NicaNotes: The Revolution has transformed the lives of Nicaragua’s Caribbean peoples

Translated by tortilla on 11/01/2020

Adolfo Pastrán Arancibia, Informe Pastrán, in Radio La Primerísima, January 10th 2020…

On January 10th this year, the government of President Daniel Ortega completed thirteen years in office. Many things have changed in the country in political, social and economic terms, with great strides in competitiveness, human development and poverty reduction via a welfare state. One of the historical achievements in this period is that the Sandinista Front under the Ortega administration has managed to unite the Pacific with the Caribbean after years of isolation, with a vision of nationhood and the future, incorporating into national development abandoned indigenous communities faced with the structural poverty of centuries, a historical social debt.

This Sandinista government has invested more resources for development and infrastructure investment in the Caribbean than any other. Between 1991 and 1996, only $38.9 million was allocated under the Violeta Chamorro government; $60.9 million under the Arnoldo Alemán government; $102.2 million under the Enrique Bolaños government.

From 2007 to 2011, the Ortega administration invested US$ 209.1 million, from 2012 to 2016, US$ 424.8 million, and between 2017 and 2019, US$ 487.8 million, achieving a jump of 1,385.6% in road infrastructure; 2,180% in drinking water and sanitation; 638.4% in electrical energy coverage; 1,050% in health and hospital infrastructure; 841.3% in education and new schools; 719.7% other sectors, improving the quality of life of Caribbean inhabitants and creating new opportunities for development, which has been recognized by multilateral financial organizations.

The national water authority ENACAL has executed investments in the two regions, Bilwi and Bluefields, with works already completed. In Bluefields alone, US$ 30 million has been invested in bringing drinking water to thousands of families who have piped access to this vital liquid for the first time, and another US$39 million in sanitary sewerage works between 2020 and 2022.

In Bilwi, the drinking water project was completed with an investment of US$ 36.2 million in a mega-project and another 12 million dollars in sanitary sewerage, works recently verified by a mission of ambassadors from the European Union who are cooperating with the projects.

In education, it is the government that has built more public schools and institutes in the Caribbean, modernized and equipped classrooms with technology, and brought education closer to urban, semi-urban and rural areas.

Electrical energy, spectacular progress
One of the priorities of the Government through the Ministry of Energy and Mines and ENATREL has been to strengthen the country’s electricity sector and extend coverage to the entire Caribbean, where the benefits are self-evident. Nicaragua changed its electricity generation matrix by moving from 70% to 40% of the use of fossil resources and from 30% to 60% with renewable resources, an achievement recognized both by investors and international organizations.

As part of that effort, the first and only solar plant in Latin America was installed on Corn Island and then another in San Juan del Norte, where 7.3 million dollars were invested.

With the PNESER Caribe 2007-2023 program, US$ 579 million will be invested. This includes rural electrification, ensuring energy supply to rural settlements, renewable energy generation plants, identification of energy demand, energy efficiency, transmission reinforcements and modernization of the electricity system. Between 2007 and 2018, US$ 124.28 million of work was executed, with US$ 454.74 million planned for 2019 to 2023. In the Northern Caribbean region, 50,000 inhabitants benefited and 36,000 in the Southern Caribbean region.

Progress is also being made installing 10 small solar plants on the North and South Caribbean coast, in Mulukukú, Siuna and Waspam, and another in Rama Cay, with a cost of US$ 4.3 million. Photovoltaic Systems for the Production Sector were installed in 108 centers in Bocana de Paiwas, Mulukukú, Prinzapolka and others. An emblematic work is the construction of the 138 KW transmission line between Siuna-Rosita-Bilwi and a special tower in the section of the Wawa River, guaranteeing the integration of Bilwi and Waspam to the National Electricity Generation Grid.

For the South Caribbean, bids for the 138 KW Gateada-La Esperanza Transmission Line of 77 km have already been tendered and are being evaluated which will improve voltage at the Sub-Station in La Esperanza and Bluefields, as well as provide better service to communities in Kukra Hill, El Rama and Bluefields.

In 2006, in the Northern Caribbean Region only 17.6% of its population had electricity, today it is 61.6% and in the Southern Caribbean, only 39.3% had electricity, today it is 62.9%. Corn Island, for example, now has 100% electricity.


Highways and land connections

Investments on the Caribbean coast have improved the transit and stability of land transport, improving the safe transportation of its population and opening a range of opportunities, especially for the economic growth of these regions.

Last year, the Nueva Guinea-Bluefields highway was inaugurated, reducing the trip from Managua to just 6 hours, a journey that 50 years ago took 6 days, and the road to Kukra Hill and Laguna de Perlas is now practically complete.

Starting this year, the MTI is contemplating the construction of four bridges over the Rio Blanco – Mulukuku – Siuna section, strengthening the North Caribbean Coast land corridor to promote the region’s high productive and tourism potential.

With these main roads and other land connections between municipalities, sovereignty and national security have been strengthened. The interconnecting highways of the Caribbean Coast with the Pacific area of our country represent a fundamental strategic advance. Now, real progress can finally be made in the studies and designs for the construction of the Port of Bluefields to facilitate foreign trade.

The government is also making progress on the Southern Caribbean Coast land corridor, which has a length of 519 km and crosses the country from East to West. It connects the Caribbean Coast from Bluefields to the port of Corinto on the Pacific Ocean.

Meanwhile, the North Caribbean Coast land corridor is now 557 km long and currently under construction up to Siuna. It is an important transportation route linking the Northern Caribbean with the departments of the center and west of the country as far as the Port of Corinto. Ten new municipalities, previously isolated for decades, will now be connected to the main road network.

Thousands of lives saved thanks to investments in health

After more than 10 years waiting under neoliberal governments seeking to be able exercise the right to health in accord with the coastal autonomy legislation, in 2008 the Sandinista government approved Models of Intercultural Health Care for the North and South Caribbean Coast, making cultural adaptations to the national Family and Community Health Model.

In the period from 2007 to 2019, over US$ 17 million was invested in 181 health infrastructure projects with 62 new projects, including 3 primary hospitals in Prinzapolka, Mulukukú and Corn Island, which are fully equipped and staffed by specialized personnel with the capacity to perform surgeries.

In addition, the construction of the Intensive Care Unit at the Bluefields hospital, 16 maternity homes, 11 health posts, 3 warehouses for medical supplies, 8 housing units for medical personnel, as well as 2 SILAIS headquarters. In addition, 119 health units were repaired and expanded, including health centers and posts, hospitals, drug warehouses, maternity homes, and staff housing. Thus free health care provided to the coastal population has increased.

If we compare 2007 with 2019, we find that patient consultations in hospitals have increased 41% from 114,980 to 162,351. Health care center consults have increased 80% from 1,213,954 to 2,179,722. Patient discharges from hospitals doubled from 21,718 to 44,214, a 104% increase. The number of surgeries performed at the 9 hospitals was almost five times higher, from 8,055 to 38,729, representing a 380% increase.

The number of pregnant women treated in the first three months of pregnancy increased 77% from 6,575 to 11,613. The number of women who received four or more prenatal care sessions doubled from 5,840 to 12,158, an increase of 108%. In 2007 there were 9 maternity homes and 1,617 pregnant women were received; in 2019 the number of maternity homes increased to 25 (double) and 10,182 pregnant women were received, an increase of 530%.

The number of births in 2007 was 12,179, of which 6,692 (55%) were born in health units; in 2019 there were 17,579 births, of which 14,784 (84% of the total) were born in health units.

Post-partum care also increased, from 8,289 to 19,566 for a 136% increase. All of these actions contributed to a decrease in maternal deaths, which fell from 30 in 2007 to 16 in 2019, a 47% reduction. This has been made possible by the increase in prenatal care, the reception of pregnant women in maternity homes and the increase in institutional coverage of childbirth care, which shows the willingness of the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity to provide their Caribbean peoples with the care they deserve.

