With important elections in the United States now upon us, I want to explain our process of receiving absentee ballots and voting from Nicaragua.
“Recognize yourself in he and she who are not like you and me.” ― Carlos Fuentes
The scene at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border this past weekend is reminiscent of a Syrian refugee camp, but on a much smaller scale with about 2,000 Cuban refugees who are walking to the U.S. hoping for permanent residency.
UGH! I am so frustrated with the politics in the United States over gun-control. I am not sure what can be done to stop the massacres in the U.S. So, I did a little research on where are the world’s guns and which countries have the highest rates of firearm murders.
Piecing the information together, thanks to Gun Homicides and Gun Ownership listed by country, gave me a better perspective of Nicaragua and where it stands in relation to other countries in the world.
Let’s get real about gun ownership in Nicaragua. What are the laws, the procedures, and reasons to own a gun in Nicaragua?
The average total of all firearms in Nicaragua is 350,000. The average number of firearms per 100 people is 7.7.
The average homicide by firearm rate per 100,000 people in Nicaragua is 5.92.
The percentage of homicides by firearms in Nicaragua is 42.1% or 338 firearm homicides.
The information from this article tells me that the U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world – an average of 88 per 100 people own guns. Nicaragua’s rate of gun ownership per 100 people is 7.7… which is considerably lower than the U.S.
The U.S. does not have the worst firearm murder rate in the world. Honduras wins the prize with a staggering 68.43 murder by firearm rate per 100,000 people. Nicaragua, which shares a border with Honduras, has an average of murder by firearm rate of 5.92 per 100,000 people. This indicates to me that Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in Central America and they must be doing something right to halt gun violence.
What are the laws of gun ownership and the procedures for registering a gun in Nicaragua?
Thanks to Darrell Bushnell ( a U.S. expat living in Nicaragua) and Paul Tiffer ( a Nicaraguan lawyer) this article explains everything you need to know about Registering Firearms in Nicaragua.
One overlooked item in this list by many countries: certification by a psychologist or a doctor to prove that the applicant is mentally and physically able to carry and handle a weapon.
An expat friend bought a gun in Nicaragua and registered it according to the laws of Nicaragua. His psychological examination was done in Spanish with a certified psychologist.
I understand that gun-control and registration vary from state to state in the United States. However, it is of my opinion, that if the federal government enacted a law that specifically required a psychological and physical examination for prospective and legal gun owners, then we could better track the people with mental illnesses applying for and/or registering already owned guns. This appears to be a practical solution to reduce gun violence in Nicaragua.
I also find it interesting that a gun must be concealed at all times in Nicaragua. There are no special licenses for concealed weapons.
Why do people own guns in Nicaragua?
First, the majority of Nicaraguans do not own guns, at least not legally registered guns as reported in the statistics. How would one find the number of illegal guns possessed throughout the world? They can’t gather statistics on guns that aren’t legally registered. The population of Nicaragua is 6.17 million people. The average total of all firearms in Nicaragua is 350,000 with the average number of gun owners being 7.7 per 100 people.
Guns are expensive to buy in Nicaragua. The registration and licensing procedures are time-consuming and expensive for the average Nicaraguan. 48% of the population lives in poverty and 40% of the population lives on less than one dollar a day.
Nicaraguans cherish their machetes. They use their machetes for work, for protection, and for safety. They are cheap and readily available. Now, if I could find homicide rates by machete for Nicaragua, I suspect they would be very high, certainly higher than homicide rate by firearm.
What do responsible gun owners do with their guns? I really don’t know the answer to that because there are so few people that I know who own guns on Ometepe Island. Our expat friends who have legally registered guns use them for protection. We have a pellet/BB gun that we use for shooting rats in our garden. I only know of one incident where a legal gun-owner in Nicaragua used a gun to protect his family from a home invasion. The perpetrators entered the home with guns, and were shot with the homeowners’ legally registered guns in their attempts to strangle and possibly rape the homeowner.
