Friday, October 27, 2006

Presidential campaigns

WHO: Essa (aka Vanessa)
WHAT: Peace Corps, Environmental Education
WHERE: Nicaragua
WHEN: Sept '05 - Nov '07
WHY: La vida es un carnaval

Lots going on in Nicaragua right now with the end of the school year approaching, impending doom of water scarcity accompanying the summertime months, and the presidential election. Perhaps I exaggerate the second point, but everyone keeps scaring me saying we'll only get water once a month since this year's rainy season was anything but rainy. The truth is I do have the means to buy water from private dealers - at the scandalous price of 55 gallons for $1. 20. While that doesn't seem like much to us, the government run water utility sells the same amount for half a cent. Peer pressure will be the thing to contend can I buy barrels of water for myself while my closest neighbors, who can't afford that, look on? Being rich in the eyes of my neighbors is...uncomfortable. Anyway, we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

As part of a PCV duties, we must participate in the training of the new groups that come in. Naomi, Sarah, and I were chosen to give a presentation for the new Environmental Education group on working with NGOs and community groups. We had a great powerpoint presentation ready to give, with lots of slides of our work, and, wouldn't you know it, the school we were out lost the electricity just before we arrived (Nica is in rolling blackout mode to cut costs). So, we had to rely on a laptop with 32% power to show our stuff. It was a debacle, but we adapted as best we could.

Fortunately, the same fate didn't befall me as I presented my thesis project to representatives of the local water utility, mayor's office, and NGO I'm working with. I garnered support from the mayor's office in assisting me with introducing me to the community members I will be working with, and from the water utility in helping me outfit the wells for the study. It went well, though last I heard from my NGO partner, we could be stalled until after the election, as some paperwork is getting held up at the mayor's office. Trying to find a way around it...

Going to be spending a lot of time here in the next few months...

At the homestead - here's Jose Luis. Maybe he got a half price deal on the shirt...

I bought a cake for the family to celebrate the fact that the water tank was finished and also to thank them for all their help getting me settled into the house. It took about two weeks for Jose Luis to finish it, so it was quite the undertaking. With some persuasion, I finally got the people at the pastry shop to write, "Feliz Pila Nueva" which means, "Happy New Ferrocement tank."

The presidential election is next Sunday! Though I am prohibited by the PC to attend any political rallies, I do talk to my neighbors and friends about what they think the outcome will be. Some are noncommittal, others staunch Sandanista or Liberal supporters. Jose Luis, though he says he's supported Daniel Ortega (the Sandanista candidate who held power after the revolutionaries overthrew the US-backed Somoza regime in the 70s), in the past 4 elections (in which he won only the first), he will vote for the Eduardo Montealegre, who the US supports. Basically, he says he hopes that things will change for the better, and is tired of hearing Ortega loop into his anti-gringo rhetoric time and time again. He says he knows Nica needs good relations with the US - so much of their economy is dependent on US aid and commerce. At the same time, I don't feel that he is terribly hopeful that Nica will see any real change if Montealegre wins. He reminds me of the grouchy donkey in Orwell's Animal Farm.

In any case, here are some pictures of what propaganda in Nicaragua looks like. The red and black Sandanista flag mounted in a tree is ubiquitous throughout my department...

Here are some campesinos putting up posters and painting telephone poles in support of Montealegre

All bus stop shelters are fair game for whosever party gets there first. This is for Rizo, who is another candidate with ties to ex-president Aleman who was accused and convicted of embezzling millions of dollars. Some anti-Sandanistas fear that the having Montealegre and Rizo as liberal candidates will split the liberal voters, and lead to the election of Ortega.

A Daniel Ortega billboard in Managua. The stern figure with the big hat behind the dancing lady is Sandino, who was very instrumental in getting the US military out of Nicaragua in the 20s - he is revered to this day, not only for this feat, but also because he was killed by the first Samoza dictator.

Finally, an Eduardo Montealegre billboard in Managua. There are a few more candidates in the running, but they will take a small percentage of the votes. I have a friend who finished his PC service about a year ago. He is back now as an elections monitor through the Carter Foundation. A few weeks ago when I asked who he thought would win the election, without hesitating he replied, "Ortega." This is an exciting time to be in Nicaragua!


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Blogger Anacaona said...

It is interesting that you too felt the uneasiness of being able to live relatively comfortably in a country where your neighbors cannot.
That's why I think there is no being rich in a poor country. We are all poor somehow and we can only live well when we find a way to spread the wealth.

1:30 PM  

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