Guest Post By Stevenicaragua
Steve Lewis is a British humanitarian worker who has been living in Leon, Nicaragua for the last two years. He first visited Nicaragua in 1984/85 to pick coffee in solidarity with the revolution and has been involved with Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign (NSC) ever since. Steve has also lived in El Salvador and in Zimbabwe for three years each. He has worked for a number of research and advocacy non-profits, including CONCERN America, Save The Children and RESULTS. He now works for a US Sister City partnership with Leon. Steve is on twitter and Instagram as @owstonlewis
American intervention is threatening progress in Nicaragua, and American friends & readers can help by contacting your senators. Please ask them to vote against the NICA Act. Here is a link to find your Senators.
Most expats living in Nicaragua enjoy the climate, food and culture and are friends with Nicaraguan neighbours and colleagues. We see that the country is slowly but steadily reducing poverty, and we enjoy the peace and stability the country enjoys. The country has problems, of course, like anywhere, but only Nicaraguans themselves can sort those problems out. Although the country is still the second poorest in Latin America, the economy is growing at a rate of 4.5% per annum and the rate of crime is only a fraction of that in neighbouring Honduras and El Salvador. These are important achievements.
But this stability and growth is threatened by interference from the USA. In October the US House of Representatives approved the Nicaragua Investment Conditionality Act, known as the NICA Act. If approved by the Senate the NICA Act could see the US block major international lending institutions from lending to Nicaragua. Institutions such as the World Bank, IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank could be blocked from giving loans that fund improvements in roads, ports, electricity and other infrastructure.
You can put an end to this interference in Nicaraguan affairs by writing to your senator. Ask him or her to vote against the passing of the NICA Act. If the act is passed it will reverse the progress Nicaragua has made in the last few years and will end the improvements we have seen in roads and infrastructure. Schools and health facilities would become even more run-down – so the effect of choking off loans will make life harder for the poorest.
Just yesterday the World Bank, meeting in Granada, Nicaragua, approved a loan of over $400 million for Nicaragua. Over the last three years loans averaged around $100 million a year, but over the next three years that will increase to about $150 million per annum. The World Bank said that this is because previous projects have been carried out efficiently and on-time, by the government and the private sector working together, and with good accounting.
The NICA Act has met with near unanimous condemnation in Nicaragua from the government, the National Assembly, the Private Sector, almost all political parties, and most religious leaders. The Organization of American States (OAS) electoral mission that was in Nicaragua for the elections last November described the Act as ‘counter-productive’.
If you are from the USA please email, ring or write to your senators now. Phone number is (1 202) 224 3121, and using skype or a similar package this will hardly cost you a dime.
If you have never lobbied your representative before you can get good advice from RESULTS, a grassroots advocacy agency. I used to work for RESULTS in the UK, and our representatives were always happy to receive polite emails or phone-calls from constituents. Here is a link to find your Senators.
And this resource gives you excellent advice from RESULTS about advocacy (in general) in the USA.
For those readers who are not from the USA you can still help by signing the petition on the link at Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign and Change.Org
So – Use your vote, use your voice, tell your senators you live here and have an opinion.
More on the NICA Act
By Chuck Kaufman
As I’ve written previously, the NICA Act passed the US House of Representatives as part of the unanimous consent docket as a going away present to retiring right-wing Florida Congresswoman, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The unanimous consent docket is for “uncontroversial” bills and is generally approved when no Representatives other than the Majority and Minority Leaders are actually present. The NICA Act was introduced then in the Senate by Texas Republican Ted Cruz. It was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
If what happened the previous time the NICA Act passed the House and was introduced in the Senate is any indication, the bill was sent to Foreign Affairs to die. I would, in fact, predict that to be the case if it were not for the fact that Democratic Senators Dick Durbin from Illinois and Patrick Leahy from Vermont, co-sponsored the bill with Cruz. Durbin is the Senate Minority Whip and Leahy is the Senate Democrats’ expert on Latin America and is usually seen as a champion of human rights in the hemisphere.
I became even more concerned this week when a supporter sent me the response his daughter, a Vermont voter, got to her letter to Leahy asking him to oppose the NICA Act. Here it is:
Dear Ms. [redacted]:
Thank you for contacting me about the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA).
I cosponsored the NICA Act because it reaffirms our commitment to supporting basic human rights and accountable governance in Nicaragua, conditions for free and fair elections, and an independent judiciary, which currently do not exist in that country. The Ortega government is known for its corrupt practices, control of the courts and the electoral commission, and abuse of human rights, and we should not support taxpayer funded loans to that government unless it is meeting basic requirements that benefit the Nicaraguan people.
Again, thank you for contacting me.
United States Senator
This is an astounding response coming from someone who we in the Latin America solidarity movement generally consider an ally. It shows not only a surprising ignorance about current day Nicaragua, but also shows that Sen. Leahy is being fed deliberate disinformation and misinformation. Considering that Leahy would not likely be persuaded by the same interests that would influence Ted Cruz, I can only conclude that he is hearing these lies from those we used to call dissident Sandinistas in the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS).