Paul Tiffer concludes by saying, “You may buy or own as many guns as you wish but you will need a separate permit for each one. You should use a lawyer or perhaps a friend in the police department to help you walk through the process. Having a firearm without a permit is automatic confiscation, jail time and a fine on top of it.”
This information was an eye opener for me. I hope you find it helpful.
If you live abroad, do you know the legal process to buy and register a gun? What are the statistics on homicide rates by firearm where you live?
When asked why foreigners immigrate to Nicaragua, often they say, I just want to feel free, like never before. My response is usually, Free from what? Does Nicaragua offer more freedom than we can obtain in our home countries? If so, what are those freedoms and are there restrictions to our freedom while living in Nicaragua?
I’m reminded of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song, Free Bird. It is a metaphor for life. “Things just couldn’t be the same. ‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now,” the group sings. Life happens whether we want it to or not. Since life passes so quickly, I figured that I might as well jump right into the thick of it…take calculated risks…live my dreams…change and grow. I couldn’t handle staying where things were always the same day after day. Life seemed to be passing me by, and I needed a change where I could spread my wings and fly. Nicaragua gave me that change.
What freedoms do we have in Nicaragua?
Some expat business owners say that they have more freedom to conduct business in Nicaragua. I assume that means there isn’t as much bureaucracy. Others interpret freedom to mean less financial stress and less work. For me, now that we are retired, freedom = lifetime pensions. We can live comfortably on a fixed income in Nicaragua.
As expats, we express our freedom in many creative ways. We are artists, builders, writers, chefs, teachers, and photographers. We cherish our freedom and our rights to free speech. We defend our home countries, and pack our traditions, values, cultures, and symbols of freedom to display in our adopted country.
Breaking news! In a dramatic policy change, the legislative branch of Nicaragua, the National Assembly, confirmed today that Mandarin will become the official language of Nicaragua. An amendment to the Nicaraguan Constitution requires all foreign residents and nationals to pass a Mandarin proficiency test.
In expectation of thousands of Chinese immigrants entering Nicaragua to work on the proposed Nicaraguan canal, the spokesperson for the President of the National Assembly states that the rule change is a result of concerns that national and foreign residents will not easily assimilate into local communities where the Chinese immigrants will settle. Without a solid foundation of the Mandarin language, it will adversely affect the local populations.
In a prepared statement being distributed to foreign embassies, consulates, and the Nicaraguan embassy, as well as immigration offices in Managua, the National Assembly states, “We recognize that Mandarin proficiency will be a major predictor to adapt to Nicaragua and a new Chinese culture. We have become increasingly concerned about recent clashes between the Chinese and local residents. Language problems may be causing the clashes due to cultural differences and misunderstandings.”
The weekly photo challenge is wall. Nicaragua abounds with walls of war, remembrances of their defense of personal rights, freedom, and dignity. Honoring their Nicaraguan heroes is especially clear on the walls in the cities.
I think I have been duped! Last week, a Department of Health medical brigade (MINSA) came to Ometepe Island offering medical services. They walked door to door accompanied by a police officer on a motorcycle.
It’s common to see a MINSA medical brigade here. When severe flooding eroded the shoreline, MINSA came door to door passing out free antibiotics for Leptospirosis. During the rainy season, they pass out a poison powder to sprinkle in standing water where mosquitoes may breed. But, they never come accompanied by the police, and they are always local MINSA employees.
Marina was cleaning my house, and I was raking the yard when I saw the medical brigade come to my door. I didn’t catch the beginning of the conversation and my Spanish vocabulary with medical words is severely lacking. Although much of the conversation was lost in translation, this is my interpretation of the conversation that took place:
Male nurse: We are offering free medical exams at the hospital on Friday and Saturday.
Me: Great! Sign up my husband and me.
Male Nurse: No. I can’t do that. It is an exam of your ‘bahena’.
Me: What is a bahena and why can’t my husband get the exam, too?
Me: Is it an exam for your heart? For your stomach?
Laughter all around.
