Inspiring Social and Economic Advances in Nicaragua
By the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group
(The Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group links Nicaraguan and United Kingdom trade unions. Their web site is at https://www.nscag.org/)
Since the election of President Ortega and the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) in 2006, Nicaraguan society has been radically transformed. After 16 years of US-backed right wing neoliberal governments (1990-2006) during which public services were privatised and trade union rights stripped away, Nicaraguans now enjoy a society where the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable are prioritised, with 58% of the budget spent on health and education.
One of the first acts of the FSLN government in 2007 was to reverse the privatisation of health and education, with both now seen as a right rather than a privilege for only the wealthy. Universal and free health care and education are now provided throughout the country, serving the needs of Nicaragua’s population of 6.7 million. The government has an ambitious National Plan to fight poverty that exceeds the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals. As a result of the introduction of specific policies to combat hunger and ensure nutrition, general poverty has been reduced from 48.3 per cent in 2006 to 24.9 per cent and extreme poverty from 17.6 to 6.9 per cent. The government also provides a safety net to vulnerable groups through subsidies which nullify price increases in electric energy, transport and fuels.
Achievements During the Last Sixteen Years
The Nicaraguan government prioritises the health of its citizens and has increased the health budget by 274% since 2006. Twenty-four new hospitals have been built, with twelve more planned by 2026 and over 3000 health centres and health posts have been established. In addition, with free universal health care, women’s health has improved dramatically. A network of some 181 ‘maternity wait homes’ (casas maternas), where women can go two weeks before they are due to give birth, have led to a fall in maternal mortality from 93 for every 100,000 live births in 2006 to 38 for every 100,000 live births in 2020. Infant mortality has also decreased by 56%.
Nicaragua has a community-based model of health care with the emphasis on prevention. In spite of not mandating lockdowns, vaccinations or the wearing of face masks, Nicaragua had the lowest coronavirus death rate by far than any country in the Americas, due largely to a widespread community education programme which involved over five million house visits. The country now has the highest vaccination rate in Central America, with more than 92% having received two vaccines.
Health fairs are another way that Nicaragua brings healthcare to communities. Each week, about 950 health fairs are carried out in rural areas and on the edge of urban areas. In addition, mobile health clinics tour the country bringing health care to those areas where access to hospitals and health centres is more limited.
At the start of the school year in January 2023, Nicaragua achieved an enrolment in public education of a record 1.8 million, an astonishing figure for a country with a population of 6.7 million. The last sixteen years have seen an evolutionary transformation of education in Nicaragua, with opportunities expanded for everyone in society. Education is seen as an essential human right rather than a commodity to be paid for and regarded a key factor in the reduction of poverty and economic development. Particular attention has been paid to school infrastructure, with new schools being built and/or remodeled where this is necessary.
More than 1.2 million children receive free school meals, guaranteeing that no child goes hungry in school. This has contributed to a 68% drop in chronic malnutrition in school age children. To complement the free school meals programme, the Ministry of Education also promotes the setting up of gardens in both primary and secondary schools throughout the country. Illiteracy, which was around 22% in 2006, has now been virtually eliminated.
Particular efforts have also been made for education in rural and Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities with an emphasis on preserving their language, education, culture and way of life. In December 2021, the first Indigenous Agricultural University in Latin America was inaugurated, located in the South Caribbean Region of Nicaragua.
In 2019, faced with a housing deficit in the country, the Nicaraguan government embarked on a major housing development programme intended to provide thousands of affordable homes for the country’s low-income families. From the time it was launched until 2021, the project delivered approximately 3,000 houses as well 30,000 land plots in urban areas. In 2021, the government added another 3,000 houses – this in addition to granting land deeds to thousands of families, peasants and farmers to ensure that they cannot be displaced. The programme has now been expanded following an agreement made with China and it is anticipated that 12,000 affordable homes will be built over three years.
In 2022, Nicaragua was ranked 7th in the world for gender equality (World Economic Forum Gender Gap report) with women in more than half of all government positions. Of note is the participation of Indigenous and Afro-descendant women at all levels of national, regional and local government – including the fact that currently both regional autonomous governments are led by Indigenous women.
