Category Archives: Peace-building

Not tripping over the same stone

Not tripping over the same stone

by Fabiola Zeledón, Freddy Pérez, Claudio Hernández, Hulda Miranda, Rebeca Espinoza and René Mendoza

Juan, president of the cooperative, got off the bus, and walked like a rooster, with his chest held high.

-Greetings, young lady. I am the president of the cooperative

-Good day, Juan.

-Call me “Mr Juan”. I was born a leader. I am the way, the truth and the money, hahaha.

-Ahh… Who said that…?

Didn´t you hear me…? Tell your Dad to send his contributions. I will give him a loan.

A sparrow that was flying around the area, seeing that was happening, crashed against a tree. The bird couldn´t believe what it was hearing!

When at last there was a restructuring of the organs and administration of a cooperative, winds of change were felt. Among other reasons, the cooperative was founded to be a democratic space and a place for learning for the members. Nevertheless, a short time after the changes, the cooperative tends to return to its old course: hierarchical structure, absence of information, disillusioned members, lack of ownership… How things change so as to not change. Why do we trip over the same stone time and time again? Here, in contrast to the sparrow, we reflect on what is happening. Then we add a second question: How can we avoid this stone and walk along the cooperative path without “crashing” into the first tree? In this article we reflect on these questions based on our own experience of recovering a cooperative.

1.     That tripping stone

In Chapter 12 to 16 of the Book of Revelation in the Bible, John, from the island of Patmos, warns about the first beast that shows itself to be powerful. But he warns us that its power comes from another beast, that we should not get confused. That second beast also is powerful, but its power is not its own either, but comes from a third beast. Something similar happens in a good number of cooperatives. See Figure 1.

The manager or president personified in a person tends to appear as the patron. He says: “Aid organizations only write to me”; “I am going to give the members directions because you are like children”; “I give you loans”; “You owe me”. The members resign themselves: “to whatever he says”; “we are small producers”; “I go to him for loans”. The leader or patron who centralizes decisions and concentrates resources, ends up believing that there is no need for assemblies, that he was born a leader and that is sacred. If some institution sees that that cooperative is like a hacienda, the patron shouts to the four winds about “autonomy” and against “third party [outside] actors”. He believes himself to be the general assembly, oversight board, administrative council and manager all rolled into one. The members dream of one day becoming that patron; Fanon said that then in Algeria: “The oppressed dream about being the oppressor”.

But his power is not his own. He or she is the face, generally, of a group that is as global as it is local, who live off the control of the resources that revolve around the cooperative. These include buyers, certifiers, agro-industry, State institutions, financial organizations…Behind these acronyms are individuals who manipulate their own organizations. They say: “information confuses the members”; “Buy coffee or cacao in the street and pass it off organic”. The patron senses that he lacks power, that his power comes from that group, so he goes to church and there whispers to himself: “I am not a bad person, I was tempted by money”.

The power of this group is not its own either. It comes from the patron-fieldhand structure, wedded to capitalism. This structure says: “everything is possible with money”; “more volume, more earnings”; “everything has already been studied”; “even God does not like stupid people”. Any natural force or wealth, economic wealth and friends of the member families remain diluted in the face of this structure.

Now we are able to understand how it is that we trip over the same stone. The saying goes: “human beings are the only animal that trips twice over the same stone”. We started a cooperative, and it is trapped by this harmful group, and this group responds to that hacienda and capitalist structure. If our patron is removed from his post, the new president or administrator takes his place, they make him repeat [his term] and keep him as an errand boy, while they make him believe that he is the top honcho! What happened? That structure awaits the new president or administrator as the “spare tire”, once he arrives, they exchange him for the “flat tire”, while the “vehicle” keeps rolling on. So it is that time and time again we trip over the same stone.

2.     Walking on the cooperative path

There were elections in the Reynerio Tijerino cooperative. The members were happy.

-Luis Javier Vargas, a member, quoting the Bible, exclaimed: “When the just rule, the people are happy”

-the recently named president, Justo Rufino Espinoza, responded: “Let´s not be overconfident”.

It was a moment of joy, heart, reason and consciousness.

A hummingbird that was flying by, began to sing of joy.

When we began to get tired of tripping, discovering those three “beasts” woke us up. We refused to be that patron, that “spare tire”. The brief conversation between Luis Javier and Justo Rufino reveals that individual and collective combination, between emotion and reason, between hope and reality. A person makes themselves just, they are not born just. “In an open treasure, even the most just sins”, says an old saying, that is why the new president warned: “Let´s not be overconfident”. In other words, the cooperative has to create mechanisms to build trust and produce justice. How can it do so? Here we list some mechanisms.

The first is preparing for each activity. This means studying each situation and reflecting on the notes that we have taken of past conversations and meetings. Claudio Hernández says: “I have been taking notes for years, I can lose anything in my house, but not my notes”. Freddy Pérez adds: “If I would have known that my notes were important for learning, I would have taken notes sooner”. On the basis of notes and other information, we prepare ourselves for each meeting, negotiation and activity – imagining each detail before doing things. In this way we overcome the old practice of the patron, of doing things impulsively, because you feel safe under the shadow of the second beast, we overcome relying on the patron who says “leave it to me, I will solve it”. The more we prepare ourselves and coordinate as a group, the more our confidence increases and the more we help the cooperative.

The second mechanism is realizing that in the cooperative people have the power that comes from interpreting and applying the rules of the cooperative. These rules are the result of the decisions of the Assembly, wedded to the values of our communities. Our patron are the legitimate rules and processes. We guide ourselves by these rules, and we apply them through the corresponding organs. Our loyalty is not to money, but to the general assembly composed of the members, who produce these rules and who every three years elect other members for the different posts. Money is a means; the end are the members.

So if a member is looking for a loan, he goes to the credit committee, and follows the rules that the assembly of the cooperative approved. No one should take the place of the credit committee in a cooperative; it is not like in the haciendas, where the patron is at the same time the credit committee, general assembly, oversight board and manager. Our statutes tell us that profits are redistributed in the cooperative, therefore we must redistribute the profits of the cooperative. In a cooperative each member has rights, voice and vote, without regard to whether they produce a little or a lot, each member has the right to become president, to their part of the profits, and to have a copy of the statutes of their cooperative. In a cooperative the directions do not come down from above, they are made in the Assembly, and in the other organs of the cooperative. “Oh”, said Freddy Pérez, “I thought that being a board member was solving the problems of the members, rather it is the members who solve their problems through the cooperative”. “It pains me what I experienced, I know that I should not lend the money of the cooperative to the members, but I did it again”, expressed Claudio Hernández, recognizing that those “3 beasts” have formed a nest in our minds, but that our consciousness wrestles with them, and that being a cooperative is gaining more and more terrain. “We do not need credit, we need our profits”, insists Josué Moisés Ruíz.

The third mechanism is connecting the inside forces with the outside ones. Figure 2 shows the harmful leadership style, the patron who believes himself to be the door to the cooperative and to outside the cooperative; while Figure 3 shows the style of leadership that a real cooperative practices. If the cooperative is guided by its statutes, the State will legalize its path. If this process happens making its organs function, external institutions and aid agencies will respect the cooperative; they will treat it as a cooperative, and not as a hacienda arranging everything only with the patron. For example, the credit committee will meet with the institutions or organizations that might provide credit to the cooperative. The commercialization committee will meet with commercial enterprises and organizations that provide processing services for their products.

Internally, the members of the organs visit the members, and encourage them to visit one another as members. Members of the commercialization committee visit a member family, see their product and their wet mill, and at the same time come to understand the family in their multiple interests – most deeply felt needs and dreams; it is on this basis that the committee advances in their work strategies. The members of the oversight board, credit committee, education committee and the Administrative Council all do the same. A visit is a blessing that makes friendship and trust, loyalty and truth blossom. The more informed a member family is, the more it contributes with their ideas and oversight to the cooperative; the more connections are cemented in visits that generate friendship, the more the cooperatives become instruments for the majority of their members.

The fourth mechanism is that organizational improvement must improve our farms and homes. The cooperative is not there to apply agrochemical inputs and then lie, saying that we have organic production. Nor is producing an organic crop leaving it “without applying anything”. If we visit the member families, each family should visit their plants every day as well. The cooperative is not there so that our members might consume the coffee dregs, but to consume the best of their coffee, honey, grains, vegetables, bread and the best of their enchiladas…

3.     In conclusion

This article is the product of 5 months of tension, and the pursuit of a cooperative to defend its rights, speak the truth and have the strength to change. This process taught us that a small group, in alliance, is capable of making cooperativism contagious. The biggest changes start in our own minds. The rule that “we will always need a patron” or that “leaders are born” comes from the hacienda institution and capitalism, and has built a nest in our minds. How can we get that idea out of our heads? To the extent that we reflect, demonstrating it, trying mechanisms out and being persistent, we can free ourselves from that idea.

At the beginning of the article we asked ourselves why we were tripping over the same stone. Throughout the article we have discovered the “three beasts”, who have trapped most of the cooperatives in our countries. These “beasts” make us trip time and time again.

The second question was how to avoid tripping again. We listed 4 mechanism that we have experimented with: preparing oneself for each meeting and not moving impulsively, following the rules of the cooperative, being a leader who connects with the members and the external actors, and making organizational improvement go hand in hand with the improvement of our production. Our aspiration is that these four mechanisms might help us to get those harmful norms out of our minds that come from the “3 beasts”. Being a cooperative is path that we peasant families need to hone. If we do it, the hummingbirds will be joyful as well, and the sparrows will not longer crash against any trees!

Let us end this article recalling another rule of the patron: “you should not help members, because they are ungrateful”, the patrons repeat. When Sandino decided to not surrender, General José María Moncada said to him, “The people are ungrateful; what is important is living well”. Sandino did not crack. There is no better gratitude than the members recovering their cooperative and closing the door on the thief, the patron, and the three beasts, and follow their own path.

 

TO FAITHFUL CHRISTIAN CATHOLICS, MEN AND WOMEN OF GOOD WILL WHO LISTEN TO OUR VOICES

In the midst of the independence days celebrations in Nicaragua, the denouncement by the IACHR of continued repression by the government and lack of civil liberties, the rejection by the government of a high level OAS delegation to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis, the Catholic Bishops Conference issued this pastoral letter. It is a  hopeful  and faith filled response to the current bleak situation, encouraging non violent change for a more inclusive and tolerant society. 

MESSAGE SEPTEMBER 15, 2019

EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE OF NICARAGUA

[Original Spanish document]

TO FAITHFUL CHRISTIAN CATHOLICS, MEN AND WOMEN OF GOOD WILL WHO LISTEN TO OUR VOICES

Truth and forgiveness are the basis and path to peace

We write to you, while commemorating these days of patriotism, with a look to the present and the future, as was done on Independence day whose new anniversary we celebrate. And since there is no future without memory, the present offers the opportunity to feel pain from our disputes, past and recent. After nearly a year and a half of suffering and pain where we have experienced in our flesh the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. This encourages us to pronounce the Word of life and hope that comforts wounded hearts and illuminates uncertainty in the face of the evil that stalks us.

