NicaNotes: Sixteen Years of Sandinista Government

You are invited to a
Sunday, Feb. 5 Nicaragua Webinar
With Camilo Mejia
“Journey of a Native Son”
3pm Eastern, 2pm Nicaragua, noon Pacific, 8pm Greenwich/UK

L to R: Camilo Mejia in a recent visit in Nicaragua with Brian Willson and Enrique Hendrix

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Camilo Mejia is a Nicaraguan citizen based in Miami, Florida. He joined the US military in 1994, and in 2003 he was among the first US soldiers to publicly refuse to return to his unit in Iraq, calling the US occupation of that country oil-driven, illegal and immoral. Since the US-financed attempted coup in 2018, Camilo has spoken out boldly to counter the disinformation campaign against his native Nicaragua.  He has recently returned to the US after spending 7 weeks in Nicaragua.

Camilo will start the presentation with a brief account of his early life as the son of Sandinista revolutionaries, his journey from US soldier to antiwar activist in the US, and his work in defense of the Sandinista revolution since the failed attempt at regime change in 2018. He will then share his impressions after visiting his native country for the first time since 1994, a nearly 30-year absence for political reasons tied to his antiwar activism.

Sixteen Years of Sandinista Government

By Erving Vega

(Erving Vega is the lead reporter and anchor person for Channel TN8’s current
affairs programs)

[This article was first published by Tortilla con Sal in Spanish and by Chicago ALBA Solidarity in English.]

The truth is that we have gone from being the worst at everything to being the best, or among the best, at everything. And if we take into account that the current was not always in our favor, then the merit is undeniable.

It’s recent enough so that memory cannot fail us. Exactly 16 years ago, Nicaragua was in a nosedive. It will suffice as evidence to recall the blackouts of up to 12 hours a day and the national paralysis that this meant, as well as the discomfort and frustration of the entire country. The legacy of 17 years (1990-2006) of three neoliberal governments can be summed up in the data, although the breakdown of so much neglect, corruption and apathy would take much more than a 1,200-word article.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations in 2015 is a good filter with which to assess progress, stagnation or setbacks in the development of a country at a given moment in its history. There are 17 goals. I prefer the first eight because the progress on these eight goals conditions any progress on the nine that follow.

So, the question is, how was Nicaragua in 2006, at the end of the third and last of the neoliberal governments that followed one another since 1990 in light of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and their main indicators? And, to get a perspective on the jump that the country has made during the 16 years that followed with a Sandinista government, the question is also how are we today?

I share with you a collection of data that I hope summarizes the answer to both questions using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

1. End of poverty According to the Living Standard Measurement Surveys, between 2001-2005 poverty in general increased from 45.8% to 48.3% and extreme poverty went from 15.1% to 17.2%. Poverty in general fell from 48.3% in 2005 to 24.9% in 2016 and extreme poverty fell from 17.2% to 6.9% in the same period.
2. Zero hunger Famine in rural areas that led to roadside sit-ins, mainly in the north of the country. Chronic malnutrition at 27%. Food security policy that includes credit, production packages, food packages, school nutrition program, etc. Lowered chronic malnutrition from 27% to 11.6%.
3. Health and well-being Privatization through the dismantling of the public health system. Patients had to bring alcohol, gauze, suture thread and sheets if hospitalization was required. Restoration of the right to free health care that includes laboratory and high-tech tests, medicines and care supplies.
4. Quality education Lag in coverage and quality determined by: privatization disguised as autotomy, collection of fees, abandoned schools and insufficient furniture. 27,000 classrooms destroyed. Thousands of children, mainly in rural areas, had to bring their own desks or sit on the floor. The illiteracy rate, which had been reduced to 12.96% with the National Literacy Crusade in 1980, increased between 1990 and 2006 to 22.0%. Universal access policy determined by: Restoration of free public education. Prohibition of charging school fees. 35,393 school environments built, repaired and/or expanded. The government resumes the task to reduce illiteracy. Currently the rate is between 4% and 6%
5. Gender equality Position 90 globally in gender equality. Position 5 globally in gender equality and number 1 in Latin America.
6. Clean water and sanitation Potable water coverage in the urban area of ​​65% and in the rural area of ​​26.7%. Sewer coverage in the urban area of ​​36% and in the rural area of ​​33%. Potable water coverage in the urban area of ​​91.5% and in rural areas of 55.4%​​.  Sewer coverage in the urban area of ​​54% and in the rural area of ​​50.9%.
7. Clean and affordable energy Coverage of 54% with blackouts between 12 and 14 hours daily. The generation matrix was 80% from sources derived from petroleum and 20% renewable. Coverage of 99.3%. The blackouts were overcome during the first months of 2007 after the Sandinista government took office. The generation matrix is ​​75% from renewable sources and 25% from petroleum.
8. Decent work and economic growth. Net employment rate [formal & informal] 94.8%. Unemployment rate 5.2%. Permanent conflict workers vs employers. Government-business collusion to breach the Minimum Wage Law. National net employment rate [formal and informal] 95.1%. Unemployment rate 4.9%. Contracts between unions and employers. Tripartite agreement and compliance with the Minimum Wage Law.

