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    Colombia, Central America and the needle trade

    Colombia textiles

    TODAY NICARAGUA – Two Colombian textile and apparel sector companies are expanding in Central America, with the expectation of creating some new 1,700 jobs, mostly in Nicaragua, the result of a US$8 million investment by Cali-based Supertex.

    A subcontractor for sportswear brands, which include Adidas, Nike y Under Armour, Supertex expects to hire 1,500 garment workers within three years of operation.

    The company, established in 1983, has two facilities in Colombia, with a total of 2,000 employees, and a monthly capacity of 900.000 units, and two in El Salvador with 2.400 workers and a capacity of 1.1 million.

    Bogota-based Proquinal for its part will hire 160 employees, as part of a US$24-million expansion of its plant in Alajuela, Costa Rica, which since 2004 has been producing vinyl-coated fabrics for the automotive and marine industries.

    Proquinal is part of United States-based Spradling Group, with sales in 70 countries.

    As of last year, Colombian investment abroad was valued at some US$50 billion, of which nearly a quarter went to Central America.

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    The Peasant Farmer Who Stood Up to the President of Nicaragua

    Francisca Ramírez, the head of the peasant movement that is leading the fight against the construction of an inter-oceanic canal in Nicaragua, which has made her a victim of harassment by the administration of Daniel Ortega. Credit: Luis Martínez/IPS

    TODAY NICARAGUA – MANAGUA (IPS) – The unequal battle that small farmer Francisca Ramírez is waging against the Nicaraguan government of Daniel Ortega has become so well-known that people are calling for her security and her rights from the political heart of Europe.

    Who is she and why did the European Parliament order Nicaragua on Feb. 16 to protect her life and rights, as well as those of thousands of peasant farmers in the centre-south of this impoverished Central American country?

    Ramírez is a 40-year-old indigenous farmer who has lived all her life in the agricultural municipality of Nueva Guinea, in the Autonomous Region of Caribe Sur, 280 km from the capital.

    She told IPS in an interview that her family has always lived in that rural area, which was the scene of bloody fighting during the 1980s civil war.

    When she was eight, her father abandoned them and her mother had to work as a day labourer, while Ramírez took care of her five younger siblings.

    Having survived the U.S.-financed war against the government of the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (1979-1990), Ramírez learned agricultural work, got married at 18, had five children, and with the effort of the whole family, they acquired some land and improved their living conditions.

    Ortega, who governed the country in that period, after overthrowing the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, returned to power in 2007. In January, he started a third consecutive term of office, after winning widely questioned elections where the opposition was excluded, supported by a civil-military alliance which controls all the branches of the state.

    Ramírez was happy with her life until 2013. “They told us over the radio that they were going to build a canal and I thought that it was a very important thing because they said that we were no longer going to be poor,” she said.

    Then, gradually, the news started to change her perception of the project to build the Great Nicaraguan Canal linking the Atlantic and the Pacific, granted in concession to the Chinese group HKND in 2013, and she started to ask questions that nobody answered.

    One day, bad luck knocked on her door: delegations of public officials who her community had never seen before, accompanied by members of the police and the military, escorted delegations of people from China who made measurements and calculations about the properties of the farmers.

    “The route of the canal runs through your property and all of you will be resettled,” they told her.

    Law 840, passed in 2013 to give life to the over 50-billion-dollar mega-project, which she was barely able to understand with her three years of formal schooling, was very clear: they would be paid for their lands a price which the state considered “appropriate”.

    So the resistance began. “At first everybody was happy, we thought that at last progress was coming, but when overbearing soldiers and police officers started to show up, guarding the Chinese, the whole community refused to let them in their homes and we started to protest,” she said.

    Since then, she said the official response has not varied: repression, harassment and threats to farmers who refuse to give up their land.

    Ramírez said that she became an activist in the National Council in Defence of Our Land, Lake and Sovereignty, a civil society initiative to organise the peasant movement to defend their lands and rights.

    She started marching behind the rural leaders who led the first demonstrations against the canal.

    One of the many demonstrations by small farmers who came to Managua from the southern Caribbean coastal region to protest the construction of an inter-oceanic canal that would displace thousands of rural families and cause severe environmental damage. Credit: Carlos Herrera/IPS

    Later on, the leaders were arrested, threatened, intimidated and repressed by the police and military, and Ramírez unexpectedly found herself leading the demonstrations in 2014.

    Her leadership caught the attention of the national and international media, human rights organisations and civil society.

    Soon, the peasant marches against the canal became a symbol of resistance and more people joined, turning the movement into the most important social force to confront Ortega since he took office again 10 years ago.

    The peasant movement against the canal “is the strongest social organisation that exists today in Nicaragua. Within any movement, an authentic and genuine leadership emerges, and that is what Mrs. Ramírez represents,” sociologist Oscar René Vargas told IPS.

    The president “is aware that the movement is the most important social force that his government is facing,” he said.

    The admiration that Ramírez arouses, with her ability to organise and lead more than 90 demonstrations in the country, has irritated the authorities.

