Tim Rogers

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

Recent Posts

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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Nicaragua’s opposition, church decry fatal backpack bomb in Pantasma

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(posted Jan 26, 11:15 pm) —Nicaragua’s opposition Independent Liberal Party (PLI) today called on President Daniel Ortega to work towards finding a peaceful solution to growing political violence in the northern mountains of Jinotega after a weekend attack with a mysterious backpack bomb killed three alleged rearmed contras in the municipality of Pantasma. A communiqué from an alleged rearmed contra group known as the FDC-380 claims that six “guerrillas and an unknown number of civilians” were killed when a cellphone packed with C-4 was detonated remotely in a plot to kill rearmed contra leaders known as Comandates Aguila and Sereno. The communiqué blames the the Nicaraguan Army for planting the bomb. Nicaraguan media puts the death toll at three. The Army denies any involvement in the case and said the investigation is being handled by the police, according to La Prensa. Continue Reading →

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In Nicaragua, can Chinese move the canal, avoid Rio San Juan, and still play golf?

The Sandinista's canal spokesman says the route is being moved south, but how far south will it go?

Adding a wrinkle of confusion to a mystery shrouded in doubt, a spokesman for the Chinese canal in Nicaragua announced that the route has been redrawn to circumvent a farming community that has been energetically protesting the $50 billion project for months. Nicaraguan canal spokesman Telemaco Talavera announced last weekend that the canal route has been pushed south to sidestep the community of El Tule and the protected San Miguelito wetlands on the eastern shore of Lake Nicaragua. The decision, Talavera said, was made to avoid environmental and social problems associated with the original route. We’ll have to take his word for it, since the original canal route and environmental impact studies were never made public. But instead of assuaging Nicaraguans’ concerns about the megaproject, the offhand nature of the announcement has only heightened fears that Sandinista officials aren’t giving appropriate seriousness of purpose to the so-called “biggest infrastructure project in the history of humanity.”

“Together with all the other anomalies related to this megaproject, now we have this erratic type of communication about the canal,” said Nicaraguan environmental lawyer Monica López Baltodano, who has been active in coordinating many of the 18 protest marches against the canal over the past six months. Continue Reading →

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Nicaragua police release all 6 anti-canal leaders

Protest leader Octavio Ortega after being released today

(updated Dec 30, 1 pm)— Nicaraguan police has released all  six leaders of the campesino Land Defense Council after more than 150 hours of illegal detention, according to local media reports. The campesino leaders, local organizers of a group that has vowed to defend landowners from forced expropriations for the Chinese canal project, all showed signs of being beaten, according to witnesses. The anti-canal protesters were among the 47 campesinos who were beaten and grabbed during a violent Christmas Eve clash with riot police. Read more on this story here. Continue Reading →

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