Bluefields, RAAS, Dec. 4,-Pulse: Can you give us an assessment of
the situation of the mayor’s office?
Abeya: The Frente Sandinista won the
mayoral office this year, but that does not mean the (Alcaldía) mayoral
office is Sandinista. We are for all the people. The majority voted for
us; hence, we are obliged to serve everyone. Logically, we found
mismanagement and lack of vision of the former administration. This has
obligated us to form professional teams with vision to elaborate a plan
for the next five years thus opening the way for those who will come after
us. We know that the situation, economically speaking, is very challenging
because of the fact that the mayoral office political affiliation is
different from that of the president of the country. Therefore, we have
not received sufficient funds to develop Bluefields. The little funds that
they have allocated for us; we have used to repair the streets. We have
not constructed any new streets because we have a water project coming
possibly in year 2003 or 2004. So what’s the sense in constructing new
streets when they will be dug up again to lay the pipes? The most we are
going to do is to fix the potholes, and as you can see, we have patched
over 90% of the streets. We also have plans to build all the sidewalks of
The major project that we have, which has been a
headache all our lives, is trash removal and disposal. We are introducing
a project to build a completely new dumpsite that will cost between 12 and
13 million córdobas. The first stage is to acquire the land, and the
second stage is to acquire the equipment needed to do the work. This is a
project we want to complete during our administration. Another project we
have is to build new parks throughout the city and renovate the one we
have now. There are a lot of things to do; however, the economical
conditions of Nicaragua do not allow for much improvement. In terms of
commerce, business has fallen tremendously and in turn has reduced our
income drastically. We believe that this coming year things will begin to
turn around with new investments that would permit us to recover revenue
to reinvest in the city. So far we have recovered 400,000 córdobas, which
is not enough to invest in any big project. We depend on what the
government gives us. We have received 600,000 córdobas so far this year,
which is not much.
Pulse: Are you receiving any income from
the taxes collected from the fishing companies?
Abeya: With respect to the fishing
companies, there is an agreement in which the regional government will
receive 20% of the taxes, of which; we are supposed to receive 5 to 10%.
To date, we have not received a penny. We are fighting to have them pay
the taxes directly to us. We have filed grievances against Oceanic
(fishing company) to try and recover 3 million córdobas in back taxes. We
can do a lot of things for the city with 3 million córdobas. ENEL
(electrical power company) owes 1.5 million in back taxes; they are not
paying. ENITEL (telephone company) is paying half of what it should. All
of this hampers our development projects. We have to be frank; we can’t
do anything without money. Good ideas and good projects can’t be
fulfilled without money.
Pulse: A question about the famous 19th
of July Street that should have been finished. The funds, the way we
understand it, were channeled elsewhere. What can you tell us about that?
Abeya: That was a political maneuver.
They wanted to politicize the construction of the streets because it’s
not the job of the regional government to build streets. It’s the
Alcaldía’s. There was misuse of the funds. Of the 13 million córdobas
allocated to construct San Pedro’s and 19th of July Streets, which is
approximately 2.7 kilometers, they have used 8 million, and San Pedro’s
street is still not finished yet. Now Mr. Hebert, the new regional
government coordinator, has requested that the Alcaldía supervise the
remainder of the project. We are willing to support them. We are not going
to manage the funds; they will. We will supervise the works if and when we
come to some agreement. At present, we are only having discussions. It’s
not concrete that we will supervise the project. If this were to happen,
we would be in a position to repair the entire street from the bridge to
the entrance of the highway. We have the designs and know how to build the
drainage to alleviate the flooding but for the moment our hands are tied.
Pulse: In terms of contact with foreign
organizations, embassies, etc do you receive any donations?
Abeya: When we first came into office,
the first thing we did was to look for help. The mayor visited Spain. He
visited Girolla, which is a sister city of Bluefields and has sponsored
projects with our city. They have pledge 650,000 dollars in aid to our
administration, which ends in 2004. Presently, we have not received any
money yet. What has been approved is the purchase of two trucks for trash
collection because the equipment we have now are deteriorating rapidly. We
have also received 73,000 dollars in aid from Japan to rehabilitate the
market. We have renovated the entire market changing the roof, floor,
booths, electrical system, sanitation, etc.
