NicaNotes: South-South Solidarity: Nicaragua mobilizes international law to support Palestine

By Becca Renk

[Originally from Idaho, Becca Renk has lived in Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua, for more than 20 years, working in sustainable community development with the Jubilee House Community and its project, the Center for Development in Central America. Becca coordinates the Casa Benjamin Linder solidarity project in Managua.]

“We see youth in North America rising up in protest, the condemnation of the genocide that is being committed against the Palestinian people,” Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said in a speech in Managua on April 30, 2024. “The protests are multiplying not only in North America, but in every country of our planet. The rulers…are unmasking themselves.”

Palestine Park in Managua. Nicaragua has been in the forefront of Global South solidarity with Palestine. Photo by Becca Renk

For the countries of the global south, colonialism is not a faded history, but a present and continued threat to their sovereignty and self-determination. It’s no wonder that much of the Global South identifies with the Palestinian people and has mobilized to stop the genocide in Gaza.

Nicaragua has been at the forefront of this mobilization: reaffirming solidarity with Palestine on October 7, 2023; sending its Foreign Minister to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian authorities in December; being the first country to sign on to South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice; and on March 1, 2024 bringing Germany to the ICJ for aiding and abetting genocide.

Why Nicaragua?

“When we were faced with the situation in Palestine, we couldn’t simply tolerate it without doing something,” explains Ambassador Carlos Argüello, Nicaraguan’s Agent to the International Court of Justice. “Obviously, we don’t have great possibilities of sending them food, which they need. One of the few things we could help with was with our experience in the International Court of Justice.”

Nicaragua, a country the size of New York state with a population of just under seven million people, is one of the countries in the world with the most experience in the ICJ. In fact, in 1986 the Court ruled in Nicaragua’s favor in a landmark case against the United States over the Contra War.

Immediately following the ousting of U.S.-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza by young Sandinista revolutionaries in 1979, the U.S. created, financed and directed a “counterrevolutionary” force known as the contras. While the Nicaraguan Sandinista Revolution taught its illiterate population to read and write and made health care and education free, it was simultaneously fighting U.S.-armed contra guerillas. For eight years, the contras attacked civilian targets that represented the gains of the Revolution – health care workers, teachers, schools and farming cooperatives – killing more than 30,000 in country of just three million people at the time.

Nicaragua vs. the United States

“The situation progressed so much that in 1983 there was an attack in our main port of Corinto and over 1.6 million gallons of gas exploded,” remembers Argüello during a video conference from the Netherlands on May 4, 2024. “This act was carried out by the CIA under the direction of the U.S.” A few months later, the U.S. placed underwater explosive devices in Nicaraguan ports without notifying other nations; a UK national was killed.

“It was astounding,” remembers Argüello. “Publicly in Congress they were discussing how much money to give the contras, and there was no question of international law…So that is why we went to the World Court, because it wasn’t simply a matter of the most powerful nation doing whatever it wants, [we needed] to remind the world that international law exists.”

In 1986 the ICJ handed down its verdict in the case of Nicaragua vs. the United States, ruling in favor of Nicaragua. The Court ordered reparations to be paid with the amount to be determined in future proceedings. Nicaragua presented its demands in 1988, but the US refused to take part in the discussions. The estimated value of the damages was $12 billion in 1988 which would be at least $31 billion today.

For Nicaragua, bringing the situation in Gaza into the arena of international law was an obvious route.

Nicaragua vs. Germany

“I should emphasize that we couldn’t [bring suit against] the US … because the U.S. doesn’t accept the jurisdiction of the court,” explains Argüello. “So that is why we focused on the number two country sending weapons to Israel, and that was Germany.”

On March 1, 2024, Nicaragua brought an Application against Germany before the ICJ for alleged violations of the Genocide Convention and international humanitarian law, claiming that by “providing political, financial and military support to Israel and by defunding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Germany was facilitating the commission of genocide by Israel and violating its obligation to ensure respect for international humanitarian law,” writes Professor of International Law Stefan Talmon.

