NicaNotes: 2021: A Year of Big Advances in Nicaragua

By Nan McCurdy

Health personnel carry out house to house vaccination

[This article is an updated version of a webinar presentation given December 18 hosted by Task Force on the Americas, Ecumenical Peace Institute, and Mt Diablo Peace & Justice Center.]

In 2021 Nicaragua made great leaps in improving lives and recuperating essential rights!

Defending Sovereignty
In my opinion the most important advance in 2021 for Nicaragua is defense of their right to sovereignty. As their historic leader, Augusto Sandino said: “Sovereignty is not discussed, but rather defended.” This is essential for Nicaragua but also an excellent example for other small nations still treated like colonies by the US and Europe.

Analyst William Grigsby asserts that 2021 was the year that Nicaragua began the final offensive to achieve full independence. He says, “We have a model of nation-building, very different from the Yankee model of colony building. The only way we can progress is if we are independent, sovereign, and express self-determination. It’s the only way and this has already been proven. In the 17 years between 1990 and 2007 Nicaraguans suffered the pro-Yankee predatory model in which we were effectively annexed to the United States in our foreign, economic and, in reality, in all policies. We were annexed to the Yankee logic of imperialism and the result was a social catastrophe: poverty and backwardness in all walks of life. The logic of building a country for everyone did not exist. There were no social rights. The logic was to build a country to serve a few, and even those few were beholden to foreign interests. With our current model our social rights have been recuperated. If we return to the Yankee colonial model, our social rights will end; our unique model of development that includes things like empowering small and medium-scale producers will end. It is the people who build the nation and defend a development model that builds social justice to end poverty.”  (Sin Fronteras, Radio La Primerisima, 27 September 2021)

Relations with China
On Dec. 9, Nicaragua reestablished relations with China. Analyst Oscar Gómez writes: “Nicaragua has made a wise decision to establish diplomatic relations with the one and only China. This transcendental news for Nicaragua must be understood as a matter of National Security for Nicaragua’s development. Investments with China can be projected to modernize the infrastructure of land, air and port transportation.”

Foreign Minister Denis Moncada said to China on Dec. 9 when they reestablished relations:
“We emphasize the need for mutual respect for sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs, the dignity and territorial integrity of states, the right of states to development, to have social security systems… and to resolve disputes by peaceful means. We reject the threat or use of force as a means of conflict resolution. We reject unilateral, coercive measures contrary to international law. We need to urge the international community to foster a new kind of international relations based on mutual respect, equity, justice, and mutually beneficial cooperation.”

Leaving the OAS
Another important action was the decision to leave the US-dominated Organization of American States – a process that will take about two years.

Responding to US Interference
Still another advance in sovereignty is in regard to US agents. In early 2021, the Nicaraguan agents of the United States were on constant trips to Washington to receive their orders, while at the same time they were continuing to receive millions directly and through their nongovernmental organizations for a new coup attempt.

These are the same agents who carried out the 2018 US-funded coup attempt handing out the money and the orders. In June, this came to a virtual stop with the arrest of Cristiana Chamorro and the suspension of her organization for money laundering.  Others were arrested later for money laundering and other very serious crimes like treason, acts that are crimes in every nation on earth. In part what made this possible were new laws at the end of 2020, one of which was similar to the US Foreign Agents Registration Act. The new law said that if you receive money from a foreign government you have to report on it – and these people didn’t. The population appears pleased with these actions as there has not been even one small street protest, even by their friends.

Economic Advances and Government Transparency
Central Bank President Ovidio Reyes reported that the Nicaraguan economy grew by more than 9% in 2021, one of the best growth rates in the Americas.  Nicaragua grew by about 5% from 2007 to early 2018 until the US-supported coup attempt. In that year the GDP dropped but by 2021 growth had reached a record US$13.85 billion.

There were also record exports; according to the Export Processing Center, CETREX, exports grew by 22% reaching US$3.6 billion and US$6.6 billion if you include exports from the Free Trade Zones. (Informe Pastran, 4 and 6 Jan. 2022)

Foreign investment income was 65% higher than in 2020. Foreign Investment in the Free Trade Zone in 2021 was US$70 million with seven new companies opening in the departments of Estelí, Managua and Matagalpa.  (Radio La Primerisima, 17 Jan. 2022)

In 2021, family remittances also grew and reached US$2.15 billion, 16% higher than in 2020. (Informe Pastran, 25 Jan. 2022)

The World Bank and the United Nations Development Program report that employment in Nicaragua has already recovered to pre-pandemic levels. (Informe Pastran, 30 Nov. 2021)

On July 30, the World Bank said that Nicaragua completed disbursements of US$99 million in project fulfillment, for a disbursement rate of 53.%; both the amount and the rate being record figures in the last 10 years that place Nicaragua among the top 10 in the world. (Radio La Primerisima, 30 July 2021)

The transparency of government officials and the satisfaction of the population with public services were highlighted by the Inter-American Development Bank in an Aug. 14 report.

