The delegate of the Basque Government in Chile and Peru, Ana Urchueguía, owns at least five properties in the Nicaraguan Department of Madriz, whose capital is Somoto. The properties acquired by Urchueguía while she was Mayor of the Basque town of Lasarte-Oria, include a country house of nearly one million square meters which she bought from the NGO Association of Community Development (Asodecom). At the same time, this NGO managed the cooperation funds received from Lasarte-Oria, chaired by Urchueguía (who is affiliated to the Socialist Party of the Basque Country).
The money sent by the Basque town to Asodecom was handled in a little transparent manner, as Mauricio Cajina, the former deputy Mayor of Somoto and founder of Asodecom complains: “It was never clear what was owned by Asodecom and what was owned by Ana Urchueguía”. He further argues that “plots of land that had been bought with public money” were registered as property of Asodecom. The former deputy Mayor received death threats after asking for explanations about the former Mayor’s properties. Urchueguía was Mayor of Lasarte-Oria up until 2010, when she started working as a delegate in Chile and Peru for the Basque Government.
Marcio Rivas, the axis of the economic operations
The support received from Lasarte-Oria’s council was at all times linked to the figure of Marcio Ariel Rivas Núñez, with whom Urchueguía maintained a romantic relationship. Between 1997 and 2000, the funds sent from Lasarte-Oria were handled through the Committee for Community Development and Aid to the Rural Area (CDC), a municipal department headed by Rivas, who was then the councilor of Somoto. In 2000, Rivas tried to win the mayoralty and when he failed he started transferring the aids for the development of Lasarte to the NGO Asodecom, which was reinvented as an entity separated from the municipal government, so that the funds became independent from the City Council. At the end of 2004, Rivas won the Mayor’s office, thanks to the active support of Urchueguía and an electoral program based on cooperation projects.
Already in 2007, Urchueguía bought a one-million square meters property in Las Sabanas which was owned by Asodecom since January 2004. The sale price was about $60,000 dollars (44,500 euros, at that time), and this amount has been recognized by the delegate of the Basque Government herself. However, appraisers from the Department of Madriz have valued the real price of the property in between 200,000 and 300,000 euros. The sale of the property was managed by Marcio Rivas himself, as representative of the NGO.
Timeline of acquisitions
The former Socialist Mayor acquired the first properties in Nicaragua in November 2002. The first property bought by Urchueguía was five hectares big, was located in Somoto, and was sold by an individual for more than 2,700 euros. Almost four years later, in March 2006, she acquired a second property in the east area of Somoto; it was approximately 650 square meters big, and cost about 1,700 euros. Only a month later, the former Mayor spent more than 8,000 euros in an 8.4 hectares hacienda located on the western side of Somoto.
Despite a few months earlier some of the irregularities committed became known by the Spanish public opinion, in August 2007 Urchueguía decided to buy from Asodecom the aforementioned 98-hectare property.
The last property acquired by Urchueguía is located in Valle de Cacaulí, also in Somoto. The area is over 1,700 square meters big, and was purchased from an individual in August 2008 for approximately $300 dollars.
Deia newspaper, “Ana Urchueguía dispone de al menos cinco propiedades inmuebles en Somoto” (Ana Urchueguía owns at least five properties in Somoto), February 27, 2011, http://www.deia.com/2011/02/27/politica/euskadi/ana-urchueguia-dispone-de-al-menos-cinco-propiedades-inmuebles-en-somoto
Noticias de Gipuzkoa newspaper, “Ana Urchueguía compró una de las mayores fincas de Nicaragua a la ONG que tutelaba desde Lasarte-Oria” (Ana Urchueguía bought one of the greatest properties in Nicaragua from the NGO she supported from Lasarte-Oria), February 25, 2011, http://www.noticiasdegipuzkoa.com/2011/02/25/politica/euskadi/urchueguia-compro-una-de-las-mayores-fincas-de-nicaragua-a-la-ong-que-tutelaba-desde-lasarte-1
Noticias de Gipuzkoa newspaper, “Marcio Rivas me ofreció dos balazos por pedirle cuentas de los dineros de Urchueguía” (Marcio Rivas gave me two gunshots because I asked him to account for Urchueguía’s properties, February 27, 2011, http://noticiasdegipuzkoa.com/2011/02/27/politica/euskadi/marcio-rivas-me-ofrecio-dos-balazos-por-pedirle-cuentas-de-los-dineros-de-urchueguia
Kaos en la red, “Ana Urchueguía (PSE) compró una de las mayores fincas de Nicaragua a la ONG que tutelaba desde Lasarte-Oria” (Ana Urchueguía (PSE) bought one of the greatest properties in Nicaragua from the NGO she protected from Lasarte-Oria), February 26, 2011: http://www.kaosenlared.net/noticia/ana-urchueguia-pse-compro-mayores-fincas-nicaragua-ong-tutelaba-desde-
Diagonal, “Acusan a la alcaldesa de Lasarte de hacer negocio con la cooperación en Nicaragua” (Mayor of Lasarte is accused of doing business with the cooperation in Nicaragua), November 23, 2006, http://www.diagonalperiodico.net/Acusan-a-la-alcaldesa-de-Lasarte.html
Gara; “López calla sobre Urchueguía y la investigación se reactiva en Lasarte”, (López is silent about Urchueguía, while the investigation is reactivated in Lasarte), March 1, 2011, http://www.gara.net/paperezkoa/20110301/251129/es/Lopez-calla-sobre-Urchueguia-investigacion-reactiva-Lasarte
Alberto Ardèvol Abreu (University of La Laguna)
Ciro Enrique Hernández Rodríguez (University of La Laguna)
Cruz Alberto Martínez Arcos (University of London)
Samuel Toledano (University of La Laguna)
José Manuel de Pablos Coello and José Manuel Pestano Rodríguez (University of La Laguna)