The firm basis for a new construction

We can ask ourselves. How can we contribute to the solution of the acute social, political problems and respond to the great challenge of poverty and exclusion? How can we do this in a country which finds itself in a profound political, social and economic crisis, where the beginning of a new stage seems to be appearing, with its corresponding challenges for our democratic coexistence? There are signs that our institutional attire is too tight, and the citizenry expression is emerging asking for profound changes and reforms. The economic inequality, unemployment and opportunities seem an endemic evil difficult to correct, condemning several social collectives to unfair exclusion and invisibility, like migrants, women, youth, people with different capacities, ethnic groups, among others. Is it possible to love the person who closes the doors of their heart to Our Lord Jesus Christ and thereby, to the opportunity to promote a culture of true peace and democracy? Is it possible to maintain hope, when everything seems to indicate that there is no power capable of resolving our crisis? What can be done, if the word of civil society does not count? Is it possible today in Nicaragua to be Catholic and work for an Institution that does not respect conscience, and toys with the hunger of the people? How can so much cruelty to which we have been subjected be pardoned? Is it possible to heal these wounds?

As brothers along the path, the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua makes these questions its own, and responds animated by faith: Pope Benedict XVI, on inaugurating the Ecclesial Conference of Aparecida, offers us in this respect a brilliant contribution:

“The problems of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the world today, are multiple and complex, and cannot be confronted with general programs […]. In this context it is indispensable to talk about the problem of structures, above all, those that create injustice. In reality, just structures are a condition without which a just order in society is not possible. But how do they start? How do they work? Capitalism as well as Marxism promised finding the path for the creation of just structures, and stated that they, once established, would function on their own; they stated that not only would there not be a need for a prior individual morality, but that they would promote common morality. And it has been demonstrated that this ideological promise is false. The facts make it clear”[…] Just structures are an indispensable condition for a just society, but they do not begin nor function without a moral consensus of society about fundamental values, and about the need to live these values with the necessary renunciations, including against one´s personal interests […].

LET US LOVE THE COUNTRY. We also invite you to Love the Country.

The love for country that should prevail above individual goods, if it is as such, Pope Benedict already said it, has to be united with the pillars that provide sustenance to all coexistence: truth, justice, liberty, fraternity, solidarity. And it also requires more subjective virtues, like empathy, the commitment to know and appreciate others, the desire to save the proposition of the neighbor. Otherwise, the very objective pillars of Love for country are weakened and deteriorate with the reiteration of suspicions and disqualifications. And one small pebble is enough to bring down what an enormous effort had been able to raise up. Is this not one of the causes of the unrest, that, in spite of the evident progress, afflicts national coexistence?

Crisis of Trust

One of the reasons that are at the root of the unrest is due to a crisis of trust, which has been transformed in our Nicaragua into an omnipresent virus that infects all the relationships of our lives, and this is reprehensible! Authority is distrusted, institutions are distrusted, good intentions are distrusted and even the viability of projects themselves. This very distrust puts stress on family life, distances us from our neighbors, and creates barriers between groups and sectors. For this reason, the dialogue that we need to solve our problems is seen to be interrupted, curtailed, darkened. And we even distrust its feasibility and effectiveness for achieving the agreements needed […] It is impossible to believe in distrust! It is impossible to educate in distrust! It is impossible to love with distrust! Distrust cuts the fabric of human tissue and makes the beam that holds up the temple, the nation, the home collapse.

For this reason the cultivation of trust has to be enriched with the “culture of encounter”, which implies the more active attitude of taking responsibility for the other, of committing myself to their care, to their growth, to their freedom, because in the diversity that God has given us as gift is also our wealth. It is not just a matter of “tolerating” the one who is different – a minimalistic attitude – but of “celebrating” with magnanimity our differences, expressing them with freedom, with care and respect, to grow the wealth of our ideas and values. Let us think about Nicaragua and love our country, that is the greatest good of life in society. To work for the good of Nicaragua is to care for, on one hand, and to use, on the other hand, this series of institutions that legally, civilly, politically and culturally structure social life, which is configured in this way as a nation. Our neighbor is loved more effectively the more one works for the good of the country that responds also to their real needs, having the wisdom of integrating and including their wounds and disagreements, certainly in this way we will be capable of inaugurating a more demanding and qualitatively more robust democracy. As pastors, we are fully certain that we can do this in Nicaragua. In this sense, we encourage the youth to continue making their contributions to the nation, with their study and training, with their energy and yearnings for justice and liberty, with all the non violent means within their reach. We do it with the words of Pope Francis, in the World Youth Campaign celebrated in Rio de Janeiro: “do not put yourself at the tail end of history. Be active members! Go on the offensive! Play down the field, build a better world, a world of brothers and sisters, a world of justice, of love, of peace, of fraternity, of solidarity. “ (Pope Francis, Speech to Youth, July 27, 2013).

Encouraged by faith we also believe that:

  1. A new culture laden with hope is possible. As long as there are men and women lovers of Truth and love, who hope and believe in a better future, their dreams will not be snatched away from them. “The God that made himself a lamb tells us that the world is saved by the crucified one and not by the crucifiers. The world is redeemed by the patience of God, and destroyed by the impatience of human beings” (Benedict XVI). The flame that we have received of family values needs to be kept alive: our being eucharistic, marian, believers, hardworking, jovial, sacrificial, etc.

 

  1. “You have heard that it was said: you will love your neighbor and you will hate your enemy. Well I say to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you might be the children of our heavenly Father…(Mt 5:43-45). These words of Jesus are not easy to live. Since logically they assume swimming against the current. Even for the disciples themselves it was difficult for them to understand and take on that language. Justifiably they said among themselves this language is difficult, who will be able to understand it? (Jn 9:60). Nevertheless, with his deeds and words, Jesus was establishing a new culture: the culture of love (Jn 15:12). Systems of power and oppression are smashed there. Throughout history we have seen men and women who have assumed this mandate of loving without limits: let us recall Saint Oscar Arnulfo Romero, prophet and martyr in the midst of a context marked by hate and death; the Servant of God, Fr. Odorico D´Andrea, who exercised the apostolate of mercy, reconciliation and offered his life for the peace of this country, marked as well by hate and death. They did not renounce Truth and Love, and that is why they did so much good for their peoples. Today our country more than ever yearns to resort to this capacity for loving as a response to the system of hate and death installed in Nicaragua, which attempts to hide the action of God.

 

  1. It is difficult to be a Catholic Christian in these conditions, but, we exhort you to not quit struggling for our faith. As long as we are faithful to our values, we know that “nothing is lost as long is there is hope to find it” (St. Augustine). Fundamental for each one of us Nicaraguans is “looking at He who sees us” (St. Theresa of Avila), and that we do not give up. He knew that he was going to be crucified. He knew everything that he was going to suffer. Nevertheless, he made the decision to go up to Jerusalem, to the place of his martyrdom. This conviction for his mission, salvific one, made him overcome the obstacles of the enemies as well of those closest to him (Mt 27:1-2; Mk 10: 32.45; Lk 20:20-26). This has to be our conviction in the mission that we have of building together a country with true peace and democracy. In spite of the fact that a brother Nicaraguan might feel misunderstood where he works. In spite of the fact that he might feel judged or rejected by those who are around him, even by his family for thinking differently (Mt 10: 34-36; Lk 12: 51-53), as long as his life revolves around love, in the end everything will make sense. That is why it is necessary to cultivate prayer. God always has the last word. Let us remain with him, like Mary at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:25). Let us hope with faith. Let us do it for God, for our children, for our youth, for our elderly, being faithful to our Church.

 

  1. To carry out this mission it is important to forgive, as Jesus tells us: “if someone hits you on the cheek, offer him the other. If someone forces you to give him your mantle, give him also your tunic” (Mt 5:39-40). When Jesus asks you to do this, he is not inviting you to act like a fool, but he is inviting you to break with the cycle of violence. This is being wise. Because violence engenders violence, and as our grandmothers say: “fire is not extinguished with fire”. Let us not wait for the enemies of good to take this step, it is us, first of all, who have to take it on, because forgiveness brings with it that peace that we are called to cultivate. If we want social peace, let us first seek peace in our hearts. We need to break the cycle of violence. There are many peoples who have triumphed with peaceful revolution, with the force of values, faith, hope and charity, in a word, with the power of God.

The illuminating Word of the Gospel

In the face of this great challenge, in the Christian tradition, the wisdom of the Sermon of the Mount emerges with beauty and cogency, especially the Beatitudes. The protagonists in them are not the powerful, nor the rich, the erudite, nor those who determine the immediate future of populations. The protagonists are the poor, the afflicted, dispossessed, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful, the clean of heart, those who work for peace.

The Beatitudes invite us to build our coexistence not on iron poorly mixed with clay, but on the rock of the Word of God. And this firmness is expressed, necessarily, in care for those most disadvantaged of our society, who hope that justice might be for them a mother that shelters them, honors them and invites them to the table of all. Not just for pity, which would already be a human sentiment, but so that they might have available that which is owed them in justice.

In the words of Pope Francis, “the future demands today the task of rehabilitating politics, which is one of the highest forms of charity. The future demands of us also a humanistic vision of the economy, and a politics that achieves evermore and better participation of people, avoids elitism and eradicates poverty”. And to achieve this urgent mission he had invited us with great clarity to “travel in pilgrimage to the existential fringes of society.”

Conclusion: Invited to dream

Authorities, friends, brothers and sisters: The Sermon of the Mount (Mt 5-7) is a monument to fraternity. It is based on our common descendancy from God the Father, who does not admit discrimination based on race, sex, creed or lack of belief. A fraternity that, when it is forgotten, leads us to act like Cain, losing good sense and abandoning more human means. It is the madness that leads to preparing rockets and putting trust in weapons of death. This has never been the path. Never! In contrast, when real space is given to fraternity and it is believed in, we can confront one another with the truth, expressed with respect, love, frankness and with affection, and with an untiring dialogue, keeping the doors open to reunion and coexistence in peace.

Invited to dream

Let us recall the dream of Martin Luther King (June 28, 1963), let ourselves be allowed to dream from faith, as bishops of our country Nicaragua: let us dream of a country where we might rediscover graciousness in our personal and institutional relationships; let us dream of a country where people are exactly in the center of our concern and our work; let us dream of recognizing one another as brothers, as sisters, even more fraternal with the weakest, most vulnerable and with those with different capacities; let us dream that the greatest interest not be money but the growth of people and the happiness of their families; let us dream that Nicaragua might be, in truth, a table for all, also for those who migrate seeking in that home new horizons for their lives; let us dream of a country without discrimination of any type; let us dream of a country with its hand extended and face uncovered; let us dream of a just, fraternal and caring country.

Let us dream of a reconciled country! Let us dream of a hopeful country!

PRAY THE ROSARY

Mary is the beloved of Yahweh and Nicaragua belongs to Mary. We invite you to pray as a family the Holy Rosary so that our mother might take to Jesus the intention of being faithful to our mission of building a better Nicaragua for all. Let us cultivate this tradition around our grandparents and parents. It is in the family, “small domestic church” (St. Paul VI), where new leaders are formed with the vocation of service to the country. The solution to our conflicts as a nation start in the family. Let us make our homes into sanctuaries of love.

Issued in the offices of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua on the 15th day of September in the year 2019, on the feast of our Lady of Sorrows.

Seal of the Episcopal Conference, and signatures of:

Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano

Mons. Juan Abelardo Mata Guevara

Mons. David Zywiec Sidor, OFM Cap.

