Mission Journal: Lost in Managua

There are few street names and no addresses in Managua, a famously disorganized city whose downtown was destroyed in a 1972 earthquake and never rebuilt.  To find a house, office, or government building you need directions which are only intelligible to locals. Here are couple of examples:

Channel 8: From the military hospital, go two blocks towards the lake, and a half a block down.

CENIDH (Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights): From the Montoya Texaco, go one and half blocks south.

Americas Program Coordinator Carlos Laurìa and I are in Managua this week to gain a better understanding of why press freedom conditions have deteriorated dramatically in the last year. Thanks to our intrepid taxi driver, Gerard Figueroa Romero, we’ve been able to track down and meet with journalists, human rights advocates, and various experts over the last few days.

However, there’s an important perspective that we don’t yet have–that of the Nicaraguan government. And it’s not because of problems finding their addresses. In fact, we’ve been trying for weeks to line up meetings with top officials, from President Daniel Ortega on down, but it’s been a struggle. Journalists here tell us the same thing–government officials are notoriously inaccessible. Ortega has not given a single press conference since taking office, and has only granted one interview as far we can tell, to David Frost of Al-Jazeera a few weeks ago. That’s unfortunate. We certainly want to engage the government, and we recognize that our report will be more complete if we can include the perspective of top officials. Since we now have directions and help from Gerald, our plan is drop by the offices of government officials and ask if they’ll see us.  Journalists here tell us it just might work. We’ll report back on any success by the end of the week.