Tag Archives: Nicaragua Horizons Tour

Bangladesh tragedy — factory manager’s words come back to haunt us

Factory workers make Levis Dockers at one of the better employers in the free trade zone.

Factory workers make Levis Dockers at one of the better employers in the free trade zone.

In hindsight the words sound eerie.

In February we were in Nicaragua on a rare tour of a Maquila factory that manufactures Levis Dockers pants for the U.S. and Argentina. These factories are usually reluctant to let foreigners in, but this one had a better record than most. It had a good relationship with both its union and an activist women’s group operating within the plant.

Wages at this factory are very low by international standards, but higher than others in Managua’s Maquila zones. The manager of the factory told us that some in the U.S. thought he was doing a good thing by raising his more than 3,000 workers out of poverty. He said they were wrong – his plant wasn’t taking workers out of poverty, only from “misery to poverty.” He said at $45 a week, nobody was getting out of poverty.

Unlike many foreign-owned plants in Nicaragua, this plant had invested in training for its workers and owned its equipment. Many companies simply lease their equipment and building, leaving at a moment’s notice without paying their bills, including worker wages.

The problem with a global economy is there are no real rules for the treatment of workers, only international agreements that give corporations extraordinary rights over sovereign governments.

The Nicaraguan plant manager told us that the wages he paid meant they were losing contracts elsewhere. He specifically said he lost one major contract to Bangladesh were the workers are making a third of the poverty wages he pays his Nicaraguan labourers.

Yes, Bangladesh.

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Nicaragua Day 3: And Then The Chicken Walked In

A chicken decided to crash our briefing from the Masaya women's co-op.

A chicken decided to crash our briefing from the Masaya women’s co-op.

MASAYA – It shouldn’t have come as any surprise when the large chicken joined the meeting, striding around as if waiting for her turn to talk.

After all the dog had already done his inspection, and the cat made a brief cameo prior to the chicks deciding they were going to make a crossing. Nobody seemed to mind.

We had travelled from the capital to Masaya to visit a former Horizons of Friendship partnership project that no longer needed Horizons. In the development world, that’s an outstanding success. Goal achieved.


Fifty-five women belong to the Masaya-based co-op that is involved with everything from mixed farming to embroidered clothes, artwork and producing dolls. The farm was just one site where we could see the co-op at work.

Gathered in a circle in an open shelter, several co-op members introduced themselves and talked about what the co-op meant to them.

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