Category Archives: Announcements

Message of Appreciation

On March 1 Steve Sheppard retired as CEO of the Winds of Peace Foundation, but will remain as President of the Board.  Words are inadequate for expressing my deep appreciation for Steve´s leadership in these 13 years, and how grateful I am that he is continuing on as President of the Board.

He has significantly moved the Foundation forward on the path that Harold charted. For that I think Harold would feel very proud – and to tell you the truth, lucky – that a person like Steve took up what Harold had started and moved it ahead under very challenging circumstances.

Harold was very much a “hands on” kind of person, and so was very involved in the direction of the foundation. A lot of the places we work today Harold himself visited on one of his many trips – from Jalapa, near the border with Honduras, all the way to Waslala, just into the Northern Autonomous Atlantic Region, and many places in between. The focus on small scale farmers, the lending we are doing, the focus on women and education all come from Harold and Louise.

But Harold had a lot of irons in the fire at the same time. Yes, he was getting older, but that was not so much a factor until near the very end. Well into his 80s he was still traveling here, involved in making the thrift shop financially self-sustaining, working on similar issues with the Children´s Home in Mexico and income generating initiatives with the Quixote Center. He was on Foldcraft´s Board. He was supporting a group called ISLA that was doing health work in Nicaragua. I am sure there were more, but these are only the things I remember hearing him talk about during my occasional trips to Kenyon for meetings.

But when Harold asked Steve to be the CEO, there was no temporary hesitation in the progress of the foundation, waiting for the new CEO to get up to speed. Steve´s experience as Director of Foldcraft, and involvement in the ESOP movement, meant he immediately perceived the organizational challenges the cooperatives were facing. With insight accrued from the Foldcraft experience, he was able to add completely new elements of analysis and tools to the work.

Steve has always been very conscious of the differences between the realities Foldcraft faced in the US context, and the realities small farmers face in Nicaragua. His blog posts provide an eloquent record of his reflections on this topic. His way of communicating about these “new” concepts and tools is a unique combination of a patience born of that reflection, and a profound respect for the cumulative experiences of the cooperatives and the WPF team. The result is a message that is able to take root in the soil in which it is planted, understandable to men and women peasants in rural Nicaragua, some who cannot read and write, and others with some university training. But all of whom nod in understanding.

But as important as the concepts are – and in spite of a language barrier- Steve communicates a real interest in each person, respect for their work, and confidence and enthusiasm in their ability to be a force for change in their cooperatives and communities. This more important message is one that cannot effectively be expressed by words, and therefore has never needed any translation.

That same message Steve communicates to us the team in Nicaragua. It is a message that motivates, imbues hope. Perfect remedy for trying times. Thanks, Steve, these are big shoes to fill (and I am glad you are not going anywhere).


Conditions and processes where youth energize family agriculture cooperative movement

Conditions and processes where youth energize the family agriculture cooperative movement

René Mendoza Vidaurre[1]

You cannot direct the wind but you can change the direction of your sails.

Chinese proverb

Tell me something and I will forget it, teach me something and I will remember it, make me participate in something and I will learn it.



The paradox of the last thirty years is that the peasantry, in spite of having offspring with higher levels of formal education, is experiencing an economic and social crisis that threatens their very existence. Cooperativism could be its “ship” to resist and reach a safe port. To do so this cooperativism, coopted by economic and political elites, needs to “change the direction of its sails” and reorganize. This is possible if they youth are participants in this process. So, under what conditions can rural youth participate in this process of the reinvention of cooperatives to make family agriculture viable? This article wrestles with this question and arrives at a conclusion: when the peasantry in cooperative spaces studies the harsh rules, studies their own attitudes and mobilizes to innovate for the peasant families who are organizing, that crisis can become an opportunity to improve our societies.


Key words: rural youth, family agriculture, cooperative reorganization, innovation


In the last thirty years the peasantry have faced greater crises over climate change, systematic dispossession from elites, and because there is no more virgin land to “colonize.” A form of resistance has been organizing into cooperatives, but these tend to be coopted by the State, markets and international aid. Likewise, as never before in rural history, there are more rural youth with higher education, but they are distancing themselves from agriculture and are migrating to the cities and outside the country. If this situation continues, in addition to deepening the inequality and the democracy deficit in our societies, it will affect world food that depends in good measure on family agriculture, which according to ECLAC, FAO and IICA,[2] represent more than 75% of the production units in nearly every country of Latin America. If the youth who graduated are participants in the change of “direction” of the “sails” of cooperativism, as never before in rural history they can make family agriculture – also called peasantry and small producers – viable. Under what conditions can rural youth participate in this process of the reinvention of cooperatives to make family agriculture viable? We respond to this question throughout five sections. In the first section I review historical experiences in Europe, the United States and Latin America to show that in spite of the heterogeneity of the rural situation in Latin America and the variety of historical contexts, certain common patterns have worked against family agriculture. After understanding these patterns, in the second section I discuss how this peasant (family agriculture) crisis has been faced. To do so I summarize the idea of “heroic voluntarism” which has generally prevailed with adverse results. I go back to look at the experience of productive youth in the United States during 1870 and 1910, and I summarize the path of how to innovate, based on Albert Einstein, a method that if used by the youth, could contribute to resolving the crisis of family agriculture. After recuperating historical responses to the crisis and a referential framework for innovating, in the third section I discuss the conditions under which the youth and their parents could build bridges in pursuit of this innovation. In the fourth section, I show concrete cases of the type of innovations that lead to the reinvention of cooperativism. And in the fifth section I list guidelines about how to generate a cooperative movement hand in hand with the youth.

  1. Crisis in family agriculture

The waves of the sea and the current of water under the waves tend to go in opposing directions. So goes economic growth and representative democracy in Latin America, where the military dictatorships were left in the past, while family producers are pulled by the “current” of dispossession. Time and time again the peasantry (currently called family agriculture) in the world has been at the point of triumphing in the face of this dispossession. What has made the laws of the elites unassailable? What has kept the peasantry from charting their own farm and industrial path? In this section we briefly review the situation of the peasantry (or family agriculture) in Europe, the United States and Latin America. We do it to surprise ourselves about what concurs in the conditions that oppose the peasantry through the crop lien system, usury and trade mediation, which have been dispossessing them of their resources, turning them into proletarians and expelling them from their places.

1.1. In Europe and the United States

In Europe industrial capitalism was imposed, and dispossessed peasant families of their lands, which turned them into proletarians so that they might work in industry, which they opposed with thousands of forms of resistance. Part of this resistance was the emergence of cooperatives in England with textile workers, as well as cooperatives in Germany in the decade of 1840 with Hermann Schulze-Delitzch, in the decade of 1850 with Friedrich Raiffeisen, and in the decade of 1860 with Wilhelm Haas, cooperatives which in part were a reaction to the failed revolution of 1848-1849 in that country, and mostly to the suffocating economic laws. Raiffeisen, for example, found a relationship between poverty and dependency on usury and on commercial mediation, and argued that to overcome poverty that dependency had to be overcome, which is why he promoted cooperatives under triple S: self-help, self government and self responsibility.[3]

A closer picture we have in the United States. After the Civil War there (1861-1865), the industrial and commercial elite – between 1870 and 1930 – destroyed the hopes of the peasantry organized into cooperatives. What happened there? Lawrence Goodwyn[4] describes that the Civil War, accompanied by economic “prosperity”, was followed by a period of stress under the “new rules” of trade. In the face of these “hard times”, the peasantry had to “work even harder”. Since this did not turn out well, millions of families migrated to the western part of the country believing that with “hard work” on virgin lands they would generate more income than debt. That did not work out either. They realized that the rules of trade in Kansas and Texas were the same as those in Ohio, Virginia and Alabama. Rosa[5] described what was happening in the United States:

Such are the characteristics of the domination of capital in the world. It expelled the peasantry from England (after having left them without land) to the Eastern part of the United States; from the East to the West on the ruins of the economy of the Indians, to turn them into small producers of merchandize; from the West it expelled them again, once again ruined, to the North; ahead of the peasantry went the railroads, and after it, ruin; capital always went before it, as guide, and capital followed behind it to finish them off. The general scarcity of farm products has followed the great drop in prices in the last decade of 1800, but the small North American farmer has obtained as few fruit from it as the European peasant.

Figure 1. Framework of the crop lien system in the United States. (1860-1930)

What rules? The crop lien system backed by laws and the economic power of the country. That is, a merchant manages two prices, one for cash and another on credit; a producer family is not able to buy with cash, which is why the merchant provides them with food, inputs and tools on credit, to be paid with the harvest of cotton at implicit interest rates between 100-200%. The harvest arrives, the merchant is paid with cotton, and the family generally is left in the red. In the case that the producer family lacks land and/or mules, the landowner rents them out to them and, in coordination with the merchant, are paid with the harvest. For the next harvest the merchant provides credit again, this time the family leaves their property mortgaged. In the second, third or fifth year, the merchant is paid with the property.

This system was part of the mediation and national industry structure. Industry provided the inputs and tools to the intermediaries, and they in turn to the producers on credit. Those red balances got worse, because the cotton buyers in England turned their purchases to Egypt and India, in other words, the producer family was suffocated by the nefarious “embrace”: cotton prices fell and prices of inputs and tools for growing cotton rose. If the family did not raise cotton, they were not given credit; if they planted cotton, they had to depend on agro-chemicals. This system, in addition, was backed by laws of the State and by the economic power of the elites behind industry and commerce.

With these mechanisms the concentration of land and industry increased, as well as corporate centralization and the policy of the United States under a cover of being “democratic.” Something similar had happened in Europe, on the one hand, they extracted wealth from the peasants and turned them from farmers  into their workers, because they withstood better the harsh and long hours of work in the industries than the urban people did; and on the other hand, they created resigned behavior in the population, by making them believe that these situations were natural, that their luck was due to the fact that they were “lazy”, “insecure” and “backward” and that things could not be changed.

1.2. In Latin America

Even though the mechanisms of dispossession varied from region to region, and within each country, there are certain common patterns. “Peasants are like stones, we are bouncing downhill”, said Félix Meza, a peasant from the agricultural frontier in 1991 (Wiwilí, Nicaragua). Based on the harsh rules of trade, from the metropolis that demanded meat or sugar, to the mountains, the pressure of the “domino effect” was felt on the purchase of land, from the wealthiest to the least wealthy in cascade. This means that a peasant family would stay in a place for an average of twenty years; then they would leave the land to their children, who would sell it and go farther into the mountains to expand their land area. This history repeated from generation to generation has intensified in the last thirty years, because the amount of “virgin lands” has been dramatically reduced, which has expelled the rural youth toward the cities and outside the country.

Figure 2. Crop lien system framework in Latin America, XX and XXI Centuries

Source: Author´s elaboration based on field observations in countries in Central America

It seems like this anti-peasant system of Europe and the United States is pretty similar in Latin America, with the respective variations that each context brings to it. We will explain this in terms of products, labor and land. With products, the trader buys coffee futures during “times of silence” (months of scarcity) at half of the market price, to be paid with coffee when the harvest arrives.[6] With labor, large estate owners and companies tend to get their permanent workers indebted and ensure themselves of temporary workers for the next harvest. For example, a family receives a loan during the “time of silence” for which the woman (single mother or wife of the peasant) will cook on the large estate serving the workers 16 hours a day for an average of $6 dollars a day during the coffee harvest; in contrast, without that debt she could make $6 working 8 hours a day in the harvest itself. With land, even though land purchasing continues, for some crops like peanuts, tobacco and sugar cane companies tend to have the peasant families rent them the land, which after a period of time is left useless because of the excessive use of intensive technology (mechanization and agro-chemicals). It is a system that provides resources for the short term and erosion in the long term, makes the payments evaporate quickly, and the families get indebted and are systematically dispossessed.

These rules are made more harsh by the nefarious “embrace” of peasant product prices that are going down, and the prices of agro-chemicals that are going up; and by the “pliers” effect, on the one side, the system of commerce and on the other side, the extractive system of natural resources that in many cases goes hand in hand with criminal organizations. This situation is taken advantage of by intermediaries to get them indebted around one crop, with increasingly mechanized technology and dependent on chemical inputs. It is a system that leads to mono-cropping. In fact, for centuries big businesses have moved on these rails, first with sugar cane, then with cotton, cattle, coffee, peanuts, sunflowers, soy beans, African palm… This system of mono-cropping has been permeating into peasant families because the financial and agro-chemical industries also condition them to that. What is noteworthy is that a good part of the cooperatives and the so-called “fair trade”has moved along these same rails.

