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Nicaragua, CAFTA, & CIPRES
N icaragua is almost the size of Washington state with a similar population density. Its greatest physical resource is its rich land, with about five acres of good farmland per person. Agriculture is the cornerstone of the economy, providing over 60 percent of Nicaragua’s export income and over 40 percent of its jobs. Half of Nicaraguans live on small-to-medium sized farms and produce 80 percent of Nicaragua’s food.
Life is still hard in Nicaragua, as it has been for centuries, first under conquest by the Europeans, then the North Americans. There was a brief period of hope after the Sandinista revolution overthrew the U.S.-backed Somoza in 1979. Literacy grew swiftly from less than 50 percent to over 90 percent. Effective agrarian reform policies returned stolen land to farmers and farm cooperatives, provided affordable loans, technology, and technical support, and partially shifted production from export (for profits to foreign capital) to internal food production for sustainable self-sufficiency. Infant mortality dropped, the death penalty was eliminated, and labor and agricultural unions were accepted.
Reports from the Inter-American Development Bank, Oxfam, and others highlighted Nicaragua as an example of effective social and economic progress on behalf of the poor majority.
By 1990 Reagan’s contra war had destroyed this shining example. Exhausted, terrorized, and embargoed-back-to-poverty, Nicaraguans “elected” the U.S.-designated client government and the trends once again began to reverse:
- Literacy rates are in decline and malnutrition grows
- Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere
- About 70 percent of Nicaraguans earn no more than $2 per day, the World Bank’s definition of poverty, and 20 percent live in extreme poverty, earning less than $1 per day
- The average monthly wage is $36
- One out of every three children is malnourished
- Over half of the 900,000 schoolage kids cannot afford school
- 45 percent of all income goes to the richest 10 percent of the population, while only 14 percent goes to the poorest
- Since the end of the Sandinista period of the 1980s, farmers have received negligible credit, technology, and technical assistance
In October 2005 I joined a Witness for Peace delegation to Nicaragua composed of a dozen citizens from Washington and Oregon. We met with several stakeholder groups, such as the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG), the Rural Workers Association (ATC), the Center for Rural & Social Promotion, Research & Development (CIPRES), a coffee producers’ union for small farmers (CECOCAFEN), a fair trade association, research groups, and an economist from the Center for International Studies.
We visited agricultural cooperatives in the campo (the rural countryside). We also saw sophisticated, diverse, yet complexly integrated, sustainable agricultural models operating at the family-farm scale with appropriately selected technology for the current economic conditions. At a CIPRES research facility, for example, we saw effective grey-water treatment systems generating nutrient-rich water for plants and worm beds generating organic fertilizer.
Under the CIPRES model, these sustainable family-scale farms aggregate
into cooperatives, which in turn aggregate into larger organizations
that can both disseminate information and represent them as political
Since 1998, a CIPRES project has rebuilt the lives of 5,000 rural families, providing animals, seed, irrigation equipment, grain silos, and training to produce both sufficient food, as well as bio-gas and fertilizers from animal waste. Project results were: increased production of eggs, dairy products, chickens, fruit, and vegetables; improved health and diet; sufficient bio-gas for cooking fuel and a 50 percent drop in firewood consumption; revolving credit cooperatives; reforestation; and more pasture. Extension of the CIPRES model to 75,000 families could lift them out of extreme poverty, sustainably, at a cost of about $30 million.
Rich land and sophisticated knowledge of biologically wise, holistic solutions to food security were in abundant evidence.
Obviously Nicaragua is quite capable of sustainably feeding its people well. But there are no jobs, so nearly 20 percent of the people have migrated abroad, sending $600 million per year to families at home, an amount equal to one fourth of Nicaragua’s GDP. These funds are Nicaragua’s greatest source of vital foreign exchange. For many, only material aid from church groups, NGOs, and Nicaraguans working abroad make it possible to meet their basic survival needs.
T he stakeholders we met strongly opposed CAFTA. Already World Bank-imposed structural adjustment programs designed only to insure debt service have resulted in the privatization of public services, such as communication and electricity (and have attempted to do so for water). The promised “efficiency of privatization” has not occurred. The only “efficiency” realized has been profits to private multinationals resulting from price increases, cutbacks in labor, reduced maintenance quality, and cutoffs of a growing sector with less and less ability to pay. Long-term economic stability has been sacrificed.
Coffee production has long been critical to Nicaragua’s vital foreign exchange, accounting for 27 percent of Nicaragua’s exports and one-third of its agricultural employment. Over 300,000 livelihoods depend on it. Coffee, then, comprises part of Nicaragua’s “comparative advantage,” according to the World Bank’s neoliberal framework for the developing world. But World Bank structural adjustment programs have encouraged other countries, such as Vietnam, to export more coffee (as they had encouraged Nicaragua to do in the past). The resultant glut on the world coffee market has been devastating for Nicaraguan coffee producers. Prices dropped drastically in 2002 to well below production costs. Yet consumer prices in the U.S. did not drop as large, transnational coffee distributors benefited.
CAFTA will require eventual removal of the tariffs that now slightly protect Nicaraguan farmers and subject them to unlimited dumping of subsidized products from the U.S. It will be just like NAFTA in Mexico where income drastically dropped for 15 million small producers and forced over a million families off the land and into Free Trade Zone (FTZ) sweatshops. Mexican agricultural production has halved in the decade of NAFTA. Though some of it looked good on paper—a tripling of foreign investment into FTZs, a doubling of exports from FTZs, and 800,000 new jobs after 7 years— this “trade” was merely “paper transfers” that contributed povertylevel wages to the Mexican economy. Raw materials were “imported” into the FTZs, assembled products were “exported,” but the dollars and profits passed right through to multinationals. Even the poverty-level wages were short term: most of those 800,000 jobs are gone, as the multinationals “found” cheaper labor in other depressed and desperate FTZs.
There are proven alternatives, for example the CIPRES program that could sustainably lift 75,000 families from extreme poverty for $30 million—$400 per family— about a tenth of Nicaragua’s annual debt service on a principal already paid several times over. This unjust debt was built by U.S.-imposed governments, war, and economic embargo.
Meanwhile, in agriculture we produce enough to feed everyone, but have not yet applied the technical, social, and economic tools to insure this wealth is sustainable (by moving from fossil-fuel-based inputs of over five calories for each calorie yielded to organic methods that reverse the ratio), distributable (diversified regional production) and accessible (affordable to the poor, too).
Hating the corporations and governments who serve them resolves nothing. Changing them into transparent, accountable, and responsible servants of a democratic humanity resolves everything. We can easily predict they will be the last to see that resource scarcity is obsolete and we no longer live in world of “either us or them.”
We may soon realize that we need our Nicaraguan sisters and brothers as badly as they need us.
Mike Nuess is an educational consultant, primarily in the fields of energy and building science. He is the author of General Plenty: Always and Only the Path to Peace .
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.