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Luci Murphy's Trip to Nicaragua

NICARAGUA 2022 January 8-17

The Avianca flight from Dulles at three something in the morning arrived in San Salvador around breakfast time, and after a short layover I boarded the flight to Managua.

As the plane landed we could see how green the city is, with trees growing on many blocks. And as we travelled through the country, we saw more trees, red flowers and yellow flowers growing everywhere.

On our arrival in Managua, the delegates on the plane which included Black Alliance for Peace members Margaret Kimberley, Jemima Pierre and me, were met by Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry staff Quelra Brooks Hodgson who ushered us through customs and immigration to a special lounge for their guests. We learned that Quelra works with Michael Campbell. Michael is the son of Nicaraguan Ambassadors to the U.S. Francisco Campbell and Myriam Hooker. Michael Campbell who is from Bluefields is a special advisor to President Daniel Ortega on Caribbean affairs.

Margaret, Jemima and I were taken to Coleen Littlejohn’s house in a residential area of the city. Coleen is a naturalized Nicaraguan citizen originally from the U.S. who has supported the Sandinistas for many years.

At Coleen's we met two more visitors from the US ( young men from New York State and Oregon) who were visiting the ATC (Asociacion de Trabajadores del Campo). Having flown through the night, we rested up for the welcoming dinner that evening hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Relations.

The dinner took place in the courtyard of the Foreign Ministry (MINREX) building.

At the dinner I met Sofia Clark. Sofia is Jill Clark-Gollub’s sister, Rita Clark's daughter, and the niece of the former Foreign Minister, Father Miguel d'Escoto. She is taking care of her mother, Rita in her home in Nicaragua. Her mother ran the U.S-Nicaragua Friendship Office on Capitol Hill in Washington for years and called on me to sing for various events.

We also met Dorotea Granados, Dorotea is a U.S. citizen of Mexican and Filipino background from California. She is a nurse who came to help the Sandinistas in the 80s and decided to stay.

A hospital has been named for her.

I was pleasantly surprised to see two Afro-Latina delegates, Argentina and Maribel whom I had met in the Conference of African Descendants in Caracas, Venezuela in November of 2019

Maribel Nuñez, from the Dominican Republic who holds an annual symposium on Frantz Fanon Maribel Nuñez
Maribel Nuñez | Front Line Defenders Maribel Nuñez is a feminist, journalist, an Afro anti-colonial activist and a human rights defender of Haitian descent. She is a member of Acción Afro-Dominicana, an organization that seeks to make racism and its consequences visible.
Argentina attended with her husband Rev. Fred Morris from the United States. The couple now lives in Nicaragua. 
We were entertained with live music provided by a marimba ensemble MARIMBA RITMICA, directed by Manuel Gonzalez 

The following day we went to Olaf Palme for an open air dinner organized for the delegates on the plaza. There was a larger instrumental ensemble which played a variety of music from the 70s and 80s. Unfortunately, they were positioned in an area removed from the listeners.

There we met Ben Norton a journalist from the GrayZone and Moderate Rebels
and Camila Escalante from Kawsachun News.

Danny Shaw was also there from New York. Perhaps the only other CPUSA member in attendance. I did not realize that Danny was ill, because he was so gregarious, but when I called him to plan visits, he was at the clinic seeking treatment.

The following day was Monday, the big day. Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report  and Black Alliance for Peace, and I received calls from Quelra letting us know that we would be platform guests at the inauguration. I discovered that this meant we would be close to the president, his wife, as well as the presidents of Venezuela and Cuba. I wore a traditional Ethiopian dress and matching turban which had been given to me by my neighbor, Zelekawork. The largest continental African population in Washington is from Ethiopia.
Guests were ushered to a green room where I got to talk to Brian Willson, the Vietnam veteran and peace activist who lost his legs in an attempt to prevent one of Ronald Reagon’s illegal shipments of arms to the contras in Nicaragua. A train with the arms refused to stop for the civilians on the track. He now lives on the farm of a compañera in Nicaragua. 
Along with Brian, we were joined by Dan Kovalik, the attorney and political analyst. 
We also talked to Omeima Sheikh-Eldin who accompanied the ambassador from Yemen. She is originally from Sudan and knew my friend Amal Nourelhuda, a well known singer in Sudan who is a member of the D.C. Labor Chorus. Maria Candida Pereira Teixeira, the Angolan Ambassador was also there. They had flown in from Cuba with President Diez-Canel.