Mons. Sócrates René Sándigo Jirón

Mons. Pablo Schmitz OFM Cap

Mons. Rolando José Álvarez Lagos

Mons. Carlos Enrique Herrera Gutiérrez

Mons. Jorge Solórzano Pérez

Social Inequality

By any reckoning, any resolution to the current crisis will  still leave a very polarized society. In fact current government pronouncements fuel the polarization by continuing to refer to the opposition as coup supporters, many of whom were actually FSLN members shocked at the willingness of the government to kill their own people.

But another reason for the polarization – and one of the key arguments the government makes to garner support – is that it  has implemented, and continues to implement, policies that benefit the poor majorities, i.e. building public parks, investing in health care infrastructure, rural roads, providing subsidies for production, etc. Any glimpse at the official website el 19 Digital provides daily updated lists of examples. The unspoken but obvious question the government poses to the population is whether another government would implement such policies. 

This article stresses how important it is that any future government  address this key issue. The position of the opposition is that the current  “pro-poor” policies of this government are forms of political patronage, financed with  money siphoned from the Venezuela oil deal that Ortega used to enrich his family, and has also used to buy popular support. Therefore some of them argue that such policies should be terminated by any responsible future government, because in fact they are unsustainable. While this may seem a logical argument, if the end result is that the poor feel abandoned again, it will only feed the polarization.

The opposition now legitimately asks the question where the government is getting the money to finance all the police and paramilitary activity. But if a future government is not able to find the resources to respond to the social inequality, it will be asked a similar question about their own increased spending on “security”. Because if history is a gauge, what is saved by cutting social spending, ends up getting spent on social control.

Social Inequality

By Oscar René Vargas, published in electronic newsletter Artículo 66

June 30, 2019

[see original Spanish at https://www.articulo66.com/2019/06/30/la-desigualdad-social/ ]

If the people below move, those above will fall.

  1. The social inequality that prevails in Nicaragua has reached such levels that it conspires against social harmony, the environment, the security and development of the country.
  2. The social inequality is also violence on the part of the higher social strata toward those “below”, and every day moves us as a country away from the fruits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  3. Important changes have only happened in the spheres of those above, the lives of those below continues not to be of interest the powerful.
  4. This growing inequality is not sustainable, and the way to attack it, the master key, is: employment, decent, well paid, productive work with rights and social protections.
  5. The phenomenon of child labor has its origins in the inequality, poverty and extreme poverty that leads families to send their youngest members out to work, as well as the different forms of domestic violence that force minors to earn their own living.
  6. The discrepancy between the volume of services provided and the meager health results have several explanations of a social, economic and political order, but the deficient and disfunctional public [health] system has a very direct influence with direct repercussions on the most vulnerable sectors.
  7. Also undeniable are the different forms of corruption that have grown like a cancer with multiple metastases in all the health sector to the detriment of the poor.
  8. We are immersed in a mind-boggling and monumental corruption of the Ortega-Murillo government that has lost even the smallest trace of honesty in the so called mafia of power.
  9. All of this are effective obstacles to health care services, and get translated into social inequities and inequalities.
  10. The social inequality must be the future of the country agenda from here to 2030. It is where we should go because the dominant, authoritarian and despotic style of development is not sustainable.
  11. Equality has to be in the center of the future economic policy of a progressive government, because what has increased is the disparity, the inequality between the one who has the most and the one who has the least; the inequality of income, distribution of wealth, opportunities and access to public goods.
  12. In the future the logic of zero corruption has to be implemented, zero cronyism, zero nepotism; eliminate all that blight of the national political culture.
  13. To effectively fight against inequality it is important to close off the tax evasion of big capital and take the case to a national debate.
  14. The country needs a redistribution of income and wealth, above all of profits.
  15. A national debate that would allow us to reach a consensus around a solution to the current imbalance in the distribution of income, social inequality, access to health care, type of education, as well as the appropriation of wealth.
  16. Therefore, the progressive government has to have as its priority objectives: improving equity, reducing social inequality and poverty.
  17. In other words, being in favor of a key point: not imposing poverty salaries as a mechanism for business productivity and bloated profits for capital.
  18. If we should learn anything from these hours of struggle and indignation, it is that without a social and political organization of citizens, the adversities will become a permanent and recurring tragedy from which no one will be exempt.

San José, Costa Rica, June 30, 2019

The alternative path of associativism

The alternative path of associativism

René Mendoza Vidaurre[1]

The betrayal of their own path

People dispossessed for so many years collected their savings and gave them to one of their sons, Solin, for him to pay for the coffee that was collected from their own group. Solin had never had so much money; he was like a deer in the headlights. He paid for the coffee. Some of the same people who had saved, behind the back of the rest, went to him to get him to lend them money. Solin first said no, but these people insisted, and he gave in. More people showed up, also from other parts of the country, and he ceded. Solin felt like a little patrón, “The people trust me”, his chest puffed out like a balloon. This path of giving out other people´s money, saying that it was his, led him to lie and believe his own lie. When other people showed him his mistake, Solin offered them money to shut them up, and if they did not accept it, he would slander them. One day he looked himself in the mirror and was frightened to find that he did not recognize himself.

When the owners of the money asked him to give it back, he had lent it all out. “And where is the money?”, they raised their voices. “You have already eaten it,” the theft reverberated like 10, 100 and 1000 years ago. Solin and several of the savers had betrayed their own path. Both took the path trodden for centuries by the old hacienda owners and fieldhands, by the comandante and those who died, by the manager and those who believed themselves to be cooperative members.

This story illustrates what happens frequently in cooperatives. A group of people save, define their purposes, agreed on their rules and then betray that path. The old path trodden by the patrón where the fieldhands follow for their pay, become indebted and to look for a favor, a path also taken by governments and churches (“Holy Patron Saint”), clouds and blocks any other path. In the story this group of people and Solin look at themselves in the mirror, or ask about their resources, and are surprised to be on the old path of dispossession, moving from being “servers” to “being served”. Their biggest tragedy is not so much the use of the money, but the fact that they have betrayed their path, this is the reason for the bad use of the money and the fact that their lives have taken a 360 degree turn, arriving at the same place. How can people who organize be able to follow their own path?

1.     Individual-collective duality and the dilemma of betrayal

In organizations that face corrupt acts, there is finger pointing, accusations and complaints. “He is incorrigible”, “he is guilty of bad administration”, “she is not accountable”, “she uses our money for her benefit and that of her managers”, lash out the members. These

 phrases in a cooperative belie an individual perspective, accentuated by the religious conservatism of “personal salvation”, and by the neoliberal doctrine where what is important is the individual and not society–there is no such thing as society, said the first female British Prime Minister M. Thatcher in 1987, during the full eruption of neoliberalism. Reproducing this perspective, nevertheless, is a way of “washing our hands”, of showing oneself to be innocent while pointing out others as the guilty parties.

These same expressions, nevertheless, can be read as “spitting against the wind” from the collective perspective. Because the member who is doing the accusing, with or without a title in some organ of their organization, on seeking a loan directly from the administrator, behind the back of his own cooperative, is not exercising his/her role, and/or violates the rules of their own organization; on the other hand, the corrupt administrator establishes himself reproducing the idea of the patrón;: “With 100 cordobas I keep them happy.” Many times even the State or aid organization officials who support the cooperatives borrow money from the managers, knowing that it is money that belongs to the cooperatives. “The spit” also falls on this member and this official who preaches cooperativism. A systematic act of corruption happens, above all, because of the lack of functioning of the respective organs, because of the lack of compliance with the rules of the organizations, and the accounting norms on the administrative side, as well as because of the acceptance of aid organizations*.

The members know the rules and procedures, but they see them as tedious, “paperwork”, “bureaucracy” – high transaction costs, they would say in economics. The members of the organs also see it in this way: “meeting is a waste of time.” While the patrón “from one big roll” decides to lend to them or not. In this process the members believe the administrator about any version about the source of the money, there is no culture of verifying their versions, because, they think, it would be distrusting and ungrateful; for that very reason, they do not ask for receipts either, the patrón does not do receipts – his word is enough! In addition to believing him, they fear him, “a person with other people´s money is capable of anything”, they whisper, so they keep quiet – do not speak in front of the patrón! This is a rule that is resurrected. From here the “vice” of playing with “other people´s money”, more than individual and exclusive of the manager or some president, is a collective “vice”; a collective act causes individual behavior – of corruption or honesty. See the upper part in Figure 1.

“The law is not being applied to him”, state the members and advisers of the organizations. With this they mean to say that organizations have laws, the State oversees compliance with the law; and that aid organizations have rules, and they do not apply them. This, however, continues to assume an individual perspective, believing that by “applying the law” “the patron is going to self correct”. It ignores what the history of any country tells us, “the patrón makes the laws”, be that with his right hand or his left. So we detect that this individual perspective, clothed in a collective and legal perspective, is moved by structures of dispossession; the “accusing”, the “abusing other people´s money” and “preaching laws” make the path of cooperativism disappear, and accentuate the path of dispossession – it is the dilemma of the betrayal. So we perceive that this structure is like rails for a train, it does not matter who the conductor is that is driving the train, nor how many years of schooling he might have, how many advisers and protectors of the law he has, that train will move along the rails; not matter who the administrators or presidents may be, these structures (“rails”) trap the conductors. In this way cooperatives can go broke, while these structures remain unmoved –“in an open treasure even the just will sin”, goes the saying.

At the same time this structure is being challenged. On the one hand, there are some members who cultivate a contingent awareness, that it is possible to make your own path and walk it; and on the other hand there are administrators who understand their role, respecting accounting rules and the collective perspective of organizations, shunning “inflating themselves” like balloons that run the risk of “bursting.” They do not “spit into the wind”, but recreate that collective perspective which finds itself supported by mechanisms that are coherent with more communitarian structures, and consultancies that study these rural underworlds – this is overcoming the dilemma of betrayal. See the lower part of Figure 1.

2.     Innovative mechanisms for cooperatives as the vehicle for repossession

“They do not let us be peasants”, shot off a Costa Rican leader in 1991, recognizing the onslaught of neoliberalism in turning the peasantry into workers and “wetbacks”. The “be peasants” has been more coherent with community structures, in conflict with structures of dispossession. It goes with mechanisms that make an alternative path possible, mechanisms that we have been learning from the exceptional organizations in Central America: see figure 2.

They are mechanisms that “de-commodify” peasant life, they involve awakening and organizing, deepening their roots, improving the organization of the commons, and sharing the path in a glocal alliance- because every space is glocal (global and local).

Mechanism 1: Voluntary genesis of cooperativism congruent with community principles

Nearly two centuries ago a group of textile workers in England saved part of their salaries to start a store, and with that stabilize their income and defend their basic needs. In Germany peasants organized to free themselves from usury. In both cases, the people understood that individually they were not able to overcome structural problems, like the low buying power of their salary and the usury that indebted them for life; organized, they could do so. Thus they defined their path and walked it. Over time cooperativism has expanded throughout the entire world and has become a double edged sword, a means for repossession for its members and communities from whence they come, and a means for dispossession when small elites appropriate it for profit. Read the brief dialogue in the box.

From the angle of the genesis of cooperativism, this dialogue shows the incomprehension of the administrator about what a cooperative is, as well as the wisdom of the younger brother about the social rule of “respecting someone else´s assets”. “The need of the other affects me”, says the administrator; precisely the crude “need” of people led to the fact that cooperativism emerged standing under the principle of respecting collective assets. The error of the administrator in this dialogue is providing a loan from money that is not his, and doing it outside of the rules and organs of the cooperative that named him “administrator”; with that he dispossessed the members of their resources, and full of a short term vision condemned needy people to suffering. Being “proud” is abusing “another´s assets”. This deformation results from the individual perspective derived from structures of dispossession.

