By Chuck Kaufman
This week NicaNotes is the second and final installment of chapter: The Catholic Church Hierarchy and Its Role in the Current Political Crisis in Nicaragua by Coleen Littlejohn in our electronic book Live from Nicaragua: Uprising or Coup? This book is the true story of the failed US-funded 2018 coup in Nicaragua. You can download the book in pdf or two types of e-book formats on our web page. From time to time we will serialize chapters so that people who don’t have time to read a 300 page book can still benefit from the hard work that so many people put into it.
This latter part of the chapter contains most of the solid evidence about the role of some in the Catholic hierarchy in the failed coup. I hope Mr. Frederick Ellis reads it. After last week’s first installment he wrote me the following: “Kaufman has been reported to the Assassination Bureau and soon will be taken care of.” My co-worker Analise’s response was, “You mean all this time there’s been an Assassination Bureau we could have been reporting people to!” But seriously, while Frederick’s death threat probably wasn’t serious since he sent it from his own email, we recognize that the bizarre story about last year’s failed coup, shatters some people’s deeply held illusions. The US has been trying to overthrow the government of Nicaragua for the last 40 years. Its money and lies have distorted Nicaraguan politics and non-government institutions. Here is the conclusion:
The Catholic Church Hierarchy and Its Role in the
Current Political Crisis in Nicaragua
By Coleen Littlejohn
Psychological Pressure from the Pulpit
Some bishops (Managua, Matagalpa, Estelí for example) began to use, and, indeed, continue to use, their Sunday sermons to promote division and the continuation of conflict, while some parish priests have followed their example. At a community center in Managua, during the homily of a Mass that I attended a couple of months ago, the presiding priest ranted against the government and told those assisting that his life had been threatened, no proof given, except that a woman yelled at him. Most of the people did not react, but there were several friends and colleagues of mine, older nuns, who were terrified – as they had been since the beginning of the psychological warfare via social media that has been waged against the population since April 18. Ironically, during that same Mass, the children’s choir was trying to sing parts of the Misa Campesina but were not too certain of the words, probably because of lack of practice. Those songs had been banned by the Bishops for years because of their relation to the years when liberation theology flourished. When the Misa’s chief composer, Carlos Mejia Godoy, joined the opposition it seems that is it okay again to use the songs when they want to.
The behavior of some of the bishops and priests contrasted, and continues to contrast sharply with the messages heard from the remaining priests that still represent “theology of liberation and the preferential option for the poor”, and the leaders of the evangelical churches. Those are the religious whose Sunday and other pronouncements call for continued prayers for peace and dialogue. Those, both Catholic and Evangelical, are the ones that seem to most represent the will of the Nicaraguan people and the will of Pope Francis, who has been closely following the situation in Nicaragua since April of 2018.
Participation in the Violence
The psychological damage to the population has been compounded by their witnessing horrific acts of violence, much of which has been transmitted via social media by the smartphones of their perpetrators. There have been several documented incidents where Catholic clergy have been involved, both as participants and/or as witnesses who could have stopped some acts which could easily be compared to the Inquisition of hundreds of years ago.
The following are some examples of violence in which clergy were involved. There exists an extensive collection of videos and personal testimonies documenting these activities, although you will never see them in the files of Amnesty International or the local human rights NGOs.
