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Report of International Mission on Nov. 6th Elections

November 8, 2016

Report of the Mission of International Electoral Experts accompanying Nicaragua's electoral process from May to November 2016

Report of the Electoral Experts Mission

I. Presentation

The International Electoral Experts Mission was invited to the country to witness the organizing stages of the Nicaragua electoral process, convening for the first time on May 6, to mark the beginning of the 2016 General Elections Calendar. Within the framework of that visit, Officials of the Supreme Electoral Council were interviewed, onsite visits and analysis of vital documentation of the regulatory electoral system was undertaken, for the purpose of formulating an in-depth technical opinion of the development of the various processes of the electoral system.

The Mission carried out its work based on a qualitative and respectful analysis of national legal norms, whether these resolutions were administrative, jurisdictional or legislative in nature, based on the principles of international solidarity and non-interference in internal affairs, which are the basic pillars for the functioning of any inter-American organism.

In this context we commend the levels of electoral participation, considering they occur in a voluntary voting system and allows the possibility for those that are not part of the Voting Registry, to be reintegrated to the national democratic community. Without a doubt, maintaining levels above the Latin American average, in addition to constituting good news, should be a first order challenge for the entire country.

In summary the objectives of the Mission were:

1)       Observe and gather information of the main stages of the electoral process.

2)       Provide recommendations on relevant findings based on comparative experience, to the extent it could offer an improvement to the specificities of the national framework.

3)       Gather relevant best electoral practices in order to share experiences with other international missions.

II. Main observations of the Mission

The International Electoral Experts Mission wants to highlight the following aspects of the electoral process:

1)       The citizen verification process as a participatory and transparent mechanism, by which the voter directly confirmed the veracity of their recorded data. It is important to keep in mindat this point that the success of any electoral process depends in large part on theinvolvement of its citizens, as a vital mechanism for the functioning of the various electoral processes.

2)       Commend the successful logistic plan implemented for the distribution of electoral material, as it demonstrated effective inter-agency coordination of various organs of the Nicaragua State.

3)       Highlight the timely opening of polling stations, with ample participation of members of the polling stations, as well as other electoral officials.

4)       Proper identification of Personnel at polling stations, taking into account international recommendations, thus achieving "clear definition of the functions of each individual, in order to avoid confusion regarding levels of authority within the same polling stations (JRV)" and facilitating the exercise of the right to vote.

5) Within this same context, the proper identification of Poll Watchers of each participating political party who were located in places that guaranteed their prerogatives, while ensuring the secret exercise of the right to vote, was very important.

6) Consider the creation of a Disabled National Electoral Registry to improve the various means of accessibility.

7) Express satisfaction for the adequate presence of Security officials that helped to create an atmosphere of order and tranquility for voters.

8) Emphasize the importance of having created a ballot friendly design that contained the image of candidates and adequate space to express the preferences of voters.

9) Highlight the massive participation of women in polling stations, with progressively greater presence of young people, promptly attending their civic duty in assisting electoral institutions.

10) Congratulate the improvements made to the mechanisms of accreditation of poll watchers, by carrying out international recommendations in terms of the "necessity to refine procedures to facilitate that all parties involved comply in a timely manner with their obligations in this matter, and thus improve mechanisms for the accreditation of poll watchers ", considering that in this process the distribution levels of accreditations were diversified.

11) Assess the implementation of a Photographic Electoral Registry, as it facilitates the identification of voters, and in turn adds another factor of electoral transparency.

12) Finally, it is an inter-American example to highlight the participation of women, effectively protecting the expansion of their political rights, not as a mere declaration of intent, but as an institution that is legally protected and guaranteed.

III. Technical Recommendations

The recommendations outlined below, constitute a contribution offered within the framework of the principles of international solidarity and non-interference in internal affairs. These are:

1) Improve the placing of Active and Passive Electoral Registries in polling stations, so they can fully meet publicity objectives.

2) Continue to expand the National Identification Process, in order to achieve full coverage of Nicaragua citizenship, given the importance that it has as a mechanism to formalize and ensure the right to an identity.

3) Review the number of voting stand at each Polling station, through a more detailed analysis of the space that exists in each case.

4) Analyze improvements in the design of voting stands in such a way that it serves its purpose, adjusting to the infrastructure realities of the polling station.

5) Promote greater youth participation campaigns, in order to maintain the rates observed in Nicaragua elections.


List of electoral experts and specialists accompanying the 206 elections in Nicaragua (Spanish notes)

1.    Doctor Raúl Alconada Sempe
    Ex Vice Ministro de Defensa, Ex Canciller de la República Federal Argentina durante el Gobierno de Alfonsín, Asesor del Secretario General de la OEA en Washington, Jefe y Subjefe de Misiones de la OEA en Nicaragua y actualmente Docente en la Universidad del Río de la Plata.

2.    Doctor Wilfredo Penco
     Vicepresidente de la Corte Electoral de la República Oriental del Uruguay, ha sido Jefe y Miembro de Misión de UNASUR en varios Procesos Electorales de América del Sur. Fundador del CEELA.

3.    Doctor Pablo Gutiérrez Vásquez
     Ex Director del Departamento de Cooperación Electoral de la OEA (D.E.C.O) Período 2002-2007 y dirigió no menos de 60 Misiones Electorales de la OEA,  Consultor de FLACSO en Chile. Conocedor de todo el Sistema de funcionamiento  a lo interno de la OEA en Materia Electoral.

4.    Doctor Oscar Hassenteufel
     Ex Presidente del Tribunal Electoral de Bolivia, Ex Presidente Ministro (Magistrado) de la Corte Suprema de Justicia de Bolivia, actualmente ejerce su Profesión de Abogado. Miembro Fundador del CEELA.

5.    Doctor Víctor Gastón Soto
     Ex Miembro del Jurado Nacional de Elecciones del Perú, Ex Miembro del Consejo de la Magistratura del Perú y actualmente Profesor de varias Universidades de su País. Miembro Fundador del CEELA.

6.    Doctor Nicanor Moscoso
     Ex Presidente del Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones de Ecuador, Ex Vice Ministro de Hacienda, actualmente Alto Funcionario de la Prefectura de Guayaquil, Presidente y Fundador del CEELA.

7.    Doctor Francisco Guillermo Reyes
     Ex Miembro del Consejo Nacional Electoral de Colombia, Ex Viceministro de Justicia de su País y actualmente es Profesor Titular de la Universidad  Católica de Colombia. Miembro Fundador del CEELA.

8.    Doctor Salvador Ramos
     Ex Presidente y Magistrado de la Junta Central Electoral de la República Dominicana en la Cámara Contenciosa y actualmente es el Director del Instituto de Investigación de Ciencias Jurídicas y Políticas de la Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) y Docente de Derecho Constitucional y de Familia. Miembro Fundador del CEELA.

9.    Doctor Ramón Antonio Hernández
     Ex Magistrado de la Junta Central Electoral de la República Dominicana, actualmente Profesor de las Cátedras de Derecho Penal. Miembro Fundador del CEELA.