Consequently, the concentration of land, natural resources, industry and commerce, like extractive concessions, are on the increase. They are doing it backed by the State, legitimized by the Church, and with universities that educate the children of peasants with their backs to peasant agriculture. In this way, hierarchical structures combined now with neoliberalism impress a resigned, providential attitude, and with an awareness of believing themselves to be free. This is the order from which orientations are issued for peasant families.

  1. Heroic, deliberate and innovative voluntarism

How can these “harsh rules”, erected by the elites and internalized by families, be confronted and overcome? For the last thirty years Raul Zibechi[7] has described several social and political movements that have emerged in Latin America with certain differentiating characteristics: assemblies, youth, communities and greater flow of people in their leadership, and in terms of the rural situation, they deal with movements against extractive and mono-cropping – colonial inheritances. Years later, nevertheless, Zibechi[8] himself criticizes some of those who went on to assume Governments and turned against their origins, and argues for movements to be alternatives to the State. In retrospect, the history of humanity is full of rebellions and demonstrations, for example, the student movement of the 1960s where the students believed they were influencing the inherited structures of power and privilege,[9] rural uprisings in past centuries in Europe,[10] rebellions that were put down by institutionalized violence or coopted by elites.

Why did these rebellions fail? In the previous section, we delved into the system that opposed rural families. Now we will understand, from the side of the rural families, the structures that sustain their resignation and we will describe an outstanding cooperative peasant movement.

2.1. Heroic voluntarism

Andrés Pérez-Baltodano[11] describes how the youth of the new millennium in Nicaragua are repeating the elders of the 1980s, and detected that, after two hundred years of wars and revolutions, Nicaragua continues being one of the most backward societies of the continent. This history of failures, according to the author, is explained by a trinity of ideas: Providential God the father, the resigned pragmatism offshoot, and the heroic voluntarist spirit (see figure 3).

Figure 3. Pillars of societal behavior

Source: Author´s based on ideas proposed by Pérez-Baltodano (2013).

The notion of providentialism offers a vision of history as a process controlled by a God who decides everything, where people deny the need for politics: i.e. human decisions that generate change. Pérez-Baltodano (2013) makes a distinction between general providentialism and meticulous providentialism. The former explains the history of Europe where what prevailed was the idea of a God as a force that did not block the exercise of freedom, and that “free will” existed. It is a process through which the absolutism of God in history was ended, and where the Enlightenment of the XVIII Century expressed the idea that people make their history and their destiny. Meticulous providentialism, in contrast, was a vision that prevailed in the Middle Ages, when it was believed that God decided everything and nothing escaped his control. The author concludes that this latter notion dominates Latin American society today.

The notion of resigned pragmatism comes from the providential culture and has history seen as a game of chance where the only thing left is to respond intuitively. It is a vision of politics as the ability to accommodate oneself to the circumstances defined by power, accept that reality, not be scandalized by the injustices, and abandon any willingness to transform that reality.

Finally, the notion of heroic voluntarism provides a vision of activism (action over reason) to transform reality. It is thought that events result from fortuitous causes and that will prevails over understanding. It is an impulsive, emotional voluntarism that depends on physical force to determine history, like mechanically copying European political ideologies without knowing the philosophies that they came from. This is what Edelberto Torres Rivas[12] calls “activism without theory” in his review of the revolutions and democracies in Central America.

This trinity of notions explains the failed uprisings and movements. With a providentialist mentality, where we deny human decisions as motors of change, we adapt ourselves to the reality imposed by power, and we react spontaneously to events. The absence of reflection and study has taken our societies to not transforming their realities, and to the fact that the different expressions of resistance ended up failing. The consequence of this would be that the providential and resigned mentality is even more accentuated.

2.2. Challenge to the century old structure

Probably this trinity of notions also influenced what was described about the United States, particularly the resigned pragmatism and heroic voluntarism. In fact, Goodwyn[13] notes that the first reaction of the producers was political insurgency: it did not work for them. They learned that lesson and organized a movement based on cooperativism. How did it go?

We said that after the Civil War (1861-1865), peasant migration to the west of the country was a victim of the harsh rules of trade prevailing throughout the country. In the face of this, in the decade of the 1870s some producers shared their problems, and several youth, with and without formal education, began to read books on the economy to explain for themselves why the “times were hard” when the entire country believed it was living a time of “economic progress”. So some youth began to speak strongly about their “right” to say that the things that were happening were “not right”. So they formed the Producers Alliance, and from there they formed self help economic organizations, cooperatives, and over the years even a political party.

This movement was noteworthy by the decade of 1880, even though their effects were not felt in the change of the crop lien system described above, rather the crisis continued to get worse. Nevertheless, producer families did not give up, their organizations multiplied and they grew into a massive and coordinated movement that spread throughout the country. Millions of people believed that the “new day” would come, that cooperativism would lead to the democratization of the economy. This is the movement that in the decade of 1890 was known as the “populist uprising.”

Knowing that the agrarian uprising had been aborted by industrialized societies, how were they able to achieve this massive and sustained character for nearly two decades? According to Goodwyn,[14] it was a sequential process. First, the formation of the movement: they studied their situation and had interpretations contrary to the dominant narrative. Second, entry into the movement: ways were created so that people in a massive way could join the different forms of cooperative organization that they created. Third, the education of the movement: they did a social analysis of the process, which created collective self confidence and internal communication. The principal basis of education was the cooperative experiment in itself and its opposition to the commercial stores, distributors, banks, railroads, land companies, etc. The idea was to cooperate, not compete. Fourth, the politicization of the movement: the process of education led them to generate new ideas, share them massively, and organize independent political actions as a possible reality, that led them to propose the democratization of the national monetary system.

Training, gathering, educating and politicizing is how they formed that massive agrarian uprising. The gradual evolution of the cooperative was the basis of that uprising. Thus the Producers Alliance was able to buy and sell cotton, increase the number of itinerant speakers, form different cooperative expressions, acquire machinery and infrastructure to economically scale up, have newspapers and a political party. It was a factory of indignant leaders with the capacity of articulating their ideas and communicating with producers in their own language.

That massive movement, in spite of harvesting success and lasting more than twenty years, collapsed in the end. They failed above all for falling into the same liberal logic of their time, economies of scale, mono-cropping and for the tendency toward the hierarchicalization of the movement. They left us some lessons: a movement generated by youth and producer families themselves, and the political awakening of the youth to the extent that they studied their realities, experimenting with cooperative forms and reflecting on their processes, elements that allowed them to build a shared vision of democratizing the economy through cooperativism – without using violence.

2.3. Innovation possible from the youth

If we return to current Latin America, which is a witness to the boom of youth with more formal education, along with more intensification of the rules of the commercial-financial system opposed to family agriculture, how can the youth reinvent cooperativism which could transform agrarian realities?

We begin with the crisis of family agriculture in Latin America, and we include the migration of youth from rural areas. Then we identify the “hard commercial and extractive rules” in the history of Europe and the United States, as well as in current Latin America. We verify that these processes were resisted, but that in the end capitalism was imposed. To the question as to why the agrarian uprisings failed, in addition to the harshness of the opposing system, with the focus on Latin America, we argue that it is due to a providential and resigned mentality, and wanting to change the system through the force of pure will. Nevertheless, we find the agrarian revolt of the United States based on cooperatives, where they studied and self-studied (not just voluntarism), they envisioned democratizing the economy (overcame resignation) and built their own history (not providential). On this basis we now work on the innovative role of youth. 

Figure 4. Innovative capacity

Source: Thorpe (2000).


We take this step supported by Scott Thorpe.[15] He analyzes how the genius of the XX century, Albert Einstein, discovered the theory of relativity. Einstein was 23 years old when, while working as a washing machine electrician, observed that the speed of light and time seemed to be the same velocity relative to the observer. This problem had not be resolved because Isaac Newton, three centuries earlier, had decreed the rule of absolute time: time did not pass quickly or slowly, it was a constant of the universe – because God is behind the universe. Scientists never challenged that rule. Einstein, in contrast, broke it. Thorpe finds something more, after that innovation: Einstein spent his life establishing it and did not achieve another innovation, he fell into the rule of certainty. So the elderly Einstein said: “God does not roll dice with the universe”. The experience of Einstein is not an exception: the younger a person is, the less they know, and more capacity they have to solve problems (see Figure 4).

Far from voluntarism, Table 1 summarizes a methodology for innovating, which interests us for the youth. A “problem” is structural, whose presentation seeks to satisfy real, felt needs. From Einstein we learn that each detail can be a space for great ideas (for example, when a washing machine is repaired). If that problem was not resolved, it is because there are rules that keep it from being resolved, that is why, as Einstein said, that a problem cannot be solved with the same thinking that created it. While identifying those rules, we detect them in our own minds. We break them. Then the conditions are ripe for solutions to emerge.

Table 1. Methodology for innovating

Problem Rules Breaking rules Solution
-Constructing a problem to find solutions.

-It is a “Gordian knot”, diffícult to untie

-It is something cognitive: it causes problems, it creates crises.

-If there is a problem, there is a rule.

-The rule is like the rails on a train: if you go where they do, fine; some solutions are not found on those rails

-They seem right, but they are old rules that block the solutions that are outside of those rules

-They seem to be unbreakable rules, which they are if we believe then to be so.

-Behind the rules are ideas.

-On discovering the rule, you have to find those protected beliefs as “sacred” in the mind itself.

-“Common sense is the series of prejudices acquired by the age of 18” (Einstein).

-The secret of the genius is discovering those rules of common sense, see them as absurd and break them.

-On breaking the rule, solutions emerge.

-an idea appears different to the idea that started the problem.

Source: based on Thorpe (2000).

The challenge in Latin America is that the youth push for breaking the rules, and generate new thinking to find solutions to the viability of family agriculture. Let us go there (see table 2).

Table 2. The innovation that youth can work on

Problem Rules Breaking rules Solution
Cooperatives coopted by elites subject their members to mono-cropping and are submissive. -“Change comes from above”: resources, laws, market salvation and directions.

-Thought: democracy functions if a minority directs it; belief that “we are nothing without a patron”.

-Providential, resigned thinking and actions based on voluntarism. A member awakens.

-New thought: the cooperative is a means of resistance to the dispossession when it responds to its members.

-Studying and self study

-Organizing the cooperatives as schools for learning and innovating.

Source: author.

Family agriculture is in crisis, more and more corralled by the economic system, fiscal policies, large estates and companies that rent and buy land to expand the mono-cropping system, and by extraction. Families can revert this corralling if they organize into cooperatives, but they have become functional for the system that opposes the peasantry; they are like private enterprise that responds to markets, while they neglect their associative side; they are committed to mono-cropping; they take on the logic of maximizing profits and neglect the redistribution of their earnings; they tend to concentrate physical investments and centralize decision making; they are guided by hierarchical structures of elites who manipulate markets and States.[16] This type of cooperatives are given legitimacy by aid agencies, States, fair trade and the International Cooperative Alliance that emphasizes mega cooperatives. The rule that moves them: “Changes come from above”. Nevertheless, if these cooperatives reinvent themselves and recover the original meaning of opposing industrial capitalism (England) and usury (Germany), commit to democratizing the economy (United States between 1870 and 1910), to the extent that their members govern them through their organs, they could be the best means to make diversified family agriculture viable, and consequently a new society with less inequality. This is possible if the youth contribute to their reinvention. How? That is what the following sections are about.

  1. Generational disputes

If an increasing majority of youth have higher educational studies and the capacity to innovate, why are the youth still not participants in this process of reinventing cooperatives? There are three structural conditions in dispute that explain it.

The first refers to the current generation of parents and children. In Europe, they talk about the “neither nor” youth: they neither study nor work. Zygmunt Bauman,[17] in his studies on inequality observes that the generations of Europe after the Second World War, supported by redistribution policies, looked forward to improve, while today the “neither nor” are the first generation that do not manage the successes of their parents as the start of their career, but rather ask themselves what their parents did to get ahead. These youth are not looking forward, but backward.

