Nicaragua: Blessed, “prospered” and dry

The lack of state policies is the dark side underneath the “rosy propaganda”.

By Gioconda Belli  (Confidencial)


HAVANA TIMES – On a superficial level, Daniel Ortega’s government takes the prize in changing things, as compared with previous governments: the center of Managua is as bright and cheerful as an amusement park; the Salvador Allende port complex [a new lakefront park in Managua] is an attractive and happy place; there are now plazas like the one behind the National Palace so lit up that it looks like they’re about to shoot a movie there using the “day for night” film technique. The parks have been improved with playground equipment; there are new highways… in short there’s a dressy big-dollar display aimed at having us feel like we’re prospering.

Many have been seduced by this brilliant and eccentric make-up and this new version of a popular piñata in which they give away sheets of zinc roofing, production bonuses, graduation bonuses and parties. It would seem that, finally, there’s a government sensitive to the population’s needs, in comparison with the previous ones that preached democracy but “gave the people nothing,” as some say.

The dark side of all this – what distresses – is the lack of state policies beyond these actions that we might call “rosy propaganda.” We have a government concerned primarily and almost solely about its own permanence in power by broadening its voter base and implementing short-term party goals.

The country’s deep problems, whose consequences will affect not only our generation but also generations to come, have not been assumed in good conscience by this State that governs us and whose functionality has been ravaged and buried under political favoritism and Party control of government institutions.  Today there are few functionaries with the preparation needed to do their jobs; they’re not judged for their efficiency, but by their willingness to bow down and obey the Party dictates.  In this way we’ve arrived at the edge, where this vacuum in long-term public policy is becoming evident.

Metal trees that light up at night have been sprouting up all over Havana. Photo:
Metal trees that light up at night have been sprouting up all over Managua. Photo:

Obviously, the drought isn’t the government’s fault.  What IS their fault though is the lack of foresight and action to reduce the effects of natural cycles that have been predicted down to the last hairs by scientists. Without a national plan for the conservation of our forests and aquifers, we lack an instrument for future control that would allow us to go beyond temporary stopgaps and really curb, for example, the growth of cattle ranching, predatory logging and the conversion of forestland into farmland, leading to the later desertification of the land.  We don’t have a national plan to avoid the contamination of our water sources.

With a straight face they tell us that it doesn’t matter if we build a canal through the Great Lake of Nicaragua because it’s already polluted.  Fortunes are spent on decorative metal trees and places of entertainment, but no money is invested in modernizing the garbage collection equipment, in a city where every small streambed has become an unhealthy waste depositary and a breeding ground for illness. Other than a transitory publicity campaign, no attempt has been made to attack this endemic problem that increases daily and wipes out with its stains of filth and public and municipal neglect, all intents to beautify our city. It’s laughable to think how much is spent to monitor tourists coming through the airport in order to register illnesses, when the breeding grounds of garbage and vermin multiply in the urban centers under the eyes and forbearance of all.

Just as they lack a strategy to emerge from our position of dependence in production, there’s no plan for urban zoning – or it hasn’t been reviewed or isn’t enforced – to impede the proliferation of housing developments, for example, or the sealing of Managua’s most important aquifers.  Such zoning would also limit certain businesses that spring up in the residential areas, like the pig farm that was installed in my neighborhood a short while ago; or the bars and cantinas; or churches with loudspeakers blaring in neighborhoods with children, elderly people and workers that need their rest.  Examples big and small point to the fact that we’re living in a state of disorder.

As proof: we were recently informed that the National Assembly was creating an “institutional group in support of sustainable development”.  The logical thing, however, would be to have this commission functioning within the government cabinet, where in principle the agents and executors of the national plans are located.  It’s the State that designs development policies, later turning to the Assembly to emit the corresponding laws.  The male and female deputies don’t have a deep knowledge of each sector’s needs and problems, and shouldn’t be expected to assume these responsibilities.  This is a clear example of an action that’s more propaganda than anything else, a rhetorical measure that can contribute little to the needed solutions.

A family from Tisma hopes to find water in a local well. Photo: Carlos Herrera/confidencial
A family from Tisma hopes to find water in a local well. Photo: Carlos Herrera/confidencial

The grave consequences of the drought, the deforestation, the depletion of reserves like Bosawas and  Indio Maiz, the radical reduction of the sources of water, the uncontrolled garbage, the lack of urban planning and the harebrained idea of pawning our future for an interoceanic canal, are all signs of very serious ecological danger that can’t be hidden behind pink propaganda, nor by the lights of the metal trees in the Managua nights. “Blessed and prosperous,” we walk down the road towards a foreseeable catastrophe.