University of Minnesota




Report on the Situation of Human Rights in The Republic of Nicaragua, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.53, Doc. 25 (1981).


 

 

CHAPTER IX

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RIGHTS [1]/

A. General Considerations

1. In the Annual Report of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights from 1979-1980, the Commission made the following statements about economic and social rights.

The essence of the legal obligation incurred by any government in this area is to strive to attain the economic and social aspirations of its people, by following an order that assigns priority to the basic needs of health, nutrition and education. The priority of the “rights of survival” and “basic needs” is a natural consequence of the right to personal security.

2. Given the strong emphasis placed on economic and social equality in the reconstruction of Nicaragua regime on redistribution of wealth and above all, its efforts to improve the quality of life of its neediest citizens.

3. Sources used in preparing this Chapter were the studies and reports prepared by intergovernmental organizations, particularly the World Ban, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA), the United nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United nations Education, Science and Culture Council (UNESCO). Absent any information from these organizations, the Commission will use data provided by the Government of National Reconstruction. In both cases, the source will be cited either in footnotes or in the body of the text.

B. The pre-Revolutionary Social and Economic Structure

1. Nicaragua’s pre-Revolutionary social structure has been described as being that of a feudal-colonial society, with a small number of wealthy landowners and a large mass of landless peasants. According to the only study on income distribution in Nicaragua, which was done in 1970, 5 percent of the population received 28 percent of the national income, while 50 percent of the population received only 15 percent of the income, with me middle levels receiving the balance. [2]/

2. Although a middle class emerged after the Second World War, there were wide discrepancies in income distribution, land ownership, education and basic indicators of the quality of life. Economic and political power continued in the hands of a small oligarchy, two percent of the farms occupied 40% of all the arable land, while 50% of the farms occupied 3.4% of the arable land. Secondary schools wee located in the cities, and since most of the disadvantaged lived in rural areas, these schools in fact served the middle and upper classes. [3]/

3. Nicaragua shared with some other underdeveloped countries of Latin America the incongruities of a dual economy, particularly in the agricultural sector, which was the basis of Nicaragua’s economy, export crops, particularly cotton, were cultivated on large tracts of land using sophisticated modern technology. The small holdings in the subsistence sector, on the other hand, used primitive methods of cultivation (e.g., the Spanish wooden ox plow, Spanish in origin, and variants on the Indian digging stick, and the productivity was typically low.

4. Agriculture represented two thirds of all Nicaraguan exports, chiefly cotton, coffee, sugar and meat; it employed 42% of the gross domestic products (GDP). The manufacturing sector had a 20% share of the GDP IN 1978, giving jobs to 16% of the economically active population. However, processing of agricultural products represented almost 50% of the total value of this sector’s production.

5. Mechanization of agriculture begun in the fifties, causing a drop in the number of the middle-class inhabitants of rural areas, and a proportional increase in the number of subsistence peasants (given high cost of mechanization). It also resulted in a large rural migration to the cities for people seeking work. However, ever since the sixties, the displaced rural workers have not been absorbed by the industrial sector but rather by the growing services sector, which is experiencing a strong expansion as the result of the increased participation of women in the labor force.

Percentage of the Work force in:

Agriculture
Industry
Services
1960-1978

1960-1978

1960-1978
62 44

16 15

22 41

6. Between 1971-1975, 56.8% of children under 5 years of age were suffering from some degree of malnutrition. [4]/ However, in 1976, military spending was more than three times the amount spent on health. [5]/ For a population of 2.3 million, there was a National Guard of 5,000 men-reaching 15,000 in subsequent years—and 13,000 teachers and 1,400 physicians. [6]/ The overall and infant mortality rates and the illiteracy levels have been traditionally very high (13.9 per 1,000, 120 per 1,000 live births, 52% respectively. [7]/ Given the lack of an adequate number of schools in rural areas, approximately 70% of the rural population and 20.4% of the urban population were illiterate. The average school attendance was 2.4 years, since 76% of the school population dropped out in primary school. [8]/ Life expectancy in 1979 was estimated at 55 years of age.