10.    Doctor Eugenio Chicas Martínez
     Ex Presidente del Tribunal Supremo Electoral de la República de El Salvador y actualmente Secretario Ministro de Información y Prensa de la Presidencia de la República de El Salvador. Miembro Fundador del CEELA.

11.    Doctor Walter René Araujo Morales
     Ex Presidente del Tribunal Supremo Electoral de la República de El Salvador, Ex Presidente del Partido Arena, del cual actualmente se encuentra separado, trabaja en estricta colaboración con el Alcalde de San Salvador y con el Equipo cercano del Presidente Sánchez Cerén. Miembro Fundador del CEELA.

12.    Doctor Alejandro Tullio
     Ex Director Nacional Electoral de la República Federal Argentina hasta Enero del 2016, actualmente Decano de Derecho de la Universidad de San Martín y Director de la Maestría en Gestión Electoral. 

13. Doctor Augusto Aguilar
     Ex Presidente del Tribunal de Elecciones de la República de Honduras, Ex Diputado Nacional del Congreso de Honduras, Presidente de la Asociación de Sicólogos de Honduras y Docente de varias Universidades.

14.    Alexander Vega
     Presidente y Magistrado del Tribunal Electoral de Colombia. Asiste como Miembro del CEELA en calidad de Invitado.

15. Bernardo Franco Ramírez
    Magistrado del Tribunal Electoral de Colombia. Asiste como Miembro del CEELA en calidad de Invitado.

16.    Héctor Elí Rojas Jiménez
     Magistrado del Tribunal Electoral de Colombia. Asiste como Miembro del CEELA en calidad de Invitado.

17.    Carlos Aníbal López López
     De nacionalidad Argentina, asiste en calidad de Invitado a solicitud del Embajador de nuestro País, José Luis Villavicencio.

Posted At 12:11 PM

Labels: Information

TUESDAY, JUNE 28, 2016

Nicaragua News Bulletin is Retiring!

Nicaragua News Bulletin is Retiring!

June 28, 2016

Message from Kathy Hoyt:

The Nicaragua News Bulletin is retiring along with its compiler, Katherine Hoyt. I have retired several times before but this time it is for real, or almost, as I’ll still be around for a few hours each month. The Nicaragua News Bulletin will be replaced by a blog entitled “NicaNotes” by Chuck Kaufman, about which more below.

The Nicaragua News Bulletin has a long and distinguished history. It is the successor to the Nicaragua Network Hotline and the Nicaragua News Service.

Photo: left to right, Chuck Kaufman, Miguel Marin of FEDICAMP, Kathy Hoyt.

The Hotline probably began in 1981 when Reagan was inaugurated and the contra war began. It was a recorded message with news and calls to action that you dialed in to listen to by telephone. It could only be two pages long as that was all the tape would record if you read along at a pretty good clip. When the internet appeared in the 1990s, we posted it on reg.nicaragua which was part of PeaceNet at igc.org. (Remember PeaceNet?) After we took over the weekly memo of the Central American Historical Institute in the mid-1990s, we mailed out print copies of a more extensive news summary to a wide list of scholars, activists, and libraries, including Stanford, Ohio State University, and Tulane University. Donna Vukelich, Coleen Littlejohn, Paul Baker, and Hannah Given-Wilson clipped newspapers in Nicaragua, wrote up a six page summary of the news from El Nuevo Diario and La Prensa, faxed it to us and we typed it up again (!) until e-mail attachments relieved us of that onerous task. Since June of 2008, I have been compiling the news summaries (with help from Chuck on a few articles each week) from the web pages of the various Nicaraguan media outlets while telecommuting from San Diego, something unimaginable a few years before! The Hotline and News Service were consolidated into the Nicaragua News Bulletin and we stopped sending out a print version, a change that was hardly noticed!

Our list of e-mail subscribers has also received action alerts on our campaigns to support union organizing in the Nicaraguan Free Trade Zone and to support Nicaraguan banana workers in their fight against Dow and Dole, and to oppose CAFTA, among other campaigns. Since the Sandinista return to power in 2007, we have reported on the advances in education, health care, renewable energy advances, economic growth and stability, and reduction of poverty, while reporting on continuing problems in some areas.

In January, I took four family members on what I called my “50th anniversary tour of Nicaragua” to mark one half century since I first arrived in Nicaragua in 1966 on the SS Hope Hospital Ship to work for ten months in Corinto as a shore clinic receptionist and interpreter (having had a Spanish minor in college). I married a young Nicaraguan doctor and lived in Nicaragua for 18 years. My years since returning to the US have been spent doing Central America solidarity work (including 25 years with the Nicaragua Network) and getting a Ph.D. in political science. Our three children were launched into careers and marriage and, at 72, I am the proud grandmother of seven grandchildren. They and the anthology of readings in early Latin American political thought that I’m working on will keep me busy in retirement!

It’s been a great ride and I have made many friends along the way. Please stay in touch! You can still write me at Kathy@AFGJ.org. Chuck is now getting the e-mails for nicanet@AFGJ.org along with chuck@AFGJ.org.

Message from Chuck Kaufman:

For 25 of my 29 years with the Nicaragua Network I have worked with Kathy Hoyt to build US solidarity with Nicaragua and to give Nicaragua solidarity activists the information they need to know. With 50 years of Nicaragua experience ranging from living and raising a family under the dictatorship and then working for the revolutionary government, to solidarity in the US ranging from local in Detroit to national in Washington, DC and most recently from her home in Southern California, the depth of Kathy’s knowledge and understanding of Nicaragua is unrivaled and certainly cannot be replicated by me. Her departure will leave a hole that cannot be filled.

At the same time, changes in Nicaragua, the US, and the world have been reflected in Nicaragua solidarity work, including in the work of the Nicaragua Network. Destruction of the Sandinista government is no longer the top US Latin America foreign policy priority. Our original Hotline, which Kathy described above, really was a hotline using the best technology of the time to alert and mobilize activists for urgent tasks to oppose the Contra War and US intervention policies. We don’t need that level of mobilization today. Likewise, we don’t need to be as informed on a weekly basis about Nicaragua’s economic, social, and political news, because we’re not likely to call on activists next week to drop everything and mobilize against US intervention.

Today we see Nicaragua’s role as primarily a positive example of what can be accomplished, even by a poor country, if it has a true “preferential option for the poor.” As a result, NicaNotes will take a more macroscopic look than the weekly “news report of record” that was the Nicaragua News Bulletin. We’ll cover all the same topics, but instead of a short report one week on road construction in Chinandega, we might do a report once or twice a year on national road construction and what that means for peasants getting their crops to market, children getting to school, and how it works in concert with increased access to electricity to improve the quality of life for people in rural areas.

