Remittances to Central America

By Martin Mowforth

Remittances sent back home by migrants who have managed to enter the United States, Canada or European countries are often crucially important in supporting families in low-income countries. Nowhere is this as clear as it is in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. In Guatemala remittances generally account for 14 per cent of the country’s GDP; in Honduras and El Salvador, the equivalent figure is 20 per cent.

Whilst the business world (in the form of CentralAmericaData.com) reported record increases in remittances sent to Central American countries for January and February this year – see table below – and forecast a good year for remittances in 2020, at that time the effects of the pandemic had not been foreseen. This dramatic effect, however, is illustrated by the figures for April 2020 compared with April 2019 – see the table below.

At the level of the family and the household, remittances are often vitally significant for the household economy which in many cases is precarious at best. Unemployment and a lack of opportunities added to a high level of violence in these three countries have stimulated a decades long wave of emigration to richer countries where jobs are more numerous and salaries are higher. In the last two years the phenomenon of migrant caravans from these countries, and especially Honduras, has grown largely as a result of a slightly new balance of forces in which the threats of violence to the family have increased in significance. The economic motive, however, is still highly significant, as are the remittances which improved economic earnings in the rich countries can sustain.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, caused problems not just for the earners, but also for the recipients of the remittances. Despite these problems, in July CentralAmericaData.com was reporting an increase in remittances to El Salvador of around 10 per cent in the month of June (compared with June 2019), which it believed was due to the ending of the lockdown in the United States and the consequent reduction in unemployment there. This in turn was an enabling factor allowing “a major effort on the part of Salvadorans living abroad to support their families.”

Remarkably too in Guatemala the Bank of Guatemala reported that “in the first seven months of 2020 the country received remittances totalling $5,959 million (USD), a sum 2 per cent greater than the equivalent figure for 2019.”

For the first six months of 2020, on the other hand, remittances to Honduras were down by 4 per cent on the equivalent period for 2019. La Prensa (Honduras) explained: “the majority of these resources come from family members in the United States which has seen employment fall by 13.3 per cent by June following a 4.4 per cent decline in March.”

How remittances progress in the remainder of the year will depend on factors such as the advance or retreat of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Northern Triangle, its advance or retreat in the United States (and other rich countries) and the effects of these factors and policies pursued by governments on levels of unemployment in the rich countries.


Sources:

CentralAmericaData.com

  • ‘Remesas en El Salvador: Tendencia se revierte’,07.20
  • ‘Honduras recibe menos remesas’,07.20
  • ‘Remesas: Envíos récord en Julio de 2020’, 08.20

Central Reserve Bank as given in El Economista ‘Recepción de remesas en El Salvador cayó 40% en abril’ by Javier Orellano, 15 May 2020.

El Economista (09.07.20) ‘Las remesas enviadas a Guatemala se recuperan un 15.1% en el último mes’.

El Economista (04.05.20) ‘Prevén drástico descenso en remesas para el Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica’.

Laprensa.hn

 

Blockades and a national dialogue in Costa Rica

The following report is produced from news and supplementary material from Jiri Spendlingwimmer, a Costa Rican anthropologist, Liz Richmond, a member of the Environmental Network for Central America (ENCA), and numerous news reports in Costa Rican journals and daily newspapers. We are grateful to Jiri and Liz for their work on this.

December 2020

Key words: IMF loan; national dialogue; blockades; selling of state assets; National Rescue Movement (NRM); international freight movement.

(Photo credit: National Association of Public and Private Employees (Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, ANEP)

In October 2020, the Costa Rican government led by President Carlos Alvarado began negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) seeking a $1.75 billion dollar loan to overcome the country’s fiscal deficit, projected to reach 9.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) for 2020. The fall in GDP is due to high unemployment – on average 20% for men and 30% for women[1] – and the impact of the coronavirus.

To secure the loan, proposals included an increase in taxes, funding cuts to social programmes, selling of State assets and public institutions, some of which provide important resources for various social programmes.

In response, a National Rescue Movement (NRM) formed and commenced Blockade actions such as demonstrations and roadblocks, rejecting all aspects of the package, arguing that it would be detrimental to the poorest residents of Costa Rica, especially at this time of high unemployment and increasing social tensions. Blockade actions were intended to impact large companies, including those that pay no tax, and were an argument for the collection of unpaid or evaded taxes, which are 6-8% of GDP. The NRM also pressed for a ‘Tobin’ tax on financial conversions between countries.

The roadblocks were effective in preventing the movement of road freight along the Pan American Highway, thereby stalling the provision of goods not just for Costa Rica, but also for the other Central American countries. The agricultural sector reported losses of over $37 million because of the roadblocks with banana and pineapple producers being the worst affected, with losses of $29 million and $7.5 million respectively for transnational companies. Banana Link also reported job losses and other disruptions.[2]

Under pressure not just from within Costa Rica but also from the rest of Central America, President Alvarado withdrew from the initiative and negotiations. The roadblocks continued for a while and became associated with violence according to the Security Minister Michael Soto Rojas, who accused the protest organisers of being infiltrated by narco traffickers and delinquents.[3] The NRM organisers also claimed that organised crime was taking advantage of the situation by instigating violence.[4] Certainly there were acts of violence from which the protest organisers distanced themselves but Soto failed to provide any proof of the accusation.

In press reports, the delinquents were usually described as ‘local’. One local chapter of the NRM is the ‘Longo Mai, Tarise and Convento of Buenos Aires Blockade Commission’, situated in Southern Costa Rica.  As well as supporting the national agenda, they have a local agenda, which includes a demand for fibre-optics information and education, a request for police support within communities regarding the illegal hunting of wild animals and marijuana crops, drug trafficking and economic support and reactivation for local farmers – campesinos – with strengthening of agricultural production for food sovereignty, not for the transnational companies.  They also demand settlement of the historical debt of the government with Indigenous people, and a solution to the current conflict within Indigenous territories, including due processes of investigation and clarification regarding the murders of Indigenous leaders Sergio Rojas and Jehry Rivera, and immediate police action to protect the physical integrity of Indigenous land reclaimers following recent acts of violence in China Kichá,[5]

The ‘Longo Mai, Tarise and Convento Blockade Commission’ action took place 30 September to 15 October 2020, when it was forcibly ended by police intervention, with five people arrested and detained overnight, including two Indigenous residents and a child. They have subsequently initiated a counter legal claim against the state for their illegal detention by the police.

The Blockade took place daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with openings every 3 hours. Free passage was granted to emergency services, elderly, those with medical appointments and other special circumstances. Their petition has not been responded to, and the government’s condition was an end to Blockades prior to any dialogue.

Nationally, the government does not recognise the NRM as a socio-political actor and ordered Blockades to be forcibly lifted on occasions with the use of tear-gas. The government proposal for an IMF loan was withdrawn on 4 October 2020, with dialogues taking place between political, business, trade union and academic sectors to address the fiscal, economic and political crisis of the country.

The ‘Longo Mai, Tarise and Convento Blockade Commission’ continues to organise and participate in meetings with the NRM and will continue in the struggle with local and national proposals against the government’s negotiations with the IMF.

Although the Mintpress news referred to Alvarado’s withdrawal from the negotiations with the IMF as “a victory for the protestors”[6], since the ending of the blockades President Alvarado has said that he will have to enter into negotiations with the IMF again in the new year.


Notes

[1]   Continuous Employment Survey carried out by the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC): for the second quarter of 2020, unemployment in Costa Rica reached 20% for men and 30% of women nationwide.