Investment in Public Infrastructure
The World Bank reported on October 11 that Nicaragua ranks third in the world in renewable energy with 70% of its energy production from renewable sources. The report states that “since 2007 Nicaragua has implemented an electrification program that tripled energy production from renewable sources and expanded electricity coverage from just 54% in 2007 to 99% in 2021…. In a few years Nicaragua will overcome dependence on fossil fuels….” (Nicaragua News, 12 October 2021)

On October 11 the Strategic Alliance for Measurement of Public Investment in Infrastructure (INFRALATUM) published a report entitled “Public Investment in Economic Infrastructure in Central America,” that says that Nicaragua ranks third in Latin America (after Bolivia and Belize) in infrastructure investment. (Nicaragua News, 15 October 2021)

The 2022 Budget follows the National Program for the Fight against Poverty and for Human Development 2022-2026: 23% goes for education, 22.2% for health and the rest for social protection programs. Among the priorities are access to quality health services, and education at all levels.

Between 2007 and 2021 the government invested more than a billion dollars to bring drinking water and sanitation facilities to people as a human right and not as a business. In 2006 only 65% of the urban population had potable drinking water; today it is 91.5%. Twenty-eight drinking water and sanitation projects were completed in 2021. (Informe Pastran, 15 October 2021)

The number of sports facilities has doubled since 2007 when there were 1,015: today there are 2,030. The plan includes 13 baseball and 13 soccer stadiums, 12 sports centers, and the construction or improvement of five major recreational centers like the large Luis Alfonso Velazquez Park in Managua. (Radio La Primerisima, 3 Dec. 2021)

A major new pier in Bilwi was finished in October. The previous one was destroyed by hurricanes in November 2020.

The first Indigenous Agricultural University in Latin America was inaugurated in November located in the South Caribbean Region. The initiative is unique in Latin America, as it provides professional training to Indigenous people who were taught to read and write in their mother tongue through the “Yo Sí Puedo” program, and who have completed their secondary education. (Radio La Primerisima, 29 Nov. 2021)

Advances in Health in 2021
Nicaragua began COVID-19 vaccination of those with health problems and 60+ in March. It finally began getting quantities of Covid vaccines in the millions in September and began massive around the clock vaccination throughout the country. In November house-to-house vaccination began, something that has been done against other diseases like polio. Because of this, the population over 30 years of age was 80% covered with the vaccine by the beginning of December. (Radio La Primerisima, 2 Dec. 2021)

Health personnel prepared to do house-to-house vaccination

Nicaragua ends 2021 with the best hospital network in Central America. More than 100 new health facilities were built including ten hospitals: 6 primary hospitals and 4 departmental hospitals. Another ten were rebuilt or expanded. Dozens of health centers and health posts were built. The Prinzapolka and Waspam hospitals in the Caribbean, damaged in the 2020 hurricanes, are almost rebuilt. (Sin Fronteras, 20 October 2021)

Woman shows her COVID-19 vaccination card

Community medical brigades made hundreds of thousands of house-to-house visits. Health Minister Dr. Martha Reyes stated that infant mortality has declined from 29 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2006 to 12.8 in 2021. With the construction and staffing of maternity wait homes around the entire country, maternal mortality has declined from 92.8 to 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births during the same period. Chronic child malnutrition in children under five years of age has declined from 21.7% to 9.3%. Cancer diagnosis and treatment has vastly improved, including, for example, 22,200 endoscopies and 15,700 ultrasounds for the detection of stomach and prostate cancers. (Informe Pastran, 21 Dec. 2021)

#1 in Gender Equality
Nicaragua is number one in the world in women in ministerial positions and is number one in the Americas in Gender Equity. The Women’s Police Station in Diriamba was inaugurated on October 28. At least 20 have been opened this year bringing the total to more than 100. (Radio La Primerisima, 28 October 2021)

Advances in Environmental Protection
Nicaragua was elected Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Conference of the Parties (COP) against Climate Change, representing Latin America and the Caribbean, during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Scotland from October 31 to November 12. Climate Change Secretary Javier Gutiérrez stated that “the unanimous election of Nicaragua to the COP Board of Directors is recognition of its work on climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as sustainable development with climate justice.” (Nicaragua News, 16 November 2021)

A US$108 million loan for a Bioclimate Project seeks to mitigate the effects of climate change by containing deforestation and forest degradation, conserving biodiversity, and promoting sustainable production systems. The loan is from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration and the United Nations Green Climate Fund. (Nicaragua News, Nov. 18, 2021)

Advances in Indigenous Rights
All 25 Indigenous Territories have now been demarcated and titled, in such a way that the rights of 41,000 families in 315 communities of the Caribbean Coast to their ancestral lands have been restored. 371,800 square kilometers, 31.16% of the national territory, belong legally to the Indigenous communities of the Caribbean. Attorney General Wendy Morales said that this land titling represents 30% of the 533,068 titles delivered nationwide in the last 14 years. Thirty-eight thousand square kilometers have been titled just in the Caribbean Coast regions. During this process, a consensus was reached between some long-time occupants and the original ancestral ones, allowing them to work in a better way.

