NicaNotes: The Right to Defend Our Existence

By Aparicio Cienfuegos and William Camacaro

“Every time President Daniel Ortega speaks, he emphasizes that the Nicaraguan government has a preferential option for the poor. It is a way of doing politics. Why do politics if we do not seek the welfare of our populations, of the majority of historically marginalized people who have lacked services such as education, health, recreation, sports, electricity, or water? What is wrong with a government that defines its internal policies so that those who historically have had nothing now have access to the most basic services? Our government seeks to define and make policies to restore the fundamental human rights of our people.”

Foreign Minister Denis Moncada (center) in conversation before speaking at Holyrood Church in NYC.

This is how Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister Denis Moncada opened his speech on Sunday, September 26, before hundreds of people who packed the Holyrood Church in Manhattan to show their solidarity with Nicaragua. Pastor Luis Barrios welcomed Minister Moncada to speak about the importance of peace, security, and sovereignty for Nicaragua. For more than two hours, the conversation revolved around the November 7 elections and the 150 years of Nicaraguan resistance against colonialism and U.S. economic, political, and military interference, now present in the form of Illegal unilateral sanctions.

A wave of threats and insults followed the announcement of the Community and Popular Mass in Solidarity with Nicaragua, many of them originating from fake social media profiles. However, the opposition did not foresee that these attacks, far from intimidating the audience would become an additional motivation for the Sandinista supporters resisting far-right censorship in the U.S. The Popular Mass at the Holyrood Church event – the most significant action in solidarity with Nicaragua since 2007 in New York City – was an opportunity to show their solidarity with the Nicaraguan people and their struggle for sovereignty.

“Historically, Nicaragua has had a lot of solidarity from the American people, from labor organizations, from peasants and the working class in general, from academics and students, and hundreds of thousands of others who are clear that Nicaragua is defending a just cause.”

The opposition also did not know that the Holyrood Church – Iglesia Santa Cruz is not just any church. Under the coordination of Pastor Luis Barrios (priest, academic, and activist), the sanctuary located in Washington Heights has a congregation primarily of migrants and refugees from the Caribbean islands and who know from personal experience the consequences of U.S. colonialism.

Pastor Luis Barrios talks with Foreign Minister Moncada. (Photo: Lauren Smith)

With Liberation Theology as its compass, the Holyrood Church – Iglesia Santa Cruz – has been a home for the people: just as it has opened its doors to personalities such as Hugo Chavez and now Foreign Minister Moncada, the church is also part of the Sanctuary Movement that provides shelter to all those refugees that U.S. foreign policy forced to flee their countries of origin only to find racism, xenophobia, and deportation in “the land of the free and home of the brave.” The opposition did not know that the Nicaraguan people, the Holyrood Church base and those who attended guided by internationalist solidarity have much more in common than those who tried to censor this event.

The extraordinary mobilization announced by the opposition translated into a paltry showing of 9 people across the street. At the end of the mass, the handful of opposition forces entered and were given the floor, but they failed to raise even a coherent question or statement. The opposition’s failure to stop Sunday’s event is an example of the weakness and lack of organization of those who oppose President Ortega and Vice President Murillo’s preferential option for the poor and those who find in U.S. imperialism the last chance to defend their elite privileges.

“When we talk about an empire, we are talking about an elite of very reduced economic, military and political power. (…) From intellectuals, workers, and students, to black and indigenous people, the American people also suffer the effects of that unjust or aggressive empire.”

The calm and friendly attitude of the minister contrasted with the insults of the handful of opponents present. His confidence showed that he did not fear hostile questions or absurd charges, but above all, it shows the coherence between Sandinista discourse and praxis. The insults from the Nicaraguan right were not enough to overshadow the forcefulness of Minister Moncada’s arguments.

For example, according to the World Economic Forum, Nicaragua has the best public infrastructure in Central America. The Sandinista government implemented a socialized healthcare system, with free and universal care for the people, regardless of their political ideology or party affiliation. Initiatives to reduce gender gaps in leadership positions, implemented by the administration of President Ortega and Vice President Murillo, have led Nicaragua to rank fifth in the world in gender equity. The cascade of arguments continued to flow as the opposition drowned in the false propaganda pushed by the U.S. and its allies.

The outcome of the elections on November 7 will likely reflect the popularity of the FSLN-led government. According to a poll conducted by the firm M&R Consultores in September of this year, 66.9% of Nicaraguans indicated that they will vote for the FSLN, and the trend continues to increase. The same survey shows that 65.2% think Nicaragua will be better off with a Sandinista government and 63.8% approve of President Ortega’s administration. These statistics make more than evident the will of the Nicaraguan people, show that the struggle for sovereignty and dignity is possible, and are an example of the obstacle Nicaragua represents for expanding U.S. influence in the continent.