7. From the point of view of human rights, an analysis of these social indicators is extremely useful because it reveals that approximately half the population of Nicaragua lived in a state of absolute poverty. Absolute poverty, the product of poor distribution of wealth has been defined as “a condition of life so limited by malnutrition, disease, illiteracy, low life expectancy, and high infant mortality as to be beneath any rational definition of human decency. The self-perpetuating plight of the absolute poor has tended to cut them off from the economic progress that has taken place elsewhere in their own societies. They have remained largely outside the entire development effort, able neither to contribute much to it, nor to benefit fairly form it.” [9]/

8. In Nicaragua, as elsewhere, hopes for achieving a better life were frustrated by persistent inflation, marked by an increase in petroleum prices and the consequent rise in unemployment and underemployment. In 1978, unemployment reached 14.5% in Nicaragua, as compared with an average of 9% in 1974-1977. This high unemployment rate is indicative of a more serious problem, given the large number of dependents affected since half the Nicaraguan population is under 15 years of age.

9. However, the greatest obstacle to improving the quality of life of most of the Nicaraguan population was the Somoza family. When General Anastasio Somoza García, father of General Anastasio Somoza Debayle, came to power, he had little more than a coffee estate in a very run down condition. On his death, General Somoza García had accumulated a large fortune.

10. An observer of Nicaraguan politics [10]/ has written a book on the Somoza regime, some paragraphs of which we quote here:

The results of forty years of acquiescence in Somoza rule can be seen in every fact of Nicaragua life. While the economy has seen considerable growth in recent decades, the benefits of this growth have largely been absorbed by the Somoza’s, their close supporters, and members of the traditional oligarchy. Aided by the Central American Common market, some industrial development has occurred. But much of this is foreign-owned and a good deal of the remainder is dominated by the Somoza family and often serves more as a subsidized and protected agency for the employment of relatives and retired Guardia Officers than as any real contribution to the national economy. Agriculture, especially that designed for export, notably cotton, cattle, and coffee, continues to dominate the national economy. Here the trend toward concentration of the best land in the hands of a few families, most notably the Somozas, has accelerated in recent years.

The Somoza’s stranglehold on the national economy extends beyond industries, including those, which produce cloth and shoes for the Guardia, and agriculture. They own the national airline, Lanica, and the only national shipping company, Mamenic Lines. They have extensive interests in banking, hotels and real estate, fishing, radio, television, and newspapers. They even control Managua’s parking meters and trash collection. In addition, they are now engaged in exporting blood and importing Mercedes Benz automobiles, which coincidentally are used exclusively by the Managua police detachment of the Guardia.

While the supporters of the dynasty prospered, the average Nicaraguan suffered. As usual, poverty was accompanied by chronic malnutrition, disease, and lack of health care facilities. Gastroenteritis and other diarrhea diseases remained the leading cause of death in the 1970, accounting for 23.6 percent of all deaths. Over 90 percent of these deaths occurred among children under five. The Nicaraguan who managed to survive beyond that age had other problems to contend with. Nicaragua has the world’s highest homicide rate, an extremely high rate of accidental deaths, and the highest rate of chronic alcoholism in Central America.

The key to maintaining this system of exaggerated social and economic inequality has been and continues to be control over the National Guard.

General Anastasio Somoza Debayle lost that control, but before Nicaragua could be rebuilt it was destroyed even further.

C. The Insurrection and its Economic Consequences [11]/

1. The final phase of the insurrection began in September 1978 with a general strike and coordinated attacks led by the FSLN against National Guard detachments in the country’s major cities, and ended 10 months later with a change of government, after generalized warfare that lasted during June and July 1979.

2. According to information received by the Commission, tens of thousands of people lost their lives during 45 years of opposition to the Somoza family dictatorship. Of these, approximately 35,000 or 1.5% of the population lost their lives during the last 10 months. Eighty percent of the dead was civilians, victims mainly of the indiscriminate bombing of cities by the National Guard. The wounded were estimated at approximately 100,000; and 150,000 fled from their homes seeking refuge; more than 40,000 children became orphans. In Managua alone, more than 400,000 people had to be fed, and about 40% of the Nicaraguan population was on the point of dying of starvation. The economy and the public services were paralyzed, and epidemics threatened to break out. In August 1979, doctors in the Occidental hospital in Managua said that two out of every five cases they treated each day were malaria cases. In many sections of Managua, garbage had piled up for weeks next to the bodies of people who had died during the war, and the interruption of the water supply aggravated the unsanitary conditions in these neighborhoods, contributing to an increase in insects transmitting infectious diseases.

