Welcome to the department of Rivas in Nicaragua. This department hugs the southern border with Costa Rica and the coasts of Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific. It’s a dusty department with few paved roads. In the town of Rivas many people drive cars but out in the countryside people ride horses, on ox carts or on little motorbikes. It’s very poor here. This is Nicaragua.
Out in the countryside when you ask everyone loves Daniel. They love the FSLN, although it’s hard to understand why. I am told that Daniel Ortega travels the countryside visiting villages, the people, handing out land. The truth is that it’s hard to see anything positive out in the campos and in the villages. There is very little positive change in fact there might be some regression or at least stagnation. And this stagnation is evident when you look through the lens of social justice.
Lets begin with health care. The Socialist Party FSLN created a free health care system for all Nicaraguans. They can go to public clinics, see a doctor and get medicine for free. Medical students who finish school first go to work in the rural public health posts. A medical degree is the equivalent to a Bachelors degree in the US. Some doctors study more into specialties and go outside of Nicaragua to learn more then return for the medical tourism trade in Managua. The medical students in the health posts see everything from machete chops to pregnant women, very general. The health posts have little medicine. That’s the reality of this free health care system. The shelves are nearly bare. If a rural Nicaraguan is sick or has an accident they simply cannot afford the taxi fare to larger clinics in the bigger cities, nor can they afford the $20 doctor visit or the medicines. There is a vicious cycle of illness and death from preventable or treatable diseases.
The state can do better. Nicaragua has over a 90% vaccination rate for infants and children and will go to you house if you don’t vaccinate your child. If the state can do this (in being organized and having the monies) they could surely do more with the overall health care system.
Now lets look at education. There is a serious deficiency in education in Nicaragua. There are schools and in the rural areas there are many elementary schools. Surely they staff the schools one only needs a high school education to teach elementary school, but to teach high school a teacher needs some college. This is part of the problem. There are not enough high schools that are accessible. For three villages in Rivas there is one high school. School starts in the afternoon from 1 – 5pm and the last bus leaves the area at 2:30pm. How do the children get home as it gets dark? They don’t need to get home because they don’t go to the school, its’ too far to walk.
Simply put the system here is set up to fail.
Nicaragua is failing its citizens horribly. It doesn’t have to be this way. The state demonstrates that it CAN do better through their comprehensive vaccination campaign. Dr. Paul Farmer, the founder of Partners in Health, describes this as structural violence. Governments condition their citizens to accept the unacceptable as a normal part of life. Be it few schools, a terrible health care system, violence, poverty, or dictatorship – this structural violence is what perpetuates cycles of human rights violations in countries such as Nicaragua. The United Nations Human Rights Law (1948) states that every person has the right to health and education. Whether the people of Nicaragua know it or not, their system of health care is pitiful. Not having accessible education is a human right violation. The school system in Nicaragua is strategically designed to PREVENT people (esp. rural peoples) from becoming educated.
Despite the egregious failing Daniel and the FSLN still enjoy the over whelming support of the people. Signs everywhere tell people to vote red and black. Vote 2 (FSLN is the second party on the ticket. The colors and the number two is to help those who can’t read to vote for the correct party.