NicaNotes: Nicaragua Leads the World: Holding Countries Accountable Without War or Sanctions

By Becca Renk

Becca Renk grew up in North Idaho and has lived in Nicaragua since 2001 working in sustainable community development in Ciudad Sandino with Jubilee House Community and its project, Center for Development in Central America.

[This article was first published by the Casa Ben Linder on February 13, 2024.]

Palestine Park was recently inaugurated in Managua. (Photo: Becca Renk

I was 13 years old the day I got braces on my teeth and the United States bombed Baghdad, launching the “first” Iraq war.

“Today, Wednesday the 16th of January 1991, we had just gotten out of the dentist’s office and Mom told me the news,” I wrote in my journal. “She started saying, ‘Oh my God!’ and I was silent, wanting to cry and throw up.”

My 8th grade class organized a “speak out” in the school library. The students sat cross-legged on the carpet and took turns struggling to express our feelings through the tangle of meaningless phrases we’d heard adults around us using. One of my classmates stood up to say she was worried about her dad; he was a soldier and had been deployed. “I support our troops,” she declared.

I remember how scared we all were, just kids together confronting the illogical concept of war. I stood up and nervously spoke around my newly-installed braces to say that I supported soldiers as people, but didn’t support the war that sent them into danger.

The kids around me asked, “But how else can we protect the defenseless Kuwaitis?” We had heard about Iraqi human rights abuses when a Kuwaiti nurse gave emotional testimony before Congress telling how she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers take babies out of incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital and leave the newborn babies to die.

“If we don’t use force, then how else can we stop a monster like Sadaam Hussein?”

The only possible alternative to war that we heard mentioned was “sanctions.”

Of course, I didn’t know then what I know now: Firstly, that the “nurse” was actually the 15-year old daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S., and her “testimony” was organized by a public relations firm hired by the Kuwaiti government to manipulate the U.S. public into supporting armed conflict.

Secondly, unilateral coercive measures, or “sanctions,” are rejected by more than two-thirds of the international community and actually hurt the most vulnerable people by restricting their access to food, water, sanitation, medicines, health services and employment.

Today, when not actively bombing other countries, the U.S. continues to use unilateral coercive measures – currently imposed on 30 countries – harming the civilian populations of sovereign nations in order to further its own geopolitical agenda.

Right now the U.S. is seeking further unilateral coercive measures against Nicaragua through Senate Bill 1881, “Restoring Sovereignty and Human Rights in Nicaragua Act.” The bill proposes blanket sanctions on broad sectors such as gold and beef, and proposes to eject Nicaragua from regional agreements which could only be implemented by violating those agreements, impinging on the sovereignty not only of Nicaragua but also its neighbors.

Take action to oppose new sanctions against Nicaragua by clicking here!

The U.S. is trying to destabilize Nicaragua’s democratically elected government using “human rights” as an excuse with no evidence of actual human rights violations by Nicaragua. At the same time, the U.S. not only ignores real human rights violations by Israel in Gaza, but is actively participating in the genocide of the Palestinian people by arming Israel.

Nicaragua, in contrast, is showing the world how to defend human rights without resorting to the destruction of war or sanctions. Nicaragua doesn’t just talk about the international rule of law, it makes use of the structures that exist for the purpose of holding countries accountable for their actions. Nicaragua won a case against the U.S. in the ICJ in 1986 and has used the World Court more recently to resolve maritime border disputes with Colombia. It is now the first country to join South Africa’s case at the International Court of Justice in support of holding the government of Israel to account for its violations of the Genocide Convention in Gaza.

On February 1st, Nicaragua went further and also called on the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada to stop arming U.S.-Israeli genocide announcing that “it will hold the four countries responsible under international law for gross and systematic violations” to the Genocide Convention.

Nicaragua is not afraid of being David against Goliath. Nicaragua has a long history of Davids who have bested Goliath: Andrés Castro, who in 1856 literally threw a stone and killed a U.S. mercenary in battle who was part of William Walker’s attempt to annex Nicaragua as a slave state; Augusto C. Sandino and his army of 300 against the U.S. Marines; Sandinista revolutionaries against the well-armed U.S.-backed dictator Somoza.

