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NotiCen offers information and analysis of regional economic integration, economic liberalization, and the impact on the environment, labor, politicization and income distribution in the countries of the Caribbean and Central America, including Cuba.

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Belize’s Chiquibul Forest Under Threat from Illegal Timber Loggers

Drug traffickers and smugglers of wildlife and precious wood are financing the incursion of impoverished Guatemalan peasants into Belizean territory, a practice that is decimating the Chiquibul Forest in the western part of the country, environmental NGOs working on the Belize-Guatemala border say. The intensity with which logging has occurred has led the Belizean NGO Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) to regard the problem as “one of the most critical threats” to the area’s biodiversity, to the extent that illegal loggers could wipe out half of the forest by 2023.Located in the Cayo District, the Chiquibul Forest covers an area of 176,999 hectares (437,376 acres) and comprises three protected areas: the Chiquibul National Park (the largest in Belize), the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, and the Caracol Archaeological Reserve. Biologists have identified 17 ecosystems within the area. The western side of the forest lies along Belize’s border with Guatemala.

President Ortega and First Lady Murillo Tighten Their Grip on Nicaragua

Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega orchestrated a quick succession of strong-arm maneuvers in recent weeks that not only make him a virtual shoo-in for reelection, but also put his family in a position to continue controlling the country should health or other unforeseen circumstances prevent him from completing another five-year term. The latest and arguably most attention-grabbing move came Aug. 2, when the long-serving Ortega chose his wife, first lady Rosario Murillo, as his official running mate for the Nov. 6 national elections. As vice president, Murillo would have a healthy dose of formal power to go along with the de facto authority she already wields as the regime’s spokesperson and unofficial cabinet chief. She would also be first in the line of succession to replace the 70-year-old Ortega—whose health is a frequent subject of speculation in Nicaragua. The current vice president is Omar Halleslevens, a former commander and chief of the armed forces.

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