by Yoav Elinevsky
The country and people I saw in October 2021 were not what is presented about Nicaragua by the US government and the mainstream media. The Nicaraguans my delegation met with–from officials to workers–expressed pride in the country’s socio-economic achievements during the past 15 years and a commitment to continue to put the interests of the disadvantaged majority as their top priority. The Nicaraguans exhibited seriousness, optimism, and enthusiasm about their work to reduce poverty, to develop their free public health and education systems, to promote private small and medium businesses and small farms, and to develop the Autonomous Region of the Atlantic Coast.
Nicaragua’s Achievements under Sandinista Leadership
- Between 2010 to 2020, poverty was reduced from 48.3% to 24.9% and extreme poverty from 17.5% to 6.9%.
- In Nicaragua healthcare is a human right; it is free for all Nicaraguans.
- Life expectancy at birth increased from 72 years in 2010 to 74 years in 2020.
- The rate of births attended by skilled health staff increased from 67% in 2000 to 96% in 2020.
- Mortality rate for under-5 (per 1,000 live births) went down from 39 in 2000 to 17 in 2020; the rate of immunization for measles (children 12-23 months) is now at 99%.
- In Nicaragua education is a human right. Public education including higher education is free.
- School enrollment in secondary schools went up from 37%in 2000, to 53% in 2010, to 73% in 2020.
- Today, 1.2 million children receive lunch at school, and in poor rural areas children in schools receive two meals a day.
- In 2014 Nicaragua ranked 6thin the Global Gender Gap Index and 5th in 2020. For comparison, the United States is ranked 30th.
The Sandinista party has demonstrated its commitment to democracy since they organized the first democratic election in Nicaraguan history in 1984, after they had led a successful uprising against the Somoza dictatorship in 1979. Since 1984 Nicaragua has held seven elections. The right-wing won three elections and the Sandinistas won four elections. As a governing party or an opposition party in the National Assembly, the Sandinistas participated in and respected the political process that is based on the Nicaraguan constitution.
Nicaragua is interested in having peaceful, respectful, and robust economic and cultural ties with the United States. Currently the US government is spending millions of dollars of US taxpayer money to try to overthrow the Sandinista government. We should demand that our taxes be spent here in our own communities and that our government respects the right of the Nicaraguan people to self-determination. It is time after 200 years of interference.
Nicaragua: Democratic Socialism Wins
Last October I visited Nicaragua as part of a delegation of leaders from the Peace and Justice movement in the US. What we witnessed in Nicaragua and understood from this visit is very different, from what we hear about Nicaragua from the US government, the mainstream media, the right wing in Nicaragua and, regrettably, from a segment of the progressive movement and academics in the US as well.
Without exception the people we talked with, officials, politicians, and professionals, expressed pride in the country’s socio-economic achievements in the past 15 years and a commitment to continue to put the interests of the disadvantaged majority as their top priority. They were serious and honest, expressing optimism and enthusiasm about their work to reduce poverty, to develop their free public health and education systems, to promote private small and medium businesses and small farms and develop the Autonomous region of the Atlantic coast.
Achievement of the Sandinista Government and the Nicaraguan People
Since the Sandinistas returned to lead the Nicaraguan government in 2007, the economy grew by 4-6 percent annually, poverty was cut by nearly in half, and investment in free public education increased fivefold. Illiteracy was reduced and enrollment in secondary schools went up by 38% between 2010 and 2020. Nicaraguans are especially proud of their public free health care system which is family and community centered with a focus on preventative health care. The Sandinista government invested in building 21 new or improved hospitals as well as dozens of health centers. As a result of these policies infant mortality was slashed, and life expectancy is rising. Moreover, Nicaragua has one of the lowest numbers of COVID cases in Latin America. In addition, the Sandinista government—through public investment—improved roads and expanded access to running water and electricity to nearly the entire population, among other advancements. These facts are indisputable and explain the popularity of the FSLN in Nicaragua.
FSLN Long Standing Commitment to Multi-Party Democracy in Nicaragua.
The Sandinista party has demonstrated its commitment to democracy since they won the elections. They organized the first democratic election in Nicaraguan history in 1984, after they led a successful uprising against the Somoza dictatorship in 1979. It is a notable achievement of the Sandinistas that it transformed itself from a guerrilla force that won the war of liberation in 1979, to a political party committed to a multiparty democratic system that it established and has been functioning for the past four decades. Since 1984 Nicaragua has held 7 elections. The right-wing won three elections and the Sandinista won four. As a governing party or an opposition party in the National Assembly, the Sandinistas participated and respected the political process which is based on the Nicaraguan constitution.
Since our return to the US several significant events took place. On November 7, general elections were held in Nicaragua in which the FSLN-led alliance won 75 percent of the vote with the participation of 65 percent of the eligible voters, a very high rate of participation.
Three days after the elections President Biden signed into law the “Reinforcing Nicaragua’s Adherence to Conditions for Electoral Reform Act of 2021” or the “RENACER Act.” It imposes draconian sanctions on Nicaraguans serving in the government, army, police as well as members of the FSLN and their families This law will also restrict multilateral bank lending to Nicaragua. It is a part of a four-decade long campaign by the US government to overthrow the Sandinista government and weaken the Sandinista movement. This failed policy has cost the US public billions of dollars, and led to the death of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans during the US-led contra war of the 1980’s. It continues today by different means.
On November 19,2021 Nicaragua withdrew from the Organizations of American States (OAS) because of the organization’s hostility often expressed in outright lies toward the Sandinista government.
Accelerating their criticism after the violent protest of 2018, and during and after the November 7, elections, the OAS continues to demonstrate, as it did in Bolivia, that it is a destabilizing instrument of US imperialist domination.
On December 9, the Nicaraguan government announced its decision to rescind diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Immediately after, the People’s Republic of China announced the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Nicaragua. In the joint press conference with his Chinese counterpart following the announcement, Laureano Ortega, presidential advisor and deputy foreign minister, said:
“Nicaragua admires China’s extraordinary success in development, highly appreciates China’s important position in the international arena, and supports China’s proposed global development program, the Belt and Road Initiative, BRI. Nicaragua is willing to actively participate in the construction of the New Silk Road and is looking forward to carrying out operations with China in the political, economic, social and cultural fields, among others, to promote national development, relations between China and Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as South-South cooperation.”
These developments signify a strategic shift in Nicaragua’s relations with the US. While the US is still Nicaragua’s major trading partner, and the source of remittances coming into Nicaragua, for the first time in 200 years of sole US domination, another major world power, China, is partnering with Nicaragua. This shift is occurring when US hostility and punitive measures against Nicaragua are intensifying, making it necessary for Nicaragua to protect itself.
— Yoav Elinevsky chairs MAPA’s Latin America/ Caribbean Working Group. He visited Nicaragua with a U.S. delegation in October.