NicaNotes: Sanctions: A Wrecking Ball in a Global Economy

By Sara Flounders

[Sara Flounders is an organizer and the author of ten books. She is a Contributing Editor of Workers World Newspaper, Co-Director of International Action Center, helps coordinate the UNAC – United National Antiwar Coalition and the SanctionsKill Campaign. She is Editor and a co-author of the book SANCTIONS – A Wrecking Ball in a Global Economy. She just returned from a “wonderful visit” to Nicaragua.]

(This article is a transcription of Flanders’ talk at a presentation in Nicaragua of her new book Sanctions: A Wrecking Ball in a Global Economy. To view the presentation of the book, click here.)

Sara Flounders presented her book remotely at the Miguel D’Escoto House of Sovereignty in Managua on March 14, 2023.

Sara Flounders is introduced and begins her talk:
Thank you. My special thanks not only to the House of Sovereignty, but to the National Autonomous University, to Sofia Clark, whom I’ve known for years, to UN Ambassador Jaime Hermida, to Colleen Littlejohn, and to each of you whom I met just recently on my visit to Nicaragua. The Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann House of Sovereignty, it was so exciting to see, is now housed in the building formerly of the Organization of American States (OAS), a U.S.-dominated institution that exists to attack the sovereignty of Latin America’s countries. What could be more appropriate?

I am an activist. I’m the editor of this anthology that is written by many authors, a collection of activists. And I’m not an academic or a doctor. I’m an activist.

And as the editor of this anthology, we wanted to show many different ways to approach the crime of sanctions and provide an explanation of how sanctions function.

So, this this is a book and a project organized by a number of different solidarity activists to explain and teach. It’s a campaign to expose what is a silent and deadly killer. [To order the book, click here.]

And the book is dedicated to the memory of the work of Padre Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann and to Ramsey Clark.

Both of these courageous voices focused world attention on sanctions as a crime against humanity.

I think this is the most appropriate place just to read our dedication. “To the work of Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann and to Ramsey Clark”.

We said: “They used their positions of political, religious and diplomatic power in their home countries and in the international arena to expose sanctions as a crime against humanity. Again and again, they met with people living under sanctions, seeing firsthand how sanctions affected them.

Then they exposed the realities of life under sanctions to the people in the countries that were imposing the sanctions. Ramsey Clark and Miguel D’escoto made it clear that it is the most vulnerable who are affected and that sanctions are not some gentle alternative to bombing, but are a deeply destructive, totally cruel weapon against humanity.

They led the way against the inhumane use of sanctions in our late 20th century, early 21st century. And we will continue that work.”

I had the honor of working with Padre Miguel on building wider support outside the United Nations during the stormy year when he was president of the United Nations General Assembly. He was a voice of conscience in this body.

Today we are seeing maybe the same thing with banks collapsing that Padre Miguel faced in 2008.

He called an international conference at the United Nations. It was called the UN Conference on World Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development. He explained the big banks were bailed out, but not the people.

And this was our call on the outside of the United Nations—to bail out the people, not the banks.

The sanctions they fought and exposed have become far worse since 2008. There are now sanctions on 40 countries. One third of the world population is in a country hit by sanctions, U.S. sanctions.

We need a voice opposing sanctions inside and outside the United Nations. The Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations is a voice inside the United Nations. This must be part of a global campaign.

Countries are being intentionally starved down. They are also finding incredibly creative ways to resist.

Small Nicaragua is showing the way! It is 90% food self-sufficient.

And while Nicaragua may lack some of the high-tech medical equipment, health care is door to door, personal attention. And education is free. What an accomplishment!

The Sanctions Kill campaign has a similar low tech and no budget approach. It is a people’s campaign. It’s using fact sheets and teaching tools and sample petitions and statements and links to past webinars.

So the book has both analysis and an exposé of the impact on different countries and concrete measures that activists can take.

It lists each of the 40 countries that are now sanctioned. And has specific information on them. And information on the US bodies imposing the sanctions.