Over 200 women’s police stations have been opened around the country where only female police officers (40% of Nicaragua’s national police force) attend women and children exclusively. Nicaragua has passed laws against femicide and violence against women, allowing for stricter sentencing and swifter justice.
A number of government programmes are particularly targeted towards women. Eighteen million dollars per year is loaned exclusively to women in low-interest business loans through the Zero Usury programme. Over 23,400 micro and small businesses have been formalised, the majority owned by women, and over 500 new women’s cooperatives have been formed. The Zero Hunger programme provides pigs, a pregnant cow, chickens, seeds, fertilisers and building materials to women in rural areas, benefitting one in every six families in the country and contributing to the nation’s food sovereignty – Nicaragua now produces 90% of the food it consumes.
Improved access to basic services has vastly improved women’s lives – washing machines, once rare in all but the wealthiest homes, are now common, thanks to the installation of electricity (now reaching 99.3% of the population as opposed to 43% in 2007) and running water (today 91.5% of the urban population have potable drinking water as opposed to 65% in 2006).
Nicaragua is a world leader in renewable energy, with 70% of its energy from renewable sources (less than 25% in 2006).
Nicaragua has built the best highways in Central America with new roads to all remote areas including two highways to the historically isolated Caribbean coast.
Nicaragua is a pioneer in defence of the rights of its Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, who have communal title to a third of the national territory.
Nicaragua is the safest country in Central America with a homicide rate that went from 13.4 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2006 to 7 in 2020.
Nicaragua has community-based policing which is considered a model for other countries.
Nicaragua has implemented a disaster prevention programme which meant that three recent hurricanes left almost no Nicaraguan deaths, compared with multiple victims in the rest of Central America.
For more information, to be added to our mailing list or to join us, see the NSCAG website and follow us on Twitter, www.nscag.org, @NSCAG_UK
By Nan McCurdy
Fireworks Announce Arrival of July 19th at Plaza La Fe, Managua
Thousands of people gathered at Plaza La Fe in Managua on Tuesday night to wait for midnight and celebrate the arrival of the long-awaited July 19th; date in which Nicaragua reaches the 44th anniversary of the Sandinista Popular Revolution. From early hours the square was crowded with entire families, there to enjoy the celebration and fireworks with loved ones, to initiate the national festivities of this historic date. “We are celebrating with the people, supporting President Daniel and all the projects, celebrating these 44 years where the family can be in this place celebrating in joy, peace and tranquility,” declared Pavel Montenegro, who attended with his whole family. “This serves to ratify that we Sandinistas are here. In 2018 they wanted to overthrow us; but they could not, they will not be able to, the president stayed and here we are to defend him too.” “From children to old people in wheelchairs are here celebrating the joy of living in peace,” commented Luis Morales. “That is why we celebrate this 44/19 with peace, with tranquility that only this good government can give us,” concluded Morales. See photos: https://www.tn8.tv/managua/fuegos-artificiales-anuncian-la-llegada-del-19-de-julio-en-la-plaza-la-fe-managua/ TN8TV, 19 July, 2023
UNDP Recognizes Nicaragua’s Reduction in Poverty
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Oxford University Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) presented the “2023 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)” Report on July 13. The report states that with an MPI of 0.074 registered between 2002 and 2012, Nicaragua is one of nineteen countries that halved their global MPI value during one period and one of three in Latin America and the Caribbean that was able to reduce in half the unsatisfied needs of its citizens in short periods. The MPI is an international monitoring tool that measures acute multidimensional poverty, to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating poverty in all its forms everywhere. (Nicaragua News, 14 July 2023)
Thousands of Sandinistas celebrate Día de la Alegría (Day of Joy)
Hundreds of thousands of people walked to celebrate the Day of Joy when on July 17, 1979, the dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle fled the country along with the leaders of the dictatorship. The walk included young people, children, adults, self-employed and transportation workers who commemorate not only that date when Nicaragua was free, but now celebrate the joy of living in peace. The walk was full of laughter, color and smiles of the attendees who remember that peace has allowed Nicaragua to live with stability and a growing economy. They celebrate that this joy is transformed into programs such as paved streets, the best roads in the region, the most and best hospitals in the region, parks and recreational options, health fairs, schools and projects to improve productivity. The march concluded with a concert on Simon Bolivar Avenue, enlivened by Banda Sureña, Dimensión Costeña, Costa Azul, Fusión 4, Banda M16, among others. (Radio La Primerisima, 17 July 2023)
