Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 64 | Octubre 1986




Envío team

Last month, UNESCO gave Nicaragua special recognition for its continuing achievements since the l980 National Literacy Crusade, awarding it the "Nadbezka Krupskaya" gold medal. (In l980, Nicaragua received UNESCO's gold medal after lowering the national illiteracy rate from 53% to l2.9%.) Three continuing projects were mentioned, with particular praise going to Río San Juan (Special Zone III). During Somoza's years in power, the illiteracy rate in that region was 96%. The 1980 campaign reduced it to 36%; since then, it has been further decreased to 28%.

Orlando Pineda, regional representative for the Ministry of Education (MED), pointed to this region as an example of the far-reaching results achieved by the literacy programs. According to Pineda, the department of Río San Juan—with about 31,000 inhabitants—had only 5 schools and 44 teachers for some 600 students before 1979. In the last seven years, 11 new schools have been built and 417 teachers now work in the zone serving some 10,000 students. The MED's goal is to completely eradicate illiteracy in Special Zone III and a new campaign is underway that targets seven small towns, including El Castillo, Morrito and Palo Ralo.

With a $50 million credit provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Nicaragua is rebuilding its fishing industry. Fifty boats are now being built in Brazil at a cost of $20 million; the balance of the money will be used to repair docks and damaged boats.

Nicaragua's fishing industry has suffered greatly since 1979. At the time of the triumph, fleeing Somocistas took many boats out of the country and left others severely damaged. In recent years, the US-sponsored contra war has taken its toll as well. The industry had 229 shrimp and lobster boats in 1980, 45 of which have been lost to contra attacks (including those damaged by mines laid in Nicaraguan waters). In addition, normal maintenance and repair on the boats has been increasingly difficult due to the US economic embargo imposed in May of 1985. In 1980, total fishing exports were $29 million. By 1985, that figure was down to $12 million. In all, the contra war has meant losses totaling $62 million to the fishing industry.

The IDB loan should mean a huge leap in Nicaragua's shrimp and lobster catches—which in turn could translate into much-needed foreign exchange for the country, particularly since the fishing industry consumes only 30 cents of every dollar it generates. The IDB representative in Nicaragua, Pablo Linares, stated that the fishing potential in Nicaragua is one of the greatest in the Central American region. The IDB loan will be repaid out of increased fishing industry earnings.

Daily life in much of Nicaragua's countryside has changed markedly in the last seven years due to the contra war. In addition to causing both human and economic destruction, the war has severely disrupted traditional work patterns. This is particularly striking in the case of women agricultural workers. In 1977, women comprised only l5% of the economically active population in the countryside. Today, with many men mobilized in direct defense tasks, they are nearly half

(48.6%), working primarily in coffee, cotton, tobacco and rice, and some in cattle raising.

Women farm workers met together as a group for the first time in April 1983, to discuss their problems and needs as women workers as well as the changes they felt were necessary for them to continue working at maximum productivity. At that first assembly, major complaints centered on equal pay for equal work and problems stemming from women's "double workday," as virtually no childcare or other domestic labor support was available.

On September 6 and 7 of this year, 600 women held the Second National Assembly of Women Farm Workers in Managua, under the organizing slogan, "United, combative and creative, we’re producing the most we can with the few resources we have." The National Women’s Secretariat of the ATC (the salaried farm workers' union, which in 1984 counted women as 40% of its membership) presented a report on the situation since 1983. The report shows significant progress in the area of wages, due largely to the national salary scale worked out and implemented by the Ministry of Labor.

In addition, 30 SIRs (rural child development centers) have been built, servicing 6,845 children and 1,923 mothers—primarily coffee workers in state-run enterprises in Region VI (Matagalpa and Jinotega). The construction of more SIRs remains a top priority for the women. In some workplaces, there are collectives for cooking, grinding grains and doing laundry—some of the most time-consuming tasks that would otherwise fall to each individual woman in addition to her day of paid work. Women who are not working in the paid labor force are paid to do these and similar chores. The women's committee that wrote the report for the Assembly made special reference to the "silent and persevering work of the cooks," recommending that these women be remunerated according to the profitability of the enterprises.

On the other hand, the women said little progress has been made in two key areas: subsidies for women during their final months of pregnancy, and distribution of basic non-food items (including necessary work tools). "Our demands are not only women's demands," they pointed out, "but are also problems for the union movement. Despite our union's efforts and accomplishments, there still is some resistance to taking this task on as an integral part of the workers' struggle."


"The contras threw us off our land and mined my farm. This is the pure truth. Now we have no way to eat." Thus spoke Teodoro Portillo, who lived near Villanueva de Yamales in the Honduran province of El Paraiso, near one of the contras’ military training schools.

In the eastern province of El Paraíso, Honduras, more than 5,000 coffee growers and producers have been displaced as the contra army steadily gobbles up territory for instruction and training of the ranks who are trying to topple the Nicaraguan government. A 450-km area in El Paraíso, known as "Nueva Nicaragua," is under contra control.

On October 1, AHPROCAFE (the Honduran Association of Coffee Producers) announced a march to Tegucigalpa, where they plan to protest the presence of the contra forces in Honduran national territory and demand their immediate expulsion. The contra occupation of the coffee growing lands in El Paraíso has meant a total loss of over $50 million. The growers are demanding compensation for these losses caused by the contra forces "with the consent of [Honduran] civil and military authorities."

Nicaragua recently acquired l50 new machine looms that will enable the country to modernize its textile industry. The looms will go to the TEXNICSA and FANATEX factories and equipment currently in use at those sites will be sent to other factories whose equipment dates back to 1915.

In addition, Agustín Vega from the Ministry of Industry announced that a new thread factory, TEXNICSA II, will open next year. TEXNICSA II will be able to produce 3,200 metric tons of thread annually, saving the country $15 million each year in thread imports. The production of thread will also help resolve the serious problem of textile plants working at partial capacity. Many factories currently work only one or two shifts because Nicaragua lacks the foreign exchange to import sufficient inputs to maintain full production.

Students at the Benjamín Zeledón Institute have planted a 200-square meter area of medicinal plants in the mountains of Jinotega in Nicaragua's Region VI, in an attempt to resolve the scarcity of synthetic medicines in the region. Six months ago, the students surveyed 110 peasant households, collecting popular knowledge about the medicinal and curative uses of plants.

The students plan to maintain and cultivate their medicinal plant nursery with the goal of "rescuing" this traditional and essential resource for the people of the region, particularly during this period of war-induced scarcity. A similar project is also underway in Las Segovias, Region I.

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