Municipal elections are due to be held in Nicaragua in November. On the global scale they won’t register as of much importance but actually they, as everything here, reflect the international imbalance of power. Within Nicaragua, they are arousing a level of passion in some parts of the country leading to a degree of violence with Sandinista supporters recently in Leon attacking some members of an opposition march and burning a couple of the oppostion leader’s vehicles. It is a real shame to see this because mostly the democratic political process is pretty good here and certainly no more (or less) corrupt than in many parts of the world (including so-called developed countries). Here in La Concha the worst effect so far has been the dreadful, and very loud, music which accompanies the campaigning groups, riding around advertsing their party from the back of a pick up truck. But it is not simply a Nicaraguan issue – as the situation is made much more volatile by the fact that the US government still channels funds to several oppostion parties/groups, as it has done since at least the 1980s, which incenses both Sandinista fanatics and many “ordinary Nicaraguans”. People with whom I have discussed the issue here in La Concha are firmly of the opinion that, whatever else, Nicaragua should be able to work out its political processes without the interference of the world’s superpower and Nicaragua’s too close and overbearing neighbour.
It will of course be important to us at the Mariposa who is elected Mayor of La Concha – the Sandinista candiadate has a good reputation of anti-corruption and I am hoping he will be sympathetic to the idea of promoting the benefits of a (genuine – there is a lot of the fake variety around)) eco-tourism. When the Mariposa is full (and we are now fully booked for most of November and January next year with a number of bookings in December and Febuary – October is proving to be our hardest month, I think) we can employ over 25 people which means economic help to them and their families, plus the money that they and the Mariposa directly spend in the community. We have just, as a small example of what we try and do, started buying milk from a local cow via a middle-woman which means a few pesos/pence/cents more every day directly into a poor family and via them, into the local community. Not much, in the grand scale of things, but better than a slap in the face!! That all makes us the largest local employer after the Town Hall. So we have some clout and I am hopeful we can work together with the new mayor (as we have been able to some extent with the existing mayor) to work on strategies for increasing employment and conserving the environment – without which there could be no eco-tourism in its real sense!!
Not to be confused with eco-tourism, sex tourism has hit the Mariposa. We now have experienced two examples (that I know of) of aging women quite deliberately approaching one or more of the guys who work at the Mariposa with the intention of having (paid though not neccessarily in money) sex. I don’t think we have had any men yet – they seem to prefer the city ambience of Granada and San Juan del Sur where the sex trade, including child sex trade, is flourishing. Though maybe they are better at operating clandestinely! One woman actually told me what she had done. I do not know her motivation for telling me of her exploits, I think possibly she is racist enough to think I would not care and would collude with her. Actually I threw her out. Some time later, she sent me an email saying she had just wanted to know she was still desirable! It never, for one moment, occured to me that this would be one of the problems here – but it seems as if the ways the developed world has of taking from the people of the so-called “Third World” is never-ending in its variety of objects of pure theft, from natural resources to cheap labour to sex. I have a feeling I will get some comments re this!!
I recently received a newsletter from the excellent Nicaragua Network with the following information – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced on Sept. 11 the release of the first US$28.4 million of its loan agreement with Nicaragua and increased the total of US$120.4 million by an additional US$10 million citing its approval of Nicaragua’s performance. In the communiqué, Takatoshi Kato, one of the Fund’s managing sub-directors, described the macroeconomic policy of Nicaragua as “prudent” and the economic program as “generally satisfactory.”
He did note, however, that growth has slowed and inflation has reached double digits, principally because of the rise in the price of food and oil, while the trade deficit has widened. “It will be crucial,” he said, “to control public expenditures during the upcoming electoral period.” He also repeated the IMF’s neoliberal agenda advising the government to “contain wage pressures” and not to cede ground in current discussions over the national minimum wage. Nicaragua’s wages for essential public service jobs continue to be the lowest in Central America. On Sept. 12 El Nuevo Diario reported a shortage of nurses whose US$200 monthly salary is causing them to migrate to higher paying countries.
Those of you who have visited the Panama School with us will know how much Nicaragua can afford to cut its public expenditure!!! I wish I could show the IMF around!!!