Category Archives: Nicaragua

A Specter of Peace Is Haunting Nicaragua

After four months of violence, peace may be breaking out in Nicaragua, which has gotten those North American partisans opposed to Nicaraguan President Ortega worried. But they have one last hope.

The latest in a series of anti-Ortega articles in The Nation is entitled “An eternal night of persecution and death.” We are told: “Despite mass killings and newly authoritarian laws, a diverse opposition says the movement to oust Ortega is far from over.”

Although some analysts understand the relative calm that has befallen Nicaragua is mainly due to the failure of the opposition to sustain public support, this article maintains it is because it is “too dangerous for resistors to rally publicly.” The article is primarily based on an interview with an anonymous source “whose name has been altered for his safety.” Toward the end of the article, we find out that the anonymous source is “at a coffee shop in New York.” Ever vigilant, he has his back to the wall “facing out at the rest of the café.”

With the opposition in quiescence, The Nation is still hopeful for regime change. The anonymous source “laments” that “the only way Ortega would concede to that would be with US and international pressure.” The article concludes that “while the United States is not the perfect partner, options are limited.”

The article condemns Ortega, who “no longer represents the ideals of…anti-imperialism,” but does not extend that criticism to publications calling for the US to partner in regime change in Nicaragua.

Will Uncle Sam Come to the Rescue?

Academic Latin Americanist William I. Robinson, an opponent of Ortega, questions whether the US will oblige. He contends “Washington’s primary interest in Nicaragua is not getting rid of Ortega but in preserving the interests of transnational capital.”

Much of Robinson’s analysis is consistent with those who oppose US involvement in the recent violence in Nicaragua. Robinson agrees that the CIA surrogate, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), “funding started in the mid-1980s and has never ceased. It is not new to the Ortega-Murillo period.” However, Robinson’s assertion that the US funding has “not been aimed at overthrowing Ortega” is mistaken. The so-called “democracy promotion” dollars from the US went to the opposition who are intent on overthrowing Ortega.

Robinson agrees a viable left alternative within the opposition to Ortega is lacking: “These popular sectors from below have no project of their own to put forward as a viable alternative to replace the regime. This opens up the popular resistance to manipulation or cooptation by the third force.” This third force, Robinson explains “is the bourgeoisie, organized in the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), the oligarchic elite, transnational capital, and the United States.”

And Robinson agrees: “Finally, have right-wing forces taken advantage of the uprising to try to gain control over it? Absolutely. Have these forces deployed their own violence. Yes. Have they manipulated a disorganized and politically incoherent grassroots opposition to Ortega-Murillo? Yes.” To his rhetorical question “would the post-Ortega scenario (that) the Right seeks to achieve be ‘more, not less, neoliberal, repressive, and authoritarian’ than the regime?” Robinson answers “probably.”

The Threat of an Alternative to Empire

So what’s Robinson’s beef with what he characterizes as “the infantile manichean view of a significant portion of the US Left”?

Robinson is a major proponent of the view that US imperialism has been eclipsed by a “transnational capitalist class.” Robinson does allow that on a world scale Nicaragua weighs in as being more progressive: “Has the Ortega regime, with its assistancialism (sic), been anywhere near as ‘bad’ as these other neoliberal regimes? Certainly not.” But, less bad is not enough. The crux of his difference with the anti-imperialist left is that they uphold Nicaragua as worthy of defense, whereas in Robinson’s post-US imperialist world no nation passes his litmus test.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union and its allies, all countries are compelled to be integrated into the world capitalist market, including Nicaragua. This is well described by Robinson in his academic work.

But Robinson is less insightful regarding the coercive aspect of US relations with progressive countries such as Nicaragua and its allies in ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) such as Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia. These countries and their leaders are very much in the crosshairs of US regime change efforts precisely because they represent some degree of a challenge to neoliberalism and because they are not compliant to every dictate of the empire.

Robinson may label this view as “manichean,” (i.e., seeing a binary world of good or evil), but it is a reality imposed by the US. George W. Bush, in his own eloquent way, summed up US strategy best: “You’re either with us or with the enemy.”

For Nicaragua, a tipping point between US cooperation and US coercion was the adoption of a trans-oceanic canal project with Chinese financing, which fundamentally challenged US geopolitical interests.

Nicaragua and its allies represent a breathing space in a world dominated by the US empire. The US government recognizes the alternative posed by Nicaragua as a threat and has targeted the Ortega government, even if some academics are less perceptive.

Fleeing Nicaragua

Meanwhile, the US has imposed sanctions against top Nicaraguan officials. USAID received an additional $1.5 million to promote “freedom and democracy” in Nicaragua. The NICA Act has passed the House by unanimous consent and is pending in the Senate. The NICA Act is designed to restrict international financing and thereby create misery among the Nicaraguan people to pressure the Ortega government. And the bulk of the US diplomatic corps has been withdrawn from Nicaragua.

The US State Department’s travel advisory warns that the remaining “US government personnel are prohibited…from entering…gentlemen’s clubs throughout the country due to crime.”

“Non-emergency government personnel” have been evacuated to go back home, presumably where gentlemen’s clubs are still safe.

 

Camilo Comes to San Francisco and Analyzes the Soft Coup Attempt in Nicaragua

Western media has described the unrest and violence in Nicaragua as a “campaign of terror” by government police and paramilitary. This has also been asserted by large non governmental organizations (NGOs). In May, for example, Amnesty International issued a report titled “Shoot to Kill: Nicaragua’s Strategy to Repress Protest”.

A Miami Herald op-ed summarized, “It’s not like there’s any confusion over who’s to blame for the recent killings amid Nicaragua’s political violence. Virtually all human rights groups agree that Ortega’s police-backed paramilitary goons are the culprits.”

Much less publicized, other analysts have challenged these assertions. They claim the situation is being distorted and the reality is very different. For example, Camilo Mejía wrote an open letter condemning the Amnesty report for being biased and actually contributing to the chaos and violence.

To learn more about the situation, Task Force on the Americas (TFA) invited Camilo Mejía to speak in the San Francisco Bay Area. TFA has a long history of work in Central and South America educating the public, lobbying around US foreign policy and leading delegations to see the reality in Central and South America.

Veterans for Peace (VFP) quickly agreed to co-sponsor events with Camilo in San Francisco and Oakland. Veterans for Peace also has a long history with Nicaragua. VFP was founded partially in response to US aggression in Central America. VFP members protested against US shipments to the Nicaraguan Contras. VFP member Brian Willson had both legs cut off when a train carrying weapons destined for Central America ran over him. The current VFP president, Gerry Condon, was at that protest and helped stop the blood gushing from Willson’s severed legs. Brian Willson lives in Nicaragua today.

Camilo Mejía was born in Nicaragua, the son of famous musician Carlos Mejía Godoy. His mother was a staunch Sandinista activist but separated from the father soon after his birth. She brought Camilo to the United States as a single mother in 1994, four years after the Sandinista electoral defeat. Living in Florida, Camilo struggled to make ends meet and joined the US Army to pay for college. Just a few months before completing his service, Camilo was ordered into the 2003 invasion of Iraq. After serving one tour of war duty, he refused to return and was imprisoned for 9 months.

