NicaNotes: Women in Nicaragua: Power and Active Participation

Delegation Report-Back (January 2023)
By the Delegation

The delegation visits the Ministry of women, with Minister Jessica Leiva in the middle.

Hailing from all corners of the United States and Canada, 22 delegates ranging from the ages of 10 to 80 traveled to Nicaragua from January 7-16, 2023, to investigate the conditions and the lives of Nicaraguan women on a delegation organized by the Jubilee House Community – Casa Benjamin Linder and Alliance for Global Justice. We had the opportunity to meet with a plethora of community organizers, workers, and public officials: from feminist peasant farmers to self-employed unionists; from urban community health workers to nurses and doctors; from battered women’s program directors to women leaders in the National Police, National Assembly, and Ministry of Women. We met with Nicaraguans from all walks of life and heard their stories of resilience and empowerment despite two hundred years of imperialist aggression and efforts to undermine their sovereignty. With the lowest crime rate in Central America, we found Nicaragua to be a safe, welcoming place that prioritizes the human rights and needs of its people.

We were inspired by the power and active role of Nicaraguans and particularly Nicaraguan women and their participation in their communities and governments. Over the past 16 years, the Sandinista government has promoted proactive, preventive, and community-based programs that prioritize the needs of women, children, and the marginalized. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report of 2022 ranks Nicaragua 7th worldwide for gender parity and first in women’s educational attainment, literacy, and women in the legislature and cabinet positions. These accomplishments reflect the Sandinista government’s investment in its people, with 57% of its budget dedicated to health and education.

Since 2007, when the Sandinistas were returned to power, the wellbeing of the Nicaraguan people has improved significantly: infant mortality was reduced by 55% and maternal mortality by 66% by 2021. During the COVID-19 pandemic the country has never shut down, but has used public health and popular education methods to keep deaths to 37 per 1 million population (in the United States 3,260 of every 1 million residents have died). Today, around 90% of the population two years and older has received at least two doses of vaccine, the Nicaraguan economy has continued to grow, health and education services have not suffered, and the country has avoided incurring excessive debt like many of its neighbors.

The Sandinista government implements a rights-based framework for policy-making that provides the mechanisms for all people to actualize their human rights to water, housing, education, health, safety, and food. In 2007, under the U.S.-backed neoliberal government, 24% of youths had no schooling. By 2020, that had dropped to 4%. In 2006, one in four people were illiterate. Today, less than 3% of the population is illiterate. Nicaragua is now virtually food self-sufficient, growing practically everything needed to feed its population.

These strides in social indicators are also thanks to the Sandinista government’s community-based model of participation in civic life that empowers all sectors of society and leaves no one behind: often referred to as “el pueblo presidente” (meaning, “the people are president”). More than 600,000 land titles have been provided to peasants since 2007 (55% of them women), and about a third of the national territory has been legally deeded to 304 Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. As a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Nicaragua has passed laws to guarantee women equal rights, free healthcare and education, and 50% political representation, requiring that half of candidates for elected office be women. [Note: Proportional representation assures that half of those elected are women.]

We saw with our own eyes Nicaragua’s significant investments in infrastructure that have notably improved the lives of its people and particularly women, notably:
*State of the art hospitals and innovative women’s health programs;
*Free education at the preschool, elementary, secondary, vocational, and university levels;
*Investment in quality roads and transportation, including the construction of a highway from the Pacific to the Caribbean coast (providing much faster access to the capital for Indigenous and Afro-descendant populations), and the addition of electric vehicle charging stations as roads are paved and improved;
*Electricity in almost all homes (over 98%);
*Over 70% of electricity deriving from renewable sources (up from 26% in 2006); and
*Free wifi in parks and expansion of fiber optic cable to remote areas.

Witnessing these achievements firsthand brought to light for us why Nicaragua is the “threat of a good example.” Nicaragua’s leadership in creativity, sustainability, adaptability, and popular democracy proves that another world is possible: one freeing itself from the grip of global capitalist hegemony and predatory imperialism through the empowerment and promotion of the rights of all people. It’s for this reason that the United States and its corporate stakeholders continually seek to demonize Nicaragua and undermine its advancements.

