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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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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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91 year-old Dorothy Granada became involved in the peace movement in the U.S. with her husband, carpenter Charles Gray; including starting the Nuremburg actions with S. Brian Willson and others to block trains transporting weapons to supply the U.S.-funded Nicaraguan Contras. In 1985, Dorothy and Charles had gone to Nicaragua as long term volunteers with Witness for Peace. “Our job was to document the war and prove that it wasn’t a war between two belligerent forces, but that it was a war to destroy the infrastructure of the Sandinista Revolution. So we lived in the war zones”. When public health care was effectively privatized in the neoliberal era, Dorothy’s clinic picked up the slack for the poor majority who couldn’t afford to pay. With another nurse and six lay workers, Dorothy provided care for 25,000 people in and around Mulukukú, always prioritizing women’s health, which included attending births and treating cancer.

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