San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ortega Return Sparks Emigration

MANAGUA A group of Nicaraguans who fled their war-torn country during the 1980s and came back the following decade is once again wanting out.

These business owners and professionals feel they ve given President Daniel Ortega a second chance during the past nine months, and enough is enough.

It s not just the power outages and water outages, it s the idea of living in a country where one guy is running everything with a dictatorial attitude, said Eduardo Bermúdez, 36, who left here during the first Ortega government in the 1980s. He returned in 1990 and now works as a financial analyst in Granada.

Martha Isabel Cranshaw, who coordinates the Nicaraguan Migration Network, said the resurgence of politics as a motive for emigration is not a popular phenomenon.

She says that the vast majority of Nicaraguans who emigrate mostly to the United States and Costa Rica, legally or not do so in order to find jobs and escape poverty, both before and after Ortega was re-elected last November.

But, Cranshaw said, It s those who once left for political reasons who now have some doubts about the new government. She said that some Nicaraguans who repatriated in the 1990s, after Ortega was voted out of office the first time, have felt the temptation to return to the United States, while others have already made the move.

Bermúdez and his wife Marlene made the decision to leave in January, after Ortega returned to power. They had talked about moving to Canada more than a year ago, but it took the return of a Sandinista government for them to begin the formal application process.

Mind you, it s been 17 years since I came back. I already paid my dues to this country, said Bermúdez, who fled to Costa Rica in 1985 to avoid mandatory military service.

It s time for me to cut my losses. I gave it a try. It was a good 17 years. Good things happened to me. I met my wife, had my kids.

But, he added, It s time to think ahead and maybe get another opportunity somewhere else.

One thing holding back many Nicaraguans who want to leave again is a tougher U.S. visa application processes, said Nora Caldera, executive director of the Miami-based Nicaraguan Civic Task Force.

It was easier in the years immediately following the 1979 Sandinista revolution, when Caldera herself fled to the United States. At that time, thousands of Nicaraguans left as the government seized private property, persecuted the business class and later implemented mandatory military service. In cities such as Miami and San Francisco, they found jobs in the service industry.

In 1990, after Ortega lost his first attempt at re-election, an estimated 5,000 families living in exile in the United States returned to their native country, Caldera said. Many opened hotels, restaurants and bars, having learned those trades during their exile.

Now, she says, many fear they will lose their businesses if they stay in Nicaragua because of daily power and water outages and a shaky investment climate under the new administration.

Even if they re not involved in politics, they are being affected by politics because of the country s instability, the fear of things changing dramatically, Caldera said.

She added that it isn t just Nicaraguans who left and came back who are making the move it s also the children of former exiles who were born in the United States.

The ones who are returning are those who were born here in the United States in the 1980s and returned to Nicaragua when they were children, she said, adding that it s easier for them to return because they are U.S. citizens.


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