    More than 200 peasant farmers have been arrested, about 100 have been beaten or wounded by gunfire, and the government has basically imposed a military state of siege in the area, where it refuses to finance social projects, according to the movement.

    Police checkpoints along the entire route to Nueva Guinea and military barricades in the area give the impression of a war zone.

    Ramírez has not escaped the violence and harassment: her house has been raided without a court order, her children and family persecuted and threatened by intelligence agents and police officers, her belongings and goods that she sells, such as food, confiscated and damaged, and she has been accused of terrorist activities.

    One of the latest episodes occurred in December 2016, during a visit to Nicaragua by Organisation of American States (OAS) Secretary-General Luis Almagro, to discuss with Ortega the allegations of attacks on democracy.

    To keep Ramírez and other leaders of the movement from meeting with Almagro, police convoys besieged the community and repressed members of the movement, she said.

    They partially destroyed the main bridge out of the area, and suspected members of the movement’s Council were held at military checkpoints.

    They even confiscated Ramírez’s work vehicles, used them to transport troops and later damaged them, according to Gonzalo Carrión, from the Nicaraguan Human Rights Centre.

    “Ortega’s government has visciously mistreated Francisca Ramírez and the farmers who follow her. Her rights have been violated, from the right to protest to the right to freedom of movement, and we fear that they will violate her most sacred right: to life,” Carrión told IPS.

    Walking along footpaths in the dark and crossing a deep river, where she almost drowned, Ramírez got around the military cordon and travelled, disguised and hidden in a truck, to Managua, where she was able to meet with Almagro on Dec. 1, 2016 and tell him of the abuses to which her community had been subjected for refusing to give up their lands.

    On Feb. 16, the European Parliament issued a resolution condemning the lack of protection for human rights activists in Nicaragua, putting a special emphasis on the case of Ramírez, and lamenting the deterioration of the rule of law and democracy in this country.

    The members of the European Parliament urged “the national and local police forces to refrain from harassing and using acts of reprisal against Francisca Ramirez for carrying out her legitimate work as a human rights defender.”

    “Francisca Ramirez is a victim of abuses by the police in the country aiming at risking human rights defenders’ security and livelihood,” the European Parliament denounced.

    “Ramírez, coordinator for the Defense of the Land, the Lake and Sovereignty, was in Managua to file a formal complaint over acts of repression, violations of the right to free circulation, and aggression experienced by several communities from Nueva Guinea on their way to the capital city for a peaceful protest against the construction of an inter-oceanic canal, projects which will displace local farmers activities and indigenous people from the premises of the construction,” the resolution states.

    While the government remained silent about the resolution, social activist Mónica López believes that it represented a victory for the rural movement.

    “Without a doubt, the resolution is a social and political victory for the peasant movement against the canal, a condemnation of Nicaragua, and a global warning about what is happening against indigenous peasant movements in Nicaragua,” López told IPS.

    The government asserts that the canal project is moving ahead, although a year has passed with no visible progress, and it maintains that it will eradicate the poverty that affects more than 40 per cent of the 6.2 million people in this Central American country.

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    Best and Worst of Police In Latin America

    Nicaragua police. Photo from blogg.nmbu.no

    TODAY NICARAGUA , via Insightcrime.org who has put together a selection of some of the region’s best — and worst — police forces.

    In the report, Nicaraguans have high levels of trust in their police force. But this does not necessarily mean the public believes officials are not involved in criminal activities. Over half of the public think that the criminal interests have corrupted a police force that is nonetheless considered trustworthy. Indeed, Nicaraguan police are known to collaborate with drug traffickers and drug theft groups.

    A 2014 police reform that made President Daniel Ortega its “supreme commander” has sparked concerns that this apparent politicization may weaken the integrity of the force.

    But the high levels of public confidence in the Nicaraguan police are perhaps most surprising when considering the vast number of human rights denunciations the force receives compared to other state institutions.

    The other countries in the ‘best’ category”

    Chile

    Chile’s Carabineros — the police force with possibly the highest confidence rating in the region — has had its reputation tarnished in a surprising case of high-reaching fraud. By March 10, at least 10 officers left the force — including a general and a captain — following revelations that a corrupt network syphoned around $12 million from the agency between 2010 and 2015. Investigations show that this group transferred funds from an institutional bank account into their personal accounts. More officials are expected to be fired as internal and judicial investigations continue.

    The scandal is not the only one to hit Chile’s most trusted institutions in recent months, and some observers believe it will not be the last. The military — which is considered to be less corrupt than the police, according to a public survey — was shaken last year by another case of internal fraud nicknamed “Milicogate,” in which officials allegedly misused over $8 million in funds.

    Costa Rica

    Costa Rica has one of Latin America’s most trusted police forces. And compared to other Central American countries, Costa Ricans do not widely perceive their police as being involved in criminal activities.However, this may change as local groups gain more control and adopt the modus operandi of more powerful patrons, while the volume of drugs flowing through the nation appears to be on the rise.