Up until some years ago in rural Latin America, parents received their inheritance and would go farther into the mountains to expand their area (buy cheaper land or clear virgin land) so that, later on, they could leave that land to their children, and these in turn to theirs. The inheritance was the starting point for each new generation. But now the agricultural frontier has reached its limit. So, on the one hand, parents are not expanding their areas to leave them, nor are they inculcating their children with farm culture. Because in contrast to the years prior to 1980 when the children grew up working on their farms and homes, their children now spend their childhood, adolescence and a good part of their youth studying, and on the other hand, this group of youth are not finding jobs in their majors, nor do they like the agriculture of their parents. And in those case where they do, they run up against a wall: “They are not leaving me an inheritance because they say that the “pig sheds its lard only after it has died”.[18]

Table 3. Profitability of corn in dollars (Honduras, 2017)

Units Price Dollars
Production (qq) 24 12,9 309,0
Costs 302,1
Preparation (pd=person days) 16 5,2 82,4
Planting (pd) 4 5,2 20,6
Seed (lbs) 25 0,2 4,3
Fungicide (pd) 1 5,2 11,2
Fungicide (lt herbicide) 2 5,6 20,6
2 fertilizing (pd) 4 5,2 20,6
2 fertilizing (sack fertilizer) 4 21,5 85,8
Bend and harvest (pd) 12 5,2 61,8
Blowing 2 5,2 10,3

Source: Author based on cases of producers in Honduras de Honduras.

The second condition refers to the perspective of the knowledge acquired by the youth in higher education. In 2015 according to a report from UNESCO, 98% of the youth of Latin America study. When they return to their parents, many do economic calculations and conclude that what their parents are growing is not profitable (see table 3 for corn). Underlying this acquired knowledge is a perspective contrary to the peasant economy: they consider the crop as merchandise isolated from the production system where it grows, and outside the rationale of the family that produces it. The same thing happens with other crops, for example, they study coffee or cacao and ignore the citrus trees, plantains and forest trees that are in the same area as the coffee or the cacao. These assumptions are in line with the perspective of companies who embrace the mono-cropping system, they bet on volume based on intensive technology and maximizing their profits. In other words, in spite of the fact that 75% of the production units are family agriculture, universities are teaching the logic and technologies of this remaining 25% of modern agriculture, which is why the youth come out deaf and blind to that 75%. The paradox is that the peasantry pays for the studies of their children, and yet their children learn how to belittle the culture of their parents –“you raise crows and they take your eyes out”, as a popular expression goes.

These facts are contested in families. Children love their parents who are getting older, but no longer for their decisions and actions. Parents and children are trapped by an old belief that they themselves repeated. “Son, go to study so that you might not be like me, a peasant” and “a pen weighs less than a shovel” say the parents; “I did not study to go back into the weeds” say the children. By “weeds” they understand family agriculture as equivalent to backwardness, a seed that the university planted in their minds. By “shovel” they assume that agriculture is a thing of physical force, of muscles. When the children do not find jobs in the majors that they studied, the parents get frustrated on not being able to set them on their future, as their parents did for them when they inculcated them in how to think and work on the farm. Now the world of digital technology in which the youth swim is foreign to their parents: “The more they study the more complicated they talk to me.” The youth and their parents do not understand that in family agriculture today the most important muscle is the brain. Distrust builds a nest in their minds; “If I leave him an inheritance, he does not know how to work the land, so he will sell the land and leave, he is like the oxen, if we do not know how to manage them they get tangled up”, and “unoccupied mind is the devil´s workshop”, say the parents; “if I stay with my parents, I studied for nothing” and “old people don´t change” – say their children. The paradox is that the youth reject the vertical decisions (heroic voluntarism) of their parents, but in time reproduce them (resigned pragmatism) for their own children, as happened to their parents.

If the youth along with their parents loaded themselves up with patience, a dialogue could be helpful, like what we reproduce in what follows with a Honduran family. I asked them, “Why are you devoted to corn and beans?” With a millennial patience, the family stripped back the husk, “we plant corn, beans, chicory…because we learned it from our parents to feed our families, not to accumulate money”. Yes, the times have changed, and you have to plant what is profitable (I react). They respond: “planting corn we eat tamales, montucas, atol, corn on the cob, baby corn, tortillas, new corn tortillas. Could we eat all that if we quit planting corn?”, “the protein from recently harvested corn does not compare with that anemic imported corn”, “the tortillas that we eat, have nothing to do with those corn meal tortillas that look like ears”, “with the beans we make green beans, bean soup, cooked beans..” I hear, I like what they are telling me, I understand that corn is more than the tortilla, and the beans are more than ground beans. They continue: “When we now have corn and beans we feel relieved, then we look for plantains, eggs…we go from mouthful to mouthful”. And then “the beans that we are not going to eat we sell, like the other products, to buy other needs and to pay for the studies of our children.”

And profitability? I insist. With a cold stare and face tanned by the sun and the cold, he explained to me: “If we do not plant corn, we would have to buy tortillas. We are six in the house and I need thirty tortillas for each meal, that is 15 lempiras (L); if I plant we eat twenty tortillas because the tortillas we make are thick.” Time to do the numbers so that we convince our parents: 1) from 1 lb comes twenty tortillas, 3 lbs per day for the three meals, 90 lbs per month, in other words 10.8 qq per year, the remaining 13.2 qq from Table 3 are for seed, the chickens and the pigs, from the chickens come between 6-10 eggs every day and 2 piglets every 6 months; 2) if a family does not plant corn, then a family of six needs L16,425 ($714 dollars) to buy tortillas in the year, another amount for atol, eggs and pork. I begin to wake up. On looking at my notes, table 3 and the numbers they give me, I understand that table 3 does not explain that the corn is linked to smaller livestock and also leaves out the corn on the cob, baby corn, new corn tortillas…

To save what the universities have taught us, I ask: And if you only plant corn like the wealthy? “To buy tortillas and what I told you, more in months when money is scarce, I would have to go into debt. The wealthy want that in order to hire me as a peon and pay me the salary that they want. I would end up selling this land, and all the trees would disappear, as you see where there are sunflowers, soy beans, sugar cane…” They say that it does not produce, but it does” – the roar of the wind is heard because my “sails” have changed direction. Where did they learn that? “Listening and working on the farm with my parents.”

The third condition refers to the rural organizations that tend to express the excluding rules and mentality of the elites. It is common to find cooperatives whose members average 50 years of age. If the life expectancy of the countries of Latin America is around 75, the paradox is that the organizations are getting old while they are closing themselves from the young – particularly young women. They make a condition that you have to have land, they support them only in one crop and only in farming activities. A tacit rule is: “organize so that when you are old you can forestall the youth”. In addition, international aid agencies promote the idea of “generational replacement”, an approach that assumes “replacing the old people”, which clashes with the machista culture of organizations, where men “replace” their wives (discard culture), but as elites they do not accept being “replaced”. Explaining these rules can lead to the fact that the cooperative and the member families rethink themselves.

The three conditions are related and are being contested. Studying them is rethinking them in order to innovate in any area of the family, farm, home, cooperative, universities, organizations, etc (see table 4). The challenge is explaining those rules that underlie the problems, and realize that they respond to hierarchical and neoliberal thinking, identify them in our minds, and open a window toward new, more democratic ideas in families and organizations, and in this way glimpse solutions for a family agriculture that would not depend on land, be internally autonomous and consider the cooperatives as spaces for dialogue.

Table 4. The path for the youth

Problem Rules Breaking rules (underlying ideas in our minds) Solution
Without land there is no farm nor are you a cooperative member. “Pig sheds its lard after it dies”. -Agriculture is done when one has land.

-If I give him land he will abandon me (discard).

-More than land, he inherits the hierarchical form of decision making.

Doing agriculture without depending on the land.
Anti-peasant education. Modern agriculture is the future.

Private enterprise is development.

-being a peasant is being backward; family agriculture ia a matter of physical strength.

-Modern agriculture is capital, big companies, mono-cropping.

-Research, basis for autonomy in university and family.

-Dialogue with capacity to listen to one another.

Aging cooperative with a wall for the youth. Cooperative is for people with land; cooperative, without having members, defends its assets. -Cooperative reproduces who we are, rather than protects assets, we inherit the rule of discard: change her for someone younger, but without letting go of decisions (posts). -Cooperative: space for dialogue between generations and people of different sexes

-Member family creates their future.

Source: Author.

  1. The strength of the youth and their importance for reinventing cooperativism

Our vision is democratizing the economy, which would expand family agriculture, and to do so, the strategy is the reinvention of cooperatives. This means building cooperatives that grapple with the economy to the extent that they are schools of learning for making rules and following them, for innovating and training themselves as a team. It is the path of autonomy and citizenship, possible if the youth are participants. Here we pinpoint ways for creating those spaces from the cooperatives to the youth, and viceversa.

4.1. From the cooperatives, spaces for the youth

Box 1. Conversation with the administrator


-How much is your salary?

-Administrator: I do not have a salary, nor do the board members. We rotate.

-I do not believe you. Why don´t you have a salary?

-Producing milk generates good income for us, more than charging for administrating the cooperative.

We start from a concrete experience. The Colega cooperative in Colombia, with members who are ranchers, collect and sell milk. “We are in second place in productivity, behind New Zealand”, they say. These words have backing: they are efficient members who innovate in the management of the livestock, they zealously care for the forest that surrounds them, and their board members administer the cooperative as a service.

Box 2. Conversation with a young member

-You were a little Colega, pre-Colega and now a member.


-Why did you stay here?

-My friends left for Bogotá to study and I took the risk of staying. There, they did not study and they tell me that they do not feel safe going out at night. In contrast, I, studied here and I feel completely safe visiting my friends at night.

This cooperative organizes two groups with the children of their members: the little Colegas who are under 14 years of age, and the pre-Colegas who are between 15 and 18 years of age. Each little Colega is given a calf to care for, the cooperative gives milk to the child as provision for the calf, and the family of the boy or girl provides the inputs for the calf. When the little Colegas become pre-Colegas, because they cared for and increased the number of their calves, the cooperative gives them scholarships to study and benefits as if they were members, because they already participated in production like their parents. When they reach 18 year of age they become members (see Box 2 on the experience of becoming a member, and the externality of security that it generates in the community).

The cooperative, in addition, seeks to create a sense of pride in being a member of the cooperative. In the school they teach a course on cooperation. Each year the cooperative organizes events to which they invite the little Colegas. So from an early age they are cultivating being a future “rancher-member”.

What do we learn from this experience? In contrast to the “generational replacement” a cooperative can form new members with the children of their members and conceive this process as an economic and social investment that energizes the cooperative and the community where it is located. In contrast to large companies where one learns to do a job, in small organizations, like cooperatives, youth learn to pursue their dreams with deep passion. From here, if a cooperative, without waiting on the members leaving land to their children, dedicates 1% of its earnings to provide them an asset (a calf, $1 a month of savings, a pig or a pair of chickens) as an incentive to a child so that, accompanied by the cooperative and the member families, they are trained as people committed to family agriculture and being cooperative members, that cooperative will be planting its own future. And if that policy is supported by universities that teach the perspective of the 75% of the producers of family agriculture and 25% of companies, we would be turning the direction of our “sails”.

4.2. Spaces are opened from the youth

Also the youth should open up spaces. They are the ones who, in spite of having less knowledge, possess more capacity for solving problems. Through what we learned, these steps should be taken to the extent that we discover our providential mentality of “it is not the lightening that kills us but the stingray”[19], adapting ourselves resignedly to the power of structures where “for money even the monkey dances” and the voluntarist impulse that pushes us to solve hard problems spontaneously “just pure man style” or “pure talk” (based on hearsay or threats of force). The peasant experience of the United States in the 19th Century gives us a guide. Their uprising for many years implied organizing into different forms of cooperatives. Youth started it who were looking for books to read and study their realities, on that basis they did not mobilize frontally against the State, but reflected strategically and organized cooperatives. According to Goodwyn,[20] they almost achieved it. Probably the economy of scale logic, concentrating physical investments, competing with private enterprise on an equal basis, the hierarchical structure that permeated them and had roots in the families, ended up undermining their path. But it constituted a good starting point for the youth of today: studying their realities, reading, organizing and continue reflecting on their strategic prospects.

In what follows, we provide some more steps: recover the written culture for the cooperative movement, that the youth organize into different cooperative forms, innovate in the area where they find themselves, and disseminate their learnings to produce a real movement.

4.2.1. Bridges between oral and written cultures

Peasant families are based on oral traditions, transmitted from generation to generation, while the youth of today pass through the academic classrooms based on written culture. Combining both traditions, instead of one replacing the other, is a promising path.