Preventing Arms Exports to Israel

In its case against Germany, Nicaragua requested provisional measures: demanding that Germany suspend exports of military equipment to Israel; ensure military items already delivered are not used to commit genocide or violate international law; and resume its support of UNRWA.

On April 30, 2024 the ICJ declined to indicate any provisional measures. “The Court’s Order was widely interpreted as a victory for Germany,” writes Talmon. “In particular, it was said that Germany could continue to deliver arms to Israel. A closer examination of the Order, however, points to the opposite.”

On the issue of humanitarian funding, Germany had announced that it would resume direct funding of UNRWA’s Gaza operations. On the export of weapons, the Court ruled that there was no need for an order to stop because Germany had stated that it currently did not export war weapons to Israel. The Court, however, did warn Germany that it has an obligation ensure German arms aren’t being used to carry out genocide.

“The Court took the opportunity to remind Germany and all other nations…that they are on notice. That if they continue supplying weapons, we will go to court with evidence and say, ‘Germany is violating this again,’” says Argüello. “That is where we are now, and hopefully the result of this is that we can finally stop the countries of the world from aiding and abetting Israel, we will hopefully have the same result that South Africa had when other countries stopped supporting apartheid.”

Mobilization of Shame

After Nicaragua’s experience taking the US to the ICJ, Argüello, recognizes that a Court ruling in Nicaragua’s favor will not on its own be enough hold Germany accountable for its contributions to genocide. “What happens if a superpower doesn’t obey international law?” asks Argüello. The only option open, he argues, is the mobilization of shame. “That is precisely what is happening around the world at this moment. The students in universities are mobilizing shame,” he says. “Frankly, I will say that what we are doing in the Court is a support to these students. The change has to come from within the U.S., and I am very hopeful that things are moving in that direction.”

Consequences for Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s actions in support of Palestine have not been without consequences for the small country. Two days after the ICJ announced it would be ruling on the provisional measures, the U.S. Senate announced an imminent vote on a new sanctions package against Nicaragua. These are not the first sanctions applied against the country. During the 1980s the Reagan administration maintained a total economic blockade against Nicaragua. More recently, following an unsuccessful U.S.-led coup attempt in Nicaragua in 2018, new illegal unilateral coercive measures have been passed on two occasions.

“The U.S. is one of countries that have most dictated sanctions, Nicaragua has been blessed for many years, on many occasions, with these sanctions,” Argüello says.

South-South Solidarity

For the Global South, Palestine has become a symbol of all peoples who are fighting to break free from colonialism. Nicaragua is clear that South-South solidarity with Palestine is essential as it becomes increasingly clear that the world’s fate is tied up in Palestine’s fate.

“Now it is no longer a question of one country against another, but all of humanity is exposed to crimes such as those now being committed against the Palestinian people,” Nicaragua’s President Ortega declared in his speech. “Now the struggle is again being fought in the United States and it is being fought in Europe. Why? Because the people are more powerful than the owners of the atomic bombs, and it is the people who will continue to overcome. It will mean peace for a new sun to shine, where men and women from all over the planet will come together as brothers and sisters.”

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By Nan McCurdy

More Unilateral Coercive Measures on Nicaragua
Just one week [April 8 and 9] after Nicaragua argued at the International Court of Justice to defend the Palestinian people from genocide in Gaza, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill to impose more sanctions.  [Sign on to stop the sanctions here and send a letter to your Senators about the sanctions here]

