Tim Rogers

Editor of Nicaragua Dispatch. Currently a 2014 Nieman Fellow at Harvard.

Recent Posts

Nicaragua tries to hold the line against Cuban emigrants trekking to the U.S.

Nicaraguan soldiers guard the border at Peñas Blancas

This story first appeared in Fusion. PEÑAS BLANCAS, Costa Rica—Nicaragua’s southern border has become an unusually crowded place in recent days. Thousands of road-weary Cubans of all ages congregate under malinche trees, compete for the limited shade of awnings, and hang their hand-washed clothes on the fence to catch some afternoon sunrays before the evening brings another tropical downpour that turns everything to soup. It looks like a refugee tent city, only without the tents. And similar to its namesake, it’s a place Cubans aren’t allowed to leave. Continue Reading →

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Will US property claims office in Nicaragua be a model for Cuba?

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The stars and stripes are once again fluttering brightly in front of the U.S. embassy in Havana. But in the darker recesses of the building, the chore of mapping a route towards a full normalization of relations is just getting started. https://instagram.com/p/6XkLN-kpNv/

Obstructing the path forward is the monstrous 55-year-old U.S. trade embargo. Though presidents Obama and Castro have made great strides to reestablish diplomatic relations over the past 10 months, taking things to the next level means dealing with the elephant in the room: a nearly $7 billion pile of unresolved U.S. property claims.

This is where things get tricky. The Cuban government’s expropriation of U.S. properties in the 1960s was the original raison d’être for the embargo, whose function was later expanded to include loftier considerations for democracy and human rights. Continue Reading →

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Are narco cows a thing in Central America

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Central American authorities are spending more time than usual eyeballing the backsides of bovine this week, following a Honduran media report that claims drug cartels are using cattle to hoof drugs north to Mexico. A recent article published in the Honduran daily La Tribuna reports —with rather curious precision— that each narco cow can carry between 88-132 pounds of carefully packaged cocaine in its intestines. The cattle are reportedly purchased in Nicaragua, back-loaded with drug packets somewhere along the early stages of the route, then lumber northward — presumably with a slight hemorrhoidal limp—followed by their stinky-handed minders. It’s a dirty job, but it’s a résumé-builder for those on a certain career path. La Tribuna’s article is admittedly weakly sourced. Continue Reading →

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How a bucket of fried chicken can help prevent a gang war in El Salvador

A little Pollo Campero can go a long way to bringing peace to El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — A greasy 12-piece combo of fried chicken isn’t always the smartest menu choice. But in this case, the double Promoción Súper Campero was all about preserving my health. I was cabbing across San Salvador cradling two soggy-bottom boxes of chicken parts to make a prandial offering to the leaders of the Pandilla 18, one of El Salvador’s two main gangs. I was told not to come empty-handed. “We always start every round of peace talks by eating Pollo Campero,” Salvadoran gang whisperer Raul Mijango told me after arranging the interview. Continue Reading →

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U.S. says embassy worker in Nicaragua free of Ebola

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The U.S. embassy in Nicaragua is downplaying concerns raised by Sandinista health officials in Managua that one of its embassy staff workers was infected with Ebola during a recent mission to Liberia, West Africa. “In no moment was he in contact with Ebola patients,” the U.S. embassy said in statement, following a live broadcast by government health workers claiming the exact opposite. The embassy said the staffer, whose identity has not been released, was fully examined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta after coming back from Africa and prior to his return to Nicaragua. “The CDC was in direct contact with Nicaraguan authorities and told them of the staff worker’s imminent return to Nicaragua, and confirmed that he did not have any symptoms of the disease,” the embassy’s statement reads. “The staffer continues to not have any systems related to the disease.”

The embassy added that it had informed Nicaraguan health authorities about the trip two weeks ago, and they had approved his return to Managua afterwards. Continue Reading →

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Plaza Inter cancels kiddie swimsuit competition

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A popular shopping mall in downtown Managua has agreed to cancel its annual kiddie swimsuit competition this weekend following an uproar on Facebook and in traditional media outlets. Plaza Inter, Nicaragua’s oldest modern shopping mall, said it decided to cancel Saturday’s show to quell controversy following this week’s pushback on Facebook. Mall administrators insist the annual event, which pit bikini-clad 6-10 year old girls against one another on the catwalk, was never intended to be exploitative or sexually suggestive. “This is not prostitution, it’s just family entertainment,” said Plaza Inter’s Miriam Garcia. Garcia said the mall has held the same competition every year for “many years,” but this is the first time there’s been any controversy — something she attributes to recent sexual-abuse scandals and Nicaraguans’ growing level of online activism. Continue Reading →

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Nicaragua’s plans to buy Russian fighter jets is ruffling feathers in the region

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Nicaragua’s sudden interest in purchasing a squadron of MiG-29 fighter jets from Russia could trigger a pointless arms race between one of the smallest and one of the largest militaries in Latin America. Nicaragua says it wants combat jets to fight the war on drugs. But that argument has failed to convince anyone. Instead, skeptics wonder if Nicaragua’s efforts to purchase military aircraft isn’t somehow tied to its canal plans, or — more likely yet— an effort to assert a stronger military presence in disputed Caribbean waters bordering Colombia. Though Nicaragua has legal claim to Caribbean waters out to 200 miles off its eastern shore, Colombia has all the naval muscle in the area — a fleet of 232 ships, including submarines and battleships. Continue Reading →

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Campesinos threaten school boycott in protest over canal

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Nicaraguan farmers are threatening to pull their kids from school if the government doesn’t halt plans to build a $50 billion Chinese canal through their communities. Anti-canal activists in several dozen farming communities along the canal route are circulating petitions asking parents to boycott the 2015 school year, which starts next Monday. Community leaders in San Miguelito claim soldiers have been using rural schoolhouses during students’ summer recess as makeshift barracks to militarize the countryside and quell anti-canal protests. Though the army has recently withdrawn from the area, residents fear the soldiers could return at any moment and occupy the schools again. And parents don’t want their kids around when that happens. Continue Reading →

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Watch Nicaraguan student challenge Sandinista canal rep in Spain

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Nicaraguan canal spokesman Telemaco Talavera seems to have inadvertently admitted that the Sandinista government doesn’t know the exact route of a $50 billion canal that will bisect Nicaragua. During a confrontation with a Nicaraguan student studying abroad in Madrid, Talavera refuted her claim that 60,000 campesinos will be affected by the canal, saying “That means someone has the route more clearly defined than we do.” Nicaraguan university student Alejandra Espinoza today challenged Talavera about the “enormous concerns” in Nicaragua over unanswered questions about the “social, political, economic and environmental affects” of the $50 billion Chinese canal planned in Nicaragua. In doing so, she presented Talavera with a bundle of papers that she said contained “more than 60,000 signatures of people who will be affected” by the canal. The stack of papers also included copies of the 32 constitutional challenges filed on behalf of 182 Nicaraguans opposed to the canal project. Continue Reading →

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