By Chuck Kaufman
A couple of weeks ago, the Trump administration announced that Nicaraguans in the US would no longer have Temporary Protected Status (TPS) allowing them to stay legally and to work in the US. First extended when Hurricane Mitch devastated Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador in 1998, Nicaragua was the first country to lose TPS status during an overall review of TPS by the Trump administration. About 200,000 Central Americans and Haitians are protected by TPS. Nicaragua’s share is a miniscule 2,200 or so.
While Nicaragua Network/Alliance for Global Justice’s position is that borders should be as free to workers as they are to capital, the loss of TPS for Nicaraguans is also a recognition of the strides that Nicaragua has made since the Sandinista party, led by President Daniele Ortega, returned to power through elections in 2007.
With 10 years of sustained economic growth at or around 5%, the country is booming. Formal employment is at an all-time high. Minimum wages rise every six months, negotiated in a unique Tripartite Model in which unions and business owners in the various sectors negotiate the amount of increase with the government sitting in as the tie-breaker. This has led to an unparalleled period of labor stability, foreign investment, and job growth.
Sandinista policies of free education and healthcare, revitalizing the peasant agricultural sector, extending water, sewer, and electricity coverage, especially in rural areas, and several poverty alleviation programs like zero poverty, zero usury, credit for micro, small, and medium enterprises led by women and in the rapidly-growing tourism sector, all have combined to create what some would call an economic miracle in Nicaragua.
But, there is nothing miraculous about it. It is the result of hard-headed political and economic decisions by the Ortega government to stand up to the IMF and its structural adjustment, neoliberal prescriptions of pain and privation and instead prove that macroeconomic stability could be achieved at the same time as the country became one of the first in the world to achieve the UN Millennium Goals on poverty reduction.
By the same token, there are no political prisoners in Nicaragua. There are no State-sponsored political murders. There is no press censorship. Drug cartels have not been able to establish a foothold in the country because its National Police, born of the Revolution, is not corrupt. Nicaragua has the lowest homicide rate, and is the safest country in Central America – including Costa Rica.
Leaving aside the argument that people should be able to live and work where they want to, Nicaraguans don’t need the US’s TPS anymore. They can return home in safety and security and with a near certainty that they can find a job and live in a house with electricity and flush toilets! Anyone who traveled to Nicaragua during the 1980s and 1990s will understand just how major that is.
But, of course, the other side of the coin is that the Trump regime shouldn’t be telling people who have made lives in the United States for nearly 30 years that they have to go home to a place they hardly know and where their children and grandchildren may not even speak the language.
My co-writer of this blog, John Kotula, has written a poem expressing this side of the coin.
On The Same Day
By John Kotula
I go to the mall
For 2 X 2 color photos
To renew my passport.
I cross fronteras
In a single bound.
Sports an eagle and
Stars and stripes.
One look at the old,
Well fed, white guy
In the photo
I’ll take their job,
Rob their house
Or rape their granny,
But back in the
US of A
No “bad hombres”
Own a home,
Coach little league,
Dress up for Halloween,
Bake apple pies, and
Deck their lawns
On the same day
I am made welcome
- The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Country Representative, Iván Yerovi said Nicaragua is recognized internationally for its achievements in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). “Aspects such as greater access to healthcare and education, potable water service, the fight against poverty and lowering of maternal and infant mortality rates, confirms that Nicaragua is on the right path,” the UNICEF Country Representative said. (Nicaragua News, Nov. 16)@A report issued last week by the Nicaragua Central Bank states that Nicaragua’s Gross International Reserves (GIR) reached US$2.5 billion dollars last October, equivalent to 2.7 times the monetary base of the country. The report also noted that this level of reserve contributes to greater economic and financial stability in the country. (Nicaragua News, Nov. 27)
- The Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) and the National Electrical Transmission Company (ENATREL) recently installed electricity service in the homes of 1,700 inhabitants in Murra, Nueva Segovia; El Cuá, Jinotega; Santamaría de Pantasma, Jinotega; and Totogalpa, Madriz. The US$588,000 investment is part of the National Sustainable Electrification and Renewable Energy Program (PNESER), being implemented by the Nicaragua Government in the 153 municipalities of the country. (Nicaragua News, Nov. 15, 16, 20, 21.)
- Presidential Delegate for Investments Álvaro Baltodano announced that Nicaragua is investing US$72 million in the construction of the San Francisco – Bluefields highway. “The first phase of the project was funded with a US$36 million loan from the World Bank and the second phase is being covered by a similar amount from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The new highway will become fully operational in 2019 and is expected to have a positive impact on the development of the Nicaragua Caribbean Coast,” Baltodano said. (Nicaragua News, Nov. 17)
- During the inauguration of the First Central American Chocolate Congress held in Managua, Co-Founder of International Chocolate Awards (ICO), Maricel Presilla, said Nicaragua has one of the best chocolates in the world. “The purpose of this event in Managua is to promote cocoa and chocolate production in Central America and we have chosen Nicaragua because this is a country that produces a high-quality chocolate,” Presilla said. (Nicaragua News, Nov. 21)