Matagalpa Inaugurates the Williamsport Little League National Championship 
On May 15 in the city of Matagalpa, the Williamsport National Little League Championship was inaugurated, part of the process that will determine who will represent Nicaragua in the Latin American playoffs and possibly the Little League World Series in Virginia. [Nicaragua went to the Little League World Series in 2022.] The Matagalpa games were scheduled for May 16 to 19, with the participation of more than 240 children and coaching staff from 12 teams representing Matagalpa, Estelí, Chinandega, León, Boaco, Granada, Nandaime, Rivas, Managua, Teustepe and Nindirí. The championship games will be held on the baseball diamonds of Primero de Mayo Sur Field, Juan Rodríguez Albuquerque Children’s Stadium, Chale Solís Stadium, and the Comandante Carlos Fonseca Amador Sports Complex, all of which were reconditioned by the Matagalpa Mayor’s Office. The awards ceremony will be held on May 19, with trophies being awarded to the champion, runner-up, third place and the winners of the different leadership categories. See photos: (Nicaragua Sandino, 16 May 2024)

Municipality of Estelí Has 100 Percent Electrical Coverage
Families living in the 87 communities of the municipality of Estelí all now have electricity. “We have been able to solve the needs of the population,” said Melania Peralta, deputy mayor of the municipality of Estelí. Floricelda Moreno was enthusiastic, saying, “Since they installed the poles and then the power lines, we were very happy. In my house we have a television and a refrigerator, and we started a little store.” “Thank God, everything has worked out very well for us. My children will no longer have to do their homework at night with a kerosine lamp; that’s in the past,” she said. The rural area of Estelí is a place where the economy and employment opportunities have increased. These are people who live in a dignified manner and are a clear example for other countries, since they enjoy the restoration of their rights. (La Primerisima, 16 May 2024)

Chinese Vehicle Company Begins Operations in Nicaragua 
GAC Motor, a company that produces high quality Chinese vehicles in a range of models that are characterized by their design and the level of their technology, opened for business in Nicaragua last week. “The novelty of this brand is multiple, we can talk about technology, design, a superior warranty. These cars have a five-year warranty. They open and close when the driver approaches the vehicle,” explained Eugenio Morice, commercial director of El Chele-Samsa Automotriz group. The brand promises to revolutionize the automotive market in the country. (Informe Pastran, 16 May 2024)

Nicaraguan Government Sends Condolences to Iran
Following a helicopter crash on May 19 that killed the president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, and eight other officials, President Daniel Ortega and Vice-President Rosario Murillo send a condolence message to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian officials, family members of the deceased, and the Iranian people. The message said in part, “We accompany, from the heart, your pain in these tragic circumstances that have resulted in the physical departure of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, East Azerbaijan Governor Malik Rahmati, and the entire committee that accompanied this First Level Delegation that visited the Qiz-Qalas Dam. As always, with all our affection, prayers and solidarity, we are present in our sadness in fraternal union [with you], and sure that God Our Lord will alleviate this affliction. The spiritual strength of the Iranian authorities and brothers will enable them to move forward and continue to fight the necessary battles for justice and peace.” (La Primerisima, 20 May,2024)

250 New Buses for Managua 
250 Yutong buses of Chinese manufacture are in Managua and will be incorporated to the city’s urban transportation system, thus modernizing this service for the users. Already in Managua are 750 of the 2,500 buses that will be provided by the People’s Republic of China. The objective is to renew the entire fleet of buses.  Danilo Sánchez, president of the Regional Union of Urban Transportation Cooperatives (URECOOTRACO), said that little by little the service in the capital of Nicaragua is being modernized. “Next month 250 more units are coming. The bus units are of the year 2025 and very modern. There are more than 800,000 users of transportation in Managua that benefit from the subsidized price of 2.5 Córdobas (US7¢). (TN8TV, 20 May 2024)

Influenza Vaccination Day Launched
On May 20 the National Influenza Vaccination Day was launched. The objective of the campaign is to vaccinate children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with chronic diseases against influenza. The goal is to apply 851,120 doses nationwide from this May 20 to June 2. The vaccines will be available at medical posts and centers throughout the country free of charge. In addition, MINSA brigades will go from house to house to carry out the application of the vaccine. (La Primerisima, 20 May 2024)