By Jill Clark-Gollub
Jill Clark-Gollub organizes study delegations to Nicaragua and has published in outlets including COHA, Popular Resistance, and Alliance for Global Justice
The deceptively named Restoring Sovereignty and Human Rights Act is advancing through Congress. Designed to do the exact opposite of promoting sovereignty or human rights, it must be stopped.
We must urge legislators not to impose such collective punishment on the Nicaraguan people, which will hurt the most vulnerable and exacerbate migration.
Senate Bill 1881 was filed by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) in June 2023. It will likely be discussed in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before mid-February. Its companion, House Bill, H.R.6954, was filed on January 11th and has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The legislation would:
- Work with bank member countries to curtail lending to Nicaragua from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) – the only bank still lending to Nicaragua in amounts that help development.
- Ban some imports into the United States of Nicaraguan beef, coffee, and gold.
- Initiate measures to remove Nicaragua from the regional free trade agreement, DR-CAFTA (Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement).
- Prohibit new US investment in Nicaragua.
Impacts of sanctions
The US government has illegally imposed unilateral coercive measures (a.k.a. sanctions) on some 40 countries around the world, in which one-third of humanity lives. Whole populations are ultimately denied access to the necessities of life, such as adequate food, clean water, medicines, and fuel. The most vulnerable citizens – children, the elderly, the sick and the poor – are most heavily impacted.
Ever increasing sanctions on Nicaragua could lead to situations such as that of Venezuela, with 40,000 excess deaths in just one year due to the US blockade of its oil sector. In Cuba, the people are suffering the worst humanitarian crisis in their history from the ever tightening 60-year blockade.
The NICA Act, imposed in 2018, already caused Nicaragua to lose over $1.4 billion between 2018 and 2021, amounting to 90% of its funding from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the International Monitory Fund (IMF). This has impacted development of the Caribbean coast, school lunch programs for vulnerable children, child development programs, access to safe drinking water in rural areas and much more.
From 2018-2022 Nicaragua saw its IDB loans fall by $131 million annually, money which would have enabled the country to build 265 kilometers of roads and four hospitals, and to improve drinking water systems in two main cities. CABEI has been picking up the slack, so the US Congress is now pressuring this bank to withhold loans to Nicaragua. And the US does not even hold membership in CABEI while Nicaragua holds 10.6% of shares.
What we must do
Now is the time for US-based friends of the Nicaraguan people who care about peace and justice to tell their members of Congress to vote NO on S.1881 and H.R.6954!
1.Find your representative here and your senators here and call them. When you call, ask to speak with the aide who handles foreign policy. If the foreign policy aide is not available, ask to leave a message on his or her voice-mail. Here is a sample script (even better if you put this in your own words):
My name is _______ and I am a constituent from (town/city), in (your state). I want senator or representative _______ to vote NO on Senate bill 1881/ H.R.6954 that would impose further sanctions on the people of Nicaragua. Unilateral coercive measures are illegal under international law and have been extensively proven to cause suffering and death among the most vulnerable people—children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor. The measures do not improve conditions in the targeted countries, they negatively impact human rights, and they exacerbate migration. For these reasons and more, I urge you to vote NO on S.1881 or H.R.6954. Thank you.
- Email your representative (here) and your senators (here). You could use the above paragraph and add the following detail:
S.1881/H.R.6954 would ban some gold, coffee, and beef exports from Nicaragua to the United States, which could impact thousands of jobs in Nicaragua, destabilize the economy, and force people to migrate. Measures to expel Nicaragua from the DR-CAFTA trade agreement and exclude it from financing at the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, could not be accomplished without violating the law and interfering in the sovereign decisions of other Central American countries. Those countries would also likely be destabilized by disruption of the Nicaraguan economy. For these reasons and more, I urge you to vote NO on S.1881 or H.R.6954. Thank you.
- Request a meeting by contacting the office of your Senator or Representative.
- Sign here to tell Congress to support the House Resolution to Annul the Monroe Doctrine, including its call for the elimination of all unilateral economic sanctions.
- Write to the Nicaragua Solidarity Coalition here to join our efforts to stop further sanctions.
- Share this message with all your contacts and encourage them to tell Congress to Vote NO on S.1881/H.R.6954!