Let us challenge this apparent duality: the oral tradition is not so oral, nor is the written tradition so written. The oral tradition is not just the transmission of cultural expressions from parents to children, but about why and how to produce the food and keep a family. This tradition is also expressed as living hierglyphs through a farm (diversified crops, agriculture-forests), garden (“the green thumb of my Mom”, referring to horticulture and medicinal plants), cornfield, diet, design of the home and idiomatic expressions that reveal perspectives. The written tradition does not seem to find a home in universities, because most of the universities in Latin America do not do research for the formation that they offer, and because, according to Torres Rivas,[21] the “faith in reason” of the Enlightenment is replaced by the “postmodern and neoliberal logic” where “one walks from the academic to the role of the consultant”. Consequently, the youth who graduate have little written tradition and investigative spirit.

Table 3. Strategic Conversation between parents and children

-My parents taught me to plant corn and beans, and that will kill me!

-Dad, times have changed, why don´t you plant other crops?

-For you who have studied talk is easy. I am a peasant

-And how is it that my grandparents decided to plant corn and beans?

– Daughter, for food, if I have food I am not going to be a worker for a bad salary, I can decide to or not, that is how your grandparents were

-This is a very good reason. How did my grandparents plant corn? Why didn´t they plant cassava which also is food?

-We should never be without corn. My parents took a piece of land here and there, they looked where it was better for corn, plantains…they went around testing it

-They taught you to study the land and thus decide what to plant…

-I used to observe them. I would listen to them talk in their bed.     They talked with the neighbors. At times they would tell me “I brought this seed, test it to see if it sprouts”. “You have to plant several things so that the soil gets fed”



To combine them requires unlearning. Table 3 is a dialogue from the peasant side. There are three moments to which we provide color to help understand it. In the first moment is the belief that being a peasant is to be a planter of corn and beans, believing that that is the inherited knowledge. When the daughter questions him, her father shuts her down, “I am a peasant”. That belief, reduced to “what” (crops), blocks the possible learning of both of them. In the second moment, the daughter does not give up, she asks again. There is when the family wakes up, is unblocked: they had learned how to cultivate autonomy, study the soil and experiment. In the third moment, the oral tradition is undressed: observation, conversation, curiosity, experimentation, relationship to the land. This type of strategic conversation is behind a variety of diversified farms or a stew of food. The best of the grandparents is capturing the “how” they taught and how their children learned. And that is reviving them.

Table 4. Strategic conversation between parents and children II


-Mom, I feel bad, I did not get a job as an engineer.

-Work here, son, we need arms on the farm.

-I am not a peasant, I am an agronomist!

-Don´t you think it would help you to practice being an “agronomist”?

-I studied modern agriculture to think big

-What is “big”

-Plant just one crop, mechanized, agrochemicals…

-And who works on that?

-Companies, large estates, businesses, corporations…

-Aren´t they the ones who divert rivers for their rice, they leave areas without trees and unusable land where ever they go?

–Noooo, yes, but …

-They won you over without having to pay for your studies, we being backward and paying for your studies, lost you…

-Ah Mom, I don´t know what to tell you

From the other side, the youth move about self secure for having studied in universities. The attached table expresses another three moments. In the first, Mom and son coincide in that the “agronomist” looks for work, while they need “arms” on the farm. This idea of agronomist blocks the possibility of seeing opposing realities like the peasantry versus large estate owners, production systems on farms versus mono-cropping. In the second moment, the Mother asks and makes the son strip down what he learned in the university. In the third moment, what modern agriculture consists in is explained, and the curtain falls dramatically: the “backward” ones paid for the studies so that the companies might have another engineer. The security of being an engineer at the beginning of the conversation is replaced by the doubt: “I don´t know what to tell you”. Mother and son are awakening.

This unlearning gives way to re-learning. Retrospectively, we started from the duality of the oral-written tradition, then we set out to hold strategic conversations between children and parents where both sides are awakening. Notice, the two tables are like the notes that we take in our notebooks, while the analysis is what we are writing alongside. This re-learning is the bridge between the written culture and the oral culture, which we argue is what the peasant way in Europe and the United States lacked, and what we can undertake in Latin America. This bridge implies: observing, questioning, conversing and analyzing attitudes in the other person and in oneself (for urban youth these steps are possible through immersion).[22] To that we add what was learned from the agrarian uprising in the United States: reading, studying the realities of the harsh rules, reflecting massively with the peasantry, and organizing cooperatives as a result of those studies.

Writing is thinking, accumulating knowledge and sharing it. “Papers talk”. In this process the belief tends to appear that “studies are not done without money”, which assumes surveys, laboratories, and people with doctorates. If there is a will, there is a way. Youth and people of any age can buy a notebook and pen for 1 dollar to take notes, find the veins and follow them. Writing is combining pen and shovel with the greatest stubbornness in the world. From there, what is written are living hieroglyphs: published articles, farms, gardens, financial statements, communities, plates of food, webpages… Taking notes begins the circle of innovation.

4.2.2. Innovative role of the youth in the details

The fact that the youth can build bridges between oral and written traditions opens them to the field of innovating in any area – farm, garden, store, community, family, cooperative. Here we describe two groups of examples where it is important to innovate.

The first group is the farm. If organic agriculture saves us in chemical inputs and feeds the soil in a lasting manner for good production; if bee-keeping, in addition to producing honey, contributes to reordering the farm and increasing its productivity; if the combination of agriculture and ranching is one of the successful veins; if agro-industry in communities adds value to products, knowledge to families and expands social relations in the community; if poultry and pigs are a food source and generator of income; if the garden with horticulture and other plants are food and medicine for families; if stores generate daily income and provide a service to communities bringing them products and selling their products…What innovations can be worked on in these cases and under what conditions can they be expanded? If in the last 30 years Governments and international organizations have failed in their support for gardens, bee-keeping, poultry raising, organic agriculture, agro-industry and commerce, then innovating in these areas is a real challenge.

The second group is the family. The peasantry are made up of decentralized and extended families, while hierarchical at the same time. Elizabeth Dore[23] talks about “patriarchy from below” and refers to the fact that the man in the house is the patriarch, who keeps their financial accounts and centralizes decision making. This patriarchal relationship from “below” is transferred to cooperatives where the president or the manager keep the financial accounts and centralizes decision making. This is true also in community and other organizations. If the family frees itself from the hierarchical institution that forms it, the entire family will review their receipts, and recognize that in that they have an instrument to demand their rights as members.[24] This will have a positive repercussion on the family, cooperatives and other spaces where the members of the family participate: Church, sports, municipal government…It will contribute to social, economic and political equity. Thousands of trainings and sermons have not made a difference in families and organizations. How can this patriarchy from below be transformed which Jesus already challenged 2,000 years ago? What can be done so that in the family the financial accounts are managed by the entire family? I mention this issue of the receipts because it is a detail, so that, like Einstein, the youth might focus on the details and innovate.

4.3. Youth as counterbalance in the cooperatives

These innovations can be facilitated in cooperative spaces. There are some like the Colega Cooperative that systematically include the youth (4.1), while in most the youth lack the instruments to insert themselves in the cooperatives. By proposing to reinvent or create cooperatives with a new design, we are suggesting a role of counterbalance for the youth. This role is a concrete instrument to facilitate innovation.

Cooperatives can reinvent themselves if the youth take on the role of counterbalance from within. In Nicaragua, we work along this line. Between an accompanying organization, like that to which the author of this article belongs, and cooperatives, we agreed to collaborate. The cooperative recognizes that its business side absorbed the associative side, and that this has caused breakdowns, and accepts that its associative side be responsible for the strategic decisions, and its business side for making them operational, as the statutes and cooperative law indicate (see Figure 5).

Figure 5. Youth as counterbalance

Source: Author´s own.

First, there is a tripartite relationship of coordination between the cooperative, financial organizations and buyers, and the accompanying organization, to ensure that the cooperative be treated as a cooperative and not as a private entity by the organizations. Second, within the previous framework, the accompanying organization prepares instruments (guides) so that each organ might function effectively; it does so to the extent that it studies it and is part of the process of change. Third, one young person per cooperative has the role of studying the cooperative, accompanying each organ while using the instruments, and ensures that the information and its analysis flow from the business side of the cooperative to the associative side, and viceversa. Studying the operation of the cooperative allows the youth to detect attitudes in play, make them visible, and propose new innovative rules. Fourth, the accompanying organization creates spaces for workshops with the youth that work on these arrangements, where each one talks about their concerns and innovations, ideas are shared and methodologies worked on about how to hold conversations with member families, innovate, write and share their findings.

Some lessons from this experience. To the extent that the youth study the reason why an organ is not functioning and how it can function, instead of only sticking to the what (statutes and cooperative law), the members see that the cooperative is a different path from private enterprise. When the youth perceive that technical language is a wall in their communication, they understand that they are behaving as technocrats, believing that they have the solution without studying the realities, then, humility gains space, they study the details of the hierarchical structure and how they give way in the face of cooperativism. For example, they understand the tacit rule of the members that “loans are decided by the person at the top”, not the rules agreed upon in the assembly, which is why they study what makes this informal rule persist – there are always reasons! This path of making the organs function according to the rules agreed upon by the member assembly avoids the common result of the work of NGOs, who tend to train leaders and “replacement” youth, who, on assuming their posts, turn into the “person at the top” under the rule of “get rid of you to put me in”. To the extent that the youth devote themselves to this role of counterbalance, the belief that they are “useless slackers” gives way to greater trust.

Box 5. Learning cycle in cooperative reinvention

Steps Content
Study Harsh (adverse) rules and bases for resignation, strategic conversations.
Self study Beliefs that control our minds.
Innovate Experiment with products (farm, stores, processing), services (credit, commerce), relationships (family, community).
(Re) organize Redesign existing cooperatives (role of internal counterbalance) and creation of new cooperatives with new design.
Share Dissemination of results and lessons.

Source: Author´s own.

There are also youth who prefer to create new cooperatives. The advantage is that they are not going to be “organized” by the State or some external organization, they are born with autonomy. The disadvantage is that they do not have external resources for their first steps. They can perdure over time if they start based on innovations that can only be carried out with the collaboration of several people. How can they be accompanied? Table 5 provides the steps, worked on here. Each one of them requires taking notes and analyzing them. It is circular: after the first cycle of study, self study, innovate, (re) organize and share, the next cycle returns to the study of the changing realities, this time self-study is about the operation of the cooperative, reflecting and looking at the world without letting it pass by, and so on successively. Rene Mendoza is developing instruments about how to observe, converse, analyze notes, analyze secondary data and how to innovate along with the youth, texts which, although they are drafts, can be downloaded by young people.[25]

  1. Sharing in the digital era

More than reinventing a cooperative, it is a matter of generating a movement for the reinvention of cooperativism. In this text we focused on the agrarian reality, but it is equally necessary to do it in other areas. How can a movement be generated? The steps of Table 5 are basic ones. Planning each innovation as Pep Guardiola teaches us, and sharing it through different media as Chef Acurio teaches us.[26] In this effort the use of webpages and social media, in addition to other written media and videos, can be paths to explore.

Inti Mendoza[27] finds that the use of webpages is still limited in organizations. The cooperatives who have a webpage are few, and of those that have them, few use them. Innovating in this area to use it as a means for learning is an pending task. In Nicaragua we are experimenting combining webpages[28] with murals in the cooperatives: the same information (minutes of meetings, financial statements, loan portfolio, innovations) disseminated on the webpage month by month, are also presented on the mural of the cooperative. On that same webpage articles are published, databases, guides for the operation of the cooperative, learning guides for the youth, accounting software, stories about how cooperatives are organized, strategic conversations, and basic information is offered on the cooperatives with which they collaborate. We look for students from different universities in the world to study the cooperatives through the webpage, because of the information that is found there and because they can be in direct contact with the cooperatives.

Social networks are another means to discuss difficult topics of the cooperatives. If a cooperative is the captive of hierarchical structures, it can be discussed in social networks. Likewise, how a cooperative constructs its autonomy, or the conditions under which women organize or are excluded from the cooperative; why a cooperative embraces mono-cropping; whether the cooperatives has policies that are excluding youth (for example, having land) or policies against machismo (for example, expulsion of a member who physically mistreats his spouse); whether the international organizations treat cooperatives as cooperatives or only as businesses; whether cooperatives distribute their profits; whether second tier cooperatives concentrate investments and centralize decision making, or whether they facilitate first tier cooperatives scaling up. These topics can be debated on social networks under the question about what is it to be a cooperative and how does the cooperative support the well being of its members?

