NicaNotes Opinion: Are You Asking Me about Nicaragua?

By Yorlis Luna

Published originally by the Council of Hemispheric Affairs, COHA

I think when many of us look at the world today we feel like we’re watching a science fiction movie: 22 million officially unemployed in the U.S. while analysts say the true figure may be double that, predictions of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and lines up to 15-hours-long where they are giving away food or money with which to buy some.

In Ecuador, they give the families of people who die from COVID-19 cardboard coffins, while other victims’ bodies lie in the streets or people’s homes with no one to collect them. In Brazil, Colombia, and El Salvador the pots-and-pans protests and demonstrations continue, despite the curfew and militarization because they closed the borders while domestic food production was insufficient, which caused food shortages that raised prices. Hunger has come to the homes and stomachs of the poorest people.

The World Food Program estimates that in addition to the 820 million people already going hungry in the world, 135 million more will suffer acute food insecurity as a preliminary impact of the health crisis. The main victims are women, infants, and children (UN, 2020). This in turn has major repercussions on health, nutrition, and humanitarian aid, causing larger flows of forced migration, displacement, violence, and social conflict.

In Latin America and the Caribbean there are already 19 million more people suffering from hunger and 37.71 million unemployed. “Model” countries such as the United States and its lackeys in Latin America are now paying the price for shrinking the State, cruelly privatizing basic services (particularly public health), and abandoning peasant farmers. Meanwhile, the countries continuously demonized as the “Troika of Tyranny,” Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, are demonstrating their moral superiority and capacity to effectively manage the crisis based on the strengths they have built in the public sector and with more organized and socially conscious societies, disciplined to work for the common good.

This once again reveals the lies, shamelessness, and cynicism of the hegemonic media that are concealing the truth: imperialism in all forms is not only bad, but its worldview continuously fails.

How are we doing in our besieged, slandered, and sanctioned Nicaragua?

I grew up in a Nicaragua that always appeared in public discourse as an object of pity, its hand stretched out for charity in response to the hunger, extreme poverty, and pain our people were immersed in. This was even worse in times of international crisis, such as Hurricane Mitch. I remember it as if it were yesterday. In the public schools, we kids would get in line to receive a teaspoon of powdered milk wrapped in a sheet of notebook paper, and see some of our little classmates faint from hunger or simply be unable to pay attention or play outside. Our desk chairs were cement paving stones on which we had to make ourselves comfortable. And if you got sick, you were out of luck because there was no place to go.   Not to mention the shoot-outs and nightly battles we heard between the “Come Muertos” and the “Galleros”—the two youth gangs in my neighborhood made up of ill-fed, barefoot boys.

Nowadays, Nicaragua is no longer on maps depicting the tragedy of extreme hunger or hopeless violence like its neighbors Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. However, this fact is deliberately hidden by the corporate media.

Nicaragua is facing a fierce international smear campaign, with lie upon lie told in the world press, while a completely different situation is experienced within the country. In the context of COVID-19, families feel more economic pressure due to the indirect impacts on our open and capitalist economy, but they also acknowledge and feel normalcy, peace, and calm.

Many Latin American countries rushed to impose lockdowns with draconian, but inconsistent, measures: closing working class markets and small businesses, while international supermarket chains remain open in a display of unfair competition which causes tremendous losses for small producers, merchants, and distributors. In contrast, Nicaragua did not “cut and paste” such policies to handle the health situation. Rather, its approach has been wise, measured, tailored to our context and reality, and appropriate for the number of cases. The focus has been on protecting the peasant and popular economy and the lives of most of the Nicaragua people who live off of it. This is an example of [Peruvian philosopher] Mariátegui’s maxim: the revolution in Latin American should not be “a copy or imitation… it should be heroic creation.” To each unique problem, a unique solution.

These decisions are backed by tangible and intangible achievements over 14 years of significant progress in promoting human dignity. This is particularly true for health, with more hospital coverage, diversity and trained personnel. It is also true of education, security, production, and the building of roads in rural areas. And it is sustained by the confidence, tenacity, and sacrifice of thousands of Nicaraguan families that struggle on a daily basis to uphold the popular economy. It is sustained by the strength of the community health brigades in which the population merges with the government. And it is sustained by the hundreds of thousands of families of small and medium-sized farmers who are a bastion of production, producing around 85% of the food we Nicaraguans eat.

