By MB Grimes
(Grimes is a 2021 Friends of the ATC intern and delegation participant.)[Like many of you reading this, we know that participating in delegations to Nicaragua changes lives. The Friends of the ATC solidarity network in the past 5 years has hosted 10 delegations with a focus on incorporating young people into international solidarity organizing. In this article (originally published by Friends of ATC), MB Grimes shares reflections (and those of fellow delegates) after participation in the Friends of ATC Agri-Cultural Work Brigade. Information about the upcoming 2022 June Agri-Cultural Work Brigade and July Food Sovereignty & Agroecology Delegation can be found immediately following the article.]
As the 2021 Friends of ATC Agri-Cultural brigade comes to an end, participating members including myself return to our lives with a shifted perspective, a stronger understanding of Nicaragua and its struggle, culture and people, as well as hope and inspiration.
Like-minded individuals from the United States, Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, Borinquen, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua gathered together in Nicaragua from September 3-13th, 2021, to build solidarity, exchange knowledge and culture, and learn through experience — specifically in the campo (countryside) of Nicaragua through agroecology. Members of the delegation eagerly gathered in Managua first to learn the history of Nicaragua and the Sandinista Revolution, which included touring the capital city, discovering historical sites, and enjoying community offerings in Managua, such as the beautiful Luis Alfonso Velasquez Park and the Salvador Allende Port. We learned that 45% of the population in Nicaragua live in the campo, and over 90% of the food consumed in Nicaragua is produced within the country.
The following day, we split into two groups to begin our travels to the rural farming communities of Santa Julia with the Cooperative Gloria Quintanilla R. L and La Montañita community at the ATC’s agroecological demonstration plot on the Cruz family farm. Both groups had profound experiences at each location, focusing largely on discussions with community members, cultural and food exchange while also working and living the life of a campesino (peasant farmer). In La Montañita, community members shared information about government social programs and country-wide advancements since the end of the neoliberal period (1990-2006). Since the beginning of Daniel Ortega’s presidency, the country has increased access to electricity from 54% to 98.5% [now 99.1%], increased renewable energy from 25% to 75.9%, all while rolling out literacy programs, affordable housing, school nutrition programs, and de-privatizing health care and education. As I talked with community members, I noticed a heavy emphasis on the role of women and youth in their fight, reiterating their commitment to gender equality and youth activism and engagement. Not only were there insightful conversations, but learning opportunities on how to use agroecology as a means for food sovereignty and to build solidarity.
After a couple of days in each community, the groups joined together at the Latin American Agroecological Institute (IALA) to continue learning alongside campesinxs in Nicaragua and participate in hands-on work in the campo. We harvested and learned about the processing of beans, made animal feed, prepared beds for planting, milked cows, and shared knowledge with one another, while also quickly learning the hard working reality for campesinxs and their long days in the fields. While some members conducted interviews with community members in preparation for information sharing in their home countries, others helped paint a mural at IALA to represent agroecology, food sovereignty and solidarity. A passionate, artistic participant mentioned to me that “no revolution happened without art” which fueled my desire to complete the mural as a means for solidarity. We collectively acknowledged the high volume of murals and art throughout the country, with strong imagery and messages to the public about the struggles in Nicaragua.
We left IALA with full brains and full hearts, new friendships and… smelly clothes. It was time to return back to Managua to close out our brigade with more learning and sharing, but also fun. We spent our last day touring the home of Sandino in Niquinohomo, a monumental experience for many as the legacy of Sandino lives on powerfully in Nicaragua and around the world. We explored Masaya and its volcano, visited a famous market and were treated to a live music performance from Diego Aguirre, a musician well known in Nicaragua.
As the delegation came to a close, I felt overwhelmed with knowledge and new insight. We collectively learned an immense amount from the people in Nicaragua but also from one another. I noticed throughout the delegation that each member had different strengths and weaknesses, and when combining these we become stronger as we fight for the rights of the peoples of Nicaragua and also globally.
From my own observations, I noticed that the reality of campesinxs in Nicaragua is starkly different from the picture painted by mainstream, neoliberal news. Nicaraguans take pride in their country, their president, and their revolution. There are numerous existing programs that increase access to basic needs; people feel the government is there to support them.
