Friends of the ATC Delegation to Nicaragua Feb. 13-23, 2020
By Susan Lagos
La Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo, ATC, (Rural Workers’ Association) was founded before the victory of the Sandinista Revolution in 1979. Small farmers and laborers organized to form cooperatives and unions to defend their rights to cultivate land with native seeds, use agroecology, empower women, and educate youth to stay in the countryside. In the 1990’s, the ATC participated in founding La Via Campesina, the International Peasants’ Movement that now has 182 member organizations in 81 countries.
For the “Sandino Vive” delegation, held in Nicaragua in February, twelve delegates representing Canada, New York, California, Massachusetts and Chicago joined with Nicaraguan youth recently graduated from the Latin American Institute of Agroecology (IALA) near Santo Tomas, Nicaragua, a two-year program for social movement organizations from five countries of the Caribbean and Central America.
The delegation carried the name of Sandino, who is Nicaragua’s national hero, having defended the north of Nicaragua by guerrilla warfare against control by the US Marines from 1927 until the Marines were defeated and left in 1933. Sandino formed the first cooperative in Wiwili in 1933, but it was destroyed by the National Guard when he was assassinated. The first instances of aerial bombings occurred in Ocotal, Nicaragua, in July, 1927, and the Marines bombed Sandino’s camps multiple times after that, but they never defeated him. He fought against US imperialism (US control of countries for the benefit of US companies), because it was greatly worsening the plight of peasants in the Nicaraguan countryside. A nationalist, he refused to sell out to US control as both the Conservative and Liberal Parties had done.
The delegation traveled for ten days, first seeing the beautiful Salvador Allende Port and Luis Alfonso Velazquez Park in Managua, both built for the recreation of families, and the Sandino museum in Niquinohomo.
The countryside visits began with the Marlon Alvarado Community near Santa Teresa, Carazo, a shining example of food sovereignty, helped by ATC and FSLN programs that brought land, a good road, electricity, potable water, decent homes, seeds, schools, health care, and training in agricultural methods to the residents. Emerita Vega, a local leader, remembers, “In the time of Somoza, I had to ride a horse with two buckets five kilometers to get water for my family, and often the road was so muddy it was impassable. We had no school, so I didn’t learn to read until I was an adult.”
Many of the families in the Marlon Alvarado Community have land thanks to the very important agrarian reform that was carried out in the 1980s after the triumph of the Revolution. The agrarian reform created a large base of peasants with land. They now grow beans, rice, corn, coffee, bananas, raise cows and pigs, chickens, honey, eggs, and more, all of which contribute to the country’s very high level of food sovereignty, about 90%.
Next the group divided up: Some visited the Gloria Quintanilla Women’s Coffee Cooperative near El Crucero, where women own the land, domestic violence has been eliminated, and everyone uses agroecological methods to grow their food and the coffee that they process for sale. Others went to La Montañita, west of Estelí, in the Dry Corridor where rainfall is low. The ATC and FSLN government of President Daniel Ortega brought the coop a good road, electricity, potable water, a school and a health center. Both communities welcomed us into their homes with open arms for three days, a new experience for some of us.
One topic that our delegation was interested in was how these communities were affected by the 2018 coup attempt. Sandinistas were targeted at the infamous roadblocks set up around different parts of the country, and there were millions of dollars of damage to both public and private infrastructure. Nevertheless, the international media claimed they were innocent students protesting with slingshots. While the opposition wanted to completely shut down the country’s
economy, they never could, because over 70% of the country’s workers
are employed in the “popular” or grassroots economy of cooperatives,
self-employed workers, individual small farmers, including those who
make up the ATC in communities like Marlon Alvarado, Santa Julia and
La Montañita, the opposition could never shut down the popular economy and, along with its food self-sufficiency, this makes Nicaragua especially resilient to imperialist aggression.
In the end, people self-organized to take down roadblocks and defend their properties and homes. We heard about how men and women from Santa Julia participated in taking down the roadblock in El Crucero, and how worker-owners of the San Nicolas Tobacco Cooperative in Estelí defended their land with machetes against take-over.
Delegation member Stansfield Smith said, “I was most impressed by the commitment of the pro-Sandinista Nicaraguans to defend the many economic and human rights gains made under the presidency of Daniel Ortega. They were not fooled by the 2018 protests, and saw it was a US coup attempt operation; they recognized Daniel Ortega’s ability to outmaneuver it, and are better prepared than before for the next one. I was also impressed by what an example Nicaragua is for other countries, compared to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. We must really work hard to defend Nicaragua, so the US won’t turn it into another Honduras.”
