Its been a good while since I did my first blog and I am not convinced I remember sufficient of the technology to manage it again…..life in the Mariposa continues to mirror what happens in and to Nicaragua in general as well, of course, as having its own idiosyncrasies. Still one of the hardest things about being here is talking to the people who turn up at the gate looking for work, pretty much at any price, and having to turn them away. A young man came by this morning, he has been working in a Zona Franca – the enormous factories which now exist all over the so-called “Third World” and which produce the T shirts and pyjamas you can buy for a couple of dollars or so…….they may seem cheap but actually they are hugely expensive in terms of what it costs people here to produce them (health and wellbeing, plus a totally crap wage). Anyway, he couldnt make ends meet and wanted to know if I could employ him to do anyhting…….on the positive side some of you will remember Francisco who worked here last year, and left because of generally not great and sometimes completely pissed behaviour, is going to come back on a trial period. I cant really afford it but I cant leave him destitute as he has his first child, has given up the booze and is desperate.
We are now into the third week of May and a total transport strike lasting a couple of weeks has just finished. The bus drivers couldn’t afford to pay the rise in petrol prices and they, and most of the press, blamed the Ortega government for being so inept that they couldn’t solve the crisis. Ortega actually offered them petrol at cost price, thus saving almost 30%, (all Nicaraguas petrol is imported, some of it from Venezuela at cheaper prices) at the beginning of the stike but this was refused; though it was pretty much what everybody settled for in the end. The whole thing of course hit the working poor the hardest – the rich and the international elite drove about in their cars and pick ups and only noticed that the roads were much quieter but, for example, people who are dependent on the buses to get their produce to market really suffered. And of course the price of basic foodstuffs (at crisis level anyway) went even higher. Our weekly market shop to Jinotepe was interspersed with comments from Ismael, who accompanies me to buy fruit and veg etc, about the ridiculous price of tomatoes, at four times their usual value. However the bus drivers returned to work this Monday, following an excellent speech from Ortega – well, actually it was terrible in terms of delivery as his pauses are often longer than his sentences………but his analysis of the international situation leading to the rise in petrol prices was, in my view, spot on. He talked about the whole range of international impacts on the situation here – including the international rise in oil prices, obviously, but also the use of crops for biofuel and the effect of this on the price of food. Predictably much of the press responded to this as Ortega admitting he had no power to influence the stikers. The next day they accepted the 30% offer (mas o menos). I have a sinking feeling that this will inevitably mean cuts elsewhere and it was saddening to see that, when I went to the Panama school yesterday the government donations of food (part of the Zero Hambre campaign) seemed to have come to a halt. I don’t know if there is a connection.
More to come!!