|Central American University - UCA
Number 29 | Noviembre 1983
Coffe And Cotton: Heart Of The Economy, Symbol Of Determination
“With coffee we will get the foreign reserves we need to confront the enemy.” Thus goes a radio announcement which asks for volunteers to help pick the coffee harvest. This radio clip synthesizes much of the economic logic of the present moment of the revolutionary process.
“With coffee we can earn the foreign exchange we need to stand up to the enemy.” So says the radio ad used to recruit volunteers for this year’s coffee harvest. The ad makes sense. The attack on the port of Corinto on October 10 demonstrated in a dramatic way the counterrevolutionary strategy of attacking the nerve centers of the national economy. The “democracy” sought for Nicaragua by the Contra, by the C.I.A., and by the Reagan administration is to be achieved by destroying the country’s capacity to meet its own basic needs. Out of hunger and economic paralysis will come “freedom.”
Four days after the Corinto attack, the government announced a national emergency plan. The plan stressed, among other things, the importance of the Production Battalions, which have been formed to bring in the harvest. This year’s cotton and coffee harvest will be vital for Nicaragua, not only economically but also in military and political terms.
This article will examine the importance for Nicaragua of this year’s harvest, as well as the changes that have occurred in the cotton and coffee sectors since July 1979. We will conclude by examining some of the challenges that must be faced with this year’s harvest.
KING COTTON AND THE GOLDEN BEAN: THE IMPORTANCE OF TWO CROPS1983 was named the “year of struggle for peace and sovereignty.” In the face of escalating aggression, it becomes ever more clear that economic production is key to maintaining Nicaragua’s sovereignty. In the face of U.S. attempts to impose an economic blockade upon Nicaragua, it is also clear that the earning of foreign exchange must be given high priority.
As with any dependent country, foreign exchange is vital for Nicaragua. One U.S. dollar is worth 10 cordobas at the official rate of exchange, 28 cordobas on the parallel market. But in fact the value of a dollar to the Nicaragua economy is much greater than these exchange rates indicate because the dollars needed to buy essential items are in such short supply. Nicaragua needs foreign exchange to buy oil, many basic foodstuffs, spare parts for industry and transportation, and of course weapons for its national defense.
The annual coffee and cotton harvests play a key role in generating foreign exchange. In 1982, coffee exports represented 30% of the total value of all exports, and cotton represented a further 21%. Last year’s harvest of the two products produced approximately $240 million in foreign exchange. Cotton and coffee exports are also vital to the country’s economic stability because they are almost invulnerable to U.S. economic blackmail. In 1982, only 1% of coffee and cotton exports went to the U.S. (In 1978, the figure was about 9%.) As the U.S. administration’s May 1983 decision to cut Nicaragua’s sugar quota by 90% shows, an overdependence on the U.S. market makes Nicaragua very vulnerable to economic aggression. (Prior to the reduction in the quota, around two-thirds of sugar exports went to the U.S.)
The importance of coffee and cotton can also be seen in the fact that 30% of planted land is dedicated to the two crops. The harvest periods are also the country’s most important source of employment: up to 100,000 people participate in the peak months of the coffee harvest, and 60,000 in the cotton harvest.
The coffee harvest officially began in October. November and December will be the peak months. The stepping up of Contra activity in recent months and the actions foreseen in the coming weeks indicate that this year’s coffee harvest will be carried out under extremely difficult conditions. The Contras’ “taskforces” operate in the First and Sixth Regions, where 65% of the coffee is harvested. (Region I: Nueva Segovia, Madriz, Estelì; Region VI: Jinotega and Matagalpa)
The coffee harvest has already been the target of Contra attacks. One of the objectives of the brutal attack against the town of Pantasma in Jinotega on October 18, in which 48 civilians died, was the destruction of the ENCAFE facilities, used in the processing and storage of coffee, and the terrorizing of the local population to weaken its participation in the harvest mobilization.
At the time of writing this article, the mobilization is well under way, and the willingness of thousands of volunteers to work in the coffee plantations gives hope that Nicaragua’s coffee will be harvested whatever the cost. In the midst of war, the Nicaraguan people are gearing up once again for the most important event in the country’s economic life.
