intercontinental sponsored walk for la chureca

The Campaign is holding a sponsored walk to raise money for Los Quinchos, which works with the children of la Chureca/ The walk is taking place in Saturday, July 2, starting in Blaenau Ffestiniog at 9.30. For the first time the walk will take place on two continents!

The Welsh crew will be walking through Cwm Prysor, and climbing up yr Arenig.

Meanwhile in Nicaragua, Campaign member David McKnight will be climbing Volcan Concepcion, on Isla de Ometepe.

During the last three years the Campaign has raised nearly £20,000 for the work of Los Quinchos. We are raising £400 a month between now and the end of the year, to continue with our support.

You can take part in the walk (see here for further details). Or you can donate on line here.

taith gerdded traws gyfandirol er mwyn la chureca

Bydd yr Ymgyrch yn cynnal taith gerdded noddedig i godi arian i Los Quinchos, sy’n gweithio gyda plant la Chureca. Digwyddir y taith ar ddydd Sadwrn, Gorffennaf 2il, yn dechrau ym Mlaenau Ffestiniog am 9.30. Cynhelir y taith ar ddau cyfandir am y tro cyntaf!

Bydd y criw yng Nghymru yn cerdded trwy Cwm Prysor, a dringo yr Arenig.

Ar yr hyn pryd, bydd aelod o’r  Ymgyrch, David McKnight, yn dringo llosgmynydd, Volcan Maderas, ar Isla de Ometepe.

Yn ystod y 3 mlynedd diwethaf, mae’r Ymgyrch wedi codi bron a £20,000 ar gyfer gwaith los Quinchos. Rydym yn ceisio codi £400 y mis rhwng yn awr a diwedd y flwyddyn, i barhau gyda ein cefnogaeth.

Mae’n bosibl i gymryd rhan yn y taith. Gweler y ffurflen nawdd am ragor o fanylion. Neu ydych chi’n gallu cyfrannu ar lein, fan hyn.

une visitor in cardiff in june

Meeting – Nicaraguan trade unions and the Sandinista government

Wednesday, June 22, 7pm

Unison Cymru, Custom House St, Cardiff

Organised by the Wales Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign and Unison Cymru

The Campaign has been working for several years to create a link between Unison Cymru and the Nicaraguan public sector union UNE. In principle the Unison Cymru International Committee has decided to pursue twinning with UNE, and they are discussing the practical steps at the moment. The next step will come in June, when Domingo Perez, the General Secretary of UNE, visits Cardiff.

Domingo has sent a personal invitation to the meeting, filmed by Campaign member David McKnight in Nicaragua. See his invitation:

The Sandinista government has transformed the conditions for unions in Nicaragua, and their ability to organise. The Campaign wrote about the conditions facing trade unions in Nicaragua after our last visit. See here for the article.

ymwelydd une yng nghaerdydd ym mis mehefin


Nos Fercher, Mehefin 22, 7yh

Unison Cymru, Custom House St, Caerdydd

Trefnwyd gan Ymgyrch Cefnogi Nicaragua Cymru ac Unison Cymru

Mae’r Ymgyrch wedi bod yn gweithio am sawl mlynedd i greu cyswllt rhwng Unison Cymru a’r undeb sector cyhoeddus, UNE. Mewn egwyddor mae Pwyllgor Rhyngwladol Unison Cymru wedi penderfynu i gyfeillio gyda UNE, ac mae’n trafod y camau ymarfeol ar hyn o bryd. Mae’r cam nesaf yn dod ym mis Mehefin, pan mae Domingo Perez, Ysgrifennydd Cyffredionol UNE yn ymweld a Caerdydd.

Mae Domingo wedi anfon gwahoddiad personol i’r gyfarfod o Nicaragua, wedi ei ffilmio gan aelod yr Ymgyrch, David McKnight. Gweler ei wahoddiad.

