By Nan McCurdy
The Nicaraguan government and the opposition Civic Alliance have been negotiating a peace agreement since February but, while measurable good faith is seen on the government’s side, the opposition has ceded nothing, and half the time does not even show up.
On May 23, as a way of measuring support, the opposition Civic Alliance together with part of big business and a few other groups called for a general strike. Overall the strike was unsuccessful as it was not supported by transportation collectives, unions, gas stations, markets, the free trade zones with their 120,000 workers, call centers with 7,000 workers, construction companies, or workers in the health and education sectors.
The largest chain of supermarkets, Pali (owned by Walmart), with more than 115 stores, functioned normally. The other big chain, La Colonia, with about 20 stores nationwide, closed. One bank chain, Banpro, did not function. The other banks functioned normally. The owners of malls did not open, but many shop owners complained. All the public markets in the country opened but between 5 and 10% of stalls did not. High-end bars and restaurants in Managua were closed. The Toyota dealership, owned by the richest family, was closed.
Radio political analyst William Grigsby said it was the wealthy owners who went on strike, not the workers. The strike was to measure support, but more than anything it was for external consumption so that the major media in the US could write about the strike giving a false impression of support for the opposition. And it worked. There were articles and headlines in Fox News, Aljazeera, Voice of America, and progressive Democracy Now.
The opposition said the strike was to pressure the government to release those whom they call political prisoners and whom I call common criminals who committed murder, kidnapping, extortion, torture, arson on a massive scale, and more. Since the beginning of the attempted coup, the opposition, their organizations and their human rights groups have inflated the numbers of dead. Since the International Red Cross confirmed 253 deaths in relation to the coup attempt, the opposition has dropped this. Within that number about a third were opposition supporters, a third were Sandinistas and government workers and a third were innocent bystanders. To see the details of the report by the Nicaragua Truth, Justice and Peace Commission, go here.
Now the opposition is claiming hundreds of “political prisoners.” The Government has already released well more than half of these prisoners. There are only 132 left and they will be released, at the very latest, on June 18 of this year. This was one of the first commitments in the negotiations. They have already released 336 people as a show of good will. Because most of these prisoners have already been tried and sentenced (you can see details of their crimes, capture, trials and sentencing in issues of NicaNotes since July 2018) the laws do not allow the government to simply release them. Those who have been released are in a situation of “house arrest” – their home is their prison. The government will have to pass some kind of amnesty law to give them total freedom. The opposition still insists there are 800 political prisoners when many organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, have concurred on the numbers and the fact that only 132 are still in prison. As long as there are prisoners in the prisons, I believe the opposition will say they are coup prisoners and should be released. I really would not be surprised if the government emptied the prisons. They want to eliminate any subject on which they could be criticized, even when they are opposition lies.
There is great resistance among Sandinistas to amnesty – many Sandinistas were tortured, kidnapped, had a vehicle or home burned, had a family member killed or tortured. And the entire population is traumatized by the fear they felt during those terrifying three months. The idea that these criminals will be set free is not palatable to many.
However, the government has been educating people about the need for peace, pardon and reconciliation since August 2018. Analyst Grigsby says “We are the ones who want peace, we are the ones doing everything to bring about peace and we will all benefit from peace.” Sandinistas support their government and most will support this audacious move.
The opposition has currently left the negotiating table. The Government delegation to the negotiating table presented the Work Program for Peace and Stability on May 22. This includes all of the items committed to in the negotiations and much more. What they are committing to overall is so incredible, it is very likely the opposition will return and sign on the dotted line so that they can say they pressured the government to do all of these things.
- Definitive release of all the prisoners no later than June 18, 2019
- Continue to work with the Organization of American States to strengthen the electoral process for celebration of general elections in 2021.
- Expand and strengthen the more than 500 neighborhood peace and reconciliation committees.
- Continue attention to victims materially, physically and psychologically that has been functioning since last year and create a law for integral attention to all the victims.
- Promote the Program of Voluntary Return of Nicaraguans Abroad, assuring constitutional and security guarantees for their reintegration into society (many people have already returned).
- Ratify, as mandated by the Constitution and the Labor Code, the participation of workers in management of companies, through their organizations.
- Proceed, in accordance with tax law, to make the relevant audits, as appropriate, of all companies, media outlets, non-profits and foundations that receive tax exonerations.
- Call on the international community for the cessation of sanctions like the Nica Act.
- Guarantee the right to demonstrate and publically mobilize while respecting the constitution and laws of the country.
There is a clear recognition by the majority of the population of all the government has done and continues to do in order to bring about reconciliation, peace, economic stability and growth and the return to the way Nicaragua was before April 2018.
In a new survey by the Public Opinion Monitoring System (SISMO LIX) by the independent consulting firm M&R, 58% of Nicaraguans approve of the work carried out by President Daniel Ortega. (M&R was the only international polling firm to correctly call the Sandinista defeat in the 1990 election. Even the opposition does not claim M&R is biased in favor of the Sandinistas.)
The survey was released May 20 and indicates that 97% of Nicaraguans want a peaceful country and 98% want social and economic stability. Eight-eight per cent reject actions that threaten employment and development; 85% reject the roadblocks set up by the opposition between April and July, 2018. Sixty-eight per cent want the country to retake the route it was on before April 2018; 81.5% are in disagreement with the coup d’état. Ninety-seven per cent believe the population has the right to demonstrate as long as it does not affect the rights of others.