Camilo was honored as a “Prisoner of Conscience” by Amnesty International. Thus Camilo’s criticism of the Amnesty report on Nicaragua has special significance. Camilo is Nicaraguan, a member of Veterans for Peace, and a hero to both VFP and Amnesty. He is also the author of the compelling autobiography Road from Ar Ramadi.

As news of Camilo’s upcoming visit to San Francisco was spread, we quickly started to feel a reaction. There is a large and diverse Nicaraguan exile community in San Francisco. While some support the Sandinista government, others are adamantly opposed and some even supported the Contras decades ago. Anti-Ortega Nicaraguan exiles in San Francisco began organizing a protest.

Camilo’s visit to speak on Nicaragua also prompted a reaction from some Americans who had once supported the Sandinistas but now support the opposition. They campaigned to have their viewpoint presented at our events. TFA and VFP organizers thought there was no need to include the opposition voice since their characterization of the conflict is widespread. However, Camilo wanted to be transparent and not exclude the opposition. He thought that if we allowed an opposition supporter to speak briefly, they were more likely to listen to his analysis and he could directly address their concerns.

At the San Francisco event, protesters arrived early in front of the War Memorial Veterans Building. When the event started, protesters flooded into the venue. As promised, an opposition supporter was invited to speak briefly.The audience of about 120 was split between those who wanted to hear Camilo and those who came to protest. Camilo’s talk was repeatedly interrupted and police arrived to prevent violence. Camilo asked what kind of “democracy” was this they claimed to want for Nicaragua when they would not listen or allow him to speak here in San Francisco?

Camilo showed two short video clips. The first video showed opposition activists torturing a Sandinista supporter under the oversight of a Catholic priest and the remains of a Sandinista burned alive.

A second video showed a statement from an American who has lived in Nicaragua for many years. He described how gangs had invaded his town, set up road blocks, intimidated and abused local civilians. He described the joy of the community when the roadblocks were removed and masked “protesters” departed.

The audience got increasingly disruptive during the question period. A prominent Nicaraguan opposition supporter came forward, offering to quiet the disrupters. After receiving the microphone from Camilo, she did the opposite. The disruptions escalated and the event had to be ended early. The protesters had completed their mission: they had prevented Camilo from being able to present his perspective.

Organizers from TFA and Veterans for Peace decided the Sunday event in Oakland needed to be handled differently. Members of Veterans for Peace, including chapter president Paul Cox and others, prevented the protesters from entering. Ultimately the venue was packed with interested listeners. The anti-Ortega crowd protested on the sidewalk and street but were not able to disrupt the event.

Camilo Mejía speaking in Oakland (Photo by Bill Hackwell)

With the loud opposition outside, Camilo was introduced by VFP President Gerry Condon. He gave a clear and concise history of key events in Nicaraguan political history including:

* Nicaragua was connected to the gold rush in California in the the mid 1800’s. That is when the idea of a trans-oceanic passage through Nicaragua was born.

* When Cesar Sandino launched guerrilla war in the 1920’s and 30’s there were two priorities: advancing the working class and anti-imperialism.

* The Frente Sandinista which carried out the 1979 revolution had nine commanders: three from each of three factions.

After the Sandinistas lost the 1990 election, splits emerged and ultimately Sergio Ramirez formed the Movimiento Renovador Sandinista (MRS). The more affluent members plus intellectuals, writers, and musicians gravitated toward it. But though they were well connected to western solidarity activists, they had no popular platform nor base. They did poorly in elections and moved toward neoliberal policies and the NGO world.

* Since taking power in 2007, Daniel Ortega and Sandinistas have improved living conditions for the poor with free healthcare, free education and better economic policies. Nicaragua now supplies 80 – 90% of its own food needs.

* Up until April, Nicaragua was vastly safer than neighboring countries. Their “community policing” is considered a model.

* Support for Ortega and the Frente Sandinista has steadily increased. In 2006, they won 38% of the vote; in 2011, it increased to 62%; in 2016 support increased to 72% with 68% turnout.

* There has been much misinformation about the proposed changes in social security which sparked the protests in April. To stabilize the social security funding, the IMF wanted to implement an austerity plan which would have doubled the work requirements and raised the qualification age from 60 to 65. The Sandinista proposal was much more progressive, requiring wealthy individuals and businesses to pay much more with minor changes for others.

* The death count has been manipulated. Some deaths are counted twice; people who were said to be dead have turned up alive; dead Sandinista supporters have been counted as protesters. The first deaths on April 19 were one student, one police officer and one bystander killed by sniper fire. Camilo asks: Was this done by the government or by outside forces?

* The National Endowment for Democracy and other US agencies have trained students and others in using social media, video and symbols to stir up dissent and destabilize Nicaragua.

At the Oakland event, Camilo showed a torture video which demonstrates opposition violence. He also showed video of the huge July 19 celebration of the the revolution anniversary. His talk was followed by many questions including from opposition supporters.

At times during the event, there was tension and concern about violence from the protesters outside. Some Nicaraguan families were afraid for their safety. After the event, they had to be escorted with protection to their cars. The car of one Nicaraguan family was besieged by the anti-Ortega crowd. Camilo and his young daughter had to be quickly taken away amidst shouts and waving placards.

Ultimately Camilo’s visit accomplished the goal. Media interviews in Spanish and English reached many thousands.  In these and the public presentations, he brought information and analysis which has been largely censored or ignored in coverage of Nicaragua.

Camilo believes Nicaragua has temporarily defeated a “soft coup” attempt but the danger is not over. The opposition forces internally and internationally are still there.

Military Parade Cancelled: How Does Peace Movement Build On This Victory?

People protest war at the Democratic National Convention 2016 (Photo by Brendan Smialowski for AFP-Getty Images)

This week, the Trump military parade, planned for November 10, was canceled for 2018. In February, a coalition of groups went public, announcing we would organize to stop the military parade and, if it went forward, to mobilize more people at the parade calling for peace and an end to war than supporting militarism. The coalition called for “ending the wars at home and abroad.”

The No Trump Military Parade coalition intended to show the world that the people of the United States do not support war. The coalition has been meeting regularly to build toward organized mass opposition to the proposed parade. People were working to make this protest a take-off for a renewed peace movement in a country exhausted by never-ending wars and massive military spending, but our first goal was to stop the parade from happening.

We say No to War sign seen at a 2007 anti-war protest (Photo by Thiago Santos on Flickr)

Momentum Builds For Mass Opposition To Trump Military Parade, As Costs Mount

The protest turned into a weekend of activities linked with the October 21 Women’s March on the Pentagon. The Women’s March was planning to include a daily vigil at the Pentagon until the military parade protest weekend. The theme of the weekend was “Divest from War, Invest in Peace.” On Friday, November 9, we planned a nonviolent direct action training for those who could risk arrest to stop the parade. That evening, CODE PINK was organizing a peace concert, “Peace Rocks”, on the mall. And, throughout that weekend, we were going to participate in Catharsis on the Mall: A Vigil for Healing, where we were going to create art for this Burning Man-like event to demonstrate the transformation of ending war and creating a peace economy.

