NicaNotes is a blog for Nicaragua activists and those interested in Nicaragua, published by the Nicaragua Network, a project of the Alliance for Global Justice. It provides news and analysis from the context of Nicaragua Network’s long history of struggle in solidarity with the Sandinista Revolution.
Guest Blogs on the OAS and a Movie Review of Las Sandinistas plus Briefs!
[Walesnicaragua is a sister solidarity organization to the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign-UK and Nicaragua Network/Alliance for Global Justice-US]
Even over the holidays things didn’t calm down for Nicaragua. During the break the Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States, Luis Almagro, has tried to begin proceedings against Nicaragua under the Inter-American Decmocratic Charter. He cited Article 20 of the Charter, which states it can be activated when a “member state produces an alteration in the constitutional order that seriously harms democratic order” (see here for a typical report on the story, which was taken from Associated Press coverage).
Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister, Denis Moncada Colindres, responded immediately, writing to his fellow Ministers in the OAS. He said:
“The Inter-American Democratic Charter does not empower Secretary General Luis Almagro to support coup groups against the State and the legally constituted Government of Nicaragua, as Mr Luis Almagro has done in violation of the Charter of the OAS….”.
A full radio interview with Denis Moncada is available here on a US public radio station.
The aim of the move by Almagro is not to expel Nicaragua from the OAS (though that is possible), but to speed up the sanctions against Nicaragua proposed by the United States in the recently signed off NICA Act.
Nicaragua clashed with Almagro earlier this autumn, when the OAS Secretary General called for military intervention in Venezuela. His remarks came days after US Senator Marco Rubio (who has been the main cheerleader for the Nicaraguan opposition during the attempted coup) called for military action to remove President Maduro, and also called for the international community to ‘asphyxiate’ the dictatorship which is being installed in Nicaragua” (see here). Almagro’s remarks were widely condemned, even as he tried to say he had been misquoted. However he still drew criticism for his increasingly hawkish views (see here for a response from the OAS Ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda – No Vigilante Action in the Americas).
The Nicaraguan opposition visited Washington this autumn after Almagro’s military intervention. Violeta Granera, an ex-vice presidential candidate with the PLI and a former minister in the Bolanos Government 2000-7, joined fellow Liberal Jose Pallais (a former deputy Foreign Minister during the Chamorro Government 1990-97) to lobby Alamagro to activate the Democratic Charter (see here).
The pair are no strangers to Almagro, or indeed in calling for the activation of the Democratic Charter. In 2016, three days before the presidential elections which Daniel Ortega won with over 70% of the vote, the pair travelled to Washington to meet with Almagro. On his return Jose Pallais said their dialogue with the OAS was “the first step before the activation’ of the Democratic Charter” (see here).
The OAS meeting will take place next week. Almagro’s call can expect support from Trump’s United States and the Brazilian government led by President Jair Bolsonaro, widely described as a fascist. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, travelled to Brazil on Jan 2 to attend Bolsanaro’s inauguration. Their agenda, and indeed the agenda of Almagro, is clear. Pompeo said Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua were countries that do not share the democratic values that unite the United States and Brazil. “We have an opportunity to work alongside each other against authoritarian regimes,” he said at a news conference (see here).
Movie Review: Las Sandinistas! (2018)
by Arnold Matlin, M.D.[Dr. Matlin is a long-time Nicaragua solidarity activist from Rochester, NY and he is a member of the board of Nicaragua Network/Alliance for Global Justice.]
Recognize propaganda when you see this film!
This movie works for the first 75 minutes. It’s a solid documentary about the great role that women played in the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.
Sadly, the remainder of the film is propaganda for the Nicaraguan rightwing movement called the MRS. The MRS did, indeed, begin as a group that was going to push the Sandinistas from the left. As a political party, they never gained any traction. The highest percentage of votes they ever achieved was 5 percent.
Now, the MRS has allied itself with rightwing parties in Nicaragua, and with the U.S. right wing. (In particular, Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.) They are counter-revolutionaries, just like the Contras in the 1980’s.
The World Economic Forum issues annual reports, based on information from 144 countries. These reports are a benchmark for gender equality. Countries are ranked according to economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment.
According to the World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2017, Nicaragua is the highest ranked country in the Americas in terms of gender equality. Nicaragua has the sixth highest position on gender equality in the world. (The United States ranks 49th!)