Some of our subscribers who like the microscopic view of the news from Nicaragua will be disappointed in this shift, but we hope that others, many of whom don’t work exclusively on Nicaragua, will find the broader, more analytic articles useful to a broader range of their work. We hope to stimulate domestic issue activism by raising the question, “Why do Nicaraguans get to have nice things (like over half their energy generated from renewables) when we, in the richest country of the world, can’t have them?”

I’ll strive to have a new NicaNotes blog each week, and it will be sent to subscribers just as the Nicaragua News Bulletin is now. I also want to invite submissions of guest blogs which talk about aspects of Nicaragua within the context of solidarity with and support for the Sandinista government and Sandinista popular movements. The anti-Sandinista opposition, including some who used to be Sandinistas, has full access to the press in Nicaragua and exclusive access to the international corporate media, so they don’t need our little blog to get their message out. The Nicaragua Network was formed in February, 1979, six months before the Triumph of the Sandinista Revolution, to support the armed insurrection. We have been in solidarity with Sandinismo for over 37 years and we’re not going to change our stripes now.

That doesn’t make us naïve or blind; it makes us respect and celebrate the tens of thousands of martyrs who gave their lives so Nicaraguans could live in dignity and have sovereign control over their destiny. Following the path of our own understanding of the meaning of solidarity, we see our primary role as to oppose US policies that interfere with, or close spaces for, Nicaraguan’s right to resolve their own problems and chart their own destiny. We are not part of the debates within Nicaragua on how those issues should be resolved; only that the US does not have a legitimate role in their resolution.

I hope you will find NicaNotes useful and stimulating. I welcome your feedback and contributions, and hopefully we can strive together to make it a functional tool in your activist tool belt.

Posted At 11:06 AM

TUESDAY, JUNE 21, 2016

Nicaragua News Bulletin (June 21, 2016)

This double News Bulletin covers the news from June 7 through June 20, 2016.

1. Major earthquake hits Chinandega, Leon, and Corinto
2. Political earthquake caused by Supreme Court decisions
3. Nicaragua expels three US government officials
4. One Nicaraguan killed in Orlando, another in coma; Nicaragua expresses condolences
5. Child labor remains an intractable problem
6. Nicaragua works to preserve and expand coral reefs
7. Projections point to good harvest season for vegetables

1. Major earthquake hits Chinandega, Leon, and Corinto

On June 9, at 9:25pm a major earthquake registering 6.3 on the Richter scale shook the northwestern departments of Nicaragua and was felt in Honduras and El Salvador as well. The epicenter was 17 kilometers east of Puerto Morazán in the Department of Chinandega at a depth of four kilometers. The quake was felt particularly strongly in the departments of Chinandega and Leon but people throughout Nicaragua felt the trembler. No injuries or deaths were reported. However, houses, schools, hospitals, and churches suffered damage of greater or lesser degree and schools were closed in Chinandega. Cellular networks and land lines surpassed their capacities as Nicaraguans tried to communicate with their families and friends. Government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo said, “We are working on creating an alternative system because in the first ten minutes [after a quake] it is extremely difficult to communicate due to the overload of the lines,” adding that it wasn’t until 3:00am on June 10 that the country’s communications returned to normal.

William Martinez, a geologist at the Nicaraguan Institute for Territorial Studies (INETER), said that volcanologists from INETER were investigating the San Cristobal volcano near the epicenter of the earthquake to determine its connection to the trembler. Wilfried Strauch, also of INETER, said that there was a remote possibility that the seismic activity could be due to movement of magma within the volcano. Two experts from the US Geological Survey (USGS) were assisting scientists at INETER in the analysis of the earthquakes and in monitoring the Masaya volcano. Murillo thanked the Geological Survey for its help and said that USGS experts had promised to continue to work with Nicaraguan scientists and to continue to provide information from monitoring instruments and from satellites. By June 14th, 2,288 aftershocks had been felt with the strongest registering 5.2 on the Richter scale. Commentators were remembering that the June 9 quake was of the same magnitude that had destroyed Managua in 1972. Managua at that time had a population of over half a million while this quake hit in a lightly populated area.

The government’s first response was to provide shelter for those whose homes were damaged and the urgency was increased because of heavy rains in the days following the quake. Murillo said that there were 32 communities impacted with a total of 37,000 affected persons. Medical brigades were also visiting the area and damage to houses was being evaluated. (Informe Pastran, June 9, 10, 13, 14, 17; El Nuevo Diario, June 9, 10, 13)

2. Political earthquake caused by Supreme Court decisions

On June 8, the Supreme Court issued a ruling resolving the dispute between four political groups over which should control the legally recognized Independent Liberal Party (PLI). [The PLI was founded in 1944 when it broke from Somoza’s Nationalist Liberal Party. Its historical leader is Virgilio Godoy, who served as vice-president of Nicaragua under President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.] The Court said that the only legal PLI National Executive Council was the one set up in 2011 by leaders of the historical PLI and chaired by Rolin Tobie who has since died and was succeeded by first vice-president Pedro Reyes. The Court called on the Supreme Electoral Council to await the naming of the officials of the party and called on the party to hold a national convention to elect candidates and officials to participate in the upcoming November elections.

Reactions to the ruling were diverse. Reyes himself said, “We are going to be inclusive; we are going to give a chance to the people from the other factions because we are all independent Liberals and we must be in the organization, without any exclusions.” He added that he wanted to include all groups that have disputed the legal recognition of the PLI, including deposed leader Eduardo Montealegre. Within a few days he was joined by Jose Berrios, who was also disputing leadership of the PLI before the court. Reyes and Berrios described their alliance as the United PLI.

Eduardo Montealegre, who took over leadership of the PLI in 2011, said on June 8, “With this ruling, Daniel Ortega is trying to carry out a coup d’état over the opposition because he knows he cannot defeat us at the polls.” [The most recent CID Gallup poll showed 55% sympathize with the Sandinistas and 4% with the PLI.] Jose Adan Aguerri of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) said, “This is a grave situation because it creates uncertainty. It does not help in any way the stability and good business climate that the country needs.”

Former National Assembly Deputy for the Liberal Party Enrique Quiñonez said, “Virgilio Godoy, Pedro Reyes, and the other historical leaders were left without a party and they began their struggle. They even held a strike in front of the Supreme Electoral Council. Now we see that in the end justice was done. I saw how they [the Montealegre faction] took over the PLI and removed the members of the party. Those who took control had never been members of the PLI. They didn’t even know the PLI anthem; they didn’t even know there was an anthem, Beautiful Sovereignty. Those who dress themselves in stolen clothes can end up naked in the street.”

On June 14, Moises Hassan, president of the Citizen Action Party (PAC), offered the legal status of his party so that the National Coalition for Democracy which both the PAC and Montealegres’s PLI faction belong to, could run in the elections. But Hassan added that the future of the PAC was uncertain because a faction of his party was challenging his leadership in court. And, on June 17, the Supreme Court ruled that both boards of directors of the PAC were illegal because neither had been elected at meetings with the legal quorum for electing officers established in the party statutes. This left the National Coalition for Democracy with no current member with legal recognition as a political party to run in the elections.