[2]   https://www.bananalink.org.uk/news/protests-cause-more-than-37-million-loss-for-costa-rican-agriculture-just-2-days/ –  07102020

[3]   Loaiza, V. and Chaves, K. (8.10.20) ‘Costa Rica: delincuentes locales y narcos toman mando de protestas y bloqueos’, La Nación, San José.

[4]   Annika Beaulieu, 23.10.20, ‘Trouble in Paradise: Violence at protests threaten to unhinge IMF agreement in Costa Rica’, Latin America News Dispatch.

[5]   Environmental Network for Central America, November 2020, ‘Land disputes in southern Costa Rica’, ENCA Newsletter 80, p.6.

[6]   Alan Macleod (25.10.20) ‘Protests Against Greed and Inequality are Spreading Like Wildfire Through Latin America’, Mintpress News.

Tinkering with ‘sustainable or eco-tourism’ hides the real face of tourism

By Anita Pleumarom (Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team) and Chee Yoke Ling (Third World Network)

Reproduced here by kind permission of Anita Pleumarom, Chee Yoke Ling and the Third World Network – www.twn.my

The United Nations committed a substantial error when it proclaimed 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.  Despite its pronouncements of tourism being a positive force for economic development and poverty eradication, tourism is inept at meeting the challenge of implementing the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Like no other industry, tourism promotes – and glamorizes – a hyper-mobile and hyper-consumeristic lifestyle, rendering sustainability elusive. In fact, most tourism development is fraught with negatives including gross inequalities, human rights violations, cultural erosion, environmental degradation and climate instability (1).

Recent research is particularly alarming in terms of tourism’s contribution to climate change, primarily due to the high energy use for transport such as air travel. Based on a new global tourism emissions model, global tourism is set to emit some 300 gigatonnes of CO2 between 2015 and 2100, which is 30 percent of the global carbon budget for sustainable development (2). It is preposterous to allocate so much of this budget to tourism, instead of meeting the acute energy needs of billions of people around the world. Meanwhile, tourism alternatives such as ‘green’ or ‘eco’-tourism can also be problematic. Not only do they usually depend on long-haul flights that drive climate change, they also tend to penetrate fragile ecosystems and Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral lands, triggering both biodiversity loss and culture loss.

Tourism as a major source of financial leakage is well documented (3). Since it is frequently large foreign companies that either initiate or take over commercially successful tourism projects, the domestic retention and distribution of tourism benefits has a very poor record; profits are generally repatriated to corporate headquarters and shareholders abroad. A particular characteristic of tourism in this age of neoliberal globalisation is that it is closely intertwined with the finance and real estate industries. Ground evidence shows that vast tracts of public land are being privatized and acquired by foreign investors for luxury tourism – plus tourism-related residential, commercial and mega-infrastructure developments (e.g. ‘aerotropolis’, or airport cities) – resulting in displacement and disempowerment of local people. The radically de-regulated business environment spawns price hikes and speculation, posing high risks to local economies, ways of life and community social structures.

The nature and conceptualisation of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) does not allow for it to adequately deal with the unsustainable and unjust patterns of tourism. Originally formed as a business organisation, the UNWTO remains industry-controlled and industry-oriented, and its critics do not regard it as a responsible UN agency acting for the common good. In synchrony with the global tourism and travel industry, it continues to aggressively campaign for further tourism growth despite the fact that much of contemporary tourism is antithetical to sustainable development and most of the tourism-related goods and services are luxuries that can only be enjoyed by the world’s minority. Even if some improvements can be achieved in tourism through better regulation and management as well as increased incentives for ecologically sustainable activities (alleged ‘eco’-tourism among them), it is clear that the gains made will be negligible in the context of the continued growth of the tourism industry at large, as forecast and aspired by the UNWTO. Instead of down-scaling the inflated tourism sector and effectively engaging in harm avoidance, the UNWTO sends a wrong message to the public: that ‘sustainable (eco)tourism’ is the solution and needs to grow without barriers for the benefit of us all.

Actually, steering tourism policy and practice towards more sustainability requires first and foremost correcting the unjust economic structures and power relations that drive tourism development. It is also necessary to put in place laws and regulations that effectively protect local citizens and communities from harmful tourism, including mechanisms that require travel and tourism businesses to compensate for social losses and to clean up the damage they created. Clear transparent, accessible processes for accountability are needed, which empower people(s) to monitor and hold governments, financial institutions, development agencies and the private sector engaging in tourism  accountable for their actions.

Rather than aiming at further tourism expansion, other more sustainable economic activities should be developed, particularly in small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs) that heavily rely on tourism – which not only must contend with the volatility of tourism (e.g. due to international financial/economic crises, acts of violence, extreme weather events, natural disasters and pandemics), but also are endangered by tourism-induced climate change.  This is a major undertaking that the international community must assist with, for the transition of those economies and health of their populations.

—-

References:

(1) Third World Network, ‘Global Tourism Growth: Remedy of Ruin?’, TWR, Sept./Oct 2015, http://www.twn.my/title2/resurgence/2015/301-302.htm

(2) Sustainability Leaders Interview: Paul Peeters on Tourism, Aviation and Climate Change, 8 June 2016, http://sustainability-leaders.com/interview-paul-peeters-on-tourism-aviation-climate-change/

(3) Pleumarom, A., ‘Tourism – a driver of inequality and displacement’, TWR, Sept./Oct 2015, http://www.twn.my/title2/resurgence/2015/301-302/cover01.htm

This article can be downloaded from Third World Network’s website at: www.twn.my/tour.htm

TWN banner

 The article is based on a chapter entitled ‘Corporate capture subverts production and consumption transformation’ by Chee Yoke Ling, published in Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2016: Report by the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 11 July 2016, pp.94-100  

The full report as well as single chapters of it can be downloaded at: https://www.2030spotlight.org/

Nicaragua en paz – a pesar de los títulares falsos de los medios y las ONGs

El artículo siguiente es originario del blog Two Worlds por John Perry. Apareció originalmente en el Grayzone.com – thegrayzone.com . Estoy agradecido a John por su autorización para reproducir el artículo en este sitio web.

John Perry

Two Worlds blog:  (twoworlds.me)

18 de febrero 2020

indigenas-nicaragua-600x343

Aquí hay un titular que no verás: Nicaragua está en paz. Tras el violento intento de derrocar al gobierno en 2018, que costó al menos 200 vidas, el país ha vuelto en gran medida a la tranquilidad que disfrutaba antes. Esta no es sólo la impresión que recibe cualquier visitante de Nicaragua, sino que está confirmada por las estadísticas: Insight Crime analizó los niveles de homicidio en toda América Latina en 2019 y demostró que sólo tres países eran más seguros que Nicaragua en todo el continente.

Además, tres de sus vecinos, el ‘triángulo del norte’ de Honduras, El Salvador y Guatemala, estaban entre los peores países. También tienen altos niveles de violencia mortal contra las mujeres. En los primeros 24 días de 2020, por ejemplo, 27 mujeres hondureñas sufrieron muertes violentas, mientras que el vecino Nicaragua sigue teniendo uno de los niveles más bajos de femicidio en América Latina.

Pero, espera. Un titular de enero denuncia la trágica epidemia de violencia en Nicaragua. Este mes la ONU censura al gobierno nicaragüense por permitir ataques repetidos contra los pueblos indígenas. Un ‘informe de situación’ de la ONU habla de un ambiente general de amenaza e inseguridad. A finales del año pasado se informó de la represión sistemática, selectiva y letal de los campesinos. ¿De dónde proceden estas acusaciones y qué significan?

