Pura Vida Travels - A Guide To Travel In Latin America

On November 23, 2007 I made my first trip back to Nicaragua as a married man. It was a great trip, albeit far too short, but I'm starting to see a lot of disturbing things going on in Nicaragua at the moment. I will elaborate on that more later.

I was greeted by the sight of Managua's ever present trash fire. There is a huge dump on the shore of Lake Managua where they burn all of the cities trash. I doubt the Minister of Tourism was consulted on the location of the dump since when you fly into Managua it's nearly always the first thing you see. Flying over the Florida Keys is quite a contrast to flying over Managua...

The Florida Keys

Managua's Trash Fire

Plaza de la Revelotion

Cathedral/Rueben Dario Theatre

Wow, Cool!!

Signing Away Her Life...

We didn't do anything really exciting on this trip other than run from one government office to another gathering forms from one beauracrary to send to another. It's amazing how massively ineffecient governments are. In Nicaragua at least you can give the beauracrat $5, however, and get your paperwork processed immediately. It's one of the things I've actually come to like about Nicaragua.

The highlight of the trip, along with seeing my wife, was getting to see my new house for the first time. We moved to the Bello Horizonte area of Managua and it's a really nice area. Our house is within walking distance of just about everything so it makes it very convenient. I'm not sure what the going rate for a 3 bedroom house is in the USA but I can tell you in Managua it's $200/month. Electric, water, cable, and internet run about another $100/month. It's mind-boggling to me that you can rent a place this nice this cheap but so is life in the second poorest country in the western hemisphere.

My New House

No, It's Not A Jail

Cool Garage Door

Our Back Yard

The Neighbors

Our Dining Room

Mi Casa

Our Street

It's A Fine Street

I've been reading a lot of books lately on the history of Nicaragua to try and get a better understanding of the political system, the culture, and the history of the country in general. On this trip I read The Real Contra War by Timothy C. Brown and I have to say it really meshed with what I've seen "on the ground" in Nicaragua. This book explains who the Contras were, where they came from, and why they revolted against the Sandinistas. Having spent a fair amount of time now in "Contra country" I can say that I firmly agree with the conclusions of the author and have little doubt that this is an accurate depiction of who the Contras were. The popular wisdom among the left in the USA is that the Contras were merely a small group of mercenaries hired by the CIA to wreak havoc with the Sandinista's Marxist revolution and that the FSLN (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional) was the true party of the people. I can tell you with certainty that nothing could be further from the truth. The real truth as to who the contras were was best described by one of the Contra leaders. When asked who the Contras were his answer was "we were a whole bunch of really pissed-off peasants."

The reason I'm bringing this up is that since January Daniel Ortega and the FSLN have been back in power. Ortega won the presidency with a whopping 38% of the vote with the other 62% split between 3 other candidates. (This is why 3rd parties don't work by the way.) 11 months later democracy in Nicaragua is on the verge of collapse. In the past year economic development has virtually stopped because of well-founded fears of what an Ortega presidency would bring. Currently, he is threatening to nationalize the oil industry, he has taken EXXON/Mobil's refinery from them and subsequently returned it, he is threatening to "liberate" prime beachfront property away from "greedy" US and Canadian investors, he has ignored the constitution and implemented "direct democrary" in the form of what are called CPC's (councils of citizens power), he is trying to amend the constitution to make himself president for life, and many, many more things. Ortega has ruled so heavy-handedly that even the FSLN is having trouble as a faction unhappy with the current direction has split off and formed a new party called the MRS. (Movimiento Renovador Sandinista) The MRS along with the PLC (Partido Liberal Constitucionalista), and the ALN-PC (Alianza Liberal Nicaragüense-Partido Conservador) have joined forces to form what they are calling the “Bloque contra la Dictadura” or the "block against dictatorship". Because this new group has more votes than the FSLN Ortega has decided to just ignore the decisions of the legislature and do what he wants anyway.

The fact of the matter is that the Marxist's that control the Sandinista's have never been able to accept that there is very little popular support for turning Nicaragua into a Marxist state outside of those that would control it. Another fact is the "pissed-off peasants" that became the contras are still out there and they're getting pissed-off again. I am getting extremely nervous that Nicaragua is headed down the path towards another civil war. If you read history the highland peasants in Nicaragua have violently resisted "outsiders" meddling in their affairs since the days of the Aztecs. Many have tried to subject them to their rule, all have failed, often with very bloody consequences.

What makes the rural people of Nicaragua so dangerous is the way they are organized. They don't rely on any traditional means of communication so it would be virtually impossible to gather intelligence on what they were doing without someone on the inside. My wife, for example, communicates with her brother by writing letters to him and "mailing" them in shipments of cheese or produce. It's a bizarre way to communicate in the year 2007 but when you have no traditional mail service or telephone it's the only way. Now, don't get me wrong, my wife isn't planning a revolution but my point is one could very well be in the works and the government would be blissfully unaware of it's existence.

Sorry for being so long-winded but there's a bad moon on the rise in Nicaragua and there's little I can do except write about it...

The "Taquiza"

Juniett Writing Her Brother

Neighbors Pooch

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