The people we met encouraged us to ask our government to respect their country’s sovereignty and their right to a life of dignity, self-determination, and peace. As we approach the 200th Anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine, we strongly urge the Biden Administration and Congress to lift all sanctions imposed on the Nicaraguan people and government. And we urge our fellow North Americans to visit Nicaragua for themselves to enjoy her many beautiful tourist attractions and learn from the example of the Nicaraguan people.

Signed by:
-Rita “Jill” Clark-Gollub (translator and interpreter)
-Richard Gollub (Chief Financial Officer, retired)
-Natalia Burdyńska Schuurman (Program Coordinator, Alliance for Global Justice)
-Susan B. Lagos (Spanish and English teacher)
-Gloria Rodas (undergraduate researcher, UC Berkeley Latinx Research Center)
-Tammy Spengler (licensed clinical social worker)
-Dianne Blais (Secretary, Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom)
-Phoebe Thomas Sorgen (Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Board Trustee and Green Party U.S. Delegate to the Global Green Network)
-Ruby Morris (Sociology and Sustainability Studies student and President of Peace Action at SUNY – Geneseo)
-Ann Faust (MD, FACS, PhD, MBChB, IBCLC)
-Eleanor Perrine (Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies student at University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
-Meredith Field (PhD, MSEd)
-Nina McGranahan (Environmental Science and Policy student at the University of Maryland – College Park)
-Rebecca Wilson (Federal Tax Attorney, retired)
-Maimuna Dada (Social Services Administrator, retired)
-Mukasa Ricks (Revolutionary Pan-Africanist and former organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Black Panther Party and All-African People’s Revolutionary Party)
-Linda Helland (MPH, CPH, Climate Change and Health Equity Program Manager)
-Jennifer Sullivan (Treasurer, Women’s Caucus of the Green Party U.S.)
-Erica Caines (Co-Coordinator of Black Alliance for Peace – Haiti/Americas Team)
-Amy Davis (cybersecurity analyst)
-Becca Renk Foster (Jubilee House Community)
-Sensei Orla Mohally Renk (President of the Villa Soberana Chapter of the Federation of Secondary School Students, Nicaragua)

By Nan McCurdy

Five Sandinistas Receive Award on the 89th Anniversary of Sandino’s Murder
The highest degree of the Order of Augusto C. Sandino was awarded to Sandinistas who represent the courage, ideals and sacred values of the struggles for freedom and national dignity. “Sandino lives and the struggle continues!” said Vice President Rosario Murillo at the beginning of the commemoration ceremony. She read the Presidential Decree where the order is given to the Sandinista militants: Guerrilla Commander Lumberto Campbell: leader and faithful combatant of the Sandinista cause in the Caribbean Coast, currently vice president of the Supreme Electoral Council. Ana Julia Guido Ochoa: guerrillera of unquestionable courage in all circumstances, today she is the Attorney General of the Republic. Orlando Tardencilla: Defender of the truths of Nicaragua in the most extreme situations. Brenda Rocha: guerrillera who serves as president of the Supreme Electoral Council. Alma Nubia Baltodano: fighter of great audacity, today magistrate of the Supreme Electoral Council. “These Sandinistas have known and know how to hold high the flags of our General Sandino, in fidelity, loyalty and love for Nicaragua.” The awards were made during the commemoration of the 89th anniversary of the assassination of Sandino, known as the General of Free Men and Women.

During his speech, Ortega said that, for the first time in the history of our country, in times of peace, with the “People President” exercising their rights, Nicaragua has opened the doors of education to all families, to all young people, even taking the university to the countryside. “And dear Nicaraguan families, I would say that today, the best tribute we can pay to our General Sandino, who is present in health, who is present in education, who is present in the construction of homes, who is present in the construction of roads, who is present in all the productive activities of this country, the best tribute we can pay to the General, is to tell him, General Augusto Calderón Sandino, we are fulfilling your dreams because you are embodied in us,” Ortega said. The president also talked about how important it is for all people to have good health care. He described what his parents went through, losing two children to easily preventable illnesses before he was born. (Radio La Primerisima, 21 Feb. 2023)