The cooperative that originated in the will of its members to overcome structural adversities, and does it with rules based on community principles, like those expressed by the “younger brother” in the dialogue of respect for collective goods, is a long term structural mechanism.

Mechanism 2:  Rooted in diversified bases

The market demands a product and does not matter whether the one who produces it comes from one place or another; the State and aid agencies behave in a similar way, they legalize organizations or demand changes like “including women as members” without regard to where they come from. From working with cooperatives we learned that a cooperative that is rooted in its micro-territory has more possibilities of walking their walk, of being inclusive…

How to be rooted? Even though the members of a cooperative come from the same micro-territory, deciding that the administration –and therefore the financial transactions – are done in the territory itself, requires making explicit in a reflective way several beliefs written in stone for centuries: “Here they are going to steal from us, in the town there are Policemen and that is why it is safer there”, “no buyer or certifier is going to come out here to our place, we have to go out to civilization”, “here we are living in the brush, the patrón lives in the town”, “that little girl doesn´t know anything about administration, only men who ride on motorcycles know it.”

When the members of a cooperative come from the same micro-territory, and decide that their building and its administration are going to be in the same space, then we create favorable conditions for a good cooperative. The possibility that corruption might emerge and intensify is reduced. The mobility of the members to the cooperative´s building, as well as the attendance of women and men in the meetings is greater. We say that more women and men go to the meetings, because of the geographic proximity and because they do not have to travel to the municipal capital to attend meetings; the women can go to the meeting with their babies and/or children, something that is difficult if the meeting is in the municipal capital. This contributes to the cementing of trust among the members. Also the coordination between the administration and the organs of the cooperative can improve. The care of the members and board members over their administration increases, which is why the security of the resources of the cooperative in that place increases. Accessing information and asking their questions is also more possible.

The payments that are made in the territory itself to the members, be it for coffee, cacao, sugar cane or another crops, has an impact on the economy of the territory. The storefronts and small businesses sell more, new businesses tend to emerge. The interest of the partner of the member, and their children, in the receipts that their Father or Mother bring from the cooperative is greater. The possibility of having lovers under the argument that “I am going to town for a meeting” is reduced. It is like the butterfly effect in a world as interconnected as today´s world is, even more so is life interconnected in a micro-territory and in families.

Mechanism 3: the functioning of the cooperative organs and administration

The fact that a member might understand that organized they can overcome their structural problems is one step, the fact that they can facilitate that because their cooperative is rooted in their territory is a second big step. Nevertheless, there are cooperatives that in spite of having taken both steps, go broke or turn into a means for dispossession manipulated by small elites. The third mechanism is that each member, with or without a title, function in accordance with the rules and organs of their organization, without going “in secret” to the “real person in charge”, because the “real person in charge” in the cooperatives are its rules and organs.

It is easy to say that the organs of a cooperative function according to its rules. But it is difficult for it to happen. The phrase that is read in laws and management, that they are “management organs” illustrates that they are not “decision making organs”, that the power of making decisions was expropriated by the elites. How can the organs be “decision making” and the administration “management”, the former with a strategic role and the latter with an operational role? Apart from the fact that they know their statutes (rules), meet systematically and cultivate connections with their members and with external actors, the key is in the fact that they become learning organizations. How? First, each member is seen as a leader in their community, understanding that the biggest treasure is in their own social territory; consequently, their first task being multiplying their visits to other people, members or not of the cooperative, so that through conversations, they might understand the problems and opportunities that exist in their territory. Knowing them and sharing them is their fuel for pushing the cooperative to improve, and it is their source of ideas for enlightening cooperativism.

Second, the relationship between the administration and the organs is developed to the extent that they organize information, analyze it and on that basis define their policies and strategies to be followed. This provides work content for each organ. For example, information on loans and arrears is analyzed by each organ, particularly the credit committee; the Oversight Board finds one of its principle follow up tasks in this; the education committee, as a result of this analysis, proposes to work on financial education with the members about how to save, invest better and working with more autonomy, breaking with that old institution of “going into debt” and putting up with any exploitation for being “indebted”.

Third, making decisions based on the visits and the data analysis makes it possible for them to make better decisions. A particular area is diversification. A cooperative, even one with organs functioning acceptably, if it continues embracing mono-cropping, sooner rather than later will go broke; if it continues, it will work to dispossess. Promoting diversification, nevertheless, is difficult because of the atrocious structure of international power. Today to speak about agricultural cooperatives is nearly to talk about mono-cropping. So there are “successful” cooperatives that have credit, marketing and technology services just for one crop; the effect of mono-cropping on the peasant economy and the environment have been horrible for decades and centuries. The attached box illustrates the expansion of mono-cropping even through organic agriculture reduced to its dimension as a commodity, and the fact that people of good will from international organizations work against the peasantry while believing that they are “benefitting” them. Visiting and analyzing data leads us to question the origins of our policies and respond to the millennial strategy of peasant resistance: diversification and environmental sustainability. If the organs and the administration of a cooperative focus their tasks on diversification of the farm and agro-industry, their cooperative will democratize a little more, and will include more youth and women in general.

The geographical proximity facilitates organizational functioning, and this, focused on diversification, makes the cooperative be even more rooted, produces new innovative rules and starts the path of being an organization of repossession – of peasant viability with economic and social diversification, and environmental stability.

Mechanism 4: Glocal alliance for the cooperative path

These three mechanisms facilitate changes in the cooperative and in the economy of the member families and their territories, but they will achieve sustainability to the extent that they take on the attitude of a cooperative member. It is not just organizing voluntarily, looking at their territory, making decisions through their organs, it is feeling themselves to be, and being cooperative members. What does this mean?

For centuries indigenous and peasant families have cultivated a mentality of producing to eat. Then in the 1920s in Central America cash crops came in like coffee, sugar cane, cacao, and cattle. In that process they molded a mentality of being a “seller of coffee”, “seller of sugar cane”, or “seller of milk”. Consequently, they reasserted their territory (“country”) in their plot or farm: “My country ends with my agave fence”, they declared, which means that within this area there is a structure and a person in charge, that outside of that is not his world, that his world ends at the fence where the buyers come to buy his products. They do not even sell, they buy off of him. This mentality was intensified by the markets, “I will buy your coffee sun-dried or wet, the rest does not matter”, “I will buy your sugar cane”; likewise national and international aid organizations, allies of associative organizations, with people trained in universities that taught them that only “Inc.” companies produce profits, say to them: “work on the raw materials and the rest will we take care of”, “you are good for harvesting, industry and trade is our thing”.

What is the problem with this mentality? The peasant receives payment for their coffee or milk, that is their world; the other world is that of the patrón, where the profits are; the peasant never is interested in this other world, knowing what their patrón did with his profits; the very fact of asking him was showing ingratitude, insubordination and social suicide – their own people would treat them as someone trying to be his equal. This institutionality has been reproduced in associative organizations and their allies; a member looks for payment for their coffee, sugar cane or milk, they are not interested in knowing whether their organization generated profits or not; in Fair Trade the use of the premium of US$20/qq of coffee is previously defined in social investment, infrastructure… and $5 for the member family to invest in their farm; the premium for organic coffee of US$30 is perceived like this, “premium”, equal to a “roasted cow” that the patrón would provide for them at the end of the harvest, “premium” of a day of fiesta. In other words, the agave fence of the peasant member is “price of NY + premium” (see box); the member family understands that their profits and premiums are not an expression of their rights, but “a favor” (something “extra”, “charity”) of the local or global patrón, that is why they do not ask about it, do not ask for information, nor keep their receipts nor complain over the distribution of profits. Knowing this reality, the patrón (administrator or fair trade coffee buyer) repeats, “with 100 córdobas I keep them happy”, “with pig rinds and booze they leave happy”, “I buy from them at a good price and I give them a premium, whether that gets to the member´s family or not is their issue.”

Complaining over your profits is like being a “beggar with a club”. It is like a woman subjected by her husband, she feels “kept” and without the right to ask him about the “rest of his money”, and it is the mentality of the citizen who pays taxes and instead of complaining that his government reinvest in public works and provide him “good service”, see these works as the result of the goodness of the government (patrón).

The three mechanisms listed need to be complemented by this fourth one, with which we will move beyond this glocal mentality. How? First, building a mentality where the peasant family has awareness about the fact that their actions create value and have unexpected consequences, which is why they can refine their policies and carry out actions of even greater value and impact. This is possible if they observe and reflect on some details; for example, making sure that through the payment for the harvested coffee in that territory positive aggregate effects are generated in the economy of that territory, beyond their “agave fence”; observing the impact of their diversified organic agriculture on their farms as well as on the territory; reflecting on the effect of violating the agreements of their own cooperative, that leads them to lose resources as a cooperative and as a territory. On observing these positive and negative effects, the members can awaken their awareness of being coop members and of moving from their “agave fence” to understand that regardless of their purposes, their actions have a repercussion on the territory. In a parallel fashion, let also global actors awaken and understand that their actions have repercussions on the lives of the peasant people; if they look at a cooperative just as “coffee” or “cacao”, commodities, and believe that by providing a good price and premium they have already contributed to the families, they should ask themselves if they are sure that they have “contributed”; if one person turns into an elite capturing those premiums, are the buyers contributing to the well being of the peasant families?

Second, making relationships between different glocal actors (global and local) be living alliances that are committed to the formation of associativism, complementing the mechanisms mentioned here. This does not mean improving the prices of raw materials. It means that organizations add up all the income (value of sold product +premiums+incentives for quality and other bonuses), subtract their expenses and costs, and from the gross profits they agree to redistribute according to a certain percentage, let us say 50 or 60%. We repeat, it is not a matter of improving the price of the sugar cane or the coffee, it is not distributing the premiums; it is redistributing the gross profits of your organization.* The remaining 50 or 40%, or other percentage, goes to internal funds, social fund, legal reserves, investment fund in the organization…

Third, all the actors, cooperative, associative enterprises, aid agencies, Universities and State Institutions, we all should commit in an ongoing and systematic way to cooperative formation, based on the lessons and challenges of the organizations themselves. On emphasizing profits we are not reducing ourselves to the economic, we understand with Aristotle that quantity is an element of quality; consequently, the members will move from a mentality of “I am a seller of sugar cane” to “I am a seller of granulated sugar”, from “I am a seller of coffee” to “I am a cooperative member exporter of export quality coffee”. This will mean that each member pushes that their organization generates more profits and redistributes them, they will make an effort to be informed, to be trained, to diversify more. With these elements, the formation will help their cooperative and territory, the board and their members, the cooperatives in the north and the south, to maintain strong ties of collaboration and mutual learning.

3.     “Muddy” accompaniment from the underworld of the member families

Most cooperatives have been accompanied, be it by the State, Churches, aid agencies or Universities. Standardized accompaniment has meant providing them trainings, legalizing them, buying products from them and /or providing them with donations; it is an accompaniment that does not cross over toward the communities and the underworld of the cooperatives, which is why it ends up legitimizing corruption, or that cooperatives get turned into a means for dispossession. A new type of accompaniment is required so that these four mechanisms emerge, are adapted and make a difference.

Owen and other associative people inspired the emergence of cooperativism in England, Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen accompanied the first cooperative in Germany. A distinctive accompaniment in Central America has been that of the Catholic Church in the years 1960-1970; that accompaniment helped them to reflect on a God living among them, and a Reign of God that began in those very communities – the “treasure” (God) was in the communities themselves. This accompaniment gave rise to dozens of cooperatives and peasant stores based on their own resources; a good part of them still persist after 40 and 50 years[2]. Consistent with this type of accompaniment, even though not from a religious perspective, we describe here an accompaniment that enters into the cooperative underworld in interaction with the 4 described mechanisms.

What are the distinctive characteristics of this accompaniment? The first is that the accompanying people understand that only by entering the underworld of the cooperatives and their territory will they be able to understand the process in which the cooperative finds itself, awaken reflection and help create mechanisms like those worked on here. The fact that we intellectuals might have the “best” assessment is useless if the members are not reflecting on and walking their own cooperative path. For that reason the accompaniers need to pass beyond the control of the “patroncito”, be that the administrator, manager or president, and through the conversation be exposing the struggle between the path of the patrón and that of the cooperative, as well as the complexity of walking their own path.

Second, accompanying is discerning mindsets from the inside. Along with studying the cooperative underworld, where the old path is imposed based on betrayal and subordination, and where people wander between doubt and intuition, the accompaniers discern the mindsets in the cooperatives, and their own mindset as accompaniers. When the cooperative is trapped in acts of corruption, it is moving under the rules of “the clever one takes advantage of what he administers”, and “we always need a patrón”; these rules conceal actions against their own organization; then the members see the accompaniers as “intruders”, unfurl the banner of “autonomy” to keep the accompaniers from “crossing over the threshold” of the territory, and make up lies in the territory that these accompaniers “are taking advantage of the cooperative.” Discerning their mindsets implies “muddying ourselves” in their beliefs and lies, at the risk that this might erode the legitimacy of the accompanier and drive him/her out of the territory. What distinguishes good accompaniment is the persistent act of overcoming our own mentality that it is “enough to train, legalize and help them to export in order to live better”, “taking their pulse” and innovating with member families to the extent that destructive mentalities that prevent learning are dispelled.

Third, accompanying well is allowing member families to take their own steps, provided that we understand that our actions also have repercussions in the lives of the member families. The accompanier risks the fact that the members might perceive him or her also as a “little patrón”, impairing them from walking their own cooperative path. Let us illustrate this with one experience; in a cooperative, after the second mechanism took place, of rootedness, the results in terms of informational transparency, reduction of corruption and a motivating environment because of its economic and social impact in the territory were admirable. So the board members complained to the accompaniers: see attached box.

In the box the leader sees the accompanier as a “little patrón” with the capacity to stop the corruption and impose decentralized administration on the territory of the cooperative. The response of the accompanier to the first complaint is that having intervened as a “firefighter” to “put out the fire” of corruption, even though this act would have saved them financially, it would have constrained them from building their own cooperative path, which is structural and long term. The response to the second complaint reveals an accompaniment that helps to innovate mechanisms to the extent that it studies and learns from the cooperative itself and its underworld. Even now that we have innovated these four mechanisms they would not be recipes for any organization, they are mechanisms that need to be adapted to each situation, and that each cooperative should experience their processes. These two responses illustrate that accompanying is letting member families walk their path, provided that it studies them and provokes reflection.

Finally, in this process we are getting to know ourselves, re-knowing ourselves in our actions, and we are developing a sense of reasoned compassion. Not the “rational being” of homo economicus. On understanding the mentality of a group of members who “always need a patrón that steals from us”, we understand that for more than 100 years this institution has been deeply etched in their grandparents and parents, reproduced now by this group. At the same time we understand that this institution is not characterized by “being peasants”, but that it is the centuries old path of the patrón-fieldhand. This reflective reasoning envisions this reality for us, and awakens “being peasants” in the lives of cooperative member families and our lives, through respecting the collective good, the rules of the collective and mother earth, the horizon for which we produced the four mechanisms.

Accompaniment makes us remember that the change is in alliance between the peasant families and those of us who accompany them, while we walk together. It is not a stationary accompaniment, but along the road. It is a tense alliance, with stumbles and doubts, but embracing each other for the purpose of creating a vehicle for repossession to the benefit of peasant families.

By way of conclusion

We began this text with the following question: How can people who are organizing follow their own path? First we identified how the colonial patrón-fieldhand path intensified by capitalism that only values merchandise (commodities) erodes the cooperative path, and leads people to betray their own path. This teaches us that individual actions respond to certain perspectives (individual or collective), and they in turn come from structures in conflict, communitarian structures and structures of dispossession; and that this cooperative path is connected with community life, also in resistance for centuries. These two paths clash, for example, in “the good of others”: the colonial and capitalist path is nourished by dispossessing “the good of others” (land, financial resources, labor) from the peasantry, while the cooperative path is connected to community structures which precisely originate in repossessing “the good of others”, which in this case is the “collective good”, material assets (financial resources), as well as alliances and collectively decided arrangements. This “good of others” in the cooperative path is then a “social relationship”, as Federici would say.[3]

Lining ourselves up with this cooperative path, we list four innovative mechanisms that, contrary to the saying that “in an open treasure even the most just sins”, make the cooperative into “a treasure with rules and associative governance where even the biggest sinner becomes just.” These four mechanisms are: voluntarily organizing, rooted in specific micro-territories, making the cooperative organs and administration function, and within a glocal alliance framework help the member families to cultivate an awareness of “being a cooperative member”, that their actions generate changes in their lives and the life of their territory, and making the cooperatives expand their profits and redistribute them with informational transparency and as an expression of respecting “the good of others” (common good, collective good, their own good), in contrast to capitalism that is nourished from dispossessing material assets from peasant families. Then we argued that cooperatives need an accompaniment that makes a difference, that crosses over formal and despotic structures and gets into the underworld of the territories, from which they innovate with the member families, like the mechanisms listed here, and accompany them through thick and thin.

Is this text important only for cooperatives and their allies in their social territories? What happens in the cooperatives and their social territories at the micro level is happening in countries at the macro level. Following the cooperative vision is overcoming the “commodity” vision, the colonial patrón-fieldhand path and the belief that “with money you can even make monkeys dance”, and it is creating a society that cooperates, makes rules and follows them, expands their profits and redistributes them, learns and democratizes. Will it happen?

[1] René has a PhD in development studies, associate researcher of the IOB-University of Antwerp (Belgium), collaborator of the Winds of Peace Foundation (http://peacewinds.org/research/) and member of the COSERPROSS RL. cooperative rmvidaurre@gmail.com.

[2] A case to illustrate this type of accompaniment is that of the Cooperativa La Esperanza de los Campesinas in Panama. See: R. Mendoza, 2017, “A priest, a cooperative and a peasantry that regulates the elites”, in: ENVIO 425. Managua: IHCA-UCA. http://www.envio.org.ni/articulo/5304

[3] Lucia Linsalata, 2015, “Three general ideas for thinking about the commons. Notes around the visit of Silvia Federici” in Bajo el Volcán, year 15, number 22. Federici talks about the commons in the community, she says “there is no commons if there is no community”. In this article we present the cooperative as an expression of people from a community who decide to organize, and for them “the commons” is within the cooperative, even though in relation to their communities or social territories.

Drinking coffee as an act for peace

Drinking coffee as an act for peace in times of polarization

Nicaragua is once again extremely polarized. It is enough to compare different posts on our nica-update to see diametrically opposed views of the ongoing crisis. We post them not to imply that each perspective is equally true, but rather to recognize that important segments of the population hold contradictory views of what is happening and its underlying causes. Even more important are its implications for the future governability of Nicaragua –for any government to be sustainable, it will need to find a way to incorporate the interests of those holding the opposing viewpoint, no matter how “mistaken” they may be judged to be. We certainly learned this lesson at the end of the “contra war” in the early 1990s.

To contribute to the development of this understanding of the conflict, our close ally in Nicaragua, Augsburg University´s Center for Global Education and Experience, has developed an online course that delves into those two perspectives. The Crisis in Nicaragua: U.S. Destabilization or a Democratic Movement?

For our part, given that our major focus for the last few years has been accompanying Nicaraguan cooperatives, we have redoubled our efforts to support their economic and social enterprises in spite of the risks in these times of crisis, because we see them as potential oases of peace. Cooperatives generally have members of different political and religious perspectives who come together to achieve economic and social benefits for their members. By nature, they have to negotiate the accomplishment of common goals with members from different viewpoints.

Furthermore, the history of Nicaragua is full of examples where political violence starting in urban areas ends up claiming many more rural lives, as both sides recruit peasants by offering to meet their historic demands when they come to power. But consistently, after the conflicts end, while a few might end up benefitting, the effective political power of the peasantry remains largely unchanged, in spite of the many promises.

We see our contribution in this context to be helping cooperatives be successful economic and social enterprises in these difficult times. Because when successful, they contribute to the sustainability and stability of their territories, and thus lessen the attractiveness of purveyors of violence.

The problem is that because of increased country risk, credit to the countryside from both banks and microcredit organizations has largely dried up. No access to credit severely cripples the ability of cooperatives to play this role in their communities.

Since 1997, WPF has lent $3.7 million dollars directly to cooperatives and grassroots rural organizations, and has lent another $7.5 million to national microcredit institutions founded to support the rural sector. Even though these numbers show we are a small overall player, we intentionally set out to lend to groups that had never before managed a loan, precisely to help them establish a credit history, and thus open up other sources of credit to them. As a result, a number of cooperatives, and one now very large rural microcredit organization, have “graduated” to the point where they have “outgrown” the amounts we can provide, and now receive much larger amounts from a variety of lenders.

But as a small, private foundation (i.e. one that does not receive donations from the public), we cannot survive very long if those loans are not repaid. Correspondingly we have an overall loan loss rate of only 3.59% in this same period.

Even in this time of crisis, WPF has made loans to grassroots cooperatives worth just under $168,000 in this 2018-19 coffee cycle. But the risks only increase with this next coffee cycle, as economists point out Nicaragua now faces macroeconomic instability. Economic actors continue to send dollars outside the country, and international reserves continue falling. Specifically, this raises the specter that even though we make loans to grassroots coffee cooperatives, and they are able to export their coffee, once the payment for their coffee enters the country, the government may not allow those dollars to leave, thus making payment impossible.

The only way around this problem is to “triangulate” the loans, i.e. include the international buyers in the loan contract, where the buyers, once they have received the coffee, agree to transfer the amount of the loan and interest directly to WPF´s account in the US, sending the remainder to the account of the cooperative. That way the cooperative does not lose access to an international lender for not being able to make a transfer of dollars to the US.

We have already used this mechanism with a number of cooperatives. But given the new risks, we realize it has to be required for all our loans. The problem is in this last coffee cycle the number of contracts between cooperatives and international buyers actually dropped precipitously, while the number of contracts with “local buyers” increased to a similar degree. This strategy would not work with local buyers, because their payment to us would still have to overcome the hurdle of sending dollars outside the country during a possible ban.

Yet our research has shown that these local buyers are actually exporting all the coffee they buy. Given the uncertainty, it appears that previous direct international buyers are working through these intermediaries to source their coffee. This means that in this time of crisis, cooperatives are getting even less value for their coffee, as these intermediaries take a chunk of the money that previously went directly to them. Just when cooperatives need to be supported to promote local stability, they are even more hobbled by the new buying methodology.