“(…) After many years of struggle, we continue to maintain the spirit of defense of our sovereignty, our national dignity, of our existence as a free, independent, and self-determined country. We are also very critical of the unjust policies of the U.S. towards Nicaragua and other countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and against countries in Africa and Asia. While the U.S. government says the Nicaraguan government is wrong, we disagree with them and their way of imposing ‘democracy, freedom,’ and their attempts to destabilize and overthrow a legitimate and democratically elected government. This is an example of the struggle of people who want to live free, with dignity, exercising their rights and defending their policies; and how the power of the US sees these governments as a threat and tries to overthrow them violently.”

Today, U.S. fear of Nicaragua manifests itself in the form of sanctions. A recent report published by the Sanctions Kill Coalition shows how sanctions are used as a tool of political destabilization and are complemented by other forms of violence and direct intervention. While the U.S. tries to justify unilateral sanctions the facts show the opposite. The victims of the sanctions are the people; sanctions affect fundamental areas like health and basic food. An example of this is that “Nicaragua is one of the few Latin American countries to receive no U.S. vaccine donations so far.” (https://sanctionskill.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/SanctionsReport_v1-compressed.pdf)

The Reinforcing Nicaragua Adherence to Conditions for Electoral Reform Act (RENACER) is the name of the latest sanctions package pushed by the U.S. and Nicaraguan elites. If approved, the RENACER ACT “will intensify sanctions on Nicaragua and expand the targets of personal sanctions to ordinary Sandinista party members, more than 2.1 million people.” (https://sanctionskill.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/SanctionsReport_v1-compressed.pdf)

Another poll published by M&R Consultores shows that 87.3% of Nicaraguans think that the sanctions imposed unilaterally by the U.S. are another U.S. attempt to intervene in Nicaragua’s course.

“We have the right to live as a State, in freedom and seeking the best for our population! We have the right to defend ourselves institutionally and constitutionally from aggressive actions by the U.S. and other European countries! We want to live in dignity, but other powers wish us the opposite. We are convinced that we have the right to justice and to defend our country in these forums and events, and share and debate. We have the right to protect our existence.”

Editor’s Note: There is still one way to stop RENACER. Please call and write the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Maxine Waters. Phone calls are best: her office number is 202-225-2201 (California office: 323-757-8900); please leave a comment on the comment line. You do not have to be a constituent to contact her as the Chair of the Financial Services Committee regarding legislation before her committee. Then call the Financial Services Committee directly with the same message: 202-225-4247. Thank you!]

Briefs
By Nan McCurdy

Economic Growth projected at 8%
The economic growth projection for 2021 is close to 8%, reported Iván Acosta, the Minister of Finance and Public Credit. This forecast is made based on the increase in exports, public investment and the strength of the productive sector. He added that “the effort of the country, the effort of the producer sector, the very strong work of traders in the reactivation of exports, plus public investment which means construction of more houses, more roads, hospitals…” (Radio La Primerisima, 5 October 2021)

Schools Affected by 2020 Hurricanes Repaired
Ten months after the passage of hurricanes Eta and Iota, almost 90% of the schools that were affected on the North Caribbean Coast are fully repaired, Mayor Prodelina Bobb told Radio La Primerísima on September 29. And in a few more months the repairs to the Prinzu Pawanka Hospital will be finished with improvements to outpatient, hospitalization, emergency, and pharmacy services, among other areas. The Communal Stadium in the Walpasiksa Indigenous community, is also being rebuilt and improved. (Radio La Primerisima, 29 September 2021)

Nicaragua Improving Cold Chain System for Vaccines
Nicaragua has a cold chain system with the capacity to store 1.2 million doses of Pfizer vaccines, which have to be at temperatures of -70 or -80 degrees, said Dr. Carlos Saenz, Secretary General of MINSA. To have this storage capacity, the government developed a mechanism to guarantee good conservation, handling and distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines. “Soon Nicaragua will receive equipment from Japan and UNICEF to strengthen the cold chain system and the National Biological Bank will be able to conserve 1.5 million Pfizer vaccines at ultra-low temperatures,” said Saenz. By October 9 about a million people will have had their first dose of Covid vaccine. (Radio La Primerisima, 30 September 2021)

