Sandino shadow

Text and Photos by Madeline McClure

In March, 2021, I traveled to Nicaragua as a delegate with the Sanctions Kill! Coalition delegation to witness the impact of the “coercive measures” the U.S. uses to impose its political and economic interests, rationalized by its allegations of repression and political crisis. Yet rather than find a people under dictatorship, I arrived to a society thrumming with autonomous productivity, bolstered by decades of redistributed wealth, historic self-determination and a disciplined sense of resiliency.

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Families enjoy Monday evening at a park in Granada. Community parks are well-attended throughout Nicaragua.

There’s a feeling in the air that the U.S. media hasn’t quite been able to put its finger on. Perhaps it’s fourteen consistent years under a government which provides its people a level of support that most in the U.S. can hardly fathom. While we, the richest country in the world, debate over trillions of dollars of student debt and a failing healthcare system that causes hundreds of thousands of deaths, the poorest country in Central America offers universal healthcare and free university education to all of its citizens.

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A paletero, or ice cream vendor, in the streets of Managua. Unlike in many countries throughout Latin America and the U.S., street vending is completely legal here.

The memory of the bloody Somoza regime, scars of the U.S.-funded contra war, and the loss of progress to seventeen years under neoliberal capitalism are felt throughout Nicaragua. The history is kept alive through the celebration of the people’s triumph. It is felt in the public parks named after children who lost their lives to contra rebels and at the Salvador Allende Port, once part of Nicaragua’s notorious garbage dump. The surrounding area is now a neighborhood of more than two hundred homes for the people who had survived picking through the dump’s refuse and who now have formal employment at a nearby recycling center. Throughout the country one finds these tangible symbols of revolution in the community’s sense of ownership over public space.

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Two boys and a goat on La Montañita, Estelí, where attacks from Somoza’s National Guard are still remembered by its residents. Today, La Montañita is home to many small scale farms.

The history is felt, as well, because the repression against Nicaragua and its people’s freedom has never ended. US economic sanctions against the country have prevented international aid, loans and trade deals for a number of years, despite the illegality of sanctions under international law. Sanctions have been particularly devastating during the pandemic, and have ruined brilliant solutions to poverty – such as the Petrocaribe Agreement between Latin American countries, an exchange of goods which moved the region away from dependence on the U.S. and World Bank. While many in the U.S. would insist that these sanctions are an acceptable alternative to ammunition, they should be widely regarded for what they are: a form of criminal warfare.

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Don Mateo at his home on La Montañita, Estelí, explaining the joy and benefit of living off the land.

But Nicaragua refuses to be colonized. Feeding over 80% of its entire population, their self-reliant food system provides an example for a world facing climate change. This was made possible by massive land reform: over half of the country’s land was redistributed to peasants and small farmers during the Sandinista Revolution (1979-1990). Now, small-scale farming produces 85% of the country’s food and owns 62% of the land. The government contributes the resources for rural landowners to live sustainably by granting loans, livestock and agricultural supplies through their bono productive (production packages) program [also known as Zero Hunger], and educational projects throughout the countryside teach agroecological methods to make the most of these resources.

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Silke and her son Alexander at the Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region of Nicaragua University.

With respect to education, Nicaragua sets another leading example. Since returning to office in 2007, the Sandinista Front provides preschool, primary and secondary students with free meals, backpacks and uniforms to supplement their education. Once graduated, students have the option of attending free technical school or public university—6% of the national budget is devoted to providing universal higher education to the population. We visited one such public university, the University of the Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region of Nicaragua, which uses Indigenous philosophy focused on rescuing generational knowledge. Their intercultural form of education provides undergraduate, graduate and PhD programs to the multiethnic communities which reside on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast.

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A fisherman points to his boat off Corn Island, located on the autonomous Caribbean coast.

The autonomous Caribbean Region is a unique example of Indigenous sovereignty organized within the national context. Self-governing municipalities have access to state programs which supply resources to the region. One year after the most recent sanctions went into effect, the Sandinista government finished the first highway to ever connect the Caribbean to the Pacific coast, creating access to areas which had previously been in isolation and allowing easier movement of people, farm and sea products. In the past several years, the region has seen massive amounts of development including going from very little electricity to nearly complete coverage of electricity and the construction of hospitals in every municipality. Last November, when hurricanes Eta and Iota ravaged the coast, 160,000 people were relocated in advance—0 died. The government has helped in rebuilding through efforts like Plan Techo, which provided over half a million new roofs to the coastal communities within a month of the hurricanes.

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Gerardo at sunset beside the Mombacho volcano.

What is clear is that the U.S. would love to see Nicaragua suffer, that it is waging its war not just against the government, but against its workers, its mothers and its children. It is clear, at least, to the Nicaraguan people; they have fought this war for over a century.

Upon returning to the U.S., news has broken that a Democratic senator is introducing further sanctions on Nicaragua, cutting it off further from developmental aid. Paid social media posts and fabricated reports bury the country’s extraordinary reality, producing their own hostile version. In Washington, the think tanks are publishing their lauded studies, while back in Nicaragua someone is doing the real work, plunging a shovel into the fertile ground.

You can help Nicaragua today by resisting sanctions. Our actions must speak louder than the propaganda—get involved by joining nicanetwork@googlegroups.com, contacting your congress members, and/or donating to the Nicaragua Solidarity Fund and AfGJ.

 

Briefs

By Nan McCurdy

Nicaragua Will Be Able to Protect its Population
Vice President Rosario Murillo announced on April 28 that 6.86 million vaccines against COVID-19 (to vaccinate 3.27 million Nicaraguans) will be acquired with a financing of US$100 million approved by the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI). In the implementation of the country’s vaccination plan, 69.2% of the population is prioritized and the objective is the vaccination of approximately 4.7 million inhabitants. Among the components of the vaccination plan financed by CABEI are the acquisition of vaccines and supplies for their application; the diagnostic and vaccination process, which includes reinforcing the cold chain through the purchase of equipment to preserve all vaccines; strengthening the capacities of the National Reference Diagnostic Center (CNDR); as well as supervision and auditing by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); and coverage for possible unforeseen events. The loan is part of CABEI’s Emergency Support and Preparedness Program for COVID-19 and Economic Reactivation in accordance with the Institutional Strategy 2020-2024 and the Institution’s Environmental and Social Strategy for the same period. This is a 20-year term loan, with a grace period of up to five years, with an indicative interest rate of 1.96% and with favorable financial conditions thanks to CABEI’s thematic bond issue for the purchase of vaccines and its high credit rating, the best in Latin America. (Informe Pastran, 28 April 2021)

Successful Vaccination Day Campaign against 16 Diseases
More than one million Nicaraguans, including adults and children, were immunized during the National Vaccination Day Campaign. The goal was met of vaccinating more than 1.325 million people including children under one, children from one to five, school age children, adolescents, and older adults. “We also consider successful the additional doses of vitamin A and parasite medicines that were provided. This campaign has a comprehensive approach and we are celebrating 40 years of the development of the vaccination day campaign in the first stage of the Revolution, protecting our population against 16 diseases,” said Health Minister Marta Reyes. Ten thousand health workers and more than 30,000 health promotors in barrios and villages carried out the campaign. (Radio La Primerisima, 26 April 2021)

Veterans for Peace Activist Writes New CA Senator on Sanctions
Nadya Williams of San Francisco Veterans for Peace wrote a letter to California’s new Senator Alex Padilla about the RENACER Act before the Senate which would increase sanctions against Nicaragua. She wrote: “How long is the punishment of the Nicaraguan People going to continue – because of their 1979 overthrow of the US-imposed and backed dictator Somoza? Really, how long?  I went to Nicaragua exactly 37 years ago to volunteer on work brigades in 1984 for a month, while my husband took care of our three young children. I have US friends who live in Nicaragua full time who send long reports with the Truth about the situation there, and with detailed evidence of the Lies perpetrated by the US government and media, who back the right-wing elite opposition (in Nicaragua and Miami). Will my country ever turn from imposing poverty, exploitation by multinational corporations, and brutal repression by ‘our’ hand-picked dictators on the so-called Third World? Are we still in the 1800s colonial and imperial times? ‘No Sanctions on Nicaragua.’” Nadya Marina Connolly Williams is Director of Communications of San Francisco Chapter 69 of Veterans For Peace, and Board Member, VFP Viet Nam Ch. 160. [Note from Editor:  Please call your Representative and Senators and tell them No to Any Sanctions on Nicaragua.] ( www.vfp160.org  28 April 2021)

World Bank US$80 Million Loan for Hurricane Reconstruction
A financing agreement between Nicaragua and the World Bank for US$80 million was approved April 27 for reconstruction after two November 2020 hurricanes. The financing aims to support Nicaragua’s emergency response in the reestablishment of social and economic services on the Caribbean Coast. It will be implemented in three components: rehabilitation, recovery and resilient reconstruction including the rehabilitation of selected critical infrastructure and the rehabilitation and reconstruction of selected housing and community social infrastructure. (Radio La Primerisima, 28 April 2021)

Money for More Affordable Housing
In support of the low-cost housing program “Casas para El Pueblo,” President Daniel Ortega authorized the Ministry of Finance to sign a Public Trust Agreement for the Administration of Resources with the Production Development Bank (BANPRO). The contract for US$14.3 million will strengthen the capabilities of the Institute of Urban and Rural Housing (INVUR) to build and deliver homes to at risk populations in rural and urban areas.  (Radio La Primerisima, 22 April, 2021)

Investments to Improve Schools
The government recently invested more than US$2.3 million to improve schools and their equipment in different parts of the country. Presidential Advisor on Education Salvador Vanegas explained that this is one of the largest investment packages of the year, and corresponds to works that will be inaugurated this week. Vanegas mentioned that investments were made in schools in Rosita, Prinzapolka, Chinandega, Pueblo Nuevo, León, Madriz, Nueva Segovia, Juigalpa, Masaya and Bluefields. (Radio La Primerisima, 26 April 2021)

Support for Coffee Growers
The Nicaragua Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) trained and delivered Technology Packages to 700 small producers this week, to promote production and increase the yield of coffee cultivation in Jalapa, Nueva Segovia Department. The initiative is part of the Strategy for Development and Transformation of Coffee Growing that the Government is implementing to promote sustainable development of the sector. (Nicaragua News, 22 April 2021)

Sewage and Water Improvements in Jinotepe
The Nicaragua Water and Sewage Company (ENACAL) and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) signed a contract for US$10.9 million to improve and expand the sewage and water treatment system in Jinotepe, Carazo Department, benefiting 62,700 inhabitants. (Nicaragua News, 22 April 2021)

Parties Consulted on Changes to Electoral Law
The members of the Special Constitutional Committee for Electoral Matters of the National Assembly began the consultation process with political parties on the Reforms to Law 331, Electoral Law. National Assembly Deputy Auxiliadora Martinez, chair of the committee, stated that April 22 nine political parties were consulted, among them the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), the Coastal Unity Movement Party, the Alliance for the Republic Party (APRE) and the Conservative Party (CP). “In general the consultation has been very positive, most of the political parties have shown their support, some have made observations about form and we believe we are on the right track.” Also on the morning of April 22, representatives of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC), headed by María Haydee Ozuna and Lester Flores, participated and said that the process is open and carried out in a very polite manner. “We have presented our contributions, we agree with the sanctioning of political transfuguismo [switching political parties from the party one was elected to represent], as well as the inclusion of the gender equity law,” stated Flores. In the afternoon, the representatives of the parties Alternative for Change (AC), the Nicaraguan Resistance Party (PRN) and the Yatama Regional Party were consulted. Assembly Deputy Martinez added that all parties have ratified their participation in the November elections and support the reforms to the Electoral Law. (Radio La Primerisima, 23 April 2021)

Bio-fence of Plastic Bottles Installed in Estuary
To reduce the impact of solid waste, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA), along with the Guardabarranco Environmental Movement, installed a Bio-fence system in the La Bocana Estuary in the San Juan del Sur municipality. MARENA Vice Minister, Javier Gutiérrez stated that “the installing of the 75-meter-long bio-fence made with 1,600 plastic bottles, will help to retain floating sediments and concentrate them at a specific point so that garbage collection can be more efficient.” He added that the effort will be complemented with environmental education programs to create awareness about proper waste management. (Nicaragua News, 23 April 2021)

Last Week 84% of Energy from Renewables
The National Center for Electricity Dispatch reported that 83.87% of the energy generated in the country last week came from renewable sources: 22.09% wind; 17.91% biomass; 15.24% geothermal; 11.67% hydroelectric; 0.53% solar and 16.113% regional renewable energy imports. (Nicaragua News, 23 April 2021)

Mega Health Fair in Masaya
More than 6,000 medical consults were provided over the weekend in the mega health fair held at the site where the new Masaya hospital will be built. The Health Ministry provided specialized attention, examinations were provided in addition to medicines, eye glasses and natural medicine consultations and complementary therapies. The fair included attention in general medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, orthopedics, laboratory, ultrasonography and surgery. On Saturday alone, 3,200 laboratory tests were done. More than 2,500 patients attended. (Radio La Primerisima, 25 April 2021)

Covid Immunization on Caribbean Coast
Health Ministry personnel started Covid-19 vaccinations early on April 26 at the Psychosocial Care Center in the Fatima neighborhood of Bluefields, in the South Caribbean Coast. The chronically ill and people over 60 years of age, considered by specialists as the groups most at risk for the disease, are receiving the vaccine. “I trust in the vaccine, just as I trusted in the smallpox and measles vaccines, in all of them, why not do it, brother”, said Hermógenes Bejarano, who went to get vaccinated. Health Minister, Dr. Martha Reyes, attended the first day of vaccination to assess the care being provided to each of the patients. The vaccine is also being administered in the municipalities of Kukra Hill, Corn Island, La Cruz del Rio Grande, El Tortuguero and Desembocadura de Rio Grande. (Radio La Primerisima, 26 April 2021)

22 Physical Therapy Treatment Rooms Equipped
Some 874 pieces of medical equipment were delivered to the 22 physical therapy rooms in the departments of Estelí, Nueva Segovia, Madriz, Matagalpa and Jinotega. Dr. Sonia Castro, presidential advisor on health issues, declared that the Government invested US$772,000 in the purchase of parallel bars for adults and children, stationary bicycles, cervical and lumbar traction equipment, platform with stairs and ramp; tricycles for children and portable ultrasound.  She explained that these tools will be used by patients in the process of rehabilitation after suffering diseases that cause physical and mental damage. (Radio La Primerisima, 26 April 2021)

2020-2021 Production Increased Over Previous Year
Despite the impact of two hurricanes, the agricultural planting area grew 2% during the 2020-2021 cycle in relation to previous periods, said Isidro Rivera, Agriculture Minister. The total bean harvest for the 2020-2021 season was 4.6 million hundred weights, a growth of 7.8%; There was a 2% growth in rice with 5.7 million hundred weights. 8.2 million hundred weights of corn were produced. Rivera noted that basic grains, coffee, bananas, peanuts, roots and tubers were grown in an area of 1.585 million manzanas (2.7 million acres), but harvested in an area of 1.465 million manzanas (2.5 million acres). “The variation we had between planted area and harvested area was 8%, which is due to the impact of two hurricanes, but it was not something that affected national consumption,” said Rivera. The MAG official said that ETA and IOTA damaged key areas where the third planting takes place, however, thanks to the Government’s policy of assisting farming families with Technology Packages, the third planting achieved a little more than 1.7 million hundred weights of beans. (Radio La Primerisima, 27 April 2021)

Nicaragua-Costa Rica Tourism Agreement
The Nicaragua Tourism Institute (INTUR) and the Costa Rica Tourism Institute (ICT) announced an Agreement for the “Establishment of a Nicaragua-Costa Rica Binational Tourism Corridor.” The Agreement contemplates the joint promotion of ecological tourism activities in Guanacaste province of Costa Rica and Rivas department in Nicaragua. INTUR Director Anasha Campbell stated that “the new binational corridor will strengthen the quality of tourism in both countries and create new employment opportunities for border communities in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.” (Nicaragua News, 26 April 2021)

Weekly Covid Report April 27, 2021
The Health Ministry reported 48 new registered cases of Covid and 41 people recuperated for the week of April 20 to 26, and one death. Since March 2020 there have been 5,498 registered Covid cases, 5,253 people recuperated and 182 deaths. (Radio La Primerisima, 27 April 2021)

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