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Remembering Ben Linder’s legacy through the Ben Linder Solidarity School
By Erika Takeo
(Erika Takeo is a North American based in Managua, Nicaragua. She is the coordinator of the Friends of the ATC, the solidarity network with the Rural Workers Association.)
Written by Ben Linder to friends in September 1983:
Somoza left the country in shambles. Flat broke. He took everything but the debt. Granted, there are still problems now, but there is a feeling of hope, there is a feeling of building a new country. At times this exuberance leads to false hopes. Many more times it leads to a say in life that has never before been experienced for the majority of Nicaraguans.
It is hard for us to imagine the meaning of a paved street. In Nicaragua there are two seasons – wet and dry. When it is wet the mud is two feet deep. When it is dry the dust permeates everything. Eating becomes like a picnic at the beach, all the food crunches with dust. Slowly more and more streets are being paved.
But that is only the physical benefits. The more important changes are the feelings of being in control. This is in control of walking out at night and not being afraid of being shot by the police, as was the case before 1979. It is establishing control of the neighborhood and the workplace. It is in education, healthcare and word. This is control. Granted there is still a long way to go, but people are still fighting. Not fighting against the government, but rather fighting old habits, old customs and the results of centuries of oppression. Unfortunately, at the borders, the struggle goes on militarily. The old enemies keep fighting with more and more U.S. support. It is such a waste. I guess our government knows quite well how to drain an economy through military spending.
Pardon me for speech making, but it is impossible to get a feeling for Nicaragua without a feeling of political struggle.
Ben Linder was a young North American from Portland, Oregon, who traveled to Nicaragua in the 1980s during the first phase of the Sandinista Revolution. After studying engineering at the University of Washington, he hoped to put his skills to work in order to improve people’s lives and support the projects implemented by the new revolutionary government in Nicaragua. Ben obtained work with INE (the Nicaraguan Institute of Energy) where his passion was investigating how to implement electricity projects in the rural northern part of Nicaragua, a region that had never had electricity and that suffered decades of abandonment under the Somoza dictatorship.
In 1985, Ben and a team of Nicaraguans were able to complete a hydroelectric plant in El Cuá, Jinotega, to be run entirely by locals for the community, training a young peasant woman named Hilda Granados as one of the plant operators.
Despite the ramping up of the US financing and arming of contra battles in the mountains, making the region very dangerous, after completing the plant in El Cuá, Ben continued working to fulfill his dream of implementing a small hydroelectric dam near San José de Bocay. On April 28th, 1987, while constructing the weir along the river in the woods, Linder and two Nicaragua co-workers were tragically murdered by contra soldiers. Ben’s death created international outrage. US tax dollars were being used to kill its own people.
Ben’s story is a true example of internationalism which we are constructing today through an online institution in his name, the Ben Linder Solidarity School.
The Ben Linder Solidarity School was founded in 2020 by the Friends of the ATC, the solidarity network with the Rural Workers Association (Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo – ATC) of Nicaragua, out of the necessity to continue organizing and training young people in the difficult international context created during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, our first school took place over the span of thirteen weeks with 60 weekly students connecting online from over a dozen countries, carried out entirely bilingual in English and Spanish.
The course material in the Ben Linder Solidarity School is based upon the strong tradition in the ATC of formación, which roughly translates into English as “political education.” While a central focus of the school is Nicaragua and the Sandinista Revolution, a major part of the class material also comes directly from the international training processes organized by the global peasant movement La Via Campesina, of which the Nicaraguan ATC is a founding member. Students in the Ben Linder Solidarity School come away with a strong understanding of the current international state of our food system and what peasant organizations have done to lead the way to build food sovereignty, using agroecology, as the one solution to fight climate change.
The Ben Linder Solidarity School is also explicitly anti-imperialist. Two classes in this year’s school focus specifically on the history of US and foreign intervention in Nicaragua and Latin America, and the concluding sessions focus on building a truly anti-imperialist international solidarity with the Sandinista Revolution and popular organizations.
We invite you to carry on Ben Linder’s dream to accompany the revolutionary struggle in Nicaragua and improve the quality of life of rural peoples by participating in this year’s Ben Linder Solidarity School. This year’s course will take place online over ten weeks, every Saturday for two hours (9am-11am Pacific time) beginning on August 7th and finishing on October 2nd. We ask participants to fill out a short application online by August 4th here and shortly thereafter this year’s course coordination committee will follow up with you with additional information about your participation.
Nicanet Delegation Holds Press Conference & Releases Statement
An international delegation organized by the Nicaragua Network/Alliance for Global Justice, with members from the United States, Brazil, Canada, and Mexico, that visited Nicaragua from July 18 to July 25 held a press conference in which they called on the US government to halt its interference in the country’s internal affairs and to end the sanctions it has imposed against the country. The press conference and statement were covered by a number of Nicaraguan media outlets.
Here is some of the statement: Our delegation, organized by the Nicaragua Network, had the opportunity to visit Managua, Granada, Estelí and Masaya. We have seen the beauty of this country and its people — a people struggling mightily to live in peace and prosperity despite constant U.S. aggression and brutal sanctions.
We heard from health care providers, teachers and vocational instructors in Estelí who are working to make sure that working class people and campesinos have access to medical attention and education – in addition to access to housing, employment and income promotion programs. As one teacher explained, the current system under Sandinista leadership is one of “inclusion” as opposed to the policies of “exclusion” of the neoliberal governments of 1991 to 2007.
In contrast to the countries of the global north, Nicaragua has managed to contain one of the most serious pandemics of the last decades with a free universal public health system, with personalized attention and follow-up for infected patients, and with a model that seeks to adjust to the particular characteristics of each region, including the needs of indigenous and afro-indigenous communities.
In Masaya, we heard from those who lived through the U.S.-backed terror of the coup attempt of 2018. We heard from city security forces [guards of city equipment] who were kidnapped and tortured by opposition forces who took over the city. The U.S. mass media – aligned with U.S. political, economic and military interests – led the false, unsubstantiated narrative of a repressive government. We heard direct testimonies of victims of the 2018 violence and saw massive destruction of infrastructure that the city has yet to fully recover from.
One individual lost his arm during the torture he suffered. The burning of the mayor’s offices; the destruction of the city works building along with sanitation and street-paving trucks; and the burning down of the historic Masaya market, was proof to us that the instigators engaged in outright terrorism. At the same time, we saw the heroic efforts of the security workers and government and people of Masaya to rebuild and to continue providing vital services to the citizenry.
In Granada, we heard similar testimonies, including of the opposition’s torching of the centuries-old municipal building which William Walker did not manage to destroy during his burning down of that city in the 1850s. We also heard how the historic combatants who defeated Somoza came out during the 2018 coup attempt to confront the opposition violence and, along with the police, to restore order and peace. ….
The tyrannical government — that of Anastasio Somoza — is now gone despite the backing of the U.S., which tried to reinstall Somoza’s National Guard in the form of the Contras in the 1980’s. That the U.S. now claims to care about Nicaraguan democracy is a cruel joke.
The U.S.’s constant attempts to undermine the peace and prosperity of the Nicaraguan people; to sow divisions which exploded into violence in 2018; and to undermine the sovereignty of Nicaragua are unacceptable. We denounce these attempts as immoral and illegal, just as the International Court of Justice found these efforts to be unlawful in its 1986 decision in the case of Nicaragua versus the U.S.
We call upon the U.S. government and allied NGOs to halt their interference in and sanctions against this country and to let Nicaragua live in peace as a sovereign nation just as the UN Charter unequivocally requires. Recent polling by M&R Consulting demonstrates massive opposition to such foreign interference, 85%, amongst the Nicaraguan people.
We thank the Nicaraguan people for opening up their hearts to us during our trip to this country of lakes and volcanoes, and we stand with you against all U.S. meddling, sanctions and provocations.
In solidarity, Nicaragua Network – Alliance for Global Justice / Answer Coalition / Black Alliance for Peace / Jornalistas Livres / Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de los Pueblos / Pan-African Community Action / PSL Party for socialism and liberation / Voices with vision, WPFW Radio / * In an effort to call on the U.S. to stop interfering in the lives and future of Nicaraguans, we invite individuals from all over the world to support the Hands Off Nicaragua sign on letter. See full statement in Spanish HERE: https://www.el19digital.com/articulos/ver/titulo:118724-declaracion-de-… (El 19 Digital, 23 July 2021)
By Nan McCurdy
Voter Verification Weekend Enormous Success with 2.8 million Verified
The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) reported that 2,825,117 Nicaraguans participated in the citizen verification days, July 24 and 25. The president of the CSE, magistrate Brenda Rocha, said that 322,910 citizens reported change of address. She announced that the Supreme Electoral Council’s web page has been enabled for online verification for all those citizens who did not participate last weekend. The next step, according to the electoral calendar is the registration of candidates for president, vice president, deputies to the National Assembly and deputies to the Central American Parliament. The citizen verification process took place around the country in 3,110 voting centers, usually the local school. Managua has 492 voting centers, of which 297 are in the departmental capital and 195 in the other municipalities. If the person has not voted in two Elections they will re-enter the voting roll and will be added during this process. If the person shows up at the voting center on November 7 to vote and is not on the voting roll because they had not voted in two elections, had not participated in verification or had not registered online, they will be allowed to vote based on their current address. In 2021 the CSE has completed over half million ID procedures (new, renewal and replacement of ID’s). See photos here: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias-generales/destacado/ (Radio La Primerisima, 24, 26 July 2021)
PLI Designates Presidential Candidate
The Independent Liberal Party (PLI) designated Mauricio Urue Vásquez as candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, reported Mario Asensio, party legal representative, reported to La Primerisima on July 28, the first day that parties can officially designate candidates. He said that later this week they will go to the Supreme Electoral Council to register their presidential candidate, the list of deputies to the National Assembly and the Central American Parliament. “We are prepared and we are going to register in the established term, we are sure that our candidates fulfill the requirements to run in the contest and start the whole campaign process.” (Radio La Primerisima, 28 July 2021)
Influenza Vaccination Campaign Great Success
Medical brigades, mobile clinics, and 19 Local Health Systems administered 642,400 doses of vaccines for the prevention of influenza during the Third National Influenza Vaccination Campaign that concluded last week. The Director of the Immunization Program of the Ministry of Health, Jazmina Umaña explained that “600,000 doses of the influenza vaccine were administered to people between the ages of 6 and 49, as well as 42,400 doses to infants between 6 and 23 months during this third campaign that took place from June 24 to July 16.” Umaña emphasized that it is particularly important to get the indicated vaccines due to the risk of Covid-19 that disproportionately attacks people with compromised immune systems. (Nicaragua News, 23 July 2021)
Nicaragua Sending Shipment of Food to Cuba
Vice President Rosario Murillo reported that Nicaragua will send a ship with food to the people and government of Cuba. She said that it will be to “contribute in these times of pandemics including the pandemic of the Yankee plague that we are fighting.” She added, “The food we send represents the respect and eternal gratitude of the Nicaraguan people, of our revolution to the people of Fidel, of Raul, of Miguel and to the Cuban Revolution; and it will be leaving, God willing, as soon as possible.” In a letter sent to the President of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel and to the Commander of the Cuban Revolution, Raúl Castro, the Nicaraguan authorities said that the ship, Augusto C Sandino, which will take the food to Havana, is being prepared. (Radio La Primerisima, 27 July 2021)
Nicaragua Urged Unity in the Face of Evil Powers
Speaking at the XXI Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) the Nicaraguan representative, Luis Alvarado “condemned, rejected and repudiated all malevolent, malignant, false, perverse attempts to destroy, with so many infamous mechanisms, the peoples and revolutions of Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua.” Likewise, he added, “Nicaragua condemns, rejects and demands the immediate cessation of the brutal and criminal blockade against the Cuban people.” Alvarado pointed out that in these times of assaults to peace and abundance of aberrations, lies, slander and nefarious fabrications, “it must be reiterated to the Empires that our historical gallantry is not of vain talk, but of struggles and lofty ideals.” (Radio La Primerisima, 24 July 2021)
FSLN Presidential Formula will be Determined at Party Congress
Deputy Edwin Castro, legal representative of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, told Radio La Primerísima that they are waiting for the FSLN National Congress in which they will ratify the presidential candidate for the November 7 elections. “We are waiting … in this activity … we ratify our candidate and the formula that will represent us in the general elections,” said Castro who emphasized that the Citizen Verification exercise carried out this past weekend shows that the whole process is going according to law and correctly, in which 17 political parties are participating in the contest. (Radio La Primerisima, 26 July 2017)
Death and Damage from Flooding in Many Parts of Nicaragua
Swollen rivers, one dead, one missing and a total of 149 flooded houses, is the result of the last rains that fell in El Castillo, El Rama, Nueva Guinea, Bluefields, El Almendro, Muelle de Los Bueyes, San Carlos, San Miguelito, San Juan de Nicaragua, Cárdenas and Tortuguero according to a SINAPRED report. Government representatives visited the families to evaluate their situation and people have been transferred to shelters. The deceased was identified as Santos Rivas, 42 years old, who drowned when he was passing milk with a rope from one side of the El Bambú River to the other, in the municipality of El Tortuguero. Dania Cruz Leiva, 16 years old, tried to cross the Cuchara River, in the Isla Grande district, municipality of El Rama, and was swept away by the current. The search for her continues. (Radio La Primerisima, 26 July 2021)
New Technology Security Agreement with Russia
Nicaragua and the Russian Federation signed a “Binational Agreement on Information Technology Security” on June 19. The Agreement seeks to create spaces for collaboration between both countries to implement technologies that guarantee security in international communication. Nicaragua Foreign Minister Denis Moncada stated that “communication technology should be a source of development and progress for nations, not a tool that threatens the stability of the country. This Agreement will allow the Nicaragua Government to implement the necessary measures to protect national security.” (Nicaragua News, 21 July 2021)
Choirs and Orchestras in More Schools
Student choirs and symphony orchestras are now part of the comprehensive training that students receive in schools, developing skills, talents, values and national identity.
In 2016 the Rubén Darío student choirs were organized and as of 2017 the first symphony orchestras were begun. Currently there are 7,837 Rubén Darío student choirs with the participation of 220,000 children and adolescents. In 2021, the student symphony orchestras increased from 28 to 39 orchestras, with 1,308 children and youth members. The orchestras include violins, violas, cellos, double basses, oboe, clarinet, flute, horn, bassoon, trumpets, trombones, tuba, drums and more. See photos here: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias-generales/destacado/aumentan-coros-y-orquestas-sinfonicas/ (Radio La Primerisima, 24 July 2021)
Nicaragua’s Population is Optimistic about the National Economic Outlook
On July 21, Forbes Central America magazine published the results of the CID Gallup “Optimism about Economic Future in Latin America” survey which states that Nicaragua is the fourth country in Latin America where citizens are most optimistic about the national economic outlook, surpassed only by Mexico, Ecuador, and El Salvador. (Nicaragua News, 22 July 2021)
President says “Going to Vote is a Vote for the Independence of Our Homeland”
President Daniel Ortega emphasized on July 25 that the November 7 elections are part of another battle to achieve the second Independence in our country. The President and the Vice President Rosario Murillo verified their registrations in the electoral roll at their Voting Center, after which President Ortega spoke to the media. “We would say we are defending our second Independence, which will be the Independence that really makes us totally free and independent,” he stated. The President said that “Going to vote next November, is voting for the Independence of our Homeland, to achieve our second Independence. That of 200 years ago was unquestionably an effort that we cannot deny, where even blood was spilled. But at the end of the day it was frustrated because the Yankees came and said America for the Americans, that is, America for the Yankees. They began to dominate our countries and the country that did not want to be dominated, they invaded it, or carried out a coup d’état, like the one in Chile, where they assassinated the heroic president Salvador Allende.” He stressed that for the Gringos elections are only valid when their lackeys win, if they win, the election is good, if their lackeys do not win then the election is not good, and they do everything possible to destabilize and destroy the country, as they have done with Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil. (Radio La Primerisima, 26 July 2021)
Jaime Arellano, Noel Vidaurre and Jose Antonio Peraza Under Investigation
On July 24 the National Police initiated an investigation against Noel José Vidaurre Argüello and Jaime José Arellano Arana, for carrying out acts that violate law 1055, such as inciting foreign interference in internal affairs, requesting military interventions, organizing with financing from foreign powers to carry out acts of terrorism and destabilization, requesting foreign sanctions like economic, commercial and financial blockades against Nicaragua and its institutions. They are both under house arrest.
Lawyer José Antonio Peraza, a well-known agent in the service of the United States, was arrested the night of July 26, according to the National Police. In the last few weeks, Peraza has dedicated himself to use all the media financed by Washington to try to torpedo the electoral process and promote Yankee intervention in Nicaragua’s internal affairs. He is also under investigation for carrying out acts that violate Law No. 1055. (Radio La Primerisima, 24 and 26 July 2021)
Covid Report for Week of July 20 to 26
The Health Ministry reported 279 new registered cases of Covid-19, 257 people recuperated and 1 death. Since March 2020 there have been 7,592 registered cases of Covid, 7,035 people recuperated and 194 deaths. (Radio La Primerisima, 27 July 2021)