3. The housing situation in Managua was disastrous even before the 1972 earthquake. A study completed in that year indicated that 73.7% of the housing was inadequate. The damage that occurred to housing during the insurrection amounted to 38 million dollars, according to the estimates of the Ministry of Housing and human Settlements, and there was a shortage of some 500,000 units. Total damage to the physical infrastructure (e.g., buildings other than housing) was estimated at 80 million dollars.

4. The estimated losses in the agricultural sector were 28 million dollars, at which 23 million were in the livestock sector. There was considerable illegal exportation of cattle during the insurrection. Particularly of bulls; the huge losses of heifers (100,000) through smuggling and the slaughter of cattle resulted in a drop of 5 million liters in milk production, which made malnutrition among children even worse.

5. The political situation also caused a dramatic fall in cotton exports, which have traditionally represented one fourth of the total value of Nicaraguan exports. Since the sowing time was almost over when the war happened in mid-July 1979, only 36,250 hectares had been sown with cotton, compared to the normal 175,000 hectares.

6. Damage to the industrial sector was estimated at 150 million dollars: 60 million resulting from the destruction of inventories and raw materials, 35 million form damage to equipment and machinery, 15 million in damage to buildings and facilities, and 40 million in bad debts. Fortunately, most of the industries producing construction materials were not damaged, and so repairs began immediately.

7. Damage to the commercial sector was estimated at 220 million dollars. The damage was of three types:

a. 120 million dollars, or more than half, was the result of assaults, since the major stores in the largest cities were looted before the Sandinistas re-established order; b. bad debts and c. buildings, furniture and equipment destroyed by the bombardment and by fire.

8. The physical damage from the insurrection was estimated by the United Nations at a total of 480 million dollars.

9. Apart from the human and physical damage caused by the war, Nicaragua’s future was seriously mortgaged by the foreign debt of 1,600 million dollars that had been taken out by the Somoza regime. Approximately 400 million dollars were owed by the banking and private sector in the form of short-term obligations and as a result, a considerable number of payments had to be made in 1979. These debts had to be renegotiated, since Nicaragua had no reserves, because Somoza and his followers had transferred practically all the foreign exchange outside Nicaragua in 1978.

D. Government Policy in the Field of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

1. On July 9, 1979, the program of the Government of National Reconstruction called for three plans to rebuild the country: an emergency plan, a short-term economic recovery plan, and a plan for socio-economic reconstruction, transformation and development.

2. The emergency plan, which went into effect a few days after the change of government, was designed to meet the people’s most urgent needs:

An Emergency Plan designed to cope chiefly with the following basic needs of the population: a. the availability and distribution of food; b. the economic position of families directly affected or decimated by the war; c. the reconstruction of populated cities and slums; d. nutrition and health conditions, and e. efficient reorganization and operation of public services: transportation, energy, water, and communications.

For example, the Ministries of Social Welfare and Public Health, assisted by neighborhood committees and councils, took on the task of distributing food and medicines, which the Red Cross had been doing up to that period. By mid-August 1979, the new government had established the domestic organization needed to be able to respond to immediate emergencies.

3. The short-term economic recovery plan, implementation of which could be started before the emergency plan was completed, focused on key sectors of the economy singled out for internal transformation:

An Immediate Economic Recovery Plan, the purpose of which shall be to stimulate the reactivation and stabilization of the national economy. This plan must include specific measures or programs on the following areas: employment; agricultural and industrial production; monetary and exchange policies; foreign trade; fiscal and public spending policies, renegotiations of the external public debt; orientation of the new debt, financial policy on development, and services.

In its 1981 New Year message, the Junta [12]/ reported that the following objectives had been met in 1980:

- National unemployment rates were reduced to 17%, historically one of the lowest rates the country has had; this means that more than 110,000 new jobs were created, of which nearly 50,000 were in the agricultural and livestock sector.

- Agricultural and livestock production surpassed its goals and harvests of corn and sorghum where excellent, while rice met its anticipated levels. This was not the case with the bean harvest, because excessive rain caused production to tall; this item will have to be imported in 1981. The organization and development of the agrarian reform continued, and more than 80 percent of the industrial sector was reactivated.

