Nicaraguans hope to implement change in their government

Cindy Von Quednow

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The current electoral climate of the U.S. might bring a bright future for the U.S. and Latin America, said Alba Palacios, the second secretary in the Nicaraguan National Assembly, at the Peace Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 23.

“What’s happening right now with the democrats between two minorities is saying something?it means that the mentality in this country, in a certain population, is changing,” said Palacios, “and minorities can also have opportunities to occupy the spaces that have been exclusively reserved for those who have governed for 100 years.”

“If the exclusive sectors of this country are able to gain the maximum power of the state, we think that us, poor countries, might have a chance with some change, that the American government can give us, because we don’t have a problem with this country, the problem is with those that govern it,” she said.

She added President Daniel Ortega was recently marveling at Barack Obama’s candidacy for president because, although he is not a revolutionary, what he stands for is.

“This gives us hope that this country is breaking conservative barriers. You are constructing your own history and your own struggles, and one day, this country, which is so advanced, imagine if it did what Chavez does, how humanity would change?” said Palacios.

“With the support of advanced countries we too can advance as much as we can to conquer our situation,” said Palacios. “Obviously it’s not easy, but we are advancing.”

Palacios’ discussion on the state of Nicaragua in Latin America and its relationship with the U.S. came more than a year after the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN in Spanish) regained power in late 2006. During the Nicaraguan revolution beginning in 1979, the Sandinistas implemented social and economical programs in order to reconstruct their devastated country. Today they are attempting to bring back similar programs that were rolled back after the Sandinistas lost power during the 1990 elections, said Palacios.

Among the spectators was CSUN junior Diana Mu’ntilde;oz, who was informed about the event in her Central American studies class.

“It was moving to hear all that (the Sandinistas) are doing for their country. They are rising pretty much from nothing, after everything we’ve done to them and are doing such progressive things that you don’t even see here sometimes,” she said.

“I think (the Sandinistas) are going to be successful with time,” Mu’ntilde;oz added. “I hope that other Central American countries, and even South American countries, can unite with them and help them because they are our brothers and sisters. That’s just something they should do: support them in the revolution.”

Palacios discussed the recent history of Nicaragua since Ortega was sworn into office in January 2007, including the new programs the FSLN has put into effect.

She said the Sandinistas brought about change in education and health care by eliminating the privatization of these sectors.

“Free education and healthcare is the first concrete step that our new government has made, and the impact is obvious,” she said.

Palacios said there has been success in the programs to eradicate poverty and corruption in Nicaragua, including Zero Hunger and Zero Usury, both programs for and run by women.

“A large number of women are heads of households,” said Palacios. “We decided these programs will be exclusive to women and this is being done in a country that is very ‘machista’ (or chauvinist).”

So far Zero Hunger, which focuses on the Nicaraguan countryside, has benefited 12 million families and their goal is to reach 75 million, she said. Similarly, Zero Usury seeks to eliminate charging women in informal work sectors unfairly high interest rates for loans.

“People live with a noose around their necks working for others in order to be able to eat,” said Palacios of the problem, she added that 8,244 women are in the Zero Usury program.

These projects, according to Palacios, are partly funded by the National Assembly, but since the FSLN is not the majority, they must find different means of supporting their efforts.

“The other part will be financed by the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean, and part of the petroleum funds that have been built between Nicaragua and Venezuela,” said Palacios.

Palacios gave credit to Cuba for helping them through their economic crises during the revolution, when the U.S. eliminated ties to the Nicaragua, and Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, for their recent aid. She also admitted that Nicaragua cannot become dependent on any other country like it has in the past with the U.S.

“It is not beneficial for anyone if we only look to the U.S. We need to look to the north, south, east and west and maintain solidarity and cooperation with all regions of the world, that way we are dependent on no one,” she said.

“The day that we release ourselves from the international monetary fund, like Argentina, Venezuela and other countries have done, we will have other conditions in our country,” she said.

Palacios also referred to the struggles of those leftist nations in Latin America.

“When the governments in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Venezuela, Bolivia and others rise, they rise by the rules of democracy, through the electoral process. Just like democrats and republicans get to power, that’s how the left succeeds in Latin America,” said Palacios. “We have rights in the game of politics and that is what the right doesn’t accept. If we play by the same rules as everyone else, we must be respected. It is no longer a military war, instead it is an ideological battle.”

Palacios’ stop at the Peace Center was her first in her short tour through the U.S. It was organized by the Office of the Americas and the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. The following day, she spoke at the Central American Resource Center about immigration.

Carlos Escorcia, president of the Nicaraguan American National Association, personal friend of Palacios and coordinator of the tour, said he had been trying to get her to visit Los Angeles for two years and was finally able to with the support of other organizations.

“Now that the Sandinista front is in the government, we thought it was really important for her to come to Los Angeles and speak about the social plans for the new government,” he said. “No one in the U.S. is talking about the accomplishments of the revolutionary government in Nicaragua.”

“My personal complaint is that the solidarity movement has forgotten Nicaragua,” said Escorcia, who is a native Nicaraguan and has been in solidarity with the Sandinistas since he left in 1990. “Since Nicaragua is no longer on CNN, no one talks about Nicaragua; everyone talks about Iraq and Afghanistan, and even Venezuela.”

One of the presenters and organizers was Don White, executive board member of Office of the Americas and director of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador in Los Angeles, who agreed with Escorcia that the solidarity movement in Nicaragua has fallen off in the last two decades.

“Latin America has a movement right now toward independence and sovereignty and self-determination to develop grounds on their own, without U.S. intervention. I am interested in how Nicaragua will fit in this new phase of Latin American history.”