PAHO Officials Praise Nicaragua’s Efforts
On Sept. 28, the Director of Health Emergencies of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Ciro Ugarte announced that in October Nicaragua will receive 996,092 doses of vaccines. “PAHO believes it is essential to support the efforts of the Nicaragua authorities to guarantee access to vaccines in response to the great demand of the population… We congratulate the Nicaraguan people who are getting vaccinated in large numbers, this shows a lot of responsibility and consciousness. It is important to mention the great effort and commitment displayed by Nicaragua authorities to invest in cold chain improvements, train personnel and create an efficient mass vaccination plan.” And on Sept. 29, PAHO Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa congratulated “the people of Nicaragua because they have been coming to get vaccinated in a massive and voluntary way … I also recognize that Nicaragua has strengthened its cold chain capacities, and has well-trained personnel to coordinate and administer vaccines. We must remember that Nicaragua has made important efforts in vaccination, that it has trained its vaccinators, who are well prepared,” he said. (Radio La Primerisima, 1 October 2021, Informe Pastran, 30 September 2021)

Vaccine Arrival and Health Fairs
Vice President Rosario Murillo said the government expects the arrival of 233,470 Pfizer vaccine doses on October 11. “In consultation with the relevant agencies, the health authorities have decided that these Pfizer vaccines will be for pregnant women and to vaccinate children over 12 who have high-risk diseases.” Murillo said that if we add the shipments that are expected to arrive by mid or late October that would total 1,540,090 doses of vaccines. “It is a joy to be able to report this and guarantee that we are protecting ourselves in an exemplary way. We continue to comply with all the measures and recommendations of the national and international authorities to advance against the pandemic,” said Murillo. In related news, the Hospitals in My Community Program will be held in Rivas, Masaya, and Boaco. Also, 850 health fairs and mobile clinics will be held next week, with 6,500 health workers attending 90,000 people in 1,800 communities. As always specialists will provide consultations as well as ultrasounds, pap smears, HIV tests, electrocardiograms and more. (Radio La Primerisima, 30 September 2021)

Cuba to Send Seven Million Covid Vaccines
Nicaragua will receive seven million vaccines against Covid-19 from Cuba over the next few months, announced Vice President Rosario Murillo. Cuba will send four different kinds of Covid vaccines and the first batch of 1.2 million doses of Soberana 01, Soberana 02 and Abdala vaccines will arrive in the third week of October. We continue to ensure vaccination plans and care for Nicaraguans of all ages, from two years old onwards, said Murillo. (Radio La Primerisima, 5 October 2021)

Public Transportation System Improving
The Government will put 250 buses into circulation in Managua as part of the modernization of public transportation, IRTAMMA Director Amaru Ramírez reported on Sept. 30. “We are going to remove 110 buses from circulation and increase the fleet by 140. In other words, there will be 250 new Russian bus units in Managua,” he explained. “We work daily for the effective and efficient regulation of transportation in Managua. In Nicaragua is this is the only government that has invested in fleet renewal since the 80s. The fleet was updated in 2009 with Russian buses,” explained Ramírez. “We now have 835 buses made up of Russian and Mexican buses. In November 300 new units will arrive in the country. By January it is expected to have 975 buses operating in Managua. A bus ride in Managua costs 2.5 Córdobas or 7 US cents. (Radio La Primerisima, 30 September 2021)

Polling Stations and Poll Watchers
In the final stretch of the Electoral Calendar the CSE Vice President, Magistrate Cairo Amador, reminded the parties and alliances that they must present the lists of persons to work at the Polling Stations by October 7, and the last day for them to request accreditation for their poll watchers is October 8. Each party can have a poll watcher in each polling station. The head of the polling station is a member of the party that won that station in the previous election and the second in charge is a member of the party that came in second in the previous election. (Radio La Primerisima, 4 October 2021)

Human Rights Ombudsperson at Each Voting Center
The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) and the Human Rights ombudspersons Office (PDDH), signed an agreement for electoral ombudspersons to accompany the November 7 elections. The PDDH has a vast experience accompanying previous elections and will provide social attention to the citizens in the 3,106 Voting Centers. “The presence of a trained Ombudsperson in each Voting Center will be the guarantor of a culture of ethics, respect, transparency and peace,” said Magistrate Brenda Rocha, CSE President. (Radio La Primerisima, 30 October 2021)

Taiwan President Thanks Nicaragua
On September 29, the President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen said that his country is grateful for the strong support from Nicaragua calling for the participation of Taiwan in the United Nations. “We want to express our sincere gratitude to the Government of the Republic of Nicaragua which advocated, through the speech of Foreign Minister Denis Moncada at the General Assembly, for the inclusion of the Taiwan in this multilateral organization based on the principle of universality,” President Tsai Ing-wen said. (Informe Pastran, 30 September 2021)

 


 

Excerpts from President Daniel Ortega’s Speech on October 4
Accompanied by Vice President Rosario Murillo, President Daniel Ortega paid homage to one of the country’s national heroes, Benjamín Zeledón, on the 142nd anniversary of his birth and the 109th anniversary of his assassination in 1912 at the hands of an armed group of the Conservative Party protected by the U.S. Marines.