WPF for some time now has been working with a team that accompanies some 50 cooperatives. Even before the crisis our team had been working with the cooperatives on issues of internal organizational effectiveness, equity, transparency, and effective member participation.

Now as a contribution to peace, we are willing to continue lending to these cooperatives, in spite of the risks. We want to form an alliance with coffee and cacao buyers interested in making a concrete and real contribution to peace in the countryside by buying directly from grassroots producer cooperatives. This is particularly important for this next coffee cycle.

We would not expect buyers to buy anything less than quality coffee, and the cooperatives we work with, in addition to providing the normal samples required by buyers, could also provide them with abundant information about their members, as many of them have done internal surveys, and even facilitated their member families developing their own “Family Investment Plans”.

Such an alliance would provide quality coffee to buyers, and would provide important income to coffee producers, thus enabling them to be oases for peace in their territory. In this sense, drinking coffee coming from such an alliance would effectively be an act for peace in Nicaragua.

Buyers and roasters interested in contributing to peace in this way in Nicaragua can contact us at marklest@gmail.com. We would also appreciate support from any readers in helping us make contacts with coffee buyers and roasters.

 

 

 

Agreement to Strengthen Citizen Rights and Guarantees

What follows is a translation of the agreement signed on March 29, 2019 between the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy (ACJD) and the Government of National Reconciliation and Unity  (GRUN) within the context of the renewed National Dialogue. When sit-ins for the release of political prisoners were held the next day and were attacked by riot police, and a Sandinista Party member fired into the crowd wounding three, the ACJD accused the government of violating the accords the day after their signing. This shows the fragility of the situation in Nicaragua. 

 Agreement to Strengthen Citizen Rights and Guarantees

[See original Spanish at: https://www.alianzacivicanicaragua.com/es/acuerdo-para-fortalecer-los-derechos-y-garantias-ciudadanas/(Note: could not find a copy on GRUN website)

We the parties aware that, within the Democratic State and the Rule of Law, the Governors as well as the Governed are subjected to the rule of Law.

The parties, recognizing that according to Article 27 of the Constitution, “The State respects and guarantees the rights recognized in the current Constitution of all people who are found within its territory and are subject to its jurisdiction.”

Likewise, based on Article 24 of the Constitution, “All people have obligations to the family, community, homeland and humanity…the rights of each person are limited by the rights of others, the security of all and the fair demands of the common good.”

In virtue of this, we the Members of the Negotiating Table, committed to Peace, Justice, Safety, Democracy, Stability and the Progress of Nicaragua, agree on the following points:

Due process and effective legal redress

  1. Urge compliance with due process and that effective judicial recourse be exercised, in administrative as well as judicial procedures, and ensure the fulfillment of the final verdicts. Urge that the corresponding authorities obey the constitutional mandate that establishes that every prisoner has rights. “To be placed in liberty or at the order of the competent authority with a 48 hour period after their detention.”

 

  1. The State ensures that no one can be subjected to arbitrary detention or prison, nor be deprived of their liberty, except by causes set by law and with arrangement for a legal proceeding. Detention will only be carried out by virtue of a written order of the competent judge or from authorities expressly empowered by the law, except in the case of a being caught in the act of a crime, all pursuant to what is set forth in Article 33 of the Constitution and the procedures of the law.

The State ensures that the home can only be searched by written order of a competent judge, must b e done between 6AM and 6PM, with the exceptions that the Constitution establishes and always under the existing legal procedures.

Economic Rights

  1. In accordance with the Constitutional mandate, ensure the unrestricted right to all forms of property, without discrimination for reasons of birth, nationality, political creed, race, sex, language, religion, opinion, origins, economic position or social condition.

Security and National Defense

  1. We urge the authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure the disarmament of those who bear arms without authorization, or of those who organize as armed groups outside of the constitutional and legal order. For the purpose of maintaining Public Order and Citizen Security, stop violent or aggressive actions of any person or authority.

 

  1. We urge the Army of Nicaragua and the National Police to comply with the registration and marking of arms used by each institution, in accordance with the law on this subject.

We urge the National Police to adjust their norms of behavior to their own Organic Law and the “Basic Principles of the United Nations on the use of force and firearms by officials responsible for the application of the law.”

It is especially  recalled that the confiscation or intervention of electronic mechanisms only can be done with the proper judicial order.

Rights of Nicaraguans outside the country

  1. All Nicaraguans outside the country, particularly those who left in the context of the events beginning on April 18, 2018, will be able to return with full personal and family guarantees and security, in accordance with the law, and enjoy the benefits that these laws grant them.

Political rights

  1. Ensure the right to concentration, demonstration and public mobilization, in fulfillment of the Constitution and the Laws on this subject. On meeting the requirements established by the law on this subject , the National Police will authorize the exercise of this right.

Likewise it is recognized that the right to peaceful meeting, that does not affect the free circulation of people or vehicles, and that does not alter the normal co-existence of the population, does not require prior permission.

The unrestricted right of all Nicaraguans to the respectful use of the National Flag is fully recognized, in accordance with the Constitution and the laws on the subject.

  1. Ensure the constitution of organizations of any nature, without any restrictions than those that the Constitution and the laws on the subject establish.

Review the decisions adopted in terms of the cancelation of the legal statuses of non profit associations that have been cancelled in the context of the events occurred since April 18, 2018, in order to achieve the restitution of their legal statuses and the return of their assets, when appropriate.

To this end the competent judicial authorities are urged to expedite the process proposed by the writ of judicial protection introduced against the decree of the National Assembly where the legal status was ordered cancelled of some non profit associations or NGOs in the same context.

Labor rights

  1. Ensure  workers the right to participate in the management of enterprises through their organizations and in accordance with the law.

Ensure that no worker in the public or private sector be fired for reasons of their political preferences, in accordance with the Constitution and the laws on the subject. We urge both sectors to contribute to the generation of new employment opportunities.

Freedom of expression and accurate information

  1. The State ensure the unrestricted right to freedom of expression, the right to inform cannot be subject to censorship, nor can the communications media be the object of prior censorship, nor the use of mechanisms that can violate what is established in the Constitution and the Law, or that can limit the right to accurate and timely information.

The right should be guaranteed by the State to import paper, machinery, equipment, and spare parts for the social, written, radio and television communications media, all in accordance with the Constitution and the Tax Laws of the Nation.

The communications media should contribute to the development of the Nation.

Review the decisions adopted by the State in terms of the assets: installations, assets, equipment, documents, licenses and any other type of material and non material assets belonging to the communications media affected in the context of the events occurred starting on April 18, 2018, in order to achieve the return of those assets when relevant, in accordance with the Constitution and the law.

Consequently the competent judicial authorities are urged to expedite the processes for the purposes of returning to their legitimate owners what legally belongs to them.

Personal Guarantees

  1. We recommend that the competent authorities proceed to processing and expediting the processes for Habeas Corpus, Habeas Data and Constitutional Protection, whose resolutions require unconditional compliance.

University Autonomy

  1. Strengthen the full exercise of University Autonomy.

Right of the Original and Afro-descendent Peoples of the Caribbean Coast

  1. The original and Afro-descendent peoples of the Caribbean Coast, as an inseparable part of the Nicaraguan people, enjoy the same rights and guarantees to which the current accord refers.

Definition of Terrorism and Terrorism Financing

  1. The Delegation of the Civic Alliance asks the GRUN to review the antimony that might exist between the definition of terrorism and terrorism financing in Law 977, the Penal Code and the international instruments signed by the Republic of Nicaragua. The GRUN commits to reviewing the antimony.

Implementation

  1. The parties recognize that the Nicaraguan State, its powers and the rest of its institutions are the principal organs for the implementation of this accord, and that they promise, as it is their constitutional duty according to its article 6, to carry out this implementation in strict compliance with established constitutional principals, and being completely faithful to the spirit of this accord, under the supervision of monitoring of the Follow up Roundtable for the Implementation. If the agreements approved by the negotiation table enter into conflict with existing legislation, the table will take the necessary steps with the authorities for the reform of the legislation concerned, in order to reconcile it with constitutional principles.

 

  1. This accord expresses the political will of the delegations to find the path for reconciliation, peace, security and stability. Its development and impact on the lives of Nicaraguans will be an essential basis to achieve these objectives. Its application will be an integral part of the process that is promoted from the sphere of this negotiation table. We the sectors represented here commit to promoting them with the best disposition. It will be society that appropriates the spirit of this accord and will make it a reality.

 

  1. The parties agree and ensure that the points of this accord that require it will be applied through specific protocols, in accordance with the law. The application will be supervised and monitored by the Followup Table with the accompaniment of National and/or International Guarantors.

 

  1. The implementation of this accord will begin with its signing.

Issued in the city of Managua on the 29th day of March of 2019.

[Signatures by GRUN and by ACJD and witnesses and accompaniers]

 

 

 

Three posts on the National Dialogue: CEN, Government of Nicaragua and Civic Alliance

The Dialogue between the Government and the Civic Alliance was restarted on Feb 27 with daily meetings, so far just to set the framework and the agenda. It was reported that a key issue in dispute was the fact that the Civic Alliance wanted the Nicaraguan Bishop´s Conference to act as witness and accompanier, and the OAS and the UN to act as guarantors of the process. It was reported that the Government was opposed to both, as Daniel Ortega has accused the Bishops of being coup supporters and had expelled the OAS´s mission in Nicaragua a day before they issued their report on the crisis. The Bishop´s conference said they would only consider playing that role if they got an invitation from both sides. The Bishops confirmed the reception of an invitation on March 4th.  They responded on March 8th with the following press release:

Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua

Press release 3-8 19

[See original Spanish at : https://pbs.twimg.com/media/D1Kgh5qXcAAtQ1u.jpg:large]

To our priests, religious, the people of God who have trusted in us, and all Nicaraguans of good will.

We, the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, meeting in an extraordinary session today, after praying and reflecting on the invitation received by Cardinal Archbishop Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano as President of this Conference, on the part of the Government of Nicaragua and the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, to participate as National Witness and Accompanier in the conversations of the Negotiation Roundtable installed in INCAE, being accompanied by two advisors, have concluded the following:

  1. As we have stated in our press release last Monday March 4, we think that “ in this historical moment our greatest contribution as Pastors of this Church on pilgrimage in Nicaragua will continue being accompanying the people in their suffering and pain, in their hopes and joys, and raising our prayers of intercession so that Nicaragua might find civilized and just paths for a peaceful solution in view of the common good.”
  2. We reiterate our gratefulness because at some moment in this process we have been taken into account, and we recall with the Holy Father that it is important to “know how to devise a means for building consensus and agreement while seeking the goal of a just, responsive and inclusive society.”. (CF. Evangelii Guadium, 239). We hope that these negotiations might have that spirit of the search for truth and justice.
  3. We are convinced with St,. John Paul II, who on the occasion of the Jubilee of the Lay Apostolate in Rome (November 26, 2000) stated that “the hour of the laity has sounded”. Therefore, we feel that it should be the laypeople who directly take on the responsibility of managing in this moment the temporal affairs of the Nation.
  4. Consequently, we desire that this effort attain a good goal, and we report that we have responded to the received letter, communicating to the participants that we will not be present physically in the forum of the negotiations, but we will accompany as pastors these crucial moments of our Country, exercising our prophetic mission and dedicating ourselves “to prayer and the ministry of the Word” (Acts 7:4).

