Alliance for Global Justice co-sponsored a recent delegation organized by Friends of the ATC (Farmworkers Union). Delegates lived and worked alongside ATC members. Susan Lagos, a long-time Nicaragua resident and former campesina (peasant farmer) herself, translated into English the life experiences told by Emerita Vega, the head of household of the family she stayed with. Our guest blog this week is Compañera Vega’s story.
Life under the dictatorship vs. Life under Sandinismo
My name is Emerita Vega. I was born Sept. 22, 1948 in the community Marlon Alvarado, near the town of Santa Teresa, Carazo, Nicaragua.
My childhood was very sad. I grew up in the period in which Nicaragua was governed by the Somoza family. I was raised in extreme poverty, the same as all the poor people of that time here in Nicaragua. I am the second of ten children. I had no time to play because here we had no water, and we had to go fill buckets five kilometers away. We had no electricity either, so we used a bottle with a rag soaked in diesel for a light. The roads were just trails where the horses could drown in the mudholes in the rainy season, and we all went barefoot. Our houses had straw or grass roofs, and the walls were sticks or sorghum stalks. There wasn’t any school, so we were all illiterate. Later a school was provided but only to third grade, so I learned to read and write. At age twelve I had to go work in the city to help my parents to raise my younger brothers and sisters. I worked as a maid, and in those days, there were no laws to protect us. We had no day off, nor vacation time, nor extra pay at Christmas; we were like slaves. That’s how I grew up, and when I was nineteen, my father died, so I continued working to support my younger siblings.
It wasn’t until July 19, 1979 with the triumph of the Popular Sandinista Revolution that we poor people saw a change in our lives. It was like waking up. It wasn’t until then that we had any rights, for example a right to land. Through the agrarian reform we were given an area of land to plant. That land had always belonged to a rich landowner, where we were the badly paid laborers. Now thanks to the Revolution we could work this land for our own benefit, which has helped a lot to change how we live. Now we have good roads all year round, electricity, and easy access to water. As for food, we people in the countryside produce our own food and we can survive.
After the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) lost the elections in 1990, because people were tired of so much war, scarcity of necessary items, and the loss of our loved ones, and with the propaganda that if Doña Violeta won, the war would be over, the neoliberals returned to power.
With Violeta Chamorro, Arnoldo Aleman and Enrique Bolanos, we regressed. They wanted to take away the [constitutionally mandated] 6% of the budget that is for university education, including scholarships for people who can’t afford it. Young people protested to claim their right, and some were killed and wounded. The roads weren’t maintained so they became unpassable again. The famous “blackouts” were extended times when there was scarcely electricity six of every 24 hours. In the hospitals and health centers there were no medicines. In the schools, we had to pay for tests, and many extras. Everything slid backwards and people got tired of it.
In 2007 Daniel Ortega returned to power through the elections which the FSLN won, and a new period began in which the government works with all the sectors: the private businesses, the farmers, the medium and small-sized businesses, the unions, etc. and there began to be many benefits for the people such as the “bono productivo” [production package of the Zero Hunger Program] which is given to poor people with land in the countryside. This consists of a pregnant cow, a pig, ten hens, two rolls of barbed wire, 2 bags of cement, 8 sheets of zinc roofing, etc. I am one of many who received this bono. Another bono is when 10 sheets of zinc roofing and 2 lbs of nails are given to families whose roof is in bad shape. Other bonos are the school lunch program, free health care, a backpack and notebooks to start the school year, and the bono for those graduating from high school, housing for needy people, scholarships for university students both inside and outside the country.
Thanks to all this, all young people can study. In my family, all the young people are professionals. For example, my brother Antonio Vega, is a farmer. He has 4 children who have graduated from the university: one civil engineer, two doctors, and one psychologist. This would have been impossible if it weren’t for the 6% law which provides room and board as well as tuition for students from families who can’t afford it. And that is thanks to this Revolution and the FSLN under the direction of President Daniel Ortega that all this is possible.
That is why the opposition parties know that through elections they won’t return to power, since the majority of the people are content with this government. And that’s why they have had to use tricks, lies, and false statements to destabilize the country, taking advantage of the internet to wage a media war, but they can’t fool us because we can see what is really happening here, but they may be able to fool the people in other countries.
