Over the past week, a series of blockades on key highways in Nicaragua has started to occur. These blockades are a result of on-going protests in Nicaragua going on against President Daniel Ortega’s government. Perhaps of most interest to those who cover the cigar industry is a blockade that is now occurring on the Pan American Highway on the southern end of the city of Estelí.
The Pan American Highway serves as the main artery through the country of Nicaragua stretching from the border with Honduras in the North to the border of Costa Rica in the South. Within Nicaragua, it connects Estelí with the capital city of Managua – where the airport exists for both commerce and passengers. The blockades have been started by the protesters who are hoping to make a stronger statement by cutting off key transportation arteries in the country.
The blockades have been occurring on the southern end of the city of Estelí, but have also been in other areas of Nicaragua.
With Estelí the epicenter of the cigar industry in Nicaragua, concerns exist on how this will affect both production and distribution. Currently, the situation is affecting cigar industry personnel getting to an from the factory. Getting supplies (tobacco) and finished goods (cigars) in and out of the country have now been impacted. Time will tell what the impacts to the end consumer will be. The cigar industry is currently in one of its busiest seasons as it is ramping up production to fulfill orders for the upcoming IPCPR Trade Show that begins July 14th in Las Vegas.
Angela Brown, co-owner of Fabrica Oveja Negra in Estelí has reported on her social media the blockades have impacted going into work at their factory.
The delays have not just impacted Estelí. Rob Rasmussen, brand manager for Mombacho Cigars was a guest on the 5/25/18 edition of Smoke Night Live and said the situation in Nicaragua has caused a delay in getting the company’s Cosecha 2013 release out of Grenada, where the company’s Casa Favilli factory is located. Meanwhile, numerous people in the cigar industry have told Cigar Coop, the traffic in the area around Augusto C. Sandino airport in Nicaragua is subjected to numerous delays.
Juan Martinez, President of Joya de Nicaragua recently said, “We soon face a serious economic slowdown, with many sectors being badly hurt, tourism being one of them, as we have lost the faith and love from many of you who trusted our land. Many people will face unemployment as businesses fight to stay afloat. Many more will suffer as they will struggle to bring bread to the table for their families.”
The protests started after Nicaragua’s National Social Security Institute (INSS) announced it was instituting a tax that would have increased the contributions by both employers and employees in Nicaragua while reducing overall benefits. When the Nicaraguan government took a heavy-handed response to the protest, the situation created violence. While the government rescinded this plan, the protests have continued – with increased pressure for President Ortega to step down.
Photo Credits: La Voz Del Norte