On February 19th, National Cooperatives Day, between Somoto and the Honduran border, we were received by the president of the Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of the North of the Segovias (UCANS), Rafael Lovo. UCANS coordinates many cooperatives that produce corn and beans in Madriz. President Lovo explained that organizing in cooperatives is a way for communities to improve their living conditions and grow more food for their people. Today Nicaragua has a thriving economy of 5,000 cooperatives inspired by Sandino, the majority of which are in the agricultural sector. One interesting part of the visit to the UCANS was seeing the dozens of silos filled with red beans that will be sent to Venezuela through the Manito’s Children’s Fund, www.ManitosChildrensFund.org. Donations to this Fund through the Alliance for Global Justices buy beans from cooperatives to feed underfed children in Venezuela.
The next day we traveled to Jinotega, to visit the ATC’s Primero de Mayo Cooperative in La Union, east of Lake Apanás. Cooperative president (and ATC-Jinotega General Secretary) Rosalpina Gutierrez explained the long struggle for land in Jinotega. With the Revolution’s Agrarian Reform, more than a hundred thousand families received land. In the 1980s ATC members had to defend themselves from US-directed Contra attacks. And in 90s, much of the land was effectively stolen under neoliberal president Violeta Chamorro to give to large landowners who left during the revolution and demanded their land back in the 90s. Additionally, Chamorro’s government gave land to ex-contras.
Our last visit was to San Rafael del Norte, home to Augusto Sandino’s wife, Blanca Arauz, who was the telegraph operator there during the war to expel the Marines. February 21 is the day when Nicaraguans commemorate Sandino’s death in 1934 at the hands of the US-trained/funded/directed National Guard headed by Anastasio Somoza. In a rousing speech, Jinotega Mayor Leonidas Centeno exclaimed, “We wish we could have delegations visit us daily and see for themselves all that our Sandinista government has done to improve the lives of its citizens!”
Mayor Centeno described the free education, including free school backpacks, given each year to hundreds of thousands of children, free healthcare including specialized tests like MRIs and dialysis treatments, and the excellent roads that allow for movement of people and goods between city and countryside. He charged us with taking this image of a peaceful and progressive Nicaragua home with us to tell the true story. Then we participated in their parade with our flags of Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela, the Wiphala of Bolivia, and the ATC, to place flowers at Sandino’s statue.
Sandino, we can see that you are alive and strong in Nicaragua. Viva Sandino!
More information: friendsatc.org
By Nan McCurdy
Nicaragua Has no Cases of COVID-19
The Central American Integration System (SICA), reported on the progress made in the region on contingency plans for the prevention and care of COVID-19. Nicaragua, El Salvador and Belize have no cases of COVID-19, while Guatemala has 1, Honduras 3, Costa Rica 26, Panama 36 and the Dominican Republic 11. According to SICA, joint actions have already been identified between the Council of Ministers of Health of Central America and the Dominican Republic (COMISCA) and the Coordination for the Prevention of Disasters in Central America and the Dominican Republic (CEPREDENAC), to activate emergency alerts and link humanitarian responses as soon as possible. (Radiolaprimerisima, 3/15/20)
All Borders and Airport Equipped to Detect COVID-19
The government installed thermal thermometers at migration points to measure the temperature of travelers entering in order to immediately identify possible cases of COVID-19. Since Jan. 30, the government has been implementing health measures to prevent COVID-19, especially at the 15 points of entry into the country. Enrique Bárcenas, Immigration and Foreign Affairs Officer, confirmed that on entering Nicaragua people’s temperature is measured by the International Health Office, and if there is no suspicion they move on to the immigration office and enter Nicaragua without any problem. To see a picture: http://www.radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias/general/280689/puestos-fronterizos-cuentan-con-equipos-para-detectar-covid-19/ (Radiolaprimerisima, 3/16/20)
US Increases Sanctions; No Democrats Oppose Resolution
On March 9, the US House of Representatives passed by unanimous voice vote H.Res.754 calling on the US government to increase unilateral coercive measures, sanctions, against Nicaragua and calling on the world to follow suit. The measure, which not a single Representative spoke against, came just days after the Trump administration issued new sanctions against government institutions including the National Police. US efforts at regime change continue despite the vast majority of Nicaraguans firm rejection of the US-funded violent coup attempted in April 2018. (Graystone Project, March 12)
PAHO Recognizes Nicaragua’s Work to Prevent and Prepare for the COVID Virus
On March 12, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), recognized that Nicaragua is working on the preparation for COVID-19 according to the scientific evidence available. “I congratulate the efforts of the Government in the face of this Pandemic, its preparation and the joint and permanent work with PAHO. I reiterate that PAHO will continue to accompany…Nicaragua, hoping that other donors will join the efforts currently being made in all areas of prevention and preparedness,” said Ana Treasure, PAHO representative. “There is no case now in Nicaragua,” the PAHO representative acknowledged. “PAHO will provide technical cooperation for public health issues and to respond to this disease that is new, that we know little about, but that we already have valuable information provided by the Chinese authorities,” she added. (Radiolaprimerisima, 3/12/20)
