By Laura Wells
(Laura Wells is a Latin America solidarity activist living in Oakland, California. She has participated in a dozen Latin American political delegations since 2005.)
This article about Nicaragua reverses the typical order, it starts with the question of “What can we do?” and ends with a bit of history, Nicaragua’s and mine. As you read, if you find yourself asking, “Really?” please consider checking some of the many links.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
(1) RENACER Act in Congress — End US interference
Whatever you think of President Daniel Ortega, you can help the people of Nicaragua now. You can voice your opposition to a new, very bad bill which would ramp up Trump’s NICA Act. The proposed RENACER Act, now in both houses of Congress, would increase unilateral coercive measures (“sanctions“), which are illegal and lethal forms of warfare prohibited by the U.N. charter. You can find more information, and consider how you can help to end US interference, HERE.
(2) PRACTICE SOLIDARITY — “El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!”
US interference is a huge problem in Latin America. Our job in the US is to organize and take action against that interference, even when we have critiques of other nations. We can take to heart the slogan, “The people united will never be defeated.”
“Divide and conquer” is the method of choice for maintaining a miserable status quo. An effective way to divide people is to personalize a struggle in the form of a single powerful person. It is much easier to malign an individual rather than attack a broad people’s movement and their beneficial accomplishments. Daniel Ortega is on a list with many other leaders in this hemisphere who have been targeted by the US, including Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Nicolas Maduro.
Solidarity with the people and policies of Nicaragua will help that nation. Conversely, lack of support and unbalanced criticism of Daniel Ortega will help the US government and media get away with character assassination and vilification when they freely allege dictatorship, fraudulent elections, corruption, and repression of the press and the people.
El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido.
(3) RAISE OUR EXPECTATIONS — and apply pressure!
Once we see through the lies of our governments and media, we can view sanctioned countries like Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua as the “hope of a good example” rather than the “threat of a good example,” and we can learn from them.
When we look at policies and conditions we in the US have accepted without protest, and even how we have voted, it seems we have actually believed the dictum of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, “There Is No Alternative” — TINA.
For an alternative, read this article written by Brian Willson, Vietnam Veteran Against the War and author of Blood on the Tracks. He has lived in Nicaragua for four years. The entire article is worthwhile, and be sure to see “The progressive Sandinistas” section half-way down. It lists the achievements since Daniel Ortega returned to power in 2007. Don’t you wish your country had gains like the ones the poor nation of Nicaragua achieved, rather than, for example, the gain of having the most incarcerated people per capita in the world?
We of the US can raise our expectations and apply pressure, even and perhaps especially on the “most progressive” elected officials and media outlets. The US can represent the power of a good example rather than a threat to the sovereignty and well-being of other nations.
WHAT IS THE HISTORY?
Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas had already lost the presidency in Nicaragua by the time I became “political” in early 1992. That was the year I went from “hating politics” to resonating with the values and no-corporate-money commitment of the Green Party, a brand new party in California.
In the early 2000s I began participating in political delegations to Latin America, inspired by the many nations moving away from the control of the United States and the super-rich, and toward improving the lives of all people. To the US, however, they represented the “threat of a good example.” Three of them, Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, were designated by Trump and Bolton as the “Troika of Tyranny.”
Before late 2020, I had very little specific knowledge about Nicaragua’s history, just that Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas had been greatly admired in the US in the 1980s for their successful people’s revolution, and I knew of the movement calling for “US out of Nicaragua.” I knew that although they had lost power earlier, they regained the presidency, but I had the vague impression that Daniel Ortega had become corrupt and authoritarian. In other words, he was good before, but not now.
On December 27, 2020, when I saw an email from Alliance for Global Justice, I felt a jolt of energy and I knew I had to join the upcoming “Yes to Sovereignty! No to Sanctions!” delegation sponsored by Friends of ATC and Sanctions Kill. I knew “tyranny” was a lie about Cuba and Venezuela, countries I had already visited, and I wanted to see if it was also a lie about Nicaragua.
I learned a lot.