World Court Confirms Nicaragua’s 200 Mile Sovereignty in Caribbean but Rejects Rights on Continental Shelf
Dr. Carlos Argüello, Nicaragua’s representative to the International Court of Justice (World Court), said on July 13th that Nicaragua’s 200 nautical miles in the Caribbean Sea are “indisputable”, and that this was clearly reaffirmed by the ruling issued on that same day by the Court. “Beyond the 200 miles, the court said that Colombia’s 200 miles were also undisputed, that Colombia’s 200 miles could not affect our 200 miles,” Argüello explained. Judge Joan Donoghue, the court’s president, said in reading the decision that “Nicaragua is not entitled to an extended continental shelf within 200 nautical miles from the baselines of Colombia’s mainland coast.” Argüello said that Nicaragua had been exploring in this case a right in international law that had not been clarified and he added, “We have not finished, this is simply one more stage in the processes that Nicaragua has for the total recovery of its territory…. Now we have limits with Honduras, we have limits with Colombia, we have limits with Costa Rica, we have limits with Honduras on the other ocean and we have delimited all our maritime spaces.” Argüello said that Nicaragua’s boundaries for the first time in its history are practically complete. (Radio La Primerisima, 13 July 2023; Radio Segovia, 13 July 2023; Reuters, 14 July 2023)
Chinese Companies Highlight Nicaragua’s Enormous Potential
Presidents of Chinese construction, tourism and telecommunications companies, highlighted Nicaragua’s enormous potential for its geographical location, natural resources, scenic beauty and cultural wealth. Also, the political and economic stability and high levels of citizen security, which make it ideal for tourism in different modalities and for investments in infrastructure. During a meeting with a Nicaraguan delegation, the businessmen spoke about their experience and technical capacity, emphasizing that their work model is aligned with the development goals promoted by Nicaragua and that they seek to generate, through their high-quality projects, the greatest economic and social well-being for the people. Meanwhile, Minister of Finance Iván Acosta highlighted the strength of the economy and its capacity to promote high impact projects to achieve our goals of economic growth, poverty reduction and human development. (Radio La Primerisima, 12 July 2023)
New Technical Center in Boaco
The National Technological Institute (INATEC) reported that US$1.42 million was invested to build and equip the Héroes de Bawas Technical Center in Boaco Department, ensuring greater access to free and quality technical training for 3,000 students. Funding for the project came from the General Budget. (Nicaragua News, 17 July 2023)
Respect for Human Rights Fundamental in Nicaragua
The Nicaraguan Human Rights Ombudspersons (PDDH), Darling Ríos, highlighted the model of equality and opportunities currently promoted by the Sandinista Government, whose protagonist is the family. Rios recalled that under the neoliberal governments, the issue of human rights never reached the great majorities submerged in poverty and governmental abandonment. Before 2007 there was no policy for such rights, but a massive violation of them. “While many more people were left without access to education, health, work, a dignified life and housing, only a few had the possibility of privileged access to these rights, which should be rights for the people,” she said. Now, a model of direct presence is being strengthened to guarantee social benefit programs for the family and community. Among them, she mentioned the family and community health model and the education model, which guarantee the inclusion of all, because they are broad, diverse and participatory. Ríos pointed out that the Human Rights Ombudsperson’s Office accompanies families in neighborhoods and talks about the rights of children, women, youth and the elderly, among others. She also referred to the socio-productive programs which guarantee the right to work to thousands of Nicaraguans. “So, those human rights, once a privilege for a few, today are fundamental conditions for life and contribute to the human dignity of families,” she said. (Radio La Primerisima, 12 July 2023)
New Model Launched for Special Education Schools
The Ministry of Education launched a new model of special education schools in the department of Masaya, where the first center will be built with more than US$6 million. Minister of Education Lilliam Herrera, together with the local authorities, laid the first stone starting the construction of the Melania Lacayo Center, which will be located in the premises of the Heroes and Martyrs of La Reforma National Institute. Herrera said that this school will have special environments, curricular classrooms, four preschool classrooms, ten primary classrooms and a sensory classroom, two workshop classrooms and a roofed sports court. (Radio La Primerisima, 13 July 2023)