In Masaya, a priest of the San Juan Bautista Parish directed the opposition gang that tortured and killed a policeman, Gabriel de Jesus Vado Ruiz. The priest’s phone with messages to the terrorists are the proof, as can be seen in the following video where he is heard to be saying: “I advise you that I am Father Harvin in the San Juan Church. Keep the terrorists tied up however you can because it’s good evidence for the international countries…look for how to hide these *#*# even in the bottom of a latrine…try to get them not to upload photos and videos to Facebook of the one that you are burning, so there won’t be a problem…if you hear the church bells be alert.” https://www.el19digital.com/articulos/ver/titulo:79096-cura-es-complice-de-terroristas-que-asesinaron-a-sub-oficial (July 17)
In Leon, Sander Francisco Bonilla Zapata, a Sandinista supporter, accused a Catholic priest and an evangelical pastor of participating in the acts of violence and torture against him. Bonilla, as he left the hospital several days later, testified that a Father Berrios and Pastor Carlos Figueroa were present, but did nothing to stop the torture – which was filmed by those who were carrying out the torture, including dousing him with gasoline. One of them can be heard saying: “Take the photo but don’t post it.” The two pastors later pressured Sander’s mother to say that none of this ever took place. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNHyi8RaAUY&t=2s
Multiple videos that circulated on social networks show the people of Diriamba [a small town about 40 kilometers south of Managua] angry at the thugs, kidnappers and torturers who held the town hostage for over a month, using the church for storing weapons and health supplies stolen from the local public health clinic. The citizens surrounded the San Sebastian Basilica demanding that the priests leave, and that the church be turned over to the population. A Catholic Church mission headed by Cardinal Brenes and the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Waldemar Stanislaw Sommertag, went to Diriamba and Jinotepe, a neighboring town, on July 9, a day after the National Police removed a number of roadblocks with a lamentable number of people wounded and killed. In Diriamba, they were met by a large group of citizens who protested because the clergymen had not come to their aid when they were being held hostage in the city, subjected to all manner of outrages by those who maintained the roadblocks. See videos of the Diriamba Population from El 19 Digital: (The last three have been removed from Youtube.)
Hierarchy Participation in the Planning the Coup
By November of 2018, there was evidence to confirm that high level participation in opposition planning by at least one member of the CEN was a shameful reality. The leading role of Bishop Silvio Báez, the auxiliary bishop of Managua, in the organizing and support of the opposition, became very evident after the leak of an audio recording from last October 23 taken by a member of the St. John Paul the Apostle Christian base community who was present during a meeting of Báez with a group of small farmers, supporters of the anti-canal movement and active participants in the violence surrounding the roadblocks in the southern part of Nicaragua. Báez’s words, recorded during the meeting, clearly unveiled the opposition lies and the media’s narrative of a supposedly peaceful, spontaneous uprising against the “tyrant”, Daniel Ortega. Baez used harsh language to disparage everything related to the current government, and those who do not support the opposition Civic Alliance.
In the conversation he talked about pressuring the government by reinstating the so-called “tranques de la muerte” (roadblocks of death), saying, “We need to pressure the government again so that they ask the Bishops’ Conference to resume the dialogue. We have been thinking of putting up roadblocks again.” Báez also noted that the Blue and White National Unity (UNAB), a new group founded by the anti-FSLN group, the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), “should include everyone opposed to the government, even if they are suspected of being opportunists, abortionists, homosexuals, drug traffickers… so as to achieve the final objective”.
Baez also bragged about the hierarchy’s role in the creation of the Alliance with comments such as: “The Alliance knows that we bishops created it. If the Alliance exists, it is because we created it.” He bragged that “The roadblocks were a wonderful idea” and he later is heard discussing the possibility of a second “trancadera”, referring to the roadblocks—the sources of violence and destruction of the country’s economy—to force the president of Nicaragua to sit down at the dialogue. He again refers to President Ortega: “We have every desire to take him before a firing squad.”
Báez also referred to President Ortega as an “imbecile” and “stupid.” He called Foreign Minister Denis Moncada a “pea” referring to his height. He accused Daniel Ortega of being uneducated, and therefore unqualified to be President of Nicaragua. He commented that the presidents of Bolivia (Evo Morales), Venezuela (Nicolás Maduro), and Nicaragua (Daniel Ortega) “are three stupid guys.” He also referred disparagingly to Cardenal Brenes in that meeting. Ironically, it was Cardinal Brenes who implicitly confirmed the authenticity of the recording when he told Radio La Primerisima reporter Lisbeth Gonzalez, “Of course, I think it was something very private, and unfortunately someone recorded it.”