- The goals of the 1980 Economic Plan were met almost in their entirety; the rate of economic growth was among the highest in Latin America; the high rate of inflation was brought down and is one of the lowest in Central America. To achieve this, major subsidies were given to basic consumer products, such as basic grains, oil, eggs and milk, and to mass transportation, which enabled workers to have a more solid real wage. There were also wage increases, which although modest, benefited the poorest sectors of the population.

- Another triumph was the renegotiations of the foreign debt with more than one hundred foreign banks, with an ample grace period and new conditions for interest payments. This all guarantees a margin of financial safety in which to carry out the project of national reconstruction.

- There was an adequate balance of payment, and imports not essential to economic development were controlled, the expenditures budget of the nation shoed a moderate deficit, even smaller than the anticipated deficit because of an increase in tax receipts and responsible execution of the budget which reduced costs.

The objectives set for 1981 include the following:

In 1981, we shall make progress on production and we shall also conquer new goals in health, education, sources of jobs, extension of electricity and drinking water services. Construction of housing in production centers such as the mining areas, banana plantations and sugar production sectors, construction and maintenance of inland roads and rural highways; we shall also make progress on communication with the Atlantic and other areas of the country.

4. The plan for socio-economic reconstruction, transformation and development was designed to reorganize the socio-economic basis of Nicaragua. It states as follows:

A medium-term plan for socio-economic reconstruction, transformation and development will be prepared and carried out. Its purpose will be a substantial improvement in the standards of living and quality of life of our people, based on increasing national production and on an equitable distribution of wealth. This Plan will take all sectors of the nation into the work of national reconstruction and integral development of the country. The sectoral plans mentioned in this program will be part of the medium term plan.

The rest of this chapter will give particular to two areas that are undergoing a structural change and that are of particular interest to human rights: a. agrarian reform, and b. the educational sector.

E. The Agrarian Reform [13]/

1. The Junta’s progress of action said that the new Government would gradually seek to create a mixed economy, in which three basic forms of ownership of the means of production would coexist: state ownership by society, the private ownership sector, and a mixed public and private sector.

According to the program, the social and state-owned sector of the land would consist of nationalized land that had belonged to Somoza and his collaborators.

2. The program of July 9, 1979 spelled out the lands that would be expropriated:

1) The lands and agricultural farms recovered form the Somoza family and his supporters that would become part of the National Reconstruction Property;

2) The properties of people owing money to state financial institutions who had fraudulently benefited from their links to the Somoza regime;

3) The properties of tax evaders;

4) Lands that belonged to the nation and that have been assigned by the regime for political purposes;

5) Agricultural properties abandoned by their owners;

6) Lands of the state and of existing ranches that are lying idle.

Although these recently acquired lands were called “properties belonging to the people,” under the Program, they were not to be distributed to peasants for private farming. But rather “When the lands are given to their new owners, they will be chiefly organized for production purposes into forms of association that will guarantee that they perform the social function of property.

3. Decree No. 3 issued on July 20, 1979, i.e., on the day following the change of government, empowered the Attorney General 2immediately to proceed to intervene, requisition or confiscate all property of the entire Somoza family, military personnel and civil servants who left the country after December 1977.” The Nicaraguan Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA) was created in August 1979, and approximately 1,500 farms, around 800,000 hectares (2 million acres) in area, were expropriated from the Somocistas without compensation. By mid-July 1980, INRA had acquired an additional 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres) which, although not subject to Decree No. 3, had nonetheless been occupied by peasants or confiscated by the Government. At present, INRA controls approximately 25% of the fertile land in Nicaragua, although only some of the land was under cultivation; the rest was used for pasture or was uncultivated.

4. The public sector, known as the area of state and social ownership, is organized into:

1) Large vertically integrated slaughterhouses, and sugar and coffee plantations, with their mills, which were put under control of Agro INRA. These vertically-integrated enterprises control a total of 90,000 acres; and

2) “State Production Units (UPES)”, consisting of farms expropriated and operated by INRA in consultation with representatives of the agricultural workers belonging to the independent peasant association called Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo (ATC) (Field Workers Association). There are approximately 2,200 UPES, of more than 2 million acres, in 170 production units, which in turn make up 27 agricultural enterprises (e.g. coffee enterprise, cotton enterprise, etc.)