Marina: No. It is an exam of your ‘bahena’ and a papagramo exam. ( she said while holding back a chuckle)
Male Nurse: Laughing, while he pointed to my vagina.
Me: Oh, I get it. You are offering free vaginal exams and Pap tests. Sign me up.
I signed a sheet of paper and included my telephone number so they could call me for the time of the appointment. Friday and Saturday passed, and I never received a call. Then, I read this in La Prensa:
For three consecutive days an alleged brigade of the Ministry of Health, heavily guarded by police, has tried uselessly to get into the communities of Sacramento, Moyogalpa, Ometepe Island, where residents maintain an armed encampment with sticks, stones and even machetes. Alberto Lopez, the county Esquipulas, Moyogalpa, said villagers reject the action of MoH for ordering information and ask their opinion on the Canal.
Here lots of times have been brigades of the Ministry of Health, to vaccinate and dispense medicines and they have never come up with police and military riot police, so people joined and they will not be allowed to come to our communities, Lopez said.
He noted that the communities where the brigade is interested in the survey is in Esquipulas, Los Angeles and Sacramento. People decided to keep them out because we want to tell you that nobody here wants to sell their property, are in our territory and we are defending what is ours, argued López.
Juan Barrios, who lives in the Sacramento community, again reported that island communities have returned to ring their church bells to alert the public when pollsters brigade and police and riot police trying to enter the community.
For three days straight doing this encampment to ask these interviewers leave here and the police will say we are not willing to get us out of our territory. Today (last Friday) morning, the police tried to persuade for maintence, but the response of Sacramento was to leave here said Barrios.Juan Barrios, a resident of the community of Sacramento, said when the brigade withdrew assumptions threatened to not send medicines to the health center of the town and told not to return for that place. Villagers said they will not move until the brigade and the police desist from entering the community to ask personal data on the draft of the Grand Canal.
So what exactly did I sign? Who knows? I had been warned by local friends…after the fact…never to sign my name to anything. Have I been duped? Probably. I may have signed a petition in support of the grand canal. They never asked me any questions about the canal…I suppose that once they figured that I didn’t know what a ‘bahena’ was that I would stupidly sign anything. And, I did!
We assume so many things in living in Nicaragua. I want to believe that the police are here to protect us. I want to believe that the Ministry of Health is only offering medical services that we are unable to get on Ometepe Island. I want to believe that the Nicaraguan government wouldn’t use tricks and treachery to gain support for the Nicaraguan canal.
I’ve learned never to assume anything and never to sign anything without questioning. Always expect the unexpected while living in the land of the not quite right. Life goes on…but I’ll always wonder what I signed…and probably never find out the truth.
“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Over 2,000 people attended the march against the canal in Moyogalpa, Ometepe Island on Saturday, November 15, 2014. When I filmed the march, it surprised me that there were less people in attendance. The last march against the canal drew 4,000 people.
It wasn’t until the march was over that I learned of military tactics to prevent hundreds of people in buses and trucks from attending. They were detained at check points along the main road from Altagracia by the Nicaraguan military.
There has been a lot of “detaining” lately in Nicaragua. After the first protest march on Ometepe Island, the ferry was detained for 20 minutes by the Nicaraguan military. I know of several other situations where people were detained in Nicaragua because of taking photos of the canal route, or simply trying to fish off the coast of Ometepe Island.
Our hands will not tremble when we bring out sharp machetes to protect our families, our
land, and our basic human rights. ~ The Nicaraguan people
I was going to write a post about the many uses of the machete in Nicaragua, but with recent protests and lack of transparency about the Nicaraguan Canal Project, I foresee many Nicaraguans sharpening their machetes. The comments below represent the alarming anger, mistrust, and nervousness of the Nicaraguan people.
Thousands of locals along the route have begun protesting against their impending expropriations with several demonstrations having taken place in just the last few weeks. Many of the signs they carry read: “No Chinos!” The anger has become so intense that police have begun patrolling outside of the Chinese engineers’ headquarters in the provincial city of Tola. The Red Canal Continue reading