Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 86 | Agosto 1988




Envío team

Kenia Rodríguez is back on her feet, although they are her second pair. The 8-year-old lost both legs above the knees after the contras mortared the northeastern mining town of Siuna last December 20. Her grandmother was killed and an aunt injured in the attack New York Times correspondent James Le Moyne called the contras' "most successful military operation of the war."

Kenia may not be able to judge the fighting abilities of the US-backed forces but she knows they can really ruin a little girl's life. She despondently told an aunt sitting with her day and night in a Managua hospital that now she would remain a "burra"—a stupid woman—because without legs she couldn't go to school. (See "The War Disabled—Wounds Still to Heal," envío, Vol. 7, No. 85.)

Now she is walking confidently, practicing dancing and school awaits. Kenia wants to show President Daniel Ortega, who visited her in the hospital, how well she can walk, "but he doesn't know where my house is."

She also wants to meet Brian Willson, a hero to all Nicaraguan war injured. "I know a train ran over him," Kenia said, "but now he can walk like me."

Nicaragua's education ministry is calling on mass organizations for more help in stemming a growth in the country's illiteracy rate. Trade unions, women's organizations, farmers' and youth groups and neighborhood committees all served in the 1980 National Literacy Crusade. In that short campaign the national illiteracy rate was reduced from 52% to 12%, a remarkable achievement.

Now the illiteracy rate has crept up again by 10%. Education Ministry spokespeople say this is due to a combination of the popular organizations putting less effort into maintaining literacy efforts and the costs of the war. The war takes workers away from adult education and soaks up scarce resources that could be spent on education.

As of a year ago 411 teachers had been killed in the war and 66 kidnapped. Forty-six schools had been completely destroyed and another 21 damaged, while 555 were temporarily closed, leaving a total of 45,000 students without classrooms. Four hundred and eighty adult education centers, which provided ongoing education opportunities for those who had recently learned to read, had been closed.

According to Samuel Simpson, who is in charge of adult education in Managua, the literacy campaign was unable to reach 25,000 people its first stage and those numbers have since been swollen by the "great quantity" of school age children who are not attending school and are joining the work force without being able to read or write. Lack of practice or availability of reading materials in some of the war zones has undoubtedly caused skills to slip for those newly taught to read.

"To whom do you have to explain yourselves?" asked Julius Nyrere, ex-President of Tanzania. He was posing the question at a meeting with religious leaders and members of base Christian communities in Managua on August 15, asking why Christians felt they had to justify their actions on behalf of the poor and against the rich and powerful.

His question drew broad smiles from Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Father Miguel D'Escoto and Minister of Education Father Fernando Cardenal. Both priests have been heavily pressured by the Vatican to renounce the priesthood or their posts in the government. Cardenal, a Jesuit, left the order in 1987.

The meeting was a "De Cara al Pueblo " between President Daniel Ortega and other government ministers and the Christians in a simple concrete block church in the suburb of Ciudad Jardín. The crowd overflowed into the hot and rainy night.

The line of people who came to the microphone questioned their President and his visitor, sang songs of welcome and recited poetry. Amongst them Miguel Angel Casco, a Pentecostal, said it was clear the Sandinista leadership were "inspired by God and full of the Holy Spirit" because they could sit down at the same table and talk with their enemies.

Nyrere, now president of the UN's South-South Commission, also visited Bluefields, where he told a crowd of 1,000 of his work to unite poor countries to press for a new and more just world economic order. Tomás Borge, who also spoke, recalled the Coast's African heritage.

An independent women's group has called for legalization of abortion at the First National Women's Seminar, entitled "Nora Astorga: Women and the Law." Sponsored by the Heroes and Martyrs Federation of Professionals, the 3-day seminar in Managua drew some 150 psychologists, lawyers, doctors and social workers. Victor Tirado and Carlos Núñez, both members of the FSLN National Directorate, were on hand for the event’s closing ceremonies.

Casta Rosa Ruíz López, director of the Women's Center of Masaya, demanded the legalization of abortion and stricter paternity laws. Although no prosecutions are pending for illegal abortions, the strong influence of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua has all but stifled debate on the subject of legalization until recently. In a study of 70 women who had black market abortions, more than half cited financial difficulty and paternal irresponsibility in their decision.

Among other topics discussed were the representation of women's interests in the new Constitution and civil laws, the high rate of abuse among peasant women, and image of women in the media. Participants voiced especially strong criticism of the weekly humor magazine Semana Cómica, temporarily closed by the government for its derogatory representation of women in a recent issue.

La Prensa returned to Nicaraguan streets at the end of July after being suspended for 15 days and has continued with the same never-mind-the-facts-it's-the-Sandinista's-fault approach. On July 30 it reported that a five-year old girl with a broken arm went with her mother to a Granada hospital and was refused attention by a Cuban internationalista "that they say is a hospital doctor."

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