Belt and Road: China to help Nicaragua build housing for thousands poor and working families

China has signed an agreement with Nicaragua to build thousands of homes for poor and working families, expanding an existing public housing program in the Central American nation.

Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government has signed a 3 year agreement with China to build thousands of homes for poor and working families, expanding the already existing Bismarck Martínez public housing program, Nicaraguan vice president Madam Rosario Murillo announced on January 28, 2022.

Vice President Murillo said that “This is a major housing program across the country.”… The plan “will improve the situation of tens of thousands of families in 84 municipalities. Nicaraguans will get beautiful safe, decent homes with all basic services.”

Houses built by the Nicaraguan government as part of its Bismarck Martínez Program

The project plan for the houses is being prepared jointly by the Nicaraguan Institute of Urban and Rural Housing Construction and the Ministry of Transport of Nicaragua. 

Vice president Murillo also announced other ongoing public infrastructure projects, including roads, sidewalks, and a new baseball stadium.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega restored diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in December 2021, immediately after severing ties with Taiwan.

The two countries quickly began active cooperation in various fields. The parties have signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the 21st Century Maritime Cooperation agreement, as well as a memorandum of understanding to establish a political consultation mechanism and a mutual assistance agreement. China has already donated coronavirus vaccines to the small Central American country of roughly 6.5 million people.

Benjamin Norton, Editor of the Latin America-based independent news outlet Multipolarista, notes that although Nicaragua is one of the poorer nations in the western hemisphere, the Sandinista government has sought to introduce a range of social programs, including “free universal healthcare and education, jobs training, and poverty alleviation initiatives.”

Norton points out that Nicaragua already has an ambitious public housing project called the Bismarck Martínez Program, which was launched in 2019. By 2021 the project delivered approximately 3,000 houses, as well as 30,000 land plots in urban areas to poor and working Nicaraguans.

“In 2021, the government another 3,000 houses as part of the Bismarck Martínez Program. This is in addition to granting land deeds to thousands of families, peasants, and farmers, so they cannot be displaced.”

The program is named after Bismarck Martínez, a Sandinista activist who worked in the mayor’s office in the capital Managua, who was “kidnapped, brutally tortured on camera, and killed by far-right extremists during a violent coup attempt in 2018, which was sponsored by the United States. The video of his gruesome murder went viral and inspired outrage across Nicaragua.”

“The Managua mayor’s office announced in September 2021 that it had plans to build 50,000 new homes in the following seven years as part of the Bismarck Martínez program. It also planned to distribute 50,000 more land plots to families.”

But, as Norton said, “this was before the central government had restored relations with China and made plans to further expand this program with Beijing’s help.”