From here, it’s up to us to spread our knowledge, challenge the norm presented by the mainstream media, and fight for the rights of workers. Overall, I would recommend this brigade as a means to educate oneself on the true realities of the people in Nicaragua and to stand in solidarity as they continue their fight.
Here are what some of the other brigadistas shared about their experience:
“It’s inspiring to be in a country that has not only had a successful revolution but has been able to overcome a coup attempt and continues to build resources for its people. Nicaragua is an example of successful anti-imperialist struggle that more people should know about.”
– Troi Valles, USA
“I can already feel that this delegation will prove to have been one of the more transformative and inspiring times of my life. After going through the Agri-Cultural Brigade Delegation, I feel much more confident and capable than I was before: in my Spanish skills, in my ability to contribute physical labor, in my ability to adapt and try new things, and in my personal power and responsibility to be an active part of collective struggle and transformation (among others). I also made many friends and established many good connections, which is very important for our goal of international solidarity.”
– Jade Johannesen , USA
Visit Nicaragua this summer with Friends of ATC (2022)
Friends of the ATC is the solidarity network with the Nicaraguan Rural Workers’ Association. The ATC is a founding member of the international social movement, La Via Campesina. We invite you to join this historic organization in revolutionary Nicaragua in these upcoming summer opportunities! Full information can be found on the Friends of ATC website. Limited scholarships available through the Ben Linder Scholarship Fund (for more information, please write [email protected])
Join us for the 2nd Agri-Cultural Work Brigade in Nicaragua which will make contributions in two significant areas of the Sandinista Revolution: culture and agriculture. In addition to studying the history of art, theater, music, agrarian reform, and farming, all grounded in the Sandinista Popular Revolution, delegates will get to work. There will be opportunities to contribute to ATC agroecological farms, and work on a collective art project to be announced. Come make music, art, and grow food with us! Applications due: Friday April 15th, 2022 [email protected] for application)
Food Sovereignty & Agroecology Delegation, July 12th – July 22nd, 2022
This delegation is an introduction into Nicaragua’s efforts to achieve food sovereignty through the experiences of the ATC. The delegation will visit local agroecological farms and rural communities growing food for the nation. Delegates will also have a chance to exchange with different popular sectors of society in order to understand Nicaragua’s current context and struggle against US imperialism. This delegation will conclude celebrating the 43rd anniversary of the Sandinista Popular Revolution. Applications due: Wednesday, May 12th, 2022 (email [email protected] for application)
By Nan McCurdy
IDB Recognizes that Nicaragua’s Economy has Recovered
A recently released Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report shows that Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic have already recovered their economic activity to pre-pandemic levels. Panama, Belize and Honduras are lagging behind in the recovery process. The IDB press release (https://www.iadb.org/en/news/central-america-panama-and-dominican-republic-are-recovering-face-challenges) indicates that in the case of Panama the “severe” confinement of 2020 is still taking its toll on the country. Belize has a high dependence on tourism which implies that the recovery will not be as fast as other countries in the region. In the case of Honduras, in addition to the pandemic, the country was hard hit by hurricanes. Despite economies recovering, employment remains stagnant and most countries are not recovering their pre-pandemic employment figures. The IDB explains that this is partly because sectors with the greatest employment-generating potential, such as the construction, hotel and commercial sectors, have lagged behind other less labor-intensive sectors, such as manufacturing, energy and agriculture and telecommunications. Informal workers and less skilled professionals have been most affected by unemployment. The IDB is working on a strategy to support more development of micro, small and medium enterprises, which represent 99% of the companies in the region and provide 65% of employment, to create jobs. (Radio La Primerisima, 15 March 2022)
Dante Mossi and President Ortega to Inaugurate CABEI Offices
