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Nicaraguan students sent home from Venezuela


(posted May 19, 6:30 am) — The ongoing political, economic and social crisis in Venezuela is starting to reverberate in Nicaragua. With no explanation and a level of extreme hermetic silence that characterizes the Sandinista government, 120 Nicaraguan medical students who had been studying in Venezuela on an ALBA scholarship abruptly returned to Managua yesterday without completing their degrees. Government officials and leaders of the Sandinista Youth, which managed the ALBA scholarship program, have offered no explanation for the students’ hasty return; students arriving yesterday at the Augusto C. Sandino airport declined to comment, according to La Prensa. The Nicaraguan daily reported over the weekend that Sandinista political operator Gustavo Porras allegedly told the students’ parents in a private meeting last week that a decision had been made to end the scholarship program in Venezuela and that the students would be sent home immediately. Porras allegedly promised parents that the students would be transferred into similar medical programs at Nicaragua’s National Autonomous University (UNAN) in León and Managua, though it’s not clear how that will happen. Continue Reading →

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Twitter: Maduro’s loss of followers probably due to spam

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The sudden and mysterious elimination of some 6,600 followers from Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s Twitter account was most likely due to the company’s routine purging of spam accounts, and not part of some shadowy right-wing conspiracy against Latin America’s left, according to a spokesman for the social media platform. 

Twitter’s Andrew Fitzgerald says it is not his company’s policy to take punitive actions against account holders. Other than eliminating fake users, Twitter seldom interferes in individual accounts, he said. 

“We as a company take action on accounts very rarely and not in any sort of act of retribution,” Fitzgerald told The Nicaragua Dispatch. 

Fitzgerald says Twitter tries its best to eliminate spam accounts to prevent them from cluttering up the network. When fake accounts are deleted en masse, high profile accounts will often notice a slight fluctuation in their followership.  

“Fluctuations in follower counts happen all the time, especially on high profile accounts, which attract spam followers,” Fitzgerald says. “High profile accounts seem to fluctuate by high numbers and that has to do with us eliminating spam accounts.” 

Maduro, however, seems unconvinced that his slowly growing popularity on Twitter was inflated by fake accounts. Continue Reading →

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Petrocaribe promotes more pragmatic approach to integration


After years of stalled integration efforts under the ideological banner of the Bolivarian Alliance for our Americas (ALBA), the left-wing bloc of nations that are dependent on Venezuelan oil aid are now pushing forward under the more successful brand of Petrocaribe. Petrocaribe, an 8-year-old energy cooperation agreement between Venezuela and 18 client nations in the Caribbean basin, is expanding its mission to create a broader “economic zone” that includes joint initiatives in the areas of transportation, technology, trade, tourism, education, health and food security. Venezuela stressed the importance of adding a “social component” to the oil pact in the form of a joint literacy campaign, free eye surgery for the poor, and a coordinated campaign to eradicate hunger in the region. The expanded focus of Petrocaribe, billed as revolutionary and historic, is mostly a repackaging of old ALBA initiatives—only less saddled with political baggage. Indeed, most of proposals presented during Saturday’s Petrocaribe summit in Managua summit were identical to previous initiatives introduced under ALBA, only stripped of a few layers of ideological dressing and presented as pragmatic approaches to regional integration and development. Continue Reading →

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Maduro promises to improve ALBA

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In a possible attempt to quell rumors that Venezuela is concerned about the Sandinistas’ management of aid money, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro traveled to Nicaragua this weekend to promise a strengthening of bilateral relations under the ideological banner of the Bolivarian Alliance for our Americas (ALBA). “Cooperation is going to increase and deepen,” Maduro said upon arriving at Managua’s Augusto Sandino International Airport late Saturday night for a visit that was announced only hours before his arrival. “Now there will be more cooperation in energy, food, finances, social projects, tourism, and trade.”

Maduro’s drop-in comes less than a week after Nicaragua’s Comptroller General announced it is auditing ALBA de Nicaragua, or ALBANISA, a private company that is jointly owned by Venezuela’s PDVSA oil company and Nicaragua’s PETRONIC. ALBANISA has handled some $2.8 billion in Venezuelan aid since 2007, according to Central Bank numbers. The inquiry from the normally uninquisitive Comptroller General’s Office has revived old rumors that Venezuela is concerned about Nicaragua’s handling of its oil money, and perhaps requested the audit of ALBANISA itself. Continue Reading →

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Nicaragua sweetens exports to Venezuela

