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Nicaragua battles the U.S. intervention playbook

By Jim Byrne |
June 10, 2018
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Tucson, AZ - In November of 2016, president of Nicaragua Daniel Ortega was elected for a third term with 72% approval. Despite what the U.S. government says about Nicaraguan elections, the Carter Center’s election observer teams routinely praise Nicaragua’s fair and free elections. It is clear the U.S. government is unhappy with the results, so U.S. interference with deadly consequences is the order of the day.

Since returning to power in 2006, Ortega and the Sandinistas, formally the Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN), have reversed the neoliberal agenda of privatizing important public services like water and electricity. Not only that, but they have overseen significant achievements in public housing, Zero Hunger programs, Zero Usury microcredit programs, free public education, increases in productivity, development of a strong cooperative sector, and a diversification of economic activity that even the U.S.-controlled World Bank is forced to acknowledge. The Sandinista view is that government should serve the people, not the other way around.

Despite all these accomplishments that have lifted Nicaragua out of being the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere, violence and terrorism are now gripping the country. For nearly two months, violent protesters are aiming to destabilize the country and force out President Ortega. On the surface, the U.S. corporate press makes it seem as if the entire country wants Ortega to step down amid a controversy over social security changes. To combat this distortion, we must examine deeper issues and seek truth from facts.

Media stokes opposition with twisted story

Most observers agree that the point of origin for the unrest and violence was a proposed change by the Sandinista government to social security benefits. However, after the initial student protests began at the Managua Technical University, President Ortega immediately rescinded the proposal. It is important to note, it was merely a proposed change, hoping to break the impasse between the business sector, labor unions and the government, which have an agreed-upon tripartite relationship.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was attempting to push the business sector to cut benefits, reduce health coverage and privatize public sector clinics. What has the FSLN government done since returning to power? Fight neoliberal attacks against public services. So the government proposed modest, fairly distributed increases to the social security contribution for both employer and employee, and in addition, improved healthcare coverage for pensioners.

All of this sounds rather routine for negotiations, except if the right-wing dominated press twists the story and feeds the students a slanted version. It is not conspiracy to say that the family that controls one of the country’s largest newspapers that daily calls Ortega a dictator is the same family that produced Violeta Chamorro, the U.S.-backed candidate for president in 1990. This paper is currently running stories comparing Ortega to the U.S.-backed dictatorship of the Somozas. The world turned upside down.

Similarly, when quoting the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), the corporate press is not clear that all the deaths since late April are related to protests, with other deaths being lumped into the figures. Moreover, neither the corporate press nor the groups claiming the large death toll have made the qualification of who is dying at whose hands? It has been made to appear that all deaths are at the hands of the government. In fact, many videos and stories have surfaced showing the ultraderechistas (ultra-rightists) being violent and committing acts of terror. This was also the character of the opposition guarimbas in Venezuela. As well, the corporate media in both the U.S. and Nicaragua have failed to report that many of the NGO groups promoted in their stories are heavily funded by the U.S. government.

U.S. funding opposition NGOs and media

From 2014 to 2017, the U.S. State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funneled 55 grants worth $4.2 million to NGOs that create media stories for the opposition. One of the groups often quoted by U.S. media received over $220,000 since 2014 and is run by the son of ex-president Violeta Chamorro. The U.S. corporate media reports one-sided accounts that omit important facts: police are being murdered by ultras, the ultras’ blockades are harmful to working people, and the ultras are burning people’s houses. The one-sided reporting fits with what the U.S. government has said about Ortega, despite his popularity, since the 1980s. It also aligns with U.S. imperialism’s goals of attempting to reverse the rising tide of left movements and independent governments in Latin America.

Character of the violence reveals character of the opposition

It must be made clear: Who is being attacked? Where are the attacks being centered? In the traditional stronghold areas of the FSLN like Masaya and Leon, FSLN offices have been attacked and destroyed by the ultraderechistas (ultra-rightists). The attacks also include the private homes and small businesses of long-time Sandinistas who are working class, small owners and campesinos.

It is clear the politics of the attackers are against the most popular political party in the country and speaks to their obvious connection with the goals of U.S. imperialism. Furthermore, in small towns, the blockading of roads has cut off vital services of food and fuel to families and communities in more distant areas. This also displays the anti-working class character of the protesters. Like in Venezuela where two children’s hospitals were set on fire, Nicaragua’s violent opposition attacked health care workers. These facts allow us to conclude that the opposition is not aimed at improving Nicaragua but bringing about its destabilization. The far right hope to invite U.S. intervention and a full-on assault on public services and any gains accomplished by the Sandinistas since 2010.

While criticisms can certainly be made of some of Ortega’s concessions to the Catholic Church on abortion rights, the Sandinistas making those criticisms are also being attacked by the ultraderechistas. The U.S. media pundits will use anything they can against President Ortega’s popular leadership. As internationalists we must call for “Hands off Nicaragua” and support a restoration of peace.

U.S. imperialism continues Monroe Doctrine

In 1823, with the anti-colonial rebellions throwing off the Spanish empire throughout Latin America, the U.S. boldly declared to European empires that the region was the U.S.’s ‘backyard.’ Since then, U.S. intervention in Latin America has left millions dead, while supporting military dictatorships, and massive theft of natural resources and wealth by corporations.

The 21st century has seen little change to the U.S. approach to its southern neighbors. In April 2004, U.S. imperialism attempted a coup against democratically elected President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Since 2014, the U.S. also supported two coup attempts against democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. Maduro successfully thwarted them and came out stronger. Last month, the U.S. strengthened its military presence in South America by having Colombia join as a partner in NATO. Colombia’s eastern neighbor Venezuela immediately recognized the threat posed to their Bolivarian Revolution by having a nuclear-armed partner on their doorstep. Many on the left recognize the U.S. is attempting to regain nations that broke away from U.S. domination when the U.S. was occupied with invading and destroying Iraq in the early 2000s. In this time period, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Brazil and Honduras all saw left-leaning parties claim significant electoral victories as the movements against U.S. domination grow inside their countries. It is clear that U.S. imperialism wishes to reverse the popular trend by sowing terror and destruction through violence and calls for ‘regime change.’

Legacy of anti-imperialism

The resolve of Nicaraguans to resist and at times, successfully defeat U.S. imperialism, cannot be overstated. Their commitment to their country and their people, and to fight off the imperialists is nothing short of heroic. The way forward for internationalists in the U.S. must be to call for “U.S. hands off Nicaragua!”

Lifting the enormous influence and burden of U.S. imperialism in Nicaragua allows for a process internal to Nicaraguans to develop. The responsibility of ending the U.S. intervention machine falls squarely on the shoulders of the anti-war movement in the US. Once again, Nicaraguans are suffering through a playbook designed by U.S. imperialism to collapse an ardent anti-imperialist government whose track record of improving conditions for the workers and campesinas and campesinos stand head and shoulders above the neoliberal regimes of the 1990s.

U.S. hands off Nicaragua! No U.S. funding to opposition groups! Dialogue and peace now!