Impact of Nicaragua’s Crisis on CEPAD’s Campaign

As you may have read in the news or on CEPAD’s website, (you can see CEPAD’s posts here for background), Nicaragua has been in crisis since April, 2018. This has been a challenge to every organization in the country but thanks to the generosity of our donors we have been able to continue work and keep all staff employed.

Despite the unrest we are still moving forward with our design for the new center in Managua. CEPAD has been working for the poor in Nicaragua since 1972 and we know we can survive this unrest as we have in the past.

Our architects are working on finalizing the design and are scheduled to be finished in January, 2019.

If you have questions about the project or would like to know more please be in touch with Emily Hewes, Director of Development for CEPAD USA at (207) 664-9202 or via email at emily@cepadusa.org.

Thank You!

We wanted to take a moment to thank every single individual and community of faith that has donated to CEPAD during this difficult time.

All of our staff are still working, despite the civil unrest in the country, this is all thanks to you.

Many organizations and businesses have not been able to survive and many thousands of people have lost their jobs.

Thanks to you all of our staff are still employed and are helping to ensure that the beneficiaries of the programs are still receiving important training that is helping them to confront the challenges they are facing. We wanted to highlight the faith communities that have donated during this crisis.

Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery

Delmar Reformed Church

Davidson College Presbyterian

First Presbyterian of Ann Arbor

Presbytery of Lake Michigan

Brentwood Presbyterian

Benson Presbyterian Church Foundation

First Congregational UCC

First Christian Church, KY

Kentucky Partners

First Presbyterian St. Louis

Again, thank you to EVERYONE who has made our continued work possible.

 

The Crisis in Nicaragua

By Gilberto Aguirre, former ED of CEPAD


Since the 18th of April, 2018 Nicaragua has faced a very painful, cruel and tense situation which is difficult to resolve. The trigger of this situation was a reform made by the Social Security Institution, INSS, which announced on the 16th of April and was officially instituted on the 18th of April. These reforms proposed to increase the amount workers would pay into social security and reduce by 5% what retirees were receiving. This was a unilateral decision made by the government without taking into account the other sectors that had asked that this decision be discussed before approving any reforms. Recommendations by the IMF were also not taken into account. The Superior Private Business Council was against the resolution.

 

This unleashed a series of protests, especially from the University students in Managua. These protests extended to principal cities in the country between the 19th and 21st of April and they were very active in the principal universities in the country. There were also groups of government sympathizers who supported these efforts. All of this led to confrontations between protesters and the police. The action of the police in these days was very violent, resulting in deaths and wounded. To date there is no one list of those who have been killed and wounded because there are at least 4 different lists provided by different organizations.

 

Since April there have violent confrontations that have resulted in the following (different statistics by different organizations):

  • A total of 251 deaths according to the Nicaraguan Center of Human Rights as of the 10th of July, 351 according to the Nicaraguan Association Pro Human Rights as of the 19th of July, 235 according to the Permanent Commission of Human Rights as of the 11th of July, 264 according to the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights as of the 19th of July and 21 according to the Commission of Truth, Justice and Peace as of the 12th of July.
  • More than 1,200 wounded according to the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights as of the 6th of July, more than 2,400 according to the Permanent Commission of Human Rights as of the 18th of June and 2,100 according to the Nicaraguan Association Pro Human Rights as of the 10th of July.
  • 130 people detained according to the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights since the 23rd of April and 438 according to the Interamerican Comission of Human Rights.

 

All of this violence, which includes burning of public and private buildings, radio stations, homes and supermarkets has produced a tense environment in the whole country. More than anything the presence of paramilitary groups with their faces covered with bandanas and masks has caused fear in the population.

 

We can talk about the violence unleashed by the police and government forces, then violence by the delinquents and vandals that destroyed and burned goods and properties, the roadblocks that were initially put up by the population to protect themselves from the delinquents which then were taken over by delinquents who impeded access to free movement of people and charged the population to pass. Another phase which we are still in, is the presence of the paramilitary forces and the police who are arbitrarily detaining people who participated in the protests which has obligated many people to flee to other countries.

 

Unfortunately we have felt a lot of hate, bad blood that has enveloped many families in Nicaragua. The government has not helped with this. They have not taken adequate measures to stop the violence in the country and instead they have contributed to the increase of violence. The biggest pain we feel as Nicaraguans is the violence that has been used against the population and especially young people. All of this has been a result of protesting against the government.

