The Revolution has Transformed the Lives of Nicaragua’s Caribbean Peoples

Adolfo Pastrán Arancibia, Informe Pastrán, Radio La Primerísima
https://s3.amazonaws.com/rlp680/files/uploads/2020/01/10/cc8.jpgOn January 10th this year, the government of President Daniel Ortega completed thirteen years in office. Many things have changed in the country in political, social and economic terms, with great strides in competitiveness, human development and poverty reduction via a welfare state. One of the historical achievements in this period is that the Sandinista Front under the Ortega administration has managed to unite the Pacific with the Caribbean after 120 years of isolation, with a vision of nationhood and the future, incorporating into national development abandoned indigenous communities faced with the structural backwardness of centuries, a historical social debt.

This Sandinista government has invested more resources for development and infrastructure investment in the Caribbeanthan any other. Between 1991 and 1996, only $38.9 million was allocated under the Violeta Chamorro government; $60.9 million under the Arnoldo Alemán government; $102.2 million under the Enrique Bolaños government.

From 2007 to 2011, the Ortega administration invested US$ 209.1 million, from 2012 to 2016, US$ 424.8 million, and between 2017 and 2019, US$ 487.8 million, achieving a jump of 1,385.6% in road infrastructure; 2,180% in drinking water and sanitation; 638.4% in electrical energy coverage; 1,050% in health and hospital infrastructure; 841.3% in education and new schools; 719.7% other sectors, improving the quality of life of Caribbean inhabitants and creating new opportunities for development, which has been recognized by multilateral financial organizations.The national water authority ENACAL has executed investments in the two regions, Bilwi and Bluefields, with works already completed. In Bluefields alone, US$30 million have been invested in bringing drinking water to thousands of families who will have piped access to this vital liquid for the first time in a 100 years, and another US$39 million in sanitary sewerage works between 2020 and 2022.

In Bilwi, the drinking water project has been completed with an investment of US$36.2 million in a mega-project and another 12 million dollars in sanitary sewerage, works that were recently verified by a mission of ambassadors from the European Union who are cooperating with the projects.

In education, it is the government that has built more public schools and institutes in the Caribbean, modernized and equipped classrooms with technology, and brought education closer to urban, semi-urban and rural areas.

Electrical energy, spectacular progress

One of the priorities of the Government through the Ministry of Energy and Mines and ENATREL has been to strengthen the country’s electricity sector and extend coverage to the entire Caribbean, where the benefits are self-evident. Nicaragua changed its electricity generation matrix by moving from 70% to 40% of the use of fossil resources and from 30% to 60% with renewable resources, an achievement recognized both by investors and international organizations.

As part of that effort, the first and only solar plant in Latin America was installed on Corn Island and then another in San Juan del Norte, where 7.3 million dollars were invested.https://s3.amazonaws.com/rlp680/files/uploads/2020/01/10/cc5_mV2skdG.jpgWith the PNESER Caribe 2007-2023 programme, a total of US$579 million will be invested. This includes rural electrification, ensuring standard energy supply to rural settlements, generating plants using renewable energy, identification of energy demand, energy efficiency, transmission reinforcements and modernization of the electricity system. Between 2007 and 2018, US$ 124.28 million of work was executed, with US$454.74 million planned for 2019 to 2023. In the Northern Caribbean region, 50,000 inhabitants benefited and 36,000 in the Southern Caribbean region.

Progress is also being made installing 10 small solar plants on the North and South Caribbean coast, in Mulukukú, Siuna and Waspam, and another in Rama Cay, with a cost of US$4.3 million. Photovoltaic Systems for the Production Sector were installed in 108 centers in Bocana de Paiwas, Mulukukú, Prinzapolka and others. An emblematic work is the construction of the 138 KW transmission line between Siuna-Rosita-Bilwi and of a special tower in the section of the Wawa River, guaranteeing the integration of Bilwi and Waspam to the National Electricity Generation Grid.

For the South Caribbean, bids for the 138 KW Gateada-La Esperanza Transmission Line of 77 km have already been tendered and are being evaluated, which will improve voltage at the Sub-Satation in La Esperanza and Bluefields, as well as provide better service to communities in Kukra Hill, El Rama and Bluefields. The project includes increasing the capacity of La Esperanza Substation.

