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  • U.S. Considers Nicaragua Sanctions for Venezuela links
  • The Venezuelan opposition met with members of Donald Trump’s administration last week to urge the White House to sanction Nicaragua and a company whose joint venture they say is helping to prop up the government in Caracas, according to multiple sources familiar with the conversations.

    AP photo

    Five Venezuelan opposition party officials and activists met Thursday on Capitol Hill with U.S. State Department officials and staffers for the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees. They urged Washington to investigate President Nicolas Maduro’s ties to Nicaragua and specifically the private company Albanisa, a joint venture between the Venezuelan state owned-oil company, PDVSA, and its Nicaraguan counterpart.

    “There are operations that PDVSA has with other countries that should be investigated and should be included in the sanctions, such as the company PDVSA created with Nicaragua, Albanisa,” Carlos Vecchio, national coordinator of the Voluntad Popular party in Venezuela, told McClatchy.

    Vecchio, in the meetings with the State Department and members of Congress, charged that Albanisa is involved in corruption, money laundering and financing for the Maduro regime. Albanisa officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

    Trump launched a series of financial sanctions to punish Venezuela and its leaders in July after Maduro held a vote, widely panned as fraudulent, that started the process of unwinding democratic institutions. The economic minister at the U.S. embassy in Managua followed suit, warning U.S. citizens and companies to review business transactions with Venezuela-affiliated companies such as Albanisa to ensure compliance with U.S. sanctions.

    The Trump administration has promised to continue ratcheting up the pressure on Caracas until the Venezuelan government restores some democratic institutions.

    The U.S. State Department confirmed the meeting with Venezuelan opposition leaders but administration officials would not specifically discuss the possibility of extending sanctions to entities outside of Venezuela.

    “All options are on the table,” said a spokesperson for the National Security Council, which has played a lead role in tailoring Washington’s response to Maduro.

    At the State Department, a Western Hemisphere Affairs division official said the Trump administration will continue to monitor the political situation in Venezuela, and will take action against those they think are abusing positions of power and violating people’s rights.

    “As long as the Maduro regime continues to conduct itself as an authoritarian dictatorship, we are prepared to bring the full weight of American economic and diplomatic power to bear in support of the Venezuelan people as they seek to restore their democracy,” that State Department official said.

    Some members of Congress appear ready to move against Nicaragua.

    “Nicaragua continues to offer its unconditional support to Nicolas Maduro and his dictatorial regime in Venezuela,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, said in a recent speech on the House floor. “We need to take a closer look at these ties.”

    In the State Department’s 2017 Transparency report, State officials said Nicaragua had not publicly accounted for all the assistance it receives from Venezuela or properly audited Albanisa.

    “And this assistance has not been subject to audit or legislative oversight,” the report stated. “Allocations to and earnings from state-owned enterprises were included in the budget on a net basis, but most state-owned enterprises, including ALBANISA, have not been subject to audit.”

    The Trump administration has sanctioned 40 Venezuelans, including Maduro. In August, the administration also issued economic sanctions restricting Venezuela’s ability to borrow money from American creditors and banned debt trades for bonds issued by the Venezuelan government and PDVSA.

    Read more here:

    Saturday, November 18, 2017

  • Rosario Murillo: La Heredera (The Heiress)
  • Rosarion Murillo, the “eternally loyal” to her husband and political partner, Daniel Ortega.

    In a profile by Confidencial in October 2016, before her election as the Nicaragua’s vice-president, making her roled in government an official one, Rosario Murillo is descried as “a peculario character…her personal history has captured the imagination of Nicaraguans”.

    Born on June 22, 1951, Rosario Murillo, is a Nicaraguan poet and revolutionary who fought in the Sandinista revolution in 1979. Married to the current President Daniel Ortega, is the First Lady of Nicaragua, a title she also held in 1985 when her husband became President 6 years after the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) overthrew the Somoza dynasty.

    Murillo has served as the Nicaraguan government’s lead spokeswoman, government minister, head of the Sandinista Association of Cultural Workers and Communications Coordinator of the Council on Communication and Citizenry and was sworn in as Vice President of Nicaragua on January 10, 2017.

    A polyglot, she speaks Spanish, English, Italian and French.

