Background on Mulukukú, the Clinic & Dorothy

Mulukukú is a rural village in the geographic center of Nicaragua. In the “contra” war of the 1980s, thousands of Nicaraguan farmers fled their homes and resettled in communities such as Mulukukú as war refugees. Mulukukú was destroyed by Hurricane Joan in 1988. More than 200 homes were washed away in the post hurricane floods. Since that time the community has organized to discuss, plan and carry out reconstruction. A group of 40 women formed themselves into a cooperative and with international aid, built a block-making shop, constructed their homes and built a carpentry shop before turning their attention to health needs. The Women's Health Center was established in 1991 as a response to the demands of the organized women for adequate reproductive health care for themselves and other women and health care for their children. Dorothy Granada joined the Center as its director at its inception.

Dorothy Granada is a Chicana-Filipina nurse who has lived and worked in Nicaragua for 12 years, the last 11 years of which have been in Mulukukú. She began her involvement in the nonviolence movement in 1978, when she campaigned for several years against the death penalty. In 1983 she organized and participated in the Fast For Life, a 3-year disarmament campaign that culminated in a 40 day fast beginning on Hiroshima Day. In 1985, with Peace Brigades International, she helped begin the escort service for the Families of the Disappeared in Guatemala and was a long term volunteer with Witness for Peace in Nicaragua. In 1987 after Vietnam veteran and peace activist Brian Willson was run over by a train at Concord Naval Weapons Station while protesting arms shipments to Central America, Dorothy lived “on the tracks,” providing medical support to the protesters.

Dorothy's commitment to nonviolent social action comes from a deeply spiritual place.

Along with providing health care in Mulukukú, her goal has been to empower the women of the Cooperative. In Dorothy's words, “Central to all activities is the organizing of the women themselves. First women learn to recognize their rights as human beings, as women and as citizens; and to understand historical, religious and social forces that have marginalized them… .”

In all her work in Mulukukú, Dorothy stresses the principles of nonviolence. At the health clinic she has a personal commitment to treat all people, regardless of their political beliefs. She has risked her life several times treating Nicaraguan ex-Contras. Dorothy and her supporters speculate that her life, and perhaps lives of the co-op women, are protected from murder because of their known position on nonviolence and their commitment to serve people of all beliefs.

Dorothy Granada was awarded the 1997 International Pfeffer Peace Prize for her lifelong commitment to nonviolent social change.

The Women's Center provides health care to the town of Mulukukú and to the surrounding municipality, a total population of about 30,000 people. They have 22,500 patient records and see about 13,000 people a year. Their priority is women with reproductive health needs, followed by children and men.

The Center is part of the Cooperative María Luisa Ortiz. Other programs of the Cooperative include a carpentry workshop that trains women to be carpenters, a block-making shop for building houses, a rotating loan fund to empower economically marginalized women, a women's commissary program of three National Police to confront domestic violence, a Nonviolent Men's group for training in gender sensitivity, nonviolence and human rights, a soy nutrition program for malnourished children, a literacy program and adult education. 

Analysis of Nica Crisis

January 11, 2001

Dear Friends and Supporters of Dorothy,

We have been asked for an explanation of why the Nicaraguan government has been attacking this rural clinic and its nurse. [In response we] wrote [this] analysis.

Jill and Gerry

Why Is Arnoldo Alemán So Afraid of Dorothy Granada?

An Analysis of the Crisis in Mulukukú

Written by Jill Winegardner with thanks to Ana Quiros, Director of the Coordinadora Civil, for providing much of the information below.

Since mid-November of 2000, the government of Nicaragua has been pursuing North American nurse Dorothy Granada with the intent of deporting her. The health clinic she directs in Mulukuku and the cooperative of which the clinic is a part have been shut down, and the Swiss governmental organization that funds the cooperative has been closed. The story has been front page news in Nicaragua for weeks as massive support for Dorothy has poured in from Mulukuku, the women's movement, human rights groups and other sectors of Nicaraguan civil society, as well as from a considerable network of supporters in the U.S.

Why is the Nicaraguan government so vigorously attacking Dorothy Granada and the health clinic and cooperative in Mulukuku? After all, the clinic serves a very poor and otherwise underserved group of campesinos and campesinas, and Dorothy is one of only a few health workers in this remote area.

An understanding of the political context in Nicaragua makes it very clear why Dorothy is seen as subversive and the clinic and cooperative are perceived as dangerous by the government.


Even before his election, Arnoldo Aleman publicly voiced his belief that the non-governmental organizations (NGO's) in Nicaragua, which are roughly equivalent to non-profits in the U.S., were aligned with the Sandinista party. In fact, in a delegation interview with him in 1995, I asked him what his attitude toward the NGO's would be if he were elected President. He said, "The NGO's are all a bunch of Sandinistas, but I'll leave them alone."

In truth, the NGO's represent a broad range of agencies that serve the population and are not affiliated with any one political party. Many have no party affiliations at all.

