept. 15 Nicaragua accused the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, of not having described the reality in Nicaragua on Sept. 14 and of falsely basing her report only on information coming from the sectors that carried out the 2018 coup. The report presented by Bachelet at the UN Human Rights Council is “politicized” and was “prepared from sources exclusively opposed to the government, with information coming from NGOs and media openly linked to the 2018 failed coup attempt,” said a Nicaraguan diplomat to the UN in Geneva. The diplomat demanded respect for “the principle of independence and sovereignty” and “the cessation of all policies of interference. On Sept. 14 Bachelet orally updated the information her office has about the situation in Nicaragua all based on a manipulated report full of falsehoods from sectors linked to the 2018 coup attempt. Radio La Primerisima, 15 September 2020
50,000 Benefit from Santa Ana – El Crucero Road
With financing from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) of US$28.9 million and a counterpart from the Nicaraguan Government of US$1.7 million, the execution of the project El Boquete – Santa Ana is 96% done. The Executive President of CABEI, Dr. Dante Mossi, said: “The new infrastructure brings multiple benefits, among which is the improvement of the quality of life of families living around the project’s implementation area; it facilitates and promotes trade between municipalities and brings benefits and savings for local transport operators; as well as promoting new tourism options.” Radio La Primerisima, 9 September 2020
800 Allowed to Finish Sentences at Home
On Sept. 13, some 800 prisoners were released to live out their sentences at home.
“President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo look for ways to restore rights, and they don’t forget the prisoners. Family reunification is the objective our government seeks. In the prisons we work so that every person leaves transformed with new thoughts and a desire to improve. We must give the prisoners a second chance,” said Minister of the Interior Reyna Rueda. Former inmate Cesar Gomez said, “I thank God and the government because we have been given the opportunity to be with our family again through this benefit.” A former inmate of another prison, Clara Zamora said “I am happy, I feel that I am a changed woman and here I learned many things to take home to my family.” Radio La Primerisima, 12 September, 2020
Nicaragua Has Good Health, Water, Electricity, Home and Tolerance
According to the 2020 Social Progress Index Nicaragua ranks high compared to fifteen of its peers with similar GDP per capita. It rates especially high in nutrition, medical care, maternal and child mortality, shelter, water, sanitation, electricity access, contraception, household pollution, acceptance of gay and lesbian persons, and more. (https://www.socialprogress.org/?tab=2&code=NIC)
7,000 Homes for Poor Families
The bidding for the construction of new low income housing will be open for the rest of this year and banks will be ready to grant credit in the first quarter of 2021. According to the Central America Bank of Economic Integration (CABEI), 7,000 homes will be built for families with below minimum wage income. The municipal mayors will certify the applicant families who meet the requirements. There is also a government subsidy through this new program of US$3,500 for families whose income does not exceed 4 minimum wages,” explained Olivia Cano, head INVUR. This type of housing will have a 25 year pay-back period with fixed interest.
Cano stressed that this loan shows that multilateral financial organizations trust the good management and efficiency of the government. “This program of US$171 million is three times bigger than the last program, which was for US$50 million. “The trust that multilateral organizations have in our government’s management is confirmed, because they are also financing water, healthcare, roads, education, sanitation, and housing,” she said. National Assembly Deputy Jenny Martinez, president of the Infrastructure Commission of the National Assembly, said that, under President Ortega, more than 120,000 social housing units have been built. “With this CABEI program it will allow more social interest housing, why? Because there are municipalities in which there is a demand for housing, but housing offers have not yet arrived there,” she said. Informe Pastran, 11 Sept. 2020
Nicaragua Coffee Brand To Be Created
Finance Minister Ivan Acosta, at a meeting on Sept. 11 of the System of Production, Consumption and Commerce, announced that agreements have been made to prepare a plan to create a country brand for Nicaraguan coffee. “This would maximize the Nicaraguan exportation of high quality coffee, and would help 37 thousand coffee farmers. In related news, it is projected that, by December 31, agricultural exports will reach US$3 billion which, added to the total from free trade zone exports, would be a grand total of US$5 billion in 2020. 19Digital, 11 September 2020
New Law Proposed for Heinous Crimes
The President of the Republic, Daniel Ortega, and his government have reacted to the cruelty of crimes committed against citizens, especially children, adolescents, women and the elderly like the recent murder of two minors, whose killer was almost immediately captured by the Police. The executive believes that these crimes have been committed “generally by people with serious mental or cultural disorders and disturbances” and therefore has requested the Supreme Court of Justice to work on a reform of the Criminal Code to comprehensively address, in a preventive and criminal manner, these atrocious crimes.” Nicaragua has no death penalty and the maximum sentence is 30 years. One proposal is for life imprisonment for “hate-related crimes, cruel, aberrant, inhuman, humiliating and denigrating, which do not correspond to our culture,” highlights a statement from the executive. It says that “these serious human rights violations will be penalized accordingly, attending to the just demand of Nicaraguan citizens, conscious, responsible, and of good will.” Vice President Rosario Murillo said that “these are crimes, atrocities, that we must transcend with good will, with a commitment to life …to defend life is also to advance, seeking the best, everything we can do from our laws, to defend life.” Since Sept. 13 when two girls were killed there has been a great outcry: the perpetrator had been sentenced in 2018 and was in jail for violence at the roadblocks, but then received Amnesty in June 2019 because he was on the opposition list of people who should get amnesty. Informe Pastran, 15 September 2020
Covid Cases Continue to Drop
The Health Ministry Covid Report on Sept. 8 – 14 indicates 102 new registered cases, 106 people who have recuperated and three deaths. The totals registered since March 18 are 3,979 Covid cases, 3,689 people recuperated and 147 deaths. Juventud Presidente, 14 Sept. 2020
Two Captured with Explosives in Masaya
The National Police captured two men with explosives who were going to blow up the Masaya Mayor’s Office. The Police will send William Caldera Navarrete and Danny García González to the competent courts. The men intended to destroy the Masaya Mayor’s Office with explosives and create chaos in the neighborhoods of Monimbó, San Carlos and Divino Niño. On Sept. 16, Commissioner Victoriano Ruiz Urbina announced that the capture of the men with four explosive devices of industrial manufacture (an explosive emulsifier with three detonating capsules with slow fuse based on gunpowder), 13 explosive devices of industrial manufacture and two firearms. During their declaration the two admitted that they planned to destroy the Mayor’s Office and monuments of Heroes and Martyrs. Danny Garcia had benefited from the amnesty law in 2019. Both men have criminal records for trafficking in explosives, illegal possession of firearms and drug trafficking. The offenders and evidence were referred to the competent authorities for prosecution. Radio La Primerisima, 16 Sept. 2020