    Murillo and Daniel Ortega have eight children. According to Nicaraguan historian Roberto Sánchez, Murillo is maternally related to Nicaragua’s national hero, Augusto Sandino


    Murillo attended high school at the Greenway Convent Collegiate School in Tiverton, Great Britain, and studied Art at the Institut Anglo-Suisse Le Manoir at La Neuveville in Switzerland. Murillo possesses certificates in the English and French language, granted respectively by the University of Cambridge in Great Britain, and University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. She also attended the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in her hometown, where she later became a language professor at the Instituto de Ciencias Comerciales and the Colegio Teresiano during 1967-1969.

    Murillo started to gain power politically in 1998 after defending Ortega after he was accused by his stepdaughter, Murillo’s daughter, of sexually abusing her for many years. Murillo stated that the accusations were “a total falsehood.”  The case was thrown out by the Supreme Court in 2001 because the statute of limitations had expired.

    Murillo helped re-brand Ortega after three unsuccessful election bids in 1990, 1996, and 2001 as a less extreme candidate. Ortega was elected President in 2006 and re-elected in 2011. In the 2016 general election Murillo ran as Ortega’s vice-presidential candidate. She is “widely seen as the power behind the presidency” according to Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman.

    Murillo has had a history of struggling with both alcohol and drug abuse.

    Saturday, November 18, 2017

  • Nicaragua: “Enhancing” the Dictatorship?
  • (HAVANA TIMES) – Nicaragua doesn’t need to enhance the Family-State-Party system to install a new dynasty. It needs to dismantle it.

    1) The phantom of abstention

    There were no surprises in the November 5th municipal elections in Nicaragua. Just as in last year’s Presidential election, the official polling places shone empty due to the massive abstention, even as the Supreme Electoral Council took great pains to declare another record level of participation, manipulating at whim the data regarding the voter roles.

    In issuing the balance sheet for the day’s effort, Comandante Daniel Ortega admitted that – for now – abstention is the governing party’s principal electoral opponent and the greatest threat to its legitimacy. Ortega deceitfully associated this abstention with a supposed plan for “confrontation,” while in fact citizens turned to this form of peaceful protest to express their profound discomfort, demanding a change in the electoral system. But abstention, like the 40% of the citizenry who declare no party when surveyed, doesn’t constitute an active political force, nor does it have any life 24 hours after voting day. It merely represents a sense of the enormous potential for change that exists in the country, once we’ve achieved a system that truly guarantees free elections and political competition.

    2) The threat of political violence

    The post-election political violence that took six lives is the result of official intolerance in the face of the resistance that despite everything prevails in more than 20 of the country’s 153 municipalities. Since the 2008 municipal elections, when it was implanted in the municipalities through repression and fraud, the system of territorial control has been designed to govern without the existence of a belligerent opposition, at the same time annulling municipal autonomy. Consequently, any dynamic of political competition, however limited, generates government promoted violence in response, as a mechanism for social control.

    In 2008, the police and paramilitary violence was centered in the principal cities of the Pacific region: Managua, Leon and Masaya, where the opposition were denied their chief electoral triumphs. Since 2011 and 2012, the political competition, now more reduced and disperse, is located in the municipalities of the North, Central and Atlantic regions of the country, the same ones in which political violence has broken out anew.

    Hence, it’s not a matter of isolated incidents of violence, as the report of the OAS mission alleges with irresponsible frivolity, but a structural problem of the authoritarian regime that must be eradicated in order to permit competitive elections where power is really in play, without the threat of blackmail and violence.

    3) The thug versus the Bishops’ moral force

    President Ortega’s virulent attack on the most conspicuous voices of the Episcopal Conference reveals the moral bankruptcy of a regime that has utterly failed in its ambition to coopt and control the Catholic Church. Thus, the governing thug turns to his last resort – bullying – in his intent to divide the bishops between the “toughies” who represent the voice of the Church, and the clones of his “Founding father”, Cardinal Obando y Bravo, who speak for the regime.

    Ortega isn’t unaware of the fact that in May 2014 the full body of the Episcopal Conference presented him with the document “In Search of New Horizons”, the most complete x-ray to date of his authoritarian system, proposing dialogue and reforms.  He never dared to respond to this, as the Bishops reminded him on the eve of the recent municipal elections. From his position of power, he is now trying to break the will of the Bishops and submit them to his political terms.

    The Episcopal Conference isn’t a political entity, but its example of independence in the face of power, and the integrity of its religious, social and pastoral reflections have unavoidable political implications. By personifying the attack as one on Silvio Baez, the Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, Ortega has merely confirmed the moral stature and national leadership of Bishop Baez.