Today, thanks to our peasant families and the public policies of the Sandinista government, Nicaragua is no longer on the hunger map. Instead, we are well on the way to food sovereignty because our food production is local and it is distributed in small clusters—even more true if one considers the size of the country. For this reason, there is enough food in Nicaragua at this difficult time, and prices have remained stable or fallen slightly.

The country’s peasant culture, and its talent and infinite capacity to work every day, ensures that the words of President Daniel Ortega last month will remain true: “We will not die of hunger.” The first round of planting is about to start and farm families are lovingly preparing for it. They are getting their seeds ready, putting yokes on the ox teams, and just waiting for the first downpours, the aroma of damp earth, and a good moon to sow the sacred seeds of corn, rice, and beans that will ensure our resistance as a people once again.

 

References:

World Food Program: COVID-19 will double the number of people facing food crises unless swift action is taken from

https://www.wfp.org/news/covid-19-will-double-number-people-facing-food-crises-unless-swift-action-taken

Yorlis Gabriela Luna Delgado – Mathematician, popular educator, agroecologist, and researcher. PhD candidate in Ecology and Sustainable Development at the Colegio de la Frontera Sur, ECOSUR, Mexico.

 

BRIEFS 

By Nan McCurdy

IMF Recognizes Nicaragua on Covid-19
As part of a series of analyses of member countries, the International Monetary Fund has recognized that Nicaragua is fighting COVID-19 and that it has adopted measures to counteract it. It states, “Confirmed cases have been treated in accordance with international protocols” such as those of the WHO and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The IMF notes, “On January 30, the National Inter-Institutional Commission for the Early Detection, Care and Prevention of COVID-19 was created. A total of 19 hospitals have been officially designated throughout the country for the care of COVID-19 cases following detection.” The analysis states that “doctors and relevant health personnel of the Ministry of Health have been trained on prevention, detection, containment and treatment of COVID-19 and exchanged experiences on these issues with international experts.”

“On April 27, the government launched a campaign to clean and disinfect schools, public transport units, markets and other public spaces. In addition, the Health Ministry is promoting a campaign of preventive measures that include proper hand washing, physical distancing, appropriate use of masks and care for vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and those with chronic diseases,” the multilateral agency stressed. “The government has continued to prioritize programs to strengthen the social safety net, including the provision of food packages for vulnerable families. Sixty thousand food packages were distributed in April,” the IMF’s country analysis indicates. (Informe Pastran, 5/12/20)

Twenty-five Confirmed Covid-19 Cases
The Health Ministry in its weekly report said that, as of May 12, twenty-five people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Nicaragua. There have been 8 deaths, three of them in the last week. Seven people have fully recovered and 10 are in treatment. All Covid-19 Positives arrived from the exterior with Covid-19 or have been traced to another traveler. (19 Digital, 5/12/20)

Reduction in child malnutrition reported.
The Ministry of Health (MINSA) reported on the Nutritional Census carried out between March and April of this year to study the nutritional conditions of children between the ages of birth to 14 years living in rural and urban areas of the country. MINSA Health Services Director General Carlos Cruz explained, “The census surveyed 386,351 boys and girls throughout the country and found that acute malnutrition has been reduced to 5.3% and chronic malnutrition fell to 11.4%.” He added that, based on this data, “programs like Zero Hunger, Family Gardens, School Lunches and Food Production Bonds will be strengthened to eradicate malnutrition in the country.” He said that MINSA, with support from the Ministry of Education, will be establishing the Family Support Plan that will provide guidelines for adequate nutrition, vaccination and periodic weight and height monitoring of children. (Nicaragua News, 5/5/20)

Plan for Maternal Health Implemented
During the virtual seminar “Continuity of Healthcare Services for Pregnancy, Childbirth, Postpartum, and Family Planning in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic” organized by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Matilde Román, head of Epidemiological Surveillance of the MINSA presented the prevention measures being implemented for maternity care in hospitals, maternity homes and medical posts. A Comprehensive Plan for Maternal, Perinatal and Postnatal Health in the Context of Covid-19 is being implemented ensuring greater monitoring of cases with obstetric complications, increased monitoring of health of pregnant women and more access to family planning strategies. (Nicaragua News, 5/8/20)

