A cautionary tale
The Miami Herald published the video above and an interesting article about the earthquake the destroyed Managua in 1972 and the lessons that Haiti can learn from that disaster. The article describes the post-earthquake aid distribution and how corruption and mismanagement ultimately contributed to the Somoza regime’s downfall. Nicaragua’s experience is a cautionary tale of how people’s reaction to corruption, at any scale, is magnified after a disaster.
When Nicaraguans talk about Haiti, as they often do these days, they feel a little bit like the Ghost of Christmas Future in A Christmas Carol, warning about shadows of things that might be if their warnings aren’t heeded. The most important, they all agree, is that corruption is potentially poisonous, coloring every public perception. “Even a little bit will grow giant in the public eye after a disaster,” says broadcaster Sacasa.
The article also uses Nicaragua as an example of what not to do with reconstruction design. Instead of rebuilding the city using modern seismic construction techniques, the Somoza regime essentially abandoned the city center and built on the outskirts, often on land they owned.
Managua’s public utilities and roads meander inefficiently and expensively around a city that resembles an elongated doughnut with a hole in the center.
Chile seems to have learned much from its own past disasters. Haiti can learn what not to do by looking at Nicaragua’s experience. But the cautionary tale is not just for Haiti. Hopefully these recent quakes and the memories they stir up will prompt Nicaragua and other countries to review their preparedness, building codes, and step up enforcement where necessary.