    4) The OAS seal of approval and 2021

    As had been set up between the OAS and the government, the report of those who “accompanied” the elections evades the fundamental issue of FSLN party control over the electoral system. Instead, it suggests a broad list of technical recommendations to improve the process. The OAS has thus earned its passport to remain in Nicaragua until 2021, sealing the “clean slate” given to Ortega’s authoritarian swerve in 2016, when in one fell swoop he eliminated the opposition. With limited political competition and a tamed opposition, Ortega has also agreed to “enhance” the current dictatorial model, although he has warned donors to get their checkbooks ready, since he will be demanding a lot of money to finance the Supreme Electoral Council.

    In this way, we begin to trace a crossroads in terms of the 2021 presidential elections. One road, that of the brightly painted dictatorship that Ortega is promoting to enthrone his dynasty, offers the economic elites the incentive of authoritarian stability to shelter the advantages of the corporate economy. However, in the long run, this road leads to crisis and instability deriving from the unsustainability of a regime whose strategic pillars lies in corruption, repression and bureaucratic centralization.

    The alternative road derives from the premise that the country doesn’t need to “enhance” the Family-State-Party system, but to dismantle it, in order to promote a profound democratic reform. And that can only be possible as the result of a national movement of political and social pressure to reestablish the right to free and competitive elections, even at the price of the tension and instability that the regime’s intolerance and repression will bring about in the short run. It’s a longer and more hazardous road, but it’s the only one that can lead to lasting stability.

    Saturday, November 18, 2017

  • Nicaragua Bishops: Profound Electoral Reform Needed
  • (Agenzia Fides) – The Nicaraguan Bishops ‘Conference (CEN) gathered at the annual plenary Assembly from 13 to 15 November to learn and share the work of the various bishops’ Commissions in the face of the social reality that the country is experiencing.

    The main purpose of the meeting was to evaluate the work done to prepare an action plan for 2018 and for each of the dioceses in Nicaragua.

    The spirit of communion promoted by all the Bishops who attended the meeting created the awareness of the need for greater commitment in the various social, political, economic and religious realities of the country.

    In yesterday’s press conference, announced to report the conclusions of the Assembly, Mgr. Juan Abelardo Mata Guevara, S.D.B., Bishop of the Diocese of Estel and new Secretary General and CEN spokesman, stressed that the country needs a profound electoral reform capable of offering the people guarantees regarding the democratic future of the country. At the same time, he complained about the violence occurred in recent clashes, which caused seven deaths and hundreds of injuries.

    “We talk with experience, we bring with us the feeling and the pain of a people. We believe in this necessity, it is best to retrace the path in order to give birth to a credible institution where people can go with joy and express their vote”, said Mata.

    He then informed the new Presidency of CEN: Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, Archbishop of Managua, President of CEN; Mgr. Pablo Ervin Schmitz Simon, O.F.M. Cap. Apostolic Vicar of Bluefields, Vice-President; Mgr. Silvio Báez, Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, head of the Family and Life Commission and the Ecclesiastical Tribunal.

    CEN’s new leadership shall be responsible until 2020.

    At this point, Mgr. Mata wanted to emphasize CEN’s support to Mgr. Silvio Báez, accused indirectly by the President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, of not having gone to vote in the last municipal elections of November 5th. “The attack on our brother hurts us, they attacked a Church leader, attacked the Church itself”, Mata said in the name of the Episcopate.

    In the recent municipal elections of November 5, Frente Sandinista managed to obtain 135 municipalities out of 153 across the country, with protests and clashes that resulted in the death and injury of many people.

    President Ortega, during a tribute to Carlos Fonseca, the founder of Frente Sandinista, on 8 November, accused Mgr. Baez of having wanted to defy the authorities with his gesture of not voting, because he believes that Nicaragua’s electoral system is flawed and fraudulent (see Fides 23 and 31 October 2017).

    According to data collected by Fides, Báez is one of the most beloved and respected Bishops in Nicaragua. He is admired by intellectuals and activists who declare themselves atheists, precisely because of their critical positions towards the government of Ortega, whose excesses he denounces directly and through social networks in which he is very active.

    “No activity without reflection, no ethics without kindness, no politics without morality, no intellectualism without wisdom”, Báez wrote on Wednesday 8 on Twitter.