A second, undated, recording of a conversation Báez had with a group of supporters was released by church members on Oct. 24. It revealed Báez’s pride that the United States is supporting the plan to overthrow the constitutional government of President Ortega. Báez also announced that more measures are coming from the US government against Nicaragua, and that he hopes that these measures will also affect the Nicaraguan Army.
After the release of the recordings, the St. Paul the Apostle Community again denounced Báez for continuing to use his sermons and the church itself to manipulate people politically. They publicly called on the CEN to support the petition signed by more than a half million Catholics asking Pope Francis to remove Bishop Báez from Nicaragua, demanding, “that he cease his threats against President Daniel Ortega; that he cease to incite the overthrow of the government through reinstating the so-called “death road blocks”, which Báez called “extraordinary.” They also continued to demand that the priests stop facilitating the use of the churches for political purposes.
Someone was obviously listening. On November 1, Father Luis Herrera, Administrator of the Managua Cathedral, said during his Sunday sermon that the temple is for prayer, not protest. Later Cardinal Brenes declared that churches are not political places, nor places to do politics. He stated that: “I am the archbishop of all the Catholics of the Archdiocese.” “Everyone is free to come into the Cathedral; we don’t tell people that this mass is only for members of a certain political party.”
These remarks came after Cardinal Brenes and Bishop Rolando Alvarez, another of the “active” Bishops, were called to a private meeting with the Pope in the Vatican, setting off rumors that the Bishops were being scolded for their obvious involvement in the conflict they were officially supposed to be mediating.
Nevertheless, Báez remained active on Twitter, and continued to coordinate closely with the opposition Alliance. In early April, he tweeted his fans that he had been called to the Vatican to meet personally with Pope Francis at the Pontiff’s request. Days later the Pope gave the order to transfer Baez to Rome; Baez maintains that his transfer was due to death threats against him—he was supposedly warned by none other than the US Ambassador.
Disseminating False Information—The Role of the UCA
In Nicaragua, a large part of the education system, the private institutions that serve most upper and middle-class students, is controlled by Roman Catholic bodies. This includes the UCA, and many high schools, including the Jesuit Colegio Centro America. Scholarships for lower income students at the UCA did not exist until 1980. With the support of the first ruling body after the July 19 victory which ousted Somoza, the Junta de Gobierno de Reconstrucción Nacional (JGRN), the UCA began to receive government funding and started to work within the structure of the National Council of Universities (CNU). The UCA continues to receive their portion of the government’s allocation of 6% of the national budget (excluding foreign loans and donations).
One of the best loved and respected rectors of the UCA was Father Cesar Jerez Garcia, S.J., who died in 1991, a year after he assumed the position after having been a professor there for 27 years. The following is a translation of part of his inaugural address of the UCA’s 1990 academic year. “A horrific war has left us with many dead, it has left thousands of wounded, it has left hatred and thoughts of revenge. In this sad context, we are called to reconciliation, which is a demand for peace, for survival and, in many cases, this must be the fruit of Christian inspiration. Considering the leadership that has been demonstrated by President Daniel Ortega, the Board of the UCA is preparing to give President Ortega an honorary Ph.D. for his work as President, and for his contribution to peace and democracy. For a short time, he was a student of the UCA, and the university wants to recognize his merits, not because of his rise to power, but in the moment that he descends from that power [The FSLN lost the elections of 1990].”
Several months later, President Ortega received the honorary degree.
As was seen earlier in this article, the current rector of the UCA, Fr. Jose Alberto Idiaquez, never bothered to reply to the pleas of his former colleague, Ligia Arana, nor was there any reaction to the death threats to her family, nor to the violence perpetrated by the opposition during those terrible months from April to July, 2018.
Perhaps he really had no time to respond to real time problems given that Idiaquez has and continues to be involved even before April 18th in an intense campaign of false news and fundraising directed towards Jesuit universities in the US and around the world. As a graduate of a Jesuit university in the US, I began to receive notifications last year from my alma mater – one on June 4th, another on September 21st, and another on November 4th, the last being a request for donations for the UCA via the Association of Jesuit Universities (AJCU).