On November 10, the day of the military parade, the ANSWER Coalition, part of the No Trump Military Parade coalition, had permits for both possible parade routes where peace advocates would hold a concentrated presence and rally alongside the parade. A work group was planning nonviolent direct actions, called “Rain on Trump’s Parade,” to stop the parade. On Sunday, November 11, a group of veterans and military family members were planning to lead a silent march through the war memorials on the mall to reclaim Armistice Day on its 100th anniversary.

The No Trump Military Parade was building momentum. On Tuesday, we published a letter signed by 187 organizations that called for the parade to be stopped. It read, in part, “We urge you now to do all in your power to stop the military parade on November 10. The vast majority of people in the US and around the world crave peace. If the parade goes forward, we will mobilize thousands of people on that day to protest it.” We sent copies of the release to the corporate and independent media and made sure the National Park Service, DC City Council, and Pentagon were aware of our planning.

On Thursday, the Pentagon leaked a new $92 million cost for the parade, more than six times the original estimate.  The cost included $13.5 million for DC police for crowd control and security. This alone was more than the initial $12 million cost estimate for the total parade. DC officials noted the parade would “breed protests and counter-protests, adding to city officials’ logistical headaches.”  Kellyanne Conway also took jabs at protesters when she discussed the cancellation of the parade on FOX and Friends.

Coalition members were quickly alerted to the new cost estimate and people went on social media spreading the word, expressing outrage and sharing our sign-on letter. That afternoon, the coalition issued a statement on the cost and the momentum building to oppose the parade, as by then, more than 200 organizations had signed on. That evening it was announced that the parade was postponed for 2018 and would be considered in 2019.

There was super-majority opposition to the military parade and it was becoming the national consensus of the country that there should not be a military parade. Army Times conducted a poll of its readers; 51,000 responded and 89 percent opposed the parade responding, “No, It’s a waste of money and troops are too busy.” A Quinnipiac University poll found 61 percent of voters disapprove of the military parade, while only 26 percent support the idea.

In addition to the financial cost, the Pentagon knew there was a political cost The cancellation is a victory for the No Trump Military Parade Coalition, but also a victory for the country – glorifying militarization was exactly the wrong direction for the country to be going.

Photo: Debra Sweet/flickr/cc

How Do We Build On This Success?

The question members of the coalition are asking themselves now is how to build on the success of stopping the Trump military parade. We started a new Popular Resistance Facebook Group where you can join a conversation about where we go from here. Coalition members are in ongoing dialogue about possible next steps. We share some of those ideas below and would appreciate hearing your views on them.  Some ideas:

  1. Continue with the plans for the weekend. The Reclaim Armistice Day silent march will still be held. This is the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the end of World War One, which ended at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. A two-minute silence was held at 11 am to remember the people who died in wars and reflect on the horror of war and the need to work for peace. It was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. The Reclaim Armistice Day march will begin at 11 am at the Washington Monument.
  2. Help build the Women’s March on the Pentagon. The march was called for by Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey died in the Iraq War, to put an antiwar agenda back on the table. The march is being held on the anniversary of the 1967 march on the Pentagon when 50,000 people marched in opposition to the Vietnam War.
  3. Make war, militarism, and military spending an issue in the 2018 election campaigns. People can ask all candidates about the never-ending wars and the record spending on the military budget, now approximately 60 percent of federal discretionary spending.
  4. Stop military escalation with Iran. This week Mike Pompeo announced the Iran Action Group, almost exactly on the anniversary of the CIA-led coup against Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. This is part of a broader escalation; e.g., the CIA created an “Iran Mission Center” in January. The Trump administration has been working to destabilize Iran, scapegoating Iran and to “foment unrest in Iran.” John Bolton was promising regime change in Iran before he became National Security Adviser. Trump violated the nuclear weapons treaty by withdrawing for no cause. This new effort will intensify efforts to foment unrest in Iran, the peace movement should work for de-escalation and normalization of relations with Iran to prevent another war-quagmire.
  5. End the longest war in US history, Afghanistan. The Trump administration has escalated US involvement in the war in Afghanistan. This 17-year war has been one of constant failure but now the US is losing badly to the Taliban which has taken over more than 50 percent of the country and can attack Afghan forces in the capital, Kabul. It’s time to bring the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq.
  6. Stop the US and Saudi Arabian slaughter and starvation of civilians in Yemen. The forced famine and cholera epidemic killed more than 50,000 children last year, a US-approved genocide. The silence in response to this unauthorized war needs to end. The recent bombing of a school bus of children with US weapons may help galvanize the public.
  7. End escalation of nuclear weapons, extend the nuclear weapons treaty and work to rid the world of nuclear weapons. The US has embarked on a massive upgrade of nuclear weapons, begun under President Obama and extended by Trump. A year ago, the UN announced the beginning of a process to ban nuclear weapons. The Trump-Putin meetings should continue, despite the Russiagate allegations, and include ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

These are just some of the conflicts deserving attention. There are, of course, more; e.g., cut the outrageous military budget, stop the militarization of space, end the war in Syria, remove troops and bases from Africa, negotiate peace with North Korea, create a detente with Russia, end support for Israeli apartheid, stop the economic wars and threats of militarism against Venezuela and Nicaragua, and deescalate-don’t arm Ukraine. While many groups have their own focus, what can a coalition campaign work together on?

New York City from SpringAction2018.org

Antiwar Autumn Continues

We have been calling this fall the Antiwar Autumn because there is so much going on. Even with the cancellation of the military parade, it is going to be a busy fall.

Some of the major activities that are already scheduled include:

The Veterans for Peace annual conference in Minnesota, August 22-26.

On August 25, the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism is holding a protest against war and police violence on the anniversary of the 1968 protest at the Democratic National Convention against the Vietnam War.

The World Beyond War #NoWar2018 conference in Toronto, Canada on September 21-22 on how to re-design systems to abolish the institution of war.

The October 21 Women’s March on the Pentagon.

The effort to reclaim Armistice Day march on November 11.

The Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases’ first international conference in Dublin, Ireland on November 16-18, 2018.

Beyond these activities, what can we do to build on the successful organizing around stopping the Trump military parade? We need to celebrate this victory and build on it.

We also want to highlight Class 7 of the Popular Resistance School on How Social Transformation Occurs, which focuses on the infiltration of political movements by the government, big business interests, and other opposition groups. We have written in the past about infiltration; i.e., Infiltration to Disrupt, Divide and Mis-Direct Are Widespread in Occupy and Infiltration of Political Movements is the Norm, Not the Exception in the United States. In this class, we broaden those discussions but also examine how to deal with infiltrators and informants.

Military Parade Cancelled: How Does Peace Movement Build On This Victory?

People protest war at the Democratic National Convention 2016 (Photo by Brendan Smialowski for AFP-Getty Images)

This week, the Trump military parade, planned for November 10, was canceled for 2018. In February, a coalition of groups went public, announcing we would organize to stop the military parade and, if it went forward, to mobilize more people at the parade calling for peace and an end to war than supporting militarism. The coalition called for “ending the wars at home and abroad.”