    (Agenzia Fides, 16/11/2017)

    Saturday, November 18, 2017

  • The Hague Court Admits Colombia Countersuit Against Nicaragua
  • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague accepted two countersuits presented by Colombia against Nicaragua, in the framework of the process of alleged violations of sovereign rights and maritime spaces in the Caribbean Sea, which has been proceeded at that tribunal since 2013.

    The case was initiated by Nicaragua in December 2001. Seventy-three years earlier, the 1928 Barcenas-Esguerra Treaty had dealt with issues of sovereignty of islands in the region and for some time after that there was no obvious dispute between the two countries.

    On 19 November 2012 in The Hague, the ICJ handed down its Judgement in the case concerning the dispute over territory and maritime jurisdiction in the south-western region of the Caribbean.

    By admitting these two countersuits, the ICJ will analyze the Colombian claims according to which:

    • Nicaragua has violated the artisanal fishing rights of the inhabitants of San Andrés Providencia and Santa Catalina Archipelago, in particular of the Raizal community, to access and exploit their traditional fishing grounds.
    • Nicaragua has issued a decree contrary to international law related to the points and baselines from which it measures its maritime spaces in the Caribbean Sea, seeking unilaterally to adjudicate marine areas to the detriment of Colombia.

    In this way, the Court has recognized that the population of the Archipelago is a main protagonist, and accepted that its historical fishing rights should be considered within the framework of the process. In addition, there may be irregularities in Nicaraguan regulations, which will be examined in more detail.

    Map showing the limits set in the International Justice Court’s ruling on November 19, 2012 about the dispute.

    On the other hand, the issues raised by Colombia in relation to international obligations on the protection of the marine environment in the Caribbean Sea region as well as the importance of preserving the habitat of the inhabitants of the Archipelago, will continue to be part of the defense of Colombia.

    The Colombian government clarified that it still does not know the full text of the ruling, but it has already been notified of the decision adopted by the Court.

    Saturday, November 18, 2017

  • How Nicaragua is becoming a renewable energy paradise
  • “First came the wind, then water, water everywhere. At first we wanted to stay and protect our things, but then we panicked.”

    Wreckage of a boat in Rivas, Nicaragua, following Tropical Storm Nate in October. Photograph: Inti Ocon/AFP/Getty Images

    Patricia Martinez can barely bear to remember the night she and her nine-year-old daughter were almost swept away.

    “When the water was halfway up the walls, we knew we had to leave.”

    Neighbours attached a rope from a nearby building out to the road, and Patricia and her daughter walked out, clinging to this lifeline. A truck took them to a local church where they stayed for four days.

    They returned to utter devastation. Maria Parilla, holding her baby in her arms, points to where the water level reached on her house. “All our mattresses and bedclothes were destroyed, all the stuff on the shelves was swept away,” she says. “Our well is contaminated, our water undrinkable.”

    Their tiny community of Pica Pica was caught in a pincer movement when the Ochomogo and Los Loyas rivers flooded and joined together, washing over their land and houses. One woman spent nine hours in a tamarind tree before being rescued. Sixteen people died.

    It was Tropical Storm Nate – the one before Ophelia in the alphabetical Atlantic naming system. In this case it combined with a depression in the Pacific.

    Nicaragua is a thin strip of land between the two oceans. Buffeted by extreme weather events on either side, it’s the fourth most vulnerable country to climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index.

    The wind comes when we need it. It starts blowing around five in the afternoon, and dies down around 10, then starts again early in the morning. It’s a magic product

    Centro Humboldt, Nicaragua’s foremost environmental NGO, is in no doubt that this is climate change in action.

    “This was an abnormal event, definitely related to climate change,” says Agustín Moreira, its agrono-meteorologist, who trained at the National Hurricane Centre in the US. “What we are seeing is a change in weather patterns and those changes are becoming more dramatic. There are more droughts, and when it does rain it is for shorter and more intense periods, causing landslides and flooding.”

    Death and destruction

    The strong winds that blew down trees, knocked out bridges, and brought death and destruction are also driving a new revolution. On the shores of Lake Nicaragua, the waves are whipping up. The wind blows hard enough here to generate electricity almost half the time, one of the highest rates in the world.