Once more “we exhort the believing people to intensify, particularly in this time of Lent, their prayers and fasting for our Country. That the Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, obtain for us from her Son the capacity to be builders of true peace”.

Issued in the Offices of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua on the fifth day of the month of March of two thousand nineteen, Year of the Lord.

I testify,

[Signature Illegible]

Juan Abelardo Mata Guevara, sdb

Bishop of Estelí

Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua

There were some press reports revealing a division within the Episcopal Conference, with some bishops insisting that the Government had not shown a willingness to dialogue by continuing to hold political prisoners and not allowing freedom of assembly or press.

The Government followed the next day with the following press release: 

[See original Spanish at: https://www.el19digital.com/articulos/ver/titulo:88135-comunicado-del-gobierno-de-reconciliacion-y-unidad-nacional-sobre-los-puntos-de-agenda-para-la-mesa-de-negociacion]

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Government of National Unity and Reconciliation

United Nicaragua Triumphs

MINISTRY

OF

FOREIGN RELATIONS

_____________

Managua, Nicaragua

PRESS RELEASE

Committed to the strengthening of democracy and respect for the Constitutional order of Nicaragua, and taking into account that Presidential and Legislative Elections are set for 2021, the Government of Nicaragua, through its representation in the Negotiation Table, has presented the following agenda points:

  1. Strengthening the Electoral Institutions of Nicaragua through the implementation of the recommendations of the electoral accompaniment mission of the the OAS and electoral reform proposals which would improve free, fair and transparent electoral processes.
  2. Justice and reparations to continue establishing peace, security and stability in Nicaragua.
  3. Liberation of prisoners within the context of criminal acts that occurred starting in April 2018 against the State of Nicaragua, that still have not been tried, and those tried. Their records will be reviewed, a situation that should not lead to impunity.

Continue strengthening freedoms, rights and guarantees established in the Constitution of the Republic.

  1. Carry out international negotiations to obtain support for the implementation of the final accords of the negotiations, and make a call to the International Community to suspend all sanctions against the Nicaraguan people, to facilitate the right to human, economic and social development of Nicaragua, benefitting the most vulnerable sectors of the population.
  2. Implementation and fulfillment of the accords.

The Government of National Unity and Reconciliation reiterates a complete commitment to Reconciliation, Understanding and Peace for all Nicaraguans.

Ministry of Foreign Relations

Government of National Unity and Reconciliation

Republic of Nicaragua

March 9, 2019

This was followed by a press release from the Blue and White National Unity: 

NATIONAL

UNITY 

Press Release #21

Press Release on the Announcement of the Absence of the Nicaraguan Bishop´s Conference (CEN) in the Negotiations

[see Spanish at https://www.facebook.com/UnidadNic/photos/pcb.2227397640807635/2227397540807645/?type=3&theater

The Blue and White National Unity evaluates the announcement of the absence of the CEN in the negotiations as an act of seriousness and dignity of those who have shown a clear commitment to the demands of the citizenry, before and during the heroic deeds of April.

The regime called for negotiations, showing a false intent, after 8 sessions it has not complied with any of the demands expressed through the Civic Alliance. Very much to the contrary, it continues leading one of the biggest massacres in the history of the country against a completely unarmed people.

It is using the dialogue table as a smoke screen to continue dismantling the country, just as it did with the tax reform and the trafficking of the money of BanCorp, making the citizenry pay for the money that the Ortega Murillo family and their allies embezzled from the Venezuelan aid.

We echo the demand of the political prisoners on a hunger strike, that they “are not bargaining chips” nor “objects for exchange”, all are innocent, and demanding rights does not constitute a crime.

We demand a peaceful solution, preceded by the immediate liberation of all the political prisoners, the end of the repression, freedom of mobilization, association, freedom of the press and the return of exiles with guarantees.

A solution to the crisis is urgent, but not any solution. It should incorporate the return of fundamental rights, early elections after the reform of the electoral system, and justice for the victims without amnesty.

A dialogue can only be credible with the CEN as mediator, the presence from the beginning of international guarantors, and the return of the IACHR, MESENI, GIEI and the OHCHR.

We call on the international community to immediately proceed with the Democratic Charter of the OAS, in the face of the repeated non compliance with the commitments signed by the State of Nicaragua within the framework of human rights.

The Blue and White National Unity redoubles its efforts to raise the citizen claims, demanding freedom of the political prisoners and democracy with justice.

Blue and White National Unity

March 9, 2019

Speech of Daniel Ortega on the 85th anniversary of the death of Augusto Sandino

This is an important speech because in it Daniel Ortega announces the renewal of the National Dialogue, and provides his perspective on it. As is his custom, his speech touches on many international issues. He also makes reference to the controversial tax reform that has been sent to the National Assembly for urgent approval. But toward the end he refers to the meeting he had with 5 of the wealthiest Nicaraguan businessmen to renew the dialogue (capitals are in the original Spanish text).

Speech of Daniel Ortega on the 85th anniversary of the death of Augusto Sandino, Feb 21, 2019 published in El 19 Digital, official website of FSLN.

Brother and Sister Nicaraguans; Family of our General of Free Men and Women, Augusto César Sandino…[greetings to different people follow]

All our Love, all our Affection from the People of Darío, the People of Sandino, to the People of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela that today are waging, once again, a Fight for Peace! This our Brother, the Constitutional President Nicolás Maduro, has expressed with complete clarity: Fight for Peace! fight for Sovereignty, fight for Independence!

The Fight for Peace is a Commitment that has its bases in the Spirit and Conviction of our Latin American and Caribbean Peoples, which is their Commitment to Peace. And that is how we left it written, all the countries, all the Peoples, all the Latin American and Caribbean Governments. They are there in their Principles, in their Pillars.

All of the Latin American and Caribbean is one Region, a Zone of Peace! This is what we said, this is what we committed to, this we swear to, this we ratify today on the 85th Anniversary of our General of Free Men. And Peace will have to be defended, and Peace will finally triumph, beyond the threats, because I am convinced, and all the Latin American and Caribbean Governments has thus said, in this we are unanimous, beyond the differences, where they would not allow, do not support an intervention, a military aggression against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Likewise have spoken the Countries of the European Community. Beyond the differences, beyond their political positions, they have said it with complete clarity. The differences do not mean that they would be in favor of intervention, of war; but that there is an agreement: it has to be worked on, initiatives have to be developed within the Constitutional Framework of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Peaceful Initiatives, to find a solution through a peaceful means. This is how it has been left reported, and all of us hope, all of us desire that the threat can be transcended, that the attempts to want to turn the Region into a Region of warlike conflict be transcended, and that in the end Peace is going to prevail.

For our People, for the Nicaraguan Families, our recognition for the way in which they have been facing the challenges that the Coup attempt left us. Not just the irreplaceable loss of Human Lives, but also the damage to the infrastructure of Hospitals, Schools, Homes…how much damage! The damages to the Economy, to Jobs. With this criminal action they threw many Nicaraguan Brothers and Sisters into unemployment; they affected the foundation of our Economy that had sustainable growth in an uninterrupted way, growth that was between 4.5 and 5%. As we were attacking Extreme Poverty, reducing it, and reducing Poverty, carrying out Health Care Programs, Education, all to the Benefit of the Poor who are the majority of our Country, all to the benefit of the Workers, the Working People, all to the Benefit of peasants, to the Benefit of Youth, to the Benefit of women.

How many programs that were moving ahead, that were being multiplied, and the tenacity of the Nicaraguan People winning the respect of the International Community, and the International Community contributing Resources, Projects, Programs to the Benefit of Nicaraguan Families, and to the Benefit of Communities, Villages, Municipalities. And how grateful we are for that Aid, that Unconditional Solidarity that you have offered and continue offering, you Brother Peoples to the Nicaraguan People.

The Coup was so hard in the economic terrain, in the economic sphere that it led us to have to discuss, debate in the National Assembly, and opening the discussion to the different Economic and Social Sectors, from the Smallest to the Largest, so that they might contribute their ideas, their Proposals to the Tax Reform.

A Tax Reform that bears the objective to seek how to raise, in an extraordinary situation, the basic resources to maintain the Health Programs, so that the Hospitals do not close; to maintain the Schools, the Education Programs, and that the Schools do not close; to ensure Basic Services for the Population; to inject through different Programs greater strength in what is the Entrepreneurial Spirit of Nicaraguans.

Because the Brothers and Sisters who were left unemployed did not stay  seated along the sidewalk, but immediately an entrepreneur was born there. Because all of us have the potential to undertake the most diverse tasks, the most diverse activities, and these initiatives have multiplied, which give rise to the fact that Productive Activities from below are being strengthened, while the medium and large Sectors that were affected, also are looking for a way to strengthen themselves, and that, uniting efforts, all of us Nicaraguans can take up again the Path that we were walking at a good pace, that we might take it up again, that we can open again this Path of Security, Well-being for Nicaraguan Families.

This is the Battle for today, and this we all know. This is the Fight today and we are all committed to this Fight, and in this fight, of course, the Example of our General Sandino inspires us, because it is a Fight for Sovereignty, it is a Fight for Self Determination, it is a Fight for the Well-being of Nicaraguan Families.

Because we know well that the Thinking and Program of Struggle of our General Sandino did not just propose the defense of the National Territory and Sovereignty in the face of the foreign invasion to the point of expelling it, but that it also involved Social order Programs, and a very big emphasis on Programs to Benefit Peasants, Craftspeople, what was the economically active population in those years, in that time.

And as a good son of Bolivar, he also demanded the Supreme Dream of Bolivar, and he expressed it well, that he presented well in his Document written there in the Segovias, where he presented the Plan for making a reality the Supreme Dream of Bolivar. In other words, the Unity of the Latin American and Caribbean Peoples. That is how he reflected it, that is how our General Sandino raised it up.

We know that we are immersed in a Fight where expansionist interests are always moving, always interests are moving for which there are no borders, and they think that borders constantly have to be defined by the force of military might. Still, in spite of the fact that the World has advanced in terms of Plurality, in the Economic Order, in Trade, and in the Military Order, there are also those who resist understanding that the World for a good while now has ceased to be Unipolar, that Planet Earth cannot be dominated and subjected to any empire.

Those times have now been left behind, and now other Economic Forces were configured, other Political Forces were configured, other Cultural Forces were configured, they have now been empowered, and we are now facing what is the emergence of the Multipolar world, which is emerging, developing and is going to be established.

Previously it was one Power. After what was the disappearance of the Soviet Union, only one Power was left, the US power, and at that time it could have been thought: well, now the World has become completely Unipolar, the entire world moves subjected to the might of the US Power. But beyond the existence of those two blocks, which was the Soviet Union and the United States, already being configured, already being developed were other Economic Forces, other Social Forces, other Countries, other Nations, and that is what we have now on our Planet, and that is what has to be established and what will finally come to ensure and affirm Peace in our Planet.

In this Region we have the possibility of developing and strengthening a Power, without atomic weapons. Because by Principle and Commitment, we Latin American and Caribbeans have in the Tlatelolco Treaty the commitment from that time: No nuclear weapons! Our weapons have to do with the enormous Wealth that our Nations have in Latin America and the Caribbean; the first Wealth, the People! People with Identity, Hardworking People, Creative People, with a lot of creativity, Entrepreneurial People, Fighting People, and then the Natural Resources of the entire Region.