5. The production cooperatives, called the Sandinistas Agricultural Cooperatives (CAS) have also been promoted, but participation is strictly voluntary. By the end of 1980, there were 1,400 production cooperatives made up of small peasant farmers. Their objective was to unite their small holdings to farm them on a collective basis, thus taking advantage of the new services and credit available to cooperatives. One-third of the lands was leased to the peasants by the Government and the other two-thirds by the private sector.

The Field Workers Association has also organized more than 60,000 peasants into 1,200 credit and services cooperatives who received more than 50% of the agricultural credits distributed. The Nicaraguan Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA) established an entity called PROCAMPO to provide technical and marketing assistance and the cooperatives merely assured of access to credit with the National Development Bank at interest rates ranging from 7 to 11 percent. The lowest rate, of course, is available to cooperatives, as an economic incentive for the collectivization of production. Under Somoza, most of the agricultural producers had no access to credits, since 90% of all agricultural credit went to export crops produced on the large farms.

The Government also helped the small farmer by nationalizing the entire system for marketing agricultural exports, buying and selling basic grains directly, and controlling leasing arrangements. State control of foreign trade allowed the government for the first time to impose direct taxes on these sectors and to increase the minimum wage from 1.70 to 4.20 dollars per day.

6. While the small farmer produced a significant share of total agricultural production, the large private commercial farms still represented the majority of export production, as shown in the following statistics:

Production of Agricultural Products by Type of Property in 1979-80

Crop
State Sector (INRA) %
Small producers (Less than 15 hect.)%
Large producers %
Cotton
20.0
18.0
62.0
Coffee
15.0
30.0
55.0
Corn
15.0
73.0
12.0
Beans
8.7
87.2
4.4
 
17.0
79.1
3.8

The agricultural and livestock producers are formed into an association called UPANIC (Unión de Productores Agrícolas Nicaragüenses) (Union of Nicaraguan Agricultural Producers), one of the several organizations making up COSEP (Consejo Superior de la Empresa Privada) (Higher Council of Private Enterprise). The Government attempted by means of economic incentives to direct and maintain active private-sector participation in agricultural production. A fund was set up to stabilize coffee in order to protect coffee producers against price instability on the world market, low interest loans were provided and income tax and corporation tax were intentionally kept low to stimulate private investment.

7. One of the basic complaints of the private sector is that they considered many of the land expropriations to have been unfair and illegal. In the COSEP document, “Analysis of the execution of the Program of the Government of National Reconstruction”. Published in November 1980, the private sector alleged that the government has not clearly defined the extension of the state sector: “The state area does not have a precise scope nor it is clearly defined, despite COSEP’s justifiable and continued insistence that this be done. If it is not clearly defined, the idea of a mixed economy will lose its meaning…”

Specifically, COSEP alleges that “there have been expropriations, without proper compensation, of agricultural property of citizen not covered by Decree Nos. 3 and 38, simply because INRA thinks that these lands are essential to agricultural livestock development, despite the fact that there is no comprehensive agrarian reform plan.”

During the Commission’s visit to Nicaragua in October 1980, UPANIC presented the case of the confiscation of ASGANIC (Asociación de Ganaderos de Nicaragua) (The Nicaraguan Cattle Owners Association), an organization that is part of UPANIC. The ASGANIC properties were confiscated and their legal status revoked. UPANIC argues that ASGANIC doses not fall within the parameters established by Decrees Nos. 3 or 38, since it is a juridical entity and not a private individual subject to confiscation as established in those decrees. However, the only two presidents that ASGANIC has had since it was founded in 1955, were Luis Somoza and Oscar Seville Sacasa, both relatives of General Anastasio Somoza. However the question to be considered is the legal scope of the phrase “Supporters of the Somoza regime” of Decree No. 3. This phrase, the new authorities apparently interpret more broadly than do the private sector individuals and associations whose interests have been directly affected.

8. The Commission considers that the new Government of Nicaragua needs to establish an orderly procedure for the resolution legal conflicts involving property rights, to ensure that the agrarian reform process is consolidated equitably, without the continued hostility of the private sector. [14]/

F. Fundamental Education Reforms [15]/

1. The significance that the new Government of Nicaragua attaches to education was demonstrated by the official designation of 1980 as “Literacy year”. And by the impressive literacy campaign begun on March 24, 1980, to teach every Nicaraguan to read and write, and thus try to incorporate him into the economic and social process.