Mae’r llywodraeth Sandinistaidd wedi trawsffurfio’r amodau ar gyfer undebau yn Nicaragua, a’i gallu i drefnu. Ysgrifennodd yr Ymgyrch am y sefyllfa sy’n wynebu undebau cyhoeddus ar ol ein ymweliad yn 2009. Gweler yr erthygl llawn undeb.

an antidote to socialism pops up in managua

The Sao Paulo Forum, the left leaning gathering of Latin American countries, is now in its 21st year. Formed in 1990 at the initiative of Brazil’s Partido de Trabajadores, it has continued to meet, its latest coming together happening last week in Managua.

It’s more of a talking shop than some of the other regional bodies which have since come to prominence. The ALBA – the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas – includes countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. In recent years it has become much more concrete, a process best described by academics such as Thomas Muhr, who writes convincingly about the gains for the bloc and individual countries (see TINA Go Home! ALBA and Re-theorizing Resistance to Global Capitalism).

Another wide gathering of Latin American countries has also been making progress. UNASUR – the Union of South American Nations – was formally constituted in 2008, and its founding treaty became active this March. One of its most visible foreign policy achievements so far has been the wave of Latin American countries recognising Palestine since the new year. This followed negotiations between UNASUR and the League of Arab States in 2010.

But with the Left and Centre Left governments in the region forming closer working ties, what’s the Right up to? Well, not too much, but what it is doing leaves an unpleasant taste. In December under the banner of “The Future of Freedom in a Global World”, a clique of Rightists got together in Santiago mainly to attack Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua. Such well known defenders of democracy as ex-Presidents Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, Jorge Quiroga of Bolivia and Jose Maria Aznar of Spain were there, together with Mario Vargas Llosa, the Nobel literature winner from Peru, and an incomparably better writer than politician.

Much more worrying than this collection of has beens and never wuzzes is a gathering which is meeting next week in Managua. The Antidote to 21st Century Socialism will be holding a forum hosted by the ‘civil society’ organisation the Movement for Nicaragua, a creation of the US National Endowment for Democracy, which also funds it. According to the Nicaragua Network, the self proclaimed purpose of the forum is to ‘unmask the supposed blessings of that political current (21st century socialism) which has Castroite origins”. Just in case you might want to know what the ‘antidote’ is, then there’s a clue in the headline speaker, Honduran Roberto Micheletti,  who will appear by video link. He was one of the figures who organised the military coup there in June 2009, and was the de facto President.

The recipients of this ‘antidote’ include another three journalists killed in Honduras over the past couple of months, joining the ten gunned down last year. Obviously the participants in the meeting will be keen to see their medicine spread to all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, after it was administered so effectively by military governments during the 70s and 80s.

u.n. watch watched: nicaragua and libya

Nicaragua has received more bad international press coverage for it’s position on Libya and Syria. The latest criticism comes from the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights, and UN Watch. They have circulated a statement, picked up by some newspapers, rejecting Nicaragua’s candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council. In the statement they had this to say:

“Congo, Kuwait and Nicaragua have poor records in respecting the basic human rights of their own citizens,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, “and they have consistently voted the wrong way on UN initiatives to promote and protect the human rights of others.”

“As an observer state in recent UN human rights council sessions, Nicaragua strongly praised the governments of Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, attempting to shield them from scrutiny. It will be an insult to their victims — and a defeat for the global cause of human rights — if the UN now elects Nicaragua as one of the council’s 47 voting members.”

Whilst Nicaragua’ support for Libya and Syria has caused scathing comment from the Right, and more sighs from some of the Left, Nicaragua has made arguments why it has taken such a stand. The latest was last week, in a session of the UN Security Council.

“Nicaraguan representative to the UN Maria Rubiales de Chamorro opposed the bombing of Libya, saying the UN Charter does not include any reference to an alleged right of humanitarian interference, but rather considers paramount respect for sovereignty and the principle of non intervention in the internal affairs of states.

She wondered how they intend to protect civilians by bombing them, how many civilians have been killed in the name of the alleged protection of civilians and how the assassination of a sovereign country’s president can be planned under this concept.”

