Interview With The Vice Mayor of Bluefields, Mr. Dumar Abeya.

Photo: Bluefieldspulse 

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 Bluefields.

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 years.

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.

 

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