    At the Amayo wind farm, 30 Indian wind turbines are turning gracefully on Nicaraguan soil, helping generate 20 per cent of the country’s electricity, and a healthy profit for their Israeli owners, IC Power.

    “The wind comes when we need it,” says César Zamora of IC Power, who is also chair of Nicaragua’s Chamber of Energy. “It starts blowing around five in the afternoon, and dies down around 10, then starts again early in the morning. It’s a magic product.”

    Plant manager Eleazar Montealegre worked in a conventional heavy fuel power station until last year. Business, he believes, knows which way the wind is blowing.

    “There is no other future, this is the only one,” he says. “We are going to burn all the oil in 40 or 50 years. This project is making us independent of the price of oil. It’s like buying insurance against the oil price.”

    The Eolo wind farm in the province of Rivas, Nicaragua, about 125km south of Managua. Photograph: Inti Ocon/AFP/Getty Images

    There are now five wind power projects in the area, four of them private.

    Zamora is the first to admit it was economic not environmental reasons that drove Nicaragua’s investment in renewables. “In the mid-2000s we had an energy crisis, with brownouts for up to eight hours a day” he says. “At the same time the price of bunker fuel [heavy fuel oil] reached $95 a barrel.”

    He says the private sector went to the government, and proposed a seven-year tax exemption for renewable energy projects.

    Solar panels at a photovoltaic power plant in Diriamba, Nicaragua, 42km from Managua. Photograph: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

    “We copied and pasted a law from Guatemala,” says Zamora. “Ten years ago this country was generating 85 per cent of its electricity from fossil fuels, now its 52 per cent renewables.”

    Buffeted by extreme weather, the country is turning wind and volcanic heat into energy

    The net result is that the second-poorest country in the western hemisphere has been described as a renewable energy paradise by the World Bank. The country’s energy minister Salvador Mansell has now set a target of 90 per cent renewables by 2027.

    Ireland, by contrast, is expected to miss its far more modest target of 40 per cent by 2020, and face fines from the EU.

    Global emissions

    Nicaragua already contributes very little to global emissions – only 0.03 per cent of the global total. Its per capita figure is tiny by world and Irish standards. Now it’s committed to cutting them even further, by joining the Paris Agreement, having taken a contrarian stand at the start by refusing to sign. Its negotiator Paul Oquist had said Nicaragua wouldn’t be an accomplice to driving the world to destruction.

    But once Donald Trump announced that he planned to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, Nicaragua had a change of heart. Being repeatedly mentioned in the same sentence as Syria and Donald Trump doesn’t do a lot for your international reputation, even if your argument was that the agreement didn’t go far enough.

    Nicaragua sits on the ‘Ring of Fire’ and has 19 volcanoes, making it one of the most active areas on earth

    The US, Syria and Nicaragua were the only three countries not in the accord, though Syria announced on Tuesday that it will be signing up, and Nicaragua has done so.

    “Somebody at least had to say, something is wrong here and this is a sham,” says Guillaume Craig of blueEnergy, who has worked in Nicaragua for a decade.

    “Now that Nicaragua has signed up, and the US is retracting from it, I also agree. From a very practical standpoint, you make your protest, but you don’t want to be cut out of all the finance mechanisms and green funds the climate accords are supposed to generate.”

    As we leave Amayo, the blades are barely turning; they are waiting for the wind, but the wind will come. One of the issues with renewables is that wind, solar and hydropower are not always available, and batteries are needed to store the power they produce.

    But there is one form of renewable energy that is available all the time: the heat from deep inside the earth’s core. Nicaragua sits on the “Ring of Fire” and has 19 volcanoes, making it one of the most active areas on earth.

    Active volcano

    As we grind up the dirt road leading to the San Jacinto power plant, I catch occasional glimpses of Telica’s green slopes. It’s still an active volcano. Today it’s quiet, but as we rise higher, fumaroles bubble and hiss, creating sulphurous pools along the road.

    At the entrance to the plant, part of the road has been closed off with hazard tape. Steam has burst through, cutting a hole in it. It’s a reminder of just how volatile the area can be. In 2015 Telica spewed rocks and ash into the air, forcing villages to be evacuated and killing dozens of cattle.

    The Telica volano, one of the country’s most active volcanoes, in the North West volcanic chain in Leon, Nicaragua. Photograph: Rob Francis/Getty Images

    This is where Canadian company Polaris has sited a $450 million investment, part funded by Central American Bank for Economic Integration, generating an average 65MW of electricity. According to its engineers, this is the “safe” side of the volcano, although its insurance company “is always asking what’s happening”.