World Health Organization Working Closely with Nicaragua
Nicaragua has 19 hospitals prepared for treating people with the virus. It has a Level 3 Biosecurity Lab that can have results in 3 hours. Private and public health staff have been trained in all 153 municipalities. And Nicaragua has testing in all entrances to the country. Ana Solís Ortega, World Health Organization representative said that since this organization declared an international health emergency they have worked with the government in preparedness. “The laboratories have been strengthened with trained personnel to be able to do the tests for the Covid-19 and with inputs that are necessary to do those tests.” WHO/PAHO will continue to work in all aspects with the Ministry of Health and with the inter-institutional commission formed by the government to manage the emergency. (Radiolaprimerisima, 3/16/20, Nicaragua Sandino 3/16/20)
CABEI Will Loan up to 50 Million Dollars to Face the COVID-19
The Central American Integration System (SICA), informed March 16 that the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) will provide lines of credits of up to US$50 million per country to face the COVID-19. The Central American Council for Consumer Protection (CONCADECO) has been carrying out constant monitoring of the different commercialization sites to avoid shortages, hoarding and price speculation of basic consumer goods, medicines, medical devices, raw materials and other goods necessary for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19. (Radiolaprimerisima, 3/16/20)
Central American Presidents Agree on Regional Plan in Relation to COVID-19
The Central American presidents agreed March 12, through the Central American Integration System (SICA), to implement a regional contingency plan for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19 and other diseases. The Plan includes joint negotiation and coordination for the purchase of medicines, medical devices and basic materials to avoid shortages, hoarding, and price speculation. They will have common procedures to guarantee migratory conditions protecting human health and safety without distinction of nationality, as well as joint actions to request money from international financial institutions to fund the Regional Contingency Plan that includes measures to mitigate the negative impact of the coronavirus on economic activity. The Heads of State requested that the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), facilitate efforts so that countries can get emergency funds. (Radiolaprimerisima, 3/12/20, Nicaragua News, 3/13/20)
Nicaragua Recognized by UN for Its Commitment to Environmental Justice
During a Ceremony at the United Nations Treaty Section, Nicaragua delivered the instrument of ratification of the Escazú Agreement for Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Environmental Justice. The Head of the United Nations Treaty Section, David Nanopoulos, said, “The prompt ratification of this Agreement shows Nicaragua’s commitment to the environment, and environmental justice.” The purpose of the Escazú Agreement is to guarantee full and effective implementation in Latin America and the Caribbean of the right to access environmental information, public participation in environmental decision-making processes and access to justice in environmental matters. (Nicaragua News, 3/11/20)
18 Projects of Parks, Roads and More Finished in mid-March
18 projects were inaugurated mid-March in various municipalities with an investment of US$2.2 million, INIFOM Executive Director Guiomar Irías. She explained that a children’s and family park was built in Jinotega and a fire station in San Juan de Limay, Estelí. 28 kilometers of roads were also rehabilitated in Siuna, Puerto Morazán, Tola, Larreynaga, Jinotega and San Carlos. Electric service was installed in 103 homes in Tipitapa and Condega. Three drinking water systems in Dipilto, Santa Teresa and Puerto Cabezas were completed; also the improvement of streets in El Crucero, Chinandega and Matagalpa; and the construction of the municipal market in San Francisco del Norte was completed. And through the Bismarck Martinez program, titles to 700 lots of land were delivered in the municipality of Leon. (Radiolaprimerisima, 3/17/20)
First Hundred Homes Inaugurated in Managua
On March16 the Managua Mayor’s Office turned over the first 100 homes to families benefited by the Bismarck Martínez housing program. 500 homes are to be built in 2020 for low-income families. The housing project has 120 blocks of land, where it is estimated that at least 18,000 families will benefit from both housing and land. The beneficiaries will pay 40 dollars a month since these are revolving funds that will be used to build more homes. The houses are 54 square meters with two bedrooms, bathroom, living-dining room and laundry area. (Radiolaprimerisima, 3/16/20)
2020 Nutrition Census Begins