Las últimas provienen de un incidente a finales de enero. Los campesinos sin tierra atacaron una comunidad en el gran bosque de Bosawás. Según la agencia Reuters, seis muertos, diez secuestrados y casas destruidas. The Guardian, el New York Times y el Washington Post repitieron la historia. El periódico local de derecha La Prensa citó a la ONG Fundación del Río, que lo calificó de ‘masacre’; la Alianza Cívica de la oposición nicaragüense se sumó a esta calificando el ataque de ‘etnocidio’. Amnistía Internacional condenó ‘la indiferencia del Estado’ ante el sufrimiento de los pueblos indígenas. La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos dijo que el gobierno no estaba cumpliendo con sus obligaciones internacionales.

Bosawás es la mayor superficie de selva tropical al norte del Amazonas. Tiene pocas carreteras y principalmente comunidades pequeñas, muchas de las cuales dependen de los ríos para su transporte. Muchos habitantes locales pertenecen a grupos indígenas a los que el gobierno ha concedido títulos de propiedad de la tierra. Otros son los llamados ‘colonos’, familias campesinas de las cuales algunos han comprado sus tierras pero también hay otras que las ocupan ilegalmente. Las disputas entre los agricultores establecidos y los campesinos sin tierra son comunes, y durante muchos años han dado lugar, a veces, a la violencia. Los problemas de la vigilancia de esos lugares, con su historia de conflictos y corrupción, no se limitan a su lejanía.

Lo que realmente ocurrió en el caso reciente sólo quedó claro después de que la policía llegó en horas avanzadas de la tarde del 29 de enero para investigar, tras haber sido llamada al lugar por motivo de un reporte de dos personas muertas, no de seis como se reportó en los medios. En el lugar donde se produjo el atentado, la comunidad de Alal, la policía encontró 12 casas quemadas y dos personas heridas. Nadie había desaparecido. Para el 31 de enero habían revisado otras tres comunidades cercanas y no encontraron pruebas de asesinato o secuestro. Los líderes de la comunidad local condenaron las noticias falsas.

Luego, en un lugar completamente distinto, a 12 km al este de Alal, a lo largo del río Kahaska Kukun, cerca de la comunidad de Wakuruskasna, la policía encontró e identificó cuatro cadáveres, dos en una parte del río y dos en otra parte, aparentemente muertos por heridas de bala. La población local dijo que no conocía a nadie que hubiera desaparecido o estuviera desaparecido. Las investigaciones continuaron y dos días después altos funcionarios de la policía y del gobierno se reunieron con la comunidad en la escuela local para explicar las investigaciones y la labor de aplicación de la ley que estaban realizando, así como la ayuda que recibirían las personas para reconstruir sus casas destruidas. Posteriormente, el 5 de febrero, los familiares de las víctimas se reunieron con la Procuradora de los Derechos Humanos de Nicaragua, Darling Ríos, para denunciar los crímenes cometidos. La policía cree haber identificado a la banda criminal involucrada y continúa la búsqueda de los mismos.

Los antecedentes de esta historia son importantes y son ignorados por los medios de comunicación internacionales y los organismos de derechos humanos. Una parte importante del territorio nicaragüense está legalmente en manos de grupos indígenas y ha sido debidamente titulado por el Gobierno de Nicaragua como tierras comunales de cada comunidad. Las autoridades que las administran son designadas por las propias comunidades. En el territorio indígena de Mayangna Sauni As, formado por 75 comunidades, existe una disputa interna por el control de estas tierras comunales. De tal manera que algunos de los líderes han vendido tierras a grupos de colonos externos, lo que podría ser la raíz del conflicto del mes pasado.

Lamentablemente, a pesar del proceso masivo y continuo de reforma agraria en Nicaragua, sigue habiendo casos de campesinos desplazados que no pueden comprar tierras caras en zonas pobladas y tratan de comprarlas en otro lugar a bajo precio, y tal vez ilegalmente, o simplemente las toman. Las zonas poco pobladas como Bosawás son especialmente vulnerables. Las organizaciones internacionales describen los conflictos resultantes como luchas entre pueblos indígenas conscientes del medio ambiente y forasteros destructivos, instigados por el gobierno. La realidad es que los pobres compiten por la tierra, a veces de forma violenta. Y la violencia es espasmódica: en los dos últimos años se han registrado pocas muertes en conflictos por la tierra, aunque hubo varias en 2015 y 2016, que afectaron principalmente a una comunidad indígena diferente, los miskitu.

No es de extrañar que los medios de comunicación se pongan del lado de los grupos indígenas y que los colonos rara vez tengan voz. Inevitablemente, como en el caso de Alal, quien pueda sacar una historia a través de una llamada telefónica recibirá atención, e incluso una agencia como Reuters parece ser dispuesta a basar sus reportajes en ese tipo de información antes de que los hechos puedan ser comprobados. Para quienes no están familiarizados con Nicaragua, cualquier noticia sobre grupos indígenas conjura imágenes de los tribus aislado de la Amazonia, lo cual está lejos de la situación real. Los medios de comunicación establecen la escena con imágenes románticas de las selvas tropicales. Sólo en raras ocasiones envían a sus reporteros para investigar a fondo los acontecimientos sobre que están reportando.

Si esto es lo que se espera de los medios de comunicación de hoy, no debería ser el caso de las ONG de derechos humanos. Sin embargo, los organismos de ‘derechos humanos’ con sede en Nicaragua son notoriamente sesgados políticamente, y desde hace mucho tiempo ya pasaron el punto en que se pueden considerar ser objetivos. Sus recientes denuncias de una campaña gubernamental de asesinatos en zonas rurales, por ejemplo, se han demostrado ser completamente falsas. Todas las ONG locales compiten por las donaciones de gobiernos extranjeros, y (como uno admitió) exageran sus cuentas de muertes para conseguirlo.

Lamentablemente, las ONG internacionales no son mucho mejor. Los reportajes de Amnesty International sobre Nicaragua se han demostrado estar llenos de errores y tergiversaciones. Anteriormente, varios individuos y organismos habían solicitado a la ONG Global Witness corregir la información sesgada en sus informes sobre de las disputas de tierras en el área de Bosawás, que caracterizaron a Nicaragua como el “país más peligroso del mundo” para ser un defensor del medio ambiente. A pesar de los muchos esfuerzos que hizo para asegurar que Global Witness escuchara las complejidades de la historia real, ese ONG se negó a retirar sus acusaciones, incluso cuando se descubrió que algunas eran completamente falsas.

Por eso los titulares como ‘Una trágica epidemia de violencia’ no deben tomarse al pie de la letra. Incluso la BBC (seis indígenas muertos en un ataque) se equivocó. El sesgo mediático contra el gobierno sandinista de Nicaragua es incesante, y las ONG internacionales lo están alimentando (al igual que el gobierno de EE.UU., por supuesto). Mientras tanto, detrás de los titulares, el pueblo nicaragüense está recuperando con éxito la preciosa paz y seguridad de la que disfrutaba antes de los violentos acontecimientos de 2018. La mayoría se siente aliviada de que la verdadera ‘epidemia de violencia’ haya terminado unos meses después de haber comenzado para dejar a Nicaragua el país más seguro de la región.

New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind

by Stephen Corry

Stephen Corry has worked for Survival International since 1972 and has been its Director since 1984. Survival International exists to protect tribal peoples from annihilation and to give them a platform to speak to the world.

www.survivalinternational.org/

24th February 2020

This article by Stephen Corry is more general and less Central America specific than most of the material included in this website. We have selected it for inclusion here because of the cogency of its arguments, its relevance to protected area management and conservation in any region of the world and its exposure of the destructive role of the Big International Conservation NGOs. It also exposes the myth that palm oil plantations (which have taken over large tracts of Central American land) are in any way beneficial to wildlife and biodiversity. The article first appeared in the CounterPunch journal. We are grateful to Stephen Corry and Survival International for permission to reproduce the article here.

