By Chuck Kaufman
The latest poll by independent M&R Consultants covering the last quarter of 2019, shows that less than two years after the failed coup attempt of April-July, 2018, the Sandinista government, led by President Daniel Ortega is more popular than ever and all but a tiny minority of Nicaraguans reject the violent tactics and street blockades used by the US-supported opposition.
In the face of these poll numbers it is hard to maintain any credibility for the opposition and corporate media narrative that says Ortega is a dictator, the police are repressing the people, and that Nicaragua is collapsing into a failed state. The Empire’s solution is to ignore the numbers and continue to press the discredited narrative as if it were true.
The poll found that 52% say they strongly support the Sandinista Front (FSLN) and 60% say they are likely to vote for the party in the 2021 national election. 65% of those polled support the current government. 55% think that President Ortega is leading the country in the right direction and 59.7% hold a favorable opinion of his administration. Likewise, 59% think that the Sandinista government is a factor of unity for Nicaraguans and 58.3% say that it is a government that generates hope. A strong majority believe that the country has made progress compared to six years ago. 61.1% think that the current government is the best the country has ever had, while 69.3% responded that the Ortega government works for the general population. To each question roughly one-third of respondents disagreed.
Perhaps even more significant is that 53.8% of respondents say there is more security at present and 77.8% see the National Police as a very professional institution. One of the clearest signs that the coup attempt in 2018 was based on lies was its demonization of the police and attempt to portray them as if they were the same corrupt and violent institution as exists in neighboring Honduras. Those who have followed Nicaragua for decades know that, even during the neoliberal years of 1990-2006, every poll showed the police and the army as being the two institutions most respected by the population. That is simply not true in countries where the coercive powers of the state are venal and repressive.
I remember five or six years ago a naturalized Nicaraguan, former gringa, went with me to Honduras and she wrote to me after the delegation that she was so frustrated because her neighbors would simply not believe that in Honduras people feared the police. In Nicaragua, the National Police was born out of the Revolution to overthrow the Somoza dictatorship. The police have always walked with the people. Police departments from around the globe travel to Nicaragua to study its system of community policing, its job training programs for at-risk youth, its sports programs for the same, and its women’s police stations where abused women can find a safe space to seek protection and justice.
The third significant finding of the M&R poll was the nearly universal rejection of the violent tactics of the US-funded opposition. 92.2% of respondents said they disagreed with the statement: “It doesn’t matter that the roadblocks prevent people from going to work, it doesn’t matter that the roadblocks prevent the movement of merchandise, it doesn’t matter that the economy is damaged because that is the price the population must pay to overthrow the Sandinista government.”
Even a higher 93.6% rejected the statement, “We must return to the streets, it does not matter that people are unemployed, what is important is to overthrow the government.” 87.4% also disagreed with the statement, “The roadblocks are an extraordinary idea.” Finally, 82.5% of those polled agreed that “it is the people through their vote who should decide who should govern and when.” Only 16.5% is in favor of the government being replaced, while over two-thirds (68.5%) reject pressure on the country by the international community to have early elections. 69.6% rejects attempts to remove the president of the Republic, 21.6% approve, and 8.8% are uncertain or did not respond…
If I were an opposition leader, I would be pretty damned depressed by the M&R poll and if I were one of their handlers in the US State Department or National Endowment for Democracy, I would be wondering if my democracy manipulation budget wouldn’t better be spent in some other country.
The Sandinista Front continues to be the biggest political party in the country, with 52% support, the opposition in this survey polled only 23.9%, with 3.5% of that hard vote and 20.4% of soft vote. The remainder declared themselves independent. Of these independents, 28.4% tend to identify themselves with the FSLN and 24.1% with the opposition. 93.6% of those surveyed, who were all of voting age 16 and above, said they had a voter identification card.
Of the poll respondents, 55.8% believe that Nicaragua’s problems are economic and 29.4% believe they are political. A bit over one-third (36.2%) think about emigrating, which is high, but lower than historical levels and far below those of their neighbors in the Northern Triangle countries. Although only 17.5% stated that their family economic situation improved since last year, 27.1% said it remained the same, and 55.4% said it deteriorated, this was a 5-6% improvement over the previous quarter. 70.1% of those consulted were optimistic that in the next 12 months their family income will be better with greater purchasing power and employment.
These are not the conditions that create fertile ground for insurrection. Most people are poor, but remain optimistic about the future. They feel physically secure and opposed to violence. And they are relatively satisfied with their government and distrustful of outside intervention. This is the difference that a revolution makes. Nicaraguans shed much blood and endured much hardship to achieve their current state of peace, security, and hope for the future. The generations of revolutionary struggle have done a good job of passing their experience and the stories of their martyrs on to the generations that have grown up in the last 40 years. And the attempted coup built a bond between the historic combatants and the young Sandinistas who worked together to overcome the violence. Nicaragua is a small and impoverished country, but it is a country filled with the wisdom gained by blood and sweat and it is not a soft target for the bourgeois elites and the US hegemons. Nicaragua remains the “threat of a good example.”
