Interviews

The Nicaragua Dispatch News ~ News interviews in Nicaragua

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Colombia’s Santos: War is easier than peace

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CAMBRIDGE—After days of battleship bravado and patriotic proclamations against Nicaraguan expansionism, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos seemed to forget all about his neighborhood nemesis this week when he traveled to the United States to tout his government’s achievements in peace and prosperity. In separate speeches to the UN General Assembly and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, President Santos stressed Colombia’s unlikely economic progress amid difficult peace talks with intransigent rebels. He talked about his administration’s efforts to balance the budget, push technological advances into rural municipalities, eradicate coca production nationwide, and negotiate peace after a 50-year civil war that has claimed the lives of 220,000 people and displaced 5 million others. But at no point during either U.S. address did Santos mention the main issue that has dominated his political agenda for the past few weeks: Nicaragua’s alleged encroachment into Colombian territory. The Santos government refuses to recognize last year’s world court ruling that granted Nicaragua more than 90,000 kilometers of Caribbean Sea, prompting the Central American country to file another international complaint against Colombia last week. Continue Reading →

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Zoilamerica’s partner deported from Nicaragua

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(posted June 25, 10:30 p.m.)- Banished to the Costa Rican border town of La Cruz after being ousted from Nicaragua by Sandinista officials, Bolivian citizen Carlos Ariñez says he has no doubt that his “illegal deportation” is part of President Daniel Ortega’s personal and political vendetta against estranged stepdaughter Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo. “This was an illegal deportation—a method the Sandinista government uses to target foreign human rights workers,” Ariñez told The Nicaragua Dispatch in a Skype interview at 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday night, shortly after being dumped on the other side of the Costa Rican border. Ariñez says he has Costa Rican residency. Ariñez, who has lived in Nicaragua for four years with his partner, Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo, claims his detention and expulsion from Nicaragua tonight was an act of family vengeance. The rights worker rejects the argument made by Nicaraguan Immigration officials, who say Ariñez had overstayed his visa by 20 days. Continue Reading →

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HKND: Chinese gov’t is not involved in Nicaragua Canal

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Nicaragua’s $40-billion canal project will rely entirely on private funding and won’t involve the participation of any government—including China’s. That’s according to Ronald MacLean-Abaroa, spokesman for HKND Group, the private Chinese company awarded the concession to design, build and operate the canal project for the next 50 to 100 years. “This is a totally privately held company and it is going to be private on the international level,” MacLean-Abaroa told The Nicaragua Dispatch in an exclusive interview. “We are based in Hong Kong because from there we can raise money in Paris, New York and London. But there will be no government involvement whatsoever, not from China or any other country. Continue Reading →

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Dry canal firm questions Nicaragua’s new concession

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New York attorney Donald Bosco read last week’s headlines from Nicaragua with a sense of mild despair and acute frustration. After nearly two decades of struggling futilely to move the chains on his company’s plans to build a “dry canal” freight railroad across Nicaragua, Bosco watched in disbelief as the Ortega administration presented a legislative bill to give an unknown Chinese company exclusive rights to a similar project. “I’m kind of shocked by this,” the president of the Nicaragua Interoceanic Canal Company (CINN) told The Nicaragua Dispatch in a phone interview from his law office in Staten Island, New York. Bosco says he hopes the Sandinista government and its new Chinese business partner still intend to allow his company to develop its dry canal within the framework of the Great Canal megaproject. But if the Sandinista government tries to give his company the boot for a Chinese substitute, Nicaragua could face an international lawsuit, Bosco warns. Continue Reading →

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Granada’s top cop: tourists shouldn’t encourage begging

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Granada’s top cop says foreign tourists aren’t doing the city or Nicaragua any favors by giving money or food to the growing glut of young beggars who ply the streets with doleful expressions and outstretched hands. The children—some of whom stagger by sidewalk cafes with the faraway eyes and listless gestures of glue-huffers, while others approach with friendly greetings and nipping fingers—are part of an expanding group that is turning begging for money into a lifestyle, says Granada Police Chief Fátima Flores. “These children are not begging because they are hungry, they are begging because it has become their habit to beg,” Commissioner Flores told The Nicaragua Dispatch in an interview. “I have seen foreigners buy these children food; they buy them grilled steak or hotdogs and the kids eat a few bites and then throw it away and go bother somebody else. So the children are not begging out of need, they’re doing it because it has become a bad habit and irresponsible parents allow them to walk the streets late at night.”