Sanctions, depending on the country, are imposed by different departments, different agencies in the United States, in the European Union, and in the United Nations, depending on the country and when the sanctions were imposed. We are explaining a web that is meant to strangle countries in hundreds and hundreds of laws and regulations.

Sanctions always come coordinated with regime change operations organized by the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID programs and US funded mercenaries.

During the Covid pandemic, vaccines were used as part of the weapon against sanctioned countries.

As Nicaragua knows, no vaccines came from the United States during that time. So, Nicaragua was forced to mobilize its own resources. And they certainly did.

I want to say also that now the sanctions are losing their impact. There were more than 5,000 sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and the European Union.

But the response from the global South was to open and reinforce trade, currency exchanges and essential supplies. We are in a new day where US hegemony is slipping.  And U.S banks: their power is slipping.

But we still have to continue the resistance. In our little time left, I wanted to just address three efforts.

There is a statement out now responding to the United Nations Human Rights Council report that is so flawed and meant as an attack on Nicaragua.  And many organizations and committees that work in solidarity with Nicaragua are circulating this.

There is an effort to build an International Tribunal on Sanctions that will be holding a specific hearing on Nicaragua in June, dealing with these violations of international law.

A Chinese American activist, Lee Siu Hin, has helped with an arrangement in China to translate into Chinese this sanctions book. And we hope it will be translated into several other languages. Lee Siu Hin also brings with him a documentary made in China that has English, Spanish and Chinese. It’s called “Vaccines and Sanctions”.

So, we can see that there are new ways to cooperate in the world today among activists. To produce material and books and petitions and statements and connect with each other in a wider way to proceed. And none of this will receive one word of coverage in the corporate media.

But we’re not discouraged because it’s the people’s efforts that make the historic difference. So, it’s in that spirit that we bring you Sanctions: A Wrecking Ball in a Global Economy.

I thank you for this time and your attention.

By Nan McCurdy

WHO & PAHO Celebrate Nicaragua’s Vaccination Work
Dr. Enrique Perez, representing both the World Health Organization (PAHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Nicaragua, explained how vaccines are a good tool to protect and provide health to the population. During his participation in the official launching of Nicaragua’s yearly vaccination campaign, Perez celebrated the vaccine application coverage and described it as very high. Perez pointed out that PAHO is always willing to provide technical cooperation for the Ministry of Health. He highlighted the national vaccination campaign currently being carried out in which the 2023 goal is to apply more than 2,136,000 doses of vaccines. The head of MINSA, Dr. Martha Reyes, said the campaign protects against 17 diseases and restores the right to health to thousands of people. The government initiative lasts through the month of April. (Radio La Primerisima, 12 April 2023)

British Teachers Highlight Quality of Education in Nicaragua
British educator Heather Marcano said that the integral education that students receive in Nicaragua reflects the reality of a country rich in culture, nature and generosity. During the annual conference of the National Educators Union of the United Kingdom (NEU-UK), held in Harrogate, York County, England from April 3 to 6, Marcano shared her experience as a member of the delegation of British teachers that visited Nicaragua recently.  Labour MP, Christine Blower said that she has Nicaragua in her heart and confirmed NEU’s commitment to continue the teacher exchanges with the Nicaragua Teacher’s Association (ANDEN) to support English as a second language education and continue deepening relations of friendship and solidarity between the two teachers’ unions. During the four-day conference, the Nicaraguan delegation from ANDEN participated in plenary sessions, working groups and exchanges with union delegations from other countries, as well as with the national presidency and members of the British union.  During the last day of the conference, a solidarity event entitled “Nicaragua: Advancing the Education Revolution” was held with the participation of Professor Aleyda Cruz and Nicaraguan Ambassador to the United Kingdom Guisell Morales. Cruz highlighted the advances and the challenges of Nicaragua’s free, inclusive and quality educational model. (Radio La Primerisima, 7 April 2023)

