NicaNotes: Doris Tijerino and Gladys Báez — “receiving together a recognition that honors and moves us”

On April 3, 2019, Doris Tijerino and Gladys Báez received honorary doctorates from the National University of Nicaragua (UNAN-León). The following is taken from the speech by Doris Tijerino.
 
Here we are, Gladys Báez and I, receiving together a recognition that honors and moves us because it comes from the most prestigious and historic university in Nicaragua.
 
FSLN founders departed from this school to take their first revolutionary actions. The revolutionary organization was later nurtured by the most outstanding and committed students from this university. The best and most talented professionals, who gave Nicaragua international prestige, were trained here. They have contributed to the development of science, art and culture in our country.

And it was here, in this university, where I studied in my youth. I gained very important experiences that shaped my years of militancy in the Revolutionary Student Front (FER). I had in my classrooms professors of academic excellence who were very committed to the Nicaraguan people and who contributed to solidify my revolutionary consciousness.

Gladys Baez was the only woman among the Pancasan combatants. She is one of the two or three survivors of that heroic battle. I met Gladys in prison the second time I was detained. On Nov. 19, 1967, I was captured, accused of violating the Constitution. Gladys was already imprisoned. She had been cruelly mistreated and violated in her dignity as a woman. A few years ago, I stated that she has been one of the most valuable compañer@s that I have known. And I still believe that it’s true.

A woman of humble background, she became a trade unionist at a very young age. She was both father and mother of her older children and developed great skills through her militancy and self-learning. She was the first in charge of organizing the work of the Patriotic Women’s Alliance. This led her to teach herself to type, to draw and to solve whatever was needed in the midst of enormous difficulties. When the Alliance was launched, there were no office materials to write the communiqués or the newsletters. But it was amazing to see how she always found the resources to move the work forward. She is a woman with unimaginable resources.

She never stopped doing her job because of lack of resources, or because there was no one who could write a statement. She always had a great vocation for raising up the spirits of her comrades. I remember once when we were in jail: we shared a space with Yolanda Núñez and Elba Campos and it was Gladys who organized the study circles without having study materials. For each stanza of “The International,” each of us interpreted the meaning and context of the situations to which the anthem referred.

Gladys Báez was excommunicated by the priest of her town. This increased her challenges and brought her family problems. No grocery store would sell to her or, even less, give her credit. No one, absolutely no one helped her, which led her to think that she was going to starve with her family. But she continued working in the union. Some comrades brought her food and she figured out how to manage without ever giving up.
 
My mother lived the same situation in my town because I was a member of the FSLN and had been imprisoned a couple of times. My mother, who belonged to an upper class family but with very few financial resources, stopped receiving support from her family because they feared that those resources could end up with me and with the FSLN. And so she lived a thousand and more difficulties. All because she was the mother of a Sandinista woman. She was excluded from the circle of her friendships, many times questioned and accused, all because she was my main moral support in the struggle.

By telling all this I want to illustrate how difficult it was during those years for our society to accept that women could be active in a political organization that was thought to be only for men. We were victims of stigma, discrimination, exclusion and even excommunication, as was the case for Gladys.
 
In the first years, it was not easy for us to integrate ourselves into the political life of the country as human beings with full rights and with equal capabilities. But we persevered and opened roads, both within the FSLN and in society. We were examples for other women and for the new generations. I am saying this not as a boast, but because it all is true. We, the first Nicaraguan women who joined our heroic organization of struggle and combat, were the ones who really opened the way for more women who later came to demand equity and justice for all.
 
Somehow, we the Sandinista women – all of us – were pioneers in the struggle for gender equity. This struggle is not separate from the class struggle or the anti-capitalist struggle, or the anti-oligarchic and anti-imperialist struggles.
 
We women who joined the Sandinista Front were women led by conscience; we were militants, independent of husbands or brothers. Once part of the FSLN, we were treated like any other militant. A few colleagues thought that we were there to do domestic chores but the majority did not share this view and this was because of Carlos Fonseca’s influence. He always treated us and demanded from us, the same as the men, and, in the safe houses, the tasks were shared between men and women.

….

These are antecedents of the current law, promoted by the FSLN, which guarantees 50% women and 50% men in all political and public positions. This law is in force now and it has helped to place Nicaragua, at the global level, among the first places of the countries that are contributing to closing the gender gaps. The Luisa Amanda Espinoza Nicaraguan Women’s Association (AMNLAE) played an important role in the 80s, that is undoubted, and today it is more urgent than ever to resume that role to continue advancing in gender equity with a revolutionary approach. ….