In 2006, in the Northern Caribbean Region only 17.6% of its population had electricity, today it is 61.60% and in the Southern Caribbean, only 39.3% had electricity, today it is 62.90%. Corn Island, for example, now has 100% electricity.

Highways and land connections

Investments on the Caribbean coast have improved the transit and stability of land transport, improving the safe mobilization of its population and opening a range of opportunities, especially for the economic growth of these regions.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/rlp680/files/uploads/2020/01/10/cc6.jpgLast year, the Nueva Guinea-Bluefields highway was inaugurated, reducing the trip from Managua to just 6 hours, a journey that 50 years ago used to take 6 days, and the road to Kukra Hill and Laguna de Perlas is now practically complete.

Starting this year, the MTI is contemplating the construction of four bridges over the Rio Blanco – Mulukuku – Siuna section, strengthening the North Caribbean Coast land corridor to promote the region’s high productive and tourism potential, in addition to strengthening national sovereignty.

With these main roads and other land connections between municipalities, sovereignty and national security have been strengthened. The interconnecting highways of the Caribbean Coast with the Pacific area of our country represents a fundamental strategic advance. Now, real progress can finally be made in the studies and designs for the construction of the Port of Bluefields to facilitate foreign trade.

The government is also making progress on the Southern Caribbean Coast land corridor, which has a length of 519 km and crosses the country from East to West. It connects the Caribbean Coast from Bluefields to the port of Corinto on the Pacific Ocean.

Meanwhile, the North Caribbean Coast land corridor is now 557 km long and currently under construction up to Siuna. It is an important transportation route linking the Northern Caribbean with the departments of the center and west of the country as far as the Port of Corinto. Ten new municipalities, previously isolated for decades, will now be connected to the main road network.

Thousands of lives saved thanks to investments in health

After more than 10 years waiting under neoliberal governments seeking to be able exercise the right to health in accordance with the coastal autonomy legislation, in 2008, the Sandinista government approved Models of Intercultural Health Care for the Northern and Southern Caribbean Coast, making cultural adaptations to the national Family and Community Health Model.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/rlp680/files/uploads/2020/01/10/cc10.pngIn the period from 2007 to 2019, a total of over US$17 million has been invested in 181 health infrastructure projects with 62 new projects, including 3 primary hospitals in Prinzapolka, Mulukukú and Corn Island, which are fully equipped and staffed by specialized personnel with the capacity to perform surgeries.

In addition, the construction of the Intensive Care Unit at the Bluefields hospital, 16 maternity homes, 11 health posts, 3 warehouses for medical supplies, 8 housing units for medical personnel, as well as 2 SILAIS headquarters. In addition, 119 health units were repaired and expanded, including health centers and posts, hospitals, drug warehouses, maternity homes, and staff housing, among others, for a total of 74 health units. With these investments, the free health care provided to the coastal population has increased.

If we compare 2007 with 2019, we find that patient consultations in hospitals have increased 41% from 114,980 to 162,351. Health care centres have increased 80% from 1,213,954 to 2,179,722, which represents. Patient discharges from hospitals doubled from 21,718 to 44,214, a 104% increase. The number of surgeries performed at the 9 hospitals was almost five times higher, from 8,055 to 38,729, representing a 380% increase.

The number of pregnant women treated in the first three months of pregnancy increased 77% from 6,575 to 11,613. The number of women who received four or more prenatal care sessions doubled from 5,840 to 12,158, an increase of 108%. In 2007 there were 9 maternity homes and 1,617 pregnant women were received; in 2019 the number of maternity homes increased to 25 (double) and 10,182 pregnant women were received, an increase of 530%.

The number of births in 2007 was 12,179, of which 6,692 (55%) were born in health units; in 2019 there were 17,579 births, of which 14,784 (84% of the total) were born in health units.

Post-partum care also increased, from 8,289 to 19,566 for a 136% increase. All of these actions contributed to a decrease in maternal deaths, which fell from 30 in 2007 to 16 in 2019, a 47% reduction. This has been made possible by the increase in prenatal care, the reception of pregnant women in maternity homes and the increase in institutional coverage of childbirth care, which shows the willingness of the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity to provide their Caribbean peoples with the care they deserve.