    Plant manager Alexis Osorno explains that water that fell millions of years ago has gathered in cracks and faults around the volcano. “When you drill down – down as far as 3km – you find it as steam, at temperatures of up to 300 degrees, which at high pressure can be converted to electricity.

    For the average Nicaraguan, what’s more important is whether or not they have electricity and how reliable it is

    Osorno tells me Polaris pays the Nicaraguan government $30,000 a year for the concession. While the project has had its teething problems, it’s now profitable, and is likely to become even more so, according to Canadian stock analysts.

    The tumbling cost of solar power has also seen huge investments across Central America. Down the road from Telica, Nicaragua’s first commercial solar plant has just been commissioned at Puerto Sandino on the Pacific coast. Biomass from sugar mills and hydro also contribute to the high rate of renewables.
    Remote areas

    For the average Nicaraguan, what’s more important is whether or not they have electricity and how reliable it is. The government says 90 per cent of the population is now connected, leaving around 600,000 people beyond reach of the grid. Mini-grids and solar panels are among the solutions to reach those in remote areas in the mountains and on the Caribbean coast.

    However, while Nicaragua may be a renewable electricity paradise, it’s not all good news when it comes to climate change. Transport is 100 per cent fossil fuel. Most of the country’s food is still cooked on woodstoves, using precious trees to prepare tortillas, rice and beans. The government is also accused of not taking the issue of commercial deforestation seriously.

    “The government has two faces,” says Agustín Moreira of Centro Humboldt, “They’re signing the Paris accords, but that’s really to keep the private sector happy. At the same time they are giving logging concessions in the high mountains.”

    Back at the Ochomogo River, which burst its banks during Storm Nate, some of those affected are beginning to see the connection.

    “We can talk about the contamination by the other countries’ CO2 emissions,” says Jacquelyn Molino, who saw how the river tore through his village. “But in this area they are cutting trees on the hills upstream. If you cut down the trees there is nothing to slow down the wind, or hold the water in the ground. We are all to blame.”

    This report was supported by the Simon Cumbers Fund

    Saturday, November 11, 2017

  • Immigration Status Unsure for Nicaraguans In The U.S.
  • On Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it would terminate the status for some 2,500 Nicaraguans in January 2019, making the recipients of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) subject to deportation proceedings unless they find another immigration solution.

    Berta Sandes, 38, of Miami, an undocumented immigrant from Nicaragua, holds a sign that translates to “Trump Equals Hate” during a protest against then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump outside the Trump National Doral golf resort, March 14, 2016, in Doral, Fla.

    Following the Trump administration’s move to send home some Nicaraguans long granted U.S. protection, lawmakers from both parties said Tuesday that Congress needed to find a permanent solution to a program designed to offer certain foreigners a haven from war or natural disasters, and they appealed for the White House to reconsider.

    “The lives of thousands of law-abiding, hardworking people who contribute to America in every way will be thrown into danger and legal jeopardy,” said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. She added: “If the White House refuses to protect vulnerable people and keep families intact, Congress must pass a permanent, bipartisan fix.”

    House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, declined to comment on the decision announced Monday by acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke.

    Florida Representative Mario Diaz-Balart said he was “deeply pained” by the administration’s action, disagreed with it and urged the administration “to seriously reconsider the decision regarding Nicaraguan nationals.”

    A security guard looks out of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in New York, Aug. 15, 2012.

    Decision delayed for Hondurans

    But the agency deferred the decision for 57,000 Hondurans, extending the Jan. 5, 2018 expiration date by six months.

    “In the coming months, I will seek additional information and thoroughly review the country conditions of Honduras. If I determine country conditions no longer warrant a continued designation, I will terminate the designation,” Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke wrote in a memo to the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Monday.

    Within the next year, a 23-year-old woman could see her immediate family disintegrate if the U.S. government rescinds a special protection status for Honduran citizens in the country.

    Seven of her relatives — including her mother, stepfather, and sister — will face possible deportation to Honduras, or may leave on their own, pending the outcome of the Trump administration’s decision on Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the Central American country.

    “My sister is who I’m most worried about,” says the Honduran-American woman, who did not want her name used. She is the youngest in a family of four siblings, and the only one who was born in the United States. If her family returns to Honduras, she will suddenly become a stand-in parent, too.