President Ortega recalled that the major achievements that the Sandinista Government had been making for eleven years beginning in 2007 were attacked with the 2018 terrorist coup attempt in an effort to end the advances. “Those responsible for the acts of terrorism were not really the criminals at the roadblocks, but the bosses, those who organized everything, who were the white collar criminals, those who do not get their hands dirty, those who do not get their sneakers dirty, those who are being prosecuted [for crimes carried out since late 2020] … now they are pure virgins,” he stated.

These people wanted to carry out a “terrorist coup” and not a “coup d’état”, because here the Army and Police are defending the peace and stability of the country. The terrorists could not count on them, so what did they do? They received millions, laundered money through different organizations, a crime punishable worldwide,” said the President.

He stated that the country from 2007-2018 was doing better than ever in its history, with growth and stability that could be observed, along with fighting poverty, because rich and poor were working together to multiply employment and health.

He said that in order to find the solution during the coup, the Government joined the dialogue to try to stop the crimes against the population. “We listened with great patience when the Bishops, signing there in the name of the terrorists, serving the Empire, in the midst of the blood, of the fires, in the midst of the pain, demanded the withdrawal of all the authorities,” he added. He indicated that those bishops were also terrorists, since in that meeting they encouraged them to continue with the destruction in the country. “They are the ones who took the document to the terrorists. Those bishops are also terrorists.” He added that in Costa Rica these bishops would already be detained, because in that country there is a law where priests are subject to conditions about what message they can give.

The President said that in spite of all that, it was possible to stop the coup attempt, and Nicaragua is moving forward with multiple projects for the development of the country. “The people opened again the path of peace and thanks to God we are going to these elections in peaceful conditions. But there are always those who, from the outside, look for ways to infiltrate and get people to commit acts of terrorism,” he added.

“That path of development that was suddenly damaged in 2018, is already back on track. It is about giving continuity to peace.” What the people of Nicaragua are defending, he added, is “more training for the peasants, for the youth, education, and more health care, which is crucial in these times of pandemic. The people once again opened the road to peace and thank God we are going to have elections in peaceful conditions.” “We must continue defending the sovereignty of Nicaragua, as Zeledón defended it, as Diriangén defended it, as José Dolores Estrada defended it, and General Sandino,” he said.

“A principle for peace is sovereignty. If there is no sovereignty there can be no peace. If there is no sovereignty, what there is, is slavery,” he affirmed. “To fight for sovereignty is to fight for peace,” expressed President Ortega.

“Peace, the magic word, so necessary in the world, vital for the human species, vital to face the great challenges we have in terms of fighting poverty, fighting inequalities, fighting injustices, fighting invasions, interventions, aggressions of all kinds,” he added.

“More than two billion citizens in the world are in the nations that suffer those aggressions [sanctions]. And here in our region is our sister Cuba. The United States has blockaded for decades a people who have known how to resist, who have known how to move forward despite the aggressions, despite the blockade. What the US has done to Cuba is a violation of an entire people,” Ortega insisted. He added that, in spite of the tightening of the blockade against Cuba, that country continues to manufacture vaccines against “the plague that is causing pain, death and suffering in the families of the planet. That is where Cuba stands with its solidarity brigades.”

“I tell President Biden to accept the resolution of the International Court of Justice to compensate Nicaragua [an estimated US$17 billion for the destruction caused in the war against the country in the 80’s]. It is time, I say to the President of the United States, that they end the blockade against Cuba, and end the aggression against Venezuela and that they let these countries work in peace, what we want is to work in peace,” exclaimed Ortega.

Ortega also referred to the vaccines created and produced by Cuba despite the criminal blockade of the United States that will arrive soon. He said that thanks to its efforts “Cuba has miraculously managed to be on a par with the developed countries that sanction it, that blockade it and attack it; and produce vaccines,” he said. (Radio La Primerisima, 4 October 2021)