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Nicaragua: News & Updates

Nicaragua was ruled by the Somoza dictatorship, backed by the US, for 30 years. After the Sandinista Revolution took control in 1979, the US assembled former Somoza National Guardsmen into a counterrevolutionary force that, for the next decade,  terrorized the civilian population in an attempt to weaken popular support for the Sandinistas. The  “contra war”  left 30,000 people dead and forced more than 100,000 to seek refuge in the US.

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Some time in the 17th century, a vessel carrying enslaved people from the west coast of Africa ran aground near the Caribbean island of St Vincent, close enough to shore that the survivors swam to land, disposed of their captors and settled alongside the Indigenous Carib-Arawak people, who already offered a safe haven to runaway slaves from other islands. The Afro-Indigenous culture that resulted came to be known as ‘Garifuna’ (meaning ‘Black Carib’). Their language derives from that of the Arawak, a people whose pre-Colombian origin is in the Orinoco River basin in Venezuela. Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines since 2001, had been visiting the village of Orinoco in Nicaragua, where some two thousand Garifuna now live. Orinoco is in a remote part of the Caribbean coast, accessible only by boat, and nearly 2500 km from St Vincent. The Garifuna diaspora is a consequence of the brutal treatment they received from the British when they were eventually colonised.

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The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released its 2021 Annual Report, a reference instrument to foster institutional transparency. The Report addresses the situation of human rights and presents relevant progress made in the Americas, along with pending challenges. Each one of the Report's six chapters mentions specific institutional achievements. The IACHR granted 73 new precautionary measures, extended a further 33, and requested five temporary measures from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Commission further issued four resolutions to follow up on precautionary measures, given persistent risk factors or the emergence of implementation challenges. A total of 40 precautionary measures were lifted, in the belief that the risk factors that justified their existence had disappeared. During 2021, all requests for precautionary measures received by 2019 that were pending a final decision were reviewed. 

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Many Latin American and Caribbean governments are unhappy with the US government’s decision to exclude Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua from the summit. Countries throughout the hemisphere have grown accustomed to US double standards where democracy and human rights protections are flaunted. Who can forget that the United States managed to have Cuba expelled from the Organization of American States (OAS) but never batted an eye over the memberships of Chile under Augusto Pinochet, Argentina under Jorge Rafael Videla, or Guatemala under Rios Montt, to name but a few murderous governments?

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Reproductive rights activists across Latin America have vowed to protect hard-fought gains in their own territories as they brace for potential ripple effects if the US supreme court overturns Roe vs Wade – the 1973 ruling which guarantees the right to abortion. Latin America has some of the most draconian anti-abortion laws in the world. But feminist movements have fought for decades to chip away at the prohibitions, and in recent years a younger, diverse generation of activists has mobilized in massive numbers to help clinch a string of victories in traditionally conservative countries.

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Nicaragua's parliament has voted in favour of shutting down 50 non-governmental organisations. Among the NGOs shut down on Wednesday are groups defending human rights, organisations providing medical help and those promoting educational projects. They range from a group representing dental surgeons to one promoting the rights of girls. The parliament, which is dominated by allies of President Daniel Ortega, said the NGOs had failed to comply with regulations. But government critics say the move is part of a larger crackdown on opponents of the president, which has seen 144 NGOs banned so far this year.

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In the 21st century, the women’s movement has undoubtedly made huge gains at parliamentary level, yet it has also made a big impact in other areas of society. One of the most important actors in this regard is the Rural Workers Association (ATC). The most essential component of Nicaragua’s economy has for centuries been its agricultural sector. Prior to the revolution, all available fertile land was forcibly converted into vast monocultural cash-crop plantations and worked by the local population, be that slaves, Indigenous people, or mestizos. When men went to fight in the mountains during the US-funded counter-revolution in the 1980s, women took on agricultural jobs that had been traditionally held by men—carrying out the field work, driving tractors, applying inputs, tending to the animals—in addition to all of the traditional housework and childrearing. This was an important moment that showed that women too could carry out agricultural activities other than harvesting, breaking off from traditional machista ideas about the division of agricultural labor.

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Last week, the aforementioned body approved a decision to set up a group of three experts to investigate possible human rights violations in the Central American country since April 2018. The Professor of Law at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN-Managua) emphasized that the aforementioned council has little legitimacy when dealing with the human rights agenda. Gonzalez described this agenda as colonial, adding that it was a strategy to discredit left-wing governments in the region.

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