That same week the opposition called for a march for Sunday May 26. Opposition groups had about fifty people with their faces covered in the large square of the Managua Cathedral. News reports indicated that there were almost as many journalists as protesters. As soon as the reporters had what they needed, like a photo shoot, the protesters took off their masks and left. Clearly these were some of the people still being paid. As long as USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy, and others are financing the coup-supporting organizations, they will continue to try to cause chaos at every turn – they are being paid to do it.
Tomas Valdez Rodriguez is a member of a Catholic Christian Base Community and one of the authors of the letter to the Pope asking him to remove the coup-organizing Bishop Silvio Baez. Nearly 600,000 Nicaraguan Catholics signed the letter and the Pope did indeed remove Baez. In response to the opposition’s call for a general strike, Valdez lamented, “Evil Ones: Let Nicaragua Live in Peace.”
By Nan McCurdy
Rains Could Cause Landslides
Heavy rains, especially in southern Nicaragua and in Costa Rica could cause landslides this week. The heavy rains that fell last week soaked the earth and experts say that much more rain will cause a lot of damage. The Nicaraguan government is taking preventive measures. In last week’s rains 344 families were affected and the government visited all of them with basic items like mattresses and blankets. (Radiolaprimerisima.com, 5/28/19)
Surprising Monetary Stability
The government has managed against all odds to maintain the country’s monetary stability despite the international pressures that drive away foreign investment, managing to maintain adequate levels of agricultural production, monetary and exchange rate stability, and the prices of major domestic consumer products. Gross international reserves were at 2.174 billion dollars at the end of April covering 2.35 times the monetary base. (Informe Pastran, 5/27/19)
Nicaragua Among the 10 Best Eco-friendly Destinations in the World
A report published in USA Today last Wednesday, ranks Nicaragua among the 10 best eco-friendly destinations in the world. Visitors learn to respect nature by helping to protect the lives of hundreds of green sea turtles and other endangered species that nest on this beautiful beach,” the USA Today article states. (Nicaragua News, 5/25/19)
IDB pleased with Solar Energy Plant on Corn Island
The Minister of Energy and Mines, Salvador Mansell, announced that an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) delegation visited Nicaragua to evaluate the progress of new energy projects in the country. “The delegation was pleased to confirm the successful construction of the new solar energy plant on Corn Island that will be inaugurated next month. The US$5.9 million plant was financed by the Nicaragua Government with support from the IDB,” Mansell said. (Nicaragua News, 5/25/19)
Remittances up 7.5 % in First Quarter over 2018
The Central Bank of Nicaragua published on Friday the statistics of family remittances corresponding to the month of April of this year which totaled US$134.5 million compared to US$128.9 million in April 2018, an increase of 4.3 percent. Year-to-date remittances totaled US$518.3 million, reflecting a growth of 7.5 percent over the same period in 2018. Of the total remittances received in the first four months of the year, 54.9% came from the United States, followed by Costa Rica with 18.9% and Spain with 12%. (Informe Pastran, 5/24/19)
June Edition of National Geographic Covers Nicaragua’s Volcanos
Exploring the Volcanos of Nicaragua by Jaime Lafferty describes his experiences at Nicaragua’s better known volcanos: https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/travel/2019/05/exploring-volcanoes-nicaragua (Nueva Radio Ya, 5/24/19)
Economic Recovery Firm
Minister of Finance and Public Credit Iván Acosta announced that the Nicaraguan economy began a recovery process in July of last year. “The main drivers of this growth are agriculture, industry and commercial activity. Another key factor is the performance of the National Financial System, which increased its liquidity by 30% in February of this year,” Acosta said. In a report issued May 16, Fitch Ratings stated that the Nicaraguan economy has begun a process of recovery. “The worst part of the recession is over. The Central Bank indicators of last February ratified the beginning of a slow process of economic recovery. Growth projections are expected to improve next year,” the Fitch Rating report said. (Nicaragua News, 5/22/19, 5/23/19)
New Road Inaugurated in Chontales
La Libertad and San Pedro de Lovago in Chontales inaugurated a new thoroughfare which improves commerce and services for the population. The project cost C$279.84 million córdobas (about US$8.5 million). (Radio Sandino 5/23/19)
Ministry of Government Investigates Prisoner Death and Wounding of 21 Guards
The Ministry of the Interior reported that “On May 16 at 2:30 pm at La Modelo Prison in Tipitapa, just north of Managua, Eddy Antonio Montes Praslin, 57 years old, was wounded when together with a group of rioters he tried to grab a penitentiary official’s regulation weapon. Montes Praslin was taken immediately to the nearest hospital where he died.” In these events, 21 penitentiary officials were wounded. The Ministry reports that the autopsy by the Institute of Legal Medicine was performed in the presence of relatives. The National Penitentiary System asked the National Police to carry out the pertinent investigations for the clarification of the facts and identification of those responsible on the same day.
Chéster Emanuel Navarrete, one of the 100 prisoners released yesterday as part of the government’s release to house arrest of criminals tried, sentenced and imprisoned for violent acts during the coup, told several media that Montes was not shot in the back as some media have published. Navarrete, paramedic and former firefighter, said that it was true that they rioted and that in the confrontation with the police Montes was shot in the pelvis and that he tried to help him and could see what happened. This belies the versions that there were two shots in the unfortunate event. During the riot, the inmates “wounded 21 prison officials, burned assigned mattresses, tried to destroy the electrical system, the roof of the gallery, the perimeter mesh,” said the Interior Ministry. The riot was clearly planned together with opposition leaders as it occurred while a mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was meeting with staff of the National Penitentiary System in “La Modelo” prison. (Informe Pastran, May 17, 20, 21, 22, Radio la Primerisima 5/23/19)