Pulse: Does the Alcaldía have any plans
to reactivate the old COPESNICA site in Old Bank?
Abeya: Directly, we know of some
Salvadorans who are working on that, but I can’t give you any more
information because we do not manage that site.
Pulse: In what way can the coast people
living abroad help with the projects and plans you have?
Abeya: In principle, I would tell all the
folks that if they truly want to help, they could contact us by mail. This
way we can send them the plans of the small projects we have such as park
rehabilitation, sidewalk construction, and equipment to collect trash. We
could send them the budgets of these mini-projects. We are putting
trashcans on all the corners of Bluefields. We sweep the streets at five o’clock
in the morning. At that time the streets are clean, but they are dirty
again by nine o’clock A.M. What we need is to educate the people to put
the trash in its place.
Pulse: In the past, we’ve had a
campaign of planting trees around the city, but as of late we’ve seen
ENEL cutting them down. It’s seems there is no coordination between you.
How can you prevent this from happening?
Abeya: It’s not because we don’t have
the will. But ENEL abuses its power by cutting down the trees when they
touch the power lines. We have an organization called INAFOR from which
you must get permission to cut a tree even if it’s in your yard.
Pulse: Does the regional government or the
Alcaldía have any plans to reinstate the first division baseball team,
which is greatly needed on the coast?
Abeya: With respect to the first division
team, there was an initiative on our part to contact comandante Bayardo
Arce to see if we could revive the talents we have in this sport. He said
that he would do everything possible to revitalize the sport; however,
this is at the governmental level. He has, as deputy, the capacity to
lobby through the regional government. The Alcaldía’s concerns are
about the development of our community. Surely, we can cooperate but up to
a certain point. When it comes to maintenance of the team that would have
be on a governmental level.
Pulse: You have mentioned that you are
going to build a new dumpsite near the swamps. Are you going to do any
studies of the impact on the environment before you begin to build?
Abeya: That project has been in
development for some time. All the studies were completed and show a
minimal impact on the creeks and trees directly exposed at the mouth of
Dead Man Creek. We will be using modern techniques to assure minimal
contamination of the environment. The project has a durability of twenty
Pulse: What plan does the Alcaldía have
to build a new baseball or soccer stadium?
Abeya: Soccer is growing fast and strong
in Bluefields. There are 36 teams at different levels with more than 400
youths and no available fields to play. FIFA gave 25,000 dollars to the
local federation to rehabilitate the field in Loma Fresca. The money was
just enough to clear the land. We have made available a field in Pancasan
as an alternative for them to play until theirs is finished. We have got
approval for a baseball field. We have got to find the land because also
we’ve got the problem of people who need a place to build their homes.
Pulse: We have noticed that the former
administrations donated lands to the people who asked. However, in many
cases the recipients of these lands turned around and sold them. What
steps will you take to stifle these activities?
Abeya: When we took over, the mayor’s
office was in total disorder. One of the reasons was the arbitrary way in
which lands were given. Anyone could come to the office and Lala, as a
friend, would give he or she a piece of land. There were those who really
needed land, and those who wanted the land to do business. We have
established a new system through the council. In the first place, we have
not given any land. We will recognize the validity of all those who
receive lands from the previous administrations. But from here on out, we
will implement a new system. For anyone to receive land, he or she must
show the need for the land; show that he/she does not earn a salary to buy
a piece of land; show that he/she does not own property anywhere which
will be verified by the registry of lands. Thereafter, we will make the
decision whether or not to give the lands. We will give preference to
families, not individuals. If you come to us and say that you have a
spouse and children, the title of the land will be issued to the woman,
not the man. So be careful.
Pulse: SLC want to thank you for this
interview and would like you to know that there are coast people in the
USA who can help with the projects you have. They are concern about
transparency when handling the funds they may send your administration.
What can you say to assure those folks of the proper use of the funds?
Abeya: The first thing we see is the need
for capable people to do the jobs. The second is to let the people know
what we are doing. And third is the transparency of the fund we manage.
Every month we review the income and spending of our office to get a
glimpse of how we are doing. There is a friend, Reverend Bent of the
Baptist Church, in Alabama who sent an ambulance exclusively for the fire
station, and we delivered it to the fire station. We took care of the
transportation cost and custom taxes as promised.