Urban studies professor challenges myths about Nicaraguan government

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Dennis Rodgers challenged current perceptions of safety in Nicaragua in a talk Tuesday at Richardson Hall.

Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

Dennis Rodgers, urban studies professor at the University of Glasgow, challenged prominent narratives about the leftist Nicaraguan government at a talk on campus Tuesday.

Rodgers, who spoke at Richardson Hall, said politicians, mainstream media, academics and non-governmental organizations have stated Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in Latin America. He said the claim seems true when compared to other Central American countries, such as Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, which have some of the highest homicide rates in the Western Hemisphere.

“All I want to say is they are all wrong and to debunk this dominant perception of contemporary Nicaragua,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers said Nicaragua has become a narco-state, in which the government facilitates drug trafficking through its partnership with drug cartels. Nicaragua is an example of what Mexico and Honduras could become, according to Rodgers.

Leftist guerillas, such as the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua, sprung up in several Central American countries in the 1980s, Rodgers said. The situation in Nicaragua was different from that in Honduras and El Salvador because the Sandinistas gained mainstream political power, and, in 2006, Nicaraguans elected Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega as president.

Rodgers said the latest wave of the Sandinista movement has shifted dramatically from its original positions.

“What we might term Sandinismo 2.0 has very little comparison with the inspiring, transformative version of the 1980s,” Rodgers said.

He said the Nicaraguan government had manipulated the statistical figures on  homicide rates, as Nicaragua’s homicide rate was most likely closer to 25 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants, which the World Health Organization considers to be at epidemic levels.

According to Rodgers, drug-trafficking routes in Nicaragua increased in the early 2000s after the government improved highway infrastructure, and the government has since conspired with drug traffickers. He said government judges routinely mitigate sentences for convicted drug traffickers, and, while the weight in drugs seized by the government has declined, it could be because of government corruption rather than effective police efforts.

Mariana Morante, global policy studies and Latin American studies graduate student, said she appreciated Rodgers’ deconstruction of governmental statistics.

“Statistics present one story, but, once you’re there, you can see a whole different reality,” Morante said.

Yoalli Rodriguez, Latin American studies graduate student, researches feminist movements in Mexico. She said she attended the talk to make connections between the states of violence and government repression in Nicaragua and Mexico as well as other Central American countries. 

“A lot of the subjects talked about here, like drugs and the narco-state and violence, are not particular to Nicaragua,” Rodriguez said. “It’s something that, in Latin America, we live in our everyday lives.”