The No Trump Military Parade coalition intended to show the world that the people of the United States do not support war. The coalition has been meeting regularly to build toward organized mass opposition to the proposed parade. People were working to make this protest a take-off for a renewed peace movement in a country exhausted by never-ending wars and massive military spending, but our first goal was to stop the parade from happening.

We say No to War sign seen at a 2007 anti-war protest (Photo by Thiago Santos on Flickr)

Momentum Builds For Mass Opposition To Trump Military Parade, As Costs Mount

The protest turned into a weekend of activities linked with the October 21 Women’s March on the Pentagon. The Women’s March was planning to include a daily vigil at the Pentagon until the military parade protest weekend. The theme of the weekend was “Divest from War, Invest in Peace.” On Friday, November 9, we planned a nonviolent direct action training for those who could risk arrest to stop the parade. That evening, CODE PINK was organizing a peace concert, “Peace Rocks”, on the mall. And, throughout that weekend, we were going to participate in Catharsis on the Mall: A Vigil for Healing, where we were going to create art for this Burning Man-like event to demonstrate the transformation of ending war and creating a peace economy.

On November 10, the day of the military parade, the ANSWER Coalition, part of the No Trump Military Parade coalition, had permits for both possible parade routes where peace advocates would hold a concentrated presence and rally alongside the parade. A work group was planning nonviolent direct actions, called “Rain on Trump’s Parade,” to stop the parade. On Sunday, November 11, a group of veterans and military family members were planning to lead a silent march through the war memorials on the mall to reclaim Armistice Day on its 100th anniversary.

The No Trump Military Parade was building momentum. On Tuesday, we published a letter signed by 187 organizations that called for the parade to be stopped. It read, in part, “We urge you now to do all in your power to stop the military parade on November 10. The vast majority of people in the US and around the world crave peace. If the parade goes forward, we will mobilize thousands of people on that day to protest it.” We sent copies of the release to the corporate and independent media and made sure the National Park Service, DC City Council, and Pentagon were aware of our planning.

On Thursday, the Pentagon leaked a new $92 million cost for the parade, more than six times the original estimate.  The cost included $13.5 million for DC police for crowd control and security. This alone was more than the initial $12 million cost estimate for the total parade. DC officials noted the parade would “breed protests and counter-protests, adding to city officials’ logistical headaches.”  Kellyanne Conway also took jabs at protesters when she discussed the cancellation of the parade on FOX and Friends.

Coalition members were quickly alerted to the new cost estimate and people went on social media spreading the word, expressing outrage and sharing our sign-on letter. That afternoon, the coalition issued a statement on the cost and the momentum building to oppose the parade, as by then, more than 200 organizations had signed on. That evening it was announced that the parade was postponed for 2018 and would be considered in 2019.

There was super-majority opposition to the military parade and it was becoming the national consensus of the country that there should not be a military parade. Army Times conducted a poll of its readers; 51,000 responded and 89 percent opposed the parade responding, “No, It’s a waste of money and troops are too busy.” A Quinnipiac University poll found 61 percent of voters disapprove of the military parade, while only 26 percent support the idea.

In addition to the financial cost, the Pentagon knew there was a political cost The cancellation is a victory for the No Trump Military Parade Coalition, but also a victory for the country – glorifying militarization was exactly the wrong direction for the country to be going.

Photo: Debra Sweet/flickr/cc

How Do We Build On This Success?

The question members of the coalition are asking themselves now is how to build on the success of stopping the Trump military parade. We started a new Popular Resistance Facebook Group where you can join a conversation about where we go from here. Coalition members are in ongoing dialogue about possible next steps. We share some of those ideas below and would appreciate hearing your views on them.  Some ideas:

  1. Continue with the plans for the weekend. The Reclaim Armistice Day silent march will still be held. This is the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the end of World War One, which ended at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. A two-minute silence was held at 11 am to remember the people who died in wars and reflect on the horror of war and the need to work for peace. It was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. The Reclaim Armistice Day march will begin at 11 am at the Washington Monument.
  2. Help build the Women’s March on the Pentagon. The march was called for by Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey died in the Iraq War, to put an antiwar agenda back on the table. The march is being held on the anniversary of the 1967 march on the Pentagon when 50,000 people marched in opposition to the Vietnam War.
  3. Make war, militarism, and military spending an issue in the 2018 election campaigns. People can ask all candidates about the never-ending wars and the record spending on the military budget, now approximately 60 percent of federal discretionary spending.
  4. Stop military escalation with Iran. This week Mike Pompeo announced the Iran Action Group, almost exactly on the anniversary of the CIA-led coup against Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. This is part of a broader escalation; e.g., the CIA created an “Iran Mission Center” in January. The Trump administration has been working to destabilize Iran, scapegoating Iran and to “foment unrest in Iran.” John Bolton was promising regime change in Iran before he became National Security Adviser. Trump violated the nuclear weapons treaty by withdrawing for no cause. This new effort will intensify efforts to foment unrest in Iran, the peace movement should work for de-escalation and normalization of relations with Iran to prevent another war-quagmire.
  5. End the longest war in US history, Afghanistan. The Trump administration has escalated US involvement in the war in Afghanistan. This 17-year war has been one of constant failure but now the US is losing badly to the Taliban which has taken over more than 50 percent of the country and can attack Afghan forces in the capital, Kabul. It’s time to bring the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq.
  6. Stop the US and Saudi Arabian slaughter and starvation of civilians in Yemen. The forced famine and cholera epidemic killed more than 50,000 children last year, a US-approved genocide. The silence in response to this unauthorized war needs to end. The recent bombing of a school bus of children with US weapons may help galvanize the public.
  7. End escalation of nuclear weapons, extend the nuclear weapons treaty and work to rid the world of nuclear weapons. The US has embarked on a massive upgrade of nuclear weapons, begun under President Obama and extended by Trump. A year ago, the UN announced the beginning of a process to ban nuclear weapons. The Trump-Putin meetings should continue, despite the Russiagate allegations, and include ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

These are just some of the conflicts deserving attention. There are, of course, more; e.g., cut the outrageous military budget, stop the militarization of space, end the war in Syria, remove troops and bases from Africa, negotiate peace with North Korea, create a detente with Russia, end support for Israeli apartheid, stop the economic wars and threats of militarism against Venezuela and Nicaragua, and deescalate-don’t arm Ukraine. While many groups have their own focus, what can a coalition campaign work together on?

New York City from SpringAction2018.org

Antiwar Autumn Continues

We have been calling this fall the Antiwar Autumn because there is so much going on. Even with the cancellation of the military parade, it is going to be a busy fall.

Some of the major activities that are already scheduled include:

The Veterans for Peace annual conference in Minnesota, August 22-26.

On August 25, the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism is holding a protest against war and police violence on the anniversary of the 1968 protest at the Democratic National Convention against the Vietnam War.

The World Beyond War #NoWar2018 conference in Toronto, Canada on September 21-22 on how to re-design systems to abolish the institution of war.

The October 21 Women’s March on the Pentagon.

The effort to reclaim Armistice Day march on November 11.

The Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases’ first international conference in Dublin, Ireland on November 16-18, 2018.

Beyond these activities, what can we do to build on the successful organizing around stopping the Trump military parade? We need to celebrate this victory and build on it.

We also want to highlight Class 7 of the Popular Resistance School on How Social Transformation Occurs, which focuses on the infiltration of political movements by the government, big business interests, and other opposition groups. We have written in the past about infiltration; i.e., Infiltration to Disrupt, Divide and Mis-Direct Are Widespread in Occupy and Infiltration of Political Movements is the Norm, Not the Exception in the United States. In this class, we broaden those discussions but also examine how to deal with infiltrators and informants.

What’s Left in Nicaragua after Ortega

Before the violence that started mid-April, Nicaragua had been the most peaceful, safest, and by far the most progressive country in Central America. Now that a semblance of peace has been restored in Nicaragua, the US government continues its campaign for regime change joined by some who formerly supported Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista party.

While much has been written for and against Ortega, what might replace him were he to leave is less well fleshed out. Latin Americanist academics Dan La Botz and Benjamin Waddell, both with extensive experience in and knowledge of Nicaragua, give us some insights into what might be expected were the opposition to take over.

US Regime Change Activities in Nicaragua

Although La Botz and Waddell are firmly in the “Ortega must go” camp, they are not naïve about US government interference in the internal affairs of Nicaragua. They are not among those that claim, incorrectly, that the uprising was simply a spontaneous phenomenon.

“International press has depicted the rapid escalation of civil unrest in Nicaragua as a spontaneous explosion of collective discontent.” But Waddell contends “it’s becoming more and more clear that the US support has helped play a role in nurturing the current uprisings.”

La Botz provides the background: “US organizations such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and no doubt the CIA had for decades, of course, worked in Nicaragua as they do everywhere in the world.”

La Botz is not indifferent to US interference in Nicaragua. He was in fact critical of Washington’s early tepid reaction. US Vice President Pence, La Botz complained, “only demanded that the Ortega government protect its citizens and their rights,” but did not make a “general condemnation of the Ortega government, only a call for reform.”

La Botz concludes his article with the demand “the US must keep out.” But his evidence suggests that he should be demanding that the “US get out” of Nicaragua.

Waddell is more favorable to the efficacy of the US’s efforts in Nicaragua, reporting:

“Since 2014, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which was established in 1983 to promote democratic ideals in developing countries, has spent $4.1 million on projects in Nicaragua.”

Waddell describes, “US Congress created the NED—as a non-profit, private NGO—in 1983 at the height of the Cold War.” From “1984 to 1990, the US NED spent roughly $15.8 million dollars to fund civil society groups and to political parties, most of them opposed to the Sandinista government.” Waddell explains how this led to success for the US:

“In 1990, against all odds, Chamorro defeated Daniel Ortega, and ushered in three consecutive terms of conservative leadership.”

Waddell provides documentation on the US funding through NED to groups active in today’s opposition to the elected government of Nicaragua, including over half a million USD to Hagamos Democracia. Waddell commends these soft coup efforts by the US:

“Regardless of whether Mr. Ortega is removed from power, the NED’s involvement in Nicaragua reveals the potential for transnational funding to contribute to the cultivation of the type of skill sets, networking, and strategies necessary for civil society to successfully challenge authoritative (sic) governments.”

Composition of the Opposition to Ortega

“The Nicaraguan popular rebellion of this spring and early summer,” La Botz describes, “developed as a broad multi-class movement.” However, this movement “lacked a common political program.”  “The strongest organization with the clearest political ideas,” is not even remotely progressive, but has “fundamentally conservative, pro-capitalist ideas.” That leading organization “is COSEP (Consejo Superior de la Empresa Privada en Nicaragua), the leading business organization.”

The opposition leadership was joined by the “powerful” Catholic Church with its “conservative hierarchy,” according to La Botz. Other elements within the Catholic Church included “a theology of liberation current led by some university professors and parish priests, and the mass of pious believers.”

The third major group in the opposition are a diverse amalgam of students. In his brief overview, La Botz does not explain that prominent among the students are those from conservative private universities. Nevertheless, La Botz holds on to the wish that “a student ‘left’ could be emerging.”

Developments to date give little credence to the hope for a student opposition that is leftist. For instance, a delegation of opposition students went to Washington financed by the rightwing Freedom House to lobby for US sanctions against their own people. According to NACLA, these students “shared pictures on social media posing with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who represent most conservative, right-wing and hawkish sectors of the Republican Party.” More recently the Nicaraguan opposition student voice was heard on a regime change panel at the Koch brothers-funded, rightwing Hudson Institute. These are not leftists.

What’s Left in Nicaragua

“Two left opposition groups with social democratic politics do exist,” La Botz reports, “the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) and the Movement to Rescue Sandinismo (MPRS).”

The MPRS or Rescate, an on-and-off left split from the MRS, is a minor actor. It is composed mainly of Mónica Baltodano and Henry Ruiz, who are active on the web and doing interviews.

The more prominent MRS broke from the main Sandinista party in the 1990s. The MRS, heavily composed of intellectuals, never developed a popular base among the Nicaraguan people. Starting off as a left opposition to the Ortega wing of the Sandinistas, the MRS has since shifted to the right. MRS leaders are partly supported by their connections to the US-funded NGO world and are in alliance “with parties with a neo-liberal agenda.” MRS national president Ana Margarita Vijil and Managua president Suyén Barahona hobnob with rightwing US politicians.

Calling the MRS left is like the Tea Party’s claim that Obama is a socialist; it’s a matter of perspective.

La Botz laments the absence of opposition left social movements: “they remain small and marginal to the society as a whole.” In a curious convolution of logic, La Botz blames Ortega for the failure of an anti-Ortega left opposition to emerge: “Ortega’s FSLN has discredited the idea of socialism and repressed rival democratic socialist currents.” This has not, however, prevented the emergence of a right opposition. The left-leaning, well-organized labor and agrarian unions in Nicaragua, according to La Botz, have largely avoided the opposition.

In a revolution, there are only two sides. Despite the highly polarized situation in Nicaragua, La Botz conjurers a third way: “There is, however, the possibility that the democratic struggle could open up a social struggle that would create a new left.” In sum, the picture presented by La Botz is that presently the opposition to Ortega is not democratic or left, but that he hopes it could be, despite troubling ties to US intelligence agencies and NGOs.

NACLA reports reactionaries, not progressives, are emerging from the opposition:

“In fact, many in the (opposition) movement and the civic alliance are fervent anti-Sandinistas. These are people who do not just oppose Ortega and Murillo in the current context but also pro-capitalists who have attacked the Sandinistas since their emergence. This group includes Somocistas (those who defend the legacy of the Somoza dictatorship), Liberals, Conservatives, and former Contras. There is growing evidence that from the ranks of anti-Sandinistas such groups are arming themselves and gaining momentum.”

