The following article originally appeared in El Nuevo Diario, and was translated from Spanish to English by Yancy Rivera.
The housing deficit in Nicaragua has no end. Currently, there is a shortage of 957,000 houses and each year the demand increases by 20,000 units, of which the private and public sector only cover 50%, according to the Chamber of Developers.
Between the private and public sector there are only 10,000 units constructed a year, which is insufficient to meet the demand, announced the president of Cadur, Ricardo Melendez.
The 20,000 homes that correspond with the annual aggregate demand are the result of the formation of new family nucleus’.
We are not yet at the level that we should be constructing annually, that is to say, what the country needs and we are not taking into consideration the deficit which is still untouchable, Melendez mentioned.
Last year, Cadur, through some of their partners, were barely able to place 3,500 homes. For this year– Melendez added– they project to sell 500 more houses, 4,000 total.
For 2005 there was a calculated lag of about 400,000 homes. Starting in 2010 the deficit surpassed half a million houses, and kept increasing until it reached the current levels.
To satisfy this demand there needs to be 647,805 new houses, according to data from the sector.
Additionally, there is an urgent need to improve 309,176 homes that are in poor condition, Melendez emphasized.
To attack the problem, between 2007 and 2011 38,347 homes were constructed. Of these, 19,526 were built by the government, 11,215 by towns, and 7,606 by the private sector, according to data from the Institute of Urban Living.
Until 2016, there are 77,854 residencies projected to be constructed by the public and private sector.
US$45 million dollars of the funds that the Nicaraguan Institute of Social Security injected in the Finance System to give mortgages created a positive effect to dynamize the sector, however they have run dry.
The capital served to to cover a ceiling of 4,800 houses of social interest.
“The positive effect of dynamizing the sector has been done, we’re with funds from the banks, but if you realize the trend of placing houses has not changed, the projects are still being sold”, Melendez stated.
Due to this, the developers are not attending the constructions of social interest, and have been in talks with the government for months looking for an alternative to the problem.
Cadur is asking for a reform to Special Act 677, for the development of housing and the access to social housing, approved in 2009, that jump started the construction and sale of social homes.
The law provides a series of fiscal benefits to homes valued at US$20,000 or less. The developers are asking that the ceiling be raised to US$30,000.
70% of the houses that are being offered through the projects have costs less than US$50,000, at the moment.
“Even if we raise the prices of houses, we can increase construction, so that the subsidies will go to more sectors of the population, not limited to social housing. The subsidy would go to families that earn US$600, US$700, not just US$500”, Melendez mentioned.
Just in 2013 the local financial system allocated US$420 million in mortgage credits, which meant a 15% increase with respect to 2012, signaled Alberto Atha, director of the Chamber of Developers in Nicaragua, Cadur.
For 2014, according to Atha, they expect the mortgage credit to grow 17%.
“We need to construct 7,000 houses a year or 10,000 just in the private sector and we’re barely reaching 4,000.”
-Ricardo Meléndez, President of Cadur
Nicaragua’s 1979 revolution is back in the news, at least in New York City. On September 23 The New York Times ran a front-page article on the decades-old Nicaragua solidarity activism of Bill de Blasio, now the frontrunner in New York’s November 5 mayoral election. Some two dozen other articles quickly appeared in the local and national press, most of them recycling old perspectives on the thousands of us who, like de Blasio, traveled to Nicaragua in the 1980s to demonstrate our opposition to the Reagan and Bush administrations’ efforts to overthrow that country’s government. Journalists on the right naturally tended to repeat Cold War charges against the solidarity activists: We ignored atrocities allegedly committed by the leftist comandantes of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN); deluded by ideology and our government minders, we failed to hear the “whispered anguish” of Nicaraguans in the streets and the market places. Other writers were more balanced in their articles, but no less patronizing. We were “young,” they insisted; “fresh-faced,” “idealistic” and “more than a touch naïve.” The media consensus was clear: We were credulous communist dupes or else, at best, credulous but idealistic hippies. “Sandalista” was a favorite media putdown back in the 1980s. Young Idealists, Aging Cynics The Nicaraguan reality was far more complex and interesting than the picture the US press presented then and continues to present now. I visited Nicaragua in 1985 and 1987, both times as a volunteer with TecNica, a California-based organization that sponsored tours by North Americans who could provide technical assistance and training in fields like computer programming and machine repair. Some of the volunteers did seem to be young idealists, but at least half of us had reached middle age and many were veterans of the sectarian infighting that accompanied the decay of the 1960s student movement. “Disillusioned” or even “cynical” would describe us better than “naïve.” We were regularly on the lookout for party apparatchiks and Stalinist distortions. It wasn’t hard to find problems: We were free to go where we wanted and to talk to anyone who wanted to talk, as long as we stayed away from army installations and the zones where the US-sponsored “contra” insurgents were carrying out military operations.Read the rest of the article at Truth Out
- Consider that the principal opposition candidate in the 1984 election was a Contra leader, who withdrew from the race, at the insistence of U.S. handlers, at the last minute when his loss was certain, but who was otherwise free to run.