It is logical that Leahy would listen to them since they were the people who, in the 1980s represented the Sandinista Revolution to the world. Today there is nothing left of the Sandinista ideology of their youth. They do not present a critique from the Left of Sandinismo, but only a program bereft of content and an alliance with the neoliberal opposition supported by the United States. Leahy’s response to his constituent reflects the MRS talking points, and they do explicitly support the NICA Act. I consider the actual support of US intervention in Nicaragua’s sovereign affairs to be the final point of departure from the anti-imperialism of their youth.
In fact, it is not known, as Leahy writes, that the Ortega government is known for its corrupt practices and abuse of human rights. Nicaragua has no political prisoners; no press censorship; its officials and security forces are not in the pay of drug cartels. It has a lower homicide rate than Costa Rica and the government is praised by the World Bank, IMF and European governments for the effective use of loans and grants, meaning that they are spent on projects rather than lining the pockets of the elites.
It is true that the Sandinista Party controls all four branches of government, but that is due to its popularity among voters and the splintered opposition that has no economic or political program that appeals to voters. The Sandinista political hegemony was achieved through the ballot box. The recent municipal elections, in which Sandinista mayors won the vast majority of towns and cities, the Organization of American States, which accompanied the electoral process for months, said that any deficiencies did not affect the outcome which represented the will of the people. The OAS made some suggestions for greater transparency and the Sandinista government has promised to implement the suggestions.
So Leahy’s support for the NICA Act is based on false premises. It is important that we educate him, Durbin, and all the members of the Senate. Passage of the NICA Act would have many negative consequences for the people of Nicaragua and could cause a new round of forced migration like during the US-backed neoliberal governments of the 1990s and early 2000s. It is critical that Senators understand that the NICA Act is by no means “uncontroversial.” We have to make sure that it isn’t slipped through on the unanimous consent docket like it was in the House.
If you are a US voter, you can Send a Message of Opposition
to the NICA Act to your two Senators Here
- IMF Chief of Mission Fernando Delgado, in a joint report with the government on Nicaragua’s economic performance said Nicaragua reported a 4.9% economic growth last year, with an inflation rate of 5.7%. “The Nicaragua economy grew more than expected. The government has implemented the recommendations made by international organizations that helped to strengthen economic and financial stability in the country,” he said. Ovidio Reyes, president of the Nicaragua Central Bank, said the IMF’s cooperation has been valuable in strengthening the economic and financial stability in the country. “Nicaragua receives these results with much satisfaction and will evaluate each of the IMF recommendations with all the sectors participating in the dialogue under the Tripartite Alliance Model between Government, employers and labor,” Reyes said. (Nicaragua News, Feb. 7)
- The National Energy Dispatch Center (CNDC) reported that 86% of the energy generated in Nicaragua two weekends ago came from renewable sources. Wind power accounted for 33% of the energy entering the national grid, followed by biomass at 21.5%, geothermal with 19.4%, hydroelectric providing 11.3%, and solar with 0.6%. (Nicaragua News, Feb. 7)
- The National Assembly approved a change to the electoral law (ACT 331) giving specific administrative powers to the Vice President of the Supreme Electoral Council (SEC), the independent branch of government that administers elections. The SEC has been a target of criticism by the political opposition and the US, and the Organization of American States (OAS) has made recommendations concerning its reform. (Nicaragua News, Feb. 8)
- A joint operation of the Navy, National Forest Institute, and the National Police, seized 20,000 board feet of illegally logged precious wood in the South Caribbean Autonomous Region near La Ceiba. Three people were detained. The captured wood included mahogany and granadillo. The Nicaraguan Navy, among its other responsibilities, has a duty to protect Nicaragua’s environment. Unrestrained illegal logging was a particular problem in the 1990s during which a flight over Nicaragua’s southern rainforest revealed many clear-cut areas thinly surrounded by a screen of trees. Expansion of the agricultural frontier for farming and ranching is another threat to Nicaragua’s remaining rainforest. (El Nuevo Diario, Feb. 12)
- While women have achieved equity in participation in the political life of the nation, there is still a large gap between the economic participation compared to men. The 2017 annual report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) reported that 48% women participate in “economic activity” compared to 83.6% of men, and an increase from 43.6% in 2016. The statistics are based on women and men over the age of 15. A plurality of economically active women (38.7%) work in the commercial arena, buying and selling products. That is followed by 33.6% in “Other Services,” 13.3% in manufacturing, and 9.3% in agriculture. Economically active men, on the other hand, are predominately employed in agriculture (44.8%) followed by 16.5% in commerce, 10.6% in manufacturing, and 10% in other services. The Gender Equality Observatory of ECLAC reports that, in the Region, jobs for women have stagnated in the last decade. It was not clear how the report counted women farmers and women married to farmers, both of whom we would consider economically active. (El Nuevo Diario, Feb. 12)