The numbers speak clearly. They confirm that we have gone from being the worst at everything to being the best, or being among the best, at everything.

For example, no one disputes that we have:

The safest country in Central America. The homicide rate went from 13.4 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2006 to 7 in 2020.

The best roads in Central America. In 2006 there were 2,439 kilometers of paved roads, with only 30% in OK condition. Currently the road network exceeds five thousand kilometers. According to the World Economic Forum, Nicaragua is among the top five countries with the best roads in Latin America and the Caribbean, and is number one in Central America.

Leadership in renewable energy. According to Sustainability Magazine, Nicaragua is ranked number eight worldwide in promoting policy to generate renewable energy.

The best and largest hospital network in Central America. In 2006 there were 1,092 health units [hospitals and clinics], most of them in a deplorable state. Currently the country has 1,596 health units.

The reduction in maternal deaths is also notable. In 2006 the rate was 93 deaths per 100,000 live births; currently it is 31.4. Infant mortality dropped from 29 per 1,000 live births in 2006 to 12.6 per 1,000 live births in 2021. And although I don’t know of a ranking, surely if there were, Nicaragua would be among the small group of countries where the most advanced technologies are available free of charge to the population including radiotherapy with linear accelerators, extremely expensive fetal surgeries, and others, with free access for those who need it.

The leap is quantitative and qualitative and has occurred at the same time that the world hit us with an economic crisis in 2008, a coup attempt in 2018, a pandemic that still deserves attention, two hurricanes in a row in 2020, and foreign sanctions (aggressions that, far from facilitating, torpedo national efforts). The merit is undeniable. I will conclude with an old cliché from the Bible, opportune for the occasion: He who has ears let him hear.

By Nan McCurdy

Exports in 2022 Increased over 2021
From January to December 2022, exports reached US$7.36 billion, which represents an increase of US$865 million over 2021, as reported by the head of the Ministry of Development, Industry and Commerce, Jesús Bermúdez on Jan. 24. Bermudez said that 41% of exports, or US$3.1 billion, corresponded to agricultural products. The Free Trade Zones had US$3.52 billion in exports, 16% more than 2022. Clothing, gold, coffee, automotive harnesses, beef, tobacco, and cane sugar top the lists. Top export destinations were the US, Central America, Mexico and the European Union. (Radio La Primerisima, 24 Jan. 2023)

Geothermal Plant Expansion Increases Generation by 10.4 MW
On Jan. 19 the Canadian company, Polaris Energy, announced that the San Jacinto-Tizate Geothermal Plant Expansion Project has concluded. The US$19.6 million-dollar project increases by 10.4 MW the generating capacity of the plant. The San Jacinto-Tizate plant generated 326,779 MW of electricity between January and September 2022, registering US$30.8 million in sales, representing 68.7% of total production for the company during the period. (Nicaragua News, 20 Jan. 2023)

Nicaragua Has 92% Potable Water Coverage
On Jan. 19 Erving Barreda, head of the Nicaraguan Company of Aqueducts and Sewerage (ENACAL) said that 92% of the population has drinking water service, while in 2006 only 65% of homes had potable water. He said there are still neighborhoods with coverage only a few hours a day but the government wants homes to have water at least 20 hours a day. He added that by 2027 sanitary sewerage coverage with sewage treatment plants is projected to be 80%. Of the challenges for the period 2023-2027, Barreda said that ENACAL continues the expansion of the drinking water and sanitary sewerage and also its sustainability. This year 40 water projects will be inaugurated.

Barreda stated that “2022 was a record year in completing projects financed by the public investment budget resulting in nine sewer projects, among them Masaya, Bilwi, Condega, Niquinohomo, Catarina, San Juan de Oriente, Tola, Totogalpa and Juigalpa.” Emblematic water projects such as the one in Bilwi, for some 16,000 families, were completed. In addition to the urban center, six other communities were also served. San Juan del Sur’s system was expanded to reach more people. A large project is in progress in Leon with the construction of 12 tanks, 18 new wells, and more than 100 kilometers of piping costing US$40 million. In 2023, 17 cities will have improved and expanded water service helping 108,000 families, and 20 cities will have improved sanitation works.