In terms of cervical cancer prevention, the number of women who had PAP smears taken increased fivefold, from 12,566 in 2017 to 65,108 in 2019, an increase of 418%. Children under one year of age received 55,256 growth-enhancing and developmental care sessions in 2007 and 71,908 in 2019, representing a 30% increase, and children between the ages of one and four received 96,591 sessions in 2007 and 112,614 in 2019, representing a 17% increase.

As of 2013, hemodialysis services are provided in the regional hospitals of Puerto Cabezas and Bluefields on the Caribbean coast. In addition, cancer treatment has been provided at the Bluefields hospital since 2017, avoiding the need for the coastal population to travel to Managua to receive these services.

The Caribbean Coast also now has psychosocial care centers to promote mental health in the population, prevent addictions and violence and care for people with mental illness. In the Northern Caribbean, there is an orthotics and prosthetics workshop to meet the needs of people with physical-motor disabilities. In Bilwi/Puerto Cabezas, a modern regional hospital is being built, with highly complex equipment.

Development of the community economy

Since 2013, the Ministry of Family, Community, Cooperative and Associative Economy (MEFCCA) used 18-month to 2 year investment plans in four projects, NICARIBE, PROCACAO, PAIPSAN and NICADAPTA, facilitating the capitalization and participation of 31,481 actors in the four territorial delegations MEFCCA operates in the Caribbean regions. The number of participants per region: Las Minas: 11373, RACCN: 11252, RACCS: 8536, Alto Wangki: 320.

Between 2013 and April 2019, 31,481 people have participated in MEFCCA’s Caribbean Coast projects, with funding of US$ 60 million. These productive investments in agriculture, fishing, agro-industry and small businesses, cocoa, coffee among others, have been implemented through 102 investment plans in 733 communities in the two multiethnic regions of the Caribbean.

The region of Las Minas is where the greatest investment of projects has been concentrated, the greatest number of protagonists in 347 communities, followed by the RACCN with 211, RACCS with 162 and Alto Wangki with 13 communities.

In the poverty reduction strategy, the small business entrepreneurship program in the countryside has been implemented, which consists of granting loans to families to start a new source of income. As of 2019, 2,164 protagonists in the north and south regions, Las Minas, Alto Wangki and Bocay have benefited from about US$ 2.5 million.

As part of the poverty reduction policy, from 2007 to 2019 the government delivered rural production kits to 28,428 indigenous and afro-descendant families on the Caribbean coast consisting of pigs, chickens and cows to boost the family economy.

The development of MEFCCA programs with the participation of community and territorial authorities, both indigenous and afro-descendant has strengthened the organization of Caribbean communities. The MEFCCA programs have had a social impact on their protagonists, integrating in a direct participatory manner the different ethnic and afro-descendant populations, consolidating the social cohesion of the community.

Promoting the cultivation of vegetables in particular has had a positive impact considering that it was not integrated into the productive activities of many communities. This has contributed to food diet diversity and generate income when they sell their productive surplus.

In the Waslala – Siuna corridor, the prejudice against producing these diverse crops in the area was eliminated. The PAIPSAN project has had a direct impact increasing the production of basic grains, tubers, pigs, vegetables and eggs via the capitalization of the family economy with a production value of US$30.9 million over the life of the program.

The promotion of strategic and sustainable crops in the Caribbean, such as cocoa, coffee and coconut, has had a direct impact on the consolidation of the family economy with technological transfers and an agroforestry system that guarantees increased productivity among small producers in harmony with the environment.

All these socio-productive investments have had an important impact on the working environment of the family economy providing more than 94,443 jobs via MEFCCA projects and 2164 jobs via other business start-ups, for a total of 96,607 jobs, in addition to the 28,428 family protagonists who, through the Rural Productive Kits program, changed the dynamic of the family economy in both Caribbean regions, improving the well-being of 733 participating communities.