Key words: conservation; climate change; protected areas; biodiversity loss; plantations; land theft; ‘New Deal for Nature’; community managed forests.

*************

The conservation industry says 2020 is its ‘super year.’[1] It wants to set aside thirty percent of the globe for wildlife, and divert billions of dollars away from reducing climate change and into ‘natural climate solutions.’[2] This would be a disaster for people and planet. Conservation was founded in the racist ideology of 1860s USA but it committed thirty years ago to becoming people-friendly. It hasn’t happened. There will be more promises now, if only to placate critics and funders like the U.S. and German governments, and the European Commission, which are paying for conservation’s land theft, murder and torture.[3] More promises will be meaningless. No more public money should go for ‘Protected Areas’ until the conservation bodies recognize their crimes, get rid of those responsible, and hand stolen lands back, with compensation. Conservation NGOs must also stop cozying up to mining, logging, oil, and plantation companies.

The latest idea to be heavily promoted by big conservation NGOs is doubling the world’s so-called ‘Protected Areas’ (PAs) so that they cover thirty percent of the globe’s lands and oceans. This is now their main rallying cry and response to two of the world’s biggest problems – climate chaos and loss of biodiversity. It sounds good: It’s easy to grasp and has numbers that are supposed to be measurable, and advertisers do love numbers.

What better answer to climate change and biodiversity loss than to ban human ‘interference’ over huge areas? If, that is, you think ‘everybody’ is guilty of causing both crises and that everything’s solved by keeping them away. The idea’s been around for years, but now governments and industries are promoting it to the tune of billions of dollars,[4] so it’ll be difficult to oppose. But it’s actually dangerous nonsense which would have exactly the reverse effect to what we’re told, and if we want to save our world, it must be stopped.

Let’s be clear that cutting destructive pollution globally is vital for the climate, and that stopping industrial exploitation of unspoiled areas is essential for the flora and fauna, and the physical and mental health of inhabitants and visitors. None of that is disputed, but these are not the arguments advanced for asserting the right of this ‘New Deal for Nature’ to more taxpayers’ cash. It’s a marketing gimmick designed to funnel even more money to those who have for decades demonstrated their failure to mitigate either climate change or biodiversity loss.

Let’s assume they did succeed in putting so much territory ‘out of bounds.’ As with the emperor in his new suit, it’s childishly obvious that this wouldn’t necessarily bring any reduction to climate chaos: That’s simply because it wouldn’t affect what happens in the remaining seventy percent of the world – where most pollution originates. If just as much pollution carries on outside, then it doesn’t matter what’s going on inside PAs, because they too depend on the world’s climate, and you can’t fence the wind. Without reducing industrial emissions globally, leaving existing forest intact or planting lots of trees just won’t be enough to solve the problem. Wreck the atmosphere – even from a tiny proportion of the Earth – and you wreck it everywhere.

Not for the first time, the ‘experts’ are promoting a policy which a child can see is senseless, but if they tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

What about the second claim, that more PAs are needed to ensure the protection of biodiversity? Everyone rightly wants more of that: The more diverse an ecosystem, the more likely it is to adapt and survive. ‘Biodiversity’ means the enormous variety of life, and life forms are interconnected: they depend on each other. Where the flora and fauna is reduced to just a few species, there’s a domino effect that cuts the number still further.[5]

However obvious, it merits restating: to mix metaphors, when the domino becomes a snowball effect then ecosystems become deserts, even when visibly green. Oil palm plantations carved out of tropical forests are a famous example of lots of trees being planted in an area where biodiversity has been slashed to just a few species. Such plantations are effectively ‘green deserts.’

Putting the propaganda aside, it’s impossible to determine scientifically how effective PAs are for enhancing biodiversity. For example, a line drawn around a highly biodiverse area, which is then declared a national park, proves nothing about the park: The biodiversity was there in the first place. There is, however, considerable agreement about one thing, and it’s not that PAs are the solution at all.

It turns out that the most diversity is not found in areas where all human interference is banned, but actually the reverse – it’s found in places where tribal, indigenous, and other local, communities have stayed put and carried on doing what they’ve always been doing. It’s simply not true that everyone shares responsibility for biodiversity loss. Studies show that community-managed forests have less deforestation than inside PAs, and that ‘nature’ is doing better in areas managed by indigenous peoples than elsewhere.[6] In places as different as Australia, Brazil, and Canada more diversity is found in indigenous territories than in PAs.[7] It seems clear that biological and human diversity are interlinked.

This is a key point which conservation NGOs haven’t wanted the public to know as they clamor for yet more cash: Areas managed by local people, especially if they’re indigenous, are much better than PAs imposed by outsiders. One study concluded, albeit limply, the “notion that indigenous reserves are less effective than parks… must be re-examined.”[8] You can say that again! They are already reckoned to contain no less than eighty percent of global species diversity. That’s the very reason conservationists want to take control of them. Indigenous peoples are now being victimized precisely because of their expertise in environmental stewardship.

Even where PAs are hyped as being about preserving iconic species, the evidence is mixed. For example, the former head of a conservation NGO thinks there could be more Indian tigers outside protected areas than inside. No one knows, but what’s certain is that when the British colonizers imprisoned the Waliangulu tribal elephant hunters in 1950s Kenya, elephant numbers did skyrocket, but only to plummet when the next drought hit and the herds proved too numerous for the environment. Thousands died of starvation, restoring a balance that the Waliangulu had achieved for generations or millennia. In South Africa, an average of nearly 600 elephants were culled every year from 1967 to 1996 (without publicity, to avoid upsetting conservation donors).[9] Banning traditional indigenous hunting generally harms biodiversity.

Protecting ‘nature’ by fencing it off from the locals simply hasn’t worked. It doesn’t help that many PAs aren’t really protected at all. They include industrial exploitation – mining, logging, plantations, trophy hunting concessions, or extensive, usually high-end, tourist infrastructure – but that’s the reality. The locals are thrown out as the land is grabbed by one or other industry, partnering with one or other big conservation NGO.

Like it or not, many PAs are as much about stealing the land from local people to make someone else a profit as they are about conservation. The famous Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana is the second largest ‘game reserve’ in the world but it’s also leased to mining exploration. There’s a diamond mine, with its roads and heavy machinery, where a tiny handful of the Bushmen who have lived there for generations are occasionally given menial jobs. (The government kicked them out until forced to backtrack by the high court.) As in almost all African PAs, wealthy tourists enjoy luxury accommodation inside the reserve. The man responsible for both the tourism and mine was the former president, General Ian Khama, a much-feted conservationist who was on the board of Conservation International.

This land theft is a problem for us all, and not only because the indigenous people are generally much better conservationists than ‘us’: Not surprisingly, the locals object when their land and self-sufficiency are looted for someone else’s gain, and their need for food, and sometimes their anger, translates into defying hunting bans (making them ‘poachers’ for trying to feed their families), as well as taking action to recover their ancestral territory. For example, pastoralists whose herds are banned from private ‘conservancies’ in East Africa are cutting the fences and going back in. They can be armed and violent clashes are increasing. Some researchers fear increasing bloodshed is inevitable[10] and the increasing militarization of conservation will just make things worse. Yet this is the model touted as the future of PAs, one supposedly enacted with the support of local communities (which is often a lie). They’re supported by the American NGO, The Nature Conservancy, and are largely profit-making investments aimed at wealthy companies and tourists. They’re now taking over huge areas of East Africa and beyond.

