Nicaragua has created a new National Ministry for Extraterrestrial Space Affairs, The Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, sparking contempt from critics in a nation that experiences a constant erosion of human rights since the brutal crackdown on anti-government protests ago. three years.
The new space agency was approved by 76 lawmakers on Wednesday in the country’s congress, which is dominated by President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista party. Fifteen opposition lawmakers abstained.
In a country struggling to supply its people with food, fuel and coronavirus vaccines, exactly what the ministry is supposed to do is unclear.
It will be under the control of the Nicaraguan army, which has no space program. The law says that the ministry “will promote the development of space activities, with the aim of expanding the country’s capabilities in the fields of education, industry, science and technology.”
Geologist Jaime Incer Barquero, president of the Nicaraguan Academy of Geography and History, told CNN: “Nicaragua has no scientific capacity or tradition, it does not have a serious (space) observatory. We are not scientifically qualified as a country to carry out this type of research ”.
Social media users created memes of Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, dressed as astronauts, and of the Nicaraguan police expropriating the moon, as Ortega has done with some buildings in Nicaragua that belonged to the media and civic groups with whom he did not agree.
Critics said the country has no money to spare for space exploration dreams and accused Ortega of trying to distract from his dismal human rights record and his response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Nicaraguan government has constantly downplayed the impact of Covid-19 and has yet to purchase any coronavirus vaccine. The country has undergone a deep social and economic crisis since the government put down massive protests in 2018.
The space agency is not the first time that Ortega has endorsed quixotic proposals. In 2013, it authorized a Chinese company to build a $ 50 billion canal in Nicaragua. The project has made little progress.
Human rights organizations, for their part, said Thursday that they will demand a “firm resolution” on the human rights situation in Nicaragua at the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council on February 22.
“Human rights violations continue in Nicaragua and require a mission to visit the country and make recommendations to overcome these challenges and for the country to return to normalcy before the elections” next fall, said Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, special investigator from the ONU. on the rights of peaceful assembly and association.
National elections are scheduled for November 7. Ortega is expected to run for his fourth term as president. If he wins, it would be his third consecutive term since 2007.
In recent months, the Ortega government has proposed, approved and implemented a series of laws that make it difficult for non-governmental organizations to function.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism