Nicaraguan government

After attending a conference on the construction of the Interoceanic Canal while studying abroad in Nicaragua, Abby Pew decided to take a semester off to help the indigenous population that would be affected in that area. 

Pew, who was a Latin American studies and anthropology sophomore when she left the University, said supervisors have threatened to remove the indigenous population, or Rama, from the land in order to make way for the entrance to the canal. Pew is currently in Bluefields, Nicaragua, working with community leaders to protest, fundraise and organize against the Nicaraguan government. 

The Rama people have populated the Atlantic coastline of Nicaragua for thousands of years and lived off the land by fishing, hunting and farming for their food. Pew said their environment is vital to their way of life.

“The coastal area should be its own nation, and the [Rama] are literally being colonized,” Pew said. 

Pew has been working with the community leader of the Rama to seek legal assistance in fighting the Nicaraguan government. She said she is also raising money to provide the community leader with travel fees for driving to national meetings in order to make the Rama’s voices heard.

In 2012, Nicaragua passed a law giving the Hong Kong Nicaragua Development group, the company in charge of the canal, legal grounds to start building. According to International Business Times, the 172-mile canal, which HKND and the Nicaraguan government unveiled in July, stretches from the mouth of the Brito River on the Pacific Ocean, through Lake Nicaragua and east to Punta Gorda on the Caribbean coast.

Pew said government officials informed residents of Bluefields that the government would be paying for the replacement of their homes. 

“They had no right to do that,” Pew said. “They had no right to make those promises as if they were helping them.” 

Pew said this legislation undermines the Nicaraguan Constitution as well as the indigenous laws of the land. Starting this October, Pew visited with the community of Bluefields to interview the residents.

“I will stay and fight to the last,” said Tyrone Presida, a resident of Bluefields. “We have been through war already, and we are still living. If we have to have to have another war, we will throw it against them.”

The Nicaraguan government hails the project as a economical success, but Pew said it would be at high “human costs.”

“People sounded like they were willing to die and go to war for their land,” Pew said. “Which is a really brave thing considering the population is so minimal.”

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.”