By Stephen Sefton
[Stephen Sefton has served as a community worker in Nicaragua for 28 years. Since 2008, he has coordinated the web site Tortilla con Sal which follows events in Nicaragua and the region.]
(This article was first published by Tortilla con Sal on October 23, 2022.)
In Nicaragua, the population lives the daily reality of the country’s revolutionary development, the democratization of the economy, the modernization of the health and education systems, the transformation of infrastructure and a dynamic reaffirmation of culture, identity and national dignity. However, overseas and in the region itself, these tremendous socio-economic victories are practically invisible. It is instructive to look at this reality more carefully.
In a recent interview, Treasury Minister Iván Acosta observed that Nicaragua is one of the countries that grew the most: “We grew in the years of the pandemic a combined 8.3%, which is the highest growth in Central America, one of the highest in all of Latin America and probably internationally.” The data cited by Minister Acosta are endorsed by international financial institutions. Likewise, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration confirm that Nicaragua is among the best countries in terms of the execution of their respective loan portfolios. Now too, the Financial Action Task Force has certified Nicaragua as a country free of money laundering.
A study in May 2021 by the World Health Organization and the University of Oxford included Nicaragua among the ten safest countries for travelers in relation to Covid-19. Nicaragua was the only Latin American country on the list. Nicaragua has the most extensive and well-equipped public health system in Central America. Six more major hospitals are expected to be completed in the coming months. Nicaragua has just inaugurated the first medical oxygen plant in Central America. The National Reference Diagnostic Center is one of the pioneer laboratories of molecular biology in Latin America, second in the region. In Nicaragua, health care is free.
Education in the public school system from preschool and primary to secondary is also free, as is vocational technical education offered in the extensive national network of colleges of the National Technological Institute. Public universities guarantee equal access to higher education for all high school students. More than one million packages of scholastic supplies are delivered to students all over the country every year. Food is distributed to schools to guarantee a daily school meal to more than 1.2 million students, in a country with a population of 6.5 million.
Nicaragua is among the first countries in the world in gender equality. It is among the first countries in terms of citizen security in Latin America and the Caribbean. It has the best road network in Central America. About two million families are legally more secure because they have received title to their properties from the government. The country generates 70% of its electricity from renewable sources, with electricity distribution covering more than 99% of the population. The government maintains subsidies for the price of petrol and its derivatives, for public transport on both land and water and for electricity for low-income families.
Nicaragua has the most advanced and democratic system of autonomy for Indigenous peoples in Latin America with over 30% of the national territory titled in the name of 23 Indigenous and Afro-descendant territories. It is a country practically self-sufficient in food production. Its food security initiatives include programs such as the Production Packages and the CRISSOL solidarity program for basic grains, involving more than 200,000 producers. The women’s credit program, Zero Usury, enables more than 115,000 women a year to improve the standard of living of their families.
One might think that this tremendous social and economic success of the People as President in the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua would be of great interest and general admiration at the regional and continental level. But in fact, that is not the case; to the contrary. Of course, within Nicaragua, all these socio-economic victories are known and experienced day by day by the population. The victories of the People as President in Nicaragua are also recognized, although generally in a low-profile way, by the respective international institutions concerned, such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNICEF and UNESCO among others.
The key thing to grasp is that Nicaragua has overcome centuries of colonial oppression and neocolonial exploitation in order to achieve these victories. Then, after the triumph of the Sandinista Popular Revolution in 1979, an endless campaign of harassment and aggression was unleashed by the United States and its allies. That is the origin of the systematic media, NGO, academic and institutional campaign to denigrate, belittle, undermine and ignore the unquestionable, outstanding success of the policies of the government of President Comandante Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo.
One is dealing not only with the routine psychological warfare waged by regional and international media, but also with a determined propaganda offensive disseminated by the proliferation of NGOs, by the academic social sciences industry, and by institutions such as, for example, the OAS or the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and several instances of the European Union. All these instances have abandoned the most basic rules of good faith reporting.
Genuine reporting is based on collecting good faith first-hand testimony, on the use of reliable documentation and data, on a process of adequate corroboration, on the recognition of contrary narratives and a constant effort to allow readers to decide for themselves. In the case of Nicaragua, as with Cuba and Venezuela, these norms have been replaced by a ruthless campaign of lies, omissions, arbitrary opinion, permanent bias and blatant manipulation. Perhaps the most emblematic case of this abandonment of good faith on the part of almost all sources of information in Latin America and internationally, was the beginning of the failed coup d’état in Nicaragua in April 2018.