Nicaragua’s social and economic progress in the last years is quite surprising given the intensity of the US unconventional war. Starting in 2007, this war has included the funneling of millions of dollars to foreign agents and organizations in Nicaragua, a failed coup attempt in 2018, illegal unilateral sanctions (the 2018 Nica Act and the recently passed RENACER act), and a pre and post-election USAID destabilization plan called RAIN that began in 2020.

Despite all this foreign interference, Nicaragua held very transparent elections (for President, National Assembly and the Central America Parliament) last November, with electoral participation of 65% of eligible voters (with nearly 300,000 electoral volunteers). President Ortega’s re-election was due to social and economic advances of the last years as well as the current stability and peace in the country. Specifically, his soaring popularity among teens and young adults was mainly, but not only, due to important improvements in education and sports programs as well as the inclusion of youth at all levels of political power. 2021 turned out to be a very peaceful year in Nicaragua; Nicaraguans also hope for a peaceful and stable 2022.


By Nan McCurdy

Nicaragua with Perfect CABEI Project Execution Rate
The President of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) Dante Mossi noted that “Nicaragua, as one of the CABEI founding members and a significant regional partner with a perfect execution rate of its project portfolio, can always count on the support of the bank for the implementation of social investment projects and programs that eradicate poverty, inequality and mitigate the effects of climate change, improving the quality of life for all Nicaraguans.” The Nicaragua Government and CABEI are currently carrying out a project portfolio totaling more than US$2.5 billion for productive infrastructure, environmental protection and the fight against poverty which includes building new hospitals, roads, electricity coverage, low-cost housing, as well as water and sanitation facilities. (Nicaragua News, 27 Jan. 2022)

Record GDP and Foreign Direct Investment in 2021
The Minister of Finance and Public Credit, Iván Acosta, told the Sputnik News Agency on January 20 that Nicaragua’s GDP reached a record US$13.85 billion in 2021. The Central Bank (BCN), reported the balance of payments from July to September 2021 showing a 39.8% gross income increase over 2020 from Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and 83.2% in net flows, US$385.5 million and US$310.1 million respectively. Compared to the same period of 2020, this means increases of $109.7 million [39.8% year-on-year growth] in gross income, and of $140.8 million in net FDI flows [83.2% year-on-year growth]. Between 2018 and 2020, Nicaragua had losses due to the failed coup attempt of 2018 and hurricanes Eta and Iota, which together with the COVID crisis, generated losses of almost US$30 billion. The BCN reported that accumulated foreign investment income during the first nine months of 2021 registered US$1 billion, an increase of 64.8% over 2020. (Radio La Primerisima, 29 Jan. 2022)

New Highways Inaugurated
Phase I of the Siuna-Rosita highway in the Northern Caribbean Autonomous Region has been inaugurated, benefiting 158,560 inhabitants. This funding for this US$4.84 million project came from the General Budget. The 23 km San Sebastián – Yalí-Condega road, between the departments of Jinotega and Estelí, was also completed with 68,000 beneficiaries. These roads will improve production of cattle, coffee and basic grains and will stimulate trade. (Nicaragua News, 26 Jan. 2022, Radio La Primerisima, 1 Feb. 2022)

87% Coverage against Covid-19
Vice President Rosario Murillo reported that vaccination against COVID-19 has already reached 87% of the population over thirty years of age; 88.82% of pregnant, breastfeeding and puerperal women; 69% of children two to 11 years of age; 80% of children 12 to 17 years of age; and 80% of adults 18 to 29 years of age. (Informe Pastran, 31 Jan. 2022)

Leon Potable Water Project under Way
The Nicaragua Water and Sewage Company (ENACAL) began construction of the project to improve and expand the potable water and sanitation system in León municipality, benefiting 260,000 inhabitants. The project is expected to be completed by January 2023. (Nicaragua News, 26 Jan. 2022)

MINED and UNICEF Launch Project for Children with Disabilities
The Ministry of Education (MINED) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) began the Project to Digitalize School Texts and Design Technological Systems for the Education of Children with Disabilities. The project seeks to promote inclusive access to education for children with disabilities through digitalization, adaptation to sign language, Braille Systems and audio recordings of school texts. This project is part of the restoration of human rights and social justice in education promoted by the government since 2007. UNICEF Representative Antero Almeida noted that “UNICEF congratulates the government for joining this initiative that guarantees inclusive, free and quality education for all children and is an example of Nicaragua’s commitment to create an educational system in which all children are participants in their integral development.” (Nicaragua News, 1 Feb. 2022)