By Nan McCurdy
Record Investment in Water and Sewage in 2020
2020 will again be a record year in investment in water and sanitation projects, both urban and rural, of nearly US$115 million. ENACAL President Ervin Barreda told INFORME PASTRAN, “Never before in the history of Nicaragua has any government been able to execute up to 41 projects simultaneously with an investment of this magnitude.” With this budget ENACAL will finish 11 drinking water systems in Bilwi, Bluefields, Acoyapa, Santo Tomás, El Rama, La Esperanza, Rivas, Catarina, Niquinohomo, San Juan de Oriente and Cusmapa, benefiting 38,000 families. “Additionally, we are going to finish eight sewage systems in Bilwi, Acoyapa, Santo Tomás, Masaya, Juigalpa, Barrio La Primavera, Condega and Totogalpa, benefiting 39,000 families. “We will start 11 new drinking water projects in Jinotepe, León, Nueva Guinea, Nandaime, Altagracia, Moyogalpa, Tola, San Juan del Sur, Quilalí, Wiwilí and Las Sabanas, reaching 94,600 families,” said Barreda. This year ENACAL will start 15 sewage projects in Chichigalpa, El Viejo, El Rama, La Esperanza, Nueva Guinea, Rivas, Nandaime, Bluefields, Catarina, Niquinohomo, San Juan de Oriente, Tola, Altagracia, Moyogalpa and San Juan del Sur, benefiting 41,000 families. (Nicaragua News, 1/8/20)
Improvements in Health in 2019
On Jan. 8 the Ministry of Health presented the 2019 National Health Indicators for Women and Children. The report states that maternal mortality decreased 13% in comparison to 2018; infant mortality fell 6.5% and neonatal mortality 4.7%. Vertical transmission of HIV from mother to child decreased 83%; uterine cervical cancer mortality was reduced 9.7%; and breast cancer 27.4%. Health Minister Carolina Dávila said, “In 2019 we made significant progress in improving health indicators. This was due to the Family and Community Health Model that Nicaragua is implementing throughout the country”. (Nicaragua News, 1/9/20)
Ensuring Food Security
The Ministry of Agriculture (MAG) presented the 2020 Work Plan designed to guarantee national food security and access to healthy and safe food. The Plan contemplates the development and strengthening of the Strategic Production Model through creative entrepreneurship in a social, family and associative economy; continued promotion of sustainable agricultural production and strengthening of national and international trade in agricultural products. Minister Edward Centeno said, “This year the institution will be implementing a series of actions aimed at developing agro-ecological production in order to guarantee better living conditions for the population.” The Work Plan is part of the Food and Nutritional Sovereignty and Security Model that the Nicaragua Government is implementing throughout the country. (Nicaragua News, 1/10/20)
Nicaragua Prioritizes Protected Areas
The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) announced that US$2 million will be invested in 2020 in protected areas of the country. MARENA Minister, Sumaya Castillo explained that with support of the Nicaragua Tourism Board (INTUR), the Production, Consumption and Commerce System, and Guardabarranco environmental movement, municipal staff members will be trained on care of wildlife reserves and ecological parks. Castillo noted that “for the Nicaragua Government our protected areas are a priority in the fight against climate change, this is why we will be emphasizing the practice of sustainable tourism and commerce in our natural reserves.” (Nicaragua News, 1/9/20)
Growth in Free Trade Zone Exports
The Export Procedures Center (CETREX) reported that, in 2019, Free Zone companies generated US $1.7 billion in sales, representing a 5% growth in comparison to 2018. Alfredo Coronel, vice president of the National Free Zones Commission explained that textile companies were the main exporters, representing 11.96% growth over 2018. (Nicaragua News, 1/10/20)
More Support to Small Businesses
The Ministry of Family Economy (MEFCCA) announced that the “One Nation, One Product” project will be providing technical support to 50,000 small creative businesses nationwide for the development and implementation of business plans, as well as funding to participate in national and international business fairs and access to digital marketing platforms. This initiative is part of the Creative Economy Model that the Nicaragua Government is implementing throughout the country. (Nicaragua News, 1/10/20)
Nicaragua Supports Affordable Housing
The first week of January the Nicaragua Institute of Urban and Rural Housing (INVUR) presented its Institutional Work Plan for 2020 whose main objective is to implement the Social Housing Fund that provides incentives and technical support to 2,500 families for affordable housing. INVUR Director Olivia Cano said, “The government is committed to build decent affordable housing for families in high risk living conditions. Over the past thirteen years 130,000 homes have been built restoring the rights of Nicaraguans to decent housing.” (Nicaragua News, 1/13/20)
More Support for 500 Small Coffee Growers
The Ministry of Family Economy (MEFCCA) is supporting 500 small coffee growers in Nueva Segovia, Madriz, Matagalpa and Boaco departments by allocating US$88,521 for the purchase of pulping machines and electronic scales. The financing is part of the Strategy for the Development and Transformation of Coffee Growing that the Government is implementing in support of sustainable development of the sector. (Nicaragua News, 1/9/20)
Potable Water for Rivas
In January, the Nicaragua Water and Sewage Company (ENACAL) began work on the potable water and sanitation system in Rivas department, benefiting 10,100 inhabitants. The US$4,565,577 project is being financed by Nicaragua’s Emergency Social Investment Fund (NUEVO-FISE) and the European Investment Bank. (Nicaragua News, 1/10/20)
Food Security on the Atlantic Coast
The Ministry of Family Economy (MEFFCA) presented the results of the Support for Increase of Productivity, Food and Nutrition Security Project on the Nicaragua Caribbean Coast (PAIPSAN-CCN) which found that in four years production of bananas and plantain grew by 151.15%, basic grains by 26.12% and vegetables by 147.5%. The Nicaraguan government, with support from the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), spent US$33.9 million benefitting 74,130 inhabitants in both autonomous regions of the Atlantic Coast. (Nicaragua News, 1/13/20)