NicaNotes: Nicaragua at a Revolutionary Crossroads and in Imperialist Crosshairs

By Netfa Freeman

[This article was first published by Black Agenda Report on 25 Aug 2021:]

(Netfa Freeman is an organizer in Pan-African Community Action (PACA) and on the Coordinating Committee of the Black Alliance for Peace. Netfa is also co-host/producer of the WPFW radio show and podcast Voices With Vision. He recently participated in a Nicaragua Network/Alliance for Global Justice delegation to Nicaragua)

U.S. attack on Nicaragua targets its Black community.

There is a page in the playbook for U.S. imperialist regime change in Latin America that includes exploiting the identity politics of Blackness. A recent example was the unrest in Cuba a month ago that included a sophisticated attempt to paint the Cuban revolution, its government, and anyone in solidarity with it, as ignoring the interests of Afro-Cubans.

The legitimacy of neoliberalism or late-stage capitalism is so wounded that the socialist examples in the Latin American “Axis of Decolonization” (Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua) have to be regarded as even greater threats. In these countries the inseparability of capitalist exploitation from white supremacy and patriarchy is realized and confronted every day.

Regime change against Nicaragua, in particular, is intensifying through tightened sanctions and a pervasive disinformation campaign. Although exploiting proclivities for Black and Indigenous identity within Nicaragua will be harder given the unique political and cultural investment Black and Indigenous peoples have in the Sandinista revolution.

Nicaragua is generally thought of in the U.S. as a country of Spanish descendants and speakers, racially considered Latino/a. Racist erasure disappears the sizable Indigenous and Black populations.

However, Nicaragua has two histories that come together. Spanish colonization dominated the western Pacific Coast, while the Caribbean Coast of the east –abundant in natural resources– was colonized by the British. This was also the historical reality from Belize down to Panama. The Caribbean coast area makes up nearly 50% of Nicaragua. After the British vacated the country in the 1850s, the Indigenous people and emancipated African descendants who remained began building their own multilingual, multicultural, and communally economic society – the Autonomous Regions.

After Spanish colonialism was defeated, and through the neocolonialism of the U.S. backed dictator Anastasio Somoza, the Caribbean Coast experienced attempts at cultural imposition, economic exploitation, and infrastructural neglect. Of course, none of this was without resistance.

It was not until the revolution in the 1980s that the Sandinistas profoundly deepened the state recognition of identity and the rights of Indigenous and African descendants -Garifuna and Creole- and codified it into law; “Law 28″.

Bluefields is the capital of the South Caribbean Autonomous Region of Nicaragua (RACS).

The Autonomy Statute (Law No. 28) recognized the distinct historical experience of the region, its control of land and institutions, and the logic of communal life in the Northern and Southern regions of the Caribbean Coast. Nicaragua is the only Central American country that has this recognition. This, needless to say, accounts for the strong support of the FSLN (Sandinista party) by the Black and Indigenous peoples. They have a saying, “Autonomy is the revolution.”

As part of a delegation, this author recently visited and experienced, firsthand, the African (Black) traditions and pride that characterize the region. There is great admiration for and an interest in the Black struggle within the U.S.

As U.S. imperialism turns its crosshairs onto Nicaragua, Black affinity in the U.S. must forge transnational, transcontinental ties with our people on the Caribbean Coasts of Central America, particularly in revolutionary Nicaragua. Black self-defense must become international. What’s the call? “Touch one, touch all!” The unique struggle of Nicaragua’s Black and Indigenous Autonomous Regions hold valuable lessons for a revolutionary path in the Western Hemisphere.

The latest sanctions against Nicaragua, entitled the RENACER Act (Reinforcing Nicaragua’s Adherence to Conditions for Electoral Reform) must be opposed. RENACER is a shamelessly hypocritical legislation that would effectively put over 2 million card-carrying members of the FSLN and their family members under “targeted” sanctions, could all in all impact over half of the country’s population. In the U.S. this would be tantamount to imposing sanctions on every registered Democrat and Republican.