Barreda explained that ENACAL will begin to generate solar energy and biogas energy to have its own power source. “When the wastewater purification process is carried out, methane gas is produced … these gases can move turbines and generate 1 MW of energy,” he explained. A projected solar energy plant is also intended to supply 15% of the energy used by ENACAL in its first stage. (Radio La Primerisima, 19 Jan. 2023)

Solid Growth Allows 5% Salary Increase
On Jan. 20, Vice President Rosario Murillo announced a 5% salary adjustment for all public servants starting February 1. Minister of Finance Iván Acosta noted that “the salary increase, with a big effect on the education and health sectors, represents US$43.8 million dollars of the National Budget for 2023 and is based on the solid economic growth of the country in 2022.” The measure benefits some 160,000 civil servants, including 40,000 working in the Ministry of Health and 64,000 in the Ministry of Education. (Informe Pastran, 20 Jan. 2023)

New Dialysis Center to Serve Carazo and Rivas
Advances continue to be seen in the health system of Carazo with the inauguration of a new nephrology-hemodialysis center in Jinotepe, Department of Carazo, which will serve that Department and Rivas. The Ministry of Health and the Social Security Heath Centers have 23 nephrology-hemodialysis centers with over 1,100 dialysis machines. The new center that will serve people in the departments of Carazo and Rivas has 78 new machines to attend up to 450 people a day. Jorge Acosta, FSLN political secretary in Carazo, said that “patients from Carazo and Rivas had to travel to Managua for treatment three times a week.” Mariano Madrigal, Jinotepe mayor said “This is part of the good will of the Sandinista Government, the will and … the good use of state resources to strengthen the health sector for the development of Nicaragua in health and education.” (TN8tv, 16 Jan. 2023)

Nicaragua Ranks High in Survey on Peace, Security, Economy
The Sandinista government continues to be among the best evaluated in the countries of the Americas, with 76.9% approval, according to a survey released Jan. 24 by the firm M & R Consultores. Problem solution, pandemic management, peace, security and the expectation of improving the economic situation were some of the indicators that made the Sandinista government score among the best in the region. The countries that follow in the ranking are the government of Rodrigo Chaves in Costa Rica with 68.4%, the government of Luis Abinader in the Dominican Republic with 61%, and that of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico with 56%. Further down the list is Joe Biden of the US with 38%, Alberto Fernández of Argentina with 33.2%, Gabriel Boric of Chile with 30% and at the bottom of the list is Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador with 12.6%. See Tables and graphs: (Radio La Primerisima, 24 Jan. 2023)

Nicaraguans Believe They Have Freedom of Expression
Last week M&R Consultants polling firm presented the results of its recent national survey “Public Opinion Monitoring System,” corresponding to the fourth quarter of last year. The survey indicates that 68.2% of Nicaraguans believe the fundamental aspect of a democracy is that the people have real opportunities; 71%state they are satisfied with the functioning of democracy in the country; 79.3% affirm that the fundamental rights of Nicaraguans are respected in the country and 92.5% believe there is complete freedom of expression in Nicaragua. (Nicaragua News, 19 Jan. 2023)

Córdoba to Dollar Exchange Rate Modified
On Jan. 23 the Central Bank announced that it had decided to establish the automatic devaluation of the exchange rate of the córdoba against the US dollar at 1% per annum, which means a reduction of 1% point with respect to the 2% devaluation rate prevailing to date. This rate will begin to be applied and published in the monthly table of the official exchange rate as of February 1, 2023. According to the BCN, this decision is based on the country’s stable public finances, properly financed balance of payments, the stability of the main variables of the financial system, an improvement in the levels of international reserves, and monetary and exchange rate stability. The reduction in the automatic devaluation will help offset the effects of international inflation in the economy and reinforce the predictability of the nominal exchange rate, thus strengthening the stability of the currency. (Radio La Primerisima, 23 Jan. 2023)

Nicaragua’s Message at the VII Summit of CELAC
On Jan. 24, at the VII Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (CELAC) held in Argentina, Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada stated that the region’s priorities include the fight against poverty, terrorism, coups d’état, organized crime, and all the other plagues that come to the region from other worlds. In the message from Nicaragua to the Heads of State and Presidents attending the CELAC Summit, Moncada said that “unity, which makes us strong, turns us into warriors of light, life and truth.” He rejected foreign intervention in any form, including aggressions, invasions, interferences, blockades, economic wars, offenses, threats, humiliations, occupations as well as sanctions, which are nothing more than “aggressions, all illegal, arbitrary and unilateral.” His message also called on the CELAC countries to resist and reject everything that endangers the future, “the luminous horizon of our peoples, where we do not allow any more plundering of our natural and cultural resources, and where the genocide imposed on us for centuries by the colonialist powers is not only denounced, but [our resistance] becomes a battle hymn against criminal wars in songs that demand peace.” He went in to say, “The world urgently needs justice and peace…respectful cooperation and solidarity. The world needs understanding, comprehension and affection. The better world that we all want to create urgently needs … solidarity and the ability to live together, sharing scientific and technological development.” (Radio La Primerisima, 24 Jan. 2023)

