By Jorge Capelan
(Translated by Nan McCurdy. A longer version of this piece was published in managuaconamor.blogspot.com on Aug. 29, 2019)
In Nicaragua, the sun continues to shine without declining an inch, as the great Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío stated. Tourism is recovering, agricultural production continues to increase, social programs do not stop, Managua welcomes parliamentarians from the region and schools are preparing to celebrate September, the month of the homeland. Meanwhile, in Washington, Stroessner’s, Videla’s and William Walker’s heirs are struggling to find members for an interventionist commission of the Organization of American States (OAS) that everyone knew would be rejected by the Nicaraguan government.
Let’s take a look at some of the Sandinista government’s economic and political achievements made public this week:
In the tourism sector, the co-director of Intur, Anasha Campbell, announced that tourism has reversed by two-thirds the decline in visitors to the country that occurred with the failed coup plot last year. Nicaragua ended 2018 with 30% fewer tourists than in 2017. This year, from May to date, the figures are positive, and from January to July 2019 the country had only 10% fewer tourists than during the same period in 2017 indicating that Nicaragua is recovering in this sector of vital importance for the economy while the U.S. policy of destroying the country’s tourism industry is no longer giving the expected results.
In the agricultural sector, which in fact increased production in the months of the coup, casting down the coup speeches of a “peasant revolt against the Interoceanic Canal,” Nicaragua continues to advance according to Ministry of Agriculture (MAG) vice-minister Isidro Rivera who announced the plan for the second planting and a plan related to livestock that ensures food security. All areas of livestock have grown: meat production, exports, production and stockpiling of milk and cheese and pork production. In the poultry sector, there has been a decrease of 1% because large producers refuse to invest; but that loss has been replaced by a 39% increase in small-scale production in the municipalities. And egg production increased. All this economic activity in the livestock sector has its fundamental basis in the small and medium-scale producers of the popular economy, who play a fundamental role, not only for domestic consumption, but also for export. (Whoever has doubts about these data, go to any market and ask for food prices and compare them with the slide of the córdoba with respect to the dollar. You will notice an extraordinary stability over the years.)
Related to the previous topic, this week the Nicaraguan Council of Micro, Small and Medium-scale Enterprises CONIMPYMES, officially became the representative of private enterprise in Nicaragua. The organization, which replaces the historic COSEP of Big Coup Capital, has been admitted as the country’s representative in the Central American Business Council. At the same time that Freddy Cruz, CONIMPYME’s director made that announcement on August 26, in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, the Minister of Family, Community, Cooperative and Associative Economy, Justa Pérez, shared the achievements of the Nicaraguan popular economy at a meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Pérez met with Julio Berdegué, Deputy Director and Regional Representative in which they discussed cooperation issues to strengthen family farming in Nicaragua.
In the municipality of Condega, the second largest in the department of Estelí, the Bismarck Martínez Social Housing Program began with the delivery of plots of land to the first 60 families. With an affordable price of only 500 dollars with very low monthly payments, families receive a lot of 8 by 20 meters where they will build their house when they have paid 80% of the total cost. To access this program one must not already have a home and must earn less than US$300 per month. In Managua several thousand people have already benefited. The challenge is to build 50,000 affordable housing units in the next seven years. Bismarck Martínez was a Sandinista who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered on June 29, 2018. His body was found in May of this year.
Beginning August 26 Managua hosted a series of meetings of the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) within the framework of the Regional Meeting of Women of Political Parties, the Central American Conference of Political Parties, and its forums on Tourism, Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendants and Education. In greeting the members of the PARLACEN Board of Directors, President Ortega spoke about, among other issues, the importance of the Inter-Oceanic Canal and the need to advance the Central American integration project as a zone of peace in order to strengthen its position in the world and emerge from poverty.