The Nicaragua Ministry of Health (MINSA), with support of the Ministry of Education and the Community Healthcare Workers Network, launched the 2020 Nutrition Census on March 10. 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 Lunch Program and the Food Production Bonus Program, that have contributed to reduction of chronic malnutrition by 46% in children under 5 and 66% in school-age children (6-14 years). The MINSA plans to measure and weigh 1,525,000 children between the ages of 0 and 14 during the Nutrition Census. (Nicaragua News, 3/11/20)
New Oncology Ward Inaugurated at Women’s Hospital
The Nicaragua Ministry of Health (MINSA) inaugurated the new “Dr. Clemente Guido” Oncology ward at the Bertha Calderón Hospital in Managua. The US$588,581 unit has hospitalization rooms, outpatient clinic, mammography equipment, linear accelerators for radiotherapy, a psychological care unit and nutrition unit. Funding for the oncology ward came from the General Budget of the Republic with support from Taiwan. (Nicaragua News, 3/12/20)
Work Begins on Electricity Substations in the North Caribbean
The National Electricity Transmission Company (ENATREL) announced the start of work on two electricity substations in Siuna and Bilwi municipalities, North Caribbean Autonomous Region that will benefit 92,723 inhabitants. The more than US$33.9 million investment comes from the General Budget of the Republic and is part of the National Program for Sustainable Electrification and Renewable Energy (PNESER). (Nicaragua News, 3/13/20)
Online Marketing Support for Small Businesses
The Ministry of Family Economy (MEFCCA) inaugurated technological kiosks for online marketing in San Marcos, Carazo department. The project aims to support 2,100 entrepreneurs and small producers to market their products and derivatives on digital platforms nationwide. The Digital Market Project is part of the Creative Economy Program that MEFCCA is implementing throughout the country. (Nicaragua News, 3/11/20)
Nicaragua is Building an Unprecedented number of Health Facilities in 2020
The Ministry of Health is building 16 public hospitals and 41 other health infrastructures in 2020. Sonia Castro explained that the construction of these hospitals is well underway: departmental hospital in Chinandega, the Luis Alfonso Moncada departmental hospital in Nueva Segovia, the Oscar Danilo Rosales regional hospital in León, the Nuevo Amanecer regional hospital on the northern Caribbean coast, the San José de Matiguás primary hospital, the Los Chiles primary hospital in San Carlos, Río San Juan. Some hospitals being rebuilt include: the Asuncion hospital in Juigalpa, Chontales which is nearly finished; the Jose Shendell primary hospital in Corinto; operating rooms of the Bertha Calderon hospital in Managua and the Juigalpa hospital, among others. Castro said in 2020 the following hospitals will be replaced with money from the Interamerican Development Bank and Nicaragua: Primary hospitals in Waslala, Matagalpa; Quilalí, Nueva Segovia; Wiwili, Jinotega; Mina El Limón; Jalapa, Nueva Segovia; Nueva Guinea; Siuna in Las Minas and the rehabilitation of Aldo Chavarría in Managua. (Informe Pastran, 3/11/20)
Treatment Plant Will Be Built in Rivas
ENACAL, the Nicaraguan Company of Aqueducts and Sewers inaugurated the site where the wastewater treatment plant will be built in Rivas. The project will be completed in 15 months, and will generate about 300 direct and indirect jobs. Sewage treatment will guarantee better health for Rivas and improve the environment. More than US$12 million will be invested to provide better sanitary and environmental hygiene conditions to the families of Rivas. (Informe Pastran, 3/11/20)
Nicaraguan Tourism Recovering
A report by Paul Richardson in the British weekly Financial Times highlights how Nicaragua is slowly recovering from the violence and economic damage of 2018, exemplifying the millions invested in the tourist destination Rancho Santana and how the so-called Emerald Coast in the Pacific is a beacon of hope for the return of tourists. Richardson spent a week in Rancho Santana and was able to tour the city of Granada and the Masaya volcano, commenting that this allowed him to “discover where the real Nicaragua begins.” (Informe Pastran, 3/13/20)
Nicaragua: A Country Like no Other
The Italian journalist Marina Ciccolni published an article in the tourism website “taccuinodiviaggio” titled “Nicaragua, Forests and Volcanoes”, stating that Nicaragua is “the land of lakes and volcanoes, where the word nature and primordial still hold meaning.” The article describes Ometepe island as the only island with two volcanoes and a waterfall with hot springs where you can swim. Of Masaya Volcano, she noted that “from the rim of the crater, you see the incandescent magma that bubbles, changing color as the shadows of the night lengthen.” The journalist added that “As soon as you arrive in Nicaragua, you understand that what awaits you is a country like no other, a place where you will live unforgettable experiences”. (Nicaragua News, 3/13/20)
Cruise Visitors Enjoy Nicaragua
On March 15 the cruise ship Ms Amadea, arrived in San Juan del Sur with 469 passengers of various nationalities and 309 crew members. Due to health surveillance regulations, the Ministry of Health carried out an inspection. They are visiting Masaya, Masaya Volcano, Catarina Natural Park, and Granada, among others. (Radiolaprimerisima, 3/15/20)
Opposition Member Admits They Lobby for Sanctions
Opposition activist Violeta Granera admitted that they have lobbied for US sanctions against Nicaragua, and that they ask for external pressure to help them with their internal political objectives. On Radio Corporación she said that they “have always lobbied for international sanctions to be stronger every day against Nicaragua.” (Informe Pastran, 3/13/20)