OLD PRODUCTS: NEW STRUCTURESIt might seem surprising that coffee and cotton remain so important for Nicaragua after four and a half years of revolution. The concentration of exports in a few key products is an important element of economic dependency. The countries in the region have always been severely affected by fluctuations in the international price of their export crops, price fluctuations over which the region has no control. The world price of coffee, for example, fell by more than half between 1929 and 1931, exacerbating social struggles throughout the region. During the 1970s, the price of cotton fluctuated wildly year after year. Such fluctuations can spell disaster for a dependent country and make any type of rational economic planning very difficult.
In addition, coffee and cotton production have traditionally been at the root of serious social problems in Nicaragua – the displacing of campesinos from their land and the super-exploitation of the rural workforce. The vast majority of those who took part in the cotton and coffee harvests were forced to do so because they did not have access to enough land on which to support themselves and their families. Thus, rural misery provided the annual harvests with their work force. The workers were obviously not in a position to demand more than survival wages. There were elegant minimum-wage laws in the files of the Somoza government in Managua, but these were irrelevant in the countryside.
Why then did the revolutionary government decide to give priority to the production of coffee and cotton, the symbols of economic dependence and exploitation? The sad truth is that, in the short run, there was no alternative. It was essential for Nicaragua to increase its generation of foreign exchange in order to meet the needs of reconstruction, import basic goods, and begin to pay the inherited debt. In addition, the last 20 years had witnessed the “misdevelopment,” under the auspices of the U.S.-inspired Central American Common Market, of an industrial sector which gobbled up twice as much foreign exchange as it generated. The entire industrial sector, as well as the enormous service sector which had sprung up in Managua in the wake of industrial growth, lived to a large degree off the U.S. dollars produced by cotton and coffee.
Despite the dangers of concentrating upon these two products, and despite the history of exploitation, coffee and cotton were the natural choices for rapidly producing foreign exchange. One hundred-weight of coffee, which sells for around $120, needs only $10 in foreign inputs. (One hundred-weight = 100 pounds or 45.35 kilograms.) The average manzana of cotton land has a net output of $481. (One manzana = 0.7 hectares or 1.73 acres.) Given this high productivity, the government gave priority to cotton and coffee production as part of a transitional strategy, while emphasizing as well the need to alleviate the exploitation of rural workers and the goal of reserving for the people a large part of this production’s profits.
Naturally this attempt to integrate systems of production developed under previous regimes into a new political economy had to cause problems. The new government was promoting goals that were difficult to coordinate. For example, if the cotton and coffee harvests had traditionally depended for their labor supply on the fact that most rural inhabitants had little access to land, what impact would the agrarian reform have upon those harvests?. How would private producers react to efforts to improve the living conditions and salaries of the workers, and to the government’s determination to gain control of a large part of the economic surplus generated by cotton and coffee? Would the private producers, accustomed to dealing with unorganized workers, cooperate with the mass organizations developing in the countryside?
These challenges were not simple ones. But the inherited structures of production also gave the new government a certain room to maneuver. The production of coffee and cotton had traditionally not been as concentrated in Nicaragua as in other countries of the region. Small and medium producers worked about two-thirds of coffee land. Medium producers had been the most dynamic element in the cotton sector during the 1970s. This is not to say that the wealth generated by coffee and cotton was spread around. There was in fact economic concentration, not at the stage of basic production, but at all subsequent stages. The exportation of cotton, for example, was controlled by four export houses, which managed to capture the lion’s share of the economic surplus generated by cotton. Small and medium coffee producers, especially those located in isolated parts of the central regions, were very dependent upon the middlemen who marketed their crop.
This phenomenon meant that measures of the revolutionary government, such as the nationalization of foreign trade and the elimination of the coffee middlemen, gave the state the capacity to control a large part of the economic surplus. Because only large producers had played any role in the processing and marketing stages, the state was able to gain this advantageous position without seriously affecting the interests of small and medium producers.