By Nan McCurdy
Government Boosts Caribbean Coast Development
In the last 17 years, the Sandinista government has strengthened the development model for the Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean Coast and the Upper Wangki and Bocay. In 2006, there was no plan of attention and development for this area of the country. The Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples did not have legal title to their lands. In 2007, Nicaraguan authorities formulated a development strategy for the region. In recognition of their ancestral rights, 37,252.91 sq. km. were demarcated and titled, representing 31.4% of national territory. Since 2007, after the demarcation and titling of the 23 Indigenous and Afro-descendant territories, the governance of the territorial governments has been strengthened. The Miskitu and Mayangna Indigenous peoples who live along the banks of the Wangki and Bocay rivers were also forgotten peoples. It was not until 2007 that President Daniel Ortega decreed the creation of the Special Development Regime for Executive Attention to the Miskitu Indian Tasbaika Kum, Mayangna Sauni Bu and Kipla Sait Tasbaika Indigenous Territories, located in the Upper Wangki and Bokay River Basin. Before 2007, there were no public defenders for Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants. Currently there are 16 accredited and certified public defenders to accompany the judicial processes of the traditional authorities. (La Primerisima, 17 January 2024)
Regional Elections a Conquest of Caribbean Peoples
Magistrate Brenda Rocha, president of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), announced that conditions are in place to hold Regional Elections on the Caribbean Coast on Sunday, March 3. Rocha said that the regional elections are a conquest of the historical struggle of the Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples. She said that the people of the Caribbean coast will elect 45 councilpersons in the North and South Caribbean, each one with their respective alternates. She added that 745 voting boards (polling stations) have been set up which are located in 310 voting centers (usually schools) in those regions. (La Primerisima, 19 January 2023)
Half Million Women Receive Loans from Zero Usury
The Sandinista Government launched the Zero Usury Program on July 17, 2007, to grant loans at interest rates of 5% per year to women organized in “solidarity groups” with at least five members. This in itself was revolutionary because for the first time since 1990, women had the possibility of accessing credit under favorable conditions, with easy terms, low installments and without offering property as collateral. Before 2007, what had been operating in the country were private banks, private microfinance companies and loan sharks, with usurious interest rates and loans granted with collateral, which were seized if payments were not made. As of January 10, 2024, the Zero Usury Program has provided loans to 548,000 women in 5,400 neighborhoods and communities in 144 municipalities throughout the country. In total, the women, organized in Solidarity Groups, have received 1,715,800 loans. The loans range between US$270 and US$1,350. The Sandinista Government has allocated an average of US$25.3 million each year for the Zero Usury Program. In total, in 17 years, the Program has placed loans for US$417.2 million. (La Primerisima, 22 January 2024)
Foreign Trade Increased by 247% from 2007 to 2023
The Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Development (MIFIC) presented a report on advances in Nicaraguan foreign trade from 2007 to 2023. The report highlights that over the last 16 years Nicaragua has gone from three Free Trade Agreements in force to 13 bilateral and multilateral trade agreements in 2023. The report added that foreign trade registered a 247% growth during that period, going from US$2.13 billion in 2007 to US$7.4 billion last year. MIFIC Minister Jesús Bermúdez noted that “since 2007 to the close of last year, Nicaragua has diversified its destination markets going from 8 to 14. Likewise, the main exportable product list has grown from 8 products to 15.” (Nicaragua News, 19 January 2024)
Gross International Reserves Have Grown 21.1%
On Jan. 15 the Central Bank (BCN) published the monetary report corresponding to December 2023 which states that Gross International Reserves (GIR) were US$5.45 billion as of December 31, an increase of 21.1% compared to the same month in 2022. (Nicaragua News, 16 January 2024)
IMF Highlights Sound Economic Policies
On Jan. 19 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published its executive board evaluation report pertaining to the Article IV Consultation, which measures the current standing and economic prospects of the country. The report noted that Nicaragua’s economy has remained resilient in the face of multiple shocks, supported by appropriate economic policies, substantial buffers, and multilateral support. “After a very strong rebound in 2021, the economy grew at a steady pace since 2022 and is expected to grow by 4% in 2023. Inflation is declining, and the government is maintaining a small surplus and healthy government deposits. Remittances are projected to reach 28% of GDP at the end of 2023, double their 2021 end level. Likewise, foreign exchange inflows and prudent macroeconomic policies contributed to a rapid accumulation of gross international reserves totaling US$5 billion by end of October of last year.” The IMF recognizes that the Nicaragua Government has taken steps to strengthen governance and anticorruption frameworks, adopting measures that enhance fiscal transparency. It recommends continued effective application of the AML/CFT anti money laundering/combatting the financing of terrorism framework, to ensure the country fares well in the next evaluation round after being removed from the “gray list” in 2022.
(Nicaragua News, 22 January 2024)
One Hundred Families Move into New Homes
Vice President Rosario Murillo announced that 100 more houses will be turned over to an equal number of families in the Caminos del Río housing development in Managua.
