MANAGUA – Marta Mayorga Torres lost her husband and two of her five children during the counterrevolutionary war in the 1980s.
“We don’t want to lose any more children,” said Mayorga, 77, squinting through thick glasses.
Mayorga is a member of the Association of Widows and Orphans, one of a handful of groups that was created following the 1987 Central American Peace Agreement and subsequent accords aimed at giving a voice to the more than 200,000 people affected by the war.
The Ortega administration has blamed previous governments for neglecting victims such as Mayorga and failing to implement the peace accords over the past two decades. More than 21,000 war victims haven’t received the aid they were promised from the government and many former soldiers still haven’t been provided with promised health, educational, housing and employment services.
“They were tossed out into the river,” said Nelson Artola, secretary general of the Verification, Reconciliation, Peace and Justice Commission that Ortega formed last May under the leadership of Roman Catholic Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, the country’s top religious authority.
Because the 6-month-old commission does not manage public funds, it is looking abroad for help to increase pensions for war victims, create jobs and settle a series of land disputes that have existed since the war.
“The commission has a lot of work to do, but few resources,” Obando said at a conference last week at the Ministry of Foreign Relations.
The influential Obando, 81, was the Archbishop of Managua for 25 years before he retired in 2005, shortly after forming a controversial alliance with the Sandinistas, which later led to his appointment to the Reconciliation Commission (NT,March 2).
At the conference, the Commission’s representatives announced that the Government of Brazil will be sending economic aid and a legal team headed by Brazil’s Agriculture Ministry at the beginning of next year to help put an end to what Artola called the most important land dispute in the country in the sugarcane region of Timal, north of Managua.
Brazil may also be looking to invest in a sugarcane mill to produce ethanol and serve as a job source for a region rife with unemployed former combatants, Artola told The Nica Times.
“The crises created by the state’s abandonment has created conflicts between former soldiers,” said Artola, who is also the director of the Ortega administration’s Social Emergency Investment Fund (FISE). Artola added that the commission is putting together an international team of consultants to advise and support the commission, which is seeking additional help from the member states of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, ALBA.
“We ask our friends in the international community to provide all the support possible to the commission’s goals,” Foreign Minister Samuel Santo said.
Some 5,000 former combatants, referred to in Spanish as desmovilizados, are making land claims in the Timal case, which is why it is a top priority for the Ortega administration.
Artola said the government plans to divide up the 3,500 manzanas in conflict and give five manzanas to each family. The government hopes the Brazilian government can help the commission execute the plan.
Artola said that while 21,000 war victims receive pensions in Nicaragua, many such as the widowed Mayorga, don’t receive enough to live on. Some receive as little as $10 a month.
Mayorga, who receives a pension the equivalent of $20 a month, has used the money to help support five parentless grandchildren for the last two decades in Managua.
“You know, life is a struggle,” she said.
After the conference, Mayorga stood in the Foreign Ministry’s patio talking with Juana Elena Baez, 58, whose soldier daughter, Maria, returned from the war with a body covered in scars and severe brain damage. She still suffers from relentless migraines.
“God is the only reason she’s alive,” said Baez, a faithful Sandinista.
For Baez, Ortega’s plan to support war victims is better late than never.
“We want (Ortega) to come through on all the promises he made when we gave him our vote,” she said.