In terms of cervical cancer prevention, the number of women who had PAP smears taken increased fivefold, from 12,566 in 2017 to 65,108 in 2019, an increase of 418%. Children under one year of age received 55,256 growth-enhancing and developmental care sessions in 2007 and 71,908 in 2019, representing a 30 per cent increase, and children between the ages of one and four received 96,591 sessions in 2007 and 112,614 in 2019, representing a 17 per cent increase.

As of 2013, hemodialysis services are provided in the regional hospitals of Puerto Cabezas and Bluefields on the Caribbean coast. In addition, cancer treatment is being provided at the Bluefields hospital from 2017, thus avoiding the need for the coastal population to travel to Managua to receive these services.

The Caribbean Coast also now has psychosocial care centres to promote mental health in the population, prevent addictions and violence and care for people with mental illness. In the Northern Caribbean, there is an orthetics and prosthetics workshop to meet the needs of people with physical-motor disabilities. In Bilwi/Puerto Cabezas, a modern regional hospital is being built, with highly complex equipment.

Development of the community economy

Many institutions have contributed greatly to the development of the country’s Caribbean, among them the Ministry of Family, Community, Cooperative and Associative Economy (MEFCCA), which has promoted the development of small and medium producers in this region of the country based on the government’s vision of promoting productive projects in the Caribbean regions. Since 2012, the MEFCCA productive programs have had a presence in all the communities of the Caribbean.

Since 2013, the MEFCCA has used 18-month to 2 year investment plans in four projects, NICARIBE, PROCACAO, PAIPSAN and NICADAPTA, facilitating the capitalization and participation of 31,481 actors in the four territorial delegations MEFCCA operates in the Caribbean regions. The number of partcipants per region has been: Las Minas: 11373, RACCN: 11252, RACCS: 8536, Alto Wangki: 320.

Between 2013 and April 2019, 31,481 people have participated in MEFCCA’s Caribbean Coast projects, with funding of US$60 million. These productive investments in agriculture, fishing, agro-industry and small businesses, cocoa, coffee and construction of stockpiles, have been implemented through 102 investment plans in 733 communities in the two multiethnic regions of the Caribbean.

The region of Las Minas is where the greatest investment of projects has been concentrated, the greatest number of protagonists and the greatest number of communities with 347 communities, followed by the RACCN with 211, RACCS with 162 and Alto Wangki with 13 communities.

In the poverty reduction strategy, the small business entrepreneurship program in the countryside has been implemented, which consists of granting loans to families who wish to start a new source of income. As of 2019, 2,164 protagonists in the northern and southern regions, Las Minas and Alto Wangki and Bocay have benefited from this program with a total amount of over around US$2.5 million.

As part of the poverty reduction policy, from 2007 to 2019 the government delivered rural production kits to indigenous and afro-descendant families on the Caribbean coast, consisting of the delivery of pigs, chickens and cows, to boost the small rural family economy. A total of 28,428 people participated in this program.

The development of MEFCCA programs and projects with the participation of community and territorial authorities, both indigenous and afro-descendant, has strengthened the leadership and organization of communities in the Caribbean. The MEFCCA programs and projects in this period have had a direct social impact on their protagonists, integrating in a direct participatory manner the different ethnic and afro-descendant populations, consolidating the territorial socio-economic dynamics and the social cohesion of the community.

Promoting the cultivation of vegetables in particular has had a positive impact considering that it was not integrated into the productive activities of many communities. This has contributed to diversify the food diet of families and also generate economic income when they commercialize their productive surplus.

In the Waslala – Siuna corridor, the prejudice against producing these diverse crops in the area was eliminated. The PAIPSAN project has had a direct impact increasing the production of basic grains, tubers, pigs, vegetables and eggs via the capitalization of the family economy with a production value of US$30.9 million over the life of the program.

The promotion of strategic and sustainable crops in the Caribbean, such as cocoa, coffee and coconut, has had a direct impact on the consolidation of the family economy with technological transfers and an agroforestry system that guarantees increased productivity among small producers in harmony with the environment.

All these socio-productive investments have had an important impact on the working environment of the family economy during this period, providing more than 94,443 jobs via MEFCCA projects and 2164 jobs other business start-ups, for a total of 96,607 jobs, in addition to the 28,428 family protagonists who, through the Rural Productive Kits program, changed the dynamic of the family economy in both Caribbean regions, improving the well-being of 733 participating communities.