Health Fairs Planned for July 15 and 16
Vice President Rosario Murillo reported that health fairs were to be held in 1,703 communities during the July 14-16 weekend. These fairs will provide attention to 124,000 families. (Radio La Primerisima, 13 July 2023)
Arts Schools in 280 Communities
To date, 6,000 participants have enrolled in the 280 arts schools opened in different communities of the country: A total of 3,700 women and 2,300 men have participated. This is an example of the restitution of the rights of children, young people and adults, strengthening their creativity and imagination through the artistic manifestations of our culture. See photos: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/contabilizan-280-comunidades-con-escuelas-de-artes/ (Radio La Primerisima, 14 July 2023)
Latest Survey finds Approval of the Government at 83%
On July 13 M&R Consultants polling firm presented the results of its recent survey corresponding to the second quarter of 2023. The survey indicates that 82.8% believe the government led by President Daniel Ortega works in the interests of the population in general, 60.4% believe the fundamental aspect of a democracy is that the people have real opportunities; 74.3% state they are satisfied with the functioning of democracy in the country; 77.8% affirm that Nicaragua should renew legal proceedings to demand that the United States pay compensation in accordance with the ruling handed down by the International Court of Justice in 1986. (Nicaragua News, 13 July 2023)
Responsible Debt Management
The Central Bank presented the External Debt Report corresponding to the first quarter of 2023. The report states that the total external debt was US$14.8 billion between January and April of 2023, 0.5% lower than the same period in 2022. The report detailed that 55.4% of the total foreign debt corresponded to the public sector and 44.6% to the private sector. (Nicaragua News, 12 July 2023)
Eastern Market Biggest in Central America
The largest open market in Central America, the Mercado Oriental (Eastern Market) of Managua, is expanding and in recent years has reached 168 blocks, a growth that is mainly due to the high demand and the confidence of investors in new businesses. “It represents the economic lungs of our country, for some years it has been growing and prospering economically to such an extent that it has become a reference for the country’s economy,” said Vladimir Rivera, manager of the market. “The construction of more than 18 stores of two or three floors are in process, which means the creation of a new type of business in this market, investments of national traders as well as investors from China and Central America. This generates economic stability and strengthens investment,” he added. Every month, the market is supplied with more than 100 containers of imported products. There are nearly 15,000 sections that generate some 100,000 jobs. According to COMMEMA figures, around US$2.7 million in merchandise is moved in this market every month. (Radio La Primerisima 17 July 2023)
Nicaragua Did not Sign or Approve CELAC-EU Summit Declaration
The government of Nicaragua neither signed nor approved the declaration of the III CELAC-European Union Summit held in Brussels, according to a statement released on July 18 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. CELAC is the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. The statement said that “The Government of National Reconciliation and Unity informs our people and the international community that it did not sign, approve, or accompany, what today was pompously and deceitfully announced as a consensus statement of the third CELAC-European Union Summit. It is not true that a consensus statement was issued there; there was no consensus. The European Union, as it is accustomed to do, has broken all the procedures and mechanisms established by democratic organizations, overturning the rules that are the basis for the functioning of our entities. From free and sovereign Nicaragua, we ratify our vocation for peace based on the struggles that dignify our peoples and that are the strength of victories.”
Vice President Rosario Murillo said, “We have issued this statement to make inaccuracies known. We said in the first paragraph of this document, that pompous and lying announcements have been made, presenting as a document of consensus of the third CELAC-EU summit, a document that has no consensus, since Nicaragua neither signed it, nor approved it, nor accompanied it.” “It is important to clarify that in CELAC … all decisions are taken by consensus. Therefore, we are facing a breach of the rules on the part of the EU. We denounce and report this, distancing ourselves from an occurrence that for us is difficult to understand, not to say, embarrassing that the EU grants itself the right to determine a non-existent consensus”, she said.
Parallel to the EU-CELAC Summit, there was a People’s Summit which brought together members of civil society and left-wing political leaders, who condemned the U.S. blockade of Cuba and the coercive measures against Nicaragua and Venezuela.
(Radio La Primerisima, 18 July 2023; Telesur, 18 July 2023)