(posted May 27, 8:15 a.m.)- Nicaragua is sweetening its relations with Venezuela this week by sending the South American oil-producing nation the first of three shipments totaling 45,000 tons of sugar as part of the food security initiative of the Bolivarian Alliance for our Americas (ALBA). The first Venezuelan ship sailed from Nicaragua’s Puerto Corinto yesterday and two more ships will come for the remaining cargo this week and next. Though Nicaragua’s trade with Venezuela has grown exponentially over the past five years, this is the first time it has been done through a state-owned Venezuelan shipping company, Venevega, as opposed to private shipping companies. “This fills us with satisfaction because it is the first time that Venezuela, with its own ships, is taking export products and we are evaluating the possibility of forming an alliance between this business and Nicaraguan ships to continue working in a coordinated manner for exports, and possibly imports too,” Virgilio Silva, executive president of Nicaragua’s National Port Authority (EPN), told Sandinista media outlets. Silva announced that Venezuela also exported 980 heads of cattle last week. Continue Reading →

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Petrocaribe eyes future without Chavez

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Two months after the death of revolutionary president Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan-propped Petrocaribe oil alliance is determined to continue growing even in the absence of its visionary and charismatic founder, who passed away to cancer on March 5. Dispelling claims that the oil agreement would dissolve without Chávez at the helm, the 21 member nations of Petrocaribe met in Venezuela last weekend to back the continuance of the “Chavista” government under the polemic new leadership of Nicolás Maduro, and offer support for the creation of a Petrocaribe Economic Zone “based on the productive strengths of the region beyond oil.”
In addition to providing Venezuelan fertilizers and oil at preferential terms, the Petrocaribe alliance will now seek to develop into an economic zone to “strengthen the industrial infrastructure of our nations, establishing new areas of economic exchange with conditions that can be agreed upon by the governments.”
The agreement, signed Sunday afternoon near Chávez’s final resting place, also calls for the creation of a new bilateral fund to help facilitate the integration process of Petrocaribe, which this weekend added two new members: Honduras and Guatemala. The summit also served as an opportunity for the irascible and truculent Maduro to tell others about the importance of his presidency. The Venezuelan president said Petrocaribe would have been killed if the “murderous, right-wing fascists” had won last month’s presidential elections, which Maduro won by hair. Since being launched in 2005, Petrocaribe has built oil infrastructure capacity throughout the region, thanks to13 joint ventures in 10 countries, according to the organization’s website. Continue Reading →

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Nicaragua’s Ortega plays opposing roles at weekend summits

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 After sitting politely and quietly through last Friday’s dinner summit with U.S. President Barack Obama, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega flew to Venezuela on Saturday to assume a more revolutionary posture by condemning perceived U.S. aggressions against the continuation of the “Chavista” government by second-string successor Ricardo Maduro. “Today, more than ever, we are with Chávez, we are with the Bolivarian Revolution, we are with the fight for peace that’s being waged by the people, this country, we are for justice, we are for liberty,” Ortega said Sunday afternoon, during a commemoration of the two-month anniversary of Chávez’s death to cancer. Taking the liberty to speak on behalf of “the people of Latin America, the people of the Caribbean and, in particular the people who are part of ALBA and Petrocaribe,” Ortega expressed hemispheric solidarity with Maduro’s government, which he said “is facing an onslaught from the historic enemies of revolutionary processes.”

The “historic enemy,” whose president was Ortega’s dinner companion the night before, is accused of taking an aggressive stance against Venezuela by calling on its government to respect democracy and human rights.  
In a recent interview with Noticias Telemundo, Obama said his government wants Venezuela to be able to “choose their own leadership in fair and free elections in a democratic process that is credible.”  
The U.S. president denied that his government has “tried to interfere in any way with what happens there.” “What we’ve said is, let’s make sure that the rules are being followed, that people are not being thrown into jail or intimidated, that the press is allowed to report fairly on what happens, that the ruling party doesn’t resort to intimidation in terms of skewing results,” Obama said. Continue Reading →

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Nicaragua ratifies ALBA ‘fair trade’ treaty

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In an apparent attempt to quell concerns that the Venezuelan-propped Bolivarian Alliance for Our Americas (ALBA) will fall like a house of cards following the death of its main architect, former President Hugo Chávez, Sandinista lawmakers today passed a law to create a new “fair trade” agreement between Nicaragua and its fellow travelers in ALBA. The new “people’s trade treaty” of ALBA was ratified by Nicaragua one day before Nicolás Maduro is sworn in as the next President of Venezuela—a clear political sign, pundits say, that ALBA intends to outlive its founder. Known by the tongue-baffling acronym ECOALBA-TCP, the people’s trade treaty is intended to promote more economic integration, cooperation and “fair trade” between Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The role of the people in their new treaty, however, is not clear since it mostly seems to promote the expansion of state-run “grand national” companies that conduct their business in a new virtual currency called SUCRE, a type of Bolivarian Bitcoin. Continue Reading →

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