Apologies for a long post.
It’s two years since I last came and I had no idea what changes there would be. Following the news from Nicaragua in the preceding two years I’ve seen all sorts of things happening. The main issue has been the canal, the pet project of the government backed by a mysterious Chinese businessman. It has caused huge reaction in the country. Some have been in favour on the basis that it will bring employment and eventual revenue. But others, what has seemed from outside the overwhelming majority, have reacted strongly against the proposal, arguing the canal will be an environmental disaster and that the case for its construction has not been made.
Now it appears to be on hold. The mysterious Chinese businessman is reported to have lost most of his money and at least once major container shipping company has questioned the viability of the canal and the need for super container ships on that route. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming year and what effect it will have on the election in January 2017, at which President Ortega is standing for a third time.
Perhaps what concerns people more is how every day life moves forward. The current El Nino event is causing a drought, predicted to last until the end of the first quarter. Driving through the countryside vast patches of brown grass are very evident. I haven’t heard of food shortages yet but various agencies identify “food insecurity” as a real issue for central America, including parts of Nicaragua. The general situation is not helped either by continuing, often illegal, deforestation, particularly in the north east of the country. Although Nicaragua is rich in water – Lake Cocibolca is a massive reserve of fresh water from which the country gets most of its drinking supply – deforestation, the canal (if it’s built) and climate change could all lead to major environmental and humanitarian disaster.
The good news is that prices don’t appear to be rising strongly (Banco Central estimates below 4% inflation) and the country’s infrastructure continues to improve. The roads are better, electricity is stable and medical provision remains mostly adequate.
The pleasure of coming here to Nicaragua remains the encounters with people. Meeting Gustavo again was a great pleasure. The trip round the hospital in Leon was moving. Rigo took us out for the evening at Las Salinas to watch tiny turtles hauling themselves into the ocean. The people in the shops always want to talk (although with my extremely limited Spanish I do more nodding and smiling than actual understanding).
So far, so good.
Apologies for a long post.