The Lesson of Libya

The trajectory of the anti-Ortega opposition is to a rightist putsch. Were it to succeed, handing direction of the pension plan over to the IMF would not be socialism. Leaving the enforcement of Nicaragua’s anti-abortion laws to the tender mercies of the Catholic bishops would not be feminism. And this would not be the solution that long-time solidarity activists such as Dan La Botz seek. If we are to learn from history, the overthrow of the Libyan government did not result in the utopian emergence of a socialist third way. Nor would such an outcome transpire with regime change in Nicaragua.

La Botz criticizes what he calls the “neo-Stalinist left” who oppose US intervention in Nicaragua. These same people that La Botz criticizes were also opposed to US intervention in Libya, which left that formerly thriving country a disastrously failed state where slavery is now practiced. There is a lesson to be learned about consistent anti-imperialism, and it is not supporting US-backed regime change.

Nicaragua has been tragically destabilized, threatening to reverse the major social gains achieved by the Ortega government. The North American left should unite around “US out of Nicaragua.” Let the Nicaraguan people choose their own government through elections as they have in 2006, 2011, and 2016 when they returned Ortega to the presidency with ever increasing voting margins.

Beyond the US-backed interests and their NGO-activists are undoubtedly genuine social elements in opposition to Ortega. Likewise any political party, especially one that has been in power as long as the Sandinistas, could benefit from rectification. But these are agenda items to be addressed by the Nicaraguan people without outside interference. The ossification of polarized positions in a climate of opposition-provoked violence guarantees nothing gets rectified and everyone loses.

The US is the world’s hegemon, imposing global neoliberalism. The Ortega government in Nicaragua has been targeted by the hegemon precisely because it has not served as an unquestioning client state. The fall of the Ortega government would close one more space for any alternative to the empire to survive.

What Really Happens to Nicaragua, Venezuela and Ecuador

Stories about corruption and internal government-generated violence concerning most unaligned countries abound in the MSM. These lies fuel hatred. And the public at large start a malicious rumor circuit. Which, in turn, is taken over by the MSM, so that their lies are pushing in open doors. The war drums start beating. The populace wants foreign imposed order, they want blood and ‘regime change’. The consensus for war has once more worked. And the blood may flow. Instigated by outside forces, such as the NED (National Endowment for Democracy) and USAID, which train and fund nationals clandestinely in-and outside the country where eventually they have to operate. They are commandeered by Washington and other western powers and act so as to blame the “non-obedient” governments, whose regime must be changed. They constitute part of the Fifth Column.

A Fifth Column is a group of people who undermine the government of a country in support of the enemy. They can be both covert and open. The term Fifth Column originates from the Spanish Civil War, when in October 1936 nationalist rebel General Mola initiated the coup d’état against the legitimate Republican Government. This marked the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. General Mola besieged Madrid with four “columns” of troops and claimed he had a “Fifth Column”, hiding inside the city. The term was henceforth used for infiltrated enemies within a legitimate government. Mola, the mastermind behind the coup, died in a 1937 plane crash, and General Francisco Franco became Spain’s dictator for the next almost 40 years. He prevailed over the Republican resistance thanks to Hitler’s and Mussolini’s air support.

Now what’s the true story behind the violence-plagued Nicaragua and Venezuela, and the treacherous new Moreno government in Ecuador?

Take Nicaragua – it all started with the Board of Directors of the Nicaragua Social Security Institute (INSS) on 16 April 2018 approving an IMF-imposed social security reform, modified and then supported by President Ortega. The reform maintained social security at its current level, but would increase employer contributions by 3.5% to pension and health funds, while only slightly increasing worker contributions by 0.75% and shifting 5% of pensioners’ cash transfer into their healthcare fund. These reforms triggered the coup attempt initiated by the business lobby and backed by the Nicaraguan oligarchy.

Student protests were already ongoing in different university cities in connection with university elections. These protests were re-directed against the Ortega government with the help of US-funded NGOs and the Catholic Church, an ally of the wealthy in most of Latin America. Some of the students involved in ‘re-directing’ the protests were brought to the US for training by the Freedom House, a long-time associate of the CIA. USAID announced an additional US$ 1.5 million to build opposition to the Ortega Government. These funds along with financing from the NED will be channeled to NGOs to support anti-government protests. See here for more details.

Summarizing, in the course of the weeks following the coup, violence increased leaving a total of more than 300 dead by early August. Even though Ortega reversed the pension measures, unrests continued, now demanding the resignation of the President and Vice-President, his wife Rosario Murillo Zambrana. Daniel Ortega, a Sandinista and former guerilla leader, was first elected President in 1985. It is clear that the US and the dark forces behind the empire were preparing Fifth Column-type groups to intervene and take advantage of any social upheaval in the country to bring about regime change. What could have and would have been contained, continued as US-inspired violent protests eventually aiming at the overthrow of Ortega’s government. That would bring Central America, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua – and Panama – in line with US policies. Will Washington succeed?

On Venezuela – In mid-June 2018, I was privileged to be invited to Caracas as one of several international economists to participate in a Presidential Economic Advisory Commission to discuss internal and external economic issues. Without going into details of the commission’s deliberations it is absolutely clear who is behind the food and medicine boycotts (empty supermarket shelves), and the induced internal violence. It is a carbon copy of what the CIA under Kissinger’s command did in Chile in 1973 which led to the murder of the legitimate and democratically elected President Allende and to the Pinochet military coup; except, Venezuela has 19 years of revolutionary experience, and built up some tough resistance.

To understand the context ‘Venezuela’, we may have to look a bit at the country’s history.

Before the fully democratically and internationally-observed election of Hugo Chavez in 1998, Venezuela was governed for at least 100 years by dictators and violent despots which were directed by and served only the United States. The country, extremely rich in natural resources, was exploited by the US and Venezuelan oligarchs to the point that the population of one of the richest Latin-American countries remained poor instead of improving its standard of living according to the country’s natural riches. The people were literally enslaved by Washington-controlled regimes.

A first coup attempt by Comandante Hugo Chavez in 1992 was oppressed by the Government of Carlos Andrés Pérez and Chavez was sent to prison along with his co-golpistas. After two years, he was freed by the Government of Rafael Caldera.

During Peréz’ first term in office (1974-1979) and his predecessors, Venezuela attained a high economic growth based almost exclusively on oil exports though, hardly anything of this growth stayed in the country and was distributed to the people. The situation was pretty much the same as it is in today’s Peru which before the 2008 crisis and shortly thereafter had phenomenal growth rates – between 5% and 8% – of which 80% went to 5% of the population, oligarchs and foreign investors, and 20% was to be distributed to 95% of the population and that on a very uneven keel. The result was and is a growing gap between rich and poor, increasing unemployment and delinquency.

Venezuela before Chavez lived practically on a monoculture economy based on petrol. There was no effort towards economic diversification. To the contrary, diversification could eventually help free Venezuela from the despot’s fangs, as the US was the key recipient of Venezuela’s petrol and other riches. Influenced by the 1989 Washington Consensus, Peréz made a drastic turn in his second mandate (1989-1993) towards neoliberal reforms; i.e., privatization of public services, restructuring the little social safety benefits laborers had achieved, and contracting debt by the IMF and the World Bank. He became a model child of neoliberalism to the detriment of Venezuelans. Resulting protests under Peréz’ successor, Rafael Caldera, became unmanageable. New elections were called and Hugo Chavez won in a first round with more than 56%. Despite an ugly Washington inspired coup attempt (“The Revolution will Not be Televised”, 2003 documentary about the attempted 2002 coup), Hugo Chavez stayed in power until his untimely death in 2013. Comandante Chavez and his Government reached spectacular social achievements for his country.

