Thursday, March 19, 2009

PBS World Focus Report on Nicaragua

“Anti-Americanism fades and business booms in Nicaragua”

Please view the World Focus clip here

This is indeed an interesting piece by World Focus. Instead of writing a blog I’d rather let some of the people I know comment on the piece…

Some of the points that stood out to me were:

1. Grenada
Historically Grenada is the hub of the Conservative Party (the title comes from the rich that favored direct trade with Spain and opposed “liberal” trade policies) and the city has long rumored to have greatly benefited from the Conservative governments that ran the country from 1990-2006 (particularly post Violetta Chomorro). Any pair of eyes that has been to other cities besides Grenada can easily note the differences. There are a host of US franchises, brightly painted walls, cropped landscapes, and a sheer focus on “looking the part” for tourists. These are characteristics generally not found in other cities/towns. Grenada is old wealth and lots of US ties – a mixture that affords its pristine picturesque central plaza.

2. Violence
Nicaragua is said to be the safest of the Central American countries. A strong reason is the lack of gangs and drug cartels that plague countries like Mexico, El Salvador, & Guatemala. However time and time again I have been told how crime has increased dramatically, particularly in Managua. Life has become even harder since the rise in gasoline prices and the global recession. Burglary has come to the point where taxi drivers in Managua will not go off the main roads when entering certain districts of the city. In Leon, people in the market to rent or buy a house will look first at the houses with a bank on the block (banks have an overnight watchman). Others streets have programs with each house on the block putting 100 Cordobas a month ($5) for a security man to ride his bike slowly through the streets overnight. His calling card is the whistle he blows every time he passes the street that pays (at least once per hour).

3. Business Friendly at what Cost?
Many of these corporations in the Tax Free Zone simply adopt a new name or leave before their 10-15 year tax break is finished – so the country seldomly collects on the business tax end. A larger, more complex question (which will be the focus of another blog) that comes forth in all countries is whether it is better to produce one job at a “just” wage or two jobs at a lower wage.

4. Tourism
Tourism has steadily risen because Nicaragua has many things going for it. It is culturally rich with friendly people and great music. It is naturally blessed with beaches, volcanoes, fine rum, and famous cigars (although these seeds come from Cuba). Lastly, it is practical – very cheap and three hours from Miami and Houston. One can understand the spending on tourism, but it is important to note the malls, restaurants, and hotels that have been built in the country are used only by the forgienors and the wealthiest of Nicaraguans. When 75% of the country makes less than $2.50 a day, when there are 4 doctors per 10,000 people, one would hope more funding would be placed in health clinics, schools, and food production over elaborate malls and resorts (which by now are numerous).


Emily said...

Interesting. I think it paints an untruthful picture of Granada. Yes it is a beautiful city, but super touristy, so I think you a miss a huge part of seeing the country. And I have also heard that is pretty shady in terms of child prostitution and then just a lot petty theft because of the tourists. Daniel Ortega is incredibly anti-American in his propaganda, so not open to American business, and also they didn't mention the fact that the people who make money off the businesses in Nicaragua is only the incredibly rich (like Chamorro the one they interviewed). Ortega himself is becoming a serious millionaire because of how much of the country's businesses he owns. There seemed to be this "friendly towards American $" slant on it which isn't true.

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