NicaNotes: Reflections on Differences Observed Since I Last Visited Nicaragua

By Marilyn Carlisle

[Marilyn Carlisle has been an educator–mostly in early childhood education–since 1978, when she returned from nine years living in South America. She looked for a way in Baltimore to help people in Argentina who were suffering during the state-sponsored terrorism from 1976 – 1983. The closest thing she found was Central America, which morphed into simply–and happily—Nicaragua.]

Visiting delegation meets with Limay mayor and the president of Casa Baltimore Limay’s counterpart board. L to R: Magda Lanuza, Barbara Larcom, Mayor Flora Mendoza, Marilyn Carlisle, Fundeproinso president Norlan Vanegas.

Having had monthly conversations over many years with our Casa Baltimore-Limay friendship committee in Limay – our “sister” city – I had learned that many highways had been completed. I knew the pride in people’s expressions as the important bridges on those highways were also finished. Reducing our travel time was certainly an advantage, getting us to Limay in late afternoon without leaving Managua terribly early and with time for lunch in Estelí.

Marilyn Carlisle visits with Tranquilino Garmendia, who since 1985 has been a leader in Casa Baltimore Limay’s counterpart committee and board. He is a former Delegate of the Word in the theology of liberation tradition. Three of his sons were kidnapped and killed by the Contra during the 1980s.

We were able to renew acquaintances with folks we’ve worked with for 37 years—and who are not young anymore, of course. While that was very rewarding, it was not the goal of our delegation of two people. The improved health system, including more services at the local hospital, the free education including school lunches, and the relative ease with which people in need can get loans or grants have all made a difference in the lives of the people in the small villages surrounding Limay.

The day care center, faithfully supported by Baltimore donors, but now functioning largely with government support, was another high point.

All the streets of Limay are now paved, eliminating our wet and muddy experiences of walking from here to there in previous visits. I also noticed that only once or twice in a week did someone ask if we would give them some money; our appearance surely made us stand out as visitors from another place, but we did not have the experiences we’ve had in the past in this regard.

Leonardo Silva, veterinarian and agronomist, provides the leadership for Casa Baltimore Limay’s agroecology projects. These include family patio gardens and poultry, fruit trees, beekeeping, soil improvement and conservation, energy-efficient ovens, and wells and water storage. (All photos by Barbara Larcom)

As rich as my experience was in San Juan de Limay, I am most grateful for the opportunity we had to meet with cabinet-level government ministers in Managua.  We learned the ways in which the government in the past 15 years has been able to improve health, education, infrastructure, and the economy.  From the Finance Minister we learned that the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, established by the Alliance for Progress some 60 years ago, is pleased with the fact that Nicaragua has a project completion rate of 95-97% for its projects; therefore, the Bank is willing to continue extending loans for many new projects. In fact, the World Bank, IMF, Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s all recognize the improvements in the economy since 2007 when the Sandinistas were returned to the government.

The GDP rose from US$6.5 billion in 2006 to US$14 billion in 2021, with at least a 3.5% increase expected in 2022. Nicaragua is 90% self-sufficient in food, exporting beans and beef, and producing the amount of corn and other basic foods the population eats. It is still importing rice, but importation is down from 4.5 million quintales (100-weight) in 2006 to 1 million today. Exports have increased each year, as has public spending. Tourism has been very important to the economy, but of course it diminished after the failed coup attempt of 2018 and during COVID.

The Health Minister instructed us about infant and maternal mortality, the former down from 29/1000 in 2006 to 12.5/1000 in 2021, and the latter down from about 93/100,000 in 2006 to 31.6/100,000 now. Ninety-three percent of the population has received one dose of COVID vaccine and 87% are fully vaccinated (two-year-olds and older). Under Liberal administrations from 1990 to 2006, families paid about 50% of their health care costs. Now, unless they choose private hospitals, they pay nothing.

There are many more facts and statistics to be shared, but I have always enjoyed visiting the safest country in Central America and the 7th safest in Latin America.

The optimism and joy we encountered among the people cannot be denied.



By Nan McCurdy

 Nicaragua Has Best Covid Vaccination Rate in Central America

The Pan American Health Organization reported that with 89% of the population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Nicaragua is the country in Central American with the highest percentage of fully vaccinated people followed by Costa Rica (81.5%), Panama (71.4%), El Salvador (66.2%), Honduras (54.2%), and Guatemala (35.8%). (Nicaragua News, 5 August 2022)

New Women’s Police Stations

A new Women’s Police Station was inaugurated in Bonanza, North Caribbean, and another one in Masaya, specifically in the municipality of La Concepción. A new crime laboratory unit opened in Siuna, also in the northern Caribbean. (Informe Pastran, 2 August 2022)

Wawa Boom Bridge Advancing

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure made a site visit to evaluate progress on the “Wawa Boom” bridge over the Wawa River in the Northern Caribbean Autonomous Region that will benefit 234,898 inhabitants. The massive 240 meter-long bridge which costs US$21 million and is financed by the General Budget and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, is 75% completed, and will be operational in November this year. It will replace the current ferry crossing and cut travel time between Bilwi/Puerto Cabezas and the towns of the mining triangle (Bonanza Rosita and Siuna). See photos: (Nicaragua News, 3 August 2022)

First Semester School Retention was 98%

The Ministry of Education released the education indicators corresponding to the first semester of 2022. The report states that school retention was 98%; grade approval 93% and there was an average attendance of 88%. Education Minister Lilliam Herrera said, “The indicators were very solid and are the result of the hard work of the students and the commitment of the education system to provide access to quality infrastructure, resources, and teachers with the ability to effectively and creatively manage the challenges and opportunities that Nicaraguan children face.” (Nicaragua News, 8 August 2022)

