21. April

Managua, Nicaragua

My last mission here has been accomplished. I found an internet café in Managua. Itís air conditioned, cozy, and serves cold Victoria cerveza, which I can enthusiastically sip while typing on, for the first time, a spanish language keyboard. I apologize for all the punctuation errors, its not really my fault. And at 40 cordobas per hour (about $3.75), itís affordable, at least for me. We wonít talk right now about itís affordability for the 70% of Nicaraguans who are currently under or unemployed.

I visited Posoltega yesterday, the area hardest hit by Hurricane Mitch last October. What a mess. Where rows of small, rickety shacks used as homes for countless families once stood, is now, more or less, a desert. Nothing will grow there for many years to come. The entire area resembled a beach with no ocean, with the now rock hard mud slide from the collapsed Las Casitas volcano looking like a grotesque water slide at a cheezy water park down south somewhere. I met briefly with the mayor who spoke of the tragedy, of the hopes raised only to be dashed by Clintons visit, and how national politics has prevented Posoltega, the center of the tragedy, from receiving any aid for more than two months. I visited the communityís nearly empty warehouse. Jose, a 17 year old leader from one of the refugee camps I visited, shared stories of food rationing.

So where is the hundreds of millions of $$ of aid that was supposedly pouring into the country since early last November? The following vignette might be telling.

A journalist from Managuas Channel 12 hooked up with me and my translator in Posoltega, and shared a story about the existence of 25 40 foot containers of aid that have been sitting on the dock in the Northwest port at Corinto for over a month. So we went to check it out. We talked our way beyond the port gates, met with a man who identified himself as the administrator for container transport, who told us that the containers were still at the port because there have been >>problems with transport.<< We asked to see the containers, and he proceeded to show us 7. Trouble with transport... Where are the rest, we asked. He embarassingly confirmed that the rest had already been shipped out. Where did they go, I asked. I told him that the mayor in Posoltega told me that morning that they havenít received anything for more than two months. He wasnít sure, he said, explaining that only the port administrator would have that information, but did confirm that they were addressed to the First Lady, in this case, the presidentís daughter. So we asked to see the port administrator, who said that he woudn}t comment on where or when they were shipped out, and that we could only receive that information from the shipper}s customs broker. He only said that the shipment was sent from the Nicaraguan consulís office in Los Angeles, and that the recipient was indeed the First Lady. We went to the brokerís office, which more closely resembled a closet than the office of an agent who would handle the clearance of 25 cargo containers. The office was closed, and someone in a neighboring office told us that the company in question was a one person operation, and that he was rarely around. We got the guyís home address, and again found an empty locked house. The whole thing seemed too cheezy to be real, from lost papers to an empty office that was obviously a front. So, while the folks in half a dozen refugee camps in and around Posoltega wonder where next weekís breakfast is going to come from, President Aleman and his cohorts are selling donations meant for the people in Posoltega.

Before Clintonís visit, Aleman sent several hundred bags of cement to Posoltega to assist with home construction. Four days after Clintonís visit, government trucks returned and drove away with the bags. This guyís fucking amazing. Recent polls and surveys show that more than 55% of Nicaraguans believe that Aleman is more corrupt that the ex-dictator Somoza was. The putz has some lofty ideals. Yesterday, Aleman called in the police to open fire on students protesting an unconstitutional budget cut in higher education. One student was killed, a few others injured. I was at the UCA, the University of Central America, this afternoon, when tens of thousands got together for a funeral procession for the 23 year old engineering student. There was an article in todayís Washington Post saying that the students were armed with handmade grenade launchers, which, I contend, having seen the things up close and personal today, is a slight exageration. What they have are basically M 80 launchers, the same kind of crap we had as kids putzing around on the fourth of July. Surprisingly, there were no police around today at the demonstration and funeral procession, but lots of folks told me they donít feel good about whatís going to happen here in the upcoming weeks and months.

Regardless of what will happen, Iím outta here Friday morning, on the 6 am bus back to San Jose, with a two night camping and backpacking stop at Costa Ricaís Santa Rosa National Park, located on the north pacific coast. Hanging out with monkeys and little coatis while getting severely sunburned might get my mind off Nicaragua for awhile.

Itís closing time here, and time to catch a cab. Be well, more from San Jose.

Trenton Light | Back to the Flats