Central Bank 2022 Foreign Debt Report Published
On April 5 the Central Bank published the 2022 External Debt and Statistics Report. The report states that the public external debt reached US$14.9 billion in 2022, of which US$8.12 billion corresponded to public sector loans. Multilateral sources contributed US$14.2 billion representing 95.4% of the total, while the remaining US$686 million (4.6%) came from bilateral sources. The report also noted that US$3.23 billion in debt service of public loans was paid, 92.4% corresponding to payment of principal and 7.5% to interest and commissions. (Nicaragua News, 11 April 2023)

Nicaragua Has Second Highest Growth in Credit Portfolio in the Region
Last week, the risk rating agency Fitch Ratings published a report on the Central American credit portfolio in 2022. The report indicates that, with 14.6% growth in loans, Nicaragua had the second highest growth in its credit portfolio, surpassed only by Honduras with 33.3%. (Nicaragua News, 11 April 2023)

New Crime Lab in Boaco
The National Police in Boaco inaugurated a modern crime laboratory, in honor of Police Inspector Alex Torres Espinoza. “This laboratory will strengthen the work of police investigation. We have scientific technical equipment now to make analyses that are required in every police investigation,” said general commissioner Glenda Zavala. She emphasized that this is an opportunity for the police and the victims of a criminal act, to quickly clarify a crime through criminalistics. The laboratory provides forensic criminalistics including biology, a department of ocular inspections of the crime scene and investigation of accidents, explosions and more. The mother of Inspector Torres, María Espioza, said that she was grateful for this honor of her late son. (Radio La Primerisima, 6 April 2023)

Hotels Were Full During Holy Week
Minister of Tourism Anasha Campbell reported that the country’s tourist centers saw an increase of 10% in the number of people visiting them compared to 2022. Likewise, she said that hotel occupancy grew this year with respect to the same season of 2022 “by more than 50% occupancy throughout the national territory.” She added that “Destinations such as San Juan del Sur, Granada, Tola, Ometepe, and Corn Island, were practically at 100% occupancy. In Corn Island there was more demand than supply in terms of the boats that transfer families from Bluefields to the Island. Families have been able to enjoy all of our truly beautiful Nicaragua in this season of love, joy and life 2023.” (Radio la Primerisima, 10 Abril 2023)

More Houses of Culture Opened Around the Country
The Nicaraguan Institute of Culture and the Rubén Darío National Theater have helped start 141 Houses of Culture and Creativity throughout the country. On April 15, the municipalities of Santo Domingo and San Francisco de Cuapa will inaugurate their first Houses of Culture. The municipalities guarantee beautiful spaces for learning and development of talent and creativity in children, young people and adults. The goal is to have 186 Cultural Houses which means that only 45 are still pending. See photos: (Radio La Primerisima, 11 April 2023)

San Juan de Limay Gets Water Park
Local authorities and inhabitants of urban and nearby rural areas inaugurated the first stage of the water park in the small municipality of San Juan de Limay, Esteli. “This Water Park has two pools, one for adults and older kids and the other for small children,” said Mayor Flor Maria Mendoza. This first stage of the Aquatic Park includes several games that are inside the pools. “This is a dream come true for all Limay families; it should be mentioned that this is the first stage of a mega project.” (Radio La Primerisima, 6 April 2023)

Students Learn about Harmful Effects of Transgenic Foods
Tenth and eleventh grade students of public high schools like the Instituto Público Experimental México, located in Managua, are participating in workshops on transgenic foods (GMO) and their harmful effects on the environment and health as part of the celebration of the International Day of Science and Technology. Posters at the workshop highlighted the problem of the planting of crops resistant to insecticides and herbicides that damage other crops, the water, the soil and the air. Teacher María Elisa Vargas, explained that this workshop is made available to the students so that they can also learn about the effects on human health of consuming junk food and highly processed food. See photos: (Radio La Primerisima, 11 April 2023)