I’m pleased to introduce the video “We Have Other Plans: Communities Implement Alternative Development,” on behalf of Nicaragua Network (my employer) which produced it. Nicaragua Network is a network of more than 200 organizations across the U.S. , working in solidarity with Nicaragua or with local Nicaraguan communities. Some of you may be familiar with our Nicaragua News Service, to which many university libraries subscribe. Also, anyone can sign up for our weekly email Hotline, which will keep you up-to-date with key issues in Nicaragua; you can sign up by writing Kathy@AFGJ.org.
In addition, Nicaragua Network, as a principal project of the Alliance for Global Justice, promotes alternatives, across the world, to “savage capitalism” as implemented through the neoliberal model. This video is one project toward that larger goal which I believe we all support, namely, struggling against corporate globalization and building alternatives for our communities. In the video, we see a few selected examples among many across Nicaragua , of communities developing their own alternatives to the economic war being waged upon them. For the most part, these communities are extremely poor and are not currently viewed as important enough, by the agents of global capitalism, to incorporate into their system. They are the people “living in the cracks”, the “throw-away people.” But these communities are fighting back, and widening the cracks of new opportunity for themselves. As such, they’re an inspiration to all of us.
The video and study guide are available for US$25.00. In addition, we’ll provide them free to any Global South organization that is working to develop community alternatives and can’t otherwise afford to buy them.
A few words are necessary to explain the present situation in Nicaragua . The Contra war ended in 1990, in which guerrillas funded by the U.S. Reagan administration attacked the elected Sandinista government. But the capitalist economic war has continued. Nicaragua has one of the highest per-capita debts in the world; it is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere . Nevertheless, the IMF in its wisdom has imposed “structural adjustment” (recently misnamed “poverty reduction”), insisting that the Nicaraguan government sell off its lucrative national phone company – which was sold well below its true value. The national electric company was also privatized, and now the Spanish company that owns it is constantly raising electric rates beyond what people can afford. Nicaragua is in the early stages of water privatization, but a huge network of consumers has sprung up to oppose it, with considerable international solidarity.
There are more and more maquiladoras in “Free” Trade zones within the country. National budgets for education and health care have been drastically cut. The rural communities, especially those with a militant Sandinista history, are largely ignored by the current national government. Campesinos are struggling to remain on their land, with no opportunity for bank loans to tide them over a rough year. There is a huge rate of emigration to other countries like Costa Rica , El Salvador , or the U.S. , with one or two members of a given family sending remittances to the family members remaining at home.
There is also a tremendous flight to major cities like Managua, the capital, where people are constructing shantytowns out of tin, cardboard, sticks and plastic, on the edge of highly polluted Lake Managua – often their only source of water. The barrio La Primavera is one of those shantytowns. My colleague, Ana Narváez, will speak about her work in La Primavera, with Women in Action, an organization featured in the video.