    One indication of local police’s criminal ties was uncovered in late 2016, when at least ten Costa Rican police officers were arrested in an operation against a transnational drug network.

    Moreover, Costa Rica has seen its security forces challenged by the abrupt escalation in drug-related violence as native gangs evolve, and has responded with potentially worrying measures. By the end of 2017, the government aims to boost police ranks by cutting down on training time, a move that risks weakening the efficiency and trustworthiness of the force.

    Ecuador

    Although not as highly regarded as the police in Chile or Nicaragua, trust in Ecuador’s officers is around double the regional average, and the force has been described as a “model for the region” to follow by Latin American leaders. Ecuador’s homicide rate, which is among the lowest in the region, has been viewed as an indicator of police efficiency.

    A large-scale police reform effort in recent years has increased police training and salaries and, perhaps most importantly, strengthened police-community relations. Still, it is unclear exactly how much police tactics have contributed to reducing violent crimes in the country.

    But severe problems remain within the institution, and 866 police officers were expelled between 2013 and 2016, according to a recent US State Department report on human rights practices for 2016. Active and retired police officers have been arrested or sentenced in organized crime and corruption schemes in the past.

    For the ‘Worst’:

    Honduras

    Honduras may have the most criminally corroded and least trusted police force in the region, according to public perception surveys. In 2016, however, the country took some steps towards cleaning house.

    The nation launched an extensive police reform effort following allegations that top-ranking officers had plotted the assassination of the country’s drug czar under orders from drug traffickers. The reform commission made impressive advances, and by early 2017 had reportedly forced over 2,500 officers to lose their position, or almost 20 percent of the force.

    However, this probing process has already met with resistance, with the reform commission starting to receive death threats almost immediately.

    Similarly to Costa Rica, however, Honduras’s reform commission seeks to boost police numbers to double the current amount by 2022, which may be counterproductive if standards are lowered.

    Much rides on this reform bringing about long-term changes. In the past, failed purges have been followed by the creation of new elite forces such as the Military Police (PMOP), which is currently more trusted by Hondurans than any other security force. But this militarization of public security has seen fatal abuses and cases of apparent impunity, according to the US Human Rights Report.

    Mexico

    In Mexico, organized crime has deeply permeated police institutions. The municipal forces are probably the most corroded and in the past have acted as private hit squads for mayors with drug ties. This was allegedly the case in the well-known disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero state.

    The US Human Rights Report says that state and local police “were involved in kidnapping, extortion, and providing protection for, or acting directly on behalf of, organized crime and drug traffickers.”

    Furthermore, police officers who failed vetting procedures were kept on duty, the report adds.

    This corrosion has had repercussions in Mexico‘s war on drugs, which has become increasingly militarized. Despite being responsible for a host of human rights abuses, the army remains the most trusted institution for tackling organized crime, and will probably remain so as long as the police do not become a more reliable and efficient force.

    Dominican Republic

    One of Latin America’s most notoriously corrupt forces, Dominican police have been accused of everything from petty corruption to running their own drug trafficking networks.

    The US State Department report also points out that in 2016 “police officers particularly targeted undocumented immigrants of Haitian descent to extort money by threatening deportation.” According to the report, however, judicial efforts are hampered by widespread tolerance for “petty corruption.”

    The report also states that police in the Dominican Republic — as in many other countries — operate in a “dangerous environment” where many civilians own guns and urban homicides are frequent. This reality may push officers to adopt excess force at times on criminals and civilians alike.

    El Salvador and Brazil

    In El Salvador the police are routinely accused of infiltration by gangs, extrajudicial killings and of forming death squads.

    Brazil also has a huge problem with excessive use of violence by its heavy-handed military police. But many such cases are investigated in special military police courts, which has cause a large number to expire under the statute of limitations, according to the US State Department report.

    Nevertheless, public trust in Brazilian and Salvadoran police is relatively high compared to the rest of the region. This may be at least partly due to the great public security threats faced by the public, who then rely more on state authorities. The dangers of a weakened police force was illustrated only last February, when a police strike in the Brazilian state of Espirito Santo saw murder rates increase sixfold, with over 130 killings in one week.

    Article originally appeared on Insighcrime.org, republished here with permision with editing by Today Nicaragua.
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    Proposed U.S. Bill Threatens Nicaragua Call Centers

    Getty Images

    TODAY NICARAGUA – A proposed bill in the U.S. threatens the operations of call centers from nations like Nicaragua, worrying employers and workers, according to a CNN Español report that says the bill could force companies that outsource customer service outside the United States to return to the U.S.

    The bill – which has the support of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) – was presented last March 2 to the Senate by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) with cosponsors Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and in the House by Representatives, David McKinley (R-WV) and Gene Green (D-TX).

    From the CWA newsletter on March 2, 2017:

    “Today, the ‘U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act’ was introduced in both the House and Senate, to protect workers and consumers and to curb the off-shoring of American jobs.