- The principal opposition candidate in 1990, who won, was the publisher of La Prensa, an opposition newspaper, and thus one can hardly say the press was “muzzled” as O’Grady claimed in the WSJ.
- The 1987 Constitution formally banned the use of the death penalty, and established a maximum prison sentence.
- The CIA worked with the Argentine military of “Dirty War” fame, and former Somocista’s to train the Contras, who began operations in 1981, crossing the border from Honduras into Nicaragua assassinating civilian political leaders, murdering doctors and educators, and blowing up infrastructure.
- The CIA blew up a Nicaraguan port at Corinto, a civilian target, for the sole purpose of creating economic hardship for Nicaraguans as part of the broader campaign to undermine Sandinista legitimacy.
- The CIA placed mines in Nicaragua’s harbors putting civilian shipping at risk.
- When Congress found out about these activities and suspended appropriations for the purpose of “overthrowing the Nicaraguan government,” the National Security Council over saw a secret operation, selling weapons to Iran in violation of U.S. law and then diverting the proceeds to fund Contra operations.
- The State Department’s Office of Public Diplomacy was directed by the NSC during the 1980s and worked to plant false stories and misinformation in the U.S. media about Nicaragua in order to discredit the Sandinista government and generate support for Contra aid.
- The NSC oversaw the creation of slush funds used to discredit Contra aid opponents in Congressional elections.
- The Reagan administration ignored World Court rulings citing numerous breaches of international law and a finding to pay reparations to the government of Nicaragua.
a review of hundreds of pages of records and more than two dozen interviews suggest [de Blasio’s] time as a young activist was more influential in shaping his ideology than previously known, and far more political than typical humanitarian work.So, de Blasio encountered “democratic socialism” as a young man and apparently inhaled. O.M.G. This may be true, of course. Having worked in the solidarity movement for over twenty years now, I can say that everybody I’ve met who travelled to Nicaragua during the 1980s was impacted deeply by the experience. If this was an op-ed presenting this claim, I’d have little to disagree with. But this was a “news” piece, based on “hundreds of pages” of reading, and yet, sadly flawed for all the space it gives to innuendo and unidentified source material. Alex Pareene at Salon.com covers much if the silliness in an insightful articlehe posted yesterday. There is no need for me to repeat all of that here. But there is a clarification to be made about the Quixote Center’s history presented in the piece. In addition to “hewing Marxist agendas” (according to unnamed critics) the Quixote Center was also investigated for smuggling guns. Gasp!! Only, not true. [see Update] The Quixote Center delivered humanitarian aid to Nicaragua, as the article notes. However the full story is that the campaign de Blasio worked on was one of many of the Center’s. It was called the Quest for Peace, and it had a specific aim: to match or exceed the amount of money the Reagan administration spent trying to topple the Sandinista government with an equivalent amount of donated humanitarian supplies and volunteer labor used to help keep people alive, while also working in Congress to stop the policy. In 1985 the United States declared an embargo against the government of Nicaragua; the Quixote Center’s shipments were in possible violation of the embargo. We did it anyway. The importance of this history leads to me to the point of misinformation in the article. Hernandez writes:
In the mid-1980s, the Treasury Department investigated whether the center had helped smuggle guns, but the claim was never substantiated, and the group’s leaders said the inquiry was politically motivated.There is not a source for this claim, and for the people who were at the Quixote Center during the mid-1980s, the NY Times article yesterday was the first they had heard about an investigation into “gun-smuggling.” Because the Center was shipping humanitarian aid in possible violation of the embargo, we were investigated. Federal agents knocked on the door one day, asking for our records, including donor lists and financial information. We did not provide the information. The investigation was called off after we contacted members of Congress in Maryland, and also consulted with the Center for Constitutional Rights. The Quixote Center shipped hundreds of cargo containers of aid, and never had a single shipment seized by customs. The “investigation” was a harassment, but we were lucky. At least they knocked. Other solidarity groups had their offices broken into, files and hard drives taken by Federal agents in the 1980s. CISPES was a particularly popular target of these 