New Property Titles This Week
2,500 new property titles will be handed over to families in Managua, Matagalpa, Boaco, Chinandega, León, Chontales, and the Northern Caribbean Region. Attorney General Wendy Morales stated that the titles will be delivered house to house as part of the Legal Certainty and Family Stability Program the Government is carrying out nationwide. (Nicaragua News, 31 Jan. 2022)

Analysis of Future Cooperation with China
On December 10, 2021, after 31 years, Nicaragua reestablished relations with the People’s Republic of China. A month later four agreements were signed with China, one of them, the adhesion to the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s development strategy. Laureano Ortega Murillo, Presidential Advisor for Investment, Trade and International Cooperation, said that the Belt and Road Initiative “has a global scope in terms of maritime connectivity to strengthen commercial exchange under fair conditions for the peoples of the world” and that Nicaragua’s geographical location is key; it is the center of the Americas with access to two seas, which makes it an important piece in this giant project underway. Ortega Murillo said this is “an opportunity …to improve our productive infrastructure, to strengthen commercial exchange … promote Nicaragua as a platform for Chinese businesses to sell their products throughout Central American, that is, to install operations here and re-export products to other countries in the region.” He added that this is “a very important component that we are promoting and that can lead to investments later on; to see that here you can finish making a T-shirt, or a pair of pants, or assemble a product and then be able to re-export it. In Nicaragua the State bureaucracy reacts very quickly; our Government works very efficiently.” (Informe Pastran, 28 Jan. 2022)

More Cooperation between China and Nicaragua
In a letter sent on Jan. 30 to President Ortega in appreciation for the congratulations sent on the celebration of the Chinese New Year, Chinese president Xi Jinping said China will promote cooperation with Nicaragua in various fields. “Assigning great importance to the development of relations between the two countries, in the new year I am willing to work together with you to deepen mutual political trust, promote cooperation in various fields,… leading relations between China and Nicaragua to achieve greater development… to achieve a greater benefit for both countries and their peoples,” the letter says. (Radio La Primerisima, 30 Jan. 2022)

China Approves Large Housing Project
Vice President Rosario Murillo announced that the Government of the People’s Republic of China approved an affordable housing project for families in 84 municipalities over three years. “Families will receive a beautiful, safe, dignified house with all the basic services,” (Radio La Primerisima, 28 Jan. 2022)

Trials Begin on February 1
As of February 1, trials will be held of persons both detained and under house arrest accused of having violated the Political Constitution, Law No. 1055, the Sovereign Security Law, and the Penal Code of the Republic. According to a communique released by the Public Ministry [Office of the Public Prosecutor] on January 30, they will be prosecuted for committing offenses against the national integrity, for having received resources from foreign sources to commit the crimes of laundering money, property and assets. The communique notes that these accused have relapsed as they are the same ones who “promoted and directed the terrorist acts of aggression of the 2018 coup attempt, paralyzed the country and damaged the economy; and caused pain and mourning in Nicaraguan families because of the murders, tortures and kidnappings.” The communique goes on to say, “They carried out acts that undermine the independence, sovereignty and self-determination of Nicaragua and have publicly incited foreign interference in internal affairs, proposing or arranging economic, commercial and financial blockades against the country and its institutions, including, once again, calls for armed intervention by foreign powers such as the United States. They have demanded the imposition of sanctions against the State of Nicaragua and Nicaraguan families.” The Public Ministry’s Office stated that it will continue to carry out the necessary proceedings for the defense and representation of the victims and of Nicaraguan society. (Radio La Primerisima, 31 Jan. 2022)

First Nicaraguan Found Guilty of Cybercrime
For spreading false news through Facebook and WhatsApp, Donald Margarito Alvarenga from Chinandega is the first person to be punished under Nicaragua’s cybercrime law. Investigations determined that, beginning in July 2019, Alvarenga promoted the economic and restrictive sanctions implemented against Nicaragua by foreign governments. The accused met in the Candelaria neighborhood and surrounding sectors of the municipality of Chichigalpa with other unidentified subjects, where he promoted sanctions with the purpose of obtaining financial support to alter the Constitutional Order and Social Peace in the nation. In addition, he was part of a group called “los Pingüinos” [the penguins], which was used to publish and share false news that promoted destabilization and a systematic campaign to provoke alterations to the public order. Judge Rosa Evelia Baca, head of the First Criminal District Court of Chinandega, sentenced him to 12 years in prison. He was convicted of undermining national integrity (conspiracy) and propagation of false news through information and communication technologies to the detriment of the security of the State of Nicaragua and the Nicaraguan society.
(Radio La Primerisima, 28 Jan. 2022)