Promoting regional cooperation to achieve food security
At the meeting last week of the Central American Integration System (SICA), strategies to guarantee food security during the crisis were evaluated. Ministers agreed to develop the “Central America without Hunger and Malnutrition” Strategy. Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, Director of the System for the Prevention, Mitigation and Disaster Assistance (SINAPRED) announced that Nicaragua has created a reserve to guarantee food for families for a period of at least 3 months. He added that, “in response to the challenges posed by Covid-19, Nicaragua has strengthened its Food and Nutrition Sovereignty and Security Model being implemented through production and food programs such as Zero Hunger, Food Production Packages, the Sustainable Development Strategy for Rural Families along the Dry Corridor and the Support Project to Increase Productivity, Food Security and Nutrition on the Caribbean Coast (PAIPSAN). (Nicaragua News, 5/7/20)

Educational Television to Aid Learning
The Ministry of Education is producing educational television programs in various subjects aimed at preschool, primary and secondary students. The Education Minister Miriam Raudez stated that “television programs will be broadcast Monday to Friday through public television channels with the aim of expanding the tools available to the Nicaragua educational community.” The Minister also noted that the tele-class system is a new tool along with the digital library programs, mobile classrooms and self-learning guides that make up the Nicaragua Educa platform that MINED is implementing to complement classroom education. (Nicaragua News, 5/8/20)

UNI Creates Application to Monitor Covid-19 Patients
Engineers and other specialists at the National Engineering University (UNI), including Fernando Duarte, Walter Izaguirre, Guillermo Salazar, and Ramsés Rivas, have designed an application to support efforts to reduce the impact of the Covid-19 in Nicaragua during a marathon event promoted by the National University of Distance Education of Costa Rica. Some innovations include reducing the time for virus detection tests and applications that make doctors’ care more effective. This application would identify and monitor patients with COVID-19 including those who remain at home or under medical supervision; the application would allow health authorities to monitor patients well, according to Engineer Guillermo Salazar. (Radiolaprimerisima, 5/9/20)

Nicaraguan Workers Cannot Return to Costa Rica
Thousands of foreigners have been unable to enter Costa Rica since its government decided to close the borders on March 19 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As of May 9th, 10,062 Nicaraguans have been prevented from entering Costa Rica, according to information provided by the General Directorate of Migration and Foreigners (DGME). The remaining rejected migrants are Panamanians, Colombians, Ecuadorians, Cubans, Hondurans, Indians, Salvadorans, Mexicans, Germans, and British. The border closure means that foreigners cannot enter and those who leave cannot return. Only Costa Ricans and residents are allowed to enter and most of them have returned on repatriation flights. Border closures will be extended until June 15. (Radiolaprimerisima, 5/10/20)

Growth in Premium Coffee Production
The Ministry of Agriculture (MAG) reported that premium coffee production was 1.2 million hundredweights from January to March this year, 9.4% above the same period in 2019. MAG Minister Edward Centeno explained that a total of 3.4 million hundredweights have been stockpiled, 10.5% higher than the previous production cycle and 5% more than projected in the 2019-2020 National Production Plan. (Nicaragua News, 5/11/20)

Sao Paulo Forum Condemns Sanctions
The Working Group of the Sao Paulo Forum, a coalition of progressive political parties, meeting on May 8, 2020, condemned what it said were the aggressive actions of the US, the European Union and the United Kingdom against the people of Nicaragua and called the sanctions against the country economic aggressions and violations of international law. The group noted that the European Union and the United Kingdom have recently joined the US in these violations. The document released by the Working Group stated, “We demand that the governments of the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom cease their aggressions against Nicaragua, now, when it is time to reflect on the lessons of the current pandemic; and we call on the people to take action to bring about the change that the world needs and whose necessity has become evident in the current circumstances facing humanity, not only in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also in the face of other much more deadly ones, which are those of neoliberalism and the imperialist plundering and interference exercised by the great powers over our peoples.” (19Digital, Radiolaprimerisima, Informe Pastran, 5/12/20)