Even before the Court’s ruling on the Citizen Action Party, however, the Coalition announced on June 15 that it was withdrawing from the elections. Members of the Coalition were leaving to join other parties and coalitions. A PLI candidate for the National Assembly in Chinandega, according to Informe Pastran, was negotiating with the Conservative Party, which is a part of the Democratic Unity Alliance (another coalition), to run on its slate. Eduardo Montealegre said that, “We did not retire from the electoral process but rather were expelled by the political system controlled by Daniel Ortega.” Violeta Granera, candidate for vice-president of the Coalition, said that the elections will not be legitimate if her coalition is not on the ballot, adding, “Our struggle has just begun.”

On June 15, former ambassador to the United States Arturo Cruz said that the best outcome would be for Pedro Reyes to come to an agreement with Eduardo Montealegre to go to the elections together using an analogy:  “Reyes has a license to open a bank but doesn’t have the capital to open it while Eduardo Montealegre does have the capital.” And a little perspective was provided by Supreme Court Justice Francisco Rosales, considered a Sandinista, who said on June 16, “In this country there are 17 registered political parties running in the elections so I do not see that the electoral process has lost credibility because of these decisions.” (Informe Pastran, June 8, 9, 15, 16, 17; La Prensa, June 8, 10, 14)

3. Nicaragua expels three US government officials

Nicaragua expelled two US government officials on June 15 for not obtaining the proper documentation to carry out functions which were described by Nicaragua as “tasks of security and certification for Customs and transfer of merchandise” to the United States as part of the fight against terrorism. A note from the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington to the US State Department said, “This activity was carried out without the knowledge and/or the required coordination with Nicaraguan authorities which, as is easily understood, is very delicate.” The note reiterated the “disposition of the Nicaraguan government to maintain and increase diplomatic, political and trade relations always respecting our national legislation and, in the case of trade, corresponding to the norms for facilitating that trade that have been established between our two countries.” The note emphasized that “The subjects of security, the fight against terrorism, and against organized crime for which our institutions have gained so much effectiveness and prestige, must be dealt with in Nicaragua in coordination with our authorities.”

US Ambassador to Nicaragua Laura Dogu said that the officials were working directly with private businesses carrying out inspections of products so that their export to the United States could be expedited. “Apparently the rules here have changed but no one shared this information with the companies or with the embassy or with the government in Washington. If there are new rules we should understand what they are so that we can work in the framework of those rules because we don’t want to have problems and we want to support the prosperity of Nicaragua.”

Jose Adan Aguerri, president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), said that the expulsion of the two officials caused the suspension of the certification process that facilitates the unimpeded export of coffee and Free Trade Zone goods to the US. He said that, with an eye to preventing future problems, COSEP is working in coordination with the governments of Nicaragua and the US to find solutions to the problem. He added that the US is Nicaragua’s most important trading partner and “we cannot put that at risk.”

The Nicaraguan government also expelled Evan Ellis, a professor at the United States Army War College, as he began a research project on the proposed shipping canal across Nicaragua. Ellis said that three Nicaraguan Migration officials told him that he had not been authorized to enter Nicaragua to obtain information about the canal and would have to leave the country by 5pm on June 14. US Embassy officials did not comment on the expulsion. Ellis is an expert on the relations between Latin American countries and China, Russia and Iran. (El Nuevo Diario, June 17, 18; La Prensa, June 15)

4. One Nicaraguan killed in Orlando, another in coma; Nicaragua expresses condolences

Among the 49 people killed by the shooter in Orlando on June 12 was Nicaraguan Jerald Arthur Wright whose mother is Nicaraguan and whose father is Ecuadoran. Wright, 31, worked at Walt Disney World and was at the night club to celebrate the 21st birthday of a friend who also died in the attack. Another Nicaraguan Leonel Melendez, Jr., was shot in the head and in the leg and was hospitalized in a coma. Melendez, 39, was born in Managua but has lived in the US since he was seven years old. Melendez worked as a supervisor with Gucci America.

The Nicaraguan government sent a note to Washington saying that it wished “to express its deepest sympathy to the Government and people of the United States, following the horrific attack at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.” The note added, “Our prayers and affection are with the families and mourning communities. May God comfort them, support them and give them strength.” US Ambassador Laura Dogu expressed her condolences to the family of Jerald Wright and her hopes for the recovery of Leonel Melendez, Jr.

On June 14, the LGBTI community in Nicaragua held a demonstration to protest the killings and show solidarity with the victims and their families. “The LGBTI community is in mourning,” said Silvia Martinez of the LGBTI Nicaraguan Roundtable. Juan Carlos Martinez of the Nicaraguan Sustainable Development Network, said that organizers hoped for the participation of not just the gay community of Managua, “but of all who want to demonstrate against intolerance and terrorism that affect the whole world.” (El Nuevo Diario, June 13, 14, 15, 20; Informe Pastran, June 13)

5. Child labor remains an intractable problem

An examination of efforts to end child labor in Nicaragua showed that the majority of child laborers (54%) are found in the countryside and are engaged in agriculture along with their families. The second highest category is sales in the markets. According to figures from the Nicaraguan Institute for Human Promotion (INPHRU), there are at least 1,100 children working in Managua’s markets, many selling items such as fruit and ice water. INPHRU reports that 135,000 children under the age of 18 work in agriculture. Mayela Cabrera, coordinator of Save the Children’s Education Project, attributed that to the severity of poverty that affects families in rural areas. She did say that the government has made progress in passing laws and implementing public policies to limit work for girls and children under 14 and to protect the rights of adolescent workers. She complimented joint efforts to ensure their schooling and their protection in situations that threaten or violate their rights.

One government program, Fight for the Sixth Grade, works to ensure that everyone gets at least a sixth grade education. Cabrera also said about rural children, “There are cultural patterns that assign work an educational value, hence children begin agricultural work at a young age, usually accompanied by their own families.” Former Ombudsman for Children and Adolescents Carlos Emilio Lopez said it is going to be difficult to change that until poverty is eliminated and there is a change in consciousness among families. The most recent statistics are from 2012 when the National Institute of Development Information reported that, of 1,275,834 children under 18 in the country, 396,118 worked, some paid and others unpaid. (El Nuevo Diario, June 12)

6. Nicaragua works to preserve and expand coral reefs

Coral reefs are abundant in both the Pacific and Caribbean coastal waters off Nicaragua’s coasts. In the Pacific there are abundant small reefs from Chacocente in Jinotepe, Carazo, south to the border with Costa Rica. Coral reefs can be seen a mere three kilometers off the shores of San Juan del Sur. On the Caribbean side, coral reefs are dispersed along the entire length of the two Autonomous Regions, especially near the Miskitos Cays, the Pearl Cays, and Corn Island. There are many more shallow water reefs in the waters which were claimed by Colombia but awarded by the World Court in 2012 to Nicaragua that have not been explored.  Caribbean reefs are more extensive due to the clarity of the water which allows sunlight to penetrate 30 meters down. In the Pacific, light reaches only 15 meters. The Caribbean reefs, which Marine biologist Fabio Buitrago says probably cover 130,000 square kilometers, were declared in 2000 by UNESCO as the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve. Nicaragua has also created five artificial reefs, four in the Pacific and one in the Caribbean which have become rich in biodiversity.

