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*Nicaraguan Co-operative Movement: preventing rural violence

News from Nicaragua | Thursday, 24 May 2018 |

Since 2002 NSC has been working in solidarity with Nicaraguan co-ops, CECOCAFEN and SOPPEXCCA

Since 2002 NSC has been working in solidarity with Nicaraguan co-ops, CECOCAFEN and SOPPEXCCA

‘We reject attitudes that foment violence, war and death, wherever they come from.’

Forty – one per cent of Nicaraguans live in rural areas. Yet in all the statements and news coverage of the violence in Nicaragua, the voice of those living and working in countryside and their organisations is never mentioned.

Initially, the violent confrontations were largely confined to urban areas on the Pacific side of Nicaragua. But there are grave concerns that the instability could spread to rural and more remote areas with the highest levels of extreme poverty in the country.  

The escalating polarisation and the refusal of the civil society and student representatives in the National Dialogue to remove road blocks means that freedom of movement is severely restricted in many areas of the country. This means that schools and universities are closed, people are unable to get to work, and food supplies are being affected. For people in rural areas this means their livelihoods are threatened because they are unable to get their produce to markets.

It is the most impoverished, living a hand to mouth existence on the margins in the barrios of the cities and in the countryside. They are the ones most affected by price rises, potential food shortages and threats to their livelihoods.  This will particularly affect women.

It is the rural areas that were most affected by the contra war of the 1980s and any political polarisation could reopen old wounds.  This is where reconciliation and peace is cherished so dearly and has been so hard fought to achieve. For this reason, alongside other peace initiatives, the co-operative movement has been meeting with other sectors of the social and popular economy to set up a parallel round table to contribute to peace and reconciliation and to be active and organised to prevent the violence from spreading.

The Nicaraguan co-operative movement has suffered a history of violence from the very first co-operative organised by Sandino in 1934, in which most of the families were bombed by Somoza’s National Guard, to the self-defence cooperatives formed during the Sandinista government of the 1980s when our cooperatives were attacked by contra forces backed by the United States and thousands of peasants on both sides lost their lives.

For these reasons the movement rejects attitudes that foment violence, war and death, wherever they come from.

This year the co-operative movement is celebrating 27 years of reconciliation between Sandinista families and families that supported the counter-revolution, living together fraternally within  co-operatives, and thus contributing to national reconciliation.

*The current Nicaraguan Co-operative Movement brings together 5,000 cooperatives with 300,000 members  organised into Unions, Centres, Federations and Departmental Councils of cooperatives.

On 5 May they issued a statement agreed by representatives of the following organisations:  Co-operatives of the Association of Rural Workers (ATC); the Co-operatives of the National Union of Farmers and Cattle Ranchers (UNAG); the associations of the Nicaraguan Council for Micro, Small and Medium -size Businesses (CONIMIPYME); and twenty farming, transport, savings and credit, tourism, and marketing co-operatives. This includes the SOPPEXCCA and CECOCAFEN co-operatives that NSC has worked with since 2002.

1.            We regret the deaths of young people and police and we stand in solidarity with the families of the victims.

2.            We demand that justice be done for the relatives and that the guilty are punished.

3.            We regret the violence unleashed as a result of the student protests, which has already  tarnished the image of the country with all the political, economic and social consequences.

4.            We encourage the community identity that the National Police has had until now and we discourage any confrontation between the police and the people, especially any act of repression against the civilian population.

5.            The Nicaraguan co-operative movement has suffered a history of violence from the very first co-operative organized by Sandino in 1934, when the National Guard bombed  most of the families, to the self-defence co-operatives formed during the war of aggression combined with a civil war during the decade of the 1980s, when counter revolutionary forces attacked our  co-operatives and  tens of thousands of members of peasant families from both sides died. For these reasons we reject all  attitudes that foment violence, war and death, wherever they come from.

6.            Out of concern for Nicaragua we accept whatever responsibility falls to us now and in the future. However, we are currently celebrating more than 27 years of reconciliation between Sandinista and counterrevolutionary families, living together fraternally within our cooperatives, thus contributing to national reconciliation.

7.            We recognise and encourage the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity to strengthen public policies in favour of the co-operative sector and to note the peaceful way in which we were able to carry out our work, particularly our participation in the national co-ordination mechanisms for production, consumption and trade. Thanks to peace, organised effort and our active participation in institutions, we have achieved food sovereignty by producing most of the food for our rural and urban families, generating self-employment for 300,000 individuals.

8.            Perhaps young people of the city lack the knowledge of this strategic sector of the national economy. This is partly due to universities failing to incorporate even the peasant sector let alone  co-operatives into the academic curriculum, and partly because the impression  exists, even within our institutions, that private business is the only sector that produces national wealth and employment.

9.            On the reforms to the Institute of the Social Security (INSS), the initial object of the protests, we propose a progressive tax; that is to say that those who earn more pay more. We strongly oppose the privatisation of social security and offer to work towards a co-operative insurance.

10.          We invite all sectors -  the government and the opposition, the business sector and churches of all denominations, the academic sector and the media, political parties and the general public, to unite and work for peace, stability and public safety, representative and participatory democracy, the restoration of rights, civil liberties, reconciliation and national unity.

5 May, 2018