CenAm Watch: Nicaragua strike, Costa Rica economy

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Nicaragua readies for general strike

Nicaragua awoke Wednesday to relative normality with markets and retail stores open for business ahead of the 24-hour general strike set to take place Thursday.

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The strike's goal is to pressure President Daniel Ortega to end the violence attached to protests that began nearly two months ago, as well as force Ortega to restart a dialogue with the opposition. A church-organized dialogue in mid-May collapsed shortly after it began.

The violence, which has drawn global condemnation, has resulted in 42 deaths, according to government sources, though Nicaraguan human rights organization (Cenidh) put the figure at 149, according to a DPA report.

Many Nicaraguans are calling for Ortega's resignation in light of violent actions by paramilitary forces supporting the government.

Strike supporters are calling on a complete stoppage of all economic activities Thursday, including trade, tourism, freight transport and public transportation, starting at midnight local time.

The violence and protests have begun to have a significant effect on the nation's economy, leading central bank president Ovidio Reyes to cut the bank's GDP growth outlook for 2018 to between 3.0% and 3.5% from between 4.5% and 5.0% in a statement made May 21.

Reyes made the new forecast on May 21 and the central bank has not since updated its estimate.

Pictured: An elderly woman sells clothes at a stall in Managua's largest market, Mercado Oriental.

Situated in the heart of Nicaragua's capital, the chaotic Mercado Oriental market - which was open for business Wednesday, according to DPA - generates tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars, providing a measure of the country's economic pulse that vendors say is now beating at a snail's pace.

Costa Rica slows

The Costa Rican central bank said the country's monthly economic activity indicator (IMAE) slowed in April to 2.8% year-on-year growth.

The April IMAE came in 0.2 points below that recorded in the same month in 2017, "the product of deceleration in growth in the majority of economic activities, particularly financial and insurance activities, professional services and trade, as well as agriculture, forestry and commercial fishing, which combined explain 92.5% of the deceleration of the general indicator," according the central bank report.

The slowdown in financial services is related to weaker lending in trade operations and financing for new automobiles, while the agriculture sector was effected by a drop in banana production, the bank said.

Costa Rica recorded 3.2% GDP growth in 2017, and the monetary authority projected a 3.6% expansion for this year in its annual economic outlook report.