That is why Rubén [Darío] used to say, and then Sandino, “Latin America and the Caribbean United!” Not to wage war against anyone. Not to turn us into a Power to go fight over Territories and the dominion of other Areas, but to eradicate Poverty from our entire Region, and develop Well-being, develop Health Care, develop Education, develop Culture, Technology.

Everything that today is in the hands of the Developed World, develop it here in our Latin American and Caribbean Region, and here, all united, of course we turn ourselves into a great Power. A Power for Peace, a Power for being brothers and sisters with other People, with other Nations, to put into practice as well the Principle of Solidarity, which is a Principle that is in Human Nature.

Meanwhile, here we continue struggling to defend Peace and ward off the threats that always exist in the World, of provoking acts of violence, or Terrorism; or acts of violence like those that we see every day in other Nations.

In the very United States of America, how many acts of violence! How many deaths! And it does not make us happy, it hurts us, because we are also Brothers and Sisters of the US People. We are not enemies of the US People, we are Brothers of the US People! Our General Sandino was not an enemy of the US people, this is what he said and wrote, he left proof: Brother of the US People!

What we cannot accept is that the most powerful feels the Right to abuse the one he sees as weaker, in economic terms and in military terms. That is not democratic. This is not just. This is not Christian. This goes against the Principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations that we on the Planet have all signed, from the most powerful Countries to the smallest Countries. It is left enshrined there: We have equal Obligations! And we have equal Rights; therefore, we have to respect one another! And Peace, like the Economy, like Health Care, like Agriculture, like everything, Life itself, has to be taken care of every day, it has to be defended every day.

We already know about this other plague that crosses our Region… General Avilés, General Díaz: Drug trafficking and Organized Crime, where the big consumers are in the North, unfortunately, sadly, they should not be in neither the North nor the South, because drugs are poison, in all its forms, all are aggressive and end up annihilating the one who falls into drug addiction.

We already know that the big market is in the North and the production is in the South; a production that was never conceived by our ancestors, nor by the coca growing Peasants of Colombia, Bolivia, from those Countries. It was never thought to turn it into a drug.

A leaf that is energizing for the Peasants, for the Indigenous, energizing like Coffee can be, our brothers and sisters still chew it there. But later with Technology, for evil, with Science, for evil, then poison came from there, and the market began and those who produced and processed the drug there in the South, because, well, the path was made, Central America – Mexico to get to the big market, the United States.

This has implied a struggle that threatens the Sovereignty of our Peoples, because Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime aspire to take over Institutions, the States that are located along this path, including taking over the Institutions there in the big consumer market. Because for the drugs to get in there, there has to be complicity; so that it can then circulate in the Neighborhoods of the US Cities, there has to be complicity; so that they can launder billions of dollars in the US Banks, there has to be complicity. I don´t know if it was last year, or 2 or 3 years ago, because it happens frequently, there was a news story, a US Bank that had laundered I don´t know how many billions of dollars, punished! How? They fined it, they fined it, they applied a fine.

In other words, it is an activity that is pervasive, and in our case here in the Central American Region, well, connected to gangs, connected to the Maras, so a situation of insecurity Is created, instability for the Families of the Region, and they cannot move about peacefully, they cannot sell their products peacefully because they impose a tax on them. And if they do not pay it, they kill them. And they impose a tax on transport providers, and if the transport providers do not pay it, they machine gun their vehicles, and kill all the passengers that are in the bus.

This is happening with frequency in our Region, in all of Mesoamerica, we know it dear Brothers and Sisters, all of Mesoamerica is shaken by this terrible violence, terrible, that sows terror in Families and then also causes the exodus of Families that, seeking Security, migrate to the United States itself with the dream that in the United States they are going to find Security, they are going to find Jobs.

And he we are waging the battle, yes, with the lowest Budget of all of the Central American Region. Nicaragua has the smallest Budget, Nicaragua has the smallest Gross Domestic Product of the entire Central America Region; our Soldiers in the Army, our Police, have the lowest salary of the entire Central American Region; they have the lowest Budget, the institutions of the Amry, Police, of the entire Central American Region. And with these limited resources here the Battle is being waged, and this Battle is being won and has to be defended every day. Peace and Stability have to be defended every day, Security every day, and this Battle has been waged to give Security to Nicaraguan Families, to give Security, Stability and Peace to the country, this Battle is being waged.

And what is it that inspires the Commanders of the Army, the Soldiers of our Army, the Commanders of the Police, the Soldiers of the Police? What is it that inspires them? The Thought of our General Sandino inspires them. The heroic, vibrant, brave Fight of our ancestors inspires them, and that Sandino knew how to unite in one Thought, in a Program.

And this Fight has an element which is fundamental: Mystique! Mystique! That is why it is not by chance that the Army, the Police, with this mystique know how to wage the Battle against Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime. And they know that, to achieve effectiveness in the Battle, it is not enough that the Companions who are in the ranks of the Police, it is not enough that the Companions who are in the ranks of the Army; they know well that for this Fight for Security, for the Stability of Families to be effective, the Army and the Police have to be connected, be embodied with the Community, with the Neighborhood, with the people in the Countryside.

There is the great Strength, a Unity with the Institutions of the People, which explains the effectiveness that our institutions have to have achieved building a Retaining Wall in the face of Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime. And coordinating also from here, logically, with Brothers from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico; beyond, coordinating the Fight, and here in the Retaining Wall, and Families working in this Fight. Here is the explanation.

And recognizing the work the effort of Nicaraguan Families who in this difficult stage have been installing Small Businesses, Medium Businesses, of all types, to maintain themselves and their Families, and to offer services also to the Population, understanding that it is important to create better conditions so that the Country can be recovering.

This past Saturday, the 16th, we sent an invitation to a Meeting to talk about the Issue of Stability, Security, Peace, Economic Issues, and logically also there Political Issues came out. And in that Meeting we were having exchanges with Leaders of the Business owners, Leaders of Nicaraguan Business owners who since 2008 until April 2018 were working, without political conditions. In other words, it was not a Political Alliance. They with their Political Thinking, without ideological conditions, they with their Ideological Thinking. It did not even occur to us to tell them that they should become Sandinista Affiliates or Militants, it did not occur to us! Because we know well their Political Thought.

In all the Elections that we had, since the one of 1990 to the one of 2016, in all these Elections they always voted for, or sympathized with or supported the Parties in Opposition to Sandinism. But they did understand that it was essential, given the conditions of underdevelopment, because we have to say it in that way, of the Nicaraguan Economy, there had to be Agreements, Alliances of an Economic Order to fight Poverty, create Employment, develop Health Care Programs, etc, everything that the State needs to be able to respond to the People in their basic demands. And we were moving forward at a good pace.

But on the other hand, there were the extremist groups who condemned and challenged this Understanding and that Alliance, accused the Businesspeople of being now like Militants of Sandinism, as if now politically and ideologically they have turned into Sandinistas, and as always, going to the United States to denounce them there, when the results were being seen of a Country that was progressing, was growing, was defeating Poverty. But in April that understanding was broken, was destroyed with the loss of Lives that those who attempted the Coup caused; they also did enormous damage to the Economy of the Country.

And well, to meet with them and so that later it would not be said outside that they had come to seek their Sandinista Militant identity card, so the presence of Cardinal Brenes and Nuncio Sommertag was necessary for them. So they came, the Cardinal came, the Nuncio came who were Witnesses about what we have talked about and what we said there.

And what should we do to ensure Peace, Stability, Security? And that we might open a new Path, because we can no longer speak about the fact that we are going to return to the previous situation, no longer, that is already past! That is a stage that was burned, they burned it with everything that that terror meant in those months starting in April.

But rather opening a new Path, and to open a new Path then one of the expediencies, talking, exchanging, of establishing, well, opening an Encounter, installing a Round table in that Encounter, a Roundtable to negotiate, negotiate to establish Peace in our Country, negotiate to build that New Path, that New Road that would improve the conditions so that the Country, and therefore the Nicaraguan People, can more quickly be recovering from the effects of the Coup attempt of April. So we made known the topic of the Encounter, and that the objective was that, and we agreed there to begin to dialogue so that they also might work on their Proposal, and with whom on their part could this Roundtable be installed. Because, well, they have to decide that, we cannot say who they are going to place from their side for a negotiation with the Representatives of the Government. That is a Principle in any negotiation.

This Process has been happening, and I would say that we are making efforts so that this Roundtable can be installed for the Negotiation, that now next Wednesday [February] 27th the Roundtable can be installed, no longer with the multitude, no, no longer with the multitude, nor with the Communications Media. That is not correct in any Negotiation.

We there really with that Negotiation, now some laugh in the midst of a tragedy, because it is a true tragedy; but in that Negotiation, we broke a Guinness Record, yes, we broke a Guinness Record, because it is the only negotiation that there has been, that has existed, multitudinous and transmitted live and in color…Never! Never! So nothing good could come out of that Negotiation.

All the successful Negotiations have passed through even completely private Processes that have lasted weeks, months, at times years, and where then those who negotiated were 2 or 3 on each side. In other words, that is the Procedure, and big fights, big battles like that of the Heroic People of Vietnam, finally arrived at some Negotiations where likewise it was step by step, discussing between both parties how it was done, where it was done, details, and then the Accords came out.

The Negotiations that the United States have carried out, for example, with the Popular Democratic Republic of Korea, something that seemed impossible, because the United States only would offer “rocket attacks” at Korea, and Korea “rockets” as well, and that is how they were. So it seemed like the End of the World was coming, the Third World War now with atomic weapons.

All of a sudden a Delegate from the United States converses there, a Declaration comes out, after Declarations from the President of the United States, and then the Initiatives that the Government of the President of Korea took; first, he took the Initiative of inviting a Delegation from North Korea to the [Olympic] Games there in Korea, and the Delegation arrived led I believe by a Sister of President Kim Jong-un. See that is what Diplomacy is there.

Then the Meetings that the President of Korea has had, they have had several Meetings with the the President of North Korea, advancing in Agreements. And the President of the United States meeting with President Kim Jong-un…Who would imagine it? Who would imagine it? Whoever listened to the President of the United States talk about President Kim Jong-un before all these exchanges, it seemed impossible that they could even speak! Well, they had a Meeting, now they are going to have a second Meeting the two Presidents there in Vietnam.

That is the example that has to be followed! This the Government of the United States should promote here in Latin America, with those Nations with which they do not have good relations. They should promote this type of Policies, of Communication, of Negotiation for Peace, in this case for the Peace of the Latin American and Caribbean Region, like it is doing with Korea.

And if the United States can do it with Korea, why are they not going to be able to do it with Latin America? Or do you need to have Atomic Weapons for them to be able to treat you in this way? Then we would be feeding the arms race, and we would be feeding the atomic arms race; because any Country is going to say: Well, for them to respect me I need to have Atomic Weapons, and the more Atomic Weapons we have in the World, at any moment, for any mistake even, an atomic weapons goes off, atomic artillery of any Country where there are atomic arsenals, and the World blows up, we all get blown up!

That is how we are, we are on top of an atomic arsenal, with the potential in atomic weapons to blow up 10 times the Population of Planet Earth, or 100 times. But well, the Path is the one for Peace: Negotiation! And here with the greatest seriousness, the greatest responsibility, we are taking on the commitment to our People, that this Encounter and that Negotiation that we hope begins on Wednesday, be charged with Good Will, Commitment, for what? So that we give our People what our People deserve, which is Peace with Justice and Dignity. Thank you.