NicaNotes: Letter to my Senators about Sanctions/Unilateral Coercive Measures

By Jonah Blaustein

Jonah Blaustein lives in Maryland and has been a peace and justice activist since the 1970s. He has been learning about Nicaragua’s significant social and political achievements for the past several years.

The proposed new US sanctions against Nicaragua would attempt to cut off loans from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) which has financed small businesses (such as this bakery), water projects, housing, sustainable energy, reforestation, and roads and bridges in Nicaragua. (Photo: CABEI)

After so many years of calling or writing the United States Congress attempting to shift the political mind-scape of this country away from the rightward, anti-democratic march, my cynicism won. I accepted the view that the political system in the US is corrupted and broken and that trying to work within this same system for significant change can be a fool’s errand. But I also recognized that to the ruling elites who have captured all branches of the government, plus the media and finance, this attitude is a gift. They would rather see people simply give up rather than continue the struggle against grand corruption, injustice and inequality. So, I would much rather struggle and continue being a pain to the elites and oligarchs than to give up, so I wrote the letter included below to my US Senators.

Nicaragua has been dealing with meddling and interventions from the US for 170 years and it continues still. One of the latest attempts to intervene and punish Nicaragua is Senate Bill 1881 which if passed would add to the sanctions already imposed on Nicaragua. Senators Tim Kaine and Marco Rubio are co-sponsors of this bill. A comparable bill has been introduced in the House, H.R. 6954.

There’s a chance that these bills will be voted down (or not voted on at all) which would be a good thing. The foreign policy elites are preoccupied with disasters taking place in Gaza and Ukraine where their hegemonic power has been bruised, and opinion in this country and the world has become bitter after years of the West’s reckless warmongering. So, attention to a small country like Nicaragua has diminished (we hope). But Congress could still try to pass this legislation when they think nobody is looking. More people calling or writing their Congressional reps about these bills could make them think twice about approving them. Numbers matter.

Here is my letter:

Dear Senator,

I’m writing to you in hopes that you and other senators will be able to overcome the current attitude that war is good for our national security. One variation of war that is used with increasing frequency is to impose sanctions on the target country. This is also known as imposing unilateral coercive measures (UCMs). A bill that is being considered in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is S. 1881, cosponsored by Senators Kaine and Rubio, would impose new UCMs on Nicaragua.

My interest in Nicaragua comes from traveling and learning about this country over the past few years, speaking with Nicaraguans who live there and others who have lived there or have visited Nicaragua. I’ve been in contact with people who have studied Nicaragua’s history, politics and culture in depth for a long time. Learning about and seeing this country with my own eyes convinced me that the reason the US is afraid of Nicaragua and considers it an enemy is simply that we can learn much about democracy and much about solving social and economic problems from them. Seeing this country for myself also dispelled deceptive notions that Nicaragua is suffering under a cruel dictatorship.

Not very long ago, the idea that UCMs were not as bad as war started to take hold. They were portrayed as a “kinder and gentler” form of war. But many have recognized that UCMs can be as deadly as war and cause widespread suffering and serious destruction to the target country’s economy and society. It has been acknowledged today that UCMs kill far more people than most of us realized. Despite much of the rhetoric, they cause great suffering to innocent people. The US has targeted more than 30 countries with UCMs in recent years and continues today.

The most alarming outcome of these measures is the extreme harm they cause to mostly ordinary people, despite being promoted as only targeting specific government leaders. It has been shown that UCMs have been devastating to target countries’ economies and societies causing hunger and lack of medicines and parts for medical equipment. Another consequence of UCMs is their contribution to displacement and migration of people due to economic hardships. Furthermore, UCMs are considered illegal in terms of international law. The severity of suffering they cause, including preventable deaths, is very similar to illegal wars or wars of aggression for which the US is famous, like Reagan’s war against Nicaragua in the 1980s.

Why does the US continue to employ this failed policy when such measures have been proven not to work, when the supposed “un-targeted” populations in these countries, the innocents, are the ones who suffer, and when such measures are in fact illegal?

Foreign policy in the US has been an example of insanity in which failed policies are repeated over and over despite the fact that they are wrong morally and legally.  Besides the evidence that UCMs cause death and suffering, and go against international law, they have been shown to have the opposite effect to one of the intended goals – the citizens in these countries more often than not rally around their own governments instead of mounting insurrections. This is not surprising when it’s clear to the targeted citizens that the suffering is caused by a foreign state, not by their own government.

US foreign policy would be considered to be a failure if success were measured by how much good will it generates around the world as opposed to how much hate; how much well-being it generates as opposed to how much needless suffering; and how much money it invests in peace as opposed to how much it wastes on war.