At the beginning, there was mention of Seattle University and the role it was playing in the dissemination of information about what was supposedly going on in Nicaragua last year by hosting student speakers and panels etc.
An interview on NPR with a niece of Idiaquez entitled “Pray for me- Nicaraguan Priest Threatened with Death Reaches out to Niece in the US,” was broadcast on April 24, 2019. The niece is a student at Seattle University. The Padre had been visiting his niece but as she states in the interview: “In the evening of April 15th (2018) he kept leaving the kitchen to take urgent calls.” He returned to tell her that he had to leave the next day and that the UCA was under attack. He later reported that upon his return, he found “his country unravelling.” This was three days before social media launched the false news of UCA being attacked and one or even two students killed. His niece described her uncle as a “prominent figure in the conflict when he was part of the Catholic Church’s mediation efforts” and that that put him in danger.
During the April 24 NPR interview, Uncle Idiaquez threw more coal into the fire by stating, “I want to express to the world that Nicaragua is a country in which people are killed and kidnapped every day. We have been living for many years under this kind of oppression–it’s not fair.”
Padre Idiaquez’s center of operations for transmitting the unreality of what was happening has been Seattle University, a Jesuit university based in that city, which has maintained a close relationship with the UCA since 2014, through a program created by the University called the Central American Initiative. The webpage of the CAI has a section that highlights the student and faculty initiatives and concrete activities are reported for 2014 and 2015. Those sounded like something that I would have liked to promote between my alma mater and the UCA a few years ago, given that it was my Jesuit education that introduced me to the theology of liberation and the preferential option for the poor. Now it is only filled with misinformation from the frequent visits of Padre Idiaquez and his friends, including the President of Seattle University and students and faculty and gives the idea that the UCA is no longer the UCA of Padre Jerez, but rather that of its Somocista oligarchic founders.
In the interest of transparency, it would be interesting to see figures of how much the UCA has raised in the last year and continues to raise. Never was there a clear understanding of the 6% of the national budget that the government of Nicaragua gives both private and national universities. There were only attacks saying that the government had reduced their funding last July, without explaining that budgets were cut mid-year, thanks to the reduction of state income, which was a direct result of opposition activities damaging the national economy. The UCA continues to receive government funding but sons and daughters of friends of mine who study or studied in the UCA have been disappointed in the quality of their “emergency” programming, compared to other universities.
One year later, unfortunately, the role of much of the Catholic hierarchy continues to focus on supporting a very fragmented and unrepresentative opposition. Unfortunately, when it was needed (and when it still is needed), most of the hierarchy’s spokespeople have not been a voice for peace and reconciliation, which is the desire of most of the population in Nicaragua.
By Nan McCurdy
UNICEF Recognizes Nicaragua’s Advancement in Social Policies and Wellbeing.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recognized great progress on economic and social policies under the Sandinista administration reflected in the decrease in poverty from 2009 to 2016 from 42.5% to 24.9%, and extreme poverty from 14.6% to 6.9%. UNICEF announced it has begun a new cycle of cooperation with Nicaragua for the next five-year period 2019-2023 “Nicaragua has reduced the infant mortality rate from 58.9 per 1,000 live births in 1993 to 22.7 per 1,000 live births in 2012. By 2018, this rate was 12 per 1,000 live births. Neonatal mortality went from 10 to 8 per 1,000 live births in 2018,” UNICEF said. In its report it points out that maternal mortality decreased from 97 to 37.5 per 100,000 live births from 2007 to 2016. “The percentage of girls and boys who breastfed within the first hour of birth rose from 54% to 77.35%, and the exclusive breastfeeding rate increased from 31.7% to 46%”. UNICEF recognizes that under the government of President Daniel Ortega, “the number of Child Development Centers (CDI) went from 63 in 2007 to 270 in 2018 in which they serve about 15,000 girls and boys six years and under. (Radiolaprimerisima, 9/18/19)