Just as Africans extricated themselves (at least, partly!) from European rule in the last century, they are unlikely to accede quietly to what is seen as more colonization, this time by conservationists. Unless things change, PAs in Africa will become real, not metaphorical, battlegrounds. Serious environmentalists know that you can’t have a PA for long if it’s surrounded by an angry population, yet conservation groups seem incapable of changing their practice. They exhort industry to become sustainable, while promoting their own model, which palpably isn’t.

WWF, for example, routinely violates human rights, the law and its own policies. It’s already spent millions of dollars illegally pushing for a new park in Congo, Messok Dja. The money comes from WWF itself and its accomplices, including a logging, oil palm, and luxury tourist company, as well as the Wildlife Conservation Society, the U.S. government, the EU, and the UN. As with the creation of almost all African PAs, the first step has been to kick out and terrorize the local Baka (so-called Pygmies) who’ve probably lived there for thousands of years, and who have adapted and sustainably managed their biodiverse-rich environment. Now they are kept out of their ancestral lands and terrorized, beaten and arrested if they return to seek traditional foods or plant medicines.

This is what the thirty percent of the globe taken for the New Deal for Nature will look like – a third of the globe stolen for profit. It’s a new colonialism, the world’s biggest land grab, supposedly ‘green’ and supposedly to save the world – a really big lie. As Odette, a Baka woman from Congo, says of such imposed conservation projects which don’t work, “We’ve had enough of this talk of ‘boundaries’ in the forest. The forest is ours.”[11]

The last couple of generations have amply demonstrated that meetings of corporate heads, NGOs, politicians, and celebrities are not going to solve the crises of climate and biodiversity. Those attending are amongst the major contributors to the problems, and least willing to accept any change which might threaten their position. They argue over statements that no one actually applies, or even intends to, and which are replete with clauses ensuring ‘business as usual.’ The meetings and declarations attract an enormous media circus, but are akin to the emperor’s workshop, with hundreds of tailors busily cutting suits of such rarefied material that they don’t cover his nakedness.

The real answers to the crises of climate and biodiversity lie in an inversion of the current approach, and a rejection of the New Deal for Nature and its failure to understand the relationship between indigenous peoples and nature. If we really want to save our world, then we have to start with the rich cutting their massive overconsumption. The wealthiest ten percent cause about half the world’s total pollution,[12] so they must work hardest to cut it. Both military conflict and the growth of information technology must be seen as the major polluters they are. The first is barely mentioned in climate activism, and the plan for the second is the exact opposite of what’s needed, with yet more energy-hungry ‘artificial intelligence’ lined up to monitor our lives for the benefit of industry and state control.[13] If we’re going to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, we must also reduce dependence on ‘smart’ tech, and we must accept the fact that real solutions aren’t found in marketing gimmicks like ‘net zero,’ offsetting, carbon markets, or ‘pricing nature.’ Real solutions are found with the local peoples that have successfully been creating and managing the world’s biodiversity since prehistory.

Humanity as a whole isn’t responsible for these problems, one particular sector is, and it’s same one coming up with the New Deal for Nature. Those promoting it want to dictate how the rest of the world should live, but they’re acting primarily for themselves. Banning human activity from yet more so-called ‘Protected Areas’ is another manifestation of the hubris that got us into this mess in the first place. Local people – those who retain some self-sufficiency, common sense, and connection with their environment – remain the strongest backbone of humanity, even today. They have better answers than the conservation technocrats and other global elites who lack their perspective. Kicking even more of them out at best reduces them to landless poverty and at worst destroys them and the environment. It would be disastrous for everyone.

We should be respecting land rights and encouraging indigenous peoples and other local communities to remain where they are – if they wish – to carry on managing their lands in their own ways, and we must, above all, stop the theft of their territories for conservation. Those who want to, should be maintaining their self-sufficiency, not forced into global markets that profit the polluters more than anyone. We must ‘give’ them back previously stolen lands, to manage themselves. We must listen to them rather than destroying them, as we are now.

Whether this happens remains to be seen. The few voices pointing out that the emperor has no clothes at all, are up against a deafening scream from conservation propagandists and mainstream media, baying that the New Deal for Nature is the perfect solution. Whose voice will prevail depends on people’s gullibility and ability to challenge both their own prejudices and powerful vested interests. It’s a real battle, and the outcome will determine how much more nature is stolen from this beautiful world we have helped create.


 References

1) WWF Ecological. ‘2020: let’s put nature top of everybody’s to-do list.‘ Ecological.panda.org. April 20, 2018. (accessed 13/02/2020)

2) Tollefson, Jeff. ‘Global deal for nature’ fleshed out with specific conservation goals.’ Nature, April 19, 2019. (accessed 13/02/2020)

3) Baker, Katie & Tom Warren. ‘The US Government Spent Millions Funding WWF-Backed Forces Accused Of Torture and Murder.’ Buzzfeed News, September 24, 2019. (accessed 13/02/2020); Baker, Katie & Tom Warren. ‘WWF Says Indigenous People Want This Park. An Internal Report Says Some Fear Forest Ranger ‘Repression.’ Buzzfeed News, March 8, 2019. (accessed 13/02/2020)

4) The estimate for the total global ecosystem services in 2011 is $125 trillion/yr

Costanza, Robert, Rudolf De Groot, Paul Sutton, Sander Van der Ploeg, Sharolyn J. Anderson, Ida Kubiszewski, Stephen Farber, and R. Kerry Turner. ‘Changes in the global value of ecosystem services.‘ Global environmental change 26 (2014): 152-158. (accessed 13/02/2020)

5) Carrington, Damian. ‘What is biodiversity and why does it matter to us?‘ The Guardian, March 12, 2018. (accessed 13/02/2020)

6) Porter-Bolland, Luciana, Edward A. Ellis, Manuel R. Guariguata, Isabel Ruiz-Mallén, Simoneta Negrete-Yankelevich, and Victoria Reyes-García. ‘Community managed forests and forest protected areas: An assessment of their conservation effectiveness across the tropics.’ Forest ecology and management 268 (2012): 6-17

7) The study measured vertebrate animal diversity only.

Schuster et al, 2019, Vertebrate biodiversity on indigenous-managed lands in Australia, Brazil, and Canada equals that in protected areas, Environmental Science & Policy Volume 101, November 2019, Pages 1-6

8) Woods Hole Research Center. ‘Satellites Show Amazon Parks, Indigenous Reserves Stop Forest Clearing.’ ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060126200147.htm (accessed February 13, 2020).

9) Dickson, Paul, and William M. Adams. ‘Science and uncertainty in South Africa’s elephant culling debate.’ Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 27, no. 1 (2009): 110-123.

10) Letiwa, Paul. ‘Herders protest as wildlife conservancies drive them out.’ The Daily Nation, August 18, 2019. (accessed February 13, 2020).

11) Survival International. ‘We’ve had enough of this talk of ‘boundaries’ in the forest.’ YouTube video, 01:00. 4 Jan 2019. (accessed February 13, 2020).

12) Gore, Timothy. Extreme Carbon Inequality. London: Oxfam. Dec 2, 2015. (The report can be found in Spanish and French at https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/extreme-carbon-inequality) (accessed February 13, 2020).

13) See: Lu, Donna. ‘Creating an AI can be five times worse for the planet than a car.’ New Scientist, June 6, 2019. (accessed February 13, 2020).

14) Berners-Lee, Mike and Duncan Clark. ‘What’s the carbon footprint of … email?‘ The Guardian, Oct 21, 2010. (accessed February 13, 2020).