    The legislation requires that U.S. callers be told the location of the call center to which they are speaking, offer callers the opportunity to be connected to a U.S.-based center if preferred, and makes U.S. companies that off-shore their call center jobs ineligible for certain federal grants and taxpayer-funded loans.”

    In addition, the bill proposes that U.S. companies that outsource their customer services in other countries may not receive certain federal subsidies or taxpayer-financed loans, CNN said.

    Is this a real threat?

    Could this be the future of call centers in Nicaragua? Image for illustrative purposes from www.fastcodesign.com

    The Agencia de Promoción de las Inversiones de Nicaragua (ProNicaragua), for the end of 2015, says companies registered under the Zona Franca (Comisión Nacional de Zona Franca –  CNZF) regime employed 7,800 people; by the end of 2016, the number grew to 8,500.

    In addition, between 2007 and 2016, the number of companies went from 17 to 42, serving mainly American and Canadian companies, in addition to European and Latin American businesses.

    According to ProNicaragua, these companies generated more than US$100 million dollars in income to the country in 2015.

    Nicaraguan American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) president Álvaro Rodríguez, for example, told the Nicaraguan daily La Prensa last week that if this bill becomes a reality, the negative effect on the economy of his country would be very high. Rodríguez assured that they will do everything possible so that it is not approved. “We are going to support this so that it will not happen,” he said

    In Costa Rica, a country with a high concentration of call centers, some 60,000 jobs are threatened by the U.S. move.

    Sources: QCostarica; La Presna; CNN; CWA

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    First Real Estate Fund in Nicaragua

    INVERCASA

    TODAY NICARAGUA – The fund managed by Invercasa will focus on acquiring both commercial and residential properties, and the minimum stake will be us$5,000.

    Sociedad Nicaragüense de Inversión, a subsidiary of Invercasa Group, has received authorization from the Superintendency of Banks to begin operating the first real estate investment fund, which buys buildings to generate revenue by renting them out.

    “The fund generates monthly returns from rentals of properties that either in joint or exclusive format are used for commerce, offices, condominiums, residential houses, factories, apartments, warehouses and others, this will be its active portfolio,” asserted INVERCASA authorities.

    Source: canal2tv.com

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    Meet the Sex Workers Replacing Cops in Nicaragua

    Emilia, a member of the Sunflowers of Nicaragua, showing her judicial facilitator ID. | Photo: Reuters

    TODAY NICARAGUA – “We are capable women, we defend our rights, and we are also contributing to justice in our country,” said Sunflowers of Nicaragua member Maria Elena Davila.

    In most countries around the world, sex workers are criminalized by police officers. In Sandinista-run Nicaragua, sex workers are replacing police officers.

    Last January, French filmmaker Florence Jaugey released a documentary about the Sunflowers of Nicaragua, a woman-led sex worker collective serving as community mediators for the socialist government. Today, the documentary is receiving praise across Latin America, one of the most dangerous regions in the world for sex workers.

    “We wanted to show the world that we are not the image they have of us,” Sunflowers of Nicaragua member Maria Elena Davila told El Nuevo Diario.

    “We are capable women, we defend our rights, and we are also contributing to justice in our country. This documentary tells our story.”

    In 2009, members of the Sunflowers of Nicaragua began organizing against discrimination and violence within their communities. They did this with the intention of gaining the trust of their communities in order to win mass support for their primary demand: the judicial integration and unionization of sex workers across the country. Their strategy worked.

    n 2015, Nicaragua’s Supreme Court of Justice asked members of the collective if they wanted to work as judicial facilitators in Managua, Economy reports. Now, the sex workers are accredited and have licenses signed by the Supreme Court of Justice to mediate small conflicts in their communities, which include problems between relatives and neighbors.

    The program is intended to “reduce the weight on the police and the judicial system” while integrating sex workers into Nicaragua’s judicial system, Jaugey told Economy in a recent interview.

    “It’s a unique case in the world that the justice authorities have given this responsibility to these women,” Jaugey said.

    But also the success of this film is not just due to Nicaragua and the state of the law here, it’s also due to the goodwill of these women.”

    The Sunflowers of Nicaragua has also been accepted by the socialist government’s Confederation of Self-Employed Workers, granting them legal union status. The collective, which aims to organize Nicaragua’s estimated 14,000 sex workers, has recruited 2,300 thus far.

    Last February, Nicaragua’s Ministry of Labor ruled in favor of a sex worker who was fired from a nightclub for being pregnant, setting a precedent for the country’s sex worker labor laws.

    Artile originally appeared on Telesurtv.net

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    Capital Expands Towards The South

    Rotonda Rube Dario

    TODAY NICARAGUA – The total constructed area grew from 9,380 hectares in 2005 to 12,500 hectares in 2015, and expansion in these years has been mainly towards the southern basin.

    Elnuevodiario.com.ni reports that “…According to a preliminary study for the proposed Master Plan for Urban Development of Managua, prepared by consultants from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), with data provided by the Mayor of Managua, between 2005 and 2015 the capital is advancing at an average rate of 312 hectares per year.”

