NicaNet News Bulletin Oct. 21, 2014

Alliance for Global JusticeOctober 21, 2014

This weekly news bulletin is the successor to the Nicaragua News Service and Nicaragua Network Hotline. This publication may be reproduced in whole or in part. Please credit the Nicaragua Network.

1. Severe rainstorms cause 24 deaths
2. Aftershocks from 7.3 earthquake of October 13 continue
3. Temporary Protected Status renewed for Nicaraguans and Hondurans
4. Law of the Family to go into effect in six months
5. New cases of Chikunguña diagnosed
6. Climate change adaptation loan approved
7. COPPPAL meeting discusses climate change and Nicaraguan canal
8. ALBA countries discuss Ebola; Nicaragua puts measures in place against the disease
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1. Severe rainstorms cause 24 deaths

The rainstorms that have continued throughout Nicaragua for the past two weeks have resulted in 24 deaths and 33,000 people affected. Conditions have been so severe that the Nicaraguan Institute for Territorial Studies has advised people not to go out when it is raining and that if they are out in a car the car should be stopped until the rains stop. Sixty-three of the countries 153 municipalities in all departments and regions have reported damages, including 224 kilometers of roads washed out and almost 6,000 houses damaged or destroyed. In one day, on Saturday, Oct. 18, Masatepe registered four inches of rain. The deaths have been caused by collapsing houses and walls, drownings, lightning strikes, and traffic accidents caused by flooded roads. One of the most common phrases in the local media is “carried away by the water” whether referring to a person or a vehicle.
On Thursday night (Oct. 16), during an intense 50 minute storm, a high stone wall surrounding the elegant Lomas del Valle neighborhood of Managua fell on four poorly constructed houses in the May 18 neighborhood, killing nine people, including two children, three teenagers, and four adults. Two little girls, six and two, who had been playing under a bed, were among seven people rescued by Fire Department and Civil Defense members, who neighbors said were the anonymous heroes of the day. The children’s mother was among the dead. Carlos Espino, general manager of Vivexsa, which built the houses in Lomas del Valle and the surrounding wall, said that the company was dismayed by the deaths but that the wall was built according to specifications two years ago and the company is studying the reasons for its collapse. The residents of Lomas del Valle took up a collection of money, clothes, shoes, and household goods for those who lost their homes in the May 18 neighborhood.
The government ordered the evacuation of families living in seven “critical points” in Managua, transferring 4,755 people from high risk areas to shelters or to family members in other zones. Among the neighborhoods were the May 18 neighborhood, Annex to La Primavera, and a sector of Santa Rosa. Managua secretary general Fidel Moreno said that another ten neighborhoods are in what he called “category B” risk and have experienced some flooding with another 41 neighborhoods experiencing problems with storm sewers.
The municipality of Prinzapolka, in the North Caribbean Autonomous Region, declared a state of emergency when the Prinzapolka River overflowed its banks, flooding the town and surrounding communities and farms. Mayor Eklan James Molina said that 23 communities along the river were completely flooded and people were getting sick. He added that plantings of corn, rice, beans, and root crops were being affected to greater or lesser degree. The mayor of Waspam, Alex Fernandez, said that 15 communities along the Coco River were without drinking water because of the flooding of latrines and in 22 communities crops had been washed away.
While the drought of the previous few months had negative effects on the first harvest of food crops, it had brought relief to coffee growers because it lessened the threat of coffee rust. Now the return of the rains has meant a resurgence of coffee rust in some areas. Frank Lanzas Monge, honorary president of the Association of Coffee Growers of Matagalpa, said, “The growers who were hit by the outbreak last year will have difficulty in confronting this new outbreak.” However, Emilio Gutierrez, president of the Nueva Segovia Coffee Growers Association said, “There will be some new outbreaks but growers are making every effort to control the rust and avoid major damages to the harvest.” (La Prensa, Oct. 19, 20; Radio La Primerisima, Oct. 17, 19; El Nuevo Diario, Oct. 18)

2. Aftershocks from 7.3 earthquake of October 13 continue
Government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo said on Oct. 20 that 48 aftershocks from the powerful earthquake of 7.3 on the Richter scale on Oct. 13 had been felt in Nicaragua. The quake, with an epicenter in the Pacific Ocean off the Gulf of Fonseca, was felt in El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, the three countries that share the Gulf. There was one death in El Salvador caused by the quake. In Nicaragua, a child was injured and more than sixty houses were damaged. Murillo said that the aftershocks have been located in the Pacific and in the areas around Nicaragua’s volcanoes. They have had a magnitude of between 1.3 and 4.6 on the Richter scale. Wilfried Strauch, technical advisor at the Nicaraguan Institute for Territorial Studies (INETER), said that aftershocks from a major earthquake may continue for months and up to two years and can reach magnitudes as high as 6 on the Richter scale.
Schools were closed in the zones affected by the quake with classes scheduled to resume on Monday, Oct. 20. Because of a series of tremors in April and May, students in some of the same areas have already lost over two weeks of school. While the school year will finish on Dec. 4 for students in the unaffected areas, for the areas affected by quakes, the school year will likely extend until close to the Christmas holidays. (El Nuevo Diario, Oct. 20; Radio La Primerisima, Oct. 16, 17; La Prensa, Oct. 17)
3. Temporary Protected Status renewed for Nicaraguans and Hondurans
United States Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced on Oct. 17 that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for citizens of Nicaragua and Honduras living in the US had been extended for another 18 months until Jan. 6, 2016. Current beneficiaries of TPS have until Dec. 15 to apply for the extension. The extension applies to 83,349 Hondurans and 4,275 Nicaraguans who have lived in the United States since 1999. President Bill Clinton first authorized TPS for Nicaraguans and Hondurans after Hurricane Mitch caused devastation and death in the two countries in Oct. 1998. The TPS status has been renewed twelve times since then. (La Prensa, Oct. 17; Radio La Primerisima, Oct. 16, 19)
4. Law of the Family to go into effect in six months
The Law of the Family, passed by the legislature in 2012, has now been published in La Gaceta, the official government publication, which begins a 180 day count-down until it goes into effect. The law consolidates all laws relating to the family into a single law. It establishes age 18 as the age of majority and additionally makes parents responsible for support of children up to age 24 and vice versa makes the children responsible for support of low-income parents over 60. The law also forbids marriage under the age of 16 even with parental consent. Minor girls cannot be expelled from school if they become pregnant under the new law. Among other provisions, the law allows a husband and wife to separate by mutual agreement before a notary rather than a judge, and allows a man to sue for child support the same as a woman. The definition of family is also expanded to include a single or divorced parent with children or a grandparent with grandchildren. (El Nuevo Diario, Oct. 16)
5. New cases of Chikungunya diagnosed
While the spread of Ebola captures the news in the United States and Europe, another disease, Chikungunya, is spreading from the Caribbean into Latin America including Nicaragua. Last week two new cases of the illness, which is similar to Dengue Fever, were reported, raising the total number of Nicaraguan cases to 42 since the first two cases on July 9 which were brought by Honduran women who had traveled through the Dominican Republic. Like dengue and malaria, Chikungunya is spread by mosquitos. Its symptoms include high fever, nausea, fatigue, skin rashes, and head and joint aches which can become chronic and debilitating. The fact that Chikungunya patients in Central America are in good condition may indicate that the version of the disease that has hit the region is a light one. (La Prensa, Oct. 19; Radio La Primerisima, Oct. 17, 18)
6. Climate change adaptation loan approved
The National Assembly approved a US$7 million loan from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE) for adaption to climate change. This is partial funding of a US$53.1 million project called Adaptation to Changes in the Market and to Climate Change (NICADAPTA). The project will give small producers the technology and knowledge to improve productivity and adapt to climate change. Walmaro Gutierrez, chair of the Production, Economy, and Debt committee of the legislature, said that 212,000 inhabitants of the northwest and northeast regions of the country will benefit directly from the program and there will be a similar number of indirect beneficiaries. The project is financed by US$23 million in loans from the BCIE and US$16 million in grants from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) plus monies from the Nicaraguan government and the beneficiaries themselves. After a three year grace period at 3% interest, Nicaragua will have 15 years to pay off the US$7 million at 3.23% interest. (Radio La Primerisima, Oct. 15)
7. COPPPAL meeting discusses climate change and Nicaraguan canal