Senators Kaine and Rubio have cosponsored S. 1881 to add to the UCMs already affecting Nicaragua. For the reasons I noted above, this is a bad piece of legislation. I have seen no reason to harass Nicaragua and meddle in its affairs when it is number seven in the world in gender equity, one of the highest countries in Latin American in social infrastructure and has 90% food self-sufficiency. Ninety-four percent of families now have electricity in their homes and more than 70% of that electricity is produced by clean energy. And aside from these advances Nicaraguans have universal free health care and education. The corporate media has been spreading lies and distortions related to Nicaragua which ignore the facts on the ground and the will of the majority of Nicaraguan citizens. If Nicaragua were considered an apartheid country, I would not be criticizing legislation to impose such measures as was done to apartheid South Africa.

I see US foreign policy as relying on war for profit, disdaining actual diplomacy, and catering to the billionaire class who will not accept any alternatives to the astonishing systemic inequality of wealth we have today.

Would you vote for such bills knowing they are failed attempts to dominate other sovereign nations, and that most of the people here in the US and around the world are sick of the bellicose ways the US uses war to solve problems? Unilateral coercive measures are forms of war and I’m asking you to help stop this destructive policy before it destroys us.

My friends working with the Nicaragua Solidarity Coalition, Friends of Latin America, and other groups have been in touch with your staff to discuss these matters. We have given them resources that back up the statements I made here and I urge you to look into them if you have doubts.

If our goal in this country is to push for measures that improve relations with other countries, work cooperatively with other countries to try to solve the most pressing problems that plague the world and restore the credible standing the US once had in the world, these sanctions should be voted down.

Thank you for your attention to this issue.

Now is the time for US-based friends of the Nicaraguan people who care about peace and justice to tell their members of Congress to vote NO on S.1881 and H.R.6954!  Also, visit Nicaragua to learn what is really going on!


By Nan McCurdy 

Costeños Vote for More Revolution and Autonomy
With 99.20% of the ballots counted, the United Alliance Nicaragua Triumphs of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) led the final results of the Regional Elections in the North and South Caribbean Autonomous Regions of Nicaragua. The president of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), Magistrate Brenda Rocha, reported that with 745 polling stations counted out of the 751 total in both regions, the FSLN won 147,762 votes (88.95%) – an overwhelming victory. They were followed by the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC) with 13,011 votes (7.83%); the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) 3,045 votes (1.83%); the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) obtained 1,269 votes (0.76%) and the Alliance for the Republic (APRE) received 1,024 votes, (0.62%).  CSE President Rocha said that, of the 171,208 total votes, 166,111 were valid and 5,097 were null votes. The participation of the population eligible to vote was 48.31%. Rocha reiterated her congratulations for the participation demonstrated by the Caribbean families in these regional elections. She said that people went to their voting centers in panga, cayuco (boats) or on foot to exercise their right to vote.

She explained that 90 representatives of 30 districts were elected, that is, 45 councilpersons in the Autonomous Region of the South Caribbean Coast and the same number in the North Caribbean, with their respective alternates, guaranteeing the participation of 50% of women and 50% of men. The head of the electoral branch of the government pointed out that this process took place in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. Rocha thanked all political parties, alliances, poll watchers, the Army and the National Police who have ensured the return of all electoral material. See photos:
(La Primerisima, 4 March 2024)

Johnny Hodgson: Regional Council Includes All
On March 3, election day, the political secretary of the Sandinista Front (FSLN) in the South Caribbean Coast, Johnny Hodgson, said that autonomy allows the coast people to elect their own authorities through regional elections. “Autonomy is moving forward. It is important for people who have always had the opportunity to elect their own authorities, but the people in the Caribbean Coast had lost that right and we recovered it with the autonomy,” said Hodgson. The coastal leader said that in the elections the representation of each of the Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples is guaranteed. “There is something special in the law. In this election it is guaranteed that representatives of all the peoples of the Caribbean Coast will be elected. Ulwas will be elected; Garifunas will be elected; Miskitos, Ramas, Creoles and Mayangna will be elected, because the board of directors of the Regional Council, which is the highest instance of government in the RAAS and the RAAN, has to be integrated by all the different groups and that is what makes it so special,” said Hodgson. The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) strictly guarantees gender equity in these regional elections, ensuring that, in the candidacies for the Regional Councils, 50% are women and 50% men, in accordance with the Constitution of Nicaragua and Law No.331, the Electoral Law. (La Primerisima, 3 March 2024)