Thousands March to Remember Rubén Darío
The afternoon of Jan. 18 Sandinistas participated in a massive walk with the slogan “Nicaragua shines like a sun that never sets!” They marched in celebration of the 156th anniversary of the birth of the poet Rubén Darío. María Teresa Medina, from the Bertha Díaz neighborhood of Managua, said that this was one more demonstration of the support of the people for the Sandinista Government. “We are here once again supporting the achievements, supporting all the victories, supporting the benefits that day by day we are building step by step, together with our people,” she said. Sandinismo held the walk for heroes and martyrs on the day celebrating the birth of the “Prince of Castilian Letters,” Rubén Darío, she added. “A demonstration by youth, by the people – here there are workers, there are women, there are children and youth, divine treasure, as Rubén Dario used to say,” Medina said. The walk began in the El Dorado Park and concluded in the parking lot of the National Sovereignty Stadium. See photos: (Radio La Primerisima, 18 Jan. 2023)

Some 37,000 Enrolled in Technical Education in 2023
The Nicaragua Technological Institute (INATEC) announced that the 2023 Technical Education Enrollment Campaign reported enrollment of 36,821 students, representing 80% compliance with the projected goal for the 2023 academic year that begins February 13th. INATEC Director, Loyda Barreda, stated that “the enrollment campaign that began January 9 has generated successful results, which we consider the first academic victory of 2023 because it reflects the trust that families place in the public technical education system.” She also explained that INATEC is offering enrollment in 66 technical areas in the 53 centers throughout the country and, for the sixth consecutive year, five technical areas will be taught online in administration, accounting, computing, customs management, and human resources management. (Nicaragua News, 23 Jan. 2023)

Oncology Surgery Campaigns Resume in 2023
The first oncology surgery campaign of 2023 began on Jan. 23 at the Manolo Morales Hospital in Managua. More than 45 patients from different parts of the country will have their right to free quality health care restored through these operations. Dr. Cristian Fonseca, Deputy Director of Medical Attention, explained that during six days they will perform operations on patients suffering from pancreatic, prostate, and thyroid cancers, among other pathologies. Fonseca said that other surgeries have been scheduled for this first semester and for the rest of the year as well. She added that the patients greatly benefit from these surgeries, which are totally free of charge and very expensive in a private hospital. See photos: (Radio La Primerisima, 23 Jan. 2023)

Chicken, Egg Production Grew in 2022
Nicaragua ended 2022 with 340 million pounds of chicken produced in technified and semi-technified farms, the National System of Production, Consumption and Commerce announced on Jan. 23. According to authorities, chicken production grew 7.5 percent in 2022 and 5.4 percent with respect to the goal established in the 2022 Production Plan. Also, 33.8 million boxes of eggs were produced in 2022, which is 4.8% higher than 2021. (Radio La Primerisima, 23 Jan. 2023)

British Newspaper Promotes Nicaraguan Tourism
On Jan. 20, the British newspaper “Daily Mail” published an article entitled, “Erupting with treasures: Birdlife, beaches, volcanoes… Nicaragua offers a wealth of riches for intrepid travelers.” The article states that “Although few British tourists visit or have any knowledge of the country, Nicaragua is a revelation, with its beaches and natural habitat that are more than a match for any country, and colonial cities, rich in culture and beauty; but perhaps most charming of all about Nicaragua is its poetic soul and the fact that it is a country that feels undiscovered yet offers a good infrastructure and plenty of excellent resorts and hotels. Nicaragua still feels exotically ‘other’ without the sterile reference points of global tourism where a sense of having a largely uncharted country to yourself is an increasingly elusive luxury.” (HERE; Nicaragua News, 23 Jan. 2023)

US and Canadian Delegation Calls for an End to Sanctions
Twenty-four US and Canadian citizens urged the governments of the United States and Canada to lift all aggressive measures imposed on Nicaragua. During a visit to Nicaragua from January 7 to 23, the delegation learned about the different programs implemented by the Sandinista Government and heard from citizens in many parts of the country. The participants noted that the different programs prioritize the needs of the population. In addition, they promote the entrepreneurship of Nicaraguan families, especially women. The delegation met with officials from many government ministries including the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Health Ministry as well as the National Assembly and the Women’s Police Stations. In addition, they had exchanges with women from neighborhoods and communities around the country. The visit was organized by the Benjamin Linder House – Jubilee House Community and the Alliance for Global Justice. See photos: (Radio La Primerisima, 23 Jan. 2023)