By Louise Richards
(Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group-UK)[This article was originally published by NSCAG on 22 February 2021 at https://www.nscag.org/news/article/333/nicaraguas-foreign-agents-law-explained]
In October 2020, Nicaragua passed a ‘Foreign Agents’ law. The law requires all organisations, agencies or individuals, who work with, receive funds from or respond to organizations that are owned or controlled directly or indirectly by foreign governments or entities, to register as foreign agents with the Ministry of the Interior. The fundamental objective of the law is to establish a legal framework that will regulate natural or legal persons that respond to foreign interests and funding, and use this funding to carry out activities that lead to interference by foreign governments or organisations in the internal affairs of Nicaragua, putting at risk the sovereign security of the country.
Predictably, the law has caused an outcry from the United States, who accuse Nicaragua of sliding towards dictatorship (when in fact the new law mirrors a similar and even more stringent law in the United States) and organisations like Amnesty Interrnational who claim that President Ortega plans to ‘silence those who criticise government policies, inform the population and defend human rights.’
The truth of the matter is that the intention behind the law is very simple – to create a tool that allows Nicaragua to ensure or prevent foreign powers, countries, governments, agencies or organisations from developing acts of interference in Nicaragua’s domestic affairs or national domestic policy, something that not only Nicaragua seeks to do and condemn, but very much something that international organisations of all kinds also condemn. There are Resolutions of the United Nations; there are Resolutions of the Organization of American States; there are Rulings of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where they condemn, in a clear and categorical way, all these acts of interference, by any foreign Government in the domestic matters of another country.
For years now, the US has poured millions of dollars into opposition NGOs and media in Nicaragua in an attempt to destabilise the country, undermine the democratically elected government and bring about ‘regime change’. Since 2017, a handful of Nicaraguan NGOs and media have received well over US$100 million from USAID alone. There are clear signs that the US intends to intensify these actions in the run up to Nicaragua’ national elections in November. In passing the Foreign Agents law, the Nicaraguan government has acted only to stem the tide of US funding which has been used until now to create chaos and instability and attack the country’s sovereignty.
There are around 5000 NGOs in Nicaragua – the vast majority are engaged in perfectly legitimate activities around health and social issues for example and none of them will be affected by this law which is targeted solely at a minority of organisations who have been heavily funded by the US merely to act as proxies for US and right wing opposition ambitions in the country.
‘Nicaragua has the right to know about and protect itself from foreign funding of its domestic opposition – a country is not required to cooperate in its own overthrow by a foreign power.’ – Chuck Kaufman, Alliance for Global Justice
Council on Hemispheric Affairs, article by John Perry
The Grayzone article by Ben Norton
Interview with Deputy Walmaro Gutierrez, President of the Economic Commission of Nicaragua’s National Assembly, Tortilla con Sal
By Nan McCurdy
UNICEF Says Not Closing Schools Was Best Decision
Jean Gough, UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, acknowledged the decision of the Nicaraguan government not to close schools in the face of the pandemic. The regional director of the United Nations Children’s Fund congratulated the efforts made by Nicaragua to give continuity to education, among them the “best decision was not to close the schools in time of pandemic.” During a meeting at the headquarters of the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Denis Moncada, Gough expressed UNICEF’s decision to continue supporting the actions of the Nicaraguan government. The meeting allowed both parties to discuss the current Cooperation Program between UNICEF and Nicaragua for the period 2019-2023. Moncada thanked the representative of the United Nations agency for the support they provide to programs on education and protection of children and adolescents. (Radio La Primerisima, 7 March 2021)
Vaccinations Begin against Covid-19
On March 2 immunization against Covid-19 began, using the Sputnik V vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Research Center of Russia. Patients with oncological or cardiovascular issues and kidney failure will be able to immunize against COVID-19. The first batch of the SPUTNIK V vaccine, donated by the Russia Direct Investment Fund arrived on February 24. (Nicaragua News, 2 March 2021)
Donation of Vaccines Arrives from India
A donation of 200,000 doses of vaccine against Covid-19 arrived March 7 from India.
With these new vaccines, the Government will give continuity to the National Voluntary Vaccination Program that has been carried out since March 2. So far, patients with severe health issues like persons on dialysis are receiving the vaccine. (Radio La Primerisima, 7 March 2021)
Nutritional Census Begins
The Ministry of Health (MINSA), with support of the Community Healthcare Workers Network, launched the first phase of the 2021 Nutrition Census March 2. The purpose of the census is to study the nutritional conditions of children to improve implementation of programs like Zero Hunger, Home Vegetable Gardens, the School Meal Program, and the Food Production Bonus Program that have contributed to 46% reduction of chronic malnutrition in children under six. (Nicaragua News, 3 March 2021)
Recent COVID-19 Reports
The Health Ministry reported 34 new registered cases of COVID-19 and 36 people recuperated for the week of Feb. 23 to March 1 with total cases since March 2020 at 5,176 and total number of registered recuperations at 4,958. For the week of March 2 to 8, there were 40 registered cases and 35 people recuperated. Since March 2020 there have been 5,216 registered cases, 4,993 people recuperated and 175 deaths. (Radio La Primerisima, 2 and 9 March, 2021)
Large CABEI Loan for Low Income Housing
Felix Baltodano, president of CADUR (Chamber of Developers of Nicaragua) stated that “We have the disbursement of a loan granted last year to Nicaragua by the Central American Bank for Economic Integration for more than US$171 million for low-income housing, of which US$100 million will be used to finance long-term low-income housing. With that, we can easily build more than 7,000 homes in the next 2 or 3 years.” The developers expect this disbursement from CABEI to be ready by the middle of this year. (Informe Pastran, 8 March 2021)
Weekly Health Attention in Neighborhoods
The Health Ministry announced that this week 800 Health Fairs will be held throughout the country to attend to 80,000 people in 56,000 medical consultations, 9,000 with specialists; 9,000 with dental care; 9,000 with ultrasounds; 6,000 with HIV tests; 7,000 with PAP tests; 7,000 with natural medicine; 7,000 with specialized exams; and 7,000 with medical examinations. (Informe Pastran, 8 March 2021)
INATEC Support for Women
The Rural Development Program is providing loans to women to improve production with equipment, water pumps, corrals, wells, improved pastures, installation of fences, and more. So far this year the National Technological Institute (INATEC has assisted 52,000 women with technical courses and careers in trade schools. Women make up 62% of enrollment. Since 2007, 3.5 million women, 69% of the total served, have taken courses, internships, workshops, and seminars to strengthen work skills through INATEC. (Informe Pastran, 8 March 2021)
New Innovative Businesses Receive Support
More than 1,000 ventures will receive financing this year through the Business Acceleration Program of the National Commission of Creative Economy of the Presidency, its director Humberto Gonzalez said on March 9. “These ventures have something that makes them unique in the market. Businesses are developing in the beekeeping industry, the leather industry, the design industry, the furniture industry and more,” said the official. He added that another 300 small businesses in the industrial sector will benefit with technological support, financing, diagnostics on energy efficiency and environmental integration systems. (Radio La Primerisima, 9 March 2021)