False propaganda is being promoted that accuses the Daniel Ortega government of arresting his electoral opponents before the November 7th election. Behind this misreporting is actually enforcement of a Nicaraguan law that requires its citizens to register whenever they are receiving funds to work at the behest of a foreign government, like the U.S. The fact that so many of the opposition have been caught violating this law is telling and it makes them essentially guilty of money laundering and treason. It is important to point out that those being prosecuted are not candidates for office. Besides, independent polling last month shows there is no opposition that is a match against the 60% support held by President Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas.

The U.S. has a comparable law to the one Nicaragua is enforcing, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) which the Democrats actually led the charge to use against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. It’s the old paternalistic double standard, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

From 1990 to 2006, which Nicaraguans refer to as the period of neoliberalism, the racist U.S. backed government of Violeta Chamorro was elected under duress. President Ronald Reagan made it clear to Nicaragua that the U.S. would continue funding and supporting the bloody Contra War if the Sandinistas were reelected. Along with the new President Chamorro, a slew of neoliberal policies ushered in a period of economic degradation and political repression. Black and Indigenous people in the Autonomous Regions were especially seen as worthless due to their inability to pay national taxes.

Then came the 2006 election in which Daniel Ortega won a return to the presidency with a 38% plurality. A few people we spoke to referred to a promise made by Ortega, saying that if the Sandinistas could have just 10 years of peace they could turn the country around for the working masses.

Since 2006 the country has enjoyed a legislature that is majority women and the establishment of Law 648, the Law of Equal Rights and Opportunities aimed at promoting gender equality to ensure the full development and advancement of Nicaraguan women in all spheres of life. For example, if the President is a man, then the vice-President must be a woman. On August 19th, the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) announced that Nicaragua’s “Sustainable Development of the Livelihoods of Rural Families along the Nicaragua Dry Corridor (NICAVIDA)” Project was selected to receive the IFAD GENDER 2021 Award. The IFAD press release states that “the NICAVIDA project being carried out by the Nicaragua Ministry of Family Economy has created spaces that guarantee the empowerment and active participation of women as agents of change in the promotion of links between economic diversification, productive transformation, protection of the environment and family nutrition”.

Nicaragua’s poverty rate was cut in half in 10 years. Between 2005 and 2016, the poverty rate fell from 48 percent to 25 percent. Malnutrition has drastically decreased. There is free universal healthcare and education, and the country has managed to establish 80% food sovereignty.

But without missing a beat, the Biden administration is picking up where Trump’s administration left off, demonizing, destabilizing, and trying to overthrow the government of Nicaragua and the entire Axis of Latin American Decolonization.

While on the Pacific west coast, our delegation met with torture victims of what was portrayed in U.S. media as a legitimate uprising in 2018 violently repressed by the Sandinista authorities. Quite the opposite happened. Three members of the security detail for the Mayor of Masaya recounted their experiences of being interrogated and tortured. They described the mayhem that characterized a month-long reign of terrorism by U.S. backed opposition. One man had a prosthetic arm because his real arm had to be amputated after being brutalized so badly. They took us to see the still burnt-out buildings and vehicles.

It was discovered that the culprits were supported by the U.S. government and its proxy NGOs like the National Endowment for Democracy. They used the pages in the playbook on how to stir up and employ delinquent sectors of the community. In a move apparently meant to avoid overt intervention by the U.S., the Sandinista police were actually instructed to stand down and remain in their barracks. Many people were killed and beaten, some even burned alive. Some Nicaraguans have mixed feelings about the instructions to stand down but now what transpired is clear and much harder to misconstrue as repression by the Ortega government.

A reconciliation process took place that granted amnesty to many of the culprits on the condition that they refrain from any further violations of the law. If they do violate the law, they are promised to be retroactively prosecuted on their 2018 charges, in addition to any new ones.

The “democratic” fascism of the US oligarchy is flagrant and knows no geographic boundaries. It is as much domestic policy as it is foreign, especially when it comes to Black and Brown people. Defeating it requires that we up our game and make a broad embrace of our people across waters.