I learned that people are not migrating out of Nicaragua like they are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Unbelievably, given the media it gets, Nicaragua is a safe, low-crime country, with 90% food sovereignty, free healthcare and higher education, and improved infrastructure like roads, water supply, sewage, land titles, and electricity, all of which give people hope that they can stay in their own country rather than risk a dangerous trip leading to a hostile US reception.
A question that stuck in my mind was this: if the government is so “corrupt and authoritarian,” how is it that they have all these good things? See the more comprehensive list in Brian Willson’s article, also mentioned above.
Another question arose because I know good progressive folks who believe that between the 1980s and 2000s Daniel Ortega “sold out” his Sandinista roots, “moved to the right,” and became more “neoliberal” and “capitalist.” Why then was Nicaragua targeted with sanctions and listed with Cuba and Venezuela as a member of the “Troika of Tyranny?”
Ortega and the government of Nicaragua are not perfect, and they do not need to be. I am amazed, however, at what they accomplished with the power of the US against them since 1979, except for the 17-year period from 1990 to 2007. That’s when the US supported the Nicaraguan presidents who set about undoing benefits to the people and privatizing essential services including water and communications.
My head spun when reading about the complexities of the 2018 “Uprising or Coup.” Even though lies can be 180 degrees from the truth, they spread quickly via mainstream and social media. Refuting lies is not as quick a process as the spreading of lies. This article is a good summary and it also has a link to a free book of essays by many writers who know Nicaragua.
In 2021 this information is especially important because Nicaragua has a presidential election in November. Leading up to an election is when the US typically increases its interference — which takes us back to the top of this piece about the RENACER actions we can take now. Interference takes the form of dollars flowing into the opposition’s hands and adverse allegations flowing into our minds through the media. The most used allegations are “election fraud” and “human rights violations” and this year it’s “COVID scares.”
Regarding human rights, see Nicaragua Rebuffs Attacks at Human Rights Hearing along with Dismissing the Truth: Why Amnesty International is Wrong about Nicaragua; and Nicaragua’s Indigenous Peoples – Neocolonial Lies, Autonomous Reality.
A final note, on tourism. Nicaragua is a beautiful and safe place for tourists, with Pacific and Caribbean coasts, tropical islands, lakes, flora and fauna, and volcanoes. Tourism is often forgotten when considering how sanctions diminish the economies of beautiful countries — and the pleasures of would-be tourists.
This short 2-minute video will give you a quick flavor of the March 2021 Nicaragua delegation. See a surprising flower that had burst open in my hand in Granada, one of the many lovely areas of Nicaragua. And this feature-length documentary of the delegation Nicaragua Against Empire is beautiful and filled with great information. It premiered in recent weeks and already has more than 6,000 views. I hope you are able to see it.
El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!
Dear Nica Solidarity Activist,
There’s now a new discussion group dedicated solely to Nicaragua. (Of course, the U.S. is causing problems in countless other Latin American countries, but this group is for Nicaragua solidarity activists.)
To join: <https://groups.google.com/g/nicanet>
To post: <email@example.com>
This Google group is the Nicaragua Network’s public forum for exchanging ideas and information among solidarity activists who are anti-US intervention in Nicaragua. It’s a group for people who support Nicaragua’s sovereignty and the Sandinista Revolution.
As administrator, I will approve all posts before publishing them. Posts are limited to topics, articles, and discussion about Nicaragua. Sorry, but posts about other countries or about matters that do not include Nicaragua explicitly will not be approved.
We Nicaragua solidarity activists sometimes don’t know what other solidarity activists are doing to support Nicaragua. This is a great way to share your news, reading lists, upcoming programs, etc. We await your submissions!
Please join the group and send in your contributions.
Arnie Matlin for Nicaragua Network—a project of the Alliance for Global Justice <https://AFGJ.org>
P.S. Some people sign up without problems. Others get an error message. If you have a problem signing up, just send me a message and I’ll manually add your name to the Google group. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
By Nan McCurdy
News Flash! Cristiana Chamorro Detained!