President Daniel Ortega and the president of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), Dr. Dante Mossi will inaugurate the new CABEI offices in Managua. In a meeting on March 15 with Dr. Mossi, President Ortega highlighted the contribution made by the CABEI which supports important projects as well as purchases of Covid vaccines. He said that the countries of the region contribute to the Bank for a common cause such as the fight against poverty and, in emergency situations, resources are guaranteed to bring vaccines to our countries. He continued, “Nicaraguan families know what this bank means with its commitment to Central American Integration for the fight against poverty and in emergency situations like the pandemic. And we continue to vaccinate, visiting families in the neighborhoods, in the countryside, and in the mountains.” (Radio La Primerisima, 15 March 2022)
Five New Schools Open This Week
The Ministry of Education will inaugurate five fully equipped new schools in Managua, Bonanza, Santa Lucía, La Libertad and Santo Tomás del Norte this week. Special educational activities taking place now are a drawing and painting contest held in conjunction with the World Food Program. (Radio La Primerisima, 14 March 2022)
Milk Collection Centers in Chontales Inaugurated
The System of Production, Consumption and Commerce inaugurated two Milk Collection Centers in the El Chile and Zapote de Oriente communities, Chontales Department, benefiting 350 small producers of the COKUS- TAL-CHIL and COOPESANDOCH Cooperatives with an investment of US$196,629. The new centers are equipped with storage tanks with a capacity to collect 8,000 liters, as well as cooling, transfer, and automatic washing systems. The initiative is part of the Livestock Value Chain Support Program that the Government is promoting throughout the country. (Nicaragua News, 11 March 2022)
Another MRI Scanner to Serve People’s Health
A new MRI scanner was installed in the Manolo Morales Hospital in Managua at a cost of US$3 million. Vice President Rosario Murillo said that “this state-of-the-art MRI machine is at the service of our people for free and is used to do specialized studies and make more accurate diagnosis for early detection of cancer, vascular problems, uterus, bone, liver, stomach and lungs.” This is the fourth MRI machine the government has purchased. In 2012 a nuclear medicine machine was installed, where thyroid cancer patients are treated using radioactive iodine and photographic studies to identify if there is an expansion of an initial tumor to other parts of the body. (Radio La Primerisima, 14 March 2022)
Most Frequent Chronic Illnesses in 2021
The Ministry of Health presented the updated National Map of Diseases afflicting the Nicaraguan people in 2021. The data shows that the most frequent chronic diseases reported in 2021 were hypertension or high blood pressure (244,354 cases); diabetes (127,702), and rheumatic diseases including arthritis (90,051). The report also noted that the main cause for hospitalization in 2021 was pneumonia (22,205) and the main cause of deaths was acute myocardial infarction or heart attacks (6,481). Health Minister Martha Reyes explained that “The disease mapping seeks to ensure better patient care and create greater awareness among Nicaraguans of the most common illnesses and the importance of the prevention culture being implemented through the Community Healthcare Model.” (Nicaragua News, 14 March 2022)
In June Spirit Airlines will Resume Flights to Managua
Spirit Airlines will resume flights between Fort Lauderdale and Managua beginning June 22. According to the reservation system, Spirit will fly daily to Managua. The airline’s last operations were in March 2020. (Radio La Primerisima, 15 March 2022)
Cristiana and Pedro Joaquin Chamorro Found Guilty of Money Laundering
Cristiana Chamorro and her brother Pedro Joaquin Chamorro were found guilty of money laundering last week. The prosecution requested a sentence of 13 years in prison for Cristiana, who is under house arrest, and seven for Pedro Joaquín Chamorro. “My siblings Pedro Joaquín and Cristiana Chamorro proclaimed their innocence in the few minutes they had to speak,” said Carlos Fernando Chamorro in a message on Twitter after learning of the ruling handed down by a judge. Both defendants are children of former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, who defeated Ortega in the 1990 elections. Cristiana Chamorro was head of the Violeta Barrios Chamorro Foundation. [The Foundation received millions of dollars from the United States Agency for International Development during more than 15 years, and then gave money to opposition media. When she closed the Foundation in early 2021 she transferred more than US$7 million to her personal accounts.] According to the prosecution, Chamorro received money from abroad to destabilize the government. (Infobae, 12 March 2022)
Yoel Ibsán Sandino Found Guilty of Cybercrimes
Yoel Ibzán Sandino was found guilty of breaking the cybercrime law 1042, with the purpose of conspiring against the national integrity. (Article 66, 21 Feb. 2022)