By Nan McCurdy

Renewable Electricity at 80% in January 2020
The generation of energy from renewable sources is greater than 80% so far in 2020 said Salvador Mansell, executive president of ENATREL on Jan. 16. He explained that the increase was mainly due to stronger winds making the wind production more efficient. Mansell recalled that at the end of 2006, renewable energy generation was only 25%. A commission of the OPEC Fund for International Development and officials of ENATREL visited the municipality of El Tortuguero, in the South Caribbean Autonomous Region, where an electricity substation will be built, valued at US$20 million. This electricity substation composed of 100 kilometers of line will benefit the population of El Tortuguero, La Cruz del Río Grande, Laguna de Perlas and El Ayote on the Caribbean Coast. (Radiolaprimerisima, 1/16/20)

123,000 Employees in Free Trade Zones
Exports of nearly $3 billion were seen in 2019 and prospects for 2020 are even better, Alfredo Coronel, vice president of the National Commission of Free Zones, told INFORME PASTRAN. “The industrial sectors in free trade zones that generate the most jobs are textiles and garments with 72,080 jobs or 68.6%; tobacco with 15,231 or 12.4%; car parts with 13,561 jobs or 11.1%. For every direct job in free trade zones, three indirect jobs are generated,” said Coronel.  In 2006 the country had 80,000 workers in free trade zones and exports close to US$800 million and with a salary of 1,600 córdobas; today the minimum wage is 6,800 córdobas, with 50 industrial parks and 221 user companies. Compared to the rest of the region in this same period, Guatemala had a decrease in its CAFTA zone exports of 4.42%; El Salvador had a drop of 2.24% and the Dominican Republic had a reduction of 3.47%. Meanwhile, between January and November 2019, Nicaragua increased those exports by 11.96% with US$1,67 billion to the United States according to official data from the textile office of the U.S. Department of Commerce (OTEXA), followed by Honduras with 9.64%. “This shows that the big brands are staying, they haven’t lost interest in Nicaragua. If we continue with peace, stability, and growth of the sector, we could incorporate some 15 thousand new jobs in free zones and go beyond three billion dollars in exports,” he said. (Informe Pastran, 1/15/20)

Ministry of Health Continues to Restore the Right to Free and Quality Healthcare
The Nicaragua Ministry of Health (MINSA) presented its 2020 Work Plan which seeks to strengthen and expand the scope of the Family and Community Healthcare Model through the creation and training of community networks to promote preventive healthcare; construction and maintenance of hospital infrastructure; expansion of the National Vaccine Program and strengthening of the System of Prevention and Attention to Viral Diseases. MINSA Minister Carolina Dávila said, “In the last 13 years maternal and infant mortality was reduced and we attained 95% vaccine coverage.” Likewise, 18 primary hospitals were built and 15 more are under construction. The Minister highlighted the Government’s commitment to continue to restore the right of Nicaraguans to free and quality healthcare.  (Nicaragua News, 1/17/20)

Nicaragua and Canada Have the Safest Airports in America
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) announced yesterday that Nicaragua and Canada are the leaders in Airport Operational Safety in the American Continent, with 94.55% compliance with global standards for occupational and airport security. The Civil Aviation Director General, Carlos Salazar said “Nicaragua has reached this level of leadership because of the commitment of the Government to comply with security protocols established by international organizations.” (Nicaragua News, 1/17/20)

National Assembly President Confirms Electoral Reform
The head of the legislature, Gustavo Porras said that the upcoming reform to the electoral law is to strengthen and defend Nicaraguan democracy. “We have to have all the electoral aspects well established. The electoral system is based on political parties and is constitutionally well established, so we have to work with the participation of all those who are going to participate,” he said. Porras added that there will be a wide consultation on the reforms to the electoral law. “The objective is an electoral reform that allows the strengthening of the popular vote,” he said, adding that they also want to strengthen the system of political parties. Deputy Porras pointed out that “whoever wants to form a political party has to meet the requirements of truth, not lies, complying with the rules of territorial representation that exist.” He specified that one of the reforms will include the electoral organization and the technical electoral system directed by the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE). “This is the responsibility of the National Assembly and we are going to do it with all the interested parties.” About business sectors that want to be part of it, Porras said, “They should either join political parties or be businessmen.” (Informe Pastran, 1/15/20)

More than $30 Million Will Be Invested in Ports in 2020
Jan. 13 the Nicaragua Port Authority (EPN) presented its 2020 Investment Plan which specifies that US$30.8 million dollars will be invested in the nine commercial and tourist ports of the country. EPN President, Virgilio Silva explained that the Port Authority will provide US$3.3 million to the fund and the other US$27.5 million will be covered by foreign investment. The funds will be used for the improvement of technical and operational capabilities of the ports, as well as maintenance and remodeling of various facilities. (Nicaragua News, 1/14/20)

Exports to Taiwan on the Rise
The Export Processing Center (CETREX) reported that in 2019 exports to Taiwan totaled US$125.9 million, registering an 8.4% increase in comparison to 2018. The Nicaragua products with the highest demand in the Taiwanese market were shrimp with US$46.2 million; raw sugar US$12.7 million; sea cucumber US$8.9 million; and lobster US$8.6 million. (Nicaragua News, 1/16/20)

Japan Wants to Strengthen Relations with Nicaragua
President Daniel Ortega held a meeting on Jan. 15 with Japanese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Keisuke Suzuki, who was visiting Nicaragua. During the meeting, the Minister expressed his country’s desire to strengthen the relationship of friendship and cooperation with Nicaragua in infrastructure, natural disaster response and healthcare. “Our countries have maintained excellent diplomatic relations for 85 years and have managed to establish a very fluid technical and economic cooperation. In this visit we seek to create new cooperation opportunities and further strengthen our excellent diplomatic relations with Nicaragua, which is undoubtedly one of our most important partners in Central America,” Minister Suzuki said. (Nicaragua News, 1/16/20)

Recipients of house arrest commit crimes in Northern Nicaragua
In Ocotal, the National Police dismantled a gang of assailants that included two men who had participated in the destruction of the UNAN-Managua facilities during the 2018 attempted coup. They had recently benefited from the Family Coexistence granted by the Sandinista Government on December 30, 2019, which allowed them to serve their sentence in their homes. (Radiolaprimerisima, 1/18/20)

US Pressure Unifies Opposition, For Now
US pressure at a meeting with the Nicaraguan opposition in El Salvador on Jan. 14 and 15 seems to have worked. On Jan.17 a sector of the opposition, which is divided into several groups, accepted the path of elections and announced that the UNAB-MRS and the Civic Alliance will join under a new political umbrella to participate in the 2021 elections, but without specifying how (with which organizations and in which political party’s box). They have changed their party colors from Blue and White, the national colors which no party is allowed to use, to light blue and white. Informe Pastran reported that the public announcement that the UNAB-MRS (Sandinista Renovation Movement) and the Alianza Civica were separating, fell like a bucket of cold water among their US sponsors. Those sponsors called the opposition groups to the meeting in San Salvador warn them if they do not unite for the 2021 elections, there would be no more financing from the United States and Europe. The article also pointed out the parallels with the 1984 election and questioned if the scenario would be repeated in 2021. In 1984 the US named the opposition candidates, increasingly raised questions about the fairness of the process, and then forced their candidate, Arturo Cruz, to pull out shortly before the election to delegitimize it. (Informe Pastran, 1/15/20; 1/17/20)

Amnesty Recipient Accused of Killing Wife
The National Police captured Jeyson Joimar Castro Ortez on Jan. 20 for the murder of his wife Ruth Aburto Acevedo, 22, in Jinotepe. According to the information, the accused was arrested in Nagarote, from where he was transferred to the Jinotepe police station in the Carazo department. Castro Ortez had received the benefit of amnesty granted by the Sandinista Government to those participating in violence during the failed coup attempt. Aburto Acevedo was a nurse at the Salud Integral Hospital and was allegedly pregnant. (Radiolaprimerisima 1/21/20)