Nicaragua Active on Climate Change at the United Nations
Dr. Paul Oquist Kelley, minister and Private Secretary for National Policies, participated in the Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change at the UN last week. Dr. Oquist thanked Greece for making an important, timely initiative, which he said is a great contribution to the negative impacts of Climate Change. He also expressed the support of the Nicaraguan Government for this initiative. Oquist pointed out that hurricanes that were once characterized by insurance and reinsurance companies as “events every 100 years” have already occurred in 2015, 2017 and 2019, that is, instead of every 100 years, every two years. After years of indecision it is necessary to raise this issue to a strategic level at the next COP-25 and to dedicate significant resources to it. Thus, the basic themes of the Framework Convention on Climate Change should be Adaptation, Mitigation, Losses and Damages. (El19Digital, 9/22/19)
At Least 105 Children were Orphaned During the Attempted Coup
A total of 105 children were orphaned during the 2018 attempted coup d’état, according to the latest report on victim care presented by the government. According to the September 22 report of the 105 children, 65 receive accompaniment by the Ministry of Family, while the rest are already served by the Ministry of Health (MINSA), or have emigrated. For the execution of this Plan of Care and Psychological Monitoring, MIFAM organizes home visits to children of the deceased to provide care and psychological monitoring for bereavement. The Psychological Care Plan for children and their families consists minimally of 12 mourning sessions, divided by age groups of 3 to 6 years old, 7 to 12 years old and 13 to 18 years old. These sessions can be adapted to guarantee the emotional stability of children, adolescents, young people and their families. In addition, the MINSA provides specialized care to relatives of deceased and injured people who require it, as well as follow-up, medical care, delivery of medicines and periodic replacement materials, special examinations, surgeries and delivery of aid to people with disabilities. (Radiolaprimerisima, 9/23/19)
New Survey Shows Great support for Current
The most recent opinion poll by M & R Consultants shows that 59% of the people approve of President Ortega’s management. This survey was conducted with 1,622 samples between August 24 and September 4. Although 29.6% say we are going the wrong way, that is a drop of 7.9% from the last poll in April. 68.6% of those polled consider that the Sandinista government works for the benefit of the country’s poor; 26.8% said of the rich. In relation to the situation in Nicaragua 6 years ago, 54.1% think it has progressed; 39.7% think it has regressed and 4.8% think it has remained the same. 81.6% estimate that economic growth will return to what is was before April 2018.
The Sandinista Front party continues to be the political party with the highest number of supporters in Nicaragua, with 53%, distributed between 38.9% hard vote and 14.1% soft vote. Meanwhile, the opposition reaches 13.5% between 5.9% hard vote and 7.6% soft vote. The opposition still has no leader, because 74.3% say they do not know who the leader is. 85.3% believe that it is the people through their vote who should decide who should govern the country; 12.6% believe that the government should leave power. 61.3% oppose pressures from the international community towards Nicaragua; 29.5% support them; 9.1% do not know. 66.6% disagree in forcibly overthrowing the government of President Daniel Ortega; 23.1% agree; 10.2% do not respond. (Informe Pastran, 9/23/19)
Nicaragua Reminds the OAS of the Principles of the OAS Charter
On September 18 Nicaragua defended its sovereignty in the Organization of American States (OAS), and demanded they cease trying to impose dynamics and directives not requested, nor authorized by Nicaragua because it considers that they constitute unfriendly acts of subjugation of national sovereignty. The Nicaraguan authorities maintain that these actions violate the principles of the OAS Charter and the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. Nicaragua reiterated that it does not recognize any commission that has not been requested by the Government of Nicaragua, nor has its consent. It stated that any attempt by other governments or the OAS to grant itself the power to carry out interfering actions against the Republic of Nicaragua will be ignored. (Radiolaprimerisima, 9/19/19)
The National Holidays Activated the Economy