No one can deny that this is the best government that Nicaragua has had in all its existence. I say this for everything that has been achieved during this period. Wherever you look, you see changes. …. I will give few examples related to the best living conditions for women now:
 
● Large numbers of women saved from breast cancer and cervical cancer, as result of the early detection of these two diseases with high incidence among women. In 2011, 130,000 Pap smears were performed; in 2017, 600,000 were done.
 
● Maternity Waiting Homes throughout the country to reduce or eliminate maternal death.
 
● The distribution of urban and rural property titles.
 
● Programs such as Zero Hunger, Zero Usury, Project Roof, and the Seeds Program. In addition to the delivery of goods and credits, women are holistically trained to strengthen their businesses skills.
 
● According to the 2017 Annual Report of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), 48% of Nicaraguan women over age 15 participate fully in the country’s economic activity.
 
● Nicaraguan women contribute a high percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), some studies indicate that it is 40%, as micro, small or medium businesswomen.
 
● The reform of the Constitution in 2014, which established that the main public positions in the country be filled by 50% women and 50% men. The United Nations has said that these results are the product of a political commitment by the Nicaraguan government at the highest level of decision-making and a genuinely gender-sensitive political culture.
 
● Electric power for everyone, for economic production and also for even the poorest homes.
 
● Roads, to take farm products to market, to bring technology to the countryside, as well as education and health to the last corner of the country.
 
● Large projects have been inaugurated, such as bridges and the overpasses of Las Piedrecitas and in Nejapa in Managua.
 
● The incorporation of the Caribbean Coast into the rest of the country has become real with the construction of a great highway, which was a postponed dream for more than 200 years. In the Caribbean regions, mega potable water projects have been inaugurated and schools, hospitals and health centers have been built.

Women’s submission is always determined by economic constraints when women have no access to goods, especially to those linked to productive activities. My mother used to tell us, “Study, prepare yourselves to work so you will not need a man to support you, or need to stay in a relationship only because you need his funds for the family.” This has a transcendental meaning as women who have received productive assets have been efficient producers. However, there are men who also are efficient, great workers, who do not squander the production goods given to them. They also don’t sell the land, but preserve it and work it.
 
In a way today, we are here complying with the FSLN’s 1969 Historical Program. The aspirations of those first women, who joined the incipient Patriotic Women’s Alliance, the Women’s Association to face the National Problems (AMPRONAC) and AMNLAE, are here. These two last organizations were determined to spread the message to take women’s position to face the situations and conditions under which women lived.

AMNLAE was the root and driving force of a new consciousness that women generated. Then, after 1990, an explosion of groups, actions, initiatives and proposals appeared that led to a permanent movement of Nicaraguan women fighting for their rights from different spaces and political position. Now, in these new circumstances, it is time to go back to the objectives of all those Sandinista organizations and update them in the new context, enrich them and continue with the struggle for women’s emancipation.

From all this, we can say that our country was doing well, fulfilling the goals and assuming international commitments with great responsibility. However sometimes we were suffering from misunderstandings, from those who apparently identified themselves as extreme leftists, and we were accused of being neoliberals.
 
But from one day to the next, all things changed. They said the government was no longer the best ally of the employers and the workers. They forgot about all the data that indicated that the Nicaraguan economy was doing much better than ever before; the indicators that showed the remarkable efforts to achieve a reduction in extreme poverty; the decline in child malnutrition; the high levels of economic growth; and fifth position worldwide in the reduction of gender gaps. Women were beginning to own their businesses and improve their lives; and the country was the safest in Central America, with an excellent environment for foreign investment.
 
But [on April 18th, 2018] all this was erased and from one day to the next the country was turned into a nation of violence and terror. By roadblocks, tortured civilians, policemen, public officials and Sandinistas. By many murdered comrades, some of whom were even burned alive. Many authors of this chaos were imprisoned as part of a process to enforce the justice to which the victims of these atrocities were entitled. Nevertheless, during the crisis, the Nicaraguan Government always maintained its openness to talks, negotiations and dialogue for the sake of peaceful coexistence and to return to the peace, security, and economic growth that we had been experiencing.
 
In this process that seeks understanding between the key actors of our development; it was necessary to show, once again, the goodwill that President Daniel Ortega has always shown. This is why recently a group of inmates was released to house arrest. Those were the ones who broke the law, but did not murder, torture or burn anyone alive. Later, the government decided to release all within 90 days.
 
