Nicaraguan workers cooperative needs support

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The Fair Trade Zone, a worker-owned cooperative clothing factory in Nueva Vida, Nicaragua, is apparently in danger of losing their land to a sketchy land grab. They're asking that letters of support be sent to Nicaragua's first lady in order to add political support to their legal case.

Check out the local angle: The Fair Trade Zone sews clothing for none other than Ypsilanti's own Maggie's Organics. If you've got a Maggie's t-shirt (an option for printing at Ypsilanti's own VG Kids, you've got a product of this Nicaraguan co-op. (Assuming the letter-writing campaign has any effect at all,) It seems to me that Ypsilantians can be more effective than the average American by pointing out how proud we are to be able to claim a connection to one of Central America's most progressive exports.

The request for help (sample letters in comments so my RSS readers don't kill me):

Dear Friends,

We urgently need your voice NOW! Someone is trying to steal our land,
and we need you to write in our support! We normally don't write this
kind of emergency letter, but this time it's critical that you know
now, pass the word, and respond. The volume of international response
will have a strong effect. There is a sample letter below with an
email address.

We're writing to you as long-time supporters of the Jubilee House
Community and our project in Nicaragua, the Center for Development in
Central America (CDCA) to ask you to take immediate action to help us
prevent the theft of the land where we and our projects are located.
In the last few days we have been summoned to court to respond to a
demand on the part of Señora Yelba Carvajal, a person well known here
in Nicaragua to be involved in several fraudulent land deals. We have
been investigating, and have managed to find out that she is claiming
in the courts that she is the legitimate owner of the property where
we are located, even though we have legal title. On the basis of a
typographical error in the title, Señora Carvajal is asking the court
to invalidate our title and recognize her as the legitimate owner of
the property. You will remember that we originally purchased our land
from a cooperative in the 1990s, and she later purchased the rest of
the land that the cooperative owned. It would appear that this is an
open and shut case in our favor; however, as Father Miguel D'Escoto
once said to us about land issues in Nicaragua, "You can have the law
and justice on your side, and it's still not enough."

What does this mean? It means that the Nueva Vida women's sewing
cooperative, the Fair Trade Zone, is in danger of losing its land,
building, and free trade zone status, therefore putting 50 people out
of their jobs that they have worked so hard to maintain for the last
nine years. It means that the fledgling Genesis spinning plant
cooperative, only days away from setting its first post in the ground,
is in danger of losing the land where they will build their factory,
all the work they have put into their project for the last year, and
the opportunity to create full-time employment for 60 people and their
families. These are only two examples of the negative impact that this
would have, resulting in the closing of all of the CDCA's projects in
Ciudad Sandino.

What can you do? We are asking you to send an email to the First Lady
of Nicaragua, Rosario Murillo, requesting that she, as a strong
defender of poor women throughout this country, investigate this
attempt to steal from these cooperatives that are made up in their
vast majority of poor women who have worked so long and so hard to
better the lives of their members. Below we have included an example
of an email in Spanish and in English on which you can base your
message. If you have the time, we ask that you personalize your
message as we feel it's important that she receive individual emails.
(Feel free to send an email in English only if you do not speak
Spanish.) Please send emails to and sign
your name and address including country. Please copy us on the email

Thank you for all your support,
The Jubilee House Community Inc.
Center for Development in Central America

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Sample letter - English

Dear Compañera Rosario:

I am writing you out of a deep concern for an injustice that is being
perpetrated on a group of poor women in Ciudad Sandino. Following the
devastation of Hurricane Mitch, the newly formed community of Nueva
Vida began to reorganize their lives and plan for the future working
in conjunction with the NGO Jubilee House Community (a Mission
International invited to Nicaragua by Father Miguel D'Escoto in 1993
to work in sustainable development). One result of this grassroots
organizing was the formation of several cooperatives to provide
employment to the residents of Nueva Vida, principally single mothers.
Today these cooperatives include the women's sewing cooperative
Cooperativa Maquiladora Mujeres de Nueva Vida (COMAMNUVI) which now
operates under the trade name Fair Trade Zone /Zona de Comercio Justo
as the world's only worker-owned free trade zone; the spinning plant
cooperative Cooperativa de Mujeres Hilandería "Génesis"; and the
agricultural cooperative Cooperativa de Productores Orgánicos y
Tradicionales y Exportadores de Nicaragua (COPROEXNIC) among others.
All of these cooperatives are located in a small industrial park which
provides over 100 jobs with justice, primarily to poor women.

Now all of this work is being put at risk by the efforts of Señora
Yelba Carvajal, who is attempting to have title to the property, which
is legally registered by the government of Nicaragua to the Jubilee
House Community foundation, annulled and ownership passed to her. The
information that I have received is that Señora Carvajal is well known
for her unscrupulous and immoral practices in repeated attempts to
deprive the poor of Nicaragua of their property rights. As a defender
of the poor and particularly poor women, I would request that you
investigate this situation and use the full weight of your office to
assure that justice is done.

Thank you very much.


Sample letter - Spanish

Estimada Compañera Rosario:

Reciba saludos cordiales de mi parte. Me dirijo a usted con una
preocupación profunda sobre una injusticia en contra de un grupo de
mujeres pobres en Ciudad Sandino. Después de la devastación de Huracán
Mitch, la comunidad de damnificados de Nueva Vida empezó a reorganizar
sus vidas y planificar el futuro, trabajando en conjunto con la ONG
Jubilee House Community (una misión internacional invitada a Nicaragua
en 1993 por Padre Miguel D'Escoto para trabajar en desarrollo
sostenible). Un resultado de este proceso de organización de base fue
la formación de varias cooperativas para crear puestos de empleo a
favor de los residentes de Nueva Vida, principalmente madres solteras.
Hoy en día estas cooperativas incluyen la Cooperativa Maquiladora
Mujeres de Nueva Vida (COMAMNUVI) la cual ahora opera bajo su nombre
de comercio Fair Trade Zone /Zona de Comercio Justo como la única zona
franca en el mundo en manos de los trabajadores; la Cooperativa de
Mujeres Hilandería "Génesis"; y la Cooperativa de Productores
Orgánicos y Tradicionales y Exportadores de Nicaragua (COPROEXNIC)
entre otros. Todas estas cooperativas están ubicadas en un pequeño
parque industrial que brinda empleo justo a más de 100 personas,
principalmente mujeres pobres.

Ahora todo este trabajo está en riesgo debido a las esfuerzas de la
Señora Yelba Carvajal, quien busca la anulación de la escritura de la
propiedad, la cual está registrada con el gobierno de Nicaragua a la
fundación Jubilee House Community, y pide que se le pase la propiedad
a ella. La información que yo recibí es que la Señora Carvajal es
conocida por sus prácticas inescrupulosas e inmorales en intentos
repetidos de privar a los pobres de sus derechos a su propiedad. Como
defensora de los pobres y mujeres en particular, yo le pido a usted
que investigue la situación y apoye con toda la dedicación de su
posición el asegurar que se haga justicia.

Agradeciéndole su atención al presente, me despido de usted.