    The aim of the Master Plan for Urban Development prepared by JICA is to identify the characteristics of the existing infrastructure and define areas according to those caraccterísticas in order to achieve a more orderly and better planned growth.

    See also: “High Rise Offices in Nicaragua”

    “… Minimum Standards for housing development were formulated in 1982 and the last update was in 2005, therefore the JICA is proposing an urgent update as part of the Master Plan for the Urban Development of Managua.”

    Source: elnuevodiario.com.ni

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    Nicaragua Eliminates Tax on Colombian Imports

    Nicaragua Eliminates Tax on Colombian Imports

    TODAY NICARAGUA – Goods and services imported from the South American country will no longer incur the “patriotic” tax of 35%, which has been levied since 1999.

    From a statement issued by the National Assembly, said: “With the unanimous approval this March 7, of the Bill Repealing the law creating the tax on Goods and Services of Colombian origin or provenance, Nicaragua opens the door to boosting investment and improving the business climate between the two countries.

    Strengthening trade relations between Nicaragua and Colombia and regional integration, will also be favored with the elimination of the 35% tax on any imported good or service, manufactured and assembled with Colombian origin or provenance.”

    The Nicaragua government introduced the repeal of the tax on February 21 of this year.

    This tax was approved in the context of the territorial disputes between Nicaragua and Colombia on any goods and services imported, manufactured and assembled with derivation or origin from Colombia.

    The patriotix tax was also levied against Honduras. However, years ago the tax was repealed against the Central American neighbour.

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    European Parliament Slams Nicaragua For Rights Violations Over Canal

    Harrassed: Francisca Ramirez, Coordinator of the National Council for the Defence of Land, Lake and Sovereignty (La Prensa)

    TODAY NICARAGUA – Urging respect for the rule of law, democracy and human rights, the European Parliament has slammed Nicaragua for its treatment of people criticising the $50bn transoceanic canal being developed by a Chinese company.

    The parliament specifically took up the case of anti-canal activist Francisca Ramirez (pictured), who it says has been intimidated, arbitrarily detained, and whose family members have been violently attacked.

    Rights group Amnesty International spoke up for Ramirez in December 2016.

    Ramirez, coordinator of the National Council for the Defence of Land, Lake and Sovereignty, is leader of a group of indigenous peoples and small farmers who want the government of Daniel Ortega to repeal the law that gave extraordinary powers to the Chinese company, HKND, to expropriate land to build the canal and profit from it for 100 years.

    Between 30,000 and 120,000 people would be forced from their farms if the massive project goes ahead. Campaigners say the people were not consulted over the scheme.

    On 16 February the European Parliament passed a resolution demanding that the Ortega government comply with international obligations on the rights of indigenous peoples and respect human rights and democratic values.

    It noted that journalists in Nicaragua face harassment, intimidation and detention, and have received death threats.

    Ortega’s government was urged to “refrain from harassing and using acts of reprisal against Francisca Ramirez and other human rights defenders for carrying out their legitimate work”, and to “end the impunity of perpetrators of crimes against human rights defenders”.

    In Nicaragua the resolution was dismissed by the government’s human rights prosecutor, Adolfo Jarquin, who dismissed it as part of a disinformation campaign by activists and government opponents, reports the Associated Press (AP).

    Jarquin said human rights “are a reality and are improving in Nicaragua” and complained of “distorted” information aimed at an international audience, AP reported.

    Ramirez has denied her movement has any political goal apart from repealing Law 840, which was passed by Nicaragua’s national assembly in June 2013 without any prior public consultation or debate.

    Questions persist over the financial viability of the 276-km-long canal.

    A ceremony to launch construction was held in December 2014, but full construction has been delayed.

    Source: Globalconstructionreview.com

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    Nicaragua Launches Hugo Chavez College Program

    Hugo Chavez Plaza in Managua, Nicaragua honoring the late Venezuelan leader. (United Socialist Party of Venezuela).

    Nicaragua’s ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front, FSLN, is launching a new program at the country’s National Autonomous University dedicated to former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

    The program, named after the founder of the Bolivarian Revolution, will begin Friday, two days before the fourth anniversary of his death.

    “Students will study different aspects of the thought, legacy, practice and above all that path that illuminated the great Commander Hugo Chavez,” Nicaraguan Vice President and FSLN leader Rosario Murillo said, Prensa Latina reports.

    Socialism, Bolivarianism, liberation theology, Afro-Indigenous history, and anti-colonial history are among the many topics students of the Chavez program will undertake. They will also collaborate with scholars from the Bolivarian and Central universities of Venezuela on projects related to Latin American integration.

    Nicaragua isn’t the only Central American country that’s honoring Chavez’s legacy through education.

    On Wednesday, El Salvador’s ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, FMLN, party announced the creation of a new college program honoring Chavez and Palestinian-Salvadoran revolutionary Schafik Handal.

    The program, which begins exactly on the fourth anniversary of Chavez’s death, will be hosted at the Institute Association of Schafik Handal at the Central American University Jose Simeon Cañas in San Salvador.