We need to generate an environment of coexistence, peace, harmony, and good relationships with the productive sectors. But it is not the FSLN that needs the dialogue in order to be saved. We are doing well, we are strong, we have cohesion, we have leadership, and we have clarity about where we are aiming. It is the country that must be saved and we are all part of the country.

We have to go back to the point where Nicaragua was before April 18th, 2018 so that the country can continue to develop and the economy can move forward. Sometimes, it seems to me that some people still think that it’s a joke that the economy was badly hit. Another issue is the ability of Daniel and the government as a whole, to quickly overcome the negative effects caused in substantive sectors. But even during the challenges, here none of the workers stopped receiving a salary, or went without their Christmas bonus, while Costa Rica last year did not have the means to pay that bonus.
 
That’s how we are now, but we’re doing well. The projects that benefit the poorest have not stopped. This is despite the obtuse reluctance of those who want to stop these projects due to their social class interests and their adherence to the destabilizing plans of the United States. They refuse to help the country to return to the path of peace that we had followed in recent years.

In all these achievements and in all our actions, the spirit of struggle of Luisa Amanda Espinoza continues to live with us. We continue to honour her class condition, her humble origin, her courage and her early incorporation to the FSLN, when she was still a girl.

I learned of her death in April 1970, when I was imprisoned. They took me out of the room and I was taken to the office of the jail commander. He showed me a newspaper and asked me to identify the girl who was there, bloody and that according to them, she was wearing a blouse that belonged me…. I told them I did not know her, and that I regretted not having met her. Months later, a National Guard officer who had been in that combat came over to my cell and said that he never imagined a woman could fight as Luisa Amanda Espinoza did.
 ….
She became the first woman to fall in combat. She is an example of a Sandinista woman. That is why AMNLAE took her name to honour Luisa Amanda as a pioneer who in life and death, confirmed that women have the ability, when given the opportunity, to carry out tasks and responsibilities – that had previously been seen as socially and culturally exclusively male—with equal, and sometimes with more capability.

Gladys and I not only form part of this history, we left grains of sand to build it. Later those grains were multiplied into thousands of grains of sand placed by other brave and heroic Sandinista women and we are now millions. Millions in the streets defending the revolution and fighting for peace. Young women and the old guard, together in a single fist, ready to put their energies, their joy, their commitment, their dedication and even their chests, as a firm shield against foreign aggression.
 
Tomás Borge always said that he considered women to be better than men. He explained that we did not betray our comrades, we were loyal, determined. All this probably because when we women decided to join an organization like the FSLN, we had to solve lot of problems within the society and with our families.
 
On behalf of all these women, who began as one, two or four, but now are millions, we gratefully accept this recognition that we highly value as coming from this beloved university that was always on the side of the students, on the side of the people. This university embraced the principle of Carlos Fonseca that states that we are only revolutionaries when we are anti-oligarchy, anti-capitalist, and anti-imperialist.
 
Thank you.

[Translation by Magda Lanuza, abridgement by Katherine Hoyt.]

 

BRIEFS

By Chuck Kaufman

Cost of Basic Basket Rises slightly
The Central Bank of Nicaragua published on May 6 the value of the Basic Basket of Goods for April 2019. The Basic Basket is the monthly “cost of living” for a family of five, which was pegged at $416.72, which was an increase of 0.88 percent over the previous month. Most of the increase was due to increases in food costs, oranges, poultry, fish and dry cheese principally. The increase was lessened by a drop in the cost of tomatoes, potatoes, and bread. (Informe Pastran, May 6)

Lower World Coffee Prices Hurt Producers
With coffee’s reference price in international markets reaching its lowest levels since 2006, coffee producers around the world face the most difficult crisis in many years. The situation is particularly critical for Latin America, the largest coffee producing region in the world. An international market with excess supply and distorted pricing, dominated by a few processors and speculators, is exacerbating other trends in the region, such as migration and the change from production to illegal activities, says the English weekly The Economist. (Informe Pastran, May 6)

FSLN Sees Political Gains in the Caribbean
Sandinista Carlos Alemán will be the governor of the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region after obtaining 32 of 45 votes on the Regional Council, while Professor Rubén López, also a Sandinista, will play a similar role in the South. The eighth regional elections in the two Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean, in which 19 political parties participated, had 15 electoral districts in each Region. Three regional councilors were elected in each region. The electoral roll for this occasion was composed of about 350,000 voters. (Informe Pastran, May 6)