 

The media have also not contributed to calm, instead they have dedicated to providing information in a biased manner, depending on the political position of the owners of each station.

 

Even though originally the protests were spurred by the reform to the Social Security system the response of the government provoked discontent over other issues from the reform of the Constitution for the presidential reelection to the ‘trees of life’ that the Vice- President adorned the capital and other cities, passing the protests against the interoceanic canal that the government had planned. Everything that the government had done to benefit the population in the areas of education, health, infrastructure, tourism and communications was forgotten. We can talk about a before and after April 18th, 2018.

 

There was a dialogue that was promoted to solve the crisis, but the same dialogue is now in crisis itself. It has not advanced as was hoped. For this reason we still don’t see a clear future. We all believe that dialogue is the solution but the dialogue has not advanced due to positions of the different sides.

 

The churches affiliated with CEPAD have sent two communications to President Ortega saying that it is his responsibility to act with justice and to stop the repression. CEPAD has not yet received a response to these letters. The commitment of Christians is to justice, peace and reconciliation. We continue to pray for this but now we are preparing to accompany the victims of violence until we reach reconciliation for all who have been affected.

 

The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. Psalms 103:6

 

Isidria’s Family is Thriving, Thanks to You

Isidria is a mother of four children who lives about an hour outside of Managua. Thanks to your support she is now better supporting her family through craft training and a family garden she has planted. Despite higher food prices because of the crisis she has hope and is able to feed her family with the sale of crafts and the produce from their garden.

Isidria is a mother of four and lives in the municipality of San Francisco Libre, about an hour from the capital of Managua.

In 2014 Isidria was invited by village leaders to take part in CEPAD’s programs, she was chosen to be part of two different programs, the Women’s Garden Program and the Women’s Work Training program.

Isidria expresses her gratitude for learning things that she had never had the opportunity to learn before:

“I have always liked making crafts but I had never had the opportunity to learn how to make them. Sometimes I would try to make flower wreaths to take to put on the graves of family members but I never had what I needed….I also didn’t have anyone who could guide me so it made it difficult for me to make these products. Now that I have received training from CEPAD I have the knowledge and some tools and materials that the organization has given me to make these products.”

With the crisis in Nicaragua Isidria shared that they are unable to travel to the bigger cities to purchase food, they have had to rely on purchasing from small stores where prices are often higher.

For Isidria and her family your support of CEPAD’s programs has been so important, especially during this difficult time. With the sales of her crafts they have been able to purchase food and with the produce from their garden, squash, green pepper, melon, watermelon tomatoes and radish, they are able to survive.

When Isidria was asked why donors like you should continue to support CEPAD’s work she said, “It is an organization that helps organize and provide training so we can improve our lives and continue applying this knowledge, even when they leave our villages.”

Thank you for the great legacy you are leaving to the families of Nicaragua.

 

You Have Given Pedro’s Family a Fighting Chance

Pedro gives you credit for your support of his family. Despite the current crisis his family is harvesting food and have been able to stay in their home. He says without your support for training he would have had to sell his land and they would have had to leave Nicaragua. Thank you for your contributions that are sustaining rural villages in Nicaragua.

“My name is Pedro Guevara, I am 66 years old, married and a father of 5 children. I live in the community of el Zapotal which is located 5 kilometers to the South of the municipality of Jinotepe.

I started working with CEPAD as a beneficiary of the Food and Environmental Security program in 2015. I received training and in these moments of crisis that we are living in Nicaragua the training I received has helped me a lot.

I learned to plant using native seeds that I had available, to plant in the right time using organic techniques without the use of agro-chemicals. It has been very beneficial to me because today I have planted both corn and beans using native seeds.

We are using environmentally friendly techniques without chemical inputs or pesticides, using integral pest management. I have shared and showed 15 farmers in my village what we are using thanks to the training this organization has given us with the interest in improving our capacity for producing every day and our future nourishment. As we say in Nicaragua I have my gallo pinto [rice and beans] ready, which is what we live off of in the rural areas of my country.

If I hadn’t received this training by CEPAD I would be in another, negative situation in my home. We would be without food, without work, bad economically, I would have had to sell my land because if I felt I had no resources I would have to dip into what I have. But thanks be to God I was taken into account at the right time.

In these moments we are growing vegetables and eating them, even though we are not working we are bartering with others. I give 3 squash or 6 peppers for a pound of sugar or a bar of soap. We are not using oil but the little we are able to get in cash is used to purchase food or medicine. Today the words from the sacred scripts are coming true, “Don’t spend money on what is not bread.”

I want to call to all the donors [of CEPAD], please don’t forget the poor families in Nicaragua. We always remember you and the doors of our homes are always open and waiting for delegations to come visit.

You can be sure that your donations have arrived in our villages and they have served to prepare us in this moment of crisis.

 

Ways to Support Nicaragua

If you are looking for ways to be in solidarity with Nicaragua during the current civil unrest we have come up with some ways to do so. If you would like more information or have questions please write to emily@cepadusa.org. 

Updates on Unrest in Nicaragua

Below are updates we have been posting since the unrest begin in Nicaragua in mid-April 2018. The most recent information is first, you can scroll down to read earlier updates. Please keep Nicaragua in your prayers and if you are able to make a donation today, please click here, thank you so much.


July 30, 2018

Dear friends,

Violent events have diminished, although not completely. There are still isolated cases of killings as well as arbitrary detentions. Now those detained are being charged with terrorism or helping terrorism.  There were four big marches last week in Managua, two from the opposition and two pro-government held on the same dates, at different places, and other activities in other cities. The Police was present at the beginning of one of the opposition marches, so they had to change the venue. All activities were uneventful so that gives us hope that we can all make use of our right as Nicaraguans to express our opinions without being attacked for them.

 

Municipal authorities are busily repairing streets and damages made to properties to present a sense of normality. However, that is not the case. Many persons, including families, are fleeing the country mostly to Costa Rica, some because they feel their lives threatened but many because of the economic situation. Some economists talk about at least 120,000 jobs being lost since mid-April.

 

The groups participating in the national dialogue have not met for a month. President Ortega has questioned the role of the Roman Catholic Church saying they are on the side of the opposition and not fulfilling their role as mediators. However, there’s been no official disqualification from the government nor a response from the Church. President Ortega has made these accusations at rallies or in the media.

 

Meanwhile, our staff has been able to visit the villages, to hold he workshops that were rescheduled from previous months and to monitor community plans. It is hopeful to see that lives in the villages continue, people are working on their plots, going to school and implementing their projects. The Radio is undergoing repairs this week so we’re transmitting only on Internet. We thank very much those who supported the purchase of the tuning box so that the Radio can soon go back on air.

 

We are also very grateful to those of you who have donated to CEPAD, especially during these last three months. This has enabled us to meet the payroll obligations of all staff on time as well as pay for the operational costs. Thank you!

 

Please continue praying for Nicaragua and for CEPAD. On moving forward, CEPAD is starting to work on a healing process with the help of the pastors in the cities and the psychosocial groups in the rural in villages. I invite you to join us in these efforts when we have a more definite plan.

 

Thank you,

Damaris Albuquerque

Executive Director, CEPAD


July 16, 2018

Dear friends,

Last weekend, there were several events from the protesters’ movements and also pro-government rallies.  On Thursday, there were several simultaneous marches called “Blue and White”—using the Nicaraguan flag’s colors–calling for an end to the violence and for early presidential elections. Then, on Friday there was a national strike where most of the businesses and work places of different cities participated. Taking advantage of the strike, the government called for “the Repliegue”, which is an annual event that commemorates the fight against Somoza that led to his overthrow. The route is from Managua to Masaya (26 kms south of the capital) and is led by President Ortega.  On Friday, the protesters led a big rally in cars and motorcycles in different parts of Managua. All of these events were huge, very well attended.

 

However, while President Ortega participated at the Repliegue and was speaking about peace and reconciliation, the students who have been inside the National University (UNAN) since April were attacked by the Police and paramilitary forces, forcing them to take refuge at a Catholic church nearby. They were not safe there either as the church was surrounded and attacked as well. The students could not leave until Saturday morning under the auspices of the Catholic Church and the Human Rights International Commission. The population led vigils all night long, praying and asking to respect the lives of those inside the church, including three journalists. Two students were killed and an unknown number were taken into jail, without a warrant, including a couple of medical doctors who were tending the wounded.

 

Most of the roadblocks and streetblocks were lifted during the weekend but at a very high cost. At least 20 people were killed, including 5 policemen, many, many more wounded and arbitrarily detained in Morrito (Rio San Juan), Santo Tomas (Chontales), Diria and Diriomo (Granada), Niquinohomo, Catarina, San Juan de Oriente, La Concepcion (Masaya) and the city of Masaya itself. All of this violence has forced many Nicaraguans to flee their homes fearing for their lives as the police come to abduct them even if they were not protesting.

 

Internationally, the Permanent Security Council of the Organization of American States met last week and received a proposal of a resolution against the government of Nicaragua, pressing for an end to undue force, an end to violation of human rights, all arbitrary detentions and calling for preservation of life. The Council will vote in a special session later in the week.

 

On a hopeful side, the protesters at Nueva Guinea, who are members of the Anti-Canal Movement, the Mayor’s Office and the local Police signed yesterday an accord where the protesters lifted the roadblocks and the government officers committed to respect their lives and freedom. The accord was signed with the presence of the Roman Catholic priest. We hope and pray that the accord is upheld.

 

We continue asking you to pray but also to write to the President, Daniel Ortega, via the nearest Nicaraguan consulates and Embassies, urging him to give the orders to the Police and paramilitary forces to cease the violence. Every day the death count rises. By yesterday, unofficial counts were of more than 300 hundred people killed. We still think that dialogue is the only way out but all parties must really be committed to solve the situation.

 

Thank you.

Damaris Albuquerque

Executive Director, CEPAD


 

June 28, 2018

Dear friends,

The special commission of the Organization of American States that is investigating the government’s involvement in the violence in Nicaragua, has been here since last Sunday and is serving as advisor for the sub-committee for security and verification that was appointed by the Dialogue Board. Last week roadblocks at the main highways of the country were lifted by the police and paramilitary forces, which has allowed mobilization between cities. At the roadblocks where protesters resisted, the police shot and killed more people while wounding and detaining many others. According to one of the human rights groups in Nicaragua, the death toll has risen to 286 as of June 25.

All of CEPAD staff are working at all offices since last Monday, when we returned from vacation and are rescheduling activities that were not possible to carry out in May and June.

 

However, the levels of crime have risen. Three of our staff have been victims to robberies in different parts of the country. One of them was robbed while eating at a diner, another one was assaulted when he was going to his parents’ home in a nearby town on his motorcycle and the house of a third one was broken into in the middle of the day, when he and his wife were at work and the children were at the school. All their valuables were stolen.

 

Although no state of siege has been declared, everybody is home when the sun goes down as a preventive measure.

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Unemployment is also rising. Businesses in the service sector, are closing or reducing operations and are laying off their employees. In the hospitality sector alone, 40,000 jobs have been lost, reported the president of the tourism chamber. Other companies have opted for sending their employees on unpaid vacations or keeping their jobs part-time and therefore with half salaries. The emblematic House of the Mejia Godoy closed indefinitely their operations this week, as well as the luxurious Hotel Mukul, owned by the richest man of Nicaragua, Carlos Pellas.

 

In the midst of this bleak situation, we are very grateful to you who are giving financial support to CEPAD. We also have a challenge with Radio CEPAD which is transmitting on and off thanks to our technician who is doing some repairs and working miracles. Part of the equipment failed last week and we were off the air for some time. I ask you to please consider giving to this campaign so we can reach our goal of $3,000 which is the cost of replacing the tuning box. To give directly to this campaign please go here: https://www.mightycause.com/story/Radiocepad

 

Your support to CEPAD will guarantee that no employees lose their jobs and that we can continue providing support and training to the 40 communities we accompanying during their 5-year plans. If you would like to give to support CEPAD’s general work please visit our website: www.cepadnica.org/donate

Thank you,

Damaris Albuquerque, Executive Director, CEPAD


June 18 2018

Dear friends,

During the past week, violence worsened even more, when we thought more wouldn’t be possible. Armed people are rampart on the streets killing, hurting, and destroying property both public and private. Last Saturday, an entire family was burned to death in Managua inside their own home which served as a mattress business. People believe that the paramilitary forces did it.

This terrible situation has reopened old wounds and made new ones in the society. Hatred is increasing to the degree that deaths and attacks are justified depending on who the victims are and on the perspective of the people. We need to seek reconciliation with each other, but right now it seems there is no time for that. Trying to survive, to get food, to get to work and home are the priorities every day.

Last Thursday the 14th, there was a national strike called by the private enterprise sector. Most businesses were closed, some because they responded to the call and others because of fear that their businesses might be burned down or attacked.

Finally, last Friday the 15th the dialogue was resumed. On Friday and Saturday, they approved the agenda and appointed sub-committees for the issues of democratization, judiciary and electoral reforms. Those sub-committees will work today and go to plenary discussions tomorrow. The Roman Catholic Church continue serving as witnesses, now with the support of the Ambassador from the Vatican in Nicaragua. We still hope that the dialogue will bring a solution although sometimes we despair because it’s taking too long.

Two months after the unrest started more than 200 people have been killed and many more are wounded, detained and missing. At least a death occurs every day somewhere in the country. Our staff remains safe. This week we are on mid-year vacation praying that there are advances on the dialogue table and that by next week the environment is less dangerous.

We have to regret the tragic death of Wilton Cornejo, one of our youth of the psycosocial program in community Las Piedras in Pantasma. There are still investigations going on about the causes of his death. Please pray for his family and entire community where he was greatly appreciated.

Finally, we are grateful for all your support. Prayers, letters, words of encouragement and financial support inspire us and remind us that we are not alone. Thank you.

May God bless you

Damaris Albuquerque
CEPAD


May 25 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

I wanted to inform you about the situation in CEPAD at the national level.

1. The Community Development Committees in all of the zones are developing their community plans, meeting and visiting beneficiaries of the projects. What they have not been able to do is ask for support for their projects due to lack of transportation or access to the municipal governments.

2. Farmers are optimistic with the entrance of the rainy season and are preparing their plots to plant. In Pantasma and Oriente they have begun planting. The farmers in Pantasma have made their compost and in Teustepe they are even selling compost to farmers who normally use chemical fertilizers.

3. The women working with family gardens have been planting their vegetables. The women participating in Community Banking and Work programs are putting into practice what they have learned in their training and are working on their businesses.

4. The pastors in the municipalities have been meeting regularly to pray for peace. In Nueva Guinea members of the pastoral committee are members of the Municipal Commission of Peace that has been formed and they are promoting peace through radio programs in the area.

5. All of CEPAD’s zonal offices have been in touch via phone with the community leaders to monitor the advance of their plants. The social technicians of Matagalpa, Teustepe and Pantasma have been able to visit the villages. The access has been more limited for villages in the zones of Oriente and San Francisco Libre because there have been roadblocks even though it is still possible to reach the villages. The only zone where this is no access to the villages is in Nueva Guinea but we have been monitoring the situation through phone calls. Teustepe has not had any interruption in training activities; Pantasma and Matagalpa have pushed training back to next week.

6. The Institute in Leon (high school) has had classes normally with the exception of a few days. The administrative staff has been working normally. Radio CEPAD has also been transmitting normally with their staff. Despite the challenges the Nehemias guest house had two groups from Nicaragua in May.

7. We have not had more delegations cancel. We hope to have at least 4 groups visit in June and July. However, if the problems continue do to roadblocks the groups will not be able to visit the villages so we are proposing a change in the purpose of their visit. We would like them to come and listen and see what is happening in Managua so they can promote the solidarity in their churches and/or denominations. This was the objective of the program when it was founded in the ‘80’s.

Read more

Letters to the President of Nicaragua

Nicaragua has been in a state of civil unrest since April 29, 2018 when the government of Daniel Ortega tried to change laws around social security in the country. 

The principal cause for the unrest began when the government of Daniel Ortega tried to push through reforms to the country’s social security system which would have resulted in workers and employees paying more and those who are retired receiving less. The country erupted in peaceful protest. Unfortunately, that protest was met with extreme repression from the government. 

Now, nearly two months later things have gotten worse. There was an attempt at a national dialogue that was moderated by the Catholic church in Nicaragua but it was cancelled because the moderators said there was no progress being made. 

More than 100 people have been killed and hundreds have been injured. Many fear leaving their homes as there are groups of armed militants rounding up people and putting them in jail or worse. 

CEPAD’s work has continued in the rural villages, the most affected areas are in the major cities. There are some places where CEPAD staff are unable to reach the villages because of roadblocks but they continue to connect with leaders and beneficiaries over the phone. 

One of the ways CEPAD has been a witness to this situation is by writing letters to the Nicaraguan government, asking them to investigate the deaths and restore peace to the country. We have also asked organizations and denominations to join us in this effort. 

Below are three letters that have been written and sent to the government of Daniel Ortega. One by CEPAD, one by the American Baptist Churches USA and one by AMOS Trust.

Letter from CEPAD

Letter from the American Baptist Churches USA
Letter from AMOS Trust

Dreaming for the Future

We are excited to share some of the architectural renderings for this project. The image above is of the program office that will house all program staff and Radio CEPAD.