Washington will not let go easily, or at all, to re-conquer Venezuela into the new Monroe Doctrine; i.e., becoming re-integrated into Washington’s backyard. Imagine this oil-rich country, with the world’s largest hydrocarbon reserves, on the doorsteps of the United Sates’ key refineries in Texas, just about 3 to 4 days away for a tanker from Venezuela, as compared to 40 to 45 days from the Gulf, where the US currently gets about 60% of its petrol imports. An enormous difference in costs and risks; i.e., each shipment has to sail through the Iran-controlled Strait of Hormuz.

In addition, another socialist revolution as one of Washington’s southern neighbor – in addition to Cuba – is not convenient. Therefore, the US and her secret forces will do everything to bring about regime change, by constant economic aggressions, blockades, sanctions, boycotts of imports and their internal distribution as well as outright military threats. The recent assassination attempt of President Maduro falls into the same category.

And let’s not forget, Venezuela’s neighbor Colombia, fully under Washington’s control, has just recently become a NATO country. How absurd, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, stationed in a South American country. But then, NATO is also in Afghanistan, Syria, in the Balkans and wherever US-instigated conflicts need to be fought. Colombia and Venezuela share a border of some 2,200 km of which about 1,500 are difficult to control ‘porous’ jungle, from where clandestine as well as overt military infiltrations are relatively easy. They may also spread to other South American countries. It’s already happening into countries with open doors for US military, like Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

Less than 5 years ago, 80% of Latin American populations lived under democratically elected, left-leaning governments. It took South America some 20-25 years to free themselves from the fangs of the Monroe Doctrine. Now in the course of a few years the trend has been reversed, through US intervention with election manipulations – Argentina, Ecuador, Chile – and parliamentary coups – Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay. Venezuela, together with Bolivia and Cuba, today is Latin America’s last holdout and hope.

Back to the present – Washington’s goal is “regime change” with the help of a strong Fifth Column, infiltrated in key financial institutions and all the support that comes with it, NED, CIA et al. However, President Maduro has a solid block of 6 million voters behind him, and is embarking with full integrity on a path of “Resistance Economy”. In fact, the recent introduction of the hydrocarbon-backed Petro, and the new just announced Petro-backed Bolivar, are first steps in the right direction; an attempt to de-dollarize Venezuela’s economy. Other measures, like massive efforts to become autonomous in food and industrial goods, à la Russia, rebuild the agricultural sector and industrial parks, are measures to regain economic sovereignty.

On Ecuador – President Rafael Correa has worked with Lenin Moreno, who was his Vice-President and close ally during many years. It is therefore a bit strange that Correa apparently did not know Moreno is a traitor, what he clearly has become soon after taking office. Correa’s internal support was still strong, despite his decline among indigenous people after his (US forced) Amazon petroleum concessions. Though incited by many of the people at large to change the Constitution and run for a third term, he was warned by Washington not to do so, and instead, to promote Moreno as his successor. Correa knows what such warnings mean. He was almost killed in a 2010 Washington inspired police coup, widely thought as being linked to his attempt to abandon the US dollar as the Ecuadorian currency and return to the Sucre; and Correa’s memory is still fresh enough to recall the ‘accidental airplane’ death of one of his predecessor’s, President Roldo, who changed the rules for (mostly US) hydrocarbon corporations in 1981.

What lays ahead for Ecuador does not look bright. Several IMF inspired reforms – yes, Ecuador returned to the IMF and World Bank – might reverse social gains achieved under the Correa Regime for the working and indigenous people. Also, a breach on free speech by Moreno is imminent: He announced already a while ago that Julian Assange’s (Wikileaks) days in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London are counted. If and when Assange has to leave the Embassy, he will likely be arrested by UK police and eventually handed over to the US where he may expect a very uncertain, but possibly violent future.

Peace Leader Speaks Against US-backed Regime Change in Nicaragua

August 3, 2018. San Francisco, CA. — Camilo Mejía prefaced his explanation of the seemingly inexplicable eruption of violence in his native Nicaragua with the admonition that no one should take his word, but should research the facts as he has.

Mejía spoke at an event co-sponsored by the Task Force on the Americas, a 32-year-old anti-imperialist human rights group with a long history of supporting the Nicaraguan Sandinistas against the US-backed Contra War. Gerry Condon, president of the other co-sponsor, Veterans for Peace, explained how the national organization was founded in 1985 by US veterans in response to the global nuclear arms race and US military interventions in Nicaragua and elsewhere.

Condon introduced fellow Veterans for Peace member Mejía, who is a celebrated Amnesty International prisoner of conscience. In 2003, after serving in the US military in Iraq and seeing the hypocrisy of the regime change effort, Mejía refused redeployment and has since been a prominent leader in the peace movement.

Mejía presented a history of US regime change operations engineered by the CIA and more recently by US government surrogates for the CIA such at the USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) funded by the USAID, NED, and kindred groups are among the leadership of those trying to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nicaragua.

Mejía drew attention to similar regime-change programs by the US in Venezuela, and the similarity of the media disinformation and violent guarimbas there to what is happening now in his home country.

Mejía showed well-authenticated video clips of Sandinistas in Nicaragua being tortured by opposition elements, demonstrating how sections of the opposition to the Ortega government have not only been violent but cruel. Particularly disturbing was footage of a Sandinista who had been assassinated and whose body was publicly burned in the street.

The Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), Mejía explained, split from the main party and took with it most of the English-speaking intellectuals who had close relations with North American solidarity activists. The MRS has never been a popular electoral force in Nicaragua, garnering only 1.3% of the vote at its peak, but has turned to the right and aligned with US-backed extra-parliamentary means of changing what both consider the authoritarian regime of President Ortega.

To promote dialogue among those who seek peace in Nicaragua, but differ on whether to support the extra-legal overthrow of the Ortega government, the event sponsors gave Amy Bank time to present the other side. Bank, a North American, had formerly supported the Sandinistas. She granted that the Ortega government had achieved considerable material gains toward eradicating poverty and uplifting social conditions but had turned authoritarian.

Meanwhile the advocates of regime change organized by the ad hoc Bay Area Autoconvocadxs held a well-attended and organized demonstration in front of the San Francisco Veterans Building, where the talk was being held. Mainly composed of expat Nicaraguans in a marriage of convenience between former supporters of the Sandinistas and the Contras, the prior mortal enemies were now united in their mutual loathing of the Ortega government.

The anti-Ortega demonstrators later filtered into the now standing-room-only lecture hall, periodically heckling Mejía. Scattered applause came from the opposition demonstrators at the mention of the US-backed Contras, showing the allegiance of some of them.