In Nicaragua, we all remember that the initial pretext for the violent protests was the reform of the Social Security Law, which was distorted and misrepresented in such a way that the vast majority of people ended up believing the absurdity that big business wanted to defend the rights of pensioners and workers. In fact, the bosses’ organization, the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), wanted to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65, eliminate the minimum pension and the small pension [for those who had not paid into the system for long enough to receive the full pension], the Christmas bonus and the maintenance of the value of pensions. They wanted to double the number of contributions to qualify for a pension from 750 weeks (14.4 years) to 1500 weeks (28.8 years) and proposed the privatization of the workers’ health clinics of the Nicaraguan Institute of Social Security (INSS).
Regional and international information sources completely suppressed this reality and lied about the government’s proposals, which in truth were: a gradual increase in the employer’s contribution of 3.25% and of the workers of 0.75%; that people with high salaries pay a quota proportional to their income; increase the government contribution for the public sector by 1.25%; keep the number of weekly instalments to qualify for a pension at 750; keep the small pension and the minimum pension; keep the Christmas bonus and the index-linking of pensions to maintain their value; guarantee complete medical care in the INSS clinics for retired people in exchange for a fee of 5% of their pension; and not privatize the workers’ INSS clinics.
However, if one reads practically any journalistic or academic article or the cynical, false summaries of the OAS, the UN or the European Union, they all allege that it was the Nicaraguan government’s attack on the Social Security system that provoked the protests in April 2018. This remains the dominant narrative that prevails in almost all the material one encounters about the 2018 failed coup d’état in Nicaragua. In fact, what provoked the protests was a campaign for regime change promoted, financed and directed by the United States and its European allies. At that time in 2018, the only media that sought out the truth was Telesur, at the initiative of its director Patricia Villegas who consulted with Sandinista media to find out what was really happening.
For the rest, almost all the other Latin American media, across the entire ideological spectrum, swallowed the stupid lie that big business and US and EU funded NGOs were defending the INSS in Nicaragua in favor of the working class and pensioners. This is just one of the clearer examples of the wholesale abandonment of basic reporting standards by the vast majority of information sources in Latin America in relation to Nicaragua. The word “pathetic” doesn’t even come close to describing this collapse of moral and intellectual integrity at a continental level.
In the same way, the vast majority of information sources in the region and internationally speak of ”political prisoners” to refer to people in Nicaragua who received money directly or indirectly from various foreign governments and committed, among other offenses, the crimes of misappropriation and improper withholding; laundering of money, property and assets; dishonest management and falsification by misrepresentation. All are crimes punishable under Nicaragua’s Criminal Code of 2007, approved by a legislature controlled by Nicaragua’s right-wing parties. Moreover, almost all of these people openly lobbied in favor of illegal coercive measures by foreign powers, who were also paying them directly or indirectly, against their own country, an offense of criminal treason punishable in practically all countries of the world.
Here in Nicaragua, we have in the Sandinista media first rate genuine reporters. But they are generally excluded as sources of information in Latin America and internationally on the pretext that they are media associated with the government. As if the lazy, dishonest and incompetent journalism that prevails in the region is not bought off by their countries’ various respective corporate and government interests, just like the NGO industrial complex or the academic social sciences industry, bought off and operating comfortably in disinformation networks manipulated by the corrupt corporations and institutions that predominate in the region, answering to the interests of their Western masters.
The vast majority of information sources in the region research nothing in good faith, but look for what they want to find. In effect, they are just another despicable actor in the West’s psychological warfare offensive, recycled through an infinite feedback loop, into which they too feed their false reports. These are the main sources of the production and distribution of information in Latin America and the Caribbean and in the West in general. In the case of Nicaragua, they use sources almost entirely financed by the US and European governments but still have the audacity to describe those tainted sources as independent.
So Nicaragua is facing a system designed to make the victories of the Sandinista Popular Revolution invisible, and to the extent possible also to belittle the achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and the Cuban Revolution. However, sooner or later, reality does prevail because the truth goes on existing behind and beyond the virtual phantasmagoria of disinformation. So, to the same extent that the radical democracy of the Cuban Revolution and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela are steadily defeating the economic, psychological and political blockades of the West and its local proxies, so too will the Sandinista Revolution of the People as President in Nicaragua.