World Award for Best Rum Distillery
In a press release issued yesterday, the International Rum Conference (IRC), announced that Nicaragua’s Flor de Caña Rum was the recipient of the World Award for Best Rum Distillery. “This is the most important award granted by the IRC and it recognizes the quality of Nicaragua rum, the use of 100% renewable energy, as well as the implementation of eco-friendly practices,” the IRC press release states. (Nicaragua News, May 3)

Greater use of renewable energy sources
Minister of Energy and Mines Salvador Mansell said 70% of the electricity generated in Nicaragua comes from renewable sources and the government is investing in the development of new projects in the sector. “In the coming months, 10,522 photovoltaic systems will be installed on the Caribbean Coast and by the end of May, a new hydroelectric plant will be inaugurated in El Tuma-La Dalia Municipality, Matagalpa Department,” Mansell said. (Nicaragua News, May 3)

Unilateral and illegal sanctions firmly rejected
In a press release issued May 2, the government’s team at the national negotiations expressed its firm rejection of sanctions against the Nicaraguan people. “We have to be loyal to our homeland and to our people. This is fundamental. We have to stress the harm caused by these illegal and unilateral sanctions, particularly on the poorest sectors of the country. Because of our history, principles, values, commitment and our “Preferential Option for the Poor,” our government has always considered these sectors as equals, protagonists of a real democracy, with rights, which includes all aspects of social, labor, political, economic and cultural life. We have insisted, and continue to insist, on our denunciation of these illegal and unilateral sanctions. To ignore this demand is to be complicit with interventionist policies and violations of human rights and the rights of all the Nicaraguan people,” the official press release states. (Nicaragua News, May 2)

Attractive tourism destination
An article published last week in National Geographic’s Traveler Magazine states that Nicaragua, with 19 amazing volcanoes, has the best tourism packages for nature explorers and extreme sports enthusiasts. “The Mombacho Volcano has a wide variety of trees and wildlife; Concepción Volcano on Ometepe Island offers water adventure; the boiling lava lake of Masaya Volcano is just stunning, and Cerro Negro Volcano is a favorite destination for extreme sports and volcano-boarding enthusiasts,” the Traveler article states. (Nicaragua News, May 2)

Committed to dialogue and reconciliation
During the commemoration of International Workers’ Day and the Seventh Anniversary of the death of Tomás Borge, President Daniel Ortega said Nicaragua will never renounce the miracle of peace and reconciliation. “The Nicaraguan people conquered the miracle of peace in the 80’s and we will do it again. We achieved peace agreements, in the midst of confrontation, war and thousands of deaths. The two sides swore never to dialogue, but finally we did. There was no other way back then and there is no other way now. We must talk and reach an understanding because we are all Nicaraguans and live in the same country,” President Ortega said. (Nicaragua News, May 1)

Human rights of prisoners protected
The Ministry of Governance reported that the Nicaragua government is guaranteeing full respect for the human rights of all prisoners in the National Penitentiary System. “Between April 22-26, the National Penitentiary System authorized 7,521 visits, 366 judicial proceedings, 3,776 telephone calls and 4,200 medical attentions,” the official report states. (Nicaragua News, May 1)

Highway to Caribbean Coast inaugurated
The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (MTI) announced that the Nueva Guinea – Bluefields highway was inaugurated last week. “The new US$115 million highway was financed by the Nicaragua government, with support from the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB),” the MTI report states. (Nicaragua News, May 1)

More support for social programs
Vice President Rosario Murillo announced that the Ministry of Education is distributing more than 200,000 hundredweights of food through the School Meal Program. “We appreciate the valuable cooperation of the World Food Program (WFP) which is working with our government to ensure food for children and young students throughout the country,” Murillo said. (Nicaragua News, Apr. 30)

Growth in export of tobacco
The Nicaragua Central Bank reported that tobacco exports totaled US$222.2 million last year, 10% above the amount registered in 2017. The report also noted that tobacco has become the third largest export product of the Nicaragua Free Trade Zone sector. (Nicaragua News, Apr. 30)

International Surf Tournament
A report published by SURFERS Magazine states that Nicaragua was selected as the venue for this year’s International Oakley Surf Shop Challenge. “The tournament that attracts world class surfers, will be held at Playa Colorado in Rivas Department next September,” SURFERS Magazine report states. (Nicaragua News, Apr. 30)