    The FMLN launched the Institute last January on the 11th anniversary of his death. It will now collaborate with the Venezuelan Embassy in San Salvador to host joint Chavez-Handal research initiatives and symposiums.

    Handal, a close friend of Chavez, co-founded the FMLN in 1980 and liberated several departments during El Salvador’s civil war in a nationwide guerrilla warfare campaign. A lifelong Marxist-Leninist, Handal helped to establish the FMLN as a legal socialist political party in the country.

    “Our purpose is to transform the country not just by studying Chavez and Schafik, but also to empower the positive feelings and the reflections that Salvadorans have about the legacy of these two historical politicians,” Venezuelan Ambassador to El Salvador Nora Uribe told Prensa Latina.

    In a 2006 letter to Handal’s widow Tania Bichkova, a Russian communist activist who works alongside the FMLN, Chavez expressed his administration for the deceased revolutionary.

    “I pay tribute to those who risked their lives in the armed struggle like Schafik when, as (Farabundo) Marti said, the time of the ovens have arrived,” Chavez wrote to Bichkova.

    Both the FSLN and the FMLN have strongly supported Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution since its inception in 1999.

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    President Ortega Highlights Chavez’s Legacy in Latin America

    In this undated photo we have Hugo Chaves (left) and Daniel Ortega in triumph.

    TODAY NICARAGUA (Prensa Latina) Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on Sunday highlighted the impact of the revolutionary work of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Latin America, on the 4th anniversary of his death.

    “Chavez (1954-2013) lives in all Latin America, he liberated our region with a great force and success, and we are here to continue his battle against poverty and social exclusion,” Ortega said.

    Ortega arrived in Caracas on early Sunday to participate in the 14th Special Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-People’s Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP), during which he will pay tribute to the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution.

    “We come here to pay tribute to Chavez’ work and legacy, which is part of the ALBA, based on the foundations of integration,” stated Ortega.

    “The ALBA was a wish by Chavez and the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro (1926-2016), two champions of Latin American and Caribbean integration who are present in this struggle that we are waging today,” he said.

    Venezuelan Ecological Development Minister Jorge Arreaza welcomed the Nicaraguan delegation at the Simon Bolivar International Airport, in Maiquetia, Vargas state.

    More than 200 dignitaries of the world invited to the event arrived in Venezuela this past weekend, including Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, and the head of Bolivian diplomacy, Fernando Huanacuni.

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    The Potential of Palm Oil in Nicaragua

    African palm oil worker

    TODAY NICARAGUA – Twenty two thousand hectares are devoted to growing palm in the country, and investments of US$150 million are planned for maintenance of existing plantations and new ones in the coming years.

    The 22,000 hectares of African palm currently produce 70,000 tons of crude oil which are destined for local consumption and export. In 2016 the revenue generated from sales abroad totaled US$33 million, 13% more than in 2015.

    Marlon Perez Miranda, manager of the Association of Producers and Processors of Palm Oil (Capropalma) told Laprensa.com.ni that “… ‘Forecasts for this year are to export about thirty thousand tons of crude oil, but investments have already been made to add value to production, i.e. that part of the production that is already being refined and packaged because the goal is to be self-sufficient, because Nicaragua has the capacity to be self sufficient and also to export’.”

    “… According to the National Plan for Production, Consumption and Trade, depending on weather conditions in the agricultural cycle 2016-2017, between 70,000 and 74,000 metric tons of crude palm oil will be produced. But there are also 9,200 hectares (about 6,440 fields) that are in development. At least eighty percent of these areas belong to six major established companies, which are also the companies who two years ago founded Capropalma.”

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    Major Colombian Drug Trafficker Detained in Nicaragua

    Amauri Carmona Morelos in 2009 holding his fake Nicaraguan cedula (ID) in the name of Alberto Ruiz Cano. LA PRENSA/ARCHIVO J. UBIETA

    TODAY NICARAGUA (Insightcrime.org) Nicaragua’s authorities have detained Amauri Carmona Morelos, putting an end to the criminal career of one of the most prominent drug traffickers operating in the Central American country.

    Carmona, a Colombian drug trafficker known to have established a fake identity in Nicaragua as Alberto Ruiz Cano, was captured on February 7 and has been detained in a prison in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua ever since, reported La Prensa.

    It is still not clear where exactly Carmona was captured and who conducted the operation that led to his arrest, as Nicaragua’s Army and Police have refused to reveal further information.

    However, La Prensa reported Carmona was captured by Honduran security forces, who then handed him over to Nicaragua’s police.

    Walpasiksa, the town where Morels’ led a group that in 2009 ambushed a navy patrol and killing two soldiers.

    Carmona’s capture is the final chapter in the story of one of the major foreign operators in Nicaragua, who allegedly ran the first drug trafficking organization (DTO) in the Northern Caribbean.