Calmly and graciously, Mejía welcomed the opposition elements and even allowed a senior woman who had been a Sandinista to take the microphone and make an impassioned appeal for regime change. But when the opposition elements became intolerantly disruptive to expression of views contrary to their own, Mejía admonished: “By your actions, you demonstrate what kind of democracy you stand for.”

Regime Change in Nicaragua

The US has targeted Nicaragua for regime change. Some former supporters of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista party echo the US talking points: Ortega’s “entire government has been, in essence, neoliberal. Then it becomes authoritarian, repressive.”

One would think that a neoliberal regime, especially if it were authoritarian and repressive, would be just the ticket to curry favor with Washington.

Threat of a Good Example

In Noam Chomsky’s words, Nicaragua poses a threat of a good example to the US empire. Since Ortega’s return election victory in 2006, Nicaragua had achieved the following, according to NSCAG, despite being the second poorest country in the hemisphere:

  • Second highest economic growth rates and most stable economy in Central America.
  • Only country in the region producing 90% of the food it consumes.
  • Poverty and extreme poverty halved; country with the greatest reduction of extreme poverty.
  • Reaching the UN Millennium Development Goal of cutting malnutrition by half.
  • Free basic healthcare and education.
  • Illiteracy virtually eliminated, down from 36% in 2006.
  • Average economic growth of 5.2% for the past 5 years (IMF and the World Bank).
  • Safest country in Central America (UN Development Program) with one of the lowest crime rates in Latin America.
  • Highest level of gender equality in the Americas (World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2017).
  • Did not contribute to the migrant exodus to the US, unlike neighboring Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
  • Unlike its neighbors, kept out the drug cartels and pioneered community policing.

The World Bank, IMF, and EU countries have certified Nicaragua for its effective use of international loans and grants. Funds were spent for the purposes they were given, not siphoned off into corruption

Before April 18, Nicaragua was among the most peaceful and stable countries in the region. The otherwise inexplicable violence that has suddenly engulfed Nicaragua should be understood in the context of it being targeted by the US for regime change.

Nicaragua has provoked the ire of the US for the good things its done, not the bad.

Besides being a “threat” of a good example, Nicaragua is in the anti-imperialist ALBA alliance with Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, and others. The attack on Nicaragua is part of a larger strategy by the US to tear apart regional alliances of resistance to the empire.

Nicaragua regularly votes against the US in international forums such as challenging retrograde US policies on climate change. An inter-ocean canal through Nicaragua is being considered, which would contend with the Panama Canal. Russia and China invest in Nicaragua, competing with US capital.

The NICA Act, passed by the US House of Representatives and now before the Senate, would initiate economic warfare designed to attack living conditions in Nicaragua through economic sanctions, as well as intensify US intelligence intervention. The ultimate purpose is to depose the democratically-elected Ortega government.

Meanwhile, USAID announced an additional $1.5 million “to support freedom and democracy in Nicaragua” through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to overthrow the government and “make this truly a hemisphere of freedom.” That is, freedom for the US empire.

Alternatives to Ortega Would Be Worse

Those on the left who also call for Ortega’s removal need to accept responsibility for what comes after. Here the lesson of Libya is instructive, where the replacement of Colonel Gaddafi has resulted in a far worse situation for the Libyan people.

Any replacement of Ortega would be more, not less, neoliberal, oppressive, and authoritarian. When the Nicaraguan people, held hostage to the US-backed Contra war, first voted Ortega out of office in 1990, the incoming US-backed Violeta Chamorro government brought neoliberal structural adjustment and a moribund economy.

“Dictators don’t win fair elections by growing margins,” notes longtime solidarity activist Chuck Kaufman, citing Ortega’s 2006 comeback win with a 38% plurality, followed in 2011 with 63%, and 72.5% in 2016. The Organization of American States officially accompanied and certified the votes.

The dissident Sandinistas who splintered off from the official party after the party’s election defeat and formed the MRS (Sandinista Renovation Movement) are not a progressive alternative. They are now comfortably ensconced in US-funded NGOs, regularly making junkets to Washington to pay homage to the likes of Representative Iliana Ros-Lehtinen and Senator Marco Rubio to lobby in favor of the NICA Act. Nor do they represent a popular force, garnering less than 2% in national elections.

When the MRS left the Sandinista party, they took with them almost all those who were better educated, came from more privileged backgrounds, and who spoke English. These formerly left dissidents, now turned to the right in their hatred of Ortega, have many ties with North American activists, which explains some of the confusion today over Nicaragua.

Most Progressive Country in Central America

The world, not just Ortega, has changed since the 1980s when the Soviet Union and its allies served as a counter-vailing force to US bullying. What was possible then is not the same in today’s more constrained international arena.

Nicaragua is the most progressive country in Central America with no close rival. There is a disconnect between urging Nicaraguans to replace Ortega with new elections and advocacy against US imperialist depredations. Unconstitutional elections in Nicaragua would further destabilize a profoundly destabilized situation. Given the unpopularity and disunity of the opposition and the unity and organizational strength of the Sandinistas, Ortega would likely win.

Most important, the key role of Northern American solidarity activists is to end US interference in Nicaragua so that the Nicaraguans can solve their own problems.

The right wing violence since April in Nicaragua should be understood as a coup attempt. A significant portion of the Nicaraguan people have rallied around their elected government as seen in the massive demonstrations commemorating the Sandinista revolution on July 19.

For now, the right wing tranques (blockades) have been dismantled and citizens can again freely circulate without being shaken down and threatened. In the aftermath, though, Nicaragua has suffered unacceptable human deaths, massive public property damage, and a wounded economy with the debilitating NICA Act threatening to pass the US Senate.

Violent Coup Fails In Nicaragua, US Continues Regime Change Efforts

Nicaraguans celebrate 39th Anniversary of the 1979 Nicaraguan Revolution in Managua, July 2018 (Source Redvolution)

Note: Before the update on Nicaragua, I am providing two recent interviews that provide a context for what is happening in Nicaragua.

First, is an interview I did with Lee Camp, the lead writer, and host of Redacted Tonight, “US Pushing for Regime Change in Nicaragua,” where we discuss the economic and political situation in Nicaragua as well as who is behind the coup and the government response. This interview discusses the issues raised in an article by me and Nils McCune.

On Clearing The FOG radio and podcast, Margaret Flowers and I interviewed Stephen Sefton, who lives in Nicaragua and is a founder of Tortilla con Sal. He names the names behind the violence and describes what is happening in Nicaragua.

Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega arrives at the celebration of the Sandinista Revolution (Photo by Alfred Zeniga for AP)

Lessons Learned from the Failed Violent Coup in Nicaragua and Next Steps

The violent coup in Nicaragua has failed. This does not mean the United States and oligarchs are giving up, but this phase of their effort to remove the government did not succeed.  The coup exposed the alliances who are working with the United States to put in place a neoliberal government that is controlled by the United States and serves the interests of the wealthy. People celebrated the failure of the coup but realize work needs to be done to protect the gains of the Sandinista revolution.

People Celebrate Revolution, Call For Peace, Show Support for Government

The people of Nicaragua showed their support for the democratically-elected government of Daniel Ortega with a massive outpouring in Managua in a celebration of the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution. In addition to the mