Municipal elections happened here on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua on Sunday, March 2, 2014. The results were as everyone expected—the Sandinistas maintained power–but only because the other political parties really had no chance at winning a fixed election so many of those voters didn’t bother to cast their ballots.
The election was fixed for the Sandinistas to win because that is President J. Daniel Ortega’s party. All Sandinistas, whether real supporters or those who pretend to be supporters in order to maintain their jobs and really try to bring about change, are forced to vote. If they suspect that someone isn’t a real supporter, their ballot is marked and how they voted is checked and changed as necessary to bring out the desired results. So there really is no fair voting process at working in Nicaragua.
What most voters and non-voters didn’t realize is that the most important issue on the table during this election process was the building of the Interoceanic Canal. The proposed canal will compete with the Panama Canal as a gate between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea but comes at an enormous price to Nicaragua especially environmentally. The 45 newly-elected members of the municipal government will decide whether or not the canal gets built on the Caribbean Coast.
It would have been nice to see how the process worked without all the backroom political machinations happening. I don’t pretend to know anything about politics here in Nicaragua but I know what I see and that is that the Sandinista party has an iron grip on jobs and any money coming into the community. If you are not a supporter forget about getting a government job (these are the only jobs in these communities), a government contract or any money that may come through the myriad of organizations that donate money and other resources to this area.
With this election now recorded as a part of history, the future is going to change drastically for the people on the Caribbean coast. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a lot that a non-Sandinista can do about it but hold their breaths, cross their fingers and hope that they reap some of the benefits.
I have been living in Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua for two months now. I have been paying attention to most things around me mostly because they are starkly different from the life I had lived in Toronto, Canada. The modern conveniences I had grown up taking for granted are now mostly gone and it is almost as if I have stepped backwards in time on some levels. One of the things that jumped out at me recently was the absence of men my age. Actually there is such a dearth of men between the ages of 40 and 50 that you can count them on two hands. My curiosity got the best of me and I started to ask questions. Here’s what I was told.
The civil war that happened in Nicaragua between 1979 and 1985 was a battle between Sandinista Nicaraguans and Contra Nicaraguans. The American government under President Regan supported the Contras and provided them with arms and other supplies in an attempt to oust then President Daniel Ortega. The Contras would go on to lose the war and the 100,000 Nicaraguan men who were young at that time paid the price with their lives. Many died defending their beliefs and their families. Today on the east coast of Nicaragua you can see the lasting effects of war in what you don’t see—middle-aged men.
And now there seems to be a new type of war brewing on the Atlantic coast. The coastal peoples are seperating from the rest of Nicaragua. They are now being represented by England and have their own King, flag, anthem and country called the Community Nation of Moskitia. The relationship between the Miskito people and the government in Managua has never been easy especially because of high unemployment rates and what amounts to “stealing” of their natural resources by the capital. What does this mean for Nicaragua? Will Daniel Ortega go to war to hold on to this very valuable region of his country or will this handover be seamless and bloodless? It is what the people of the coast want but does anyone really care what the people want?
My husband Jose was a boy during the Sandinista/Contra war. He saw atrocities and along with his family survived attacks in Pearl Lagoon. If this war happens, he’ll be prime fighting age. I keep telling him his life story will make an interesting movie. I just may have to write it.