Tripartite Agreement a Success to Raise the Minimum Wage by 10.1%
The country’s minimum wage will be readjusted by 10.1% in the different economic sectors, except for those who work in companies under the free trade zone regime who already have an agreement in place. The new agreement was signed on Feb. 29 within the tripartite commission, integrated by workers, business owners and the representation of the State through the Ministry of Labor (MITRAB). The new minimum monthly wage in the agricultural sector is US$156 dollars; US$237.55 dollars in fishing; US$280.58 dollars for Mines and Quarries; US$210.09 for Industry and manufacturing; US$286.56 for commerce, restaurants and hotels, transportation, storage and communications; US$349.63 for workers in construction, financial establishments and insurance; US$219 for communal, social and personal services; US$194.82 for central and municipal government. The Minister of Labor, Alba Luz Torres, said that it was a tripartite consensus which will be effective from March 1, 2024, to February 28, 2025. For their part, the union leaders said that this readjustment was based on the good macroeconomic figures reported by the Central Bank and the controlled inflation in Nicaragua. With the signing of this agreement, more than 258,000 workers representing all productive sectors are benefiting. (Radio La Primerisima, 29 February 2024)

Dignity of Women’s Laborious and Enterprising Lives Recognized
With the approval of laws that guarantee respect for women’s rights, the Sandinista government has strengthened the legal framework favoring programs and projects that dignify women’s working and entrepreneurial life, making a reality the National Plan for the Fight Against Poverty and for Human Development 2022-2026. During a conference held in celebration of International Women’s Day, the significant achievements in the areas of health, education, the economy, legal framework and representation in public spaces were highlighted. Nicaraguan women’s participation and leadership have been recognized and promoted in this second stage of the Revolution. For the revolutionary government, higher education is a priority. This year, 52% of the enrollment in universities is made up of women, for a total of 93,714 young women enrolled in their first year. The free education declared by the government has facilitated that this year 68% of Technical Education is made up of women; 16,537 young rural women have the opportunity to pursue their professional studies in the UNICAM (University in the Countryside Program). (La Primerisima, 5 March 2024)

Nicaragua Sues Germany for Sponsoring Genocide in Gaza
On March 1, the Nicaraguan Government issued the following press release:

The Government of Reconciliation and National Unity inform the people of Nicaragua and the international community that on March 1 it filed a lawsuit before the International Court of Justice against the Federal Republic of Germany for violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols, the non-derogable principles of international humanitarian law and other peremptory norms of general international law in relation to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular the Gaza Strip.

To date, out of a population of approximately 2.3 million people, at least 29,782 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and 70,043 have been injured, amounting to more than 100,000 people killed, injured or missing. In Gaza alone, while 1.7 million people have been forcibly displaced …most are currently in Rafah Governorate, which has become the largest refugee camp in the world.

With all the available public news and video footage of the atrocities as they occurred, together with the statements of international officials and with the Court’s Order of January 26, 2024, Germany cannot deny its knowledge of the gross illegality of Israel’s conduct nor can it deny that its knowledge gave rise to obligations on Germany under international law to prevent genocide, not to aid or assist or be complicit in genocide, and to ensure respect for the rules of international humanitarian law and other peremptory norms of international law, such as not aiding or assisting and preventing the illegal apartheid regime and the denial of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. Germany has provided political, financial and military support to Israel knowing … that the military equipment would be used to commit serious violations of international law. The German government has also cut off assistance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the main agency responsible for delivering aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The United Nations has confirmed that UNRWA cannot be replaced by any other agency at this time. Germany is well aware of the deadly impact in practical terms of its decision to cut funding to UNRWA, which amounts to the collective punishment of millions of Palestinians, particularly Gazans, as they will be condemned to famine, starvation and disease if UNRWA stops its operations. Faced with this situation, on February 2, 2024, Nicaragua sent a note verbale to Germany urging its government to immediately stop supplying arms, ammunition, technology and/or components to Israel and reminding it of its obligations under international law. Nicaragua also complained about Germany’s decision to suspend funding to UNRWA.

Regrettably, the supply of military weapons and other assistance that can be used in the illegal acts being committed has neither ceased nor diminished. In fact, it has increased and now adds to the looming prospect that UNRWA will soon cease operations due to lack of funds. Germany continues to ignore its obligations and actively facilitates Israel’s violations of the norms of international law, to the grave and immediate detriment of the Palestinian people, in particular the inhabitants of Gaza….

Nicaragua adopts this decision in accordance with its obligations under international law to ensure respect for these fundamental international texts and customary international law. The Government of Reconciliation and National Unity [Nicaragua] reaffirms its … commitment to the international rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes between States. Managua, March 1, 2024 (El 19 Digital, 1 March 2024)