“One hundred families who will live in better conditions, who will recognize the blessing of God in each of these houses,” she said. She reported that in Matiguás 12 houses will be delivered. And in San Sebastián de Yalí, Rivas, San Isidro, Villa Sandino, Chinandega, Yalagüina and San Lucas, three houses will be delivered in each municipality. In the same report, she announced that the 288th Women’s Police Station will be inaugurated in the Mining Triangle and the 289th station, which is the second one in Diriá, Granada, will also open; as well as a citizen security unit in San José de Bocay, Jinotega. On Jan. 22 the 199th fire station will be opened in the municipality of El Tuma-La Dalia, Matagalpa. (La Primerisima, 22 January 2024)
Better Highways for the People
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MTI) inaugurated the first section of the El Jicaral-San Francisco Libre highway benefitting 44,821 inhabitants. MTI Minister Oscar Mojica stated that “The 14-kilometer section provides a new route for highway connectivity between the Departments of Managua and León, strengthens the agricultural sector and reduces operating costs for national and international trade.” The US$11 million-dollar project was financed through the General Budget with support from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration and is part of Phase IX of the Highway Maintenance and Expansion Program that the government is implementing in nine municipalities on the Pacific and both Caribbean Coast Regions. (La Primerisima, 11 January 2023)
Diriamba Dances to its Patron, Saint Sebastian
In the Rubén Darío Plaza of Diriamba, in Carazo, a cultural festival took place on Jan. 20, as part of the patron saint festivities in honor of Saint Sebastian. In the park and outside the cathedral there were presentations of typical dances such as El Toro Huaco, El Gigante, El Viejo y la Vieja, Las Húngaras and El Güegüense, among others. Some of the faithful climbed up onto the main dome of the basilica to put ribbons on the statue of Saint Sebastian. The day closed with the presentation of the Ballet Folklorico Nicaragüense, led by Master Ronald Abud Vivas. See photos: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/diriamba-le-baila-a-san-jeronimo/
(La Primerisima, 21 January 2024)
Green House for Genetic Improvement of Red Beans Inaugurated
On Jan. 11 the Nicaragua Institute of Agricultural Technology inaugurated a greenhouse for the genetic improvement of red beans in the municipality of San Marcos to strengthen the technical capabilities of 200 small agricultural producers. The new US$85,000 center includes a biological input production module, a traditional and improved red beans seed bank, a research module, as well as plots for genetic improvement of red beans. The funding is part of the Strategy for Agricultural Development and Transformation that the government is implementing. Small red beans are a main staple of the Nicaraguan diet. (Nicaragua News, 15 January 2024)
Government Issues Press Release in Support of South Africa’s World Court Suit
On January 23, the Nicaraguan government issued the following press release:
The Government of Reconciliation and National Unity informs the people of Nicaragua and the international community that today it has filed before the International Court of Justice a request for permission to intervene in the case initiated on December 29, 2023, by South Africa against Israel related to the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip.
As a State Party to the Convention, Nicaragua has the obligation to prevent Genocide and to cooperate to this end with the other Contracting Parties, including by resorting to the competent organs of the United Nations of which the Court is the main judicial organ, in accordance with the provisions of articles VIII and IX of the Genocide Convention.
Nicaragua’s request to participate in said process has been made under Article 62 of the Statute of the Court, which implies that if said intervention is authorized, Nicaragua would participate as a state party to the process with all the legal implications derived from the Court’s ruling.
Nicaragua’s decision to request intervention as a state party on the merits of the matter, and not as a simple participant in the interpretation of the Convention, reflects the commitment of the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity and the people of Nicaragua to the liberation of the Palestinian people and humanity in general from the scourge of genocide, and demonstrates its determination to fulfill its obligation to contribute to preventing and punishing the genocidal acts that are being carried out in the Gaza Strip.
Nicaragua, like the international community, considers that the actions undertaken by Israel constitute clear violations of the Convention against Genocide, which acts have been accompanied by statements from the highest authorities of Israel that clearly reveal the genocidal intention and dehumanization to which the Palestinian people have been subjected.
Given the urgency of the situation, Nicaragua emphasizes that its request for intervention clearly indicates that it should not delay the Court’s procedures and deliberations related to the urgent request for provisional measures, which is expected to be decided soon. Nicaragua once again urges Israel to fulfill its obligations under international law and to end immediately its military assault against the Palestinian people. Likewise, it calls for the end of the occupation, the establishment of conditions for a lasting and permanent solution that respects the 1967 borders with a sovereign and independent Palestinian state.
The Government of Reconciliation and National Unity reaffirms its firm commitment to the Rule of Law at the International Level and the peaceful settlement of disputes between States. Managua, January 23rd, 2024 Government of Reconciliation and National Unity, Republic of Nicaragua. (Nicaraguan Embassy in the US, 23 January 2024)