The National Police arrested Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, head of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation, on Wednesday, June 2, accused of the crimes of mismanagement of property and assets and money laundering among other offenses. The arrest was ordered by Judge Karen Chavarría of the Ninth Criminal District Court of Managua. Last week we reported that the foundation’s financial reports from 2015 to 2019 were being investigated for possible money laundering, noting that the Foundation has received millions in recent years from the US and European countries. Chamorro announced that she was closing the Foundation because she did not want to report to the new Foreign Agents Law which is similar to the Foreign Agent Registration Act in the United States. (Radio La Primerisima, 2 June 2021, 20 May 2021)
Foundation’s Accountant and Administrator Accused of Money Laundering
Judge Gloria Saavedra admitted the request for the extension to 90 days of the term to investigate Walter Gómez (accountant) and Marco Fletes (administrator), in the case that the Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened against the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation. The defendants Gómez and Fletes were taken on May 29 to the Tenth Criminal Court of Hearings, for the special hearing for the protection of constitutional guarantees. During the hearing, the prosecutor, Jean Rivas, indicated to the judge that due to the seriousness of the crimes, and since the crime of Money, Property and Asset Laundering is considered organized crime, there is the probability that the accused could evade justice, for which he requested the extension of the investigation and of the detention period to 90 days. The court admitted the request, extending the term for the investigation and detention of the accused until August 26, 2021. (Radio La Primerisima, 30 May 2021)
IMF Reports on Investment, Job Stability and Resources for Health
In its May report on “Policy Responses to Covid-19” published May 7, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) states that Nicaragua has worked to maintain social and public investment programs, safeguard job stability and actively seek public financing through external resources and placement of Bonds of the Republic, registering a deficit of the non-financial public sector of 2.5% of the GDP (the lowest in the region). The report also noted that the fiscal policy measures taken by the Government in 2020 increased resources for the public health sector to face the COVID-19 pandemic and prioritized the population affected by hurricanes Iota and Eta. Regarding the COVID-19 vaccination process, Nicaragua began its vaccination program on March 2 of this year and to date 237,500 doses of the COVISHIELD and Sputnik V vaccines have been administered. The report noted that the Government signed a US$100 million nonrefundable loan with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) to purchase 6.86 million doses of vaccines, which would cover 69.2% of the population prioritized in the COVID-19 National Voluntary Vaccination Program which seeks to immunize 4.7 million people. (Nicaragua News, 26 May 2021; https://www.imf.org/en/Topics/imf-and-covid19/Policy-Responses-to-COVID-19)
One-third of New Police are Women
The Walter Mendoza Police Institute for Higher Education announced on May 26 that 1,026 cadets have completed the Basic Police Training Course. The Deputy Director General of the Police, Commissioner General Aldo Sáenz, stated that “the graduates represent the integrity, selflessness and sacrifice that distinguishes the Police always at the service of the community, the people and the nation.” He also specified that 326 members of the graduating class are women and 700 men. (Nicaragua News, 26 May 2021)
Road Improvements Advancing in Managua
With the new roadway linking Sábana Grande just east of Managua, El Pique traffic circle and Villa Sol Bridge in Managua, the entrances and exits of the capital have been substantially improved and traffic has been expedited. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure inaugurated the new 2-kilometer-long roadway which included the construction of the 32-meter-long Villa Sol Bridge. Four thousand vehicles per day take this route. In Managua the Sandinista Government has built 15 important road projects with 211 km of modern highways, and 17 bridges that improve traffic in all directions. The 23-km Tipitapa-Empalme San Benito road section, and the 20-km project between the Las Mercedes roundabout and El Coyotepe, a new connection between Managua with Masaya, were built with an investment of US$17.5 million, benefiting 209,819 inhabitants. The improvement of road access in Managua will continue with the US$95 million bypass project to be financed by the Foreign Trade Bank of South Korea (Korea Eximbank) and the national budget. The project comprises two intersections, seven bridges and two overpasses. (Informe Pastran, 28 May 2021)
Presentation of Candidates for Departmental and Regional Electoral Councils
