Refugee Caravan: Where are the Nicaraguans?

By Chuck Kaufman

By the time this blog is published, the results of the US midterm elections will be known. I’m willing to bet now that if the Democrats hoped-for “Blue Wave” does not materialize, their number one scapegoat will be the caravan of refugees from Central America which is slowly crossing Mexico. I have been astounded at the number of people, even people who in the past have been solidarity activists, who think that the desperate families escaping State violence in Honduras, later joined by Guatemalans and Salvadorans escaping gang violence and drought, should time their flight to safety according to the US electoral calendar.

Until President Trump publicized the caravan that began as a couple hundred people in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, few in the US were aware of it. Most people still do not know that caravans have become an increasingly popular way to travel north because it is safer, and cheaper, to travel in large groups than it is to travel as family units or alone. Fewer people are kidnapped, or killed, or extorted by the cartels and gangs, fewer women are raped, and there is no need to pay for a coyote to guide them. This caravan is far from being the first and it certainly will not be the last. Its timing was driven by the unbearable conditions in people’s lives, not by any awareness of the US electoral cycle or that they would become a campaign issue.

Indeed, it makes zero difference in the lives of Hondurans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans, or indeed other peoples of the world, whether the US House, or Senate, or presidency, is held by Republicans or Democrats. Zero. While there are some domestic differences between the two US corporate parties, their foreign policies are identical. Let’s not forget that it was Obama and Hilary Clinton who prevented the Honduran coup of 2009 from being reversed. What do these refugees know or care about our elections?

But the real reason I wanted to write this essay today was not to piss off the Democrats but rather to call your attention to the fact that there are effectively no Nicaraguans on the caravan. Early on when it was 7,000 strong, I read that there were 15 Nicaraguans in the group. Now I doubt that the census of people on the caravan is so rigorous that they could know that, so maybe there were actually 25. But 25 out of 7,000 is effectively the same as zero.

The important take-away is that Nicaraguans are not fleeing their homeland. Other than those who organized or participated in the violent, illegal, failed coup attempt last spring and summer (many of whom have gone to Costa Rica), Nicaraguans aren’t fleeing. The opposition claims that all the violence was government repression. There is no greater evidence that the claim is a lie than the fact that Nicaraguans are not fleeing their country.

Nicaragua remains the poorest country in Latin America after Haiti. The barricades and opposition violence from April to July came close to shutting down the economy while people couldn’t get to their jobs and tourists stopped coming. So undoubtedly more people left for Costa Rica, the US and Spain, as they always have, for economic reasons, than have had to for the last ten years of Sandinista government when the economy steadily grew. But no one left because they were afraid a gang would induct their son or because they couldn’t afford to pay protection money or because of drug violence or police repression. That was the difference between Nicaragua and the Northern Triangle countries before the failed coup and that is still the difference.

Life for ordinary people has largely returned to normal. They can move around freely. They can get to work and the factories can get their products to market or the ports for export. Tourist ships are again arriving and foreigners are beginning to come back to the beaches and volcanos. A massive clean-up and reconstruction program has been instituted by the government to repair and rebuild the government buildings, schools, and markets burned or damaged by the opposition during the coup attempt.

People are too busy reconciling with their neighbors and rebuilding their communities to be tempted to join a caravan north and to endure all of the danger and deprivation that entails. Desperate people join caravans and Nicaraguans are not desperate. You don’t have to believe me just because I said it. The evidence is indisputable. Not even 1% of the families seeking refuge and asylum are from Nicaragua. That says everything that needs to be said. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo can make all the speeches he wants calling Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua the Troika of Tyranny, but just like nearly every pronouncement of the US government, that doesn’t make it true.

BRIEFS

By Nan McCurdy

 

273 Prisoners related to the Coup in the Nicaragua Penitentiary System

Vice Minister of Government Luis Caña confirmed that the Penitentiary System holds 273 prisoners (256 men, 17 women) related to the attempted coup that began in April. Along with regular visits they can receive large packages every two weeks. María Amelia Coronel, Minister of Government, delivered a report to the Truth, Justice and Peace Commission on the prisoners involved in violent incidents. All 273 are charged with committing violent crimes. The majority of the prisoners were arrested after mid-July. They have received 3,815 “attentions” including 198 conjugal visits, 720 family visits, 551 medical consultations, 1,355 recreational times in the sun, and 604 reception of packages, aside from packages received during family visits. None of the women have cancer. This point was mentioned because the opposition media has been talking about a woman with terminal cancer. (Radio La Primerisima, 11/05/18)

 

Nicaragua Denounces US Interference in Internal Affairs

The Nicaraguan Delegation to the Organization of American States denounced the continuous US interference in Nicaraguan and Venezuelan internal affairs during the meeting of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development. Ambassador Luis Alvarado said that Nicaragua bases its relationships with other countries on friendship and solidarity and reciprocity between states. Therefore, all types of political, military, economic, cultural and religious aggression and intervention in the internal affairs of other States are prohibited and proscribed. He added that the Nicaraguan government delegation denounces the continued interference of the United States Government in the internal affairs of Nicaragua and Venezuela since it contravenes the provisions of the OAS Charter, the UN Charter and the principles of International Law. Alvarado said that any foreign interference in the internal affairs of Nicaragua or any attempt to undermine those rights, threatens the life of the people, so it is the duty of all Nicaraguans to preserve and defend these rights, according to the Nicaraguan Constitution. To read the entire speech in Spanish: http://www.radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias/general/252956/nicaragua-denuncia-injerencia-de-estados-unidos-en-sus-asuntos-internos/ (Radio La Primerisima, 11/5/18)