By Nan McCurdy
UNAN Students Begin 2019 School Year
Classes at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua-Managua (UNAN-Managua), a public university, began this week with thousands of students registering each day for seventy-six careers. Opposition protesters took over the UNAN as part of the coup attempt last spring and kept over one hundred thousand students from studying for six months. The opposition is currently calling for students to boycott all the public universities but that clearly is not happening. (Canal 4, 1/22/19)
Sandinista Government Delivers New Property Titles
The Sandinista government, through the Attorney General’s Office, began to deliver thousands of property titles, free of charge, directly to people’s homes in different parts of the country. They started the year with 2,500 new titles benefiting an equal number of families. In Managua, 308 titles were awarded in the seven districts and municipalities on Monday. (Informe Pastran, 1/21/19)
Four Police Officers Murdered by Drug Traffickers
The Nicaraguan National Police reported that a group of drug traffickers linked to the Costa Rica-based “Banda El Jobo,” murdered four police officers yesterday in Rio San Juan Department near the border. The National Police expressed its “strong condemnation of this cowardly criminal act and reiterated its firm commitment to continue to ensure peace, security and tranquility for all Nicaraguan families.” The press release states the National Police has been mobilized and is in pursuit of the delinquents. (Nicaragua News, 1/19/19)
Committed to peaceful and respectful elections
The Director of the Nicaraguan Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) Department of Attention to Political Parties, Julio Acuña, announced that the legal representatives of political organizations participating in the March 3 Caribbean Autonomous Regional elections have ratified their commitment to a respectful, safe and peaceful electoral process. “Representatives of two political alliances and 11 political parties signed a joint liability agreement to assume responsibility for any eventuality that might arise during the campaign,” Acuña said. (Nicaragua News, 1/17/19)
Nicaragua Condemns Terrorist Attacks in Columbia
The Nicaragua Government strongly condemned the terrorist attack at the General Santander Cadet School in Bogota, Colombia. In a press release issued yesterday the government stated that “Nicaragua has constantly denounced and condemned Terrorism in all its forms and does so once again, in accordance with its Policies of Peace and Solidarity. We extend to the Government and People of Colombia, and to the Families of the 10 victims who lost their lives, our most sincere condolences.” (Nicaragua News, 1/19/19)
Carlos Fernando Chamorro Chooses to Go into Exile—A Commentary
On Sunday, Jan. 20, Carlos Fernando Chamorro, son of former President Violeta Chamorro, and heir apparent of one of Nicaragua’s most powerful families, announced his decision to go into self-exile on his Sunday evening television show Esta Semana. The 8pm show will continue and his other show Esta Noche will only air on Wednesday evening. He will continue these two programs and his media outlet Confidencial from Costa Rica. He says he made the decision to go into exile in Costa Rica because he says he has been subject to threats, although he did not show any evidence.
In December 2018, various opposition-aligned NGO’s feared being investigated and
perhaps even closed for non-compliance with Nicaragua’s law relating to non-
profits. They illegally moved computers and other materials to the offices of
Chamorro’s media outlet Confidencial which already held computers and materials
from his own NGO, CINCO. The Nicaraguan authorities undercut these maneuvers
when they discovered the illicit transfer of equipment and documentation, which were then subpoenaed by the government for their investigation.
Local observers believe Chamorro moved to Costa Rica because he can no longer access US funding through his NGO – CINCO and will more easily be able to receive US funding in Costa Rica. Chamorro has been claiming repression since 2008 when he and his CINCO organization also broke the law relating to non-profit political activity but at the time settled that incident with the Sandinista government.
For years Chamorro has published venomously critical, frequently deceitful coverage of the government while simultaneously falsely claiming repression. For example, when Sandinista interests took over Channel 8 some years ago, Chamorro left that TV channel, mendaciously claiming he’d been forced out, which was not true; rather he chose to leave.
His move to Costa Rica now is part of the same strategy Chamorro has followed
for over twenty years, aimed at falsely discrediting Daniel Ortega and, since 2007, Nicaragua’s Sandinista government.
A legitimate question is what would happen to a similar media non-profit figure
in the US, say Amy Goodman, if she were found to be receiving funding from a foreign government to attack the US government? (La Prensa, 1/20/19 and notes from Nan)