In recent days, no one living in Nicaragua has been able to avoid witnessing the great enthusiasm with which students and professors throughout the country devote themselves to preparing the celebrations of September – national independence, Central America’s independence and the victory over William Walker’s interventionist troops. Day by day there are parades, band music, rehearsals of all kinds, celebrations of historic dates such as one of the early FSLN armed attempts against the Somoza National Guard at Pancasán, discounts in the markets to help the parents buy school uniforms and typical dress for the parades; in short, a whole eruption of activity that penetrates the whole society. Those of us who lived through the decade of the 80’s cannot stop smiling with a certain feeling of “deja vu” when the children and young people in their parades chant slogans and songs about poet Ruben Darío, Sandino and Carlos Fonseca.
The opposition wanted to achieve a “regime change” in Nicaragua. Well, they sure got a regime change, though not the one they were looking for. Before the coup attempt Big Capital was part of nearly every decision that was made, and it didn’t want anyone else to participate. They thought that the Sandinista Front was only there to contain “the mob” and they have watched with fear as that “mob” became more empowered every day. That’s why they joined the coup prepared by the most mafia-like interests of the empire. And what a mistake they made! They failed miserably. That “rabble,” a diverse people of many origins, many identities, many histories, many beliefs, many shared sufferings, many accumulated experiences and knowledge, many solidarities, many dreams of futures of a land of milk and honey that no oligarchy has ever realized, demonstrated to the coup plotters and their lackeys that their historical moment has passed irremediably.
A few weeks ago we asked President Daniel Ortega at a meeting what he had learned from last year’s misnamed “soft coup”. His answer was: “You have to believe and trust the people. This is a people that had the patience to endure those terrible days of acts of terrorism, when the Bishop’s Conference demanded that we send the Police to their stations and the streets were free for criminals and terrorists for a little more than two months, and the people endured… and the Police endured and did not respond when they attacked them in their barracks. So, the people have a high degree of consciousness, and they understand that to have acted in the way they acted helped unmask the criminals. And that was the explosion of joy of this July 19th, a celebration of victory. Rosario Murillo added, “And confidence in the future!
Meanwhile, National Assembly Deputy Carlos Emilio López, promoter of the Reconciliation, Justice and Peace Commissions, a social movement that is gaining much strength in Nicaragua, announced that more than 7,171 of these commissions have already been created throughout the country, made up of community leaders, Catholic and evangelical clergy, and people of good will. López pointed out that adolescents and young people represent one of Nicaragua’s living treasures. “For this reason, they [the Commissions] have been working hand in hand with the youth to promote peace, unity and a promising future,” he said and reported that “the reconciliation, justice and peace commissions are promoting care for the environment and calling on heads of state to protect the Amazon.”
By Nan McCurdy
40th Anniversary of Nicaragua’s Armed Forces
September 2 Nicaragua celebrated the 40th anniversary of the founding of a new armed force. The previous one was Somoza’s National Guard that fled Nicaragua in July 1979 to later form part of the US-backed counterrevolution. Many experts consider that the only way to prevent the repressive nature of armed forces is to eliminate them and begin from scratch – and that is exactly what Nicaragua did.
In a large public presentation in the Revolution Plaza General Julio Aviles head of the Nicaraguan Armed Forces said “We are the smallest army in the region with the smallest budget, but efficient and with excellent results. We are a compact Army, constantly modernizing ourselves to have high mobility and capacity to fulfill our sacred missions,” he said. He added that those who carried out the attempted coup like heads of non-governmental organizations, tried to divide the army in 2018 to help them carry out a coup d’état, but they were never successful. He added that this same opposition attacked members of the armed forces and their families.
“Know that we know who is behind this brutal campaign of attacks and provocations and we hold you responsible for the physical and moral effects on our comrades and relatives,” he stressed. “It is our duty to point to the brutal attacks and provocations against our institution, our comrades and relatives,” he continued. He added that due to the serious situation experienced in 2018, the institution suspended its regular activities and were authorized by the President of the Republic…to reinforce the first ring of security of the country, i.e. land borders, sea, coasts and strict control of airspace.
