San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Nicaragua Is Beautiful, But Its Leadership Is Ugly

As a 14-year resident of Costa Rica who employs several Nicaraguans at my place of business, I decided to take another journey to San Juan Del Sur and Granada last September.

The purpose of my trip was to establish contacts with the municipalities and possibly between the respective business communities, while at the same time show our Mayor of Quepos, Oscar Monge, the Orphanage “Caritas Feliz,” in Granada.

This orphanage serves more than 3,000 meals daily to children and is a shining example of volunteerism, education and philanthropy. Its self-funded and self-governing housing program put together by its founder Peder Kolind in the midst of a collapsed economy is a ray of hope for many thousands of people.

As the Sister City International Coordinator and Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce for the Canton de Aguirre, I wanted to show our delegation a different perspective of Nicaragua than the usually negative perceptions that exist in Costa Rica about our neighbors.

To my surprise, when my fellow board members got wind of my plans for a Nicaragua visit, our group rapidly grew to 12 curious people, mostly Costa Ricans eager to learn and experience first-hand the stories I had been telling them for a long time.

Nicaragua is a beautiful country of beautiful and warm people who love their country and who need opportunity to expand their horizons. They need jobs and are a people who want to improve their social conditions and way of living.

The “natural” ingredients and infrastructure, such as that which exist in Costa Rica, are all there – and in some ways are much better than that found in most places in Costa Rica.

Its rich culture, Spanish colonial history and architecture far surpass that found in Costa Rica.

If only Nicaragua’s helmsman would step aside and make space for someone really concerned with the country and the future of its people.

Many years ago, during my time as the General Manager of the National Press Club in WashingtonD.C., I was impressed by how President Daniel Ortega, in the midst of the Contra conflict, dared to challenge the President of the United States.

Then President Daniel Ortega and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias were our invited guests to address the Fourth Estate in the halls of that noble institution, and they took questions from the gathered media on the Central America situation.

Now, almost 20 years later, my awe has turned to repulsion as I see and witness first-hand how the entire Ortega family has pillaged this once-rich country, and how it has reduced its powerful business community into helpless spectators and a bunch of powerless sheep wondering about their future.

This is not socialism; this is a familyrun klepto-dynasty that is enriching itself by taking from the poor and denying a future to all. The Ortega family should step aside and disappear into the night and once again let the people take control of the country and embrace the principles of democracy and a free press.

With a per-capita income of less than $1,000 per year, the vast majority of people we talked to cared less about who killed Gen. August Sandino more than 75 years ago – as General Humberto Ortega spoke about in The Nica Times interview of Sept. 11 – and more about dwindling foreign aid due to the mismanagement and blatant corruption of the government.

People were concerned about increasing unemployment, the continued self-enrichment of the ruling class, and the future of their children.

The mayors we met with are desperately trying to restart their local economies while trying to appease their FSLN handlers at the same time.

Shame on you Ortega, your people deserve much better!

Harry Bodaan is the former General Manager and C.E.O. of the National Press Club and Founding President of the International Press Center in Moscow, Russia. He is the current Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce of the Canton de Aguirre, Chairman of the Law Enforcement Committee and Police Consultant to the Mayor and City of Quepos.


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