Subject: Democracy Now coverage of Nicaragua
Dear Amy and DN staff,
I am writing about your Thursday 8/27 brief mention of Nicaragua in which you stated that 46 teachers in that country had died of COVID-19 and that a teachers’ union was protesting in-person classes, while you showed a backhoe digging graves with the implication that this was a current scene in that Central American country.
I have numerous family members and friends living in Nicaragua and have visited Nicaragua myself twice in the past 18 months with study delegations to speak to people on the ground about what is going on in their country. All my contacts in Nicaragua think that it is preposterous to state that 46 teachers have died of COVID-19. Such a number could certainly not have gone unnoticed in a small country in which there have been relatively few cases of the virus and very few deaths. You should also know that the largest teachers union in Nicaragua, ANDEN (Asociación Nacional de Educadores de Nicaragua) with 27,000 members representing 80% of the country’s private and public school teachers, has reaffirmed its support for the government’s approach to schooling during the pandemic. There are very elaborate hygiene protocols in the country (where tropical classrooms are semi-open air), there has been a successful effort to continue the school nutrition program throughout the pandemic (while children in other developing and even developed countries are going hungry), public schools are providing homework packets for the many families that are primarily keeping their children at home, and the government has instituted a well-received television series in which children without internet can get supplemental instruction through TV. As the ANDEN teachers state, there is no substitute for in-person instruction, and exclusively on-line instruction just exacerbates the gap between those with resources and those of more modest means. I think teachers in the US would agree. They would envy the fact that Nicaragua has managed to keep its COVID numbers so much lower than they are here, so that there can be some in-person instruction.
You should be aware that Nicaragua is under fierce attack from the United States for being a country that does not bow to U.S. commercial interests and foreign policy. A plot to provide millions of dollars in USAID funding to destabilize the country was recently uncovered, and the main tool is hybrid warfare—specifically disinformation. It has included the formation of small groups of doctors (and apparently now teachers) who get outsized international media coverage for criticizing the government. PLEASE DO NOT ALLOW DEMOCRACY NOW TO BE USED FOR THIS CAMPAIGN.
I would like to offer you some resources for more balanced reporting on Nicaragua, indeed from the social movement standpoint, with people you might consider interviewing on your show:
Jubilee House Community-Center for Development for Central America is a community of primarily North Americans that runs projects in a poor neighborhood of Ciudad Sandino Nicaragua, including a health clinic. I have found them to be an invaluable source of candid information on how the pandemic is going in Nicaragua, government mitigation efforts, and first-hand info on what public schools look like during the pandemic (some of their children are in Nicaraguan public schools).
Friends of the ATC is comprised of solidarity activists who support the Rural Workers Association in Nicaragua, including the right of peasants to build food sovereignty in the country. They can tell you of the country’s impressive efforts to continue feeding the people throughout the pandemic. (see the article which I co-authored on this subject).
And you may have heard of Brian Willson, an American and member of Veterans for Peace who lives in Nicaragua who lost his legs trying to stop weapons shipments to the contra army in the 1980s. He, too, is available for interviews, which would be timely given that tomorrow (Sept 1) is the anniversary of his great sacrifice for the cause of peace.
I have cc’d all of these people/organizations whom I hope you will consider contacting for your future Nicaragua coverage.
Silver Spring, Maryland
Member of Friends of Latin America