The Alliance that includes the FSLN, called United Nicaragua Triumphs, presented its list of candidates for Departmental and Regional Electoral Councils to the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) thus complying in time and form with the calendar laid out for the general elections of November 7. Through a communiqué, the CSE announced that the parties and political alliances that have complied with the requirement are the FSLN, Ciudadanos por la Libertad (CXL), Alianza por la República Party, YATAMA and the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista. The deadline for the presentation of the nominations was May 29. The nominations are for the three persons who will designate the members of the Regional and Departmental Electoral Councils. According to the Electoral Law, the proposals must comply with Gender Equity. (Nicaragua News, 26 May 2021)
100 New Homes for Mother’s Day
Vice President Rosario Murillo announced that May 29, in celebration and honor of Mothers, the Managua Mayor’s Office delivered new homes to 100 women, heads of households in the Villa Jerusalén housing development, located in Sábana Grande. With these 100 homes, 1,100 home have been delivered as part of the Bismarck Martínez Program low income housing program promoted by the Sandinista government. (Informe Pastran, 28 May 2021)
2,000 Families will have Property Titles
The week of May 31 2,000 property titles will be delivered through the Attorney General’s Office to families in Tipitapa, Murra, Boaco, San Lorenzo, Jinotega, Matagalpa, Nueva Segovia, Matagalpa, León, Estelí, Madriz and Carazo. (Informe Pastran 28 May 2021)
New Platform for Marketing Pottery and Leather Products
The Ministry of Family Economy (MEFCCA) and the Taiwan International Development and Cooperation Fund (ICDF) launched the new “otopnica” digital platform for marketing of pottery and leather products. The MEFCCA Minister, Justa Pérez, said “the new website is a space dedicated to national and international sale and promotion of artisans from San Juan de Oriente and Masaya who specialize in leather and clay products.” This initiative is part of the “One People, One Product” (OTOP) program, promoted by MEFCCA with support of Taiwan. (Nicaragua News, 26 May 2021)
30,000 Hectares to Be Reforested
INAFOR will launch the National Reforestation Campaign on June 3 in Rosita, North Caribbean Region, which has among its goals the production of 25,000,000 forest plants, establishment of 2,169 nurseries nationwide, establishment of 32,193 hectares of agroforestry systems, silvopastoral and compact plantations. Forty thousand forestry production packages will be given to producers within the zones of restoration of areas affected by hurricanes ETA- IOTA, recovery of areas degraded by fires and forest pests, as well as areas that are part of Campaigns to Love and Rescue Mother Earth. In Managua 1,195 hectares of forest plantations and agroforestry systems will be restored; 325.5 hectares will be part of the delivery of forestry packages to 1,500 farmers. (Radio La Primerisima, 27 May 2021)
New Women’s Police Station in Villa Nueva
Some 16,000 women in the municipality of Villa Nueva, Chinandega, will benefit from the 69th Women’s Police Station dedicated in memory of Inspector Francisca de la Concepción López. This is the 7th women’s police station in the department of Chinandega. (Radio La Primerisima, 27 May 2021)
Major Loan to Improve Port of Corinto
In support of the Puerto Corinto Improvement of Technical and Operational Capabilities Program, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) announced the approval of a loan for US$21.4 million. CABEI Executive President Dante Mossi stated that “Puerto Corinto is, without a doubt, a strategic project, which will contribute to national and regional economic reactivation, affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Program includes reorganization of the port; modernization of cargo docks and container terminals; construction of a general service workshop, and an Operations and Systems Terminal (OST). (Nicaragua News, 28 May 2021)
Financing for Environmental Project on Caribbean Coast
The Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) approved a loan extension to finance the “Bio-CLIMA Project: Integrated Climate Action to Reduce Deforestation and Strengthen Resilience in the Bosawás and Río San Juan Biosphere Reserves” on the Caribbean Coast. This project is supported by CABEI financing of US$44. 3 million, US$37.9 million from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), as well as US$26.1 million in GCF grants and an additional US$8.3 million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), for a total project amount of US$116.6 million. (Informe Pastran 26 May 2021)
Weekly Covid-19 Report
The Health Ministry reported that for the week of May 25 to 31 there were 116 new registered cases of Covid, 89 previous registered people recuperated and there was one death. Since March 2020 there have been 5,949 registered cases, 5,605 people recuperated and 187 deaths. (Radio La Primerisima, 1 June 2021)