NicaNotes: Farewell Letters to Friends of Nicaragua

Two great friends of Nicaragua have died during the past week. Paul Oquist was born in the US, became a Nicaraguan citizen, and served the Nicaraguan people and their revolution for decades, He was known internationally as a voice crying in the wilderness to save the planet and its environment. Ramsey Clark, a former US Attorney General, was a friend of the Nicaraguan people and of the people of struggling nations around the world while working to change the foreign policy of the United States. Here are tributes from Nicaraguans to both of them.

Letter to Paul Oquist from Saul Arana
(Saul Arana is a Nicaraguan diplomat currently working in international relations)

To Paul Herbert Oquist Kelly:

You have gone ahead of us on this walk and it hurts to see you leave without being able to greet you, share and even joke about our many encounters anywhere in the world. Whether in Tokyo, Kyoto, South Korea, India, the United Nations, Mongolia, China, England, France, Norway, Finland, Mozambique, Italy, the United States, Canada, but above all in your modest and cozy office in Managua, where you wrote so many helpful pages of memories about your marathon international and national work.

You were a planetary citizen, universal in your thinking and vision, but more than that you were a tireless fighter for the defense of the environment, because you knew that what was set at international conferences, were goals that would never be achieved. You were a faithful and loyal representative of the government and of Comandante Daniel with whom you worked shoulder to shoulder to denounce the destructive and selfish policies of those countries that, without caring about human beings, exemplified with their insatiable accumulation to be the greatest predators, representatives of savage capitalism, both in the financial order and in the unstoppable sinking of the Pachamama, our beloved habitat.

You were invincible, with firmness and courage you raised your spirit of solidarity for those who, although they shared the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity philosophy of denouncing erratic anti-human policies, could do little for justice and the defense of all humanity. Your loyalty and unwavering defense of the most vulnerable countries in the face of global warming was clearly demonstrated at the COP-XXI held in Paris, France, where they thought you were deluded and that Nicaragua had self-isolated. But they did not realize that your position, far from boycotting the conclave, your accurate position was a bellwether of the COP-XXI. Your position was a warning bell in which, with justice and according to the laws of history, you claimed for a majority of countries the inalienable right to receive reparations for the profound damage inflicted by large corporations and irresponsible governments against the global ecosystem, endangering the survival of life itself.

Nicaragua, the FSLN, Daniel, the people of Nicaragua and the international community, especially the third world, lose a titanic fighter and, like your brother Miguel d’Escoto, chancellor of dignity, this planet will feel your departure with deep sadness.

Paul, you leave an indelible mark, as well as an exemplary legacy and today when you are at Miguel’s side, perhaps you will have more time to reinvent so many things you thought and wrote about. May humanity and present and future generations realize that both you and Miguel were prophets. Until your last breath you acted with absolute responsibility, warning the world that we cannot continue walking the path of those who claim to hold power. The real power lies in the popular will of the people. As the great master Fidel said, the march to victory does not stop; it is a gigantic march of men and women who have said enough and will not stop walking!

Brother Paul, until victory always!

 

A farewell letter from Nicaragua to Compañero Ramsey Clark
By Sofia M. Clark

Ramsey Clark visiting Padre Miguel D’Escoto in his home in Nicaragua. (Photo by Sofia Clark)

Dearest Ramsey,

It tickles me to see how people around the world feel entitled to claim a little piece of you as their own, but then it is to be expected. You travelled the globe to places under siege, to bear witness, seek justice, and promote the rule of law.

When an entire people were under U.S. assault, feeling vulnerable or abandoned, you brought solidarity, legal counsel, and compassion.

So, Ramsey, let me remind you of just some of the reasons why we Nicaraguans feel entitled to call you one of our own, “a son of Sandino,” our brother, our friend.

You visited Nicaragua in the early days just after what one friend described as “the harshest month of the planting season,” when the wounds of war were still fresh and the promise of the future seemed boundless.

Those were the first years of the Revolution and Daniel opened our country´s doors.  It wasn’t long before you met Tomás Borge and he asked you… ”What would you like to do?”  Without batting an eyelash, you responded… “Well, I would like to visit the prison.” Within 20 minutes both of you were inside a vehicle en route to the very prison where Tomás himself had been held by Somoza.

You had a habit of visiting prisons. It was your barometer for measuring the general health of a society.