Transport initiatives in Costa Rica

Despite our efforts to point out that Costa Rica is not as environmentally friendly or as labour friendly as its legislation would suggest,  the Costa Rican government is clearly making some real attempts to move towards its pledge to decarbonise the country. The country’s transport system is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, so meeting this goal will not be an easy task, but the following summary indicates some important first steps made towards the goal.

By Martin Mowforth

Rail reactivation

In November 2019, the Ministry of Planning and Economic Policy together with the Costa Rican Railroad Institute (ICF by its Spanish initials) initiated a feasibility study into the reconstruction of 131 km of railroad between the central province of Alajuela and the Pacific Central province of Puntarenas. Such a rail line could be used to transport passengers and freight.

$550,000 (USD) have been invested in the initiative. Elizabeth Briceño, President of ICF, said: “We are sure that this will contribute to the economic reactivation of the zone and will generate employment.” The funds will be used for the pre-feasibility and feasibility studies, market analyses, risk analysis, environmental studies, and design, administrative and budget evaluations.

The studies are expected to take seven months. The Planning Minister, Pilar Garrido, linked the project entitled ‘Railroad Reactivation to the Pacific’ with other possible rail initiatives such as the ‘Limón Electrified Freight Train (Caribbean Zone)’ with the aim of connecting by rail six of the country’s seven provinces.

Electric cars

The IONIQ model of electric cars has a range of 375 km from one single battery charge which takes up to 54 minutes. In Costa Rica, the model has been marketed for two years and 400 sales have already been achieved. This is a level of acceptance which Jerry Campos, regional manager of Hyundai, says is greater than expectations.

By the end of 2019 Costa Rica had 34 fast charging points for electric cars in operation. They are part of a network of charging stations (called ‘electrolineras’) that the government plans to expand in future years.

Of course we need to remember that not everything about electric vehicles is environmentally friendly or even socially friendly. Nevertheless, it can be said that if Costa Rica manages to change its fleet of vehicles from petrol to electric over the course of the next decade, then there is little doubt that it will be further along the path of phasing out fossil fuels than most other countries in the world. But that’s a big ‘if’.

In February this year, El Salvador also introduced its first completely electric car to the public, again with plans for later expansion. It is being marketed there by Grupo Q which is hoping to sell five units within two months of its introduction. Currently there is only one charging point in El Salvador. At the price of $39,800 (USD) the car is unfortunately out of the range of the vast majority of the country’s population.

Electric buses

More recently (March 2020) the government of Costa Rica has announced a pilot plan to introduce electric buses as one aspect of their plan to decarbonise the country’s economy. Three autobuses have been donated to Costa Rica by the German Cooperation Agency GTZ, and the Costa Rican government has extended the scheme to include a total of 15 electric buses by the end of this year.

Currently the idea is that they will be tested out in different parts of the country, and data will be collected on their serviceability, their usage and their profitability. The eventual aim is to turn the whole public transport fleet in the country over to electric buses. Claudia Dobles, the First Lady of the country, said: “This is a clear signal that the sector wants to modernise and provide an improved service to its users.”

The pilot plan requires the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity to provide the necessary accompanying technical electrical infrastructure. Additionally, the National Learning Institute is to provide training for drivers and mechanics; and a special tariff will be charged for electric bus users.

A group of transport businesses are involved in the plan and each participating business is expected to purchase at least one of the 12 new buses. The transport businesses have been pressuring the government to promote policies for the implementation of bus-only lanes and favourable financial credit lines for green initiatives such as bus renewals and operating costs.

The National Decarbonisation Plan presented by President Carlos Alvarado’s government in February 2019 envisages the elimination of the use of fossil fuels in Costa Rica by the year 2050.

Guatemalan Congress Weakens NGOs

Key words: Guatemala; non-governmental organisations (GOs); human rights defenders; social activists; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Early this month (February 2020) the Guatemalan Congress moved to limit the work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Human rights defenders and social activists criticised the Guatemalan Congress for passing a law that could be used by governments to arbitrarily control non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The ‘Law of Non-Governmental Organisations for Development’ establishes that NGOs will not be able to use foreign donations or financing to carry out activities that “alter” public order.

“If an NGO uses foreign donations or financing to alter public order, it will be immediately cancelled … its executives will be charged under criminal and civil legislation,” the new law states.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also expressed its reservations regarding what happened in Congress.

“The reform of the NGO law could affect the freedom of association, assembly, and expression, as well as democratic spaces for organised civil society,” the OHCHR said and added that “it is important to adopt laws and policies that guarantee spaces for democratic participation.”

In 2019, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed concern about the NGO bill as it introduces controls that could be used to arbitrarily limit social organisations.

The NGO law is based on proposals that lawmakers of the previous legislature made to avoid the fight against corruption promoted by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala.

With the new law, the government can “arbitrarily cancel uncomfortable organisations,” said Justice Now (JusticiaYa), an NGO which was born amidst the anti-corruption fight in 2015.​​​​​​​

The leftist party Winaq, whose most notable member is the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, said the NGO law is “a blow to freedom of social organisation and harmful to the majority.”​​​​​​​

Sources:

  • La Prensa Gráfica (El Salvador) 12 February 2020.
  • Impunity Watch

Guatemalan Government bans plastics; then repeals ban.

The following article illustrates the cynical greenwash deployed by governments in their relationship with environmental protection. In this case, the government of Guatemala is shown to be the cheating ‘greenwasher’. (Both articles were originally sourced from the Spanish News Agency EFE and appeared in El Economista. We are grateful to Lucy Goodman for her translation and summary on behalf of The Violence of Development website.)

El Economista, 20/09/19

Gobierno de Guatemala prohíbe el uso de plástico
Guatemalan government prohibits the use of plastics

Key words: single-use plastics; Guatemala; repeal on change of government.

In September the Government of Guatemala announced the prohibition of the use and distribution of single-use plastic bags and other plastic items in order to contribute to the protection of the environment and gave a two-year deadline for adapting to this measure.

The Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources published the government agreement in the official daily newspaper (Diario de Centro America), announcing the restriction that also applies to plastic straws, plates, cups, containers and plastic or polystyrene food packaging.

This movement does not restrict or limit any municipal initiatives with the same purpose, as within several constituencies in the country, similar measures have already been in place for a while. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources will be verifying, inspecting and monitoring compliance with this legislation itself, and wall train legal persons to apply the corresponding sanctions for non-compliance.

The only exempt plastic items will be those “for medical or therapeutic purposes”, as well as imported items that are “factory sealed with plastic material or expanded polystyrene”.

Showing a photo of a turtle tangled in plastic, the then-president Jimmy Morales celebrated on social media this decision in which “Guatemala says no to plastic” and affirmed that this changes the country for future generations to come. “It’s time to change our form of consumption, for our nation and the future of our children” he proclaimed.

Subsequently, in a press conference, the president reiterated his pleasure with this decision, that there are other products available for use, and that there are two years to accomplish the transition and find the right substitutes.

Questioned about the loss of jobs in the plastics sector, Morales advocated seeing the benefits and asked for it not to get “dramatic” and “to find a solution to the issues”.

The Plastics Commission of the Guatemalan Exporters Association, formed of 60 manufacturers and export companies states on the website that the sector creates some 10,000 jobs directly and 60,000 indirectly, and the plastics industry is the “industry of export, indirectly the most important in the country”. The principle export destinations of these products are Central America, the Caribbean, the United States and Mexico.

[Editorial comment: it is rumoured that President Morales knew that the measure would be repealed by any right-wing successor to the presidency. Enter stage right: President Elect Giammattei.]