In the digital era the youth can innovate on ways of sharing their reflections and successes. The webpage is a means for analysis, and social networks a means for informing themselves and debating.

By way of conclusion

There are three ways in which the youth mobilize for social change. One is confronting the State in the streets in a violent way, generally in circumstantial reaction to policies, acts of corruption or acts of repression. Another way is where the peasantry studies the harsh rules (commercial and/or extractive), but forgets to study their own mentality, this is the case of the populist cooperative movement of the United States between 1870 and 1910. The third way is when the peasantry studies the harsh rules (commercial and/or extractive), self-studies their mentality, and mobilizes not to confront the State, but to innovate for the peasant families who are organizing.

Throughout this text we worked on the third modality of mobilization of youth who are moved to reinvent cooperativism as a means to make family agriculture viable. According to L. David Covey, “we are in the midst of one of the most profound changes in the history of humanity, where the principal work of humanity is moving from the industrial era of ‘control’ to that of the worker of knowledge”.[29] The viability of family agriculture is possible today, based not on strength and virgin lands as in the past, but on knowledge and innovation, for which the youth can be the principal motor. The most important muscle in current family agriculture is the brain.


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La mirada horizontal. Movimientos sociales y emancipación. Montevideo: Nordan, 1999.

Dispersar el poder. Los movimientos como poderes antiestatales. Buenos Aires: Tinta Limón y Textos Rebeldes, 2006.

Descolonizar. El pensamiento crítico y las prácticas emancipatorias. Bogotá: Desdeabajo, 2015.

Latiendo resistencia. Mundos nuevos y guerras de despojo. Granada: Baladre-Zambra, 2016.

[1] Doctor in Development Studies, associate researcher of IOB-University of Antwerp (Belgium), collaborator of the Winds of Peace Foundation ( and member of the COSERPROSS RL. Cooperative. Email:

[2] CEPAL, FAO e IICA (2014).

[3] Pineda et al. (1994).

[4] Goodwyn (1978).

[5] Luxemburg (1913), 201.

[6] See Mendoza et al. (2013).

[7] Zibechi (1997, 1999, 2006).

[8] Zibechi (2015, 2016).

[9] Ver Barker (2008).

[10] Ver Munck (1990), Wolf (1982).

[11] Pérez-Baltodano (2013).

[12] Torres Rivas (2015).

[13] Goodwyn, op. cit., 26.

[14] Goodwyn, op. cit.

[15] Thorpe (2000).

[16] Mendoza (2017, 2018).

[17] Bauman (2014).

[18] The lard is taken from the pig once it has died (been slaughtered). In rural areas of Central America this expression is used to indicate that the parents in the countryside wait until they die to leave their land to their sons and daughters.

[19] This saying relies on a play of words that does not exist in English: rayo=lightening, raya=stingray

[20] Goodwyn, op. cit.

[21] Torres Rivas (2001).

[22] See Mendoza (2015).

[23] Dore (2008).

[24] Edgar Fernández, a consultant to cooperatives, tells that he visited a member of a cooperative in crisis. Fernández asked if he had receipts. The member showed his receipts and began to tremble: “Please don´t tell the manager that I showed you the receipts”. The extreme in some cooperatives is that they have their members so subjected that they begin to believe that ceasing to cover up acts of corruption is “betraying” their cooperative, that “making demands is a thing of cowards”. A receipt is a detail. How important are the details!

[25] last date accessed: August 19, 2019.

[26] Oppenheimer (2014).

[27] Mendoza (2018).

[28] See,

[29] Covey (2012), xiii.


This document could not be found on the official website of the FSLN, el Digital 19, but is reported to have come from a political secretary in one of the Government Ministries. The Spanish version can be found here. 

It does reflect the government´s perspective on the crisis- that it was promoted by coup supporters – and lays out a series of measures in response to the crisis, including: an increase in recruitment and pay for police,  plan for government “compaction” or layoffs in government ministries in response to the economic consequences, and the creation of a fund for the victims of the coup supporters, created through the sale of the assets of those accused of terrorism.

This view of the crisis – caused by coup supporters – was explicitly refuted this past Saturday January 26 by a mission of deputies from the European Union during  their press conference at the end of their 3 day visit to Nicaragua.

Again, capitalized letters reflect the original Spanish document.



  1. Introduction:

The Government of National Unity and Reconciliation, within the framework of its commitment to the Well being of Nicaraguan Families, has prepared the present Policy which addresses again the Work Processes which will be implemented from different spheres and sectors to thus be able to ensure the achievements and blessings which have been built throughout the eleven years of good Government to improve co-existence in families, communities and strengthen the Defense of a Revolution which today is stronger than ever, alive and full of offspring willing to defend it, without regard to cost.

  1. Justification:

The Government of National Unity and Reconciliation of the Republic of Nicaragua reaffirms to the International Community, that in the months of April to July the People of Nicaragua were subjected to a coup attempt by political groups disguised as Non Governmental Organizations, partners of organized crime, and financed from outside the country, carrying out abductions, torture, extortion, murder, looting, obstruction of public roads, the destruction and burning of public buildings.

This coup attempt undermined the Peace, Security, Stability and Economy of the Nicaraguan People. The terrorist actions and crimes committed left as a result 198 people killed, of whom 22 were Members of the National Police, 1,240 people wounded, of whom 401 were Officers of the National Police, who were wounded by firearms.

These coup groups caused damages to the infrastructure of the Country; 352 buildings were vandalized and damaged, 209 kilometers of streets and highways were destroyed, 278 heavy machines were vandalized and burnt, and 389 vehicles were destroyed. The damages caused to the Economy added up to US$ 205.4 million dollars as destruction in the public sector, US$231 millions of dollars in losses in the Tourism Sector, and US$525 millions of dollars in the Transportation Sector, all this caused a direct impact on the population with the loss of 119,567 jobs, and a decline of C$7 billion córdobas in the General Budget of the Republic.

After these acts of violence and destruction, the competent Institutions of the State of Nicaragua, in fulfillment of the Law, have worked on the investigation and trial of the authors and participants calculated on November 5, 2018; 273 people detained for these crimes.

Added to this barbarity is a new imperial instrument to try to subdue us: the NICA-ACT law, a criminal act that attempts to intimidate our courage and impoverish our land full of blessings.

We have expressed our Position in the face of this irrational action, offensive to the Human Rights of Nicaraguans, in different moments and with the same firmness: We consider this Bill a violation of our sovereignty, and a negation of all Political, Social, Cultural and Economic Processes, which are carried out in our Blessed, United and Always Free Country to improve the Lives of all, and promote Joy, Harmony, and Well Being.

The Government of National Unity and Reconciliation reiterates the Conviction of a people who are facing an aggression of reactionary, interventionist and disrespectful Positions on the part of certain US political movements that do not yet get beyond conflict and interests foreign to the Will and Peacefulness of Peoples.

We swear before God and the People of Nicaragua, before Nicaraguan Families, Youth, the International Community, that we will fight in our invariable Commitment to Democracy and the Paths of Harmony, Encounter, Understanding, Security and Prosperity, which, in Union and Hope, in Faith and Trust, we traverse as people of God. Yes, we will not keep our arms crossed in order to defend our Revolutionary Process, we will act under the legacy of the ideals that have formed us in Struggle, we will equip our people with Hope with the Sandinista example to defend the revolution of any action that is taken, and in all areas: the Defense of Peace, Production and the Economy.

The Commandante-President Daniel Ortega in his pursuit for the defense of the Country, Peace, Security and Reconciliation of the People of Nicaragua, has committed himself to the implementation of strategies that would build the bases for a deepening of our model of development.

The Government of Nicaragua, committed always to Reconciliation and Peace in our Country, will take actions that work to enrich and elevate the power that the people placed in the Sandinista Front. Only establishing our values in all spheres of the country: economic, political and social…will we be able to ensure the continuity of our achievements.

  1. General Objective of the Policy of the Culture of Peace and Reconciliation

Creating a strategy for the Defense of the revolution, involving each militant to ensure the success of the tasks necessary to provide solidity to our program of Christian, Socialist and Solidarity-based development.

  1. Our slogan: “For Peace, Defense is always first”

“Sovereignty is not discussed, it is defended with weapons in hand”

– Augusto C. Sandino

In the new context of aggression, we must reinforce our moral and combative conviction on all fronts. The NICA-ACT as an imperial tool is just one more acknowledgement that our path of Peace, Unity and Reconciliation is the right one. Today more than ever we say to them in a proud voice with the light of the Sun that does not go down: They couldn´t , nor can they!

It is up to us as Sandinistas to fill ourselves with Love and Peace, to work day to day and leave behind the hard Times, difficult Times, which have been Times of lessons, and plant, install, cultivate, harvest Love and Peace every day. And think of others. Think about each one of us, think about our Loved Ones, those who are with us, those who were victims of the criminal coup; Offer from our Heart Thanks to God for the Lives of All, and for those who, in another Plane of Life, beg Our Lord God for Nicaragua, and because we are going ahead and we know how to go Ahead, in the Fraternity that we know one another, in the Sisterhood that we know one another, in the sense of peace and its unwavering defense inherited by the blood of the heroes and martyrs.

Promoted and coordinated by the National Police in the different Territories, we will offer spaces and opportunities for Dialogue and Re-encounter People, Families and Communities around the Culture of Peace.

Using for that the Community Work Method promoted from the Citizen Security Program carried out by the National Police for working on Community Security Plans and Re-encounter Processes.

Under the responsibility of the National Police these different tasks will be done as priorities:

  1. a) Consolidate the role of the National Police in the Community, recruiting new agents in each municipality so that they can go back to their own territory and exercise clear and close leadership, supported by their family, cultural and political connections.


  1. b) 15% increase in the recruitment of new agents for 2020, professionalizing our current leaders and expanding their territorial basis in accordance with the previous point.


  1. c) Integration into the Citizen Security Cabinets retired members of MINT [Ministry of the Interior], SMP [Patriotic Military Service] and the EPS [Popular Sandinista Army, all three entities from the 1980s] as community defense leaders and instructors for institutions, strategic and key points for the security of each community.


  1. d) 12% salary increase for the agents of the National Police for 2019.


  1. e) A National Defense Cabinet for Peace and Security will be created, that will include: 1 representative of the UAF [Financial Analysis Unit], 3 representatives of the National Police, the Provincial Political Secretaries, and two representatives of the Ministry of the Interior. The task of the Cabinet will be Coordinating, Informing and Executing by presidential order the plans for the promotion of Peace and Security in the country.


  1. f) With the Municipal Governments and the Police Delegations in each community, structure the Battalions for Defense and Production, organizing Volunteer Police and coordinating security plans from the people and for the people.


  1. Austerity and Honesty: The Moral Basis for the Construction of a Christian, Socialist and Solidarity-based Model


“Our army is the most disciplined, self sacrificing and selfless army in the entire world, because it is aware of its high historical role”

– Augusto C. Sandino


The current Policy will consolidate the Strategies, Programs, Actions, Methodologies and Materials for the struggle against the ravages that the Criminal Terrorism left on the National Budget. Unfortunately, the social-political situation and the disturbances causes by the criminal-right left a nefarious legacy impossible to cover, which itself has directly modified the functioning of our model of execution, having to make urgent and priority changes in order to be able to ensure the sustainability of the social programs and the functioning of the state.

The effect of the criminal Nica Act Law has little to do with the concern of the United States for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Nicaragua, and everything to do with the escalation of the agenda for change of the regime of the Trump administration. It will put at risk a whole series of social programs implemented by the Nicaragua government, and it is also very probable that it might mean that it will be necessary to put limits on the investment of the government in health, education and infrastructure.

The Law will deepen the poverty of those most vulnerable and impoverished in society, intensify the polarization in Nicaragua, and l block the efforts of the Government to build peace and reconciliation after the failed coup attempt.

The direct blockage imposed by the imperialistic appetite will force us to make budget changes and take austerity measures that will directly affect the price of transportation, which will have to be increased; the school snack, which will be reduced in scope; Social Security, which will have to make structural changes; and the subsidies for Basic Services, where priority will be given to the most vulnerable communities.

This new context forces us to make decisions that even though they are hard, will serve as the basis for the more Solid, Strong and Mature Revolutionary Project that will be a part of the legacy of Peace and Harmony for new generations.