    Originally from San Andrés, Colombia, drug trafficking runs in the Carmona family tree, as his father was reportedly linked with the Cali Cartel, a defunct Colombian DTO. Authorities believe Carmona was a member of a DTO that smuggled drugs through indigenous villages in Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast.

    While the group’s headquarters were allegedly located in Nicaragua’s North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN), a strategic hub for many of the country’s criminal networks, Carmona was believed to move frequently between San Andrés and Honduras. The Colombian national also allegedly owned a nightclub in Managua, which he used as a strategic spot to negotiate the price of narcotics and organize cocaine shipments.

    Carmona’s clashes with Nicaraguan authorities reached a peak in December 2009, when the drug trafficker was allegedly involved in a violent confrontation between the Walpasiksa indigenous community and Nicaragua’s Naval troops. Civilians ambushed the anti-drug unit that had arrived in the area to look for a downed narco-plane. Three Naval officers were killed during the attack, which authorities believe Carmona ordered in order to protect the area as a base for drug trafficking operations.

    Article originally appeared on Insightcrime.org and is republished here with permission.

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    Nicaragua Slipped Five Ranks Overall Since 2007 In Global Prosperity Index

    Nicaragua is a long way off Costa Rica’s level of prosperity.

    TODAY NICARAGUA – Despite a top 40 performance in Personal Freedom and Natural Environment, and rising Economic Quality, Nicaragua has slipped five ranks overall since 2007, according to the Leguatum Prosperity Index.

    Overall Nicaragua ranks 69th of 149 on the prosperity index.

    The Legatum reports says that Nicaragua has fallen five ranks since 2007 in overall prosperity is not to say that progress has not been made. The country has risen 23 ranks in Economic Quality since 2007 thanks to rising satisfaction with living standards and falling rates of poverty. Governance has also improved by 12 ranks since 2007 thanks to rising confidence in government and increased female representation in parliament.

    However, that these sub-indices have improved cannot hide the fact that Nicaragua is falling behind on overall prosperity globally, although comparing it to its neighbours tells a somewhat different story.

    Whilst Costa Rica, Nicaragua’s neighbour to the south, now stands in the top thirty for overall prosperity, countries such as Honduras (neighbour to the north) have performed innumerably worse than Nicaragua across entirety of the Prosperity Index.

    That being said, Nicaragua is a long way off Costa Rica’s level of prosperity.

    In Latin America, Uruguay is the most prosperous, followed by Costa Rica in second place, Chile is 3rd, Panama in 4th place and Argentina fifth.

    Visit the Rankings table to see how Nicaragua compares to other countries.

    This is the tenth consecutive study carried out by the Legatum Institute and 149 countries were evaluated on variables such as economics, education, entrepreneurship, governance, health, individual freedom and security, were taken into account to make the ladder.

    Globally, New Zealand is the nation that occupies first place of prosperity, followed by Norway, Finland, Switzerland and Canada.

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    New Business Opportunities for Nicaragua and Colombia

    TODAY NICARAGUA – Paper and machinery are some of the goods that nicaraguan businessmen plan to import in large amounts with the upcoming elimination of the “patriotic” tax of 35% on colombian products.

    The decision by Ortega government to abolish the 35% tax on imports of Colombian products, which has been in place since 1999, has been welcomed by the Nicaraguan private sector, which plans to increase imports of products such as machinery, paper and raw materials. The upcoming elimination of the tax, which must be approved by the Assembly, opens the door to new business opportunities between the two countries.

    Mario Amador, general manager of the National Committee of Sugar Producers of Nicaragua (CNPA), explained to Elnuevodiario.com.ni that “…The so called patriotic tax has made raw materials from the South American country more expensive. ‘There used to be a lot of paper goods brought over from Colombia, over there there is a highly developed paper industry, in books, diaries, and notebooks on which taxes had to be paid which affects national consumers and not the Colombian industry’.”

    Jose Adan Aguerri, president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), added that now “… ‘with this derogation we have the advantage of being able to bring in machinery. For example, for coffee processing, [machines] which are top quality and well priced, we could not get before. We will be able to bring in for example medicines, which in fact we are bringing in from Colombia (…) And that will allow us to get back to a level of competitiveness and take advantage of the market prices of these types of products of Colombian origin’.”

    “… Aguerri said that Nicaragua has had to bring in paraffin from China to make candles, instead of bringing it from Colombia at a lower price. Therefore, candels in the Nicaraguan market were more expensive than those coming in from El Salvador.”

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    Nicaragua Deepens Research on Earthquakes

    TODAY NICARAGUA (PL) The authorities of Nicaragua intended to deepen research on earthquakes, based on a comparative study on the incidence of these phenomena in recent years, official sources reported.

    According to Nicaraguan Vice President, Rosario Murillo, the Institute Nicaraguan of Territorial Studies (Ineter) undertook this initiative to understand better the behavior of the telluric movements in the country.

    ‘ We are preparing a comparative study of the number of earthquakes present, month to month, let’s say in the last five or six years, to study these periods in which there are few quakes much better’, Murillo said through a local TV network.