President-elect of Guatemala to repeal the agreement to ban plastic.

https://www.eleconomista.net/export/sites/prensagrafica/img/2019/10/09/guatemalax_alejandro_giammattei.jpg_1130814359.jpg
President Elect of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei. EFE

Guatemala’s new President Alejandro Giammattei announced on Wednesday that he would repeal the agreement that prohibits the use and distribution of single-use plastic bags, among other products.

“Plastic usage is not prohibited; there are other more important things to do. We must focus on culture, education, environmental awareness” declared Giammattei to the press after he left a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce.

Giammattei had warned that he would look into this agreement because in his view there is a “much deeper” problem.

[Editorial comment: indeed there is; it is the deep corruption within Guatemalan state politics and the Chamber of Commerce.]

Various commercial sectors have spoken out against plastics prohibition because they consider the real problem of contamination is in the management and control of solid waste, while the Plastics Commission of the Guatemalan Exporters Association states that 10,000 direct and 60,000 indirect jobs are at risk.

Guatemala offers El Salvador a port on the Atlantic Coast.

Shortly after the inauguration of Alejandro Giammattei as the new Guatemalan President, he met with President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador and offered a deal of potentially great benefit to El Salvador: namely a port on the Atlantic coast of Guatemala. Lucy Goodman translated articles about the deal from La Prensa Gráfica (by Melissa Pacheco, 28.01.20) and El Economista (29.01.20), and Martin Mowforth summarised and commented upon these for The Violence of Development website.

Key words: El Salvador – Guatemala integration; Atlantic port; security cooperation; domestic flights.

El Salvador and Guatemala plan to eliminate the border initially for the passage of persons and later for freight. They have also re-defined flights between the two countries as ‘domestic flights’.

Anuncio. En conferencia de prensa, los presidentes hicieron diversos anuncios entre ellos la eliminación de las fronteras para el tránsito de personas y mercaderías.
(Melissa Pacheco) The presidents share the announcements between themselves about the removal of the border for the transit of people and goods.

The Guatemalan president offered a concession to create a public-private partnership as the means to enable completion of a Salvadoran port on the Atlantic coast. Land from the Santo Tomás de Castilla National Port Company (Empornac) will be ceded to El Salvador for this purpose. The area to be ceded is known as El Arenal (or The Quicksand) and currently serves as a depot for containers. Last year (2019) Empornac carried out technical studies to determine the feasibility of constructing a pier to accommodate dredgers and cruise ships there.

“We have offered El Salvador something unprecedented in the history of Central American integration and today I want to announce it publicly because we’re going to explore, as soon as possible, the possibility of El Salvador having a port in the Guatemalan Atlantic. We will deliver this Project as a public-private partnership so that El Salvador can develop it. It is an offer that we have made to El Salvador, we consider it to be the right thing to do,” Giammattei announced at a press conference that took place at the Presidential House.

He added that he had spoken with the authorities of SICA (Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana / Central American Integration System) in order to receive the support of the institution in the implementation of the project. He also announced that he made a firm pledge to officially de-categorise flights between Guatemala and El Salvador to ‘domestic’. This comes as part of the initiatives to improve integration in the region.

The Guatemalan Minister of Economics, Antonio Malouf, confirmed that a legal-technical analysis for ceding the land of Empornac will be carried out.

“Basically, it would be our entry to the Atlantic. Our goods will have the power to go from the Atlantic and enter from the Atlantic. I believe what we’re doing is making a real union that is going to spread to other countries in Central America that will want to unite and do similar,” declared the Salvadoran President.

Apart from the possible construction of the Salvadoran port on the Guatemalan coast and the re-categorisation of flights, the leaders announced that in one month they hope to have removed the border for the passage of people and within three or four months the barriers for goods between the two countries.

“We have to sign papers where we can eliminate the customs on goods respecting that goods entering El Salvador and destined for Guatemala have already paid taxes in El Salvador and do not have to pay them in Guatemala and those that have entered Guatemala destined for El Salvador do not have to pay them in El Salvador. We believe it will take us about three months,” the Guatemalan president declared to the media.

The elimination of the borders for the passage of people also requires the implementation of a bi-national arrangement on security. “If someone passes from Guatemala to El Salvador evading an arrest warrant, they will not be evading anything because we are going to have the same approaches in both countries,” Bukele stated.

Giammattei referred to their intention to apply similar security sanctions, one of which was to standardise the criminal codes in both countries. In the language he used to explain this part of the agreement, Giammattei betrayed his profoundly hateful and hardline understanding of crime in society. “Standardising the penalties, the sanctions, the punishments, so that when they spray ‘Baygon’ here the cockroaches do not go there because they think that there they will find it easier, and when they spray ‘Baygon’ the cockroaches won’t come here, as the law will be the same for the two countries,” said the new president.

Moreover, he said that they had been monitoring Bukele’s Territorial Control Plan (PCT), the main commitment of the Salvadoran Government to improve security conditions, and he (Giammattei) did not rule out implementing some of the same sanctions in Guatemala.

Tourism Recovery in Nicaragua, January 2020

It isn’t often that you will find the UK Daily Mail cited in this website, unless the citation is given for its racism, intolerance and bigotry; but in this case we reproduce a report from Nicanotes which in its turn cites a list of the Daily Mail’s ‘must-see’ tourist destinations.

Taken from Nicanotes (https://afgj.org/nicanotes/), a weekly production by the Alliance for Global Justice (AFGJ)

9 January 2020

Daily Mail Includes Nicaragua in List of 12 New Key Destinations for 2020

Nicaragua was included in an exclusive list of 12 new key tourist destinations around the world, published on December 28 [2019] by the British newspaper Daily Mail. Nicaragua was listed along with Chicago (USA), Japan, Dubai, Galway (Ireland), Chile, Israel and Australia. Nigel Tisdall, writer of the article, describes Nicaragua as “a captivating mix of volcanoes, jungle and beach, with a relaxed atmosphere and excellent coffee.” It also highlights Granada, for “its architecture” and “the possibility of sailing among its forested islands.” Recently other British media, such as Travel Weekly Magazine, Marie Claire Magazines UK, Selling Travel, Travel Trade Gazette, Wanderlust, have recognized Nicaragua as a must-see destination for 2020. The print version of the Daily Mail has 2.5 million readers daily, and its digital version reaches 26.8 million unique users monthly, making it one of the most read websites in the English-speaking world. (Taken from Informe Pastran, 3/1/20)

Increase in Tourism from Costa Rica

For Nicaragua’s commerce, service and transportation, the month of December [2019] was very good with the considerable increase in the arrival of tourists from Costa Rica. In the Masaya handicraft market, the arrival of hundreds of Costa Rican tourists was visible. In the case of transportation, the companies that provide this service from San José report that passenger traffic increased by 40%. Enrique Quiñonez, president of the Chamber of Tourist Transport of Nicaragua confirmed that they had to put into circulation more buses to meet the demand. (Taken from Informe Pastran, 6/1/20)

Cop25: Indemnification to accompany mitigation and adaptation?

At COP25 in Madrid in December 2019 Nicaragua’s Policy Minister Paul Oquist outlined to delegates the policy stance of his government to the issue of climate change and how to address it. In particular he explained the need to introduce into the system of adaptation and mitigation the notion of losses and gains, using the term ‘indemnification’, to redress the injustices of the historical causes of climate change. We consider this to be an important feature of any international mechanisms that seek to allocate funds for climate change action; and so we include his address here.