In the same way we have to see this situation as an opportunity to achieve a more modern, compact State, full of fellow Sandinistas committed to the model of sustainable development based on Christian, Socialist and Solidarity-based values that our revolution preaches in the pursuit of improving the lives of each Nicaraguan.

To carry out this arduous task a series of actions have been set out:


  1. a) Creation of State Compaction Cabinet, chaired by Ovidio Reyes, and it will be composed of the Coordinators of the CLS [Sandinista Leadership Councils] of each state institution, Members of the FNT [National Workers Front] and representative of MITRAB [Ministry of Labor] and INSS [Social Security]. Each Ministry or Autonomous Entity will have their own Compaction Council organized by the CLS and the representatives of the unions.


  1. b) The Compaction Strategy has the purpose of being able to decrease the labor force in the Ministries and Autonomous Entities by 30%. Except for the Ministries of the Social Cabinet, where the decrease will be 10%.


  1. c) The Compaction Councils of each State Institution will have meetings every two weeks starting in January 2019 to present their proposals for cuts in personnel with the objective that in June 2019 the quotas established in the Strategy will have been met. To carry out the compaction, the Councils of Each Institution must do Employer-Employee reviews based on a Holistic Evaluation Guide.


The Holistic Evaluation Guide will have the nature of a monthly review where five key indicators will be taken into account:


  1. Commitment to and Defense of the Revolution.
  2. Monetary Contribution to the Party.
  3. Fulfillment of Labor Objectives
  4. Attendance at Party Activities
  5. Characteristics of Special Review.

The Characteristics of Special Review are: closeness to Retirement Age, Repetitious Positions and Level of Technical Specialization.

  1. d) Labor Reinsertion Committees will be formed in each institution supporting the party members to be able to apply the different Programs that our Good Government offers them, and in this way have an opportunity to continue building the Country in Commerce, Production and Entrepreneurship.
  2. Economic Reactivation: Empower the People with Dignity

“Here a Sun shines on us that does not go down”

-Ruben Darío

Defending the Revolution is also producing and working, so as in this way to move forward in the new economic model, in this model that recognizes the skills and strengths of the medium and small entrepreneurs in the countryside and the city.

One of our biggest tasks will be that of being able to execute the projects, proposals and programs that we have for continuing to move forward within the Christian, Socialist and Solidarity-based model.

For a country to be able to be on the road to development, the first thing is ensuring a very strong program in social spending, aimed at education and a robust system of public attention of the population, with a big impact on the lives of families and the country.

These programs and technical and technological projects [are] for strengthening capacities and for working better and having better results in the countryside and the city. Responding with a new Solidarity Model, Agricultural Production with increase in yields and crop diversification, as well as proposals for livestock development, pigs, poultry and others.

So that the social, productive and economic processes ensure the full rights of all Nicaraguans, fully restoring or developing them, improving our lives, we must take a series of actions that would strengthen our revolution:


  1. a) Expansion of the Zero Usury Program for small and medium loans, made for the work that ensures Peace. Giving priority to the requests from the Labor Reinsertion Committees.


  1. b) “Camilo Ortega” Solidarity Land Fund: this fund will be part of a new development model for small producers and peasants without land, where in addition to being able to opt for the Production Dividend, they will have the opportunity to get a loan exclusively for the payment of a production plot from the new rural properties that will form part of the “Fund for Assistance and Holistic Reparation for the Victims of Terrorism”.


  1. c) Intensification of the Family Economy model, providing the opportunity for Undertaking and prospering in faith, family and community to any person who wants to work on their ideas and projects. MEFCCA [Ministry for the Family, Cooperative, Community and Associative Economy] will coordinate based on their projects, opening the opportunity to all these new entrepreneurs for collaborating.


  1. Healing the Wounds: Reparation for the Victims of the Coup

“When the curved bow is drawn no longer, The mystical dove will bring in its beak… The olive branch of peace!”

– Ruben Darío

Our good government has 11 years promoting a model of Culture of Peace Policy, that serves as a starting point and essential target for Families and connected Institutions and Entities, capable of strengthening the role of recovering and strengthening Values for the growth of our Blessed and Always Free Nicaragua.

This Policy recognizes Peace as a human right and at the same time as an indispensable social asset so that human rights might continue being restored and therefore, this policy connects all the social programs that the people, families and communities have.

Since April of this year our People were subjected to a Coup attempt by minuscule groups that will not only have to pay justice for their legacy of Destruction and Death, they will also have to morally and economically pay the victims of their barbarism.

For us Nicaraguans to be able to resolve our conflicts without violence, our disagreements through dialogue, tolerance and listening, we need to create mechanisms that would strengthen and help to heal the wounds that the coup inflicted:


  1. a) Creation of Holistic Assistance and Reparation Fund for the Victims of Terrorism with the assets, properties, businesses and lands of those sentenced for terrorism.


  1. b) The Administration of the Fund will be composed of the “Organization of Victims of Coup Terrorism”, FNT, INSS as well as the National Police.


  1. c) with the Earnings of the Fund based on its investments and assets, the creation of a Special and lifelong Pension for the Victims will be coordinated, designated by Law and through payments to INSS.


  1. d) For the sale, auction and loan opportunities for the investment of the properties and assets of the Fund, priority will be given to Combatants, Voluntary Police and recognized Sandinista Militants for their unrelenting defense of the Revolution.


Work Plan


From December 6-31

Formation of a National Cabinet Team for the Defense of Peace and Security


Week of January 7-11

Presentation of the National Strategy Proposal: “Defense is First…For Peace, Common Good, Production”

  • Provincial and Municipal Delegates of Institutions
  • Municipal Governments
  • Sandinista Leadership Council

Establishment of the Compaction Cabinets in each State Institution.

Week of January 14-19

Establishment of the Provincial and Municipal Policy Team, with Ministries.

Preparation of Provincial and Municipal Plans for the Presentation of the Policy

January 21

National Launch of the Policy: “Defense is First”. Heads of Ministries.

Week January 28 to February 2

Review of Compaction Plans.

Responsibility of National Policy Team, Supervisors of the State Compaction Cabinet, Compaction Coordinators in the State Institutions.


Followup and monitoring of the implementation of the Policy. Responsibility of the National Policy Team, National Cabinet of Defense for Peace and Security, and the State Compaction Cabinet.






Making Sense of the Senseless

Nicaragua.  I’m astonished at the turn of events that has wracked the country I have come to know over the past 13 years.  I read about places where I have traveled, remember fondly the warmth of the people I have met, recall the beauty and awe of the land, and then must imagine those same images against a backdrop of grief and gangs, barricades and bullets, hatred and horrors.   I am saddened, but only feel a fraction of the despair that my Nica friends must be experiencing.  Indeed, I cannot begin to comprehend what Nicas are going through in this time of upheaval.

The context raises the inevitable questions that accompany every instance of political unrest: how could this have happened?  Can there be, in fact, any reasonable understanding of what has led to the unraveling of an entire society and system?

They are questions that I have found myself asking about circumstances in the U.S., though understandably in a different context.  There are significant differences, but many similarities: a society that is fractured; an overriding unwillingness on both sides of the divide to talk of compromise; massive protests against the government; claims of government abuse of power; calls for the removal of a sitting president; alienation of other nations by virtue of nationalistic postures.  The list goes on, and so does my wondering.

In the shadow of the current impasse being experienced in Nicaragua, the Center for Global Education and Experience (CGEE) at Augsburg University is offering a “virtual course” on the crisis there, designed to delve into the competing historical narratives each side uses.  The analysis will allow participants to assess the validity of their application today, and  deepen an understanding of the perspective of each side.  For anyone who loves Nicaragua, who has been enriched by the place and its people, it can be a course of immense clarification and understanding.

But in addition to gaining a better understanding of the crisis in Nicaragua, my own hope is that it might provide me with some insights into the dysfunction which currently grips the U.S.  I do not require reminders about how enormously different our respective histories and developments have been; I know them well (as well as some of the intersections between us which figure into the Nica problems significantly).  But I have moved within the two cultures significantly enough over recent years to have acquired a perspective which asks whether many of the same factors might have been at work in each.

I’m interested in  the CGEE course about current Nicaragua in and of itself, to help me understand what has happened in that beautiful place, and why.    But I also have a secondary motive, which is to find some further insights about what has happened in this beautiful place, and why.

I guess I feel like I owe it to someone….

My Time Is Running Short

My time in direct service to the peasants in Nicaragua, that is.  On March 1 of this new year, I will step away from my role as Chief Executive for Winds of Peace after thirteen years.

In 2005, WPF Founder Harold Nielsen had been stricken with pneumonia (at age 90) and was hospitalized.  I had just retired from leading the company he founded in 1948 and he asked whether I might help out by overseeing the Foundation for a few days, until he had sufficiently recovered.  I did so.  And within the first days of substituting for him, I knew that this was the work that I wanted to do.  I drove to Rochester, Minnesota, where Harold was hospitalized, wondering to myself how I might gracefully interject my services into his small foundation.  But when I entered his room, he was sitting up in bed and spoke almost before I could say hello.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said (true to form).  “This illness has really hit me hard.  It’s getting harder for Louise (his wife and Foundation co-founder) and me to travel to Nicaragua all the time.  Maybe it’s time to pull back.  Would you have any interest in taking over the work?”  And that quickly, I received one of the great blessings of my life.

I entered the role knowing almost nothing about Nicaragua, beyond a visit I had made there at the close of the Contra War. in 1990. I knew of its poverty and something of its victimization by the U.S. over its history.  But I did not know the people, I did not comprehend the rural sector where we would work, I did not appreciate the obstacles that an entire element of a nation’s populace must face for survival.  I had moved from for-profit to non-profit over the course of a few days.  The only thing I knew about development was how to spell it.  I neither spoke nor understood Spanish and its nuances.  Yet the work was compelling.  And so was the learning.

I learned that a meal of rice and beans is fulfilling.  Not just for my hunger, but for its plainness and, in a small way, how it makes me feel tied to the life of the peasant producers with whom we work.  It is simple food that nourishes in ways that fancier food never will.

I learned that, given my many inadequacies, I am utterly lost without the skill to talk directly with those I so deeply admire.  Translation is wonderful, gestures are limited but fun, but the sidebar conversations and off-the-cuff comments are elements in relationships that I crave.  The limits of who I am both required it  and  prevented it.

I learned that regardless of how much one reads and studies, if one’s objective is to understand others, there is no substitute for personal immersion in the lives of those to be understood.  Being in Nicaragua is not enough;  an understanding of the realities of peasant farmers simply is not possible without being among them.  I have been blessed to have had work which allowed me that opportunity.  (I have wondered whether this might not be a valuable lesson for most of mankind.)

I have learned what it feels like to be utterly dependent on someone else.  Having work histories which promoted ideas of self-control and leadership of others, I struggled to learn personal lessons of followership.  I relied upon others for my language, transportation, processing of experiences, meals, accommodations, and virtually any other needs that occurred during my visits.  It provided me some insights about the feelings of peasant producers who have had to rely so heavily upon outside funders, an unresponsive government and the vagaries of natural disasters.  It is discomforting.

I learned that, notwithstanding  my long-held view of my own personal privilege, that insight has been significantly understated.   There is no rationale, no reason and certainly no deservedness to explain the contrast between what I have and what others so desperately need.  To be in the presence of true poverty is to be humbled to one’s knees.  I am likely to spend the balance of my life trying to understand this and to discern what I am called to do about it.

I learned the lesson that Harold Nielsen so fervently hoped that I would learn all those years ago when he provided me the opportunity to represent Winds of Peace.  Harold would offer the wish that I “would become infected” with the outrage and despair of fellow human beings living in sub-human conditions.  Harold got his wish, and I became sick over the truth of the poor.

So, thirteen years later I still cannot speak the language.  But I learned a lot….







New Year Message of Government of Nicaragua

This end of the year speech by Daniel Ortega takes place in the context of the report issued earlier in the month [December 2018] by the GIEI that accused the government of human rights violations so severe that they categorized them as crimes against humanity. In this speech Daniel Ortega highlights economic and social  rights, those human rights spelled out  in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the right of everyone, especially the impoverished majorities, to have their basic needs met. While there may be legitimate debate about its effectiveness, this government, for better or for worse,  has placed a priority on responding to those basic needs.