CONIMIPYME President Leonardo Torrez said on Channel 8 that this year’s long weekend of national independence holidays helped reactivate the economy. “Most of the tourist destinations were well attended, sales undoubtedly exceeded expectations in some places,” he said. “In 4 days of the long weekend more than US$55 million moved in the economy with concomitant temporary and permanent employment generated. Small, medium and big business did well,” Torres said. As far as tourism is concerned, he explained that it is recovering. “Tourism generated only US$544 million in 2018. In 2019 we will easily exceed US$600 million.” (Informe Pastran, 9/20/19)
CA Bank President Recognizes Achievements in Electricity Coverage
The president of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), Dante Mossi, acknowledged that Nicaragua is approaching the goal of 100% national electricity coverage. “It is worrying that while Nicaragua is about to reach their goal of 100% coverage of electricity, we, here (Honduras) are worried about paying debts, instead of investing in providing services for the general population,” he said. In Honduras only 74.1% of rural homes have electricity according to the latest survey by National Statistics Institute (INE). (Radiolaprimerisima, 9/17/19)
Nicaragua and Mexico Reaffirm Good Relations
Nicaragua Foreign Minister Denis Moncada met with the Ambassador of Mexico, Carmen Moreno Toscano, who recognized the advances and efforts of the Nicaraguan Government in the fight for gender equality and the empowerment of women, as well as the security and control of drug trafficking. Mexico is the second largest foreign investor in Nicaragua. Bilateral trade between Nicaragua and Mexico, which involves exports and imports is above US$1.1 billion. Nicaragua sells Mexico automobile parts, peanuts, crude oil, textiles, among others products. The Nicaraguan-Mexican Chamber of Commerce brings together 42 companies of Nicaraguan-Mexican origin that maintain investments in Nicaragua. (Informe Pastran, 9/20/19)
Marine Technology and Experimental Center Inaugurated in Pearl Lagoon
The new “Caribbean Pearl” Technology and Experimentation Center was inaugurated September 19 in Pearl Lagoon, Southern Caribbean Autonomous Region, making it the first of its kind in the Caribbean and third in Latin America. The Director of the Nicaragua Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INPESCA), Edward Jackson, said “the Center will contribute to the revitalization of the regional economy and sustainable management of marine resources, developing the capabilities of local fishermen and aquaculture producers.” The US$1,141,000 investment came from the Southern Caribbean Regional Government and the Pearl Lagoon Communal Government, with support from China-Taiwan and the International Development Fund for Agriculture (IFAD). (Nicaragua News, 9/20/19)
1.7 Million Nicaraguans Participated in Disaster Response Simulation
The National Center for Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Attention (SINAPRED) carried out the Third Multi-threat Simulation on the Nicaragua Pacific yesterday. The SINAPRED Director, Guillermo González reported that 1.7 million Nicaraguans, of which 800,000 were students, participated in the exercise that simulated an earthquake. Market vendors, trade-zones workers, state institution employees, firefighters and the Red Cross participated in the exercise. A fourth regional exercise simulating a hurricane will be carried out in mid-November. (Nicaragua News, 9/20/19)
Quality Water and Sanitation for Thousands of Citizens
The Nicaragua Government, through the Emergency Social Investment Fund (Nuevo-FISE), is implementing the Rural Water and Sanitation Sustainability Project (PROSASR). The US$32 million investment is being financed by the World Bank. The Nuevo-FISE Director Virgilio Bravo said that “76 projects were implemented, restoring the right to quality potable water and sanitation for thousands of citizens.” (Nicaragua News, 9/19/19)
British Magazine highlights Nicaragua’s Magical Tourism
Last week, the renowned British magazine Wanderlust published an extensive report on Nicaragua authored by travel writer Sarah Gilbert, highlighting Nicaragua as one of the 200 secret destinations most recommended by travel experts. “A land of contrasts, the unhurried island life of Nicaragua is a world away from its fiery volcanoes and the history of rebel pirates and mysterious legends,” Gilbert writes. The author describes her adventures at the most emblematic Nicaraguan volcanoes, walks through the colonial city of Granada, the lush nature of Solentiname Archipelago and the Indio Maíz Nature Reserve, the magic of the mythical Ometepe Island, the seductive beauty of the Caribbean on Corn Island, Little Corn Island and the Pearl Cays, as well as the surfing paradise of the Pacific beaches. (Nicaragua News, 9/18/19)