In order to protect the reefs, Buitrago urges Nicaraguans not to throw trash in the rivers, lakes, and lagoons that drain into the oceans and to use products that break down easily and quickly in water. Don’t buy products made of coral, he advised. He also urged the government to promote recreational diving to raise the awareness of Nicaragua’s coral reefs, while at the same time monitoring and controlling them more vigilantly against fishing and other damage. He added that the building of artificial reefs for coral to grow can be seen as a kind of maritime reforestation to preserve both coral and the many species that thrive on coral reefs.  (El Nuevo Diario, June 8)

7. Projections point to good harvest season for vegetables

With the end of the El Niño climate phenomenon, which brought drought to Nicaragua, projections for the 2016-2017 harvest season are very positive with an anticipated harvest of 4.6 hundredweights of vegetables including tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, cabbage, potatoes and carrots, for an 18% increase over last year. If there are excessive rains, those projections would decrease. Tomatoes represent 1.6 hundredweights, double the consumption of the population. The remainder will be exported. Likewise the projection is that Nicaraguan farmers will produce enough onions to satisfy local demand and export a small part of the harvest. The same holds true for other vegetable crops. Farmers will satisfy domestic needs and still have a percentage of their crop that can be exported.  (El Nuevo Diario, June 20)

Posted At 12:06 PM

Labels: Nicaragua News Bulletin

TUESDAY, JUNE 07, 2016

Nicaragua News Bulletin (June 7, 2016)

This double News Bulletin contains news from May 24 through June 6, 2016.

1. Ortega named presidential candidate of Sandinista Party
2. Political briefs: Supreme Court order; COSEP on observation; Granera for PLI veep
3. CID Gallup poll shows 55% with Sandinista Party
4. Series of earth tremblers shake Managua
5. Government planting windbreaks to cut dust and soil erosion
6. Maduro says Caribbean oil promises will be kept
7. Government provides birth certificates to over 1,000 unregistered children
8. Zika cases reach 215
9. Rains bring sorrow and joy

1. Ortega named presidential candidate of Sandinista Party

The Sixth National Sandinista Congress, held on June 4, unanimously proclaimed President Daniel Ortega as the Sandinista candidate for president in the elections to be held on Nov. 6. The Congress also authorized Ortega to choose his vice-presidential running mate and finalize the party’s slates of candidates for the National Assembly and the Central American Parliament. And, finally, the Congress empowered Ortega to “continue the policy of alliances that has guaranteed reconciliation, unity, wellbeing and prosperity in Nicaragua.”

In his speech, Ortega spoke about what was happening in Nicaragua 37 years ago on that date, June 4, 1979, which was the first day of the final general strike and offensive. He remembered the early battles in Nueva Guinea, Esteli, and in Jinotega where Comandante German Pomares had fallen in combat. He said, “The people were converting themselves into combatants, not waiting for their saviors to arrive from the mountains to save them, but rising up in the cities and towns…. This was a contribution of the Popular Sandinista Revolution—insurrectional struggle. And we were in the midst of those battles during those days around the 4th of June of the year 1979.”

Speaking of right wing efforts that brought down presidents of the left in Latin America, including Honduran Manuel Zelaya in 2009, Paraguayan Fernando Lugo in 2012, and currently Brazilian Dilma Rousseff, Ortega went on to say, “In the current circumstances in our region, we know that the battle in Nicaragua is of enormous transcendence because there is an attack from the empire and pro-imperialist forces.” He said that election observers of the usual kind would not be invited to Nicaragua this year noting that in the elections of 1996 international observers recognized that fraud had taken place but urged him to accept the results anyway. Given electoral problems in many other countries, he stated, “The observers should instead go and put their own countries in order.”

The response from the opposition political parties was predictably negative. Eduardo Montealegre, president of the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), said, “The electoral law stipulates electoral observation, therefore Ortega is asking the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) to violate the law.” Dora Maria Tellez of the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) said that the Sandinista Congress showed “a fearful Ortega with nothing to offer but words and threats. His time is over.” (El Nuevo Diario, June 4; Radio La Primerisima, June 5; Confidencial, June 5)

2. Political briefs: Supreme Court order; COSEP on observation; Granera for PLI veep

The Constitutional Panel of the Supreme Court on June 2 ordered the Supreme Electoral Council to put off the official naming of the members of the departmental and municipal electoral councils from the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) until the Court can rule on the challenges to the current PLI leadership from the “historical” PLI leadership and two other factions. On June 3, the parties were scheduled to present their lists of representatives for municipal electoral councils and the CSE would have until June 10 to confirm them. Half of the members of these departmental and municipal councils are supposed to be members of the party that won the previous general elections (in this case the Sandinista Party) and the other half are from the party that won second place (the PLI). Eduardo Montealegre, who took over the PLI several years ago, said, “What they are doing is holding back the electoral law and the elections in this country.” He added, “This is another violation of the laws of Nicaragua.” In May, Pedro Reyes of the Historical PLI had said that once the Court issued its ruling they would know who was in control of the PLI. He added that he was open to an agreement with Montealegre’s group to end the litigation. (Informe Pastran, June 3; La Prensa, May 11)

In other news, Jose Adan Aguerri of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), an ally of the Sandinista government on economic policies, said on May 31, “COSEP, as part of our commitment to democracy and to the economy, has been demanding electoral observation and we have done so conscious of the importance that correctly handled elections have for the political, economic, and social stability of the country.” He stated, “Independent electoral observation gives certainty to the process and legitimates it.” He added, “The Supreme Electoral Council already presented a list of people invited to observe the upcoming elections. That invitation should be extended to others such as the Carter Center, the European Union and the Organization of American States.” [It should be noted, however, that it was the Carter Center that urged Daniel Ortega to accept the results of the 1996 election even though they had observed fraud in that process (see above).] (Informe Pastran, May 31)

Meanwhile, the alliance headed by the PLI, the National Coalition for Democracy, named civil society activist Violeta Granera as its candidate for vice-president, sharing the ticket with the alliance’s presidential candidate Luis Callejas. Eduardo Montealegre said, “Violeta Granera is an outstanding fighter for democracy from the Movement for Nicaragua and other citizen participation initiatives.” [The Country Director for Nicaragua of the International Republican Institute (IRI) told a Nicaragua Network delegation in 2006 that the IRI had “created the Movement for Nicaragua.”] Granera said last week that she has never belonged to a political party. Her father was a senator under the Somoza dictatorship and was killed by the Sandinistas during the revolutionary uprisings. (El Nuevo Diario, June 2)

3. CID Gallup poll shows 55% with Sandinista Party

On May 25, the polling firm CID Gallup released the results of its latest survey of Nicaraguan public opinion which indicated that while 55% of those polled believed that the country was headed in the right direction, a significant number still had economic worries. Twenty-six percent worried about having enough income each month to cover basic necessities and 17% worried about someone in the family who was unemployed. Thirteen percent worried about the uncertainty of their water supply with that concern rising as the distance from the capital, Managua, increased. Thirty-one percent said that their family financial situation was better or much better than last year, up from only 21% last May.