That may sound cold coming from the head of a police force that prides itself of community relations, but Commissioner Flores says it’s the community she has in mind. Continue Reading →

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Nicaraguan businessman recounts abuses in Esteli raids

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After 45 years of toiling as an entrepreneur to develop a successful chain of family-owned hardware stores in Estelí, Roberto Moncada, 69, watched in horror as all he has worked for his entire life seemed to come crashing down around him last Sunday morning. For reasons still unknown to him, Moncada, the longtime president of Estelí’s Chamber of Commerce, was targeted by Nicaraguan Police as part of a series of weekend raids on more than 30 homes and businesses in Nicaragua’s “second city.” The raid on Moncada’s home, which he qualifies as “illegal, arrogant, and in complete violation of human rights,” was done without any judicial order or explanation by police.  “The police had no court order and did not explain what they were doing when they raided my house,” Moncada told The Nicaragua Dispatch in a phone interview this afternoon, a day after getting released from jail. “They took over my house and ordered my whole family to sit in the living room while they went from room to room; no one was allowed to use the bathroom and my daughter wasn’t even allowed to feed her baby, which made me really angry.”
Moncada, whose family owns and runs three “Moncada Nicaragua” hardware stores in Estelí, says he tried to explain to police that they had the wrong house and the wrong guy. But they wouldn’t listen to him. Continue Reading →

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Mayangna: gov’t finally responding to Bosawas crisis

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Mayangna leaders tell The Nicaragua Dispatch that National Police have finally started to respond to illegal land invasions inside Bosawás Biosphere Reserve by forcibly removing 180 mestizo “colonists” from the indigenous territory of Sauni Tuahka. “We finally have a response from the government; the order has come down to remove the invaders,” Mayangna leader Rolando Davis said in a phone interview this afternoon. “The Mayangna community is now working together with the authorities.”

Mayangna president Gustavo Sebastian Lino says the government’s recently appointed inter-institutional commission created to deal with the Bosawás crisis finally met with indigenous leaders today and vowed to coordinate efforts to continue removing land-trafficking interlopers from indigenous territories. Lino says there are some 2,500 mestizo colonists living in the heart of Bosawás—and they’ll be the next to go. “We are confident that the government is now responding to the situation,” Lino told The Nicaragua Dispatch today in a phone interview from the RAAN. Continue Reading →

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Granada’s adopted son returns home

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Silvio Sirias was 11 when his family moved to Nicaragua. Born to Granadinos living in Los Angeles, the would-be writer was uprooted and transplanted to the Gran Sultana, which he immediately adopted as his new hometown. In California, Sirias had been taught nothing of his Nicaraguan heritage. But once in Granada, he fell in love with all that was different about the new environment and was fascinated by the stories of his adoptive country. Still, as a man straddling two worlds, Sirias, who later moved to Panama, was always somewhat of an outsider. 

“These days I feel as if I’m an outsider wherever I happen to be—in the States, in Nicaragua, and in Panama, where I now live. Continue Reading →

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Nicaragua deports FBI’s most wanted fugitive

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(posted April 22, 5:50 p.m.)- One of the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives in the world was handed over to U.S. officials Monday afternoon at Managua’s International Airport to be deported immediately back to the United States to face charges of producing and possessing child pornography in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Eric Justin Toth, a 31-year-old former school teacher charged with filming child pornography in 2008, had been living in Nicaragua off and on for the past six months under the stolen identity of Robert Shaw Walker, according to Nicaraguan police. Toth, whom the police claim is a computer expert, had allegedly counterfeited a U.S. passport, a fake U.S. driver’s license and three U.S. credit cards under his assumed identity. Toth’s ability to disappear from the radar and blend in wherever he landed perplexed U.S. officials for years. Toth eluded U.S authorities in six states before arriving in Nicaragua. His last known whereabouts were in Arizona in 2009, where he was reportedly living in a shelter and pretending to be homeless man, according to an FBI source. Continue Reading →

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Does Nicaragua have a tourism minister?

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Update (posted April 9, 2:00 p.m.) Murillo confirms Salinas is out. Resurfaced rumors that Tourism Minister Mario Salinas has been fired due to personal differences with Nicaragua’s powerful and controlling first lady have sent an unwelcome wave of doubt rolling through the tourism sector—just when it was starting to look like smooth sailing for the first time in decades. Though there is no official word from the Sandinista administration (even officials from the tourism board won’t comment on whether or not their boss got sacked) Salinas’ alleged boot from the head seat at the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute (INTUR) is already being lamented as a loss to the tourism sector, which has grown by more than 50% under his six-year watch. “The government needs to support ministers who are doing a good job, not fire them,” opposition congressman Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, head of the legislative commission on tourism, told The Nicaragua Dispatch in an interview this morning. “It is counterproductive to fire a minister who has been recognized by the entire private sector as someone who is efficient at promoting tourism, which is a main motor of the economy and has been growing consistently since he took office. Continue Reading →

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