The reason for the high priority given to educational reform was set forth in the Program of July 9, 1979, in the following terms:

There will be a profound change in the objectives and content of national education, in order to make it a key factor in the process of the humanistic transformation of Nicaraguan society, and to give it a critical, liberating direction. This reform will be comprehensive, covering all stages of the process, from pre-school education through higher education.

A National Plan for the Comprehensive Development of Education will be prepared and a General Law on Education will be enacted for these purposes.

2. The elements of the educational reform will be as follows: 1. Free, obligatory primary and secondary school education; 2. Control of the price of books and school material; 3. The regulation of private schools; 4. The creation of vocational technical schools; 5. The establishment of rural educational centers; 6. Respect for the autonomy of the National University; and 7. Wiping out illiteracy.

These reforms would be achieved by setting in motion a program in several stages. The first will look at the needs and demands of the Nicaraguan people, will make an inventory of the physical infrastructure (schools, books, etc.) and will estimate the human resources that are needed. A number of immediate action programs will then start, with the “Heroes and Martyrs of the Liberation of Nicaragua” national literacy campaign, being the most important and immediate program.

3. A second step is the “Grand Consultation,” which will involve participation by political, labor, professional and social organizations in designing a new educational system. The result of the popular survey will be the national Plan for the Integral development of Education,” which will establish the guidelines for developing this new system.

4. Another measure will be to create a “National Council for the Integral Development of Education,” which will be responsible for drawing up the strategy for political education that will reflect the will of the people and consolidate the principles of the Sandinista Revolution. A final measure involves creating of a national Higher education Council, responsible for coordinating higher educational institutions.

The following reform measures have been put into motion:

a) Free and compulsory education

5. According to the Statute on the Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans, primary and secondary education is free and obligatory. At the university level, students must pay 68.00 córdobas (equivalent to US$6.80) per semester, when they register at the Autonomous National University of Nicaragua; this means a reduction of 90 percent in the enrollment fees. The Ministry of Public Education supervises and regulates the price of books and school materials, and is involved in the production and marketing of basic tests in order to provide them free of charge.

According to information provided by the Nicaraguan Government, school enrollment has risen by 68 percent over the last two years. At the end of 1978, there were 502,000 students; in 1979, after July 19, there 578,000 and at present, 843,000. There are now 341,000 more people studying than two years ago. In comparison with 1978, the year of lowest school enrollment under Somoza, pre-school enrollment has tripled, primary and secondary enrollment has risen by 36 percent, enrollment in special education has quintupled, university enrollment has more than doubled, and adult education has increased more than fourteen times.

b) Regulation of private schools

6. In order to ensure that private schools adhere to national education policies, the Ministry of Public Education is responsible for regulating enrollment and enrollment fees in private schools. Some private and religious schools will be nationalized, but only when the owners ask for this to be done.

c) Expansion of educational services

7. As the result of the damage caused by the war, one of the new Government’s major tasks was to reconstruct the physical plant of educational institutions. As part of an emergency program, the Government began reconstructing 74 schools. The total cost of reconstruction was 1,544,328 Córdobas (US$154,431). A number of Swedish trade unions donated 1 million córdobas for the reconstruction. Twenty-two secondary schools were rehabilitated, the financing coming from the World Bank loan.

At present, 22 primary schools and 18 secondary schools are under construction in rural areas, at a total cost of 45 million córdobas. While attention in 1979’1980 was concentrated on reconstructing the educational facilities, efforts in 1980’81 will be on constructing new educational centers in rural areas. The following table shows annual increases in government spending on the educational sector:

Growth of Government spending on education

Year
Thousand of Córdobas
Rate of Growth
1976
320.669
100%
1977
337.951
105%
1978
341.024
106%
1979
409.715
128%
1980
888.249
277%

8. The Nicaraguan Government has reported that it has considerably increased the number of teachers by bringing in 2,100 more teachers into primary schools, 1,200 of them from Cuba (the Augusto César Sandino International Brigade) with others coming from Spain, Costa Rica, México and Venezuela. Although the initial plans were for the Cuban teachers to stay in Nicaragua for two years, the Commission has been informed that most had left Nicaragua by the end of July 1980. Most of the Cuban teachers were working in the rural sector and in the literacy campaign.