As for political party preference, 55% said that they sympathized with the Sandinista Party; 38% said that they did not identify with any party; 4% identified with the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) and 3% with the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC). Twenty-eight percent said that they believed the elections would be very honest and 27% said somewhat honest. Thirty-six percent said that the elections would not be very honest or would not be honest at all. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said that having national and international observers for the November elections was very important while 19% said they were somewhat important. The people with the highest favorability ratings were First Lady and communications coordinator Rosario Murillo with 67%, President Daniel Ortega with 65%, Managua Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes with 38%, Vice-President Omar Hallesleven with 30%, PLI leader Eduardo Montealegre with 21%, and business leader Jose Adan Aguerri with 17%.

The poll, which surveyed 1,204 people nationally between May 4 and 10, has an estimated margin of error of 2.8 points and a confidence level of 95%. The most delicate political questions were answered by the responders marking a paper and inserting it in a closed box. (El Nuevo Diario, May 25; Informe Pastran, May 25)

4. Series of earth tremblers shake Managua

On June 2, government spokesperson Rosario Murillo said that Managua had experienced 23 earth tremblers in the previous two weeks. She said, “The swarm, or what some experts call the swarm of earthquakes, has reached 23 of which… two were between 3 and 3.9; one was 4.4.” The earthquake of 4.4 had its epicenter four kilometers under the Milagro de Dios neighborhood of Managua. Arlen Vasquez, a resident of the neighborhood, said that they heard a loud noise at 4:02pm on May 31 and kitchen utensils, photographs, and other things fell to the floor.  “The fact that this neighborhood was the epicenter makes us want to find out how to protect ourselves. The movement felt like [we were moving in] gelatin,” she explained. There were a total of eight quakes on May 31 between 3:21pm and 4:40pm. Afternoon and evening classes at schools and universities were suspended.

The Nicaraguan Institute for Territorial Studies (INETER) said that ten of the tremblers had been caused by what is known as the “Airport Fault.” According to a map published in El Nuevo Diario, Managua is crossed by 18 north-south faults, among them the so-called Airport Fault. The capital has been severely damaged or destroyed three times in the last 150 years by earthquakes.

INETER announced that Nicaraguan scientists along with experts from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, are developing a system which would notify residents a few seconds before an earthquake hits. Wilfried Strauch told reporters that, “We are going to be able to give the population some ten or twenty seconds of warning so that the government and individuals can take some protection measures.” He warned, however, that the warning time shrinks for the people who live over the epicenter of a quake. The system, he explained, is already installed but is not expected to be functioning until the end of this year. He said that countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Turkey, Switzerland, and parts of the United States have this system which can give people time to run to safety or find protection under a strong piece of furniture. (Informe Pastran, May 31, June 2; El Nuevo Diario, May 31, June 2)

5. Government planting windbreaks to cut dust and soil erosion

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) announced that it has restored 382 kilometers of windbreaks since June 2015 primarily in Chinandega, Leon, Managua, and Masaya. This is the beginning of a long-term erosion and dust control project that will eventually create slightly over 2,000.7 linier kilometers of trees in 11 agricultural municipalities in the Pacific agricultural region which has suffered wind driven dust storms and loss of topsoil particularly during the last several years of drought. MARENA announced that it plans to restore or create an additional 400 kilometers of windbreaks this year. (El Nuevo Diario, May 25)

6. Maduro says Caribbean oil promises will be kept

During a meeting of Caribbean energy ministers, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro affirmed promises to strongly expand Petrocaribe oil agreements. “Overcoming obstacles, bureaucracies, set-backs, sabotage, and negative campaigns from the North, Petrocaribe continues to construct a solid base of energy security in the Caribbean with an important investment and important infrastructure.” Petrocaribe was formed in 2005 to sell low cost oil to its members and to help finance oil infrastructure in those countries. Maduro also encouraged the energy ministers to expand energy security and diversification contrary to the US predictions of disaster. “The Petrocaribe miracle must be nurtured,” he said. “And now it is necessary to advance diversification which mainly includes natural gas and other sources of alternatives to oil which could be developed jointly so as to build a powerful common economic zone.” Nicaragua joined Petrocaribe in 2007. (Informe Pastran, May 30)

7. Government provides birth certificates to over 1,000 unregistered children

The mayor of Puerto Cabezas announced the success of its program “Right to a Name and Nationality” with the registration of 541 girls and 516 boys in the municipality. The United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF) helped with the project which was conducted in 18 communities within the municipality which is the capital of the North Caribbean Autonomous Region. UNICEF’s representative in Nicaragua, Rinko Kinoshita, said, “Children have a right from birth to a name and a nationality in accord with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Nicaraguan Code of Children and Adolescents, and the Code of the Family. This right opens the door to other basic rights such as health, education and social protection.” Municipal officials delivered the birth certificates at the end of the registration campaign. (Informe Pastran, May 30)

8. Zika cases reach 215

The number of confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Nicaragua reached 215 last week, according to the Ministry of Health. The number of pregnant women who have had the disease stands at 41, up by one case since the previous week. Eight babies have been born to affected mothers and all have been healthy with normal head circumferences. The Zika virus, which is caused by a bite from an infected aedes aegypti mosquito, can cause microcephaly in developing fetuses if the mother contracts the disease. The government has said that pregnant women who contract Zika “receive special attention” in government health centers. The government declared an epidemiological alert on May 5 based on an increase in the cases of chikungunya, dengue, and Zika and since January has been carrying out a massive abatement campaign to control the aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries all three diseases, with five million home visits so far. (El Nuevo Diario, May 24, June 1; Informe Pastran, May 26)

9. Rains bring sorrow and joy

In the last two years, the municipality of Managua has invested US$8.5 million in improving the city’s storm sewers but the rain on June 4 showed that many parts of the city are still vulnerable to flooding. Architect Gerald Pentzke commented that the mayor’s office has made an effort and things would have been much worse without that effort. He explained that “Eight years ago the city began to require that private housing developments must have the same level of filtration of water into the soil that existed before the ground was covered, but other elements have intervened.” He said deforestation and other changes in the use of soils have resulted in stronger currents carrying enormous amounts of sediment which overflow the storm sewer channels and flow into the streets. He added that many of the channels are obstructed by the garbage that residents continue to throw into them. Fidel Moreno, general secretary of the municipality of Managua, said that this year’s plan includes building or enlarging 31 segments of storm sewer channels, building eight small dams and renovating 40 kilometers of obsolete channels.