New Ambassador to the Organization of American States
Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo reported that Ruth Tapia, who served as Nicaragua’s ambassador to France, was appointed ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS). “The Nicaraguan embassy in France and our dear colleague Ruth Tapia were also present at the feast of l’Humanité. She will be concluding her mission in Paris and she has already been accredited by our Foreign Ministry as ambassador to the Organization of American States,” said Murillo. She added that Luis Alvarado will serve as alternate ambassador to the OAS. (El19Digital, 9/17/19)
Answer Coalition in Solidarity with Nicaragua
The Nicaraguan Mission to the Organization of American States (OAS) participated in a solidarity event organized by the Washington DC Answer Coalition, students from George Washington University Against Imperialism, the Catholic Workers Movement and the Latin American Solidarity Movement. At the event, Mr. Brian Becker, leader of the Answer Coalition, stated that the Sandinista Revolution is remembered with much affection by the American people who followed closely in the 1980s their struggle for peace in the face of President Reagan’s political interference and the attacks of the counter-revolution. “Today, once again, we see how the people and government of Nicaragua are victims of the empire’s attacks and that is why in the name of all the organizations gathered here we want to reiterate our firm solidarity and support,” he said. (Radiolaprimerisima, 9/22/19)
Nicaragua’s Amazing Advances Shared at
UN Economic and Social Commission
The 2019 “Sustainable Cities” Forum of the Standing Committee on Finance of the Framework Convention on Climate Change held September 12 and 13 2019 at the headquarters of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia in Beirut, Lebanon. The keynote address of the Panel on Participatory Development was given by Dr. Paul Oquist Kelley, Presidential Minister for National Policies of Nicaragua, who is also a Member of the Standing Committee on Finance of the Climate Change Convention. The paper dealt with Participatory Development in Nicaragua since 2007.
In 2007, Nicaragua ranked 90th among the countries of the world in the Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. After a decade, in 2018, Nicaragua ranks fifth in the same Index. Only the Nordic countries of traditional egalitarian fame are ahead of Nicaragua in the ranking: Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Norway. Nicaragua is even ahead of one of the Nordic countries: Denmark. Thus, in terms of the gender gap, Nicaragua is ahead of all European countries except the Nordic countries indicated, all developing countries in the world and all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The main theme of the panel became “How Nicaragua had achieved such a revolutionary economic, social, political and cultural transformation in such a short time.” Dr. Oquist explained that participatory development in Nicaragua is implemented in all sectors through mechanisms of citizen participation in decision-making and management processes. This is especially relevant for sectors that were previously excluded.
Extreme poverty was reduced from 17.2% to 6.9%. The indigenous and Afro-descendants of the Caribbean Coast and the Upper Wangki River now have 37,859.3 square kilometers of land delimited and titled in favor of 23 Territories and 314 Communities all administered by their own territorial governments.
The reduction in the economic gender gap is doubly positive due to the empowerment of poor women through the Zero Hunger and Zero Usury programs. In Zero Hunger the women of impoverished families with land received in donation: a pregnant cow, a pregnant sow, chickens, farmyard material, seeds and fertilizers. The result has been women producers and a significant improvement in the nutrition of the families, higher incomes when selling surpluses in the local market and greater self-esteem of the women. During the first 10 years of its execution, 113,850 families were capitalized nationwide. There are now 173 new cooperatives made up of 8,186 women in 9 departments of the country. This has been the product of the womens’initiative.
In Nicaragua in terms of Women’s Participation in Politics: 9 of 16 ministries are headed by women. The World Parliamentary Union points out that Nicaragua has the greatest representation of women with a 56% female Cabinet. In the National Assembly, 42 of 92 Deputies are women, fifth place in the world, according to the World Inter-Parliamentary Union and UN Women. (El 19Digital, 9/24/19)