Thus the state, though it controlled only 15-20% of cotton and coffee land after July, 1979, came to exercise an important influence in the two sectors, above all through its control of external commerce and of the National Financial System.
NEW POLICIES AND VARIED RESPONSESThe new state used its economic and legislative power to implement a number of measures that affected the cotton and coffee sectors. In order to encourage the cooperation of producers, the National Financial System (SFN) advances credit for up to 100% of the costs of production. This credit is provided at negative real interests rates (that is, at rates of interest below the rate of inflation). The SFN also guarantees the foreign exchange necessary to buy any imported goods used in production. This foreign exchange is provided to the producers at the low official rate of 10 cordobas to the U.S. dollar, though the producers are paid approximately 16 cordobas for each dollar earned through cotton exports and 12 cordobas per dollar for coffee. To protect producers from price fluctuations, they are guaranteed a floor price by the government, no matter what happens to world prices.
Besides these financial measures, there were other government actions that had an impact on cotton and coffee production. In 1980, the government decreed that the large cotton producers had to rent their unused land to landless campesinos. The landowners had traditionally rented out land for up to 2,000 cordobas per manzana, but the 1980 law established prices of 100 cordobas per manzana used for basic grains and 300 cordobas per manzana used for cotton. This measure hit the large producers hard but was a great stimulus to small cotton producers. Since the latter had traditionally rented about half of the land they used, the new rent levels significantly reduced their production costs.
Large cotton producers were also affected by the second phase of the agrarian reform, begun in July of 1980, which involved the expropriation of large tracts of unused land. To date, a total of 850,000 manzanas have been expropriated under this provision, though we do not have figures on how much of this total was cotton land.
To evaluate the response of producers to these measures, we can begin by looking at the evolution of total output over the past few years:
Coffee and Cotton ProductionAs the figures show, coffee production has been increasing steadily, reaching a record high last year. In the cases of cotton, which was particularly hard hit by the insurrectional process, production has not returned to pre-1979 levels.
Behind these simple numbers lie very complex realities, a set of factors which have affected the level of production. In the production of cotton, above all, international factors have played an important role. Throughout all Central America, the amount of land dedicated to cotton production in 1982-1983 was only 40% of the area used in 1977-78. This is due above all to the fact that the world price of cotton has been rising less rapidly than the prices of the inputs used in cotton production. In 1981-1982, the world price of cotton actually fell 20%, owing to large world harvests and to increased production of synthetic cotton substitutes.
In Nicaragua, the production of cotton had become overextended during the 1970s. More marginal lands were put into use, which led average output per manzana to fall. From 1974 onwards, the costs of production began to rise faster than the price of cotton. This is partly because cotton, unlike coffee, relies heavily on machinery and chemicals, such as fertilizer and pesticides. All these inputs were affected by the rise in oil prices after 1973. By 1977-78, many cotton production in Nicaragua has been the decision on the party of some producers not to plant their land or to use if for different producers. Another factor was the government decision not to finance the planting of more marginal land.
The world price of coffee has also shifted erratically in recent years. Poor Brazilian harvests in the late 1970s sent the price of coffee skyward. The tripling of coffee prices between 1976 and 1978 led many countries to sow more coffee plants, which take four to five years to mature. By the time these new plants had matured and were coming into production, Brazil’s harvests had recovered and there was a world coffee glut. In 1977-78, Nicaragua was receiving $180 per hundred-weight of coffee; now the world price is fluctuating between $120 and $140 per hundred-weight, and even at this price there is a serious glut.
Obviously these price fluctuations did not have as drastic an impact on coffee as they would have on cotton. Because of the long maturation period of the coffee plant, the decision to sow is a long-term investment. Producers who have already sown their plants can therefore not readily choose to put their land to other uses. But coffee prices can influence decisions concerning how much money and energy to invest in a particular harvest.