Particularly noteworthy in this context is Nicaragua’s second position on political empowerment: 46% of members of the Nicaraguan Assembly are women.
Please notice that no prominent pro-government Nicaraguan woman appears in the film. We get long interviews with MRS leaders, most of whom are highly educated, highly cultured, and highly respected in the U.S. They are like us, and we want to believe them.
However, in 2016, the Sandinista party won 72% of the vote. That’s because the Sandinistas aren’t the party of the intellectual elite. Sandinista women are clever, dynamic, effective, and talented. However, the Sandinista women don’t teach poetry at San Francisco State, they don’t direct films, and they aren’t brilliant novelists. They are urban and rural workers, who know that the Sandinista government will give them access to health care, education, economic assistance, and an opportunity to hold public office.
My name appears at the end of the film as a GoFundMe donor. I regret that donation now. I thought the movie would pay tribute to the heroic women of the Sandinista revolution. It does, indeed, do this. However, the tribute was clearly meant as a way to lead up to the criticism of the present Sandinista government. I should have known better.
Moncada defends Rule of Law in Nicaragua
Foreign Minister Denis Moncada reiterated that the Nicaragua government is respectful of the rule of law and there is no legal basis to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter. “The OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, is acting in an illegal, absurd and inadmissible manner. The spirit of the Democratic Charter is to support the strengthening of democratic processes, institutional order and the rule of law. However, the OAS Secretary General is siding with coup plotters seeking to overthrow the legitimate government of Nicaragua,” Moncada said. (Nicaragua News, Jan. 7)
Remittances continue to grow
The Nicaragua Central Bank (BCN) reported that remittances to the country surpassed US$1.3 billion during the first 11 months of last year, 7.8 % above the amount reported in the same period in 2017. The United States (55.6%); Costa Rica (19.3%); and Spain (11.2%) were the main sources of these remittances. (Nicaragua News, Jan. 7)
Trump signs NICA Act
US President Donald Trump signed the NICA Act into law on Dec. 20 after a souped-up version of the original bill passed the two houses of Congress. The law conditions US votes on multilateral loans from the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and other financial institutions. The conditions include forcing Nicaragua to call early elections and other violations of Nicaragua’s sovereignty as well as sanctions against individuals in the Nicaraguan government. The law was signed one day after the new US Ambassador to Nicaragua, Kevin Sullivan, submitted his credentials to President Daniel Ortega. Trump received praise from the usual right-wing Republicans including the original bill sponsor, outgoing Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. (El Nuevo Diario, Dec. 20)
Renewable electric production increases as does access
In 2018, Nicaragua produced 58.9% of its electrical energy from renewable resources. That is compared to 25% in 2006. On some days 80% renewable generation was achieved. By type, burning sugarcane biomass produced 216.3MW, hydroelectric: 149.5MW; geothermal: 154.5MW; wind: 186.2MW; and solar: 13.4MW. The investment in electrical generation has had a huge impact on the population. In 2006, barely 53% of households had access to electricity. At the end of 2018, a nearly universal 95.6% had access including many tiny rural communities. Presidential Advisor Paul Oquist stated that the combination of renewable energy production and reforestation will keep 11 million tons of carbon out of the atmosphere over the next five years. (Informe Pastran, Jan. 7)
Pope Francis calls for Nicaragua’s crisis to be resolved through dialogue
In a speech to the diplomatic corps accredited to The Vatican in which he talked about trouble spots around the world, Pope Francis said, “I think particularly of beloved Nicaragua, whose situation I follow closely, with the desire that the different political and social groupings find in dialogue the main way to commit themselves for the good of the entire nation.” He added, “The Holy See does not seek to interfere in the life of States” but rather “to serve the good of every human being and to work to promote the building of peaceful and reconciled societies.” (Informe Pastran, Jan. 7)
Economic cost of the failed coup enumerated
Economist Nestor Avendaño, president of COPADES, reported that partial results for 2018 show the economy contracted on an annual basis of 0.2%. During the same period inflation slowed to 4.4%. COPADES predicts that unemployment for the year will be 28.1%. Between April and November 143,000 formal jobs were lost and tax revenues fell by US$146 million to US$1.604 billion, creating an operating deficit of US$118 million for the first nine months of the year. (Informe Pastran, Jan. 7)