9. The Study-Work Program ran from December 1 to December 20, 1980. More than 120,000 students from the secondary school enrollment and fifth and sixth grade in primary school from throughout the country (between 90 and 95%) participated in this program, which was able to do a large number of production and social projecting projects. A parallel program, “Rearguard, Study-Work”, was carried out with 304,430 children from the first to fourth grades of primary school participating.

10. In sum, in the twelve months following May 4, 1980, the Government has invested C$138.6 in schools and institutes.

Nicaragua’s education budget has gone from 330.1 million córdobas in 1978 to 381.6 million in 1979; 909.7 million in 1980, and 1,152 million in 1981, an increase of 349.2 percent over the Somoza era. In addition, the budget for higher education through CNES went form 114 million córdobas in 1980 to C$164 million in 1981. This represent an increase of 364% over the 45 million budgeted by the Somoza regime in 1978 for the universities.

d) Wiping out illiteracy

11. Considered as the most significant educational event in Nicaragua’s history, the “Heroes and Martyrs of the Liberation of Nicaragua” Literacy Crusade begun in March 1980 and ended in August of the same year. The first state of the campaign, which lasted for five months, is reported to have reduced illiteracy by an average of 50 percent (87 percent in some rural areas), down to less than 13%. It is estimated that more than 400,000 Nicaraguans learned to read and write during the first phase of the campaign.

While the methods and contents of the literacy campaign were being defined, a National Literacy of the Nicaraguan population aged 10 or older. The census, conducted by the National Statistics and Census Institute of Nicaragua, shoed that 52% of the population over 10 years of age were functional illiterates, and that in some sectors, the percentage rose to 80 percent. It was also determined that among children aged 10 to 14, illiteracy in some areas reached 74% and that four out five illiterates were more than 14 years old.

12. The National Literacy Commission, in charge of directing and organizing the campaign, was responsible for three groups of literacy teachers: 1. The Popular Literacy Teachers (AP), 2. The Popular Army of Literacy Teachers (EPA), and 3. The Worker’s Literacy Militia (MOA). While the AP and MOA were teaching for only part of the time, the EPA was able to go to rural and mountainous areas for several months at a time. The AP and MOA were assigned to the cities to teach reading and writing in the wok place, the markets and the poor neighborhoods; the Workers’ Literacy Militia was sent to business and factories. The Popular Teachers were mainly housewives and civilian employees that were unable to go for months at a time to rural and mountainous areas.

Apart from the teacher training, which took its inspiration from the ideas of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. And which was adapted to Nicaraguan conditions, the literacy brigade received training in scouting through the Boy Scout movement, and learned the basics of first aid and hygiene, in order to be able to help in the malaria eradication campaign.

Although the campaign has not yet been evaluated, it is hoped that UNESCO will conduct an evaluation of its achievements in the near future.

13. The campaign was the subject of fierce controversy in Nicaragua, as regards its objectives. The Higher Private Enterprise Council (COSEP) said that the teaching texts used in the campaign were highly political in content. It said that for example, the literacy workbook, on e of the basic texts, has 23 topics, all related to the Government’s Action Program and the revolutionary process. A report from the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education indicates that in the first lesson of the text, the students would learn the five vowels in the words “la Revolución.” According to the report, the surname Fonseca, the name of one of the founders of the FSLN, who has died in combat, would enable the students to learn the syllables, si, so se and sa.

14. The cost of the campaign, estimated at 200 million córdobas, (US$20 million) was met in part by the Nicaraguan Government. Thirty-six countries and a number of regional and international organizations provided financial assistance.

Intent on maintaining the literacy level achieved and on wiping out illiteracy completely, the Government is expanding educational services at all levers, and particularly, primary education and adult education in rural areas. If these measures are not entirely satisfactory, the Government proposes to carry out a literacy campaign every ten years. A Deputy Ministry for Adult Education will ensure that the recently literate adult population is not ignored. Another additional responsibility of this entity would be to set up a permanent adult education program.

