I got into a motorcycle accident in Granada. The other guy was speeding, and hit me from behind. He caused $250 dollars worth of damage to my rented motorcycle, and another $15 dollars damage to his own bike, which he crashed right in front of my eyes. Fortunately neither of us were seriously injured. I didn't crash, but I did get a cut on my left hand. All witnesses agreed that the crash was his fault. But he was a policeman, so I had to pay the entire bill, cash on the spot, or else, he threatened, he would take me to the police station where I would end up paying more. This is corruption in its most pure and accessible form.
Despite the high crime rate in Managua, I am happy to report that much has improved in Nicaragua since I first crossed the border in 1990. At the time, only a couple of years had passed since the devastating Contra War (initiated by Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, former head of the CIA). Back then, the Nicaraguan people were visibly saddened, terribly poor, wearing ragged clothes, and there was essentially zero infrastructure for the tourist. War is Hell. Twenty years of peace has made the country a much nicer place to be.
The first time I crossed into Nicaragua, I peddled my bicycle to the border, but the border was closed. A woman named Violeta Chimorro just became Latin America's first female president, and the opposition Sandanistas staged a general strike. (I would have been allowed to cross except that my bicycle needed a customs stamp). So the Sandanistas controlled the customs office, but Chamorro's army had the guns at the border. Unbeknownst to me, my riding shorts had the colors of the Sandanista flag. The guys with the guns accused me of being a Sandanista lover; they pointed their guns in my face, and then started laughing. Ha, ha. Funny joke. I changed my shorts behind a tree, then we all played footbag together. Then I rode to the previous village in Honduras to wait a week for the customs office to open (a great excuse to meet many fine local people).
Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush ordered the CIA to sell arms to Iran and use the money to fund "the contras" - despite the US Congress' explicit refusal to fund the war (this became known as the Iran-Contra scandal). Evidence shows that the contras were also funded by CIA cocaine smuggling, although this remains unproven. The International Court of Justice ruled against the USA for mining Nicaragua's harbors in 1986, ordering the USA to stop the unlawful use of force against Nicaragua, but Reagan and Bush ignored this order. So Nicaragua went to the UN Security Council, but the USA vetoed the proposed resolution against the USA. Nicaragua then went to the UN General Assembly, which passed a resolution against the USA by a vote of 94 to 3.
I don't remember ever seeing any of this factual information reported through the US news media, which instead repeated Reagan's lies and referred to "the contras" as "freedom fighters." Since then, the American news media has gotten worse, with corporate ownership ever more consolidated by the same wealthy interests that make huge profits from war. Follow the money yourself and you will know that this is true. Also, the fact that Reagan and Daddy Bush got away with all of this unpunished apparently has made Junior all the more audacious.
The irony is that Daniel Ortega, the head of the Sandinistas, the guy that Reagan and Bush created an illegal war to defeat, the guy Violeta Chamorro unseated, was just elected President of Nicaragua.
You know, I think it is high time that the USA stopped invading other countries for no good reason. And while I'm on the subject, I think it would be nice if the American news media didn't suck. How is a democracy supposed to function if the people do not know what their leaders are doing in their name? In my humble opinion, this mainstream ignorance is the only way to explain how Junior got away with stealing two elections.
At least Nicaragua finally knows peace. But poverty here remains a huge problem. We spent a few days in Granada, a nice colonial city. On the shores of Lake Nicaragua, I listened to locals complain that "Gringos" bought up the best real estate when it was cheap just after the war, and consequently locals are priced out of the market for business fronts with good locations. So just as with the banana crops, the profits go to the USA. At least the minimum salary just rose last week, to about $90 dollars per month! But that's only for the people lucky enough to find jobs.
Sometimes I say I'm Brazilian to avoid the prejudice (which is easy to get away with when I am with Lili speaking in Portuguese). What a difference it makes! When I pass myself off as Brazilian, local people tend to offer sincere smiles and I feel welcome as a tourist. As a Brazilian, it is common to hear people rant about Gringos; they're greedy, and loud, arrogant, unfriendly, etcetera; and most don't learn any Spanish, whereas tourists from almost every other country do. And of course, everyone here despises Bush. Sometimes I say I'm American as an ambassador of goodwill, to show that Gringos are not all like that. I go either way, depending on my mood.
We went to the wonderful island of Ometepe, home of two volcanoes. Get here if you can. Ometepe is sufficiently remote that it has not been spoiled by tourism, the local people are welcoming, and the natural beauty is well preserved. Ometepe is a hidden jewel.