While this fact does not legitimize the severe human rights violations contained in the GIEI report,  it is a key reason why some people  continue to support the government, and refuse to believe the accusations against it. It is also why they are reluctant to support  any change to an unknown future government where these economic and social rights would no longer be a priority – which has been the norm in the history of Nicaragua, and humanity in general. These aspects of basic human rights will be important to include in any future process of reconciliation if stability is to be achieved in Nicaragua.

Government of National Unity and Reconciliation

December 31, 2018 

With great Affection for all Nicaraguan Families, our best wishes, so that in this year we might have Health, we might continue cultivating Strength, and God might make us more and more resistant and more and more capable of constructing Peace. Thanks, Compañer@s

Words of Daniel

Work, Peace and to get to Work and Peace, Reconciliation. This is the starting point, Reconciliation, and this has been our Flag, this has been our Commitment throughout all the Time, and it was our challenge to achieve Peace. And what it cost to achieve Peace…How much pain! But in the end Peace was achieved.

And then, we entered into the Reconciliation Process. For what reason? To be able to develop the Country, progress in the Country toward Peace, Stability and that would then allow us to fight Poverty, eradicate Extreme Poverty, democratize Health Care, Education, Housing, the Right to Land; in other words, all the Works that later we began to develop in the New Stage, from 2007 to the month of April 2018.

And as we said in the Message, it is a matter of recovering Peace, Stability, which we have been recovering, we have been consolidating; and in 2019 it is the challenge that all of us Nicaraguans have of finish consolidating Stability, Peace, and then that will give us the conditions to take up again the path of Economic, Social Growth, so that the Rights of all Nicaraguans can really be respected.

Because a Nicaraguan in Extreme Poverty is a Nicaraguan who does not have their full Human Rights. A Nicaraguan who does not have a home, is a Nicaraguan who does not have their full Human Rights, be that they rent a home or that it is their own. I am referring to the Nicaraguan who does not have a home to rent, because they have to live alongside the rain gullies, improvising a home, where he and his family are exposed to losing their lives.

And this is what we have been developing during all this time, all these years, regardless of the political differences that have been present there in our situation. Political differences, Economic differences, ideological differences have been present there; but beyond those differences, we have been able to build, we have been able to progress, progress with historic Works like the Highway to San Carlos, Río San Juan.

I remember that This Highway was promised since I was a boy, because I used to travel to Chontales. To travel to Chontales, the Route goes by there, later you turn to San Carlos by Acoyapa, that is where the turn is. And the promise was there, and the promise became a reality, thanks to the effort, to the tenacity of the People accompanied by their Government.

We are a few months away from finishing now this other great Work, another Highway that is going to unite the Pacific with the Autonomous Region of the South Caribbean. And the Route will also be by land. The Route that has been aquatic to El Rama, in El Rama you got on a boat, and from there to Bluefields, the Route that has been aerial, very expensive, now it will be a Route by land, that also assures us, and we are already working in that direction, assures us the conditions to build the Port in Bluefields, a Port that will be able to incorporate merchandise, and will also be able to transfer merchandise for export.

We then will no longer be dependent on the Ports of the Sister Peoples like Honduras and Costa Rica; currently we depend on the Ports of Honduras and Costa Rica. Now having a Port in the Caribbean, well, we will have our own Port, surely some merchandise will always move through Puerto Limón in Costa Rica, others through Puerto Cortés en Honduras; but now we will have our own Port to export Nicaraguan products and to import products from other Regions, and also to import the inputs needed to carry out Economic Activities in our Country.

And the other Works that we have inaugurated in this year 2018: The Fernando Vélez Paiz Hospital which is the most modern hospital that the Health System of Nicaragua currently has, of the entire Health System, Private as well as Public, it is the most modern. For what reason? To serve the People, Nicaraguan Families who cannot pay a Private Hospital. There they have another Hospital, and those that are being built.

And the Highways that have continued to be built in the midst of the difficulties of this year. And the Homes that have continued to be built in the midst of the difficulties of this year. And the Overpass that we recently inaugurated, that was able to be inaugurated in spite fo the difficulties of this year. And the Schools that have been able to be built, and the Health Posts that have able to be built, and the Paved Roads and Streets in the different Communities and Municipalities of our Country, that continue to be built and continue being inaugurated in spite of the difficulties.

In other words, this is a Heroic, Brave People, who in spite of the difficulties knows how to work, how to move ahead, how to open Paths there where obstacles present themselves. And the challenge that we have for 2019: Continue opening Paths, so that in this New Path we advance more quickly, even more rapidly, toward the Goals that we have in order to erradicate Poverty, Extreme Poverty: Health Programs, Housing, Highways, Education, multiplying Education.

The Education Programs have not stopped! This Year End we have seen thousands of Youth graduating, in spite of the difficulties; even graduating in majors that previously were not part of the Curriculum. Graduating in the management of the Braille System, for example, to be able to train Nicaraguan Brothers and Sisters who cannot see, the Blind. These really are Miracles, thanks to God, Miracles that are happening every day.

A People with Energy, with Spirit, in the midst of the pain that they have suffered, is full of Joy, and pushes forward, to Come out Ahead, Small Traders, Medium Traders, Craftspeople, Farmers, Ranchers, all working!

Are the challenges big? It is true the challenges are big, no one can deny it, but Peoples throughout the History of Humanity have shown that even in the face of the biggest catastrophes, the biggest tragedies, Peoples afterward have come back from behind, overcoming the catastrophes.

And there are other Peoples who have been learning to live with catastrophies, I am referring to natural catastrophies. We see those zones in Asia how they are constantly being destroyed by Earthquakes, by Tsunamis, impoverished Peoples, and developed Peoples. Of course, the developed Peoples have more capacities to confront these catastrophies, but in the end the capacities of the Human Being to not be demoralized in the face of difficulties, to not let themselves be beaten by those who try to demoralize People. Because there are always those who try to demoralize People.

Nicaragua itself, how many earthquakes! Two large earthquakes, the last was in December, and Nicaragua has been getting out of catastrophies, Hurricanes…How can we not remember the thousands of deaths of Hurricane Mitch! They were thousands, more than 2,000 Nicaraguan Brothers and Sisters who were victims of Hurricane Mitch,. And all that zone that was affected by Hurricane Mitch where the force of the water was so violent that it changed the course of rivers.

Then, the Bridges that had disappeared were rebuilt, first, provisional Bridges, and later, permanent Bridges. And in all this we are grateful for the Solidarity of Peoples and Brother Governments, who in an unconditional manner, without any type of conditions, have maintained Aid with the Nicaraguan People, knowing that they are offering this Aid for the benefit of Nicaraguan Families.

Brother and Sister Nicaraguans, Nicaraguan families, we are People with a lot of Faith, a lot of Tenacity, a hardworking People, a People who are creative. All these Virtues that the Human Species has, the Nicaraguan People also have, and these Virtues,  accompanied by the value of Solidarity, become a Powerhouse in moments like these, of difficult passage, to return or open New Paths, New Routes for Peace, for Stability, and for the Wellbeing of Nicaraguan Families. That is why we do not tire repeating that Nicaraguan wants, the People want, Work! Peace and Reconciliation!

Happy New Year Nicaraguan Families! Happy New Year Brother and Sister Nicaraguans! Happy New Year Nicaraguan Youth!


A Small But Big Difference

The author of this editorial ran as the Presidential Candidate for the MRS in the 2006 elections, and was a close collaborator of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, the editor of La Prensa murdered by Somoza now nearly 41 years ago. He held a number of posts in the first Sandinista government (1979-1990). He makes an important contribution  to the debate about the legitimacy of the OAS´s recent call to convene the Permanent Council of the OAS.

A small but big difference

Editorial by Edmundo Jarquín in La Prensa, January 5, 2019

The Democratic Charter was not intended for traditional coups, the typical conspiracy of the military to depose legitimately elected governments, but to prevent elected governments, once in power, from beginning to dismantle the democratic institutional structure, as has occurred in Nicaragua.

On January 1st the Foreign Minister of the Ortega dictatorship sent a letter to the ministers of Foreign Relations of the continent, protesting and arguing against the communication that the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, had sent, requesting the Permanent Council of the organization to hear the situation of Nicaragua, based on article 20 of the Interamerican Democratic Charter.

In order to evaluate both communications, we should above all become familiar with article 20. What does this article say? In the case “that an alteration of the constitutional order is produced in a Member State that would seriously affect its democratic order, any Member State or the secretary general can request the immediate convocation of the Permanent Council to carry out a collective assessment of the situation and adopt the decisions that it deems appropriate”. What did the Foreign Minister of Ortega say to refute Almagro? That his request “is inappropriate, illegal, without legal basis and contravenes the Interamerican Democratic Charter itself…”, because, he adds, “we should remember that the Democratic Charter was conceived as a mean to restore democratically elected governments and a mechanism against coup d´états and removal by force…”

The origins of the Democratic Charter are the exact opposite of those argued by the Foreign Minister of Ortega, and therefore if anything lacks legality it is his refutation, and that it why it was not addressed and the Permanent Council was called. The Democratic Charter was not intended for traditional coup d´états, the typical conspiracy of the military to depose legally elected governments, but to prevent elected governments, once in power, from beginning to dismantle the democratic institutional structures, as has occurred in Nicaragua.

Diego García Sayán, who was the Foreign Minister of Peru when the Charter was approved on September 11, 2001, points out that “the origins and conceptual content of the Charter of 2001 was essentially linked to a “democratic crisis”, and not the classic coup that resolution 1080 of 1991 (of the OAS) already addressed. This conceptualization has its immediate precedent in the Peruvian “democratic crisis” of the year 2000, and in response it was created to process it” (El País, June 6, 2016). Indeed, the Peruvian “democratic crisis” had its origins in President Fujimori in that country, who after being elected in 1990, and re-elected in 1995, after dissolving the Congress, attempted a third period through fraud.

Doesn´t the case of Fujimori sound familiar to Nicaraguans, with the re-electionist and dynastic ambition of Ortega, the dependency of all the branches of government, and the “democratic crisis” to which he has led it? It is worth saying, in addition, that article 20 of the Democratic Charter provided for dialogue and good diplomatic skills prior to any sanctions, but this terrifies a government whose only support is bloody repression.

The author was a candidate to the Presidency of Nicaragua


NICARAGUA: Report on the Violence Events between April 18 and May 30, 2018 By the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI)

One day before the OAS´s Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (known by their Spanish acronym GIEI) issued their report, they were expelled from Nicaragua by order of the government. This body was invited in by the Nicaraguan Government to help  the Nicaraguan authorities investigate and determine those guilty of what the report now calls “crimes against humanity”- 109 deaths just between April 18-May 30, 2018. Since the report was issued the 24 hour news channel “100% Noticias” was raided by police and closed down, with the Director and News Director jailed and indicted for terrorism, an event which served to validate accusations contained in the report.

The full report can be found in Spanish at

This is the English translation of the conclusions and recommendations sections.

NICARAGUA: Report on the Violence Events between April 18 and May 30, 2018

By the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI)


Dec 20, 2018

Since the beginning of its work, the government of Nicaragua systematically denied the information required by the GIEI, as well as any possibility of relating with other State institutions. This meant that the GIEI was unable in its entire mandate to carry out the work of cooperation with the criminal investigations contemplated in the Agreement.[1] On the other hand, the violence and state repression continued even after the installation of the GIEI, which was a serious limitation to carry out the commissioned work.

While not having the cooperation and collaboration of the Nicaraguan authorities to carry out the collaboration, which implied close work with them, the GIEI used a methodology that was based principally on gathering information from open sources and the analysis of official documentation provided by the State to the IACHR and from other confidential sources. A large number of documents were examined, including videos, photographs and journalistic articles and material from the media and social networks, many of which were recorded by the citizenry participating in the protests. In audiovisual material alone more than 10,000 files were reviewed and analyzed.

In spite of the obstacles due to lack of cooperation from state authorities, and the risk of protection that the sources consulted faced, the GIEI was able to pull together, analyze and verify a wide amount of information that allowed it to arrive at reasonable conclusions to reconstruct the events just as they occurred, the circumstances, and identify the possible individuals responsible.

The GIEI was able to confirm that the State resorted to abusive and indiscriminate use of force to repress peaceful protest demonstrations. A repressive pattern, which was verified at different times and places of Nicaragua, was the use of firearms, including military weapons, directly against the demonstrators. It was able to be confirmed that they used lead bullets, whose calibres correspond to different types of weapons, among which were military rifles.