The last week of May brought heavy rains over virtually the entire country but particularly in the Pacific departments of Managua, Masaya, Chinandega and Leon which received over two inches of rain. Ninety-eight houses were destroyed or damaged according to the government. The Institute for Territorial Studies announced that “these are phenomena that indicate a normal rainy season for the Central American area.”

The country’s mayors met in Managua on June 2 to plan for the upcoming rainy season with general optimism. Matagalpa mayor Sadrach Zeledon said that rice farmers are happy with the rains because they will see lower costs as they will have to irrigate less. Planting of vegetables is increasing he reported. Other mayors said that their farmers were preparing the soil to plant corn, beans and vegetables. (El Nuevo Diario, June 1, 4; Informe Pastran, May 31; June 3)

Posted At 06:06 PM

Labels: Nicaragua News Bulletin

TUESDAY, MAY 24, 2016

Nicaragua News Bulletin (May 24, 2016)

1. United States pressures Nicaragua to allow international election observers
2. Sandino’s 121st birthday marked
3. Health briefs: sub-specialists needed; autism addressed; improved patient attention
4. Investment in school infrastructure increases
5. Nicaraguans marked International Day against Homophobia
6. Conference highlights Nicaraguan microfinance
7. Crime briefs: Julio Rocha of FIFA; migrant trafficking and drug trafficking arrests

1. United States pressures Nicaragua to allow international election observers

The National Democratic Institute (NDI), one of the core groups of the US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED), was in Nicaragua two weeks ago “to take the national pulse over the electoral process.” [The NED was created by the Reagan administration and its first “success” was to massively fund the creation of the UNO Coalition, including selecting its presidential candidate, and funding its 1990 campaign which defeated the Sandinista government elected in 1984. It has been a tool of US “democracy promotion” funding of parties and non-governmental organizations friendly to US economic and imperial interests around the world, particularly in Latin America and in States in and around the former Soviet Union.]

The NDI mission met with private sector representatives, opposition political parties, non-governmental and civil society organizations, and media directors. NDI functionaries heard concerns about the election and demands for funding to turn out the youth vote as well as demands for national and international observers. [National election observation in the form of poll watchers is written into the electoral law with each party entitled to observers at every step of the process from the setting up of voting machines through the vote, tally, and validation.]

United States Ambassador Laura Dogu added her voice to the pressure campaign, also pushing the narrative that this is “normal” and again claiming that the United States has invited several groups to send election observers. [This claim is probably meaningless since the US does not have a national election authority, but instead state electoral authorities, each of which would have to invite observers. The few representatives from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe who have visited the US for recent elections are very much like the accompaniers who have been invited to Nicaragua—see below.] Doguclaimed that the invitation for electoral observers needs to be made now because election day observation isn’t enough, but is needed “for the whole electoral system.”

The Nicaragua Network/Alliance for Global Justice agrees with Ambassador Dogu that “it is not enough to observe on Election Day.” That is why we are organizing an investigatory delegation to answer the question: Is the US Still Interfering with Nicaragua’s Democracy? The delegation will be August 5-14. Visit www.nicanet.orgfor more information or, for an application, send an email to Delegations@AFGJ.org.

State Department Spokesperson John Kirby turned up the pressure on the Nicaragua Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), an independent branch of the government, to invite “credible international observers,” and made the argument that international electoral observation is “normal” and stated that the United States allows it.  As we reported on May 10, fifteen experts in electoral matters from 11 Latin American countries have been invited to accompany the electoral process, among them: Lazaro Cardenas, former governor of Michoacán, Mexico, who has served as chief of an electoral mission of the Organization of American States (OAS); Francisco Royer, former president of the Colombia National Electoral Council; Wilfredo Penco, vice-president of the Uruguay Electoral Council; and Alejandro Tullio, former director of the Argentina Electoral Council.

Kirby, in response to a question at his daily briefing said, “As we have said very clearly before, credible international election monitors will only strengthen Nicaragua.” [Changes in the election monitoring system, which probably did serve a useful function during the democratic transition from dictatorships, have left many countries skeptical of US and European monitoring. Failure of the US to recognize the democratic election of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the eagerness of US and EU observers to validate the severely flawed Honduran election of 2013, and Haitian elections where international observers have overturned voter mandates to themselves choose and exclude candidates, has fueled rising resistance to the whole system of electoral observation, preferring instead, international “accompaniment” by impartial organizations.] (Informe Pastran, May 6, 18, 20)

2. Sandino’s 121st birthday marked 

Nicaragua marked the 121st anniversary of the birth of national hero Augusto Sandino on May 18. The National Assembly dedicated a special session to Sandino who, from 1927 to 1933, led the resistance to the occupation of Nicaragua by the US Marines which lasted from 1912 until 1933. Sandinista Deputy Loria Raquel Dixon said that “Sandino’s legacy transcends history and is reflected in the programs now being carried out to develop the country.” Jose Ramon Sarria, another Sandinista Deputy, added that Sandino’s example is not the exclusive patrimony of Nicaragua but belongs to the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean. Attending the special session were descendants of Sandino, President of the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador Lorena Peña, Nicaraguan historians, and university presidents.

President Daniel Ortega spoke at the Augusto C. Sandino Library in Niquinohomo, Department of Masaya, where Sandino was born. Ortega said that Sandino had “expelled the Yankee invaders from our land” and, like Simon Bolivar before him, promoted the unity of the peoples of the region. He said that the intentions of the right internationally and of the government of the United States were to dismantle revolutions and progressive movements through a new type of coup and called for Latin American and Caribbean unity to confront those dangers. He also said that today, “The main struggle in Nicaragua is the fight against poverty, hunger, unemployment and illiteracy. These are the enemies we are facing and success requires the participation of government, employers and labor working together, in peace and reconciliation.” Accompanying Ortega at the gathering in Niquinohomo were First Lady and communications coordinator Rosario Murillo, Army Chief Julio Cesar Aviles, and National Police Head Aminta Granera. (Informe Pastran, May 18, 19; El Nuevo Diario, May 18, 19; Nicaragua News, May 19)

3. Health briefs: sub-specialists needed; autism addressed; improved patient attention

According to the Ministry of Health (MINSA), Nicaragua needs more doctors in certain sub-specialties. MINSA employs 1,915 general practitioners, 1,949 specialists, and only 128 sub-specialists. The Ministry notes that in Managua it employs only eight neonatologists, five nephrologists, and three specialists in infectious diseases. MINSA in Leon, where the Oscar Danilo Rosales teaching hospital is located, has only three neonatologists, one nephrologist, and no specialists in infectious diseases. Another specialty in high demand is gynecologic oncology. There are only five specialists in that field in the country of whom only one works for the Health Ministry. There are 65 cardiologists in Nicaragua, of whom 23 work for MINSA. Cardiologist Jose Daniel Meneses said that while there are five hospitals that treat people with heart disease, doctors in many of the sub-specialties of cardiology are few. He said that Manolo Morales is the only public hospital that can handle major heart problems but it lacks equipment for some specialized treatments. (El Nuevo Diario, May 23)