Nicaragua Still Safest Country in Central America

A study published by U.S. magazine Insight Crime entitled “2021 Homicide Rate in Latin America and the Caribbean” states that with a homicide rate of 5.7 per one hundred thousand inhabitants, Nicaragua continues to be the safest country in Central America and the third safest in Latin America, surpassed only by Peru (4.3) and Chile (3.6).  (Nicaragua News, 4 August 2022)

More Food Security

The Nicaragua System of Production, Consumption and Commerce reported that the 2021-2022 first harvest of corn was 5.4 million quintals (hundred weights), 8% growth over the first harvest of the previous agricultural cycle. Minister of Agriculture Isidro Rivera said that “production during the period guarantees supply for national consumption and food security of the country.” (Nicaragua News, 4 August 2022)

More Schools with Internet

The Ministry of Education reported that 31 primary schools and high schools have recently been connected to wireless internet. The connection allows access to libraries, encyclopedias, conferences and online courses in order to facilitate the development of classes. During this second semester, the educational connection network will be expanded with the installation of wifi internet in 76 more schools. The centers have been equipped with computers for technology rooms. They also will receive mobile digital classrooms, laptops, printers, interactive projectors and technological accessories. To date, 50,746 teachers have specialized in the use of technology and digital tools in the classroom. (Radio La Primerisima, 6 August 2022)

Support for Family Gardens

In support of cultivation of family gardens, the Nicaragua Institute of Agricultural Technology delivered 25,500 vegetable and fruit plants to 1,000 small producers in Carazo, León, Boaco, and Chinandega departments, as well as both Caribbean Autonomous Regions. The initiative is part of the Healthy Garden Program of the Creative Economy Model. (Nicaragua News, 9 August 2022)

Water Pumping Improvements Will Impact Nearly 20,000 People

The Nicaraguan Water and Sewage Company (ENACAL) completed the improvement of infrastructure in two wells located in the Jorge Dimitrov and Colonia Máximo Jerez neighborhoods in Managua. The works included the improvement of perimeter fences, sidewalks, gates, booths, installation of lighting, electrical equipment and pumping strings. The works will improve service to some 3,500 families (19,000 citizens) in Jorge Dimitrov, Francisco Meza, Máximo Jerez and El Riguero. The investment of US$22,000 was financed by the government and the Inter-American Development Bank. (Radio La Primerisima, 3 August 2022)

New Sewage System in Tola

The Water and Sewage Company inaugurated a sewage and wastewater sanitation system in Tola municipality, Rivas Department, that will benefit 4,400 inhabitants. The project which cost US$2.7 million was financed by the General Budget with support from the Inter-American Development Bank. (Nicaragua News, 3 August 2022)

Remittances Continue to Grow

The Central Bank reported that the flow of remittances in the third quarter continued its positive trend, totaling US$763.6 million, a 44% growth compared to the same quarter of 2021 (US$529.8 million). Cumulative remittances to June totaled US$1.39 billion, 35.5% higher than those received during the same period of 2021 (US$1.03 billion). (Radio La Primerisima, 4 August 2022)

Nicaragua Committed to Nuclear-Weapon-Free World

The Government of Nicaragua has again demonstrated its commitment to nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. On August 3, the debate continued at the United Nations at this important conference that takes place every five years to review the implementation of the agreements of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to formulate recommendations and concrete measures in order to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. Jaime Hermida Castillo, Permanent Representative of Nicaragua to the UN, stated that the highest priority continues to be the elimination of nuclear weapons. Nicaragua stated its position of principle in relation to the Disarmament Agenda, joining the member states of the Non-Aligned Movement and other friendly countries that advocate complete disarmament throughout the world.

Nicaragua expressed its concern about the increase in expenditures for the modernization of the nuclear arsenal of the nuclear-weapons countries, which contravenes the obligations contracted under Article 6 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Nicaragua reiterated that all these economic resources used in the modernization of nuclear weapons could be used to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals set out in the 2030 UN Agenda, especially the eradication of poverty. As a state party to the NPT, the Republic of Nicaragua reaffirmed its commitment to take effective measures to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. Hermida noted that President Daniel Ortega has stated this on numerous occasions, remembering that Nicaragua is a member of the first declared nuclear-weapon-free zone in the world. The Treaty of Tlatelolco, the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, was signed in 1967. (Radio La Primerisima, 4 August 2022)

Media Network Financed by US Dismantled

The Nicaraguan authorities thwarted a destabilization plan intended to be carried out through the financing of opposition propaganda media owned by political agitator Rolando Alvarez in Matagalpa. Alvarez is also the Bishop of both Estelí and Matagalpa but has primarily done political work for many years. He was a leader in the 2018 failed coup attempt and has been considered a US agent. The plan consisted in depositing money to Rolando Alvarez’s media accounts to be later distributed to opposition groups and thus “heat up the streets” and begin again the destabilization of the country. But this same week the authorities dismantled the network of illegal communication outlets (five radio stations and a local television channel) that would be used as a platform for financing media and street terrorism.

In her daily radio broadcast on August 5, Vice-President Rosario Murillo said, “Here in this blessed homeland there are also laws, taking into account that you cannot, you should not break the laws and much less, much less commit crimes.” She went on to say, “We have all known throughout our lives, institutions that deserve respect, and generating discredit towards those institutions that deserve respect, is also a crime. It is a sin against spirituality.” (Informe Pastran, 5 & 8 August 2022; Viva La Paz Sebaco [Facebook Page], 8 August 2022)