1980s COINTELPRO-style operations. In any event, within the grand narrative being woven in the article, this seems a small point – though I doubt de Blasio appreciates the Times suggesting he worked at a place once investigated for gun running. Perhaps someone Hernandez interviewed suggested that the investigation involved an accusation of gun smuggling and he ran with it. Maybe he has a document from Treasury that indicates there was such an investigation (I’d love to see it if that is the case) and the Quixote Center staff was simply never aware. It is hard to know since he makes no reference to any source. I know he did not talk to any of the “leaders” of the organization about a gun smuggling investigation. Certainly it is fascinating to see how people become politicized. These stories, when truthfully told can even be inspiring. The Times, however, went for the partisan snipe, whereby someone’s youthful idealism is selectively tested and reinterpreted through the lens of an election twenty-five years removed from the events being discussed. Lhota is already trying to capitalize on the article, claiming that de Blasio is playing with a “Marxist playbook.” Really? On the upside, we had a lot more traffic on our website yesterday, and I guess we can thank the New York Times for that. However, we would encourage the editorial staff to be a bit more careful with the details. UPDATE: September 26, 2013 After posting the original article, I decided to do a bit more digging. I wasn’t really sure why this one vignette was chosen among all of the stories about the Quixote Center that could have been told, good or bad, but it was hard to believe it was just made up. Yesterday, I received copies of files related to the Custom’s inquiry from the Quixote Center archive which resides at Marquette University and reviewed them. It would seem that Hernandez’s characterization of an investigation about gun smuggling is not really wrong – but is, absent context, a bit misleading. Here we go: On December 12 two Customs agents delivered a subpoena to the Quixote Center (with the wrong address and back dated). The subpoena required the Quixote Center to turn over all records relating to cargo containers shipped to Nicaragua or Costa Rica since the U.S. embargo had been put into place the previous May. The subpoena makes no reference to guns and does not specify any violation of any kind. One of the Customs agents did inform a staff member that they were looking for “munitions.” Counsel felt like this was a fishing expedition, using the Custom Agency’s authority to review all documents related to exported items from the United States – and seemed politically motivated. There was never any formal accusation from the Treasury Department or from Customs I could find that the Quixote Center was shipping weapons, just a comment from the one agent among many other things said. The Center was never even searched. All of the shipping documents were turned over to the Customs office in Baltimore (the Center staff refused to hand over information on donors and other non-shipping information requested by the agents, but not included in the subpoena). By February of 1987 the inquiry was closed, Customs found that shipments complied with the humanitarian exemptions in the embargo legislation. The Treasury Department would make additional requests for documents for transport of “unlicensed” items later in 1987, again simply requesting shipping documents. Counsel referred them to the Customs investigator for the relevant documents. What about the guns??? In a February 1, 1987 Quest for Peace newsletter, Quixote Center staff did highlight the agent’s comment about looking for munitions:
On December 12, 1986 two customs agents, outdated subpoena in hand, knocked on the Quixote Center door. Saying that they were looking for arms, they demanded all shipping records, correspondence, financial records, transportation records and personnel files pertaining to the Quest for Peace. They wanted to move quickly and “wrap things up by Christmas. We received the subpoena and turned them away.The Quest newsletter was an “emergency appeal” and was encouraging people to step up the collections efforts; to expand the work, rather than be intimidated. There was also a concern that the document request was a step toward shutting humanitarian shipments down by reading the exemptions in the legislation in the most restrictive way. For example, Oxfam and Catholic Relief Services had recently been hassled by Customs and with shipments of agricultural supplies to Nicaragua blocked. The Quixote Center had even had a shipment containing pencils questioned in Costa Rica customs because pencils did not qualify as humanitarian aid. The shipment made it through. It is worth reporting here that the Quixote Center and other groups participating in the Quest for Peace National Tally surpassed $100 million in humanitarian assistance collected and delivered between July 1986 and September 1987. Back to guns: In a follow up newsletter from June 1987, Quixote Staff also discussed the Custom “hassle” in a bit more of a mocking tone, now that it was over:
The Customs Service, after barreling in just before Christmas looking for “gun shipments to Nicaragua” closed its review of our humanitarian shipments in February, finding no fault.So, it seems that the gun smuggling characterization came from the agent’s comment, and staff reference to that comment, snarky or otherwise, in newsletters. Probably, the real goal was simply to get access to as many files as possible, and as Custom’s authority to review would be limited to transportation documents, the agents talked about munitions in to get more information than what was contained in the subpoena. Once the Center for Constitutional Rights and a member of Congress inquired the matter was dropped. Was the Quixote Center investigated for smuggling guns? It is certainly one way to characterize what happened. And if you are summarizing in a sentence I can’t really say it is wrong. So, my apologies to Javier Hernandez for suggesting otherwise. However, I do wonder why of all the things that could have been mentioned about the Center ($100 million in humanitarian aid collected and delivered in one year is a pretty good tidbit as well) this was the item chosen. Indeed, it was so marginal in the Center’s history that, as noted above, none of the co-directors from back in the day that I talked to even remembered the agent talking about guns.
**Update** Due to the snow storm that has crippled the Southeastern United States (especially the airports), the delegation has been postponed, new dates TBD. This is an unfortunate turn of events, and we hope to complete the trip as soon as possible. More to come.
February 16-23, 2014
You are invited to join the Quixote Center as we visit communities in Northern Nicaragua with the Federation of Campesinos (FEDICAMP). We will also stop by Chaguatillo and visit a new housing initiative we are doing with the Institute of John XXIII.The price for the delegation is $950 dollars, and includes all transportation, meals, translation, and housing while in Nicaragua. You are responsible for your own travel to Nicaragua. Below are more details. Contact Andrew Hochhalter for more information and to get your application [email@example.com or 301-699-0042]. Download and complete application here.
Community Development in NicaraguaThe mountainous northern region of Nicaragua is home to many small agricultural communities. The effects of global
climate change are altering the landscapes and lifestyles of these communities. The intensity and pace of these effects is projected to increase in the coming years. The towns and villages of the North are also at the forefront of the country’s increasing global and trade liberalization brought about by CAFTA and increased foreign corporate investment.
Witness first hand how rural communities in Northern Nicaragua are organizing to preserve their ecological integrity, food security, and community strength in this dynamic environment. Delegates will have the opportunity to meet with Quixote Center partners at the Federation of Campesinos (FEDICAMP), an organization with local affiliates in eighteen rural communities across Nicaragua. The itinerary for this delegation (subject to change) includes:
Community visits with local leaders in 3 member associations of FEDICAMP, including an in-depth look at the methods employed by FEDICAMP.
Education sessions with local experts on agricultural methods and challenges, food security, and family nutrition.
Meetings with beneficiary families, including demonstrations, presentations, and home-cooked meals!
This trip will be an excellent way to quickly become familiar with the issues ‘on the ground’ in Nicaragua as well as with the larger solidarity network here in the United States.
After the delegation, participants will be equipped to educate and inform their networks and community groups about the conditions in Nicaragua, the challenges facing the local population, and the work of our partners at FEDICAMP to empower Nicaraguans to overcome those challenges.
The trip will give delegates the tools they need to be reliable witnesses to the situation in Nicaragua, and to advocate in solidarity at home. We hope that knowledge from the trip will be turned into action at home, and Quixote Center staff will be available to assist delegates who wish to organize their friends, community associations, and faith institutions for social justice in Nicaragua.Please contact Andrew Hochhalter (firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-699-0042) for more information and to complete the application to reserve a space.
- Quixote Center donors fund the construction of sound and dignified homes for the ‘working poor’ in Nicaragua each year.
