by Margaret Flowers, published on Popular Resistance, March 15, 2021
For the next two weeks, I am in Nicaragua on the first delegation organized by the Sanctions Kill coalition and the Friends of the ATC (Asociacion de Trabajadores del Campo – Association of Rural Workers) to study the impact of sanctions imposed by the United States on Nicaragua and learn about the Sandinista Revolution. The ATC is a member of the global movement of peasant workers, Via Campesina, that was born in Nicaragua. The NICA Act, passed by the US Congress in 2018, is the beginning of the US’ economic war on Nicaragua after the US-backed coup attempt against the democratically-elected President Danial Ortega failed earlier that year.
Learn more about the sanctions being imposed by the United States on 39 countries representing a third of the world’s population using the new Sanctions Kill toolkit. It includes a short basic presentation with a sample script that teaches what sanctions are, why they are illegal, their impacts and how you can get involved in the work to stop them.
The delegation of about a dozen people, pictured above, is composed of activists, students and independent media. Not only will the group learn about the impacts of the coup in 2018, which shut down the economy and destroyed basic infrastructure, and how Nicaraguans are organizing to limit the effects of the economic war, but it is also learning about the long history of resistance to imperialism in Nicaragua and lessons that are pertinent for current struggles in the Americas.
For a long time, Nicaragua was the axis of the United States’ power in Central America. The short version of the struggle is that in the early twentieth century, the Nicaraguan people rose up against the US Marines, who were present in the country to protect US interests. Augusto C. Sandino fought in battles to oust the US Marines. He developed a powerful guerilla force in the mountains that refused to lay down its arms as long as there were foreign soldiers on the land undermining Nicaragua’s sovereignty.
In 1932, the US Marines withdrew from the country but they left behind a national guard led by Anastasio Somoza that started capturing, injuring and killing Sandino’s soldiers. Sandino traveled to Managua in 1933 to try to negotiate a peace agreement, but he was captured on the way and assassinated. Beginning in 1936, Nicaragua was controlled by a brutal dictatorship led by members of the Somoza family, which lasted until they were overthrown by the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN), or the National Sandinista Liberation Front (called the Sandinista Front), on July 19, 1979.
The Sandinista Front was formed in 1961 by three students at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in Managua. They were Carlos Fonseca, Silvio Mayorga and Tomas Borge. The Sandinista Front fought against the US-backed Contras during the 1970s. The Contras caused a tremendous amount of destruction and killed tens of thousands of people during that ten year period (in a country of under three million people) but they were never able to capture even one town or city due to the popular resistance of the Sandinistas.
Daniel Ortega, a member of the Sandinista Front and a fighter who was imprisoned for ten years and tortured, was made the first leader of the country and then was elected president in 1985. With the Sandinistas in power, they were able to start putting their revolutionary policies into practice. One of the first actions was agrarian reform that redistributed land, of which 80% was in the hands of an elite 5%, to the people. This was accompanied by a literacy program that reduced illiteracy from 60% to 14%, universal healthcare, education, the construction of basic infrastructure and more.
Nicaragua suffered a return to neoliberalism from 1990 to 2006 when the FSLN lost the presidential elections (due to US interference), but with the re-election of Daniel Ortega, they have started to recover. A great focus of the country’s efforts is to establish food sovereignty. Nicaragua currently produces 90% of its food locally through small farmers using agroecological practices. They teach youth to farm and are successful in maintaining small farmers in rural areas through a program called “Volver al Campo” (return to the countryside). A large proportion of their economy is a popular economy of small family businesses.
The United States has not stopped its efforts to reassert control over Nicaragua. They tried for years to conduct a coup after the re-election of Daniel Ortega and finally gained some traction in 2018 through a campaign of terrorism against Sandinistas (kidnapping, torture and murder), a disinformation campaign and blockades that shut the country down for three months. This attempt failed and so the US moved to impose an economic war on Nicaragua through the use of illegal unilateral coercive measures that cut off access to the capital necessary to implement the country’s programs.
Nicaragua anticipated this economic war and has been working to isolate itself from the impacts but it has also been hit by a number of crises recently including the US-backed coup, the pandemic and two back-to-back category four and five hurricanes last fall. It is currently on track to grow economically but that growth is threatened by the US’ actions. We in the United States must continue to press our government to stop its interference in Nicaragua and demand the US completely overhaul its foreign policy to one of collaboration and cooperation instead of domination and exploitation.
Learn more about Nicaragua in this week’s Clearing the FOG interview (available Monday night) with Erika Takeo of Friends of the ATC, Antonio Tovar of the Farmworkers Association of Florida, a member of Via Campesina North America, and Paul Oqwist, the Minister and Private Secretary for National Policy for the Presidency of the Republic of Nicaragua.
Below is the press release from Sanctions Kill and the Friends of the ATC about the delegation:
A group of 13 North Americans are in Nicaragua from March 14-24 in a delegation organized by Sanctions Kill! and Friends of the ATC to express their deep concern to the Nicaraguan people regarding the impacts of U.S. sanctions on the country. This delegation of journalists, activists and students are meeting with grassroots groups that constitute the Rural Workers’ Association (ATC – Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo) to understand the effects of the sanctions on ordinary Nicaraguans and how they are organizing to mitigate the impact on their day-to-day lives.
“The human and economic costs of the sanctions on Nicaragua have been underreported. One of the goals of the delegation is to share the perspectives of Nicaraguans with U.S. audiences, in the hopes of building bridges of peace. As people from the United States, we need to fully understand the impact of what is being done in our name,” said Teri Mattson of CODEPINK, one of the delegation’s leaders and activist with the Sanctions Kill! coalition.
The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure campaign” on Nicaragua imposed increasingly harsher sanctions against the country, with the goal of fomenting regime change. To date, the Biden administration has given no indication that it will pursue a different policy in Nicaragua.
Friends of the ATC is a solidarity network with the Rural Workers’ Association that spreads awareness, builds solidarity and facilitates support for the struggles and initiatives of the ATC and the international movement La Vía Campesina.
Sanctions Kill! is an international campaign launched in 2019 to end U.S. imposed sanctions and educate the public on the devastating impacts they can have on jobs, healthcare, food, water, education, transportation and more.