“Recent reports revealed that one of the US administration’s top “mission goals” for Nicaragua is to force a “transition to a rules-based market economy” based on the “protection of private property rights.”Ruby Cox
By Ruby Cox.
I’m a Labour Party member, a councillor with Hastings Borough Council, and also a long-standing member of UNISON, though now retired.
I am also a long-term supporter of Nicaragua, having visited on four occasions, which has given me the chance to contrast and compare life for ordinary people under both a neo-liberal and a Sandinista government.
The attitude we on the left and in the labour movement take to developments concerning Nicaragua – and who we trust in terms of information with regarding these – is a question that could become all the more important in the run up to the Presidential election in the US, with recent reports revealing that one of the US administration’s top “mission goals” for Nicaragua is to force a “transition to a rules-based market economy” based on the “protection of private property rights.”
I am the sort of person who trusts the evidence of their own eyes and my visits to Nicaragua have provided me with plenty in this respect. I first visited in 2002 when there was a right wing government in power, and a great deal of suffering for ordinary people as well as the trade unions.
Staggering levels of poverty, virtually no healthcare unless you could pay for it and the same with education, no employment rights, people living in appalling housing conditions and even tiny children being forced to work at the roadside selling chewing gum or whatever to help make ends meet.
This was the reality of a life under a Government that put the “protection of private property rights” and a market economy ahead of anything else.
I had nothing to compare this with at the time, however, when I went back again in 2009, and the Sandinistas had regained power and taken the country away from neo-liberalism, the difference was clear.
The realignment of the economy to provide the basics for ordinary people was plain to see, which may explain why trade unions, co-operatives and other organisations in Nicaragua continue to widely support the Sandinistas.
As part of my trip I travelled along the Rio Coco in one of the remotest parts of the country to help with the literacy programme, setting up generators and TV sets that had been donated by Cuba as part of their “Yo Si Puedo” campaign. This would never have happened under the previous government, which was more interested in meeting the needs of the US in foreign policy alliances than meeting the basic needs of the people.
Trade unions were flourishing and working with the government to give people proper working conditions and educating the workforce in subjects such as equalities and leadership. It was astonishing to see how people had bounced back after years of oppression.
However the biggest shock was when I went back again last year and saw the further progress that had been made in terms of ordinary people’s lives, one example being the proliferation of new hospitals, due in no small part to the fact that the vast majority of the national budget goes on health and education.
This trip followed the Sandinista candidate Daniel Ortega being re-elected in 2016 with 72% of the vote. The background to this election was significant improvements in health, education, housing and living standards, as confirmed by reports from the UN, CELAC *the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and other international bodies.
The elections were praised by an international monitoring team which noted that the level of participation was higher than the average in Latin America, and highlighted the fact that it would be a challenge ‘of the first order in any country, to reach what has been achieved in Nicaragua.’ The team also went on to remark on the “clarity and distribution of election materials, and the efficient functioning of polling stations, the ‘massive participation of women’ as election officials and to praise the security forces for their role in ensuring an atmosphere of order and calm devoid of conflicts.”
Since returning to the UK from this latest trip, I have seen the “advice” from our government for those travelling to Nicaragua, which contains such gems as a warning about the poor state of the roads, which are in fact in a better condition than many of ours. “Information” such as this is clearly untrue and its dissemination can only be motivated by a political decision to dissuade people from going there and making up their own mind about the country.
No doubt this UK advice is also influenced by seeking to please the Trump administration when it comes to Nicaragua and relations with the wider region, especially within a context where the US has put illegal sanctions on Nicaragua aimed at forcing ‘regime change.’
Trump’s open ‘regime change’ ambitions and the introduction of sanctions are the background to much negative media coverage of Nicaragua in this country, often repeating the positions of US-backed (and often funded) right-wing forces in Nicaragua, with little or no attempt at providing balance.
We on the Left shouldn’t be part of Trump’s ‘regime change’ agenda. We need to unite against sanctions, aggression and the idea of a US-led return to a ‘free-market’ economy.
This is especially the case given the history of Nicaragua and the devastation wrought by the US backed contras in the eighties.
Sadly however, it seems there are some on the left who feel they have some sort of ownership of the Nicaraguan revolution and deceive themselves into imagining that they have a role to play in deciding how the Nicaraguan revolution should continue to evolve.
This is not helpful, and denies Nicaragua the support it merits whilst dealing with Trump’s sanctions and another onslaught from right wing forces in the US which cannot allow countries in their “backyard” to follow a different course to neo-liberalism at home and subservience in the area of foreign policy.
- Find out more from the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group at http://www.nscag.org/