Dr. Paul Oquist Kelley Minister-Private Secretary for National Policies Presidency of the Republic of Nicaragua

Translated by Tortillaconsal.com

December 11th 2019

Madam President, Your Excellencies, Ministers, Special Guests
 
The President of the Republic of Nicaragua, Comandante Daniel Ortega Saavedra, and Vice President Compañera Rosario Murillo Zambrana, send their greetings and best wishes for the success of this COP, aimed at achieving a higher level of commitment and climate action.
 
Common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities are not political positions but objective historical and contemporary realities. To maintain that we are all historically responsible for climate change would be tantamount to saying that we all participated equally in the Industrial Revolution, as well as in the massive accumulation of capital resulting from it. This was when most of our countries suffered at that time the yoke of colonialism and neocolonialism, as well as the slave trade and the exploitation of slave labour, which also contributed to the historical accumulation of those responsible.
 
To maintain that we are all equally and universally responsible for greenhouse gas emissions today, is equivalent to saying that the 100 countries with the lowest emissions that account for 3% of the total, have the same responsibility as the ten countries with the highest emissions that account for 72% of the total. At the same time, it is equivalent to saying that most countries with less than one ton of CO2 equivalent per capita have the same responsibility as countries with 18 tons or 16 tons per capita.
 
My country, Nicaragua, contributes 0.03% of total global emissions, with a per capita of 0.63 tons. Despite our negligible level of responsibility, we are actively working on mitigation and adaptation, as well as loss and damage, because we love Mother Earth, and we are concerned about the future of our country and the world. Nicaragua has gone from 25% renewable energy in 2007 to 62% in 2018, while electricity coverage has expanded from 54% of households in 2007 to 95% in 2018. We are committed to the 30×30 initiative to restore 2.8 million hectares degraded due to a historic, active agricultural frontier. We have committed in the Forest Carbon Partnership to capture 11 million tons of CO2(e) [carbon dioxide equivalent] over the next five years. We are also adapting a dry corridor to the new reality of climate change.
 
This effort has been in the context of average annual economic growth of 4.7% between 2011 and 2017, the third highest rate among the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, accompanied by great social advances. These include the reduction of the maternal mortality rate from 92.8 per hundred thousand in 2007 to 34.1 today, and the reduction of the infant mortality rate from 29 to 12 per thousand children born. Chronic malnutrition in schools was reduced by 66%. General poverty was reduced from 47.9% to 24.9%, and extreme poverty from 17.3% to 6.9%. Very important in this world, the GINI measure of inequality in consumption went from 0.41 to 0.33. In 2007, Nicaragua ranked at 90 in the Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum in Davos, rising to the rank of number five in 2019, only below the Nordic countries. The indigenous and Afro-descendant population of the Caribbean Coast and Upper Wanki River or Coco, achieved the delimitation and titling of 37,800 square kilometers of their ancestral lands, in 23 territories, each with its own territorial government and control of its own resources.
 
However, Nicaragua, like 35 other countries around the world, has seen its capacity to respond to climate change and to achieve sustainable development goals undermined by coercive, unilateral, extraterritorial and illegal measures, which even criminalize third parties that do not comply with the illegal measures. Only sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council are legal in international law. The international system of bank transfers is key to the de facto imposition of these illegal, unilateral, coercive measures that violate the human and legal rights of individuals, organizations and entire countries. There are also covert actions of destabilization of governments and attempts at coups d’état, some successful and others not. In the Middle East, several countries have been invaded or bombed in wars of aggression. The Nuremberg court ruled that this type of war is the supreme violation of international law and human rights, because it contains within it the sum of all the evils of war. Even countries suffering the consequences of climate change see their ability to respond to the future shattered by catastrophic disasters and the lack of international compensation mechanisms. All these phenomena have affected the respective response capacity of developing countries.
 
Our Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement are incomplete, because they do not include an effective mechanism to finance response and recovery of losses and damages. Mitigation reduces the risk of loss and damage; adaptation reduces the impact of specific threats of loss and damage; loss and damage themselves are the end result of the very climate change we are seeking to minimize. Thus, we propose that the concept of losses and damages be elevated to the same level as mitigation and adaptation, in order to receive resources.
 
The President of Nicaragua, Comandante Daniel Ortega Saavedra, in his message to the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, stated that the only equitable and effective way to finance losses and damages is for the countries and corporations that have caused the problem and benefited from the use of carbon to accumulate capital to compensate countries that suffer the consequences of climate change without having caused it, in the proportion of their responsibility. We have the data from 1880 to date, both for countries and for corporations. Some people think this is a very radical proposal, but it is not. The concept that whoever causes damage to another must then compensate the other for the damage caused is called tort in common law. It is also in the Napoleonic codes and in Sharia law. So too, all ethical systems, and all religions of the world, contain the concept. However, the term most despised and feared in these negotiations is the word “indemnification”.

The developing countries need enormous financial resources for the future, to face mitigation, adaptation and losses and damages. In Copenhagen in 2009, funding of US$100 billion per year starting in 2020 was proposed and reiterated in successive COPs. We should not accept as part of the US$100 billion accounts of past expenses, we cannot finance our projects with them. Nor can we accept that the market mechanisms of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement replace the US$100 billion annually. We must not accept the postponement of the date after having already waited 10 long years. What is needed from 2020 onwards are new, fresh, liquid resources with equal access for all developing countries. To guarantee these requisites, if these funds appear, they should be channelled through the financial mechanisms of the Convention, namely the Green Climate Fund, the GEF, the Adaptation Fund, and the Least Developed Countries Fund.

The year 2019 will be remembered like 1848, 1871, 1968 and 1989, as a year when the street became important in world politics. Climate change is one of the drivers of this phenomenon in many countries, with youth on the front line. The 16-year-olds marching in the streets today will be 18 years old in two more years, and no one will speak of that youth as passive, disinterested and apolitical. A highly motivated voting youth can change the correlation of political forces in many countries, being decisive in countries now evenly split between opposing forces.
  
There is still a year before COP26 in 2020 but you see neither a working group advancing the US$100 billion a year nor a road map. Only Secretary General Antonio Guterres has asked President Emanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica to investigate the issue.

If the US$100 billion annual commitment in 2020 is broken, this could be termed the Fraud of the Century. In reality, much more is needed and US$100 billion has to be just a starting point. The US$100 billion myth has the aggravating factor that it reduced climate change spending and action in the critical decade of 2010 to date, and now we are suffering the consequences. What we cannot do at this time is to have another Lost Decade of financing and action on Climate Change.

Remittances to El Salvador and Nicaragua in 2018

El Economista (17 December 2018) reports that remittances received in El Salvador between January and November 2018 increased by 8.7% in comparison with the same period in 2017, and amounted to more than US$4,900 million [US dollars], according to the Central Reserve Bank (BCR).

In these ten months the country received remittances from 160 countries, at the head of which was the US with US$4,602.4 million, followed by the European Union and Canada with US$46.8 million and US$43.8 million respectively.

The 2.8 million Salvadorans who live in the United States sent a major part of the US$5,021.3 million in remittances which El Salvador received in 2017, this being the highest figure in history for the Central American country.


Informe Pastrán (21 December 2018) reports that remittances received in Nicaragua during the third quarter of 2018 rose to US$372.8 million, an increase of 4.8 per cent compared with the same period in the previous year. Remittances up to and including the month of September 2018 amounted to US$1,097.4 million, a 7.6 per cent increase on the same period during 2017.

During the third quarter of 2018, the major origins of these remittances were the United States (55.4%), Costa Rica (19.4%), Spain (11.5%) and Panamá (5.3%).

The department of Managua continued to be the major recipient of the remittances (35.0%), with the department of Chinandega receiving 10.3%, León 8.2%, Estelí 8.0% and Matagalpa 7.0%.