The National Assembly Committee on Education completed its hearings on a bill that would promote efforts for children with autism to receive adequate treatment and education in their homes, schools, health centers, and communities. The committee received comments from Health Ministry doctors as well as from psychologists and psychiatrists while organizations working with people with autism testified at a committee hearing. Maritza Espinales, chair of the committee, said the law would establish a registry in the Ministries of Education and Health of persons with autism. She stated, “We should not see the boys and girls with autism as phenomena. They can be [with the other children] in the classrooms.” Gerda Gomez, president of the Center for Integral Attention to Boys and Girls with Autism, said she was optimistic about the law and added, “We have to raise consciousness about how this affects families and how we can support those families with persons with autism.” She emphasized the importance of early attention for children to address their educational and social development. Pediatricians should have sufficient knowledge about the condition to advise the families, she said. Espinales said the bill should pass easily in the National Assembly. (El Nuevo Diario, May 19)

The Health Ministry on May 18 announced a national campaign to improve attention to patients and their families. Carlos Cruz, director of health services, said, “We want to show our patients, their families, and the whole population that we are ready to make changes in our attitude and to constantly improve the quality of the attention and the affection we give to all our patients.” Patients and family members at health centers will be surveyed about the attention they received by health personnel, according to Cruz. The announcement of these efforts has come after some health workers were accused on social networks of unacceptable treatment of patients. (El Nuevo Diario, May 18)

4. Investment in school infrastructure increases

Government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo announced that nation-wide, municipal governments are investing almost US$8.8 million to improve school infrastructure. As we reported two weeks ago, this program is already well underway in the department of Rio San Juan which borders Costa Rica. Schools in the Departments of Managua, Nueva Segovia, Matagalpa, Masaya, Granada, Madriz, Jinotega, and the North Caribbean Autonomous Region will benefit as well. Existing classrooms have been repaired and new classrooms built.

One of the critiques of Nicaragua’s education system is the poor condition of the schools where students learn. Improving school infrastructure has been a priority of the government of President Daniel Ortega since he returned to office in 2007. His first act after his inauguration was to eliminate school fees which had been imposed by the three previous neoliberal governments at the direction of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The result was that the schools were overwhelmed with new students whose families had been unable to afford to send them to school before. The legacy of the neoliberal governments’ failure to invest in school infrastructure meant that there was a large deficit in deferred maintenance and school construction to overcome. El Nuevo Diario quoted Eva Cordoba, executive director of Eduquemos Forum saying that to improve education it is necessary to also improve school infrastructure in order to permit access of new technologies, teaching materials and books. (El Nuevo Diario, May 20)

5. Nicaraguans marked International Day against Homophobia

May 17 is the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia and a number of Nicaraguans marched on that day to support sexual diversity and to condemn discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Juan Martinez, director of the Network for Sustainable Development (RDS), said, “On this occasion, we are demanding respect for the rights of LGBTI people and especially for the recognition of the identities of transgender women and men because they are the ones whose rights are the most violated.” The day was chosen because, on May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization stopped classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder, organizers said. Marchers in Managua carried the rainbow flag and signs supporting an end to discrimination. (El Nuevo Diario, May 17.)

6. Conference highlights Nicaraguan microfinance

Experts at an international economic conference held in Havana, Cuba, last week said that, for the most part, micro-lending in Latin America and the Caribbean is not fulfilling its original objectives of contributing to the reduction of poverty and social exclusion and, instead, according to economist Luis Proaño, the credit-extending agencies pursue high profits. He noted that there are 20 million microcredit borrowers in the region with loans that average around US$2,000. Latin America, the economists said, continues to be the most unequal region in the world. Microcredit loans currently total around US$40 billion but that is barely 2% of the total credit extended to the private sector in the region. Proaño said that “microfinance should take up again the social objectives with which it was born.” According to the participants in the meeting, responsible micro-lending should include, along with the financing, orientation on the proper management of the money.

The economists highlighted the positive experiences in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and El Salvador where important programs supported by the governments assure that the loans are invested in the development of productive enterprises. [In Nicaragua, Zero Usury is expected to reach 130,000 borrowers this year with a total portfolio of US$28.2 million.] The experts noted that it has been demonstrated that, when it comes to microcredit, free market competition does not lower poverty rates. In Mexico, for example, they said that the high interest rates required a major review. Such rates, they said, reduce the possibilities of borrowers climbing out of poverty and increase inequality in communities. (Radio La Primerisima, May 18)

7. Crime briefs: Julio Rocha of FIFA; migrant trafficking and drug trafficking arrests

Julio Rocha, former president of the Nicaraguan Football Federation and a former member of the board of the International Football Federation (FIFA), was extradited from Switzerland to the United States to be tried for money laundering and other crimes related to a major bribery scandal in which seven current and former FIFA officials were arrested in Switzerland in May of 2015. He pleaded “not guilty” and was freed by the New York judge on a bail of US$1.5 million but must stay in New York or Florida and be under constant electronic monitoring. Rocha wanted to be extradited to Nicaragua to be tried there but that was not accepted by the US. Six other FIFA officers had already been extradited to the US and one other to Uruguay. According to the US Department of Justice, Rocha received a bribe of US$100,000 from a sports marketing company in exchange for privileges at the time of the World Cup elimination rounds. (El Nuevo Diario, May 18; Informe Pastran, May 18)

The National Police announced that more than 60 individuals were arrested for crimes linked to human trafficking and illegal immigration during the last four months of this year. The Police report noted that the main countries of origin of the detainees were Cuba, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In one case, Mahfajor Rahman from Bangladesh told Judge Julio Arias that he and nine other migrants, seven from Pakistan and two from Nepal, were to pay two coyotes from Chinandega US$200 each to take them to the Honduras border. In another hearing three Ecuadorans told Judge Arias that a network of coyotes was supposed to get them to the United States for US$10,000 but they had only paid US$3,000 at the time police stopped them in Managua. (Nicaragua News, May 17; El Nuevo Diario, May 12)

The Nicaraguan National Police announced the arrest of four people involved with what has become known as the “Honduran Police Officers Case.” The four were detained with a white pickup truck and US$239,980. On May 11, Honduran media outlets reported that two Honduran police officers were detained in Chinandega with more than US$10,000 hidden in their vehicle that they did not declare upon entering the country as is required by law. Police Commissioner Francisco Diaz also reported that under the government’s Security Plan the Police and Army had disbanded 79 drug operations, seizing 179 kilos of cocaine and 20 lbs. of marijuana between May 9 and 15. (El Nuevo Diario, May 11, 17)

Posted At 12:05 PM

Labels: Nicaragua News Bulletin

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