Besides the factor of world prices, however, there were also domestic forces influencing production. This can be seen above all in the case of cotton, where the importance of large and medium producers has declined steadily over recent years:
% of Total Area Sown by Type of ProducerIn addition to this trend, small producers are improving their yield, while that of large producers is stagnant. This decreasing importance of large and medium producers reflects various factors. As we noted above, the rent and agrarian reform laws hurt the large producers, while stimulating smaller producers. In addition, though the cotton sector as a whole continues to receive enormous amounts of credit (1.84 billion cordobas for the 1983-84 season, about 40% of all credits for agriculture), the distribution of these credits has changed. The larger producers, who under Somoza received almost all cotton credits, now have to compete with cooperatives and smaller producers, who for the first time have access to the National Financial System. These small producers also enjoy lower rates of interest than the large producers.
We do not have exact figures on the evolution of large-scale coffee production. Edgardo García, general secretary of the Association of Rural Workers (A.T.C.), estimates that in Region VI 13,000 manzanas belonging to large coffee producers have been expropriated. In some cases, plantations were expropriated after having been decapitalized (capital transferred out of the country, machinery sold, or coffee plants allowed to run down). In other cases, large owners lost their land because they had offered logistical support to the Contras. García added, however, that “generally speaking, those large producers who remain have a positive attitude.”
Another interesting indicator is the fact that coffee yields per manzana of the Public Sector (A.P.P.) in the Sixth Region were 80% higher in last year’s cycle than the yields of the large producers. This difference represents in part the superior quality of land owned by the A.P.P., but may also reflect a decision on the part of some producers to do only the bare minimum to avoid being expropriated.
Cooperatives are playing an increasingly important role in coffee production. This year about 37% of the coffee land owned by the private sector is worked cooperatively.
It is clear that the profit levels of the large producers have fallen. This is due in part to world price levels. But it also reflects the determination of the government to socialize part of the surplus value of cotton and coffee production. By paying producers 16 cordobas for every dollar earned in cotton exports, for example, the state retains control of the lion’s share of the real value of those dollars.
Another factor in the fall of profit rates in the rise in labor costs. The average cost of harvesting a manzana of cotton, for instance, rose 221% between 1979 and 1981. For the first time large coffee and cotton producers must respect minimum-wage laws. They must also provide better meals for their workers and, in many cases, pay their health costs. Some producers say that workers are not as productive as they used to be and that they have shortened their work day. Edgardo García of the A.T.C. notes that there are some heavy tasks involved in the harvest that a person cannot perform for eight hours a day. He suggests that, if some workers are not producing as much as before, it is because they are now working at a more humane pace. Thus, as implied above, the alleviation of the exploitation of workers has cut into the large producers’ profit rates.
However by seeking to maximize their yields, producers can still make a profit. The cotton growers, above all, can cut their costs by being more responsible in the use of agrochemicals, which represent 39% of production costs. Large producers have traditionally used over 300 kgs. of chemicals per manzana, without worrying much about the impact of this practice upon the health of workers or upon the long-term productivity of cotton land. The majority of large producers have been reluctant to cooperate with the APP cotton farms’ strategy of cutting chemical use by using biological methods of controlling insects.
But if profits can still be made, it is nevertheless clear that the social and economic position of the large producers in particular has changed fundamentally.
In the 1978-79 harvest, coffee producers received profits averaging a remarkable 98% of costs. This sort of profit level will never again be seen in Nicaragua. In addition, the agrarian reform and laws against decapitalization have made it clear that land ownership involves serious social obligations. The rapid growth of the Association of Rural Workers has given the workers the ability to ensure compliance with these social obligations, be they the obligation to provide the harvest workers with more humane working conditions or the obligation to produce – to refrain from decapitalizing. Private producers who can accept this arrangement will stay and continue producing, earning a modest profit. But it is not surprising that many large producers, long accustomed to being the absolute lords of their plantations, have left for the more congenial environment of Miami.
THE 1983-84 HARVEST: PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGESThe prospects for this year’s coffee harvest are quite distinct from those for cotton. The greatest concern as the coffee harvest begins is the danger of Contra sabotage. Contra actions have focused upon the public sector. Trucks and other facilities have been burned, and administrators have been murdered. The objective is to intimidate the public sector officials and make them leave. There is a danger that the mobilization for the harvest will be affected by fear of the Contras.