15. In 1978, the last budget executed by the Somoza Government set the amount of C$530.3 for social spending. This figure represented 26.1 percent of the total budget. The budget for the social area in 1981 is C$2,518 or 28.6 percent of the total budget. This figure includes the Ministries of Health, Education, Social Welfare and Culture. The latter two Ministries did not exist as such under the old regime. The increase represents almost C$2 000 million, almost four times as much in 1981 as in 1978. It is planned to spend 1,212 million córdobas on the Ministry of health in 1981, and C$1,152 million on the Ministry of Education. In absolute terms, the state social sector is receiving almost five times more in 1981 than it received in 1978.

The Commission believes that the most significant aspects of these changes are the literacy campaign, the change in emphasis from urban to rural education, from university to primary and secondary education, and from academic education to vocational training.

16. The Commission considers that the government of Nicaragua is intent on solving many of the educational problems, many of which are common to most Latin American countries: illiteracy, a high school dropout rate, an educational system that is highly deficient of nonexistent in rural areas and that favors students from the urban middle and upper classes. However, these new educational reforms correspond to profound changes being wrought in the entire economic and social fabric. The Government of National Reconstruction is engaged in redistributing the wealth, in order to provide the disadvantaged with greater access to essential public services, and in particular, to basic education, primary health services, better shelter and nutrition.

G. Other economic and social rights

1. In its observations on the report approved provisionally by the Commission, the Government also recalls some of its achievements in the field of health, housing, safety and social welfare.

2. In brief, its information points out that the health budget rose to C$890 million after the victory of the revolution; that projected spending for 1981 is C$1,212 million; and that the 1979 and 1980 spending represents 13.4 percent and 13.8 percent respectively of the total state budget in comparison with the 6.1 percent spending under Somoza.

3. As regards housing, according to the Government, more than 3,600 housing units have been repaired to date, and 450 have been reconstructed, thus gradually repairing the damage caused during the war.

4. As regards social security, according to the Government, there has been an increase of 67 percent in the total protected population, rising form 156,566 when the government changed to 262,519 by the end of 1980.

5. The Government has also provided the Commission with information on social welfare for children, mothers and families.

 

 

Notes____________________


[1] Article 26, the only Article in Chapter III of the American Convention on Human Rights, provides: “Economic Social and Cultural Rights. Progressive Development. The State Parties undertake to adopt measures, both internally and through international cooperation especially those of an economic and technical nature, with a view to achieving progressively. By legislation or other appropriate means, the full realization of the rights implicit in the economic, social educational, scientific, and cultural standards set forth in the Charter of the Organization of American States, as amended by the Protocol of Buenos Aires.”

[2] Advisory Group of the FAO on Central American Integration, Prospective Plan for the Development and integration of agriculture in Central America (Guatemala City), (GAFICA 4/72, 1972).

[3] In 1977, 55% of the population (1,278,750 people) lived in rural areas. These and other statistics not identified in this part of the report were taken from publications by the Inter-American Development Ban.

[4] IDB. Report on Economic and Social Progress in Latin America (IPES) (1978), P. 130.

[5] US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency: World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers (1969-78), p. 61.

[6] Ibid., p. 103.

[7] IDB, IPES (1979), pp. 320 et seq.

[8] IDB, IPES (1979)m p. 129.

[9] World Bank: “Poverty and Basic Needs,” September 1980.

[10] Richard Millet: Guardians of the Dynasty (1977), p. 253.

[11] The statistics used in this part of the report were taken from the United Nations Study, ECLA, Nicaragua: Economic Repercussions of recent political events, E/CEPAL/G.1091; (September 1979).

[12] El Nuevo Diario: “Message from the Government Junta,” (January 2, 1981).

[13] The statistics have been taken from: “Nicaragua’s Agrarian Reform: the First year (1979’1980)”, by David Kaimowitz and Joseph Thome in Nicaragua in Revolution, Thomas Walker, ed. (Praeger, 1981).

[14] In its observations to the provisional report by the IACHR, the Government of Nicaragua told the Commission that Decree No. 329, published in La Gaceta on March 4, 1981, established: “Henceforth, and apart from cases for which provision is made in the present decree, land can be expropriated for reasons of agrarian reform only in accordance with Article 27 of the Statute on Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans as regulated by general laws and regulations that will be issued in this regard, and in accordance with indemnities that shall be contained in the same laws.”

[15] The principal source of information for the section is found in La Educación en el Primer año de la Revolución Popular Sandinista, Ministry of Education, Managua, Nicaragua (1980).

 



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