Walks to Commemorate Sandino
Hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans participated in walks in more than 30 cities on Feb. 18 to commemorate the 89th anniversary of the “transit to immortality” of the national hero Augusto C. Sandino, known as the General of Free Men and Women. Waving the red and black flag, Sandinista militants in Managua walked for miles beginning at Hill 110 in District VII. The mayor of Managua, Reyna Rueda, highlighted the peace and harmony that is experienced in each walk. “We Nicaraguans are a people of peace, of faith and we are honoring our General of Free Men and Women who transmits sovereignty and dignity to the new generation.” Marching families spoke of how the government has made the dreams of the General of Free Men and Women come true, reflected in progress, development and prosperity. See Photos: (Radio La Primerisima, 18 Feb. 2023)

Nicaragua Second Country in the Region to Have Universal Electricity Coverage
The Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) is providing financial support for six projects in Nicaragua to provide better energy coverage, access and distribution. The National Sustainable Electrification and Renewable Energy Program (PNESER), which has been implemented in three phases, has so far brought electricity to more than 41,682 homes in rural communities and the construction of more than 21,000 kilometers of new distribution networks. The Sustainability Program for the electricity sector, with the construction of 3,000 kilometers of medium and low voltage power distribution lines, has enabled the electrification of 79,050 homes in 402 urban neighborhoods which now have supplies through more efficient and sustainable networks as well as modern meters.

Thanks to the programs financed by CABEI, it has been possible to modernize the Central America and Santa Barbara (known as Carlos Fonseca) Hydroelectric Plants. This consisted of modernizing their electromechanical equipment and control centers, incorporating state-of-the-art technology and a real-time monitoring system for the hydroelectric plants which adds 100 megawatts to the capacity of the annual energy generation of the National Interconnected System (SIN). This represents a guaranteed 12.5% increase in generation from this source.  Managua has benefited from the construction of the central substation, responding to the growth in energy demand for the benefit of 142,987 people.

As a result of these actions and others supported by CABEI, Nicaragua has become the second country in the Central American region to achieve universal electricity coverage. CABEI Executive President, Dr. Dante Mossi stated, “Electricity in rural communities activates their economies. A family with livestock but without energy cannot preserve their products or give them added value, but with a constant energy service it is possible. It is gratifying for us to know that, through the solid execution of projects, the quality of life of Nicaraguans is improving, as well as the country’s competitiveness through the development of various economic projects.” (Radio La Primerisima, 20 Feb. 2023)

Guaranteeing Health Care for Seniors
The Ministry of Health announced the start of construction of the “Don Porfirio García” Senior Citizens Medical Care Center in Managua. The US$18.21 million-dollar project includes installation of diagnostic equipment, specialized care, and clinical management for people with chronic diseases and/or disabilities, early detection and care of cancer, as well as installation and equipping of clinics to attend five specialties. Health Minister Martha Reyes stated that “The Center will guarantee specialized, free and quality medical care for 55,000 seniors who are part of the National Unit for Senior Citizens and is the next step in the National Elderly Special Care Plan that is being implemented starting this year.” Financing is provided by the General Budget and will be fully operational in the first semester of this year. (Nicaragua News, 21 Feb. 2023)

Strengthening Surveillance to Detect Bird Flu
The Nicaragua Institute of Agricultural Protection and Health Safety (IPSA) and the National Association of Poultry Farmers and Food Producers (ANAPA) presented a report on Feb. 14 with the results of the Project to Strengthen Epidemiological Surveillance Systems for the Prevention of the H5N1 virus (bird flu). IPSA Director Ricardo Somarriba stated that “on December 22, 2022, Nicaragua received an international alert about an outbreak of bird flu in the region and, in response, IPSA and ANAPA began to implement the Project to Strengthen Epidemiological Surveillance Systems for the Prevention of Bird Flu which has allowed Nicaragua to maintain a healthy poultry sector, guaranteeing safe and quality food for consumption.

Somarriba explained that two mobile laboratories have been acquired and two emergency health laboratories are being built focused on the avian influenza line. And other necessary equipment is also available, such as disposable suits. Two 40 feet incinerators have been acquired as well as other mobile ones for when a possible emergency occurs. Somarriba said that the population understands: If a bird dies, they have links that communicate with the technicians who arrive in real time to take a sample and later bring it to the central laboratory. (Nicaragua News, 17 Feb. 2023, Radio La Primerisima, 20 Feb. 2023)