The formation of Production Battalions is a means for combining the task of harvesting and self-defense. Edgardo García of the A.T.C. told us that many of the harvesters will be carrying weapons to defend the workers. There is some Contra activity throughout the sixth and first regions, with the most dangerous zone being along the border with Honduras. In these high-risk areas, there will be “lightning harvests,” and the harvesters “will work with a rifle over their shoulders,” according to an official involved in preparing the production battalions.
Another challenge is to recruit and organize the labor force needed for the harvest. Edgardo García told us that 25,000 volunteers will be needed, above all in the peak months of November and December. As we noted above, this is due in part to the agrarian reform, which has reduced the labor supply made up of those who have little or no access to land of their own. Mobilization for the harvest has also been made more difficult by the participation of many campesinos in the militias and by the need for many small farmers to stay in their villages protecting their own harvests.
The productivity of the volunteers is well below that of the more experienced workers. But Edgardo García sees this as a phase of apprenticeship: “We are not going to keep the campesinos starving so that they will go to the harvest. Other sectors of society will have to make a contribution and learn how to do this work. There are already thousands of students who want to learn and who are volunteering.”
Apart from this apprenticeship, the mobilization of volunteers has a political value, strengthening the links between urban and rural Nicaragua. Two young people from Masatepe, in the department of Masaya, who have participated in the last few harvests as volunteers, told us of the importance of sharing the life of the rural workers during the harvest. They added that many volunteers take part in adult education with the campesinos: “We teach them whatever we happen to know, and they teach us how to harvest coffee.”
The massive mobilization for the harvest also presents the challenge of providing logistical support. Health brigades must be coordinated, and food supplies must be assured (70,000 coffee cutters will eat around 400 tons of rice and 525 tons of beans a month.) There is a serious transportation problem for the upcoming harvest. Spare parts are lacking for many of the trucks needed to market the harvest, and many of the roads to isolated coffee plantations are in disrepair.
As we noted in the last Envío, this year’s coffee harvest is expected to be smaller than last year’s record crop. Owing to coffee blight, decapitalization by some coffee producers, and Contra harassment, the harvest is expected to be around 1.2 million hundred-weight, down from 1.6 million last year. 200,000 hundred-weight will be consumed in Nicaragua. Most of the rest will be sold to countries belonging to the International Coffee Organization (I.C.O.) at a price established by the organization – approximately $120 per hundred-weight. Because Nicaragua’s production for export will be greater than its I.C.O. quota, it will have to sell the surplus to non-I.C.O. countries. Around 865,000 hundred-weight from the last harvest were sold to I.C.O. countries, and the rest was sold to countries such as Algeria, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic, and Czechoslovakia. These sales usually take place at prices below those established by the I.C.O.
Prospects for the cotton harvest are quite positive. For the first time in years the world price of cotton began to rise in June. In the last four months, it has risen by more than 20%. This reflects in part the expectation that the U.S. cotton harvest will be 35% smaller than last year, owing to weather problems and to a U.S. government policy of encouraging cotton farmers to plant other crops. The Chinese harvest is also expected to be smaller this year. As a result, for the first time in 15 years, there is the possibility of a world cotton shortage.
The Nicaraguan government reacted quickly to the rise in cotton prices. In mid-July, an increase in the planting of cotton from 150,000 to 170,000 manzanas was announced. (The 1982-83 season covered only 130,000 manzanas.) The National Financial System provided an extra 230 million cordobas for the additional sowing.
Plentiful rains in October have provided ideal conditions for the cotton crop, and yields are expected to rise by 10% over normal levels. This combination of factors – price rise, increased planting, and higher yields – could increase the value of this year’s cotton harvest by up to 70% over last year. If the cotton harvest is as successful as expected, it will more than compensate for any difficulties encountered in the coffee harvest.