Children play in the glow of giant flower-like lamps in the new Palestine Park in Managua. (Photo: Becca Renk)

A few nights ago, I went to the inauguration of Palestine Park in Managua. There were children playing in the soft glow of giant flower-like lamps around a beautiful fairy statue. It made me feel like a child, small and cherished and protected, as all children should feel. It is a poignant symbol of Nicaragua’s solidarity with Palestine, located near the newly inaugurated Gaza Street.

These lovely symbols would lose their meaning, however, if they were merely symbolic. But Nicaragua has moved beyond the symbolic to act in solidarity with Palestine, using international rule of law to attempt to stop the genocide as the death toll in Gaza approaches 30,000. Nicaragua is leading the way toward future of options beyond war; hopefully other countries will soon have the courage to follow its example.

Support Nicaragua and oppose sanctions here. For more information on sanctions and action suggestions from NicaNotes, go here and here.

By Nan McCurdy 

Nicaragua: Universal and Free Vaccination
In 17 years, the Sandinista government has managed to build an efficient vaccination system, which has allowed the country, among many other things, to achieve 100% vaccination against Covid-19. Since President Daniel Ortega took office on January 10, 2007, a successful national vaccination program for 19 diseases has been implemented. To achieve greater efficiency and control, the Ministry of Health (MINSA) implemented a digital registry system of all vaccinated persons. Whereas in 2006, there were only seven biological banks, in 2024 there are 20, which guarantees greater vaccine safety. In 2006, the vaccine schedule protected against 12 diseases; in 2024, protection against 19 diseases is ensured, including Covid-19 and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccines.  Between 2021 and 2022, Nicaragua was the only country in Central America to achieve coverage of almost 100% of the population against Covid-19 with a complete schedule. In 2006, vaccination programs only vaccinated children under 6 years of age and pregnant women; since 2007, coverage has been extended to 100% of the population. From 2007 to 2023, Nicaragua is certified as a country that guarantees surveillance of measles, rubella and polio cases. MINSA currently has 10 cold chambers for vaccine storage and has expanded equipment for the storage and conservation of vaccines. (La Primerisima, 8 February 2024)

Half a Million Young People Study Technical Fields
In 2024 more than half a million young people will be able to receive a technical and technological education, in 61 specialized centers located throughout the country. The executive director of INATEC (Nicaraguan Institute for Technical Education), Loyda Barreda, reported that this year more than 548,000 young people and adults from the countryside and the city will study in technical areas, 46,000 more than in 2023. There are seven new specialties related to agricultural and agro-transformation training which will help make the national plan to fight poverty more of a reality. Today there are courses available in all 153 municipalities compared to only 27 in 2007. On Feb. 7, INATEC inaugurated the 2024 school year. In 17 years, INATEC has served 176,840 students just on the Caribbean Coast, expanding the academic offerings and marking historic growth. (La Primerisima, 12 February 2024)

With Free Education, Universities Register Record Enrollment
Thus far more than 246,000 high school graduates have entered public and private higher education this year, a milestone in the growth of education, said Ramona Rodríguez, president of the National Council of Universities (CNU). “For us it is an important increase: we are growing by more than 60,000 young people [a year] who are entering universities. That is why 2024 marks a milestone in the history of higher education because of the free education decreed by the government, with no fees, tuition payments, or other charges that used to be required,” the academic stated. On Feb. 7 representatives of 41 national, public and private universities had their first meeting with board members of the CNU to discuss the new University Management Model, the fulfillment of the regulatory framework. “We are holding the first meeting of the CNU universities to explain and address the new model of university management, which is supported by the reform of Law 89 and the General Education Law,” said Rodriguez. She added that the National Council of Universities will continue working through a technical commission to harmonize studies in agronomy, agro-industry, forestry and veterinary sciences, to train the professionals needed by the country and so that more people obtain a university degree. (La Primerisima, 7 February 2024)

Nearly 17,000 Enter Ricardo Morales Avilés University
On February 10 the national multidisciplinary Ricardo Morales Avilés University started its classes, reported the rector of this university, Ligia Pasquier. She said that they have 16,922 students, now the fourth largest university of the National Council of Universities. Branches are located in Masaya, Granada, Carazo, Managua, Juigalpa, Jinotega, Boaco, Rivas and Río San Juan. Degrees are offered in four major areas: health, administrative and economic science, engineering sciences, education, arts and humanities. No payments are required; wonderful news for the young people and adults because it allows them to train professionally. The Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing is one of the courses of study in high demand, followed by English, Business Administration, Public Accounting and Engineering. (La Primerisima, 12 February 2024)

3,000 First Year Students to Attend Engineering University in 2024
The National University of Engineering (UNI) will open its three campuses throughout the country to 3,320 first year students, reported Angel Chavarria, President of UNEN (National Union of Students). He said that the first-year students are currently in a mathematics course that started on January 29 to strengthen their knowledge.