    “If they go, I will have to move in with two little American cousins of mine and assume the role of their caretaker,” she said. “This is what I know of our plans so far.”


    Kirstjen Nielsen, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Homeland Security, speaks during an event in the East Room of the White House, Oct. 12, 2017, in Washington.

    More countries are involved

    Duke may not be the one to make the final decision on Honduras or any of the upcoming TPS countries with expiration dates in 2018. In October, President Trump nominated White House Deputy Chief of Staff Kirstjen Nielsen for the cabinet position of Secretary of Homeland Security.

    TPS was issued for several countries in the wake of natural disasters or intense conflicts. It gave citizens of those countries present in the U.S. legal status and work authorization, if they met certain criteria and passed a criminal background check. But TPS provided no path to permanent residency or citizenship.

    For Hondurans, Salvadorans, and citizens of the other seven TPS designated countries — once the TPS designation is removed, they will have to apply for another immigrant status, leave the country or risk deportation. For Nicaraguans, that day will be Jan. 5, 2019.

    The TPS

    The program covers 435,000 people from nine countries ravaged by natural disasters or war and who came to the U.S., legally or otherwise, during the period their countries were covered by the presidential decree. Those countries are: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

    That status was meant to be temporary, but the Bush and Obama administrations repeatedly renewed it because of concerns that the countries could not cope with the repatriation of so many former residents.

    What to expect

    So what will happen the day they are no longer protected?

    “The individual returns to the immigration status they had prior to TPS if it remains valid,” explains Royce Bernstein Murray, Policy Director at the American Immigration Council. “For most of these people as a practical matter, that means they will be undocumented.”

    They may not be targeted for removal just because their TPS status expired, “but they could certainly be picked up as collateral arrests,” says Murray. Most at risk, she believes, will be TPS recipients who had final removal orders — one of the last administrative steps before deportation — before receiving TPS status.

    “If and when TPS ends, individuals who have final removal orders are indeed enforcement targets for fugitive operations … we could very quickly see TPS beneficiaries swept up in these enforcement dragnets,” says Murray.

    Thursday, November 09, 2017

  • Nicaragua Government Condemns Violent Actions in Local Elections
  • The Nicaraguan government emphatically condemned today the isolated actions of violence that took place in the country around the municipal elections, in spite of the constant calls for peace from the authorities.

    In a statement, the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity notes that ‘despite the insistent calls of the high religious authorities, and our President, vice president, and local authorities, there were violent events and loss of lives, which confirm that it is necessary to work the conscience of concord ‘.

    Reconciliation and peace, which in the majority of Nicaraguans has been reinforced, although there are still those who irresponsibly break with those purposes that we are extending as a reality in a large part of the Homeland, he adds.

    Likewise, the Sandinista government stresses that it supports the actions of public order institutions, and in particular the outstanding work of the National Police, which contributed to reducing these actions of violence in specific areas of the country.

    ‘Our solidarity with the affected families, who live the pain of their losses, and our call to continue developing reconciliation and peace, which makes us live safe, and working to prosper,’ he concludes.

    Nicaragua held municipal elections on Sunday, in which the alliance led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) won a resounding victory.

    According to the Supreme Electoral Council, the FSLN won in 135 mayors of the 153 in dispute, after reaching one million 321 thousand 67 votes, after 98.7 percent of the ballots counted.

    Wednesday, November 08, 2017

  • Nicaragua Climate Politics In Hot Water Over Canal Plan
  • (Reuters) Shaking off its climate change “pariah” status alongside the United States and war-torn Syria, Nicaragua took the plunge and joined the Paris Agreement to tackle global warming before U.N. climate talks began on Monday.

    But environmentalists say Nicaragua’s lecturing of big polluters and ambitious renewable energy goals contrast with its slack environmental protection and a controversial plan to carve out a us$50 billion Chinese-backed shipping canal from coast to coast with potentially severe impacts.

    “The government talks a lot about respect for ‘Mother Earth’ and care of the environment. But that is just political rhetoric – in practice, the government is too lenient on environmental contamination,” said Jorge Huete-Pérez, University of Central America professor and vice president of Nicaragua’s Academy of Sciences.

    In 2015, Nicaragua was the only one of about 195 countries to reject outright the Paris deal, which it deemed too weak to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, as well as unfair for holding poorer nations to account in the same way as developed countries.