The cotton harvest is also favored by the fact that it will occur in regions where there is little Contra activity. The Chinandega and León areas – the heart of the cotton harvest – have a better road network; transportation problems will therefore be less acute. It is not yet known how many volunteers will be needed for the harvest. Last year, 6,000 volunteers participated, but this year’s larger crop may require more.
CONCLUSIONAmerican political-science professor Richard Fagen describes the Nicaraguan situation in terms of a “revolutionary paradox.” On the one hand, the rapid social transformations provoke tensions and problems over and above those encountered in every poor society. On the other hand, these very same changes unleash energies and resources that do not exist in non-revolutionary situations.
The Nicaraguan revolution has entailed problems in the production of cotton and coffee. The agrarian reform has cut into the labor force, and many large producers have become alienated. On the other hand, the revolutionary process has also fostered remarkable new social energies: there are few countries that could mobilize 25,000 volunteers, over 2% of the economically active population, to take part in two months of hard and even dangerous work. There are few societies where small producers and cooperatives have been given the opportunities that exist today in Nicaragua. These producers have taken advantage of such opportunities, compensating for the attitude of large producers.
The evolution of the cotton and coffee sectors over the last few years demonstrates a few truths about Nicaragua’s mixed economy. In the first place, it is clear that to talk of a private sector can be misleading, as the private sector is made up of a set of subsectors with different and even opposed interests. Too many analyses of the “Nicaraguan reality” have confused the private sector as a whole with a small group of large producers who, by their response to the new situation, have condemned themselves to the margins of Nicaragua’s economic future. A nucleus of large producers will continue to produce coffee and cotton, but it seems clear that the dynamism in these sectors will come from small producers and cooperatives.
Secondly, though it will continue to be possible to earn a modest profit, private producers must come to terms with an economic system in which the interests of the people as a whole will come first. For those who accept this arrangement, ample help will be provided: the state will provide credit and foreign exchange, and the popular organizations will continue to mobilize volunteers to assure the necessary labor supply.
In the long run, Nicaragua will have to reduce its dependence upon cotton and coffee. As we noted in our article on the food supply in the previous Envío, providing basic-grain producers with more access to high technology and the better lands in the Pacific region is a key element in Nicaragua’s food strategy. This strategy could eventually convert Nicaragua from an importer to an exporter of basic grains. Since World War II, few countries in the world have achieved this transition. Basic grains do not fluctuate in price to the degree that cotton and coffee do. In addition, there will be a demand for whatever amount of basic grains Nicaragua is able to export. The coffee situation is very different in that Nicaragua’s potential exports are limited by the I.C.O. quotas.
For the moment, however, coffee and cotton dominate the Nicaraguan economy. In gearing up once again for the cotton and coffee “battles,” the Nicaraguan people are providing eloquent proof of their determination to defend their revolution, their “four-year old child”. As Edgardo García of the A.T.C. told us: “No one will risk life and limb to earn a few cordobas, but there are thousands of people willing to run the risks involved in the harvest in order to help win the war against imperialism.”
Instituto Histórico Centroamericano (IHCA)
November 2, 1983The IHCA has received several requests for information on the recent conflicts between sectors of the Catholic Church of Managua and sectors of the popular organizations. We are still investigating recent events, so that we might be able to present an objective account. In the meantime, we offer here a summary of some points of importance in the recent events.
1. On August 29, the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference published a document commenting the draft of the military service law, which had been presented to the Council of State on August 9. The bishops suggested “conscientious objection” … “for those who do no not share the Sandinista ideology.”
The document was the strongest yet published by the Nicaraguan bishops, calling into question the very legitimacy of the Nicaraguan government. It provoked strong reaction on the part of many sectors of the Catholic Church, who published statements disagreeing with the Bishops’ position. Nor would it seem that the bishops themselves were fully united on the question, as statements on the part of some bishops after the document was published implied disagreement with its contents.
When the bishops published their statement, the law was only in its discussion stages, and there was wide debate throughout the country on the subject. After the law was approved by the Council of State on September 13 and subsequently ratified by the government junta, however, the refusal on the part of those called by the law to register for military service to do so within the allotted time became illegal, as did the encouraging of others not to register. Thus the legal character of the actions of those who were urging Nicaraguans not to register for military service changed when the law passed.