Growth in Production of Eggs and Poultry
President of the National Association of Poultry Farmers and Food Producers (ANAPA) Alfredo Vélez reported on Feb. 15 that 34 million cartons of eggs were produced in 2022, representing 4.8% growth compared to 2021. Likewise, 340 million pounds of chicken meat were produced, a 7% growth over 2022. “The results obtained reflect the sustained growth of the sector.” (Nicaragua News, 16 Feb. 2023)

Esquipulas-San Dionisio Highway in Matagalpa Inaugurated
The new Esquipulas–San Dionisio highway in Matagalpa department was inaugurated on Feb. 14. MTI Minister Oscar Mojica stated that “the new highway is a vital communication link that will guarantee safe and agile land transportation for the agricultural sector which is essential to the economy of the area.” The US$9 million-dollar project was financed through the General Budget benefiting 37,150 inhabitants. (Nicaragua News, 15 Feb. 2023)

900,000 Trees Planted in 3 Months
According to the official report, 915,506 trees have been planted for a 91% compliance with the goal programmed in the first stage of the reforestation and nature protection campaign “Verde, que te quiero Verde” (Green, I love you Green) campaign. Reforestation and restoration with forest and fruit species has taken place in the departments of Boaco, Carazo, Chontales, Estelí, Jinotega, Las Minas, León, Madriz, Managua, Masaya, Matagalpa, Nueva Segovia, Costa Caribe Norte, Costa Caribe Sur, Río San Juan, Rivas and Zelaya Central. Likewise, 804 community nurseries have been created in the departments of Boaco, Carazo, Chinandega, Chontales, Estelí, Jinotega, Las Minas, León, Managua, Matagalpa, Nueva Segovia, Costa Caribe, Río San Juan, Rivas and Central Zelaya. See fotos and map: (Radio La Primerisima, 19 Feb. 2023)

Guide to Events of Lent and Holy Week Published
The Institute of Culture published the second edition of the atlas “Festivities of Lent and Holy Week,” explained Institute of Culture Director Luis Morales. The atlas gathers the main artistic traditions that the communities carry out during this season. “The smells and aromas of flowers and fruits, the devotion of our prayers, the representation of the life, passion and death of Jesus, the music, the songs, the rites and worship so sacred for our people have been enriched with artistic creativity and the values of our ancestral memory,” Morales said. The atlas was produced with the support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO. It is available here. (Radio La Primerisima, 20 Feb. 2023)

94 Individuals Declared Traitors
The presiding magistrate of the Court of Appeals of the Managua District, Dr. Ernesto Rodríguez Mejía, announced on February 15, the resolutions issued against 94 defendants who were declared traitors to Nicaragua. The 94 individuals lose their citizenship rights and their Nicaraguan nationality. Pursuant to Law number 1055, Law for the Defense of the People’s Rights to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace, the 94 accused were declared traitors. Pursuant to article 2 of Law number 1145, Special Law that regulates the loss of Nicaraguan nationality, all defendants were ordered to lose their nationality. In accordance with articles 112 and 113 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Nicaragua and the aforementioned laws, the immobilization and confiscation in favor of the State of Nicaragua of all real estate and companies that the defendants have registered in their favor, either personally or as legal persons or companies in which they participate as partners, to answer for the crimes committed, was ordered. The 94 defendants were also declared fugitives from justice. “All of the above [is declared] with the purpose of guaranteeing social peace, legal security, independence, sovereignty, self-determination of the State of Nicaragua, and especially to guarantee the protection of the Nicaraguan society,” says the resolution read by the presiding magistrate of the Court of Appeals. Auxiliadora Martínez, chair of the Justice Committee of the National Assembly, explained that Nicaragua has a solid legal framework, which was recently reinforced with the creation of a special law to withdraw the nationality of all those convicted of treason. “They are traitors because they committed acts of terrorism; they have gone to the US to ask for economic sanctions against the country; they have committed serious crimes and the laws must be applied,” stated Martinez. [The laws in the United States, the United Kingdom and other nations permit revocation of citizenship for an “act of treason.” The UK has taken away citizenship from some 450 people since 2006.] (Radio La Primerisima, 16 Feb. 2023)

President Ortega Talks about the Catholic Church
Excerpts from President Daniel Ortega’s speech on Feb. 21: The Army in Defense of National Sovereignty was able to defeat the Yankees and expel them. The Yankees were defeated here in Nicaragua with that telluric force that the Nicaraguan people have, which is a force that is born, because it comes from the roots of our Identity, which comes from our Indigenous ancestors. Darío and Sandino also said that they were proud that Indigenous blood ran in their veins. Because it is true, [the story about] the struggle and resistance of our Indigenous ancestors. I never tire of mentioning Diriangén, among other brave Caciques, like Nicarao, facing the invaders.

