Nicaragua’s Controversial Women’s Rights


Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo, allegedly abused stepdaughter of President Daniel Ortega

By: Abby Belongy

Since 2006, the World Economic Forum has released an annual Global Gender Gap Report, ranking nations based on gender disparities in economic, politics, education, and health.  Iceland came in 1st as the best nation for gender equality in 2013; the U.S. is 23rd.  Nicaragua cracks the top 10 at a surprising #9.  The country has a well-respected female Chief of Police and a wildly popular First Lady. The director of a pro-life organization states that “Nicaragua has the strongest feminist movement in Latin America.”  According to the quantitative data included in the report, Nicaragua ranks high in all 4 categories.  Its highest rank is in Political Empowerment, where it claims the 5th spot.  This stems from a law, approved by President Daniel Ortega, requiring women to hold 50% of all party and government positions.

However, women in Nicaragua argue that things aren’t quite as ideal as they appear.  For example, several women’s rights activists claim that women hold superficial political positions.  While they may have a respectable title, they cannot actively participate in the government and voice their opinions.  In many ways, they are only there to give off the appearance of an equal Nicaragua without having any real power.

Much more troubling, however, is the country’s problem of violence against women.  According to a report by Catholics for the Right to Choose, there were 50 cases of femicide in Nicaragua in 2013, and that was only through July.  Although supposedly 9th in closing the gender gap, Nicaragua has the 2nd highest rate of domestic violence in Latin America – one in three women report physical abuse.  A large majority of these women do not seek help.  They often feel shame and believe nothing will be done to punish the men.

Perhaps the case brought against President Daniel Ortega exacerbated this fear.  Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo, Ortega’s own stepdaughter, first accused him of sexual abuse in 1998.  Now 45, she alleges that the now-President abused her from the age of 11.  Back in 1998, the court rejected her charges (even if her charges were accepted, the president is immune from any criminal prosecution).  With the help of the Inter-American Human Rights Council, Ortega Murillo’s case was legitimized.  However, her own mother (and Ortega’s wife) pushed her to drop the charges, and she complied in 2008.  Recently, though, Zoilamérica Ortega Murillo has reaffirmed her original claims of sexual abuse.

This case shows just how far Nicaragua still has to go.  Not only were the woman’s complaints rejected by the court, but she also faced pressure from other women (in this case, her own mother) to withdraw her charges.  On top of that, Daniel Ortega overwhelmingly won presidential elections while this took place.  This gives women the impression that no one will care or fight for their rights and safety.  Men will continue to get away with the abuse that is already entirely too prevalent in the country.  Quantitative reports may be the only way to get a great amount of information from all countries, but as we can see in Nicaragua, they clearly do not show the full picture.


Is Nicaragua fulfilling prophecy?


-Alex Dmuchovsky

As many modern sociologists (and probably most academia) would agree, some of the most important assets to a developing country are its agrarian society and natural resources. As one current author puts it: “…Agriculture is the most climate sensitive of all economic sectors,” leading to the conclusion that, “…Developing nations will be more adversely affected by climate change than developed countries” (Steger, p. 96). Add an unrelenting tropical climate to the mix, and you’ve got an almost guaranteed recipe for disarray.

The Central American country of Nicaragua, seated about midway between North and South America, is not a rookie when it comes to dealing with the precipitation the tropics have to offer. However, recent rains have substantially disrupted the daily proceedings of the “Caribbean” portions of the pan-American nationality. Almost twenty-thousand people are enduring the severe flooding that occurred after a series of tropical storms passed along the Prinzapolka, Pía, and Bambana rivers. Mayor of a significant portion of the affected region, Ekland James Molina, has proclaimed the illness and crop loss resulting from the flooding as a “disaster” in urgent need of medical attention,  of which the Nicaraguan government has both slowly and inadequately responded to.

To worsen the conditions surrounding the extreme environmental events, Nicaragua was ranked 3rd in a study that tested the vulnerability of climate change based upon regions that experienced the most extreme weather events, per the 2013 Germanwatch Global Climate Risk Index. One of the major causal factors of this ranking is that a majority of Nicaragua’s economic stability and workforce emerges from the agricultural sector. In a developing society such as this, the ability to recover from losses to both human life and crop sources is substantially diminished. To put this in perspective, the United States lost approximately 1,833 people to Hurricane Katrina 2005; but in 1998, “Hurricane Mitch” caused at least 3,800 deaths in Nicaragua. To a country with a landmass smaller than several of the US states, the impact of environment on the prosperity of such a nation is markedly greater than in much of the globe’s developed, or “first-world” nations.

Steger, Manfred (2013), Globalization: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press

Nicaraguan Economy Still in Trouble


Poverty-stricken Nicaragua

By: Abby Belongy

Not much news about Nicaragua reaches the rest of the world.  In recent years, Haiti has become a popular news topic due to its natural disasters and poverty.  Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, but Nicaragua is right behind it in second.  The CIA World Factbook has Nicaraguans earning a mere $4,500 per capita with nearly half the nation (42.5%) below the poverty line.  In recent years, the country has relied on the IMF and other outside sources to help manage debt, and the government is looking for that support once again.

On a positive note, The Nicaragua Dispatch reported in July that Nicaragua increased its foreign-direct investment by 33%.  Venezuela invested the most, and most countries opted to invest in areas such as industry, trade, and energy.

Overall, however, Zakaria’s Post-American World never held true for Nicaragua.  The “rise of the rest” did not include the rise of one the west’s poorest nation.  While the country is “developing,” a Sandinista-run government and lack of resources impedes globalization through the very low percentage of Nicaraguans with Internet access, according to the Nicaraguan Dispatch. In “Broken BRICS,” Sharma points out that only 35 nations in the world can be considered developed, and of those emerging markets, Nicaragua is very low on the list.  If Nicaragua truly wants to globalize and reach the rest of the world, it has a lot of work to do.

Nicaraguan People Oppose Canal


The six possible routes of the canal

By: Abby Belongy

The Nicaraguan people are arguing that the construction of a major canal compromises the nation’s sovereignty.  A Chinese company requested permission from the Sandinista-led government to construct a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  The Nicaraguan canal would rival the Panama Canal in theory, though it is projected to be four times as large.  In June of 2013, the Supreme Court took a mere two days to approve the $40 billion project.

Citizens range from skeptical to outraged at the prospect of a canal spanning the country.  One reason for this is a distrust of the Chinese firm and its owner, Wang Jing.  Hardly anyone has heard of the company before and therefore do not believe it is credible.  The same goes for Jing, as many question where he came from and how he got his money.  Jing also said the route was finalized, whereas the government says six possibilities are still being researched (see photo above).  Additionally, the canal could destroy fresh water and other natural resources that Nicaragua relies on or will need for the future.

The biggest problem, however, is the issue of sovereignty.  It is extremely interesting that the Nicaraguan government approved this deal so quickly when it would relinquish ownership and control of the canal to Wang Jing for at least 50 years.  Nicaraguans certainly do not want any part of their nation to be controlled by an outside force, but the Sandinistas, for some reason, seem to support the controversial idea.  They even went so far as to remove from office the sole politician who opposed the law.  To show their disproval, a political group has come forward and filed a challenge to the Supreme Court, so we’ll have to wait and see how the government responds to its people.

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