These repressive actions happened in different scenarios where protest actions were being carried out: demonstrations in public places, university takeovers, and highway roadblocks. The GIEI was able to determine that most of the murders and the seriously wounded were the responsibility of the National Police, whose troops acted directly and also in a coordinated fashion with para-state armed groups. The behavior of the formal structure of the National Police along with parallel structures was another distinctive characteristic of the repression of the protests that could be seen in the immense majority of repressive events.

It has also been verified that the State resorted to the detention of hundreds of people in police sweeps during the course of the protests. The people detained were left at the exclusive disposition of the National Police and suffered different forms of mistreatment and abuse. Some denouncements referred to situations of torture, even though GIEI was not able to confirm that that has been a pattern during the months of April and May.

The GIEI received as well different evidence that showed the discrimination suffered by wounded demonstrators when they went to public hospitals in a range of situations, that went from the denial of medical attention, even in the face of very serious cases, to instances of inadequate attention and the mistreatment of relatives.

These acts occurred in a context where a public discourse of stigmatization of the protests was maintained by the highest State authorities, and political support for the repression was exhibited.

The GIEI thinks that the numerous crimes committed within the context of the repression of the demonstrators constituted crimes against humanity. This presumes certain consequences, such as the non applicability of statutory limitations, the impossibility of dictating norms of amnesty, or similar norms that would prevent trying or sentencing, the possibility that tribunals from other States might intervene in virtue of the principle of universal competency, and even the eventual intervention of the International Criminal Court, in the case that the Security Council of the United States remits the situation to the ICC, or that the State of Nicaraguan itself might accept their competency in virtue of Art. 12.3 of the Rome Statute.

The GIEI also has verified that, even though the demonstrations were essentially peaceful, their repression by the police and pro-governmental groups provoked a violent response on the part of some demonstrators against the government, which was translated into deaths, injuries and attacks on private property. The GIEI did not find evidence that these violent acts had been coordinated or form part of a plan.

The State of Nicaragua has violated its due diligence duty in terms of the investigation of the cases of violent deaths from April 18th to May 30, 2018. Of the 109 cases of violent deaths registered by the GIEI, just 9 have been tried. At least 100 cases remain in impunity, and in many of them the proceedings required to clarify the facts have been neglected, like the proper processing of crime scenes and the practice of autopsies. In the 9 cases that have been prosecuted, 6 have to do with victims that have some relationship to the State of Nicaragua or with the party in power. Serious weaknesses are also evident in these investigations. The prosecutor´s office did not act in an objective and impartial way, did not exhaust all the lines of investigation, and accused people who could be innocent, some of whom have already been convicted. A situation which is not only unjust for the accused, but also for the victims and relatives in not having a correct response. In no case has a process been initiated against the forces of State security, in spite of the abundant evidence that points to their responsibility.

The criminal justice system – the Prosecutor´s Office and the Supreme Court – have acted as one more piece of the structure for the violation of human rights through the criminalization of the citizens who participated in the protests. Illegitimate use has been made of the criminal categories of terrorism and organized crime, among others, to persecute and punish acts of opposition to the government in the processes initiated against the students, peasant and social leaders. In all these processes there has been serious violations of personal freedoms, from orders for arbitrary arrests, to the generalized use of preventive imprisonment, without meeting with the reasons required, including non compliance with the terms for judicial control over imprisonment. The right to defense and public trial also have been seen to be violated. Finally, it has been established that habeas corpus or the recourse for personal exhibition has been ineffective.

The violence unleashed since the social protest begun on April 18th has caused a profound harm to families, communities and Nicaraguan society. It has impaired peaceful co-existence, altered daily life, and deepened social polarization. The violence carried out has generated deep marks of pain and indignation, that are mixed with the marks left by previous confrontations, and have produced the estrangement and distrust of broad sectors of the population with State institutions. The wounds will be very difficult to heal if they are not dealt with in a holistic way, with truth, justice and reparations for the people who have lost loved ones, people wounded who have been left with incapacitating consequences; the disappeared, jailed and displaced; all those who have suffered the violence and have been wronged, as well as those who suffer persecution and threats for being their relatives.


Aware of the fact that periods of serious human rights violations tend to severely weaken the quality of public institutions, even more when the political authorities use those institutions to commit or endorse their abuses, the GIEI recommends:

  1. That the government ensure that the right to meet be fully respected and guaranteed through the proper protection of public demonstrations, in accordance with applicable international human rights standards and norms.
  2. That the government end the harassment of human rights defenders, journalists and other social leaders, ensuring the conditions for them to be able to fully carry out their work and exercise their rights, particularly the freedom of expression, meeting and association.
  3. That the Nicaraguan State begin a holistic reform of institutions directed at modifying the conditions that generated and intensified the repression and political persecution. This reform is important to fulfill the commitment to change and ensure the non repetition of human rights violations, seeking to banish violence as a means for resolving conflict, and establishing a new inclusive social pact so that the State might really be the expression of all Nicaraguans.
  4. It is recommended that the State implement a Holistic Reparations Plan (PIR) that would remediate and compensate for the human rights violations, as well as the losses or social, moral and material damages suffered by the victims, taking into account the considerations made in Chapter XII.

In general in the face of the behavior of public officials from different entities of the state apparatus who have participated in practices that violated human rights during the events of violence since the social protests that began on April 18, 2018, the GIEI recommends.

  1. Investigating and eventually removing officials who have participated in human rights violations. Reform institutions and promote the presence of democratic authority and State services throughout the national territory. Recognize popular organizations, local identities and cultural diversity, promoting citizen participation from the plurality of different political options and positions.
  2. Immediately dissolving and disarming the para-state armed groups and protect the population of all illegal and violent acts. Through exhaustive, impartial and transparent investigations, determine whether they have participated in criminal acts, especially in attempts against life and other fundamental rights, and in those cases process and try them.

In terms of the behavior of the National Police of Nicaragua, who have shown a series of institutional practices in violation of human rights, which have extended over time and have increased in severity; in addition to considering the experience of other countries, and the urgent necessity of once again providing the State with a police institution which would ensure internal order based on principles of democratic control and respect for human rights, the GIEI recommends:

  1. Purging the police institution, removing those commands or agents who participated in acts in violation of human rights. This separation will have to be done after an exhaustive, administrative investigation in order to define responsibilities and avoid reprisals, and independently of the corresponding criminal investigations. To ensure the transparency of this task they could designate observers from civil society.
  2. Reviewing the normative legal framework of the institution, concurrent with the suggested process, in order to ensure the guarantee of non repetition, taking into consideration the re-establishment of obligatory retirement of the director of the National Police every five years, once their period has been completed, incorporating mechanisms for civil supervision and control, external to the institution, regulating law 872 in accordance with professional guidelines and respectful of human rights, implementing a police career in order to ensure the entry and promotion by merit and police professionalization; eliminating the figure of voluntary police; trasferring the youth recovery programs to other government entities outside of the police; reviewing the internal norms and administrative procedures that regulate the behavior of agents.
  3. Reform article 231 third paragraph of the Penal Processing Code so that all deprivation of liberty be authorized by a judge, eliminating the possibility that detentions be done based on a police order.

In terms of the system for the administration of justice, investigations show that the judicial system did not adequately use the law to defend the rights of the victims of human rights violations. On the contrary, it was turned into a tool for the criminalization of social protest. “The validity of rights and freedoms in a democratic system require a legal and institutional order where the law prevails over the will of rulers and individuals, and where there is effective judicial control over the constitutionality and legality of acts of public authorities” (Rome Statutes of the International Criminal Court), the GIEI recommends:

  1. Investigating the behavior and eventually purging the justice system of those judges and other officials who violated due process, or who have not complied with maintaining their independence from the political authorities. These processes should be done in accordance with international standards.
  2. Establishing a judicial career based on objective criteria and merit for admission, promotion and removal of judges and magistrates which would include the Supreme Court. This career system should include objective criteria, clearly defined and established in the law, for the selection and naming of magistrates and judges. These criteria should demand that the people selected to occupy judicial positions be qualified people of integrity, with appropriate training and judicial qualifications and proven independence to exercise the responsibility.
  3. Do the naming of magistrates and judges through a public contest based on merit, that would ensure citizen oversight.
  4. Taking into account the lack of independence demonstrated by the judicial system, establish the necessary reforms and mechanisms to ensure that the acts of violence occurred starting April 18th be prosecuted by judicial entities composed of magistrates who would ensure impartiality, expertise, and have adequate resources. For that purpose different possibilities must be evaluated that would include the eventual participation of international judges and/or advice and support from international cooperation, particularly from countries who have had to deal with and prosecute processes of violent repression.
  5. Taking into account the lack of independence demonstrated by the judicial branch, establish the necessary reforms and mechanisms to ensure the review of the sentences that were issued and those that are issued in the future by the current tribunals, in order to determine whether they have violated constitutional guarantees or legal dispositions that would have adverse affects on due process. This process of review should be done with the people convicted or sentenced on probation. This task should be carried out by magistrates duly selected for their personal and professional qualities, and recognition of their autonomy and independence. Evaluating the possibility of calling in magistrates from other countries and/or requesting support of international cooperation for this task is recommended.
  6. Reaffirming that the purpose of the penitentiary system is the re-education, rehabilitation and reincorporation of the convict into society, and improving the conditions of the penal population in terms of access to basic services of food and health care, with an emphasis on women, and access to relatives and civil society organizations specialized in penitentiary treatment.
  7. Urging the Government to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court for the purpose of ensuring that the crimes against humanity are not left in impunity and as an assurance of their non repetition; and accepting the competency of the International Criminal Court on the crimes against humanity committed since April 18, 2018, in accordance with what is established in Art. 12, subsection 3.

The Public Ministry as an institution independent of the executive branch and responsible for the analysis, investigation and exercise of penal action in cases, has not fulfilled its duty to represent the victims, no matter what their ideology or social or political context, and carry out exhaustive, independent and impartial investigations; which is why the GIEI recommends for their reform:

  1. Investigating and eventually removing the prosecutors and officials who did not fulfill the independent exercise of their function, or obstructed the clarification of the facts. These processes should be carried out in accordance with international standards.
  2. Establishing a career for prosecutors on the basis of objective criteria and merit for admission, promotion and removal of prosecutors, that would include the Attorney General. This career system should include objective criteria, clearly defined and established in the law, for the selection and naming of prosecutors. These criteria should require that the people selected be qualified people of integrity with the appropriate training and judicial qualifications, and proven independence for the exercise of their responsibility.
  3. Do the naming of prosecutors through a public contest, based on merit, that would ensure citizen oversight.
  4. For the purpose of recovering the trust and credibility of the Public Ministry, and ensure the victims, their relatives and the entire society a quick, independent and impartial investigation of the violent acts that occurred in the period between April 18 and May 30, as well as those that occurred later, it is urgently recommended the creation of a Special Prosecutor Office, composed of members duly selected for their personal and professional qualities and the recognition of their autonomy and independence. For that purpose civil society has to participate in the process of the identification of the profiles, as well as in the selection of the prosecutors. Likewise, to strengthen their independence and autonomy, and ensure impartial investigations that would include all those directly and indirectly responsible like their chain of command, it is recommending evaluating, at least in the first phase, the suitability that along with national prosecutors, international prosecutors be called to be part of the Special Prosecutor´s office. It is recommended in that sense that the countries of the international community might put at the disposition of the State of Nicaragua profiles of prosecutors from their nationality qualified for that purpose, and who would accompany the creation process.

Recommendations to other actors:

  1. For the purpose of preventing impunity for the crimes against humanity, it is recommended that the member States of the regional system (OAS) and the international system (UN) begin investigations, and in their case prosecute those responsible for the crimes referred to in the framework of universal jurisdiction, and in accordance with the internal legislation of each country.
  2. It is recommended that international bilateral and multilateral aid, as well as regional and international financial entities, incorporate an analysis of human rights of the country and the level of compliance with the commitments assumed, so their contribution might be focused on the elimination of the challenges and obstacles identified by the treaty supervision bodies, and by international mechanisms for the protection of human rights.
  3. Finally, the GIEI considers essential that Nicaraguan society in general, and particularly the most privileged and less vulnerable sectors, do not leave the victims of the serious acts of violence alone, and accompany them in their claim for justice and reparations.


[1] Refers to the “Agreement between the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, and the Government of Nicaragua for the investigation of the acts of violence that happened in the period between April 18 and May 30 in Nicaragua.”