 

Police Capture one of the Men Who Killed and Profaned the body of Francisco Aráuz Pineda

The Police presented Steven José Espinoza Marín, who confessed to the murder, with an AK47, Francisco Ramón Aráuz Pineda in Managua on June 16. He then desecrated, burned and danced around Arauz’s body. Espinoza will be prosecuted for Atrocious Murder, Desecration of the Corpse, Kidnapping, Burning, Assault and Obstruction of Public Services to the detriment of the State and Nicaraguan society.  Espinoza was part of a group that maintained a roadblock in the 8 de Marzo neighborhood. (Channel 8, 11/5/18)

 

Archdiocese Asks Opposition Groups to Stop Using the Cathedral for Political Acts

Father Luis Herrera said during his Sunday sermon that the temple is for prayer, not protest. Later Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes said that Churches are not political places nor places to do politics. “I am the archbishop of all the Catholics of the Archdiocese.” “Everyone is free to come into the Cathedral; we don’t tell people that this mass is only for members of a certain political party.” Despite these words a small group of the opposition had a protest in the atrium. [Note from Nan – if you read last week’s edition you will find that the Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, Silvio Baez, was taped making strident political statements like saying the church created the opposition Civic Alliance. He also said he would like to send the president before a firing squad and he called for reinstatement of the “death roadblocks” where people were killed and over a hundred were tortured. Hundreds of thousands of Catholics sent a letter to the Pope asking for Baez to be removed from Nicaragua.]  (Radio La Primerisima 11/04/18)

 

Female empowerment and solar energy innovation awarded

The Danish Foundation WAFA announced on Sunday that the Nicaragua Solar Women Foundation (FUPROSOMUNIC) was awarded with the Air Prize 2018, in recognition of its outstanding work in the promotion of renewable energy and female empowerment. “For more than a decade, solar stoves built by FUPROSOMUNIC have helped to reduce the use of firewood in rural communities, improving the quality of life and the health of the Nicaraguan people,” the foundation noted.  (El Digital 19, 11/05/18)

 

President of CONIMIPYME Describes Good News for the Economy

The President of the Micro, Small and Medium-sized businesses, Leonardo Torres, was interviewed today on Alberto Mora’s channel 4 morning program. He said that the arrival of 75 cruise ships is confirmed for the following months.  He also stated that the frequency of airplane flight arrivals is normalizing. In all of the markets of Nicaragua there are going to be Black Friday offers beginning November 23. The business people themselves decided it would be November 23, 24 and 25. (El Digital 19, 11/05/18)

 

Economic Damage from the Roadblocks is Still Being Felt

The three months of protests had devastating effects on the economy that are still being felt, Ovidio Reyes, president of the Central Bank, said, “It hit this economy profoundly. That’s why in the dialogue we insisted that the roadblocks had to be removed. We knew they were going to generate devastating effects and we anticipated that that would lower economic activity.” He specified that the roadblocks had more dramatic consequences than the government anticipated: “I am surprised today to see all those who were on the other side of the negotiating table say they are worried about the situation when the solution was in their hands for months, to stop any activity that was in detriment to our people and economic activity and business.” Reyes said the government is talking to all sectors to reactivate the economy. And this is already having a positive effect on production, for example in sugar, peanut and fish production. The tobacco sector will reach the goal of $230 million.

 

He added, “We have made many significant advances in terms of salary incentives. We have a minimum wage that each year is increased by at least 8% in the free trade zones. We can guarantee this for four more years.  We have found in all studies that salaries have increased even more, apart from the minimum wage. It is expected that the number of Free Trade Zone workers will hold steady through the end of the year, but in 2019 there are companies programming to hire new workers. (Informe Pastran, 11/05/18)

 

Interventionist and Expansionist Policies Generate Poverty and Illegal Migration

In remarks during the celebration of the 39th anniversary of the Ministry of Government, President Daniel Ortega said interventionist and expansionist policies generate poverty and illegal migration. “Migration is caused by social injustice and interventionist policies that destabilize countries generating crime, violence and poverty. This is why we continue to work for peace, security and prosperity in Nicaragua, because it is fundamental to deal with the root causes of migration,” he noted. (Informe Pastran, 11/01/18)

 

The IMF Applauds Nicaragua’s Economic Efforts

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated that the Nicaragua government is taking the necessary steps to ensure financial and macroeconomic stability in the country. In a press release issued after its recent visit to the country, the IMF noted, “The efforts of the authorities to support financial liquidity in the commercial banking sector are commendable. Measures to contain the growth of public spending are also positive”. (Informe Pastran, (11/01/18)