Others have raised questions about the demonstrations in Libya and Syria. Several weeks ago Toni Solo called into question the motivation of the bombing in Libya: the latest offensive in the West’s war in humanity. Prof Michel Chousudovsky raises similar concerns in Syria: who is behind the protest movement? Fabricating a pretext for a US-NATO “Humanitarian Intervention”

You don’t have to be a paid up member of the Gaddafi supporters club to be concerned about the bombing of Libya, and the way the targets of the war are being extended seemingly on a weekly basis. You also have to questions the motivations of the human rights groups criticising Nicaragua. Both UN Watch and the Lantos Foundations for Human Rights were set up by Washington insiders – the former by UN Ambassador Morris B Abram, the latter by US Congressman Tom Lantos.

Whilst UN Watch and the Landos Foundation rejected Nicaragua, they backed a list of other countries, including Chile (who have imprisoned Mapuche land protesters under notorious anti terrorism laws dating from the fascist Pinochet) and Italy (who’s anti Roma policies are notorious across Europe, and who recently refused to rescue refugees crossing the Mediterranean, ironically fleeing Libya: 63 died on board).

Perhaps a clue to their opposition to Nicaragua lies in the second part of their statement: they have consistently voted the wrong way on UN initiatives to promote and protect the human rights of others. This presumably refers to Nicaragua’s steadfast support for Palestine, and its refusal to back the US and NATO military interventions anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

soppexcca, fair trade and christian aid week

We can change the relationship between consumers and producers, and the relationship between prices, so that it a relation that allows us to live.

Porfirio Zepeda. UCA Miraflor, on the beneftis of fair trade

Christian Aid Week, which began today, is focusing on Nicaraguan fair trade organisation SOPPEXCCA. The Campaign has been out today speaking with local churches about the work of SOPPEXCCA, and other Nicaraguan fair trade co-operatives, in improving the lives of coffee growers, their families and communities.

Christian Aid have produced a short film/slide show, highlighting some of the acheivement of SOPPEXCCA in Jinotega, in Northern Nicaragua. SOPPEXCA themselves have produced a longer film, outlining the way fair trade is intergrated into their widr approach to development. Watch it here.

On our visits to Nicaragua the Campaign has met with SOPPEXCA, and also visited fair trade coffee farms in the UCA Miraflor and the UCA San Ramon. Both encourage eco-tourism, with a chance to stay with a family, learn more about fair trade, and sample the environmental wonders and traditional Nicaraguan cooking.

The Welsh Campaign has a long history of promoting Nicaraguan coffee, from the almost undrinkable brew of the Revolutionary years, to the superb fair trade coffees of today, some of the best in the world. We have also hosted many Nicaraguan fair trade visitors, including Janixce Florian of SOPPEXCA in 2006.

A video about the work of SOPPEXCCA is also available from our sister organisation, the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign: Coffee – Take It Fairly. If you would like a speaker about fair trade, contact the Wales Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign.

political developments in latin america

Campaign member Ben Gregory will be speaking on Monday, May 16, 7pm, at the Friends Meeting House, Dean St, Bangor, on recent political developments in Latin America.

Ben has been invited by the Bangor and Mon Peace and Justice Group, who have taken a keen interest in developments in the region.

Latin America continues to throw up new political stories on a monthly basis. We can look at individual countries. In October Brazil elected the former guerilla Dilma Rousseff to follow President Lula; in March Haiti saw a former singer, joker and coup supporter elected as President; this Spring in Bolivia there has been the passage of the world’s first Mother Earth law; last weekend Rafael Correa of Ecuador saw his referendum measures passed, hotly opposed by the right and some on the Left, including indigenous groups; next month there will be a run off in Peru between left wing former army officer Ollanta Humala and Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the former crook/President, who fled the country, was extradicted back to Peru, and was given a 25 year sentence for human rights abuses and corruption.

On a regional level a swathe of Latin American countries have recognised Palestine since the New Year, causing grief in Israel and the US. And more controversially, many of the ALBA countries spoke out in support of Libya’s sovereignty and opposed the bombing, whilst at the same time calling for peace talks.