- Beneficiary families help with construction and make affordable repayments for the cost of materials over eight to ten years
- These repayments go directly into a revolving fund which is used to supplement donor dollars in future years
- In the coming years the revolving fund will become sufficient to finance all new construction
The committee wants to purchase and install a solar panel to power one of the remaining good wells. This will eliminate the (very high rural) electricity fees that they must currently pay. They also want to purchase and install a large cistern on one of the highest points in the community. This cistern will then feed water, using only gravity, to the surrounding community.The plan is simple. It makes sense. It would eliminate the hardship of having to choose between manually pumping and porting water or taking a risk with groundwater nearby. This is a choice that nobody should have to make. In the coming weeks we will send details on how you can help Pueblo Nuevo realize their goal of a clean and sustainable water source for their community. These are only two of the eighteen communities of FEDICAMP. They are small examples of the diverse human development work being undertaken by Miguel and the others leading the federation. As always, we rely on your generosity and solidarity in making this work possible. Support our work of peace and friendship in Nicaragua. Esteli is in the northern mountains, and the elevation means a slight reprieve from the lowland heat. The final weeks of April and the first weeks of May are the most unpleasant time of the year in Nicaragua (at least in many minds). The dry season, although coming to a close, still has not broken, and the heat is generally unbearable in the flat southern region of the country. During this time of the year, the few degrees of difference in Esteli is almost a miracle for a tired foreigner used to idyllic Maryland Aprils. The city proper is constructed on a hill that rises from the highway and runs parallel to it. The central street is built across the spine of this hill, with residential neighborhoods sprawling out to the east to fill the next valley. FEDICAMP’s office is located near the center of the city in a small building with five small offices, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a courtyard filled with plant life. During the heat of the day, the trees in the courtyard give some shade, and there is a slight breeze from time to time. The entryway is home to a few of the FEDICAMP dirtbikes that the staff use to go from community to community, often over rugged terrain. The coffee pot is always brewing, and I grabbed a cup while we chatted and I shook off the bus ride. Palacagüina Since I arrived early, Miguel suggested that we visit the community of Palacaguina in the afternoon. During the past year the Quixote Center has had a growing relationship with the community of Palacaguina. Baseball is an important part of life in Palacaguina, and working with the children is an opportunity to engage them in other aspects of the human development projects from a young age. I spoke to the coach and learned about the team’s recent successes in various tournaments all around the country. The team even traveled to the Atlantic Coast, and for the players the journey was nearly as exciting as the tournament itself. He also told me that the team is a way for the community to come together: as parents with children playing together and as a town rooting for the home team. In the middle of April, our donors responded to an urgent request for support when a young boy, Jose, needed emergency surgery for a detached retina. Because of the fast response, his eyesight was saved. I visited with Jose and his mother briefly, and they both send their thanks to the Quixote Center network. The community association of Palacaguina has been involved in FEDICAMP since the federation began. Much of their work, like many FEDICAMP communities, sprung from the foundations laid by John XXIII a decade ago. In Palacaguina, the community pharmacy that Quixote Center donors help start still provides essential medicine at a discounted cost to those who need it. The women who lead the association received their training in organizing directly from John XXIII. Everywhere in the community are traces of that groundbreaking human development work undertaken by the Quixote Center and John XXIII. It was amazing to learn about the transformation that the Institute’s emphasis on capacity building has enabled. The women who run the community association in Palacagüina have big plans for the future. They have renovated their building to house cultural tourists, begun building a stage for presentations, and forged partnerships with other local associations. Their works are of steady persistence, and the fruits of their labor are enjoyed by the entire community. Water in Pueblo Nuevo The following day, we visited a community in Pueblo Nuevo. Miguel and I left together from Estelí and met with Harold, FEDICAMP’s lead agronomist/organizer at the turn-off for Pueblo Nuevo. After a short trip over some bumpy roads, we came to a farm where several community members had gathered for our meeting. The community members were all representatives of the local water committee, tasked by FEDICAMP with organizing for solutions to the water problems that plague the area. As the population has grown, more latrines are dug, and this higher concentration has contaminated many of the water sources. Wells built by various charity groups are now useless, and the people must sometimes choose between purchasing expensive water or taking a chance on the local sources. In the case of a subsistence farmer, there isn’t really a choice there. We spent the day with the water committee. They explained the contamination problem, as well as issues they face in distributing water, paying for electricity to run some of the pumps, and the general inertia of local government in providing a workable solution. As with John XXIII, FEDICAMP increases the capacity of individuals and communities to solve their own problems. The water committee (established and trained by FEDICAMP) has been operational for over three years now. Because of this accrued capacity, they have a plan: