More than 200 deaths and massive layoffs in the tourist industry.
By Yader Luna (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – The fastest solution to the crisis facing Nicaragua, for more than two months, is that commander Daniel Ortega resigns from the Presidency, and he would do so “if he really cares” and “had some love” for the country, says Lucy Valenti, the president of the Nicaraguan Chamber of Tourism (Canatur).
The businesswoman is the first president of a chamber affiliated to the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (Cosep), who directly and publicly demands the resignation of Ortega. Valenti maintains that such is the position of the entire tourism sector of the country grouped in Canatur, and also believes that it is the feeling of the entire business sector. She adds, “everyone would like (the crisis) to be resolved now,” after the highly negative impact it has had on the national economy, with the tourist industry one of the most affected.
“The solution is that the crisis end now, that the president (Ortega) resigns. That would be the best because it would allow us to immediately begin to reconstruct everything that has to do with the political, social aspects, but also the economic part,” she said.
The repression of the protests against the Government of Ortega and his wife Rosario Murillo is now 72 days on, with a balance exceeding 200 dead, thousands of injured and hundreds who remain in detention or are missing. Valenti notes that for half of what has happened in Nicaragua, presidents of other countries have resigned, because that is the solution of a “responsible” leader.
“This crisis that we have, where there are more than 200 dead, should be more than enough for the president to realize that he can no longer govern this country and that he should step aside so that Nicaragua can move forward,” warning that every day the situation gets worse.
In addition to the resignation of Ortega, Valenti believes that the solution to the crisis requires early elections, but with a “prompt resolution” and a “transition” process that provides security for Nicaraguans.
The Central Bank of Nicaragua (BCN) reduced its forecast for economic growth in 2018 to a maximum of 1%, due to the socio-political crisis, which has also accumulated economic losses of 430 million dollars.
The BCN maintains that “the tourism sector has been the most affected, with a loss of 231 million dollars”.
In an interview with the Cuentas Claras segment, of the program Esta Noche, Valenti said that the tourism sector had calculated that until June of this year it would stop receiving between 170 million and 180 million dollars, which implies that the damage “is stronger than what we were projecting “and is” an indicator of the strong impact that the crisis is having on tourism activity.”
“What we have experienced is a forced unemployment, since the crisis began, because although it is true there are businesses that have their doors open in an immense sacrifice to keep their employees with a job, they are doing practically without customers because tourism has reduced to zero,” she said.
Closed bars, restaurants and hotels
Valenti explained that to date, of the 2,500 bars and restaurants in the country, around 875, or 35%, have closed.
She noted that of the 1,130 small hotels, at least 375 have closed in June, and “the few tourists entering the country are mostly concentrated in Managua.” The big hotels (10% of the hotel industry) are not exempt from the crisis either, and at least three of them have closed.
Valenti said that before the crisis, the room occupancy of the members of the Hotel Association of Nicaragua was estimated between 65 and 67% throughout the year and now the occupation level is 14%.
Loss of jobs is greater than official estimates
The Minister of Finance and Public Credit, Ivan Acosta, estimated in an official report that some 50,000 jobs have been lost due to the crisis.
However Valenti calculates the tourism sector generates some 120 thousand jobs, and that at least half of them are already out of work. “Many of them were dismissed and others aren’t working because tourism activities are suspended. We are talking about between 60 and 65 thousand workers in our sector who are unemployed.”
The government’s Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism (Intur) announced activities to commemorate the thirty-ninth anniversary of the Revolution, on July 19th, but Valenti has not the slightest expectation about it. “What a waste”, she criticizes, because in her opinion these rallies will not promote domestic tourism and much less international.
“They are merely institutional or government image activities. The money spent should be kept so that when the crisis is resolved we can try to recover the image of the country,” she said.