By Nan McCurdy

New Recognition for Gender Equality Policies
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), awarded the “IFAD Award 2021,” in the category of Gender Equality to the government of Nicaragua. Announced August 19th, the award will be given in a virtual ceremony in October. The Minister of Finance and Public Credit, Iván Acosta, said that IFAD’s interdepartmental selection committee has awarded five projects, one for each region. The winning Nicaragua project was implemented by the Ministry of Family, Community, Cooperative and Associative Economy (MEFCCA) and involves efforts made by the families involved in the NICAVIDA development project. This type of project allows the empowerment and active protagonism of women as agents of change for the transformation of family life and the country’s economy. Nicaragua is committed to the implementation of cross-sectorial policies, programs and strategies to guarantee equal opportunities for women in the different social, political and economic spaces, with special attention to rural women. (Radio La Primerisima, 19 August 2021)

World Bank: Nicaragua among leaders in women’s rights
A study published by the World Bank on August 29 identifies Nicaragua as the second country in Central America and the ninth in Latin America in women’s rights in business and equal salaries. The study titled “Women, Business and the Law 2021” gave Nicaragua a score of 86.3%, surpassed only by El Salvador (88%). Costa Rica and the rest of Central America are below Nicaragua. (Radio La Primerisima, 28 August 2021)

Road Network Increased by 144%
The Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, retired General Oscar Mojica, highlighted that Nicaragua is approaching 5,000 kilometers of paved roads thanks to the works developed by the Sandinista Government: Nicaragua’s road network increased by 144% in the last 14 years. “This has a direct impact on the fight against poverty, for the first time the barriers that divided our country and prevented the connection of the Pacific and Central regions with the Caribbean Coast are demolished; our Sandinista Government has improved connectivity in all areas of the Caribbean to fully incorporate them into the National Development Plan,” he said. The Government has connected 78 municipalities to the national road network; in 70 years the neoliberal governments had only built roads in 68 localities. (Radio La Primerisima, 25 August 2021)

PAHO: Nicaragua Has Good Vaccination Program
The International Immunization Advisor of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), highlighted the vaccine program developed by the Ministry of Health (MINSA) of Nicaragua. “We value it as a great effort, it is a country that has a good immunization program, achieving optimal coverage in the eradication of diseases such as measles, pertussis, polio,” Patricia Arce, a PAHO official, told TV News Channel 2. The National Immunization Program guarantees the prevention of 17 diseases, including COVID-19. (Informe Pastran, 27 August 2021)

International Reserves Rise and Free Trade Zone Sales Grow
The Central Bank published its July financial report on August 17 showing that the Gross International Reserves were US$3.6 billion as of July 31 representing growth of US$26.9 million over the previous month. Another Central Bank report on the second quarter of 2021 states that the Free Trade Zones generated US$812.9 million, representing 116% growth compared to the same period in 2020. (Nicaragua News, 18 August and Radio La Primerisima, 26 August 2021)

Abundant First Harvest of Beans
The harvest of beans from the first planting exceeded 1.5 million quintals (hundred pound bags), so by the end of August or early September there will be more beans on the market and the price will drop, according to Isidro Rivera, Deputy Minister of Agriculture speaking on August 24. Around 115,000 manzanas (1 manzana = 1.7 acres) of beans were planted in May and June. (Radio La Primerisima, 24 August 2021)

Reforms Strengthen Financial System
On August 24 the National Assembly approved the Reform to the General Law of Banks, Non-Banking Financial Institutions and Financial Groups, as well as the Law of Capital Markets and the Law of the Superintendence of Banks and Other Financial Institutions (SIBOIF), to guarantee economic security and comply with the Latin American Financial Action Task Force (GAFILAT). National Assembly Deputy Wálmaro Gutierrez  emphasized that “these reforms allow Nicaragua to comply with international commitments with GAFILAT which is the organization that serves the Central American region to strengthen the legal systems against money laundering, financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” (19Digital, 24 August, 2021)

CSE Enables Change of Address Online
The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), enabled the new service for Changes of Address or Polling Places, online. This new online service, available on the CSE website, was developed to strengthen and facilitate the electoral process for the November 7 elections. All address changes requested by citizens in the Identity Card Offices will be reflected in the Online Consultations as the Electoral Roll is updated. The changes of addresses are also possible at all the offices until September 8. (19 Digital, 24 August 2021)