And what you saw impressed you. Upon opening the main gate, at a time when inmates were still maintaining military discipline, dozens of former National Guardsmen came up to the window to greet Nicaragua´s Minister of the Interior.

That afternoon the former U.S. attorney general and the new Nicaraguan minister spent time talking with different prisoners. Tomás reiterated his commitment to avenge their crimes by guaranteeing education for their children, healthcare, and security. You discovered shared ideals: an abhorrence of the death penalty, the need for rehabilitation rather than punishment, and to guarantee humane treatment and respect for the human rights of all, even for—especially for—the unpopular, the undesirables and criminals.

That afternoon marked the beginning of a deep friendship, one that later crossed generations. In 2014, when you went to visit the new monument erected in honor of Tomas in the Plaza de la Revolución, it was his daughter Michelle Borge who stood beside you. Together you paid homage Comandantes Carlos Fonseca Amador and Tomas Borge.  The caricature of Thomas, the one he gave you several years ago, was hanging in your living room the evening you left us.

You cultivated many other friendships in Nicaragua throughout the 80’s and afterwards, with “regular folk,” grassroots community organizers, as well as notables such as Nora Astorga, Comandante Omar Cabezas, and Foreign Minister Fr. Miguel d’Escoto.

I was privy to glimpses of you during that period, occasionally accompanying staffers on subsequent prison visits in Nicaragua, or meeting you in the home of my uncle, Padre Miguel.

My uncle spoke fondly of the privilege of both knowing and collaborating with you for more than 40 years. Your collaboration took on multiple forms and spanned an array of different causes, but all against the backdrop of U.S. efforts to maintain its imperial hegemony.

You were the one Padre Miguel first approached to discuss Nicaragua´s decision to take the United States to court. You discussed the invasion of Grenada and the U.S. government’s total disdain of international law. You felt a shared urgency to take a firm stance to promote the primacy of the rule of law in relations between States. From that moment forward you served as his personal, albeit informal, advisor on international law.

Your ongoing collaboration included international efforts to prevent and oppose the first Gulf War.  Accompanied by Miguel d’Escoto (Nicaragua), Ahmed Ben Bella (Algeria), Tony Bent (UK), and Karmenu Bonnici (Malta), you led the Coalition to oppose the Gulf War and the Commission on the impact of the criminal and illegal U.S.-led sanctions against the people of Iraq—that killed more than 1.5 million people—and marked only the beginning of the U.S. war against that country.

When Daniel won the presidential elections of 2006, you were here for his inauguration, together with old friends from Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama, as well as Ghana, Zambia and elsewhere.

During Padre Miguel´s 2008-2009 tenure as President of the UN General Assembly, you and your wife Georgia read through and commented on different drafts of his opening address. You served as Miguel’s key senior advisor on international law, providing valuable insights into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the so-called “Responsibility to Protect”—the new jargon to mask to the old practice of wars of aggression—and the sorely needed democratization of the United Nations.

Not only did you review and provide counsel during the drafting of Miguel´s ambitious Proposal for Reinventing the United Nations, you actually wrote the Prologue and even looped your son Thomas into the process, getting him to comment on the legal aspects relating to the creation of an International Tribunal on Climate Justice and Environmental Protection and the codification of international environmental law.

When Daniel sent Padre Miguel to the UN in an attempt to fend off the impending U.S.-NATO aggression against Libya, you met and strategized on how to bring ethics and the rule of law into the equation.  And you and Padre Miguel wrote and called each other to provide insight and moral support for your respective individual efforts at citizen diplomacy in Vietnam, Syria, Iran, and Iraq.

Over four decades you never stopped visiting Nicaragua. In 2012 you were awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities by the UNAN-Managua in recognition of your life of service to the most vulnerable and in defense of Human Rights around the world. Your relationship with the students was not limited to public presentations in large auditoriums, but also included small group dialogues in the home of Father Miguel.

During your final visit to Nicaragua in 2014, you were accompanied by your granddaughter Taylor, daughter-in-law Cheryl, and other family. It was a joyous and healing encounter of love and admiration between our two families. Highlights included visiting potters in San Juan de Oriente, long leisurely conversations and exploration in Selva Negra, and, as always, a visit to Los Pipitos. I remember our sheer delight as we watched a beautiful little girl with her braids and folklore costume dance “El Solar de Monimbó.”  How she beamed when we applauded.  How we beamed back basking in her success. On our last night, we celebrated mass in the rancho at Padre Miguel’s to remember your son Tom and our friend Barbara, both of whom had passed away the previous year. The bonds forged during that visit continue.

