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EDITIONS
Crossing Continents Wednesday, 24 March, 1999, 18:05 GMT
Disaster and disillusion in Nicaragua
Watching the world go by from a park bench in the capital, Managua

In this edition of Crossing Continents, Isabel Hilton travels to Nicaragua, and examines the social as well as natural disasters which are afflicting the country.

Listen to the programme in full


In the 1980s, whenever Nicaragua came to international attention, it was usually due to the civil war raging between the country's revolutionary Sandinista government and the Contras - right-wing rebels with heavy military backing from the United States. But now that the war is over, there are new challenges to meet.

Violence against women in Nicaragua is soaring. One survey claimed that last year alone 52 per cent of Nicaraguan women suffered some form of domestic violence at the hands of their men - and all this from a country which had a "right-on revolution" with women fighting alongside men. Nicaragua, everyone thought, was different; its socialist credentials and ideals of equality were impeccable.

Experts blame the culture of machismo, the boredom of the demobbed guerillas, often brutalized by war, and men's frustrations in hard times. The country is suffering abject poverty - exacerbated by the devestation of Hurricane Mitch last autumn -- and the free market reforms of the right-wing government are causing economic chaos. Unemployment is put at 70 per cent in some areas.

Isabel Hilton interviews Daniel Ortega, who denies charges of abuse
The outrage of women and women's organisations is growing, fuelled by the allegations of sex abuse by his step-daughter against Daniel Ortega, former revolutionary icon, later president of the country and now leader of the Sandinsta opposition in parliament. A powerful women's movement has emerged, changing laws, protecting women, challenging men. Isabel Hilton looks at the reasons for this epidemic of abuse and asks what's being done to rein it in.

From Coca-Cola to the Marines, Nicaragua is learning to live with the US again
After Hurricane Mitch in October last year, in which thousands of people died, the US Forces were among the first to send help to Nicaragua: the irony of their presence after decades of ideological and military combat was enormous but the help they gave was substantial. So, how ARE relations between Nicaragua and the United States after this new "invasion"? Isabel Hilton visits the hurricane region and talks to US soldiers and local villagers.

And we examine why poetry is such a popular pursuit in the country. It's on the front page of newspapers, occupies hours of radio and TV time and is passionately recited at political rallies. Poets are mobbed as if they were football players and asked for autographs at supermarket check-outs. The poet and revolutionary, Gioconda Belli, explains why poetry is part of being Nicaraguan.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Gioconda Belli, Nicaraguan poet, Feb 1999
Nicaraguan poet, reads her "Lullaby for a country flooded with tears..."
See also:

10 Mar 99 | Americas
10 Dec 98 | Americas
05 Dec 98 | Americas
20 Jul 98 | Americas
16 Dec 97 | From Our Own Correspondent
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