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Mass exodus in Nicaragua: a tragedy for the country and a great deal for Daniel Ortega

“We are facing one of the greatest, if not the greatest human tragedy in the history of Nicaragua,” says economist Enrique Sáenz to describe the mass exodus of Nicaraguans that has been recorded since the second half of last year. “Unfortunately, what is a tragedy for Nicaragua is a relief for the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega,” he adds.

The departure of Nicaraguans to the United States, Costa Rica and Spain, mainly, has skyrocketed to levels that had not been seen before. In fiscal year 2020, 3,164 Nicaraguans were detained on the southern border of the United States. From October 2021 to April of this year, the number of detainees skyrocketed to 92,037, according to data from US Immigration.

From January 2018 to April of this year, some 145,000 Nicaraguans have requested refuge in Costa Rica. In the first four months of this year, 25,595 Nicaraguans applied for refuge in a growing migration trend.

“This means that, if this trend continues throughout the year, we may have that, in approximately a year and a half, seven percent of the population of Nicaragua will have left the country,” says Saénz.

“Of course, when talking about hundreds of thousands of migrants, it may seem like little when compared to other more populous countries, but if we see it as a percentage of the population, the level of human tragedy that Nicaragua is experiencing will be seen,” says the economist. An exodus of seven percent of the population would mean the departure of 23 million people in the United States or 3,200,000 people in Argentina.

“It is not in any way an exaggeration to say that we are facing a human tragedy,” insists Sáenz. “It is not only the loss of population but also the conditions in which this population leaves, at the risk of their lives, with the extortions they suffer along the way, the abuse of which they are victims and also, on the other hand, the fracture of the family”.

It has been known that so far this year, some 30 Nicaraguans have died trying to reach the United States. Twenty of them, including women and children, drowned while crossing the Rio Grande border. Mexican mafias frequently kidnap migrants and demand tens of thousands of dollars in ransom for their lives.

“Many of these people have had to get rid of their assets, they sell their houses, in order to collect the necessary money for the trip. This tragedy is measured in lives and suffering, but it is also measured in the magnitude of the hemorrhage, which is not a gratuitous metaphor either. Our blood is running out, the country is bleeding to death,” says Enrique Sáenz.

For Tiziano Breda, an analyst for Central America at the International Crisis Group, in Nicaragua there is a change in the pattern of migration. “The migratory phenomenon has been accelerated and amplified, always for economic reasons, but also now because of the sociopolitical crisis,” he says.

“The mass flight is the combination of a worsening economic situation, political repression and the change in the United States where there is now a less draconian policy than there was under the predecessor, President (Donald) Trump,” he adds.

But as the old saying goes, “the pain of some is the joy of others”. The economist Enrique Saénz considers that the migratory explosion that Nicaragua is experiencing benefits the Daniel Ortega regime in several ways. “In the first place, it decongests the pressure in the labor market, it also decongests the discomfort that accumulates due to the cost of living, and, thirdly, after a few months, this migration translates into family remittances. We have also had an explosive growth in family remittances so far this year, which somehow refreshes the scales, balances and resources of the regime. So, what is a tragedy for the Nicaraguan people, for Ortega it is an oxygen balloon.”

According to data from the Central Bank of Nicaragua, last year 2,147 million dollars arrived in the country in remittances, which is equivalent to more or less 30 percent of Nicaragua’s total exports in one year. Between January and April of this year, 866.5 million dollars have entered Nicaragua through family remittances, which represents almost 30 percent more than what was registered in remittances in the same period last year.

“Remittances are a round business for Daniel Ortega,” says Sáenz. “They are euros or dollars that enter clean, that arrive directly at the banks, and, since you have to transform them into cordobas, they feed the reserves, increase the currency and the economic activity of the country. Consumption is one of the engines of the economy and translates into tax revenue”.

Tiziano Breda ve al menos tres ventajas que le trae la migración de nicaragüenses al régimen de Daniel Ortega. La primera, dice, “desde el punto de vista económica, hay menor cantidad de personas que atender con oportunidades de trabajo y, un elemento paliativo, llegan las remesas que alivian la situación financiera de las familias que quedan, estimulando el consumo con muy bajo costo para el gobierno”.

Segunda, agrega, “cierto porcentaje de los que se fueron lo hicieron por temas políticas, implica que buena parte de ellos se han ido no solo por necesidad económica sino por ser opositores, por ser perseguidos por el gobierno, y eso deja una disminución del caudal de oposición interna que puede ser favorable para el gobierno”.

Y tercera, que “el hecho que lleguen tantos nicaragüenses a Estados Unidos, es una palanca de presión o de negociación que pueden tener estos gobiernos, siendo la presión migratoria en la frontera sur un tema político electoral muy sensible en Estados Unidos”.

Dice que la actitud del régimen nicaragüense con la migración local es “laissez faire, laissez passer” (dejar hacer, dejar pasar), “no la alienta, pero tampoco la contiene” contrario a la migración de otras nacionalidades, cubana principalmente, “que sí la facilita”.

Sáenz por su parte subraya que, a pesar de los muchos beneficios que recibe, Daniel Ortega nunca ha reconocido el esfuerzo de los nicaragüenses en el exterior. “Una de las principales fuentes que ha permitido mantener a flote la economía o el modelo económico de Ortega ha sido el trabajo y el desvelo de los nicaragüenses que hacen dos y hasta tres jornadas de trabajo para poder mandar dinero a sus familias. Jamás, jamás, ha tenido una palabra de reconocimiento al esfuerzo de ellos”.

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José Martí
José Martí
Nacionalista cubano, poeta, filósofo, ensayista, periodista, traductor, profesor y editor.

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