Ramsey, I feel privileged to have seen you in your New York apartment on several occasions since, including during the blizzard of 2018 when we discussed the civil rights movement, watched a documentary on Vincent Van Gogh, and ate hot dogs and ice cream.

You, Ramsey, are a part of us and we are all the better for it.

Vaya con Dios mi amigo.

Sofía

Managua, April 12, 2021

Sofia M. Clark is a political scientist and former Nicaraguan diplomat. She is part of the collective of the Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann Center for Development Studies at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in Managua. She served as deputy Chief of Staff to Fr. Miguel during his tenure as president of the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly (2008-2009).

 

Briefs

By Nan McCurdy

Climate Leader Paul Oquist Dies at 77
Dr. Paul Oquist Kelly, who served as Secretary of Public Policies of the Nicaraguan government died on April 13. The National Assembly held a tribute to him at which Assembly President Dr. Gustavo Porras said, “Dr. Oquist was one of the most important and prominent people of this country. He was a true Nicaraguan, more Nicaraguan than many who were born in this country.” The Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, lamented the Oquist’s death. “Painful news comes to us from Nicaragua. Dear brother Paul Oquist, a complete revolutionary, has passed away. Commander (Hugo) Chávez called him ‘the good gringo’. He leaves us an exemplary luminous legacy of dedication and consequence,” wrote Arreaza on Twitter.

Paul Oquist was born in Illinois, United States, in 1943, and became a naturalized Nicaraguan citizen. He had graduated in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1965 and in 1976 he obtained his PhD in Political Science from the same university followed by many postgraduate studies. He was one of the most sought after experts by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for their work in Asia, particularly in Pakistan, Mongolia and Vietnam. He also worked in Chile and Ecuador. In the United Nations System, Oquist is considered a world authority on reparations for the effects of climate change on impoverished countries, on governance, peace processes, transparency policies and public accountability, and communication technologies.

In a note, the Nicaraguan Government wrote: “We celebrate Paul’s life, grateful to God, because we could count on his special intelligence, his fraternal vision, his proposals of justice and the rights for our people and for the peoples of the world; with that unsurpassable mastery of international relations, which he knew so well, and with which he related to us in a profound and extraordinary way. We celebrate Paul’s life and example, knowing that he leaves us his strength, his energy, his unwavering spirit of struggles and victories, his firmness, his coherence, his unbending loyalty, his love for this Nicaragua that he made his own and that made him his own. [T]his people today bid him farewell with respect, recognition and infinite affection. We embrace Pilar, his wife, his children, Patricio and family, Paul Daniel, Barbara and Mayra Paola Oquist…We live, in the spirit, the certainty of all the dawns that will come, in this plane, to continue making real the good, Christian, socialist and solidary life, of justice, joy, brotherhood and peace.” (Radio La Primerisima, 13 April 2021)

Strengthening Security in Bosawas Reserve
The heads of the “BOSAWAS” Ecological Battalion held a meeting with the Mayangna Sauni Arungka Matumbak Indigenous Territorial Government on April 7 to strengthen security, stability, and peace in the Indigenous territories. The activities undertaken included assessment of the situation in the territories, identification of measures to preserve the environment in the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve and scheduling of joint monitoring during production. The president of the Indigenous Territorial Government, Montiel Blandón said, “We thank the Army for working with the Indigenous communities to guarantee the security of the territories and to preserve the natural resources in the Reserve.” (Nicaragua News, 9 April 2021)

Vaccination Campaign Advancing
Vice President Rosario Murillo announced that, as of April 8, the Health Ministry had applied 221,219 vaccines against 17 diseases 16.1% of the goal, adding the COVID-19, giving vitamins to 102,360 people and anti-parasite medicine to 197,082 people. (Informe Pastran, 9 April 2021)

Covid-19 Vaccinations Continue
Vice President Rosario Murillo announced that voluntary vaccination against COVID-19 will continue in Managua at the Policlínico Morazán; Hospital Berta Calderón; Centro de Salud Francisco Buitrago; Hospital Alemán Nicaragüense. Starting April 12 the vaccination will be extended to Carazo, San Marcos, Diriamba and Jinotepe. In the municipalities of El Rosario, La Paz, Santa Teresa vaccines will be given at the health centers and in Santa Teresa and La Conquista, at their homes for people with special needs. In the municipalities of El Rosario, La Paz, Santa Teresa vaccines will be available at health centers and in Santa Teresa and La Conquista at their homes for people with special needs. (Informe Pastran, 9 April 2021)