He added that after the course, the first-time university students will formally register from March 4 to 9 without paying any fees. On March 11 classes begin for first-time students and re-entry students. Specialties include civil, mechanical, agricultural, industrial, chemical, electronic, computer and systems engineering as well as architecture.  (La Primerisima, 13 February 2024)

Loan from Chinese Company to Expand Punta Huete Airport
On Feb. 9 the National Assembly approved a loan agreement between Nicaragua and the China CAMC Engineering Company, for the reconstruction, expansion and improvement of the Punta Huete International Airport in San Francisco Libre municipality, Managua Department. The US$40 million-dollar agreement includes expansion of the existing airstrip to 3,600 meters in length and 60 meters in width elevating it to an international airport with a category 4E/4F runway that will have a capacity to serve 3.5 million passengers and handle 35,000 metric tons of cargo annually. National Assembly Deputy Wálmaro Gutiérrez, chair of the Committee on Economy and Budget, stated that “The project will represent one of the most important advances in aerial infrastructure for Nicaragua in the last 50 years and will allow the country to strengthen the socioeconomic development strategies established in the National Human Development Plan.” (Nicaragua News, 12 February 2024)

Important Reduction in Housing Deficit
The Nicaragua Institute for Urban and Rural Housing (INVUR) has presented a report on the 2023 Casas para el Pueblo Low-Cost Housing Program that the government is implementing throughout the country. The report states that 7,952 homes were built in 2023 for a total of 138,628 low-cost homes built over the last 16 years, contributing to a major reduction of the housing deficit. INVUR Codirector, Gabriela Palacios, stated that “INVUR plans to build 7,674 homes this year to contribute to the goal of 50,000 affordable homes built by 2026.” (Nicaragua News, 7 February 2024)

Percentage of Families with Electricity in their Homes Increases to 99.42%
Minister of Energy and Mines Salvador Mansell reported that national electricity coverage was 99.42% at the close of the month of January, with 72.07% generation based on renewable sources. He said that “Twenty electrification projects were carried out between January 2nd and 31st this year, benefiting 4,000 inhabitants with electricity coverage that has expanded from 54% in 2007 to 99.42% in January 2024.” (Nicaragua News, 9 February 2024)

First Section of Road Between Ochomogo and Las Salinas Ready
Almost half of a strategic highway that will link the Southern Panamerican Highway with the Pacific Coast Highway is finished and in use. On Feb. 7 the Sandinista Government inaugurated the first 15 of the 33 kilometers that make up the road. The highway will link the Pan American Highway near the Ochomogo bridge, with the community and surf beaches of Las Salinas on the Pacific coast. The road benefits more than 80,000 inhabitants of Paso Real, El Caimito, Santa Juana, Cebadilla, Mancarrón, Betania, Samaria, La Estrella, Miravalle, La Esperanza, Escalantillo, Escalante, Los Ángeles and San Pedro, and 11 more communities located up to the Pacific coast. See photos and map:  (La Primerisima, 12 February 2024)

La Concordia Celebrates its Patron Saint – The Virgin of Lourdes
The municipality of La Concordia, Jinotega, celebrated its patron saint, the Virgin of Lourdes during the first weeks of February. These celebrations take place throughout the year in each of the 153 municipalities. Along with masses in the Catholic church, there were also numerous festivities for all ages: clown shows, face painting, balloon twisting, cotton candy, free entrance to the Ferris wheels and other rides, presentations by local folklore dance groups, a motorcycle stunt contest, music concerts, horse parades and more. Manuel Rivera, resident, said he was very happy to see how the citizens have participated in the activities and have honored the Virgin. (TN8TV, 13 February, 2024)