    But ahead of the annual U.N. climate negotiations taking place in Bonn, Nicaragua said the pact aimed at reducing planet-warming emissions was the only international mechanism that could turn the tide on climate change.

    Being in the accord could give the country of 6 million a better chance to ramp up pressure on industrialized nations for more climate action, said experts.

    Liane Schalatek, associate director at the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America, said Nicaragua’s change of heart indicated it did not want to be associated with U.S. President Donald Trump’s aim to renegotiate the Paris Agreement.

    “It really narrows the circle of climate pariahs to two countries,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Some believe Nicaragua’s U-turn, recent weather disasters and growing Chinese and Indian climate leadership combined may have a slim chance of nudging Trump back to the pact he said the United States would leave because it would harm the economy.

    “I‘m hopeful the U.S. administration understands…the degree to which climate is one of the overwhelming priorities in the international agenda, along with issues such as security and trade,” said Paula Caballero, global director of the World Resources Institute’s climate program.

    Ranked as the second-poorest country in the northern hemisphere, heavily deforested Nicaragua is one of the region’s most vulnerable to disasters – hit regularly by storms, floods, droughts and earthquakes.

    The decision by President Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla leader, to join the Paris Agreement could help funnel more cash into green energy and other development projects in Nicaragua which once received subsidized Venezuelan oil.

    Lauded by the World Bank as a “renewable energy paradise”, Nicaragua generates over 50% of its power from geothermal, wind and other clean sources, with plans to reach 90%.

    Raul Delgado, lead climate change specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), said joining the Paris accord could open the door for Nicaragua to access money from the Green Climate Fund and other international pots. “It’s a good time for them to join,” he added.

    Some said the timing fits with the expected appointment next year of Nicaragua’s chief climate negotiator Paul Oquist to the influential co-chair position at the multi-billion-dollar Green Climate Fund, where he is now an alternate board member.

    Oquist, also a government minister, did not respond to requests for comment.


    Environmentalists, however, point to a stark contrast between Nicaragua’s hard-line climate stance on the international stage and weak environmental regulation at home, urging the government to halt deforestation, tighten controls on miners and help communities adapt to climate impacts.

    Dozens of demonstrations have been held to oppose a planned 172-mile (278-km) Caribbean-to-Pacific canal, approved by the National Assembly in 2013. Campaigners say it would lead to mass evictions and destroy rainforest, wetlands and endangered species as it slices through protected and indigenous land.

    Crossing Lake Nicaragua, the biggest in Central America, it risks widespread damage from dredging and contamination of the water on which many rely, they say. A key environmental impact report was superficial and flawed, they argue.

    “It’s going to affect important ecosystems – there’s the fear that the lake water will become salinated, and also there’s the potential of accidents with the ships circulating in the area,” said Victor Campos, director of Managua’s Centro Humboldt, an environmental non-profit group.

    “There’s no consistency between the political will shown at an international level and the steps they are taking internally,” he added.

    Campaigners against the canal – designed to rival Panama’s – also say they have suffered violence and intimidation. Human rights watchdog Global Witness ranks Nicaragua as the most dangerous country for environmental activists per capita, with 11 killed last year.

    “There does remain a considerable gulf across a number of countries between what they say (on climate change) and what they’re actually doing,” said Guy Edwards, a research fellow at Brown University.

    Tuesday, November 07, 2017

  • Good Prospects for Retail in Nicaragua
  • The Nicaragua retail industry projects US$680 million in sales in the Christmas and end of the year season, which would represent a 7% increase compared to the 2016 season.

    The Cámara de Comercio y Servicios de Nicaragua (CCSN) – Chamber of Commerce and Services of Nicaragua – projects an increase in sales in the two months remaining until the end the year, especially for products such as food, beverages, textiles, clothing, toys, appliances and vehicles.

    Rosendo Mayorga, president of the CCSN, explained to that “… Christmas is one of the most economically dynamic times throughout the year, which is well received by the sector.”

    “… Mayorga explained that those $680 million will be financed in different ways: $369 million from the Christmas or thirteenth month bonus; $25 million corresponding to 50% of the fourteenth month paid by the central government; $2 million from the solidarity bonuses; and $238 million from family remittances. On top of this there is $37 million in personal loans and $9 million in credit cards.”

    Tuesday, November 07, 2017

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