By Nan McCurdy
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Biden: Nicaragua an Unusual and Extraordinary Threat to National Security
On Nov. 10 President Biden released a notice saying, “the situation in Nicaragua … continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States [a country of 6.5 million and one of the ten lowest in military equipment and spending]. For this reason, the national emergency declared on November 27, 2018, must continue in effect beyond November 27, 2022. In accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for one year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13851 with respect to the situation in Nicaragua. [With this laughable declaration, the United States can continue to impose economic sanctions on Nicaragua.] (The White House, 10 Nov. 2022)
CABEI to Finance Deep-Water Port in Bluefields
The Government of Nicaragua and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate the construction of a deep-water port in Bluefields, in the South Caribbean Coast. CABEI Vice President, Jaime Díaz, said that this project will strengthen the local and national economies and will improve conditions for Central American integration. Finance Minister Iván Acosta pointed out that this was an historic moment for the country. He indicated that the deep-water port is an old dream of the people of the Caribbean coast and of the Nicaraguan people as a whole, who have initiated efforts at different times to have a maritime terminal on the Atlantic Coast. He said that this port will, together with the new highways, stimulate the entire Southern Region with an aquatic corridor to Bilwi and will bring important investments to maximize Nicaragua’s potential. (Radio La Primerisima, 15 Nov. 2022)
CSE Makes Official FSLN Triumph in Municipal Elections
The Supreme Electoral Council made official in La Gaceta the provisional results of the elections held on November 6 in the 153 municipalities of the country. The total votes were 2,108,003, of which 2,028,035 were valid and 79,968 were invalid. Elected were 77 women mayors and 77 men vice mayors along with 76 men mayors and 76 women vice mayors. There are 153 Municipal Councils with 1,456 councilwomen and 1,429 councilmen. For details: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias-generales/destacado/cse-oficializa-contundente-triunfo-del-fsln-en-elecciones-municipales/ (Radio La Primerisima, 14 Nov. 2022)
Venezuela Congratulates Nicaragua on Elections
The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela sent a congratulatory message to the people and government of Nicaragua for the municipal elections of Nov. 6. In his message, President Nicolas Maduro stated “on behalf of the people of Venezuela, we warmly congratulate the people of Nicaragua for holding elections that were defined by tranquility, citizen participation and ratification of the vote as the indisputable instrument in the defense of sovereignty, self-determination, and state institutions. Venezuela ratifies its commitment of solidarity with the Nicaragua government in the building of a new multicentric and multipolar world that is taking shape in an accelerated manner, for the good of humanity.” (Nicaragua News, 9 Nov. 2022)
Strengthening Health Care Service
The Ministry of Health announced that as part of the “My Hospital for my Community” Health Campaign, medical brigades and mobile clinics from departmental hospitals will carry out 2,450 medical consultations and schedule surgeries in 1,200 communities the week of Nov. 14, benefiting 195,200 people. The campaign is part of the Family and Community Healthcare Model. (Nicaragua News, 11 Nov. 2022)
Law Creating the National Zoo Approved
On Nov. 10, the National Assembly passed a Law for the Creation of a National Zoo assigned to MARENA (Ministry of the Environment). The law also establishes an animal conservation program. National Assembly Deputy Benita Arbizú Medina, president of the Environment Committee, said that the law will guarantee the conservation and protection of the more than 600 species that the Zoo currently has. The initiative creates the National Zoo and establishes its operation and administration to contribute to the protection of biological diversity and wild fauna in its natural environment. It will also promote education and scientific research on biological diversity, wildlife and endangered species to protect them and their natural environment. (Radio La Primerisima, 10 Nov. 2022)
Strengthening Cooperation on Security
The National Assembly approved a Presidential Decree authorizing the entry of ships, aircraft, and foreign military personnel to exchange experiences, strengthen the fight against drug trafficking and carry out humanitarian missions. The decree authorizes the entry of troops from Mexico, the Russian Federation, the United States, Venezuela, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Central American countries for a six-month period starting January 1st, 2023. (Nicaragua News, 14 Nov. 2022)
Nicaragua Advocates at COP27 to Strengthen Climate Justice
Nicaragua supports strengthening climate justice with a reparation policy based on the principle of common responsibilities. In a message to the 27th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) in Egypt, Nicaragua called on developed countries to reduce their emissions by 50 percent by 2030. The communiqué noted that these nations generate emissions of around 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide, which cause concentrations of 420 parts per million and temperature anomalies of 1.1 degrees Celsius. “Nicaragua is the country with the highest frequency of hydrometeorological phenomena [hurricanes, droughts, etc.], which bring economic consequences that exceed our financial capacity to repair the damage and restore the economy,” the text stressed. The most recent hurricane that crossed Nicaragua in the first days of October caused economic losses valued at US$367 million. (Radio La Primerisima, 16 Nov. 2022)
Evo Denounces Boric’s Attacks Against Nicaragua
Former president of Bolivia Evo Morales denounced through his Twitter account Chile’s President Gabriel Boric’s recent joining with CIA attacks against Nicaragua. “Allende was overthrown by a bloody coup executed by the US Central Intelligence Agency. We regret that president Gabriel Boric … joins the CIA attacks against Nicaragua,” tweeted former president Evo Morales. (Radio La Primerisima, 11 Nov. 2022)