Daniel Ortega is Destroying Nicaragua's Future to Remain in Power
Just a year ago Nicaragua was seen as one of Latin America's rising stars with an expanding tourist industry drawn to its beautiful beaches, lakes, volcanoes, and quaint colonial towns. Travel writers encouraged their readers to forget Costa Rica and sample Nicaragua's "jungly landscape, peaceful waterways and scenic shores." In 2016 travel and tourism constituted about 10% of Nicaragua's economy and the World Travel and Tourism Council predicted strong growth in the sector.
That was before anti-government protests broke out in April over fiscal reforms that slashed social security. The demonstrations spread after police over-reacted, killing dozens of protesters. As the protests spread and intensified, Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega dug in and unleashed paramilitary forces on the opposition and hundreds have been killed. In recent weeks Ortega has cracked down on all dissent in the country, shutting down newspapers, expelling international human rights monitors, imprisoning political opponents and harassing NGOs that have criticized his administration.
The situation has devastated Nicaragua's economy. Foreign investment has slowed to a trickle and tourists are looking for safer beach vacations.
Today Nicaragua: "What had been a vibrant tourism industry has been devastated, with ripple effects on the broader economy in a country that was already one of the poorest in the Americas."
"Business closings have left 200,000 people jobless, and unless the crisis ends soon, some 1.3 million of Nicaragua’s 6.2 million people “risk falling into poverty,” according to a study by the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development (Funides)."
"The Nicaraguan central bank (BCN) has sharply lowered its projection for economic growth this year, from 4.9 percent to one percent, while the productive sector — including manufacturing and farming — has accumulated losses of $430 million, with more than 85,000 jobs lost."
New York Times: "Tens of thousands of workers have been furloughed or laid off. Thousands of companies have closed. Foreign direct investment has nearly halted, and credit has been choked off."
Nicaraguans are now fleeing the violence or looking for work in Costa Rica, long known for its political stability and more prosperous economy.
New York Times: "Epsy Campbell Barr, Costa Rica’s foreign minister and first vice president, said the government was preparing for the political situation in Nicaragua to worsen as the year draws to a close, possibly pushing many more migrants into Costa Rica, one of the region’s most politically stable and peaceful nations."
So far, Daniel Ortega has been able to maintain power in Nicaragua by keeping the support of the police and military. But, if he cares for his nation and its people, he needs to step down and call for a new election. And he must do so quickly if he is to salvage the nation's once promising economic future.
By: Don Lam, Curated Content
Photo: Ometepe, Nicaragua