Five people were killed under contested circumstances March 2 during elections in Nicaragua's two Caribbean autonomous regions. The incident occurred shortly before polling stations opened in Tortuguero, in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS). The Constitutionalist Liberal Party said the victims—all PLC adherents—were abducted from their homes and killed by unidentified assailants. Some were shot, others hacked with machetes, and at least one tortured before being killed, according to the PLC. Roberto Rivas, president of Nicaragua's Supreme Electoral Council, pointed to leaders of the Yatama (Mother Earth) indigenous party and local radio stations, accusing them of "calls for violence and disorder." When the National Police weighed in on the attacks, they said the victims were all members of a single family who were targeted by a criminal gang known as "Walpapina"—with no political motive mentioned. Nicaragua's ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) appears to have won a majority of seats on the regional councils of the RAAS and RAAN, followed by Yatama and the PLC. (AFP, TeleSur, March 3; La Prensa, Notimex, March 2)
The Costa Rican government announced Feb. 4 that it is preparing to file a new complaint against Nicaragua with the International Court of Justice at The Hague, accusing Managua of offering Costa Rican maritime territory to international oil companies. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has dismissed the charges, stating the area in question clearly falls within the country’s maritime borders, as outlined by an ICJ ruling of November 2012. The announcement marks the third ICJ case between the two nations. Costa Rica filed the first complaint in November 2010, accusing Nicaragua of seizing Isla Portillo (also known as Isla Calero and Harbour Head Island) in the Río San Juan, which forms the common border. In December 2012, Nicaragua filed a grievance charging that Costa Rica's construction of a highway along the San Juan was causing environmental damage. The first claim was upheld by the ICJ in n November 2013, with the court ordering Managua to remove all personnel and equipment from the disputed island. In December 2013, the Court rejected the second claim, finding that “Nicaragua has not...established the existence of a real and imminent risk of irreparable prejudice to the rights invoked" in the highway project.
On Jan. 28 Nicaragua's unicameral National Assembly voted 64-25 with no abstentions to approve a reform package changing 46 of the 202 articles in the country's 1987 Constitution; only three of the Assembly's 92 legislative deputies were absent. The 63 deputies from the governing center-left Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) all voted for the changes. They were joined by Wilfredo Navarro of the right-wing Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC); the other opposition deputies all voted against the reform, and many walked out afterwards in protest. The amendments were initially approved on Dec. 10 but required a second vote to become official.
Pretty hysterical irony. Gawker reported Jan. 24 that New York's newly elected populist Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered a private speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) the night before, behind closed doors at Manhattan's Hilton hotel—and that a reporter from Capital New York who managed to infiltrate the event was ejected by security, although not before recording audio in which the mayor can be heard hailing fealty to Israel as "elemental to being an American" because the US has "no greater ally on earth." The New York Times wrote that the affair "led to questions...about the transparency of his young administration, especially given his repeated pledges during last year's campaign to oversee a more open and inclusive City Hall than that of his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg." And it's doubly unbecoming given how de Blaz played to a very different crowd on the campaign trail, even citing The Autobiography of Malcom X as his favorite book! (See NYT, Oct. 8)
Construction of a interoceanic canal in Nicaragua has been delayed by a year and will "probably" begin in 2015. The head of the canal authority, Manuel Coronel Kautz, announced Jan. 4 that more time is needed to carry out feasibility studies and choose a route. President Daniel Ortega, who promotes the project as key to Nicaragua's "economic independence," had projected construction to start in May 2014. (BBC News, Jan. 4) The setback comes as Chinese workers brought in by HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co Ltd are swelling the population of Brito, a small town projected as the canal's Pacific terminus, in Rivas department. (IBT, Dec. 12)
The current expansion of the Panama Canal will allow close to 90% of the world's 370-vessel liquified natural gas (LNG) fleet to pass through by 2015, the Panama Canal Authority announced Oct. 30. Currently the canal can accommodate only 8.6% of the global LNG fleet. Voyages to Asia from the US will cost 24% less than longer routes, according to the authority. The US, now the world's top natural gas producer due to extraction from shale rock, is projected to become the third-largest LNG exporter by 2020. Excavation to double the Panama Canal's capacity, which began in 2007, is said to be 64% complete. (Bloomberg, Nov. 4; Platts, Oct. 30; IBT, Sept. 20)
The torture death of US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Enrique ("Kiki") Camarena near Guadalajara in the western Mexican state of Jalisco in February 1985 was linked to drug running by the US-backed "contra" rebels seeking to overthrow the leftist government of Nicaragua, according to two former DEA agents and a former pilot for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Camarena was kidnapped by criminals working for Rafael Caro Quintero, a founder of the so-called Guadalajara Cartel, and was executed at one of Caro Quintero's ranches. According to the US, the cartel targeted Camarena because he had uncovered Caro Quintero's marijuana growing and processing operation. Under pressure from the US, the Mexican government eventually captured Caro Quintero and sentenced him to 60 years in prison for Camarena's murder.
Nicaraguan civil society groups have challenged plans by a Hong Kong company to build an interoceanic canal through the Central American country. Last month, representatives of indigenous and Creole community groups from Nicaragua's South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS, see map) called on the country's Supreme Court to repeal the law allowing the construction of the canal. "The passing means that the state accepts and approves in advance [a project] that will affect peoples of indigenous and of African descent, who had been excluded from the decision-making process," the Nicaragua Center for Human Rights (CINDH) said in a statement. "There has to be a consultation with the indigenous population, because this project will affect the entire population with its own traditions and way of life," said Allen Clair Duncan, head of the communal government of Monkey Point, where a deep-water port is set to be built as part of the canal project.