Various People Charged with Conspiracy
On August 25 the Prosecutor’s Office charged Manuel Orozco, José Bernard Pallais, Félix Maradiaga, José Adán Aguerrí, Juan Sebastián Chamorro, Arturo Cruz Sequeira, Violeta Granera and Daysi Dávila, in the Managua courts, for allegedly committing the crime of conspiracy to undermine national integrity. The preliminary hearing was held August 26, during which the judicial authority admitted the accusation. It ordered the measure of preventive detention for the defendants who were under judicial detention and an arrest warrant for the accused persons who were not under detention. On August 26 the Public Prosecutor’s Office also filed charges against Ana Margarita Vigil and Dora María Téllez, for allegedly committing the crime of conspiracy to undermine national integrity.  (Radio La Primerisima, 26 and 27 August 2021)

Accusations Accepted Against Four for Conspiracy
The Public Prosecutor’s Office announced on August 28 that the accusations presented against Luis Alberto Rivas, Hugo Torres, Víctor Hugo Tinoco and Suyen Barahona for the crime of conspiracy to undermine the national integrity were accepted in a hearing. (Radio La Primerisima, 30 August 2021)

Indictment in Chamorro Money Laundering Case Broadened
A hearing was held August 24 to broaden the indictment against Cristiana Chamorro, who is being investigated for the crime of money laundering through her foundation, the Violeta Barrios Chamorro Foundation. The Public Prosecutor’s Office also charged Carlos Fernando Chamorro for the crimes of laundering money, property and assets; misappropriation and improper retention of funds; and abusive management of funds. In addition, a preliminary hearing was held against Pedro Joaquín Chamorro for the crimes of abusive management, misappropriation and improper retention; also against Emma Marina López and Pedro Vásquez Cortedano for being necessary co-conspirators in the crime of money laundering. Ana Elisa Martínez Silva was also charged for misappropriation and undue retention; abusive management; and for being a necessary cooperator in the crime of money, goods and assets laundering. Guillermo José Medrano and María Lourdes Arróliga were also charged for misappropriation and improper retention. The prosecution also charged Marcos Antonio Fletes Casco and Walter Antonio Gómez Silva for the crimes of money laundering, property and assets; misappropriation and improper retention; abusive management and ideological falsehood. (Radio La Primerisima, 24 August 2021)

Legal Status of 15 NGO’s Cancelled for Violating Laws
The National Assembly cancelled the legal status of 15 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that failed to submit their financial statements, their finances, and their funders, as established by Nicaraguan law. The president of the National Assembly, Dr. Gustavo Porras, explained that, in this case, the non-governmental organizations have requirements to comply with for many years, as in any part of the world. He affirmed that these NGOs were given the necessary time, they were called and they did not comply with presenting their accounts before the Ministry of the Interior, like their statutes, financial statements, income, outgoings and their financiers.

The sanctioned organizations are:
Nicaraguan Institute of Research and Popular Education (INIEP),
Soya Association of Nicaragua (SOYNICA),
Women’s Collective Association of Matagalpa,
Christian Medical Action (Acción Médica Cristiana),
Asociación Instituto Centroamericano de Integración Social (ICIS),
Asociación Centro de Estudios para la Gobernabilidad y Democracia (CEGODEM),
Federation of Non-Governmental Organizations of Nicaragua (ONG-Nicaragua)
Diakonia Nicaragua Foundation
Entre Volcanes Foundation
Nicaraguan Medical Foundation Dr. Concepción Palacios (FUMEDNIC)
Mejía Godoy Foundation
Xochiquetzal Foundation
Association Institute of Research and Social Management (INGES)
Association of Women of Jalapa against Violence Oyanka-Jalapa (OYANKA)
Federation Nicaraguan Network for Democracy and Local Development (RED LOCAL) (Radio La Primerisima, 26 August 2021)

Covid Report for the Weeks of August 17 to 23 and August 24 to 30
The Health Ministry reported that from August 17 to 23 there were 371 new registered cases of Covid-19, 296 people recovered and 1 death. Since March 2020, as of August 23 there have been 8,867 registered cases of Covid, 8,173 people have recovered and 199 deaths. And for the week of August 24 to 30 there were 416 new registered cases, 342 people recovered and 1 death. Since March 2020 there have been 9,283 registered cases of Covid, 8,515 people recovered and 200 deaths. (Radio La Primerisima, 24 and 31 August 2021)