The heat will also be on the Nicaraguan elections, which take place in November. Once campaigning starts at the end of the summer, it promises to be a rough ride, with the shadow of the US looming.

nicaragua’s indigenous people: another version of orientalism

Nicaragua gets scant attention in the mainstream media. And when it does, the portrayal of the country is usually negative. Two of the main culprits are Tim Rogers, who writes for the Nica Times, a Costa Rican published paper, who work is syndicated in US newspapers like the Miami Herald and the Christian Science Monitor, and Rory Carroll, who can regularly be read in the Guardian putting the boot into Nicaragua, Venezuela, and any other left wing country that he happens to land in.

Rogers latest contribution to international understanding was posted on the BBC today, Drugs Dilemma on Nicaragua’s Mosquito Coast. The drugs problem on the Coast is real, and started when Colombia began using the Caribbean Coast as a staging point during the Contra War. Anyone with eyes can see the effect that drugs has had on the Coast, and the influx of money spent on lavish dwellings and lifestyles which are otherwise in short supply in the poorest region of Nicaragua.

Drugs, though, are only one story on the Coast. Rogers article quotes people and organisations the Campaign has met during our visits there over the past two decades, including the Council of Elders. Without being too harsh, you have to doubt the political judgment of an organisation which thinks it can achieve its separatist demands by petitioning Hillary Clinton and the Queen. The other main body representing the Miskitu people is the political party, YATAMA. Made up of men (and women) who fought in the Contra War, they have shared power in the region, have stood in a Coalition with the Sandinistas, but YATAMA members have also led protests against the Sandinista Government. YATAMA doesn’t get a mention in Rogers’ article.

One of the outstanding achievements of the current Government on the Coast is moving towards demarcating all communal land. The work, which has taken four years, have ensured the rights of indigenous people over land more than the size of Wales. Someone who has looked at issues on the Coast over the past decade is Luciano Baracco. His latest book, which he edits, National Integration and Contested Autonomy, examines the history of the region, bringing the story up to date. The chapters on the demarcation law are particularly valuable, describing the process, the outcome, and also some of the challenges that remain.

The prose might not be as flowery or as exciting as the Central American ‘orientalism’ practised by Rogers and Carroll, but it will give you a much better understanding. Better to invest your time in back issues of Envio!

fair trade not so fair?

Fair trade is held up as an alternative to free trade, which has caused so much havoc in Latin America over the past two decades. A recent summary of the current debate on fair trade appeared recently in the Vancouver Sun. A study by two academics has suggested that the concentration on certification, both fair trade and organic, has not helped farmers escape poverty. Instead they should concentrate on improving production and efficiency.

These are not the only concerns raised about fair trade. In the March edition of the Environmental Network for Central America newsletter (page 7), Clay Gordon raised concerns about fair trade cocoa. In particular, he says whilst a fixed long term cocoa price helps protect farmers from market volatility, in the long run it does more to protect the chocolate companies from high prices.

Similar worries have been expressed in the most recent Central America Report (pages 4 and 5). With the market price of coffee now at $3 a lb, compared with a low of around 50c a lb during the last decade, the lower fair trade price is going to make some farmers to think twice about joining the system. Alba Sud, a Catalan research organisation, found similar problems to the German research quoted in the Canadian newspaper.

The Wales Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign has visited fair trade coffee and sesame producers regularly since the mid 2000s. The benefits of fair trade were plain to see. For individual farmers, a better and more stable price, and greater control and understanding of their markets (vitally important, as sometimes a majority of their harvest was still sold through traditional ‘unfair’ trade markets). For communities, the social premium has helped support a range of projects – health, education, eco-tourism, amongst others.

Despite the valid criticisms, Nicaragua has been one of the success stories in fair trade. Many of the co-operatives have been based on old Sandinista co-ops, established in the 1980s. Many see fair trade as a political act, and have been active in ensuring the voice of producers is heard in the large international fair trade organisations. They have also been central to creating regional producers networks, which are being set up in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

One of Nicaragua’s contributions to the ALBA, the solidarity trading block in Latin America, is to share their experience of fair trade with their counterparts in Venezuela.

One of the places where fair trade started was in Nicaragua in the 1980s, when solidarity groups sold Nicaraguan coffee. If fair trade is to move to the next stage, where the producers take more control of the system, and receive more of the financial rewards, then Nicaragua will again probably be central to the process.