    She added that there are greater and lesser activity cycles, so she can not speak of seismic silence, but a decrease in the number of tremors.

    For this reason, the Ineter specialists expect data that help measure those cycles of low incidence, said Murillo.

    Nicaragua is located in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an area that concentrates the majority of the active volcanoes of the planet and where earthquakes with more assiduity and magnitude are occuring.

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    Nicaragua – Ecuador Trade Agreement Approved

    Photo from el19digital.com

    TODAY NICARAGUA – Nicaraguan Rum, cigars, seafood, honey, vegetables, beans, timber, medicines and wood furniture will be allowed into Ecuador with preferential tariffs.

    From a statement issued by the National Assembly of Nicaragua:

    With 83 votes the National Assembly approved, on February 22, a Partial Agreement between Nicaragua and Ecuador that will allow the exchange of tariff preferences and the elimination of non-tariff restrictions on imports of a variety of more than 30 products from both countries.

    Deputy Jose Figueroa, Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, said the agreement “is called a partial scope agreement, because it is not a Free Trade Agreement (FTA’s include all of the goods and services of the products of each country) in the case of Nicaragua and Ecuador, only a list of products is included. This agreement, on the other hand, removes all the tariff and non-tariff barriers to facilitate and promote trade between the two countries.”

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    Arizona Family Moving to Nicaragua To Get Away From Trump’s America

    The Krump family is shown here in Granada, Nicaragua, in 2016. Photo Credit: Krump family

    (TODAY NICARAGUA) Since Kristina Krump and her husband, Nicholas, started dating, they’ve dreamed about leaving Phoenix to live abroad, maybe after sending their last child to college, or in retirement. In the meantime, they and their three boys spend a month every summer in Latin America.

    Last year, the family went to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It was a welcome break, Kristina Krump said, from US politics and bad news.

    “We didn’t worry about CNN,” Krump said. “We didn’t worry about terrorist attacks. We didn’t worry about mass acts of violence. And we didn’t feel the need to check in on any of that because we were in the moment, in life, and there, everything was good.”

    Back home in the US, Krump, a former teacher, worries about the divisiveness the election has stirred up. In Arizona, politics are focused more on the Mexican border and illegal immigration, and less on the black-white divide she grew up with on the East Coast, said Krump, who is African American. Still, with so many shootings in recent years of young, black men by police officers, she fears her biracial sons, aged 7, 9 and 11, could one day be a target.

    “I don’t want to have teenage boys in this country, given all that’s happening,” she said. “It just terrifies me.”

    So, when Donald Trump was elected president, that was the final straw: His derogatory remarks about women and minorities were too much for her, she said. For the couple, his victory also felt like déjà vu. See, when George W. Bush became the Republican candidate for president in 2000, Krump and her husband said they’d move to Canada if he won. But they never made an escape plan, and when Bush won, they realized they had been kidding themselves.

    “This time,” Krump said, “I just looked at him, and I was like, ‘I am for real. We have to get out of here.’”

    So, unlike the many people who said they’d leave America under Trump and haven’t, the Krumps are keeping their word. The family is moving in June to Granada, Nicaragua. It’s a tourist town in a country that’s Central America’s poorest, yet second safest. The kids will go to an international school, while Krump, a stay-at-home mom, will volunteer. Her husband, a workplace safety consultant, will fly back to the US when he needs to. They’ll all study Spanish.

    “My husband doesn’t speak any outside of just the general: hello, goodbye, thank you, bathroom and beer,” she said.

    To get ready for the move, Krump is finding homes for their three dogs and packing up their house, room by room.

    “It’s a big task,” she said. “Looking at everything that’s in here and trying to decide what we really want to keep, what we want to let go of, what we really think we need — and are we moving forever, or are we just moving for a year, or two, or four?”

    What she is certain of is that President Trump can’t relate to her family’s slow rise into the middle class and their struggle to stay in it.

    “I would appreciate him a lot more probably,” Krump said, “if he would just say, ‘Hey, I started with a huge leg up in life; I get it. And I did work hard, and I used my leg up to become even more successful, and I want to figure out how to run this country [so] that everyone, whether you have a leg up or not, can succeed.’ And I really don’t feel like that’s where he’s coming from.”

    When Krump talks to her kids — even her oldest, Jackson — about why they’re going to Nicaragua, she focuses on the adventure there instead of her fears for them here.

    “They haven’t got to that point where they’re exposed to all of — everything,” she said. “Not that Jackson hasn’t heard about some of the things that happen; we’ve talked about them. But I don’t think he knows the depth and the breadth of it. And I certainly don’t think he is quite able to connect the dots.”

    With tourist visas, they’ll need to exit the country every 90 days to legally stay long term. Krump said she’ll put up with inconveniences like that for quiet nights outside in rocking chairs, chatting and sipping rum with neighbors — not to mention more free time with her family.

    “I know that for me,” Krump said, “I need to just hit the reset button in a big way and then kind of navigate and adjust and see what’s best for us moving forward.”

    Article originally appeared on PRI.org

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