The Health Ministry continued vaccinating against Covid-19 on April 13 in the departments of Managua, Masaya, Nindiri, Nandasmo and San Juan de Oriente for people 60 and older. They also vaccinated people over 18 with chronic problems like heart disease or cancer. They are vaccinating in at least five different places in each municipality. “Patients are coming voluntarily, it is very fast and each patient comes accompanied by family members and in nine weeks we will apply the second dose. We take the blood pressure of all the patients,” said Carolina Davila of the Health Ministry. (Radio La Primerisima, 13 April 2021)

New Highway Connects Pacific with North Caribbean
Transportation Minister Óscar Mojica said that the new highway to the North Caribbean, inaugurated April 8, connects the country from coast to coast and opens an infinite field of possibilities for the export and import of products. “The connection of the Pacific with the North Caribbean is perhaps the most relevant element in the strategy of connectivity development: the connection of the oceans, achieved by the Government of President Daniel,” he said. The last section has a length of 23 km and together with the first two sections of road, are 58 km long of hydraulic concrete linking Muy Muy, Matiguás and Río Blanco. (Informe Pastran, 9 April 2021)

New Poll Indicates People Want to Vote
The M&R Consultants polling firm released the results of its most recent survey “Nicaragua, headed into 2021” corresponding to March 2021. The survey indicates 81.3% of Nicaraguans say they will participate in the upcoming presidential elections (54.9% say they will vote and 26.4% say they probably will vote); 91.1% have a valid identity card; 90.8% believe the election of authorities is very important to the future of the nation and 91.3% indicated that their vote is very important. Sixty-nine percent approve of the administration of President Daniel Ortega. The data reflect that the Frente Sandinista has a potential political sympathy of 66.1% and at six months before the elections, 61.2% tend to support the FSLN, that is, 6 out of 10 Nicaraguans. 66.8% rate as good or very good the level of knowledge the leaders have about the population’s problems. 50.7% say they support the FSLN party, 6.6% say they are with another party and 42.7% consider themselves independent. “Of that 42.7% who say they are independent, there are 84% who tend towards one political force or another,” stated Obregón, who said that, in this case, 15.5% lean towards the FSLN. On the question of which government would provide better opportunities, 60.8% consider that it would be the FSLN government. (Nicaragua News, Radio La Primerisima, 13 April 2021)

Exports Increase
The Nicaragua Export Processing Center (CETREX) reported April 8 that exports totaled US$928.5 million during the first trimester of 2021, representing a 21.1% increase in comparison to the same period in 2020. The Nicaragua products with highest demand on the international market from January to March this year were gold US$209 million; premium coffee US$154 million; beef US$148 million; and sugar US$73.9 million. (Nicaragua News, 9 April 2021)

26 Schools Rebuilt in Bilwi since Hurricanes
Twenty-six schools have been rebuilt in the municipality of Bilwi since the hurricanes Eta and Iota hit the country in November 2020. The Education Ministry inaugurated the rehabilitation of the Irma Cajina School in the community of El Cocal, in the North Caribbean, where more than 300 students attend classes. This school was completely rebuilt after being hit by the hurricanes. David Patterson, MINED delegate said that it is a positive and immediate response that is being given to the population in the Indigenous territory of Karata. He explained that the center was delivered to the community fully equipped with desks and furniture. (Radio La Primerisima, 14 April, 2021)

Record Port Activity
A ship with 32,000 metric tons of wheat from Russia will soon arrive at the port of Corinto, according to the executive president of Nacional Ports, Virgilio Silva. The official added that sixteen ships are scheduled to arrive this week, a record. Between April 4 and 11, ten vessels anchored at the Port of Corinto. “We handled three containerships with 1,977 containers with import products such as tiles, tires, motorcycles and export products such as sugar, coffee, peanuts, bananas, among others”, he explained. (Radio La Primerisima, 14 April 2021)

Weekly Covid Report
Health Minister Martha Reyes reported that 5,407 positive Covid-19 cases have been detected in Nicaragua since March 2020. Of these, 5,176 individuals have recovered and 180 are deceased. During the week of April 6 to 12 there were 41 new registered cases and 39 people recovered. (Radio La Primerisima, 13 April 2021)