Then, when they [the Spanish Conquerors] took away the language of our ancestors, our culture, they imposed a regime that allowed them to dominate, using religion as an instrument. The Indigenous population, our ancestors, our great-great-grandparents had their gods, but they [the Spanish] did not respect them. They had their languages, but they did not respect them, and they came with the cross and the sword.

And who can deny that the Catholic Church, the Vatican was an accomplice to all these crimes! Why? Because they sent the priests and gave the kings the right to decide over these lands, to decide over the populations, how to divide up the lands that were not theirs, how to divide up the populations and subject them in what they called the encomiendas into real slaves. With what right? Ah, with the blessing of the popes and the kings.

Ah, if we go through the history of the popes and kings, [we find a history] of crimes, of persecution, of burning those who did not think like them. They burned Joan of Arc, a true heroine. And how many scientists, how many people who were contributing? They also burned them. And they were allies of Nazism and Fascism; in World War II the Papacy gave full support to Mussolini, a major criminal, who was Hitler’s main ally in Europe. And the Papacy [supported] Mussolini. ….

No! They have not complied with the principle of representing God, much less of representing Christ. Christ was never arrogant. Christ was never aggressive. Christ was always in solidarity. His Message was one of peace! And then they tortured him, tortured him, tortured him, tortured him, and killed him. But Christ did not die. They physically killed Him on the Cross. But Christ rose again in the people, and he lives in the Christian people, not by the example that the priests, the bishops, the cardinals and the popes, who are a mafia, can give them.

Look at the crimes they have committed and crimes are still coming out every day and they are being judged. They commit crimes for having absurd regulations, crimes in the financial field. There are some trials right now in the Vatican for those who have embezzled millions, because they have always managed millions.

What respect can I have for the bishops in Nicaragua, if they were Somocistas! I was a child when Somoza Garcia’s funeral took place, I was with my father, I was with my brothers, with my mother, watching the funeral, and there were the bishops burying Somoza as Prince of the Church. That is to say, as if he was a cardinal of the Church, simply because Somoza was a henchman who gave everything they needed to the Church. And he was a servant, an agent, an instrument of Yankee Imperialism so they gave him that [special] treatment.

But the inner strength that I have had all these years to survive, I owe to Christ, for what? To serve the people, the poor, the peasants, the workers, I owe it to Christ and it is Christ that I have always carried in my heart!

Of course, and it is good to read, to know economics. It is necessary, but to put economics into practice there has to be a principle. It cannot be capitalism, because capitalism makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. It has to be the practice of solidarity, the distribution of wealth, Socialism, that is Christianity and that is what we Nicaraguans defend and what the Sandinista National Liberation Front defends.

I was formed in Catholicism. But since I was a child, well, I was baptized, I made my First Communion, I was confirmed, but I never had affection nor respect for the majority of Priests and Religious, with exceptions. There are always exceptions, we know, like Father Gaspar García Laviana who came from Spain to give his life for Nicaragua. There are exceptions! Like the priests who were killed by Somoza’s Guard in Estelí. ….

Well, what remained in my soul, in my heart, was Christ. From the first moment I read, that I met Christ, he was my inspiration. He was the force that drove me to study, to understand the complexities in which we lived, the poverty in which we lived. Then, as time went by, seeing the injustices … then I became aware of solidarity with the poor, with the people, with the oppressed.…

And what inspired me to gain that consciousness? Christ! Yes, Christ! Let us remember that Christ never went around dressed as the bishops dress…. Christ was born poor; he lived poor; he was an example of humility and that is why they killed him.

….  Dear Brothers and Sisters, they say that I am a communist, and I have already said this on other occasions when I have been asked, since the 80’s when I was asked, I have always insisted: I am a revolutionary thanks to Christ; because of Christ I became a revolutionary. And then, being a revolutionary, I got to know the revolutionary thought in the world. I got to know Marx; I got to know Engels. I got to know the revolutions in the world where they were fighting for the poor. (Tortilla con Sal, 22 Feb. 2023)