We walked to the plaza which had been decorated with thousands of flowers and candles. The audience was mostly students in their school uniform. The President Daniel Ortega and his wife, the Vice President Rosario Murillo walked into the stadium to sustained applause. The president took a moment to greet each platform guest.

The master of ceremonies at the inauguration introduced a member of the National Assembly, Loria Raquel Dixon Brautigam whom I hope to interview in the future. She certified the quorum required for the ceremony.
Then one by one the emcee graciously introduced the platform guests including Brian, Dan, Margaret and me to the crowd as representatives of the social movements of North America. 
The ceremony was attended by delegations from more than 20 countries from across the globe. The list of special guests included Cuba President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, outgoing Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, vice-president of the National People’s Congress of China Cao Jianming, vice president for economic affairs of Iran Mohammad Nahavandian, and foreign minister of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic Mohamed Salem Ould Salek.

Among other guests were former Guatemala President Vinicio Cerezo, former presidents of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes Cartagena and Salvador Sánchez,

former foreign minister of Ecuador Ricardo Patiño, and the secretary of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-People’s Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP) Sacha Llorenti, among other delegates from Belize, Bolivia, Russia, and India.

The president’s speech.

During his inauguration speech from the Revolution Plaza in the capital Managua, Ortega vowed to continue working for the benefit of citizens and promote socio-economic development in the country as he has been for the past 15 years. He reiterated his commitment to the eradication of hunger and misery, and the continuity of the struggle for dignity and defense of the country’s sovereignty, independence, and self-determination. “We are going to continue fighting to defend the people so they have health care, education, and housing,” said Ortega.

Alluding to the new sanctions from the United States and European Union against members of his government, Ortega urged his US counterpart to respect human rights. He also demanded that the US government respect the verdict delivered on June 27, 1986 by the International Court of Justice, which held that the US had violated international law and established compensation for Nicaragua for financing and organizing military activities against the government and people of the Central American nation for decades.

“They must comply with what the law mandates. It is time for the Nicaraguan people to be compensated, we are not asking for alms but justice,” he said. He also called for the lifting of the blockade and sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela.

Likewise, the head of state celebrated the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with China. “The Chinese Revolution and the Sandinista Revolution have the same north node, path and destiny that is the eradication of poverty,” said Ortega.

Following the ceremony, I met Laureano Ortega, the son of President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo, who is arranging diplomatic and trade relationships with the People’s Republic of China. 
Yes, China is planning to help them build an inter-ocean canal to rival the Panama Canal. I would like to interest them in supporting a culture festival for peace in Nicaragua. More about that later when I visit the director of the Nicaraguan Cultural Institute, Luis Morales Alonso. The inauguration was attended by large crowds of students in the national school uniform. Even though I could see that they were young people full of energy, I could n't help but notice how orderly and peaceful they were compared to a similar crowd in the United States. In conversation with a student who approached me on our way to transportation, I got a glimpse of a young person who was studying with a clear objective for the future. He was studying construction so that he could join family members in their construction business. (photo with Freddy)

The following day, January 11, I visited the culture center of the Soka Gakkai International in Managua. Soka Gakkai Internacional de Nicaragua

The director general Bayardo Meza was kind enough to pick me up and take me to meet his family at their home for lunch and to visit the culture center where he showed me photos of the music and dance performances which had taken place at the center.

In the various city squares that we visited there were some very ornate Catholic churches, but along other roads I saw a surprising number of Protestant churches.

I reflected on how the Central Intelligence Agency has used evangelical churches to undermine liberation theology and its support for real human development.

The following day January 12 the U.S. delegation held a press conference to denounce the sanctions against Nicaragua brought by the U.S. government.

When it was my turn to speak representing the Claudia Jones School, I committed our school to force the U.S. government to pay Nicaragua the amount demanded by the 1986 judgment of the International Court of Justice.

Nicaragua v. United States - Wikipedia The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America (1986) was a case where the International Court of Justice (ICJ) held that the U.S. had violated international law by supporting the Contras in their rebellion against the Sandinistas and by mining Nicaragua's harbors.The case was decided in favor of Nicaragua and against the United States with the awarding of reparations to Nicaragua. 

The following day I visited the Casa Ben Linder and a clinic supported by the Jubilee House Community and its project in Nicaragua, the Center for Development in Central America.

Casa Ben Linder is named after a young North American electrical engineer who was working to bring electricity to a rural community in Nicaragua. In 1987 he was assassinated by the counter revolutionaries which Reagan sponsored in an attempt to destroy the Sandinista Revolution.

Casa Ben Linder is a complex which includes a restaurant, guest house, open air theater, and classroom.

Becca Mohally-Renk is a North American who has lived in Nicaragua for many years.

She picked me up to take me to lunch at the Casa Ben Linder. They had a delicious vegetarian option. and Becca explained to me that the house offers space to the restaurant, and in turn the restaurant feeds the visiting guests. The Casa Ben Linder has a mural which was commissioned by Father Miguel d'Escoto. The mural includes the faces of humanitarian leaders like Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Gandhi and Sandino. Something similar to personal and family living classes as well as arts workshops are offered to the Nicaraguan youth at this facility. I met the psychologist, Dominga Soto and her son Emir Fonseca who is the social worker working with the families who register for the programs there. I hope to include them in a program to introduce young visitors from Washington, DC to young people in Managua.

Becca took me to a very poor neighborhood in Nicaragua some distance from Casa Ben Linder, called Ciudad Sandino which has been the place where internal refugees displaced from their homes by earthquakes and hurricanes over the years have found a home. Becca's organization administers a clinic for family medicine and dental care. They work to supplement the care offered by the free government clinic with services such as ultrasound imaging and preventative dental care which the government is not currently able to offer.

The Jubilee House Community receives small donations from a large number of contributors in the United States. Becca gave me a suitcase full of thank you letters for those donors to mail once I returned. By email, I introduced Becca to Lydia Curtis of Sadiki Educational Safaris who takes at risk youth to countries in African and the Caribbean as well as historic sites in the Southern U.S. I would like to see youth from D.C. visit Nicaragua to see other possibilities.

From Casa Ben Linder I was taken by a member of the Asociacion de Trabajadores del Campo to the ATC headquarters. That evening we joined the closing activity with a group of youth from UC Berkeley who had been picking coffee beans and learning about rural life in Nicaragua. One of the young students from California was from an Ethiopian family. Coffee originated in Ethiopia. The Friends of the ATC is a youth led effort by Erika Takeo and Aminta Zea, some energetic young women from the U.S. who take groups of young people from the States to learn about life in this agricultural country.
(Photos of coffee harvest and group photo with ATC and Friends of ATC directors)

At dinner we were treated to abundant vegetarian options. The food has improved since I was there in 1984. No more pebbles in the rice and beans. And the food is tastier. After dinner we were treated to musical performances by Diego Aguirre and Maria Alfonsina Martinez, the current cultural ambassadors for the Sandinistas.

Christian and Nico from the D.C. area visited the ATC when they were in Nicaragua for the recent elections.

On Friday, January 14, I visited the director of the Nicaraguan Cultural Institute, Luis Morales Alonso.

We discussed the possibility of Nicaragua hosting an international culture festival for peace, respect for women and the natural environment. This would be a revival of the kind of cultural events which took place before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Progressive arts organizations in the U.S. such as People's Music Network and Alternate Roots could be invited to support the effort.  Embassies of other countries might support the participation of artists from their countries. It would draw visitors to Nicaragua to see for themselves what is happening in the country. Currently, Nicaragua hosts an international jazz festival initiated by friends from Germany, and an Earth Day celebration hosted by Edwin Castro, a member of the National Assembly. We agreed that we should start out with a small pilot program, and I suggested that a team of young Nicaraguans who were studying event management and arts administration could run it.

I also encouraged him to reach out to the director-general of the SGI Culture Center in Managua. The SGI with headquarters in Japan has experience producing culture festivals for peace. Herbie Hancock is an SGI member and also a UNESCO ambassador.

Following the meeting with Compañero Morales, I discussed the project with the Nicaraguan ambassador to Panama, Marvin Ortega who was visiting Managua. He suggested that we include the following Panamanians in the planning: Daniel Dominguez, Director of Arts in the Ministry of Culture, and Elliet Apolayo, the Vice-Director of Arts.

In between our official visits we were able to visit Leon, a University town and Granada with its colonial architecture which did not suffer the earthquake damage that assaulted nearby areas.

We stopped at the handcrafts market at Masaya to look at the embroidery, ceramics and leathercraft. We also visited Katarina in the scenic hills over a volcanic lake. Nicaragua has many lush green hills surrounding fresh water lakes.

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