The Army safeguarded 200 strategic objectives vital to the functioning of the country.
“We did it to avoid irreparable damage to our economy, but especially to ensure the reserves of food, medicine, and the full functioning of the energy system, water consumption and communications,” he explained. In other words, the services to which the Nicaraguan people, who want peace and stability, have a right, were guaranteed.
“The implementation of these correct measures allows us to affirm today that Nicaragua continues to be the safest country in the region,” (El19Digital, Radiolaprimerisima, Revista en Vivo, 9/3/19)
Nicaragua Reduces Infant Mortality
Nicaragua has reduced infant and maternal mortality by more than 50 percent since 2007, when the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) returned to power. Since then, it has become a priority policy of the State to reduce both mortality rates based on strategies drawn up by the Ministry of Health (MINSA) focused on primary and comprehensive care. Nicaragua reduced infant mortality from 29 deaths per 1,000 births in 2006, to just 12 by the end of 2018, which means a reduction of 58 percent, according to official data. As for maternal mortality, the MINSA figures show a 59 percent decrease in the number of women who died, from 115 women [out of a 1,000] who died during pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum in 2006, to 47 by the end of 2018. The head of Health of Nicaragua, Carolina Dávila, explained that each year the country conducts a nutritional census for children, and its results are evaluated and certified by the World Health Organization (WHO). (Radiolaprimerisima, 9/2/19)
Pre-election Poll Reveals Sympathy with the Sandinista Party
The first pre-election poll by the firm M and R Consultants released September 2 reveals that in the 2021 elections, 52.6 percent of the Nicaraguan people sympathize with the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and that if the elections were held today the FSLN would win by 27% over the opposition. 52.9 percent of Nicaraguans believe the country will do better with an FSLN government, and only 13.3 percent believe it will be better with the opposition, while 11 percent say it will not improve. According to the poll, if the elections were held today, 36.9 percent would absolutely vote for the FSLN, another 16.5 percent are leaning that way. 3.8% say they would vote for the opposition and 9.1% are leaning that way. The likely turnout in the next election is 70.8 percent.
51.4 percent of the population believe that their lives will be better with a Sandinista-led government, and 52.3 percent believe their children will have better opportunities with the FSLN. 52.2 percent estimate that with the FSLN they would have more opportunities than their parents did. 53.9 percent believe that with an FSLN government they would have more access to housing, and 56 percent say they would have more access to free health care, and 56.3% to free education. The survey also reveals that economic problems are the biggest concern, (71 percent), whether employment or cost of living. 20 percent of Nicaraguans say their main problem is political, 3.5 security and 2.4 social conflicts.
49.4 percent of the population estimates that their economic situation in relation to last year is worse, 32 percent say the same and 18.1 percent say it is much better compared to 2018. 57.6 percent say the country has progressed compared to six years ago and only 8 percent say it is the same. 44 percent of Nicaraguans say that in this same period their best economic situation was in 2017. 74 percent of the population expect their economic situation to improve in the coming months. Another fact revealed by the survey is that 89.6 percent of the population has not been the victim of aggression or theft, and 55 percent believe that the work of the National Police is very good. Sixty-six percent also consider the National Police to be professional. 90 percent of citizens believe that false news is becoming a problem for the country since 44 percent do not know how to identify it. The survey was conducted from Aug. 3 to15, 2019. (Radiolaprimerisima, 9/2/19)
Stability of Banks and Foreign Exchange Market
August 29 the Nicaragua Central Bank (BCN) published its July 2019 Financial report. The report states that the main variables in the financial sector remained stable, reflecting continuity of the good performance observed in the second quarter of 2019. BCN President Ovidio Reyes explained that “deposits showed signs of stabilization, and the financial system reflected a prudent position resulting in an increase in liquidity of the banking system. Likewise, stability of the exchange market continued to strengthen”. The report indicates that the monetary base registered an increase of US$4,636,363 with respect to June of this year. (Nicaragua News, 8/29/19)
Food and Agriculture Organization Recognizes Nicaragua’s Progress
Members of the National Assembly shared the review and updating of the Policy for the Promotion of Agro-ecological Production in Nicaragua with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). At the meeting FAO representatives recognized the progress Nicaragua has made in the production of organic crops.
“Here there are many very advanced field experiences that have many years of work; for example, organic coffee and other export products,” said Emma Siliprandi, FAO Agriculture Officer in Rome. Deputy Maritza Espinales, first vice president of the National Assembly, affirmed: “Today we are filled with pride, the FAO recognizes that the government has succeeded in public policies and national production programs and for strengthening production with inter-institutional relations where all social actors meet and emphasize the model of consensus and dialogue”. (Informe Pastran, 8/28/19)
At the OAS, Nicaragua Rejects Intervention and Demands Respect
Before the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) the Government of Nicaragua demanded, respect and rejected any act of interference on the part of any government in the affairs of Nicaragua. Luis Alvarado, Nicaragua’s OAS ambassador, expressed that Nicaragua rejects any imposition and pretension to protect our country. “It rejects interventionist proposals derived from policies already known to be harmful to our institutions, our Constitution and our laws.” Nicaragua therefore does not accept the establishment of mechanisms that it has not requested, or that other countries intend to decide for us, and impose themselves arbitrarily, illegally and illegitimately, around our internal affairs. The Nicaraguan representative recalled that progress continues, transcending adverse circumstances imposed from other latitudes. (Radiolaprimerisima.com, 8/28/19)
Nicaragua Ensures Food Security
The Ministry of Farming and Agriculture (MAG) announced yesterday that Nicaragua has achieved food security in 2019 due to increase in yield and productivity of different agricultural commodities and sectors. The MAG Minister, Eduardo Centeno said “Food Security is a fundamental part of the Nicaragua National Human Development Plan.” He added that “the promotion of planting and production in the second harvest, as well as livestock restructuring, the use of better technologies, expansion of community seed banks and genetic improvement are some of the factors that influenced the attainment of this important objective.” A recent MAG report states that from January to July 2019, milk production increased 5% compared to the same period in 2018, beef 2% and pork 6.5%. Similar growth is reported in other agricultural products. (Nicaragua News, 8/28/19)
Widening and Modernization of Highway
This past Wednesday the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MTI) inaugurated the first phase of the project to widen and modernize the Zona Franca highway. This 8km section (Las Mercedes ‑ La Garita ‑ Empalme) is part of the Pan-American Highway where approximately 25,219 vehicles circulate daily. With these improvements the congestion problem will be solved, increasing traffic capacity and road safety. The US$16,545,454 investment was financed by the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI). (Nicaragua News, 8/29/19)
United Kingdom Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Visits Nicaragua
The Undersecretary in the United Kingdom Foreign Affairs Office, Simon McDonald, is visiting Nicaragua this week to discuss issues of mutual interest between the two countries. Upon his arrival, the Undersecretary said, “his visit is in response to the desire of the United Kingdom to reaffirm our good relations with Nicaragua and exchange experiences and points of view on free trade, regional stability and climate change.” Deputy Raquel Dixon, First Secretary of the National Assembly, said that in the meeting they spoke about “the importance of consolidating business relations with the United Kingdom, as well as the strengthening of relations between the respective parliaments.” (Nicaragua News, 8/28/19)
PARLACEN Recognizes that Nicaragua is an Example on Restitution of Rights to Indigenous
The Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) approved “The Rights of Our Peoples” declaration on August 26 that seeks to guarantee the restitution of rights of Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples of the Central American region. The PARLACEN President, Irma Amaya said Nicaragua is an “example on restitution of rights for Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples.” She detailed the progress Nicaragua has made in education, women’s rights, the implementation of the Intercultural Health Model, as well as the right to and respect for communal property. The Declaration will be presented at the next Summit of Presidents of the Central American Integration System (SICA) for the approval of the Heads of State. (Nicaragua News, 8/27/19)