After taking office in 1996, Aleman made it clear that he associated NGO's with the Sandinistas and considered them as opposition. After Hurricane Mitch devastated the country in 1998, Aleman refused to declare a state of emergency because he wanted to prevent the "opportunists of the NGO's" from taking advantage of emergency funds. A state of emergency in Nicaragua means that rules governing incoming aid are less stringent and allow easier passage of funds to NGO's. This stance led to the creation of the Coordinadora Civil, a group of 400 organizations from civil society whose purpose was to audit the aid coming into the country, to assure its appropriate use and to publicize its misuse.

The Coordinadora Civil, headed by Ana Quiros, has served as an organized voice that is autonomous of the government, of political parties, and of international donors. The Coordinadora Civil has sat at the table with Aleman in meetings with international financial institutions and donor countries. In fact, many countries have channeled their aid through civil organizations, many of which belong to the Coordinadora Civil, rather than the corrupt Aleman government.

In response, Aleman tried without success to strip the citizenship of Ana Quiros, who is a naturalized Nicaraguan citizen. Aleman deported a U.S. woman after accusing her of sending e-mails to the U.S. urging donors not to send Hurricane Mitch relief aid to the government because of corruption. The year before that, a Swiss man was deported because he offended Aleman.

The attack against NGO's remained at a low level until November of 2000, when the Sandinistas won several important municipal elections, including the mayorship of Managua. In those elections, a Nicaraguan working for an NGO in the small town of Nandaime won office running as a member of the Conservative Party, historically in opposition to Aleman's Liberal Party. The Nicaraguan Constitution allows NGO members to run for political office. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Internal Affairs immediately launched an investigation into the NGO, Nochari, and suspended their operations. Nochari served 4,000 poor people in projects of health and economic development, but remains under suspension and in danger of losing its legal status.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has no legal authority whatsoever for carrying out this investigation and suspension, and has acted in an extralegal manner.

The second government attack occurred, as we now know so well, in Mulukuku with the investigation and closing of the health clinic and cooperative, the deportation order against clinic director Dorothy Granada, and the closing down of Ayuda Obrera Suisa, the Swiss governmental organization that funds the cooperative.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs also has no jurisdiction in this case. Ayuda Obrera Suisa is funded through an international agreement and does not fall under Internal Affairs authority.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has now launched a massive investigation and auditing of a large number of NGO's throughout the country, especially those that are visible and associated with political groups, with the stated purpose of closing them down.

But why?

First: Aleman believes that these NGO's are all associated with the Sandinistas. He believes the NGO's are responsible for his party's losses in November and are raising campaign funds for the Sandinistas for the November 2001 presidential election. There is no basis for this belief. The projects in Mulukuku and Nandaime are intended to serve as a lesson to other organizations so that they do not get involved in politics, which is supposedly the bastion of the government.

Second: The NGO's and other such groups provide almost all of the basic services for the population, services that ought to be provided by the government itself. The government therefore looks bad in comparison.


The women's movement in Nicaragua began as an arm of the Sandinista party in the '80's and, ironically, came into its own after the Sandinistas were forced from power in 1990. It has been one of the most powerful grassroots movements in the country and has promoted the empowerment of women on many levels.

President Aleman holds extremely conservative views and has consistently implemented anti-feminist programs and policies. He established the Ministry of the Family, whose purpose was to promote extremely conservative positions that women should not work outside the home, should not plan their families, and should be subservient to their husbands. There is even a movement proposing that abortion, now legal only to save the life of the mother, should be banned even in these cases.

Earlier in 2000, the government investigated the women's clinic Si Mujer and charged its director, Ana Maria Pisaro, with performing abortions. The clinic has been threatened with repeal of its legal status.

The health clinic in Mulukuku absolutely does not perform abortions. The staff does teach women to respect and honor their bodies and to plan their children. Women are encouraged to give their bodies a rest between babies. They are encouraged to reject domestic violence, to educate themselves, to keep themselves healthy, and to control their own destinies. These teachings empower women and, in so doing, threaten the arch-conservative views of Arnoldo Aleman's government.


Dorothy, the health clinic, and the cooperative represent threats to the government's conservative agenda on many levels. Although the cooperative in Mulukuku is not an NGO but rather a legally defined cooperative, it operates independently, receives international funds that the government cannot access, and all of its projects empower women. Many cooperative members do belong to the Sandinista party and are very influential in their community through their work with the cooperative and health clinic. The cooperative provides the basic services to the community that are not provided by the government and has thereby gained respect and loyalty. Their promotion of women's and human rights are anathema to a corrupt government which has no interest in empowering Nicaragua's poor, much less its poor women.

Mulukuku must be understood in the context of past and future attacks on the women's movement and on organizations that are outside government control. Current government tactics are to investigate the legal status of these organizations, cut off their sources of aid, and deport their non-Nicaraguan leaders. We must name these tactics and struggle against them. Here in the U.S., our work in support of Dorothy and the clinic has broad meaning and importance for Nicaraguans in their struggle for essential human rights.