2. Last week it came to the attention of government authorities that there were plans in some areas to manipulate religious gatherings due to take place on Sunday October 30, in order to turn them into political demonstrations against the military service law.
Government representatives contacted the apostolic nuncio on Friday, October 28, in order to seek ways of avoiding conflict on Sunday. They also contacted the President of the Episcopal Conference, Bishop Pablo Vega of Chontales. Representatives of the Ministry of the Interior contacted bishops outside Managua advising them of the possibility of religious gatherings being used for political purposes.
3. Sunday, October 30, was quiet in all the dioceses of the country except Managua, according to all the information we have at this time.
4. In Managua on October 30, there were various demonstrations organized by popular organizations which took place in parishes of the city, preventing the opponents of military service from “taking to the streets.”
a) In a document published on November 1, the auxiliary bishop of Managua Bosco Vivas stated that there had been 20 demonstrations of this type. The IHCA has not been able to verify this estimate.
b) In the barrio of San Judas, demonstrators did not permit entry to the barrio to Bishop Bosco Vivas. They also asked the parish priest, Father Fonseca, to leave the parish. Demonstrators said that Father Fonseca had used his homilies to preach against military service, the Sandinista Defense Committees, and the popular militia.
c) In some press dispatches issued by foreign journalists, there has been mention of acts of physical violence against the auxiliary bishop or against other priests. Witnesses present at these events have told the IHCA that no such attacks took place, and they were not mentioned in the auxiliary bishop’s November declaration, from which it is fair to conclude that such attacks did not take place.
d) The same press dispatches mentioned the damage of some churches by members of the popular organizations. The IHCA is investigating these reports.
5. On Monday, October 31, the Ministry of the Interior announced the expulsion of two foreign priests, Luis Corral Prieta, of Spain, and José María Pacheco, of Costa Rica. The two, members of the Salesian Congregation, had been working in Masaya.
a) The Ministry of the Interior statement said that “Father Corral Prieto had been promoting disobedience of the military service law in verbal and written statements, and had been organizing activities against the law.” The Ministry of Education had met with the provincial of the Salesians on October 4 to inform him of the activities of Father Corral Prieto, and the provincial had promised that such activities would cease. Nevertheless, according to the Ministry of the Interior report, Father Corral Prieto “continued his political activities.”
b) The Ministry of the Interior also stated that Father José María Pacheco – who had been involved in the events of August 1982 in Masaya, during which one young Nicaragua died – “has been a participant in all the activities promoted by Father Corral Prieto.”
c) The two priests in the past had angered Catholics in Masaya by refusing to celebrate mass for Masayans who had died in the war against the counterrevolutionaries. It is against universal church policy to refuse to say mass for the deceased.
6. In his November 1 document, issued “in the absence of the Archbishop of Managua Miguel Obando y Bravo” (who is presently in Venezuela), auxiliary bishop Bosco Vivas declared that Sunday’s events and the expulsion of the two priests are “harmful to the freedom of religion and of worship, as defined in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights.”
a) In response to these events, the auxiliary bishop prohibited the saying of mass on November 2 throughout Managua, declaring a “day of mourning and of fasting and prayer.”
b) In the universal Catholic Church, November 2 is All Souls’ Day, a day of prayer for the dead. This is an important religious day in Nicaragua in particular, a day for holding masses for the dead and for visiting the local cemeteries. The government had declared the afternoon of November 2 a holiday in order to give Nicaraguans time to take part in the day’s activities of commemoration for the dead. Thus the suspension of mass by the auxiliary bishop is a very significant action. The auxiliary bishop established Thursday, November 4 (sic), as the day for saying mass for the dead.
c) The popular organizations are encouraging their members to visit the cemeteries and to commemorate the dead.
7. To this point there have been no declarations on the part of other Nicaraguan bishops on the subject of recent events. Observers find it significant that the day of mourning was declared unilaterally by the auxiliary bishop of Managua, without participation on the part of other dioceses.