The Daniel Ortega-Rosario Murillo regime has begun another dubious social housing program with financing from state-run China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA). The regime, without further details and amid skepticism, said that CIDCA would invest $60 million in the construction of 12,034 houses in 15 departments of the country.
“Nicaragua’s economy is the most backward in the region and has no significant natural resources. It has no purchasing power or export capacity,” Enrique Sáenz, Nicaraguan economist and host of the Vamos al Punto news show, told Diálogo on May 20.
The groundbreaking ceremony took place in the Nuevas Victorias residential development, in the municipality of Managua, where 920 houses are expected to be built in a first phase, state-owned media El 19 Digital reported on April 16.
To develop Nuevas Victorias, the Office of the Attorney General of Nicaragua expropriated 637,298 square meters of eight private properties, all located in Managua’s Sabana Grande Sur, Nicaragua’s official gazette indicated.
China also pledged to build thermal plants in addition to other projects in education, economic growth, culture, health, infrastructure, and sanitation, Colombian magazine Semana reported.
“China in Nicaragua has so far not taken any steps that are different from those it has already taken in the countries of the region with which it has established diplomatic relations,” Sáenz said. “With El Salvador there are more announcements than realities and the trade deficit multiplied. With Costa Rica the free trade agreement is more than 10 years old and the trade balance is also in deficit. In addition, there are no major investments that benefit the public.”
“Honestly, I have serious doubts that [Nuevas Victorias] is really financed by China, because of the deceptive handling,” Elvira Cuadra Cuadra, associate researcher at the Center for Communication Research and the Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policy of Nicaragua, told Diálogo on May 20. “What does exist that has been approved and is in progress are two loans with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) for $77 million and $20 million, respectively, for that purpose.”
The $77 million refers to a loan, the second disbursement of a CABEI-approved trust, to offer mortgage loans “with favorable conditions,” Nicaragua state-run television channel TVN8 reported.
“The loans are to finance new allocations. In the end they are resources used for patronage. That is, to maintain the loyalties of public officials and other collaborators of the regime,” Cuadra added. “They are defined as social housing, but they are not always accessible because they require certain economic conditions that are limited to certain people.”
Managua’s City Hall calls on social networks for citizens to become beneficiaries of a housing program dubbed Bismark Martínez. However, participants’ comments on Facebook show their discontent and the scarce information they receive. Some point out that this program mainly benefits families of paramilitaries or pro-regime members.
“They are thieves. You have to pay for the house in 20 years and in dollars. You supposedly don’t have to pay anything in dollars here. You can’t make advance installments, since that affects them because the dollar goes up in value. If you pay late, they charge you $4 of interest per day,” Cinthya Prado said on the City Hall official website. If you ask for [your money] back, they force you to do a lot of paperwork. To top it off, they give it to you after two or three months, and they give you only 50 percent of your money back even if they haven’t built anything on your land. They are a bunch of thieves.”
The Ortega-Murillo regime launched the Bismarck Martínez social housing program after the 2018 violent crackdown on protests. On May 10, 2023, the Nicaraguan newspaper Confidencial reported that the program faces financial problems, due to the regime’s decision to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in December 2021, switching its allegiance to China.
On the other hand, 60 percent of the exports of countries such as Nicaragua go to the United States, so that country remains its main trading partner, the U.S. Embassy in Managua indicated on May 12. China and Russia are in the penultimate and last place as partners respectively, which could be an indicator that the regime’s new alliances have not led to great results, Nicaraguan media outlet Divergentes concluded.