From Oct. 11 to 14, Nicaragua hosted the XXXII Meeting of the Permanent Conference of the Political Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean (COPPPAL), an organism that brings together 62 political parties from 29 countries of the region. Among the topics under consideration were climate change, child migration, the participation of women and young people in political life, and Nicaragua’s canal project. Gustavo Carvajal of Mexico, honorary president of COPPPAL, said of the host country of the event, “Nicaragua is a country that has grown a great deal, a country with security and investment,” while Jorge Arias of the Communist Party of Cuba said that the Sandinista government is dedicated to improving the quality of life of the people of Nicaragua. Carvajal and Clara Lieberman of Costa Rica spoke in support of the inter-oceanic canal with Lieberman saying that it would bring benefits to Nicaragua and to Costa Rica.
Nicaraguan Supreme Court Justice Francisco Rosales said that one of the most serious challenges facing the world is climate change. He noted that by 2025 or 2030 the temperature will rise by two or three degrees and added that “This means we must seek the unity that will permit us to make our voice felt at the United Nations so that this threat to the earth can be reduced.” In its final Declaration of Managua, the members of COPPPAL agreed on strategies to confront climate change and other world crises.
Speaking at the closing ceremonies, President Daniel Ortega congratulated Bolivian President Evo Morales on his reelection and sent wishes for electoral victory to Dilma Rousseff in Brazil and Tabaré Vazquez in Uruguay. He explained the reasoning behind his decision to begin studies for a shipping canal across Nicaragua saying that Nicaragua needs to grow at a rate of 8% per year to pull its population out of poverty but it is currently growing at only 4%. He said that it took a period of time for him to be persuaded to pursue the old idea of a canal because he was committed to preserving Nicaragua’s environment. He said that theologian and ecologist Leonardo Boff convinced him by telling him of a mega project in Brazil which fulfilled its promises to help the citizens and preserve the environment. He added that Panama has been able to maintain its water resources and its forests and has not had environmental mishaps. (El Nuevo Diario, Oct. 14; http://canal4.com.ni/nicaragua-sede-de-la-xxxii-conferencia-permanente-de-partidos-politicos-de-america-latina-y-el-caribe/)
8. ALBA countries discuss Ebola; Nicaragua puts measures in place against the disease
President Daniel Ortega traveled to Havana to participate in a summit of the member countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) to coordinate actions in the face of the Ebola epidemic. Also attending were Raul Castro of Cuba, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, all presidents of ALBA member countries, Michel Martelly, president of Haiti which is an observer country, along with David Navarro, United Nations coordinator for Ebola, and Carissa Etienne, director general of the Pan American Health Organization.
Navarro read a greeting from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in which he called on the countries of the region and the world to “follow the leadership of ALBA and particularly of Cuba and Venezuela which have given the world a praiseworthy example with their rapid response of support for efforts to contain Ebola.” He praised, in particular, Cuba’s sending of 165 doctors and nurses to Sierra Leone. President Castro also announced at the meeting that his country was sending a further team of 91 health professionals to Liberia and Guinea.
President Maduro, who had called the countries together, said that the ALBA response must be preventative and that the countries had experience in confronting similar situations. He said that a team of epidemiologists, physicians and other scientists was proposing measures for the governments to use to establish protocols and coordinate prevention efforts. He proposed that Costa Rica, which currently holds the presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) call a meeting of health authorities of the CELAC member countries (which include all independent countries of the hemisphere except the United States and Canada) to consider adopting the ALBA proposals for the entire region.
President Ortega reproached the rich countries for spending more on weapons of war than on measures to benefit the health of the world’s countries while President Morales called on the developed countries to change their budget priorities, saying “We know that money is budgeted to end lives and not to save lives.”
Meanwhile, the Nicaraguan government was putting in place measures to prevent Ebola and other infectious diseases from gaining a foothold in Nicaragua, including taking the temperature of passengers entering the country at the Managua airport. Government spokesperson Rosario Murillo said that health workers and border officials were participating in training sessions on the new biosecurity measures without neglecting efforts against other illnesses such as Chikungunya. A group of Cuban experts arrived on Oct. 17 to teach measures for the protection of health workers and others in the case that Ebola would enter the country.
A group of undocumented migrants from Mozambique were detained for a few days in Chinandega until it had been established that they had not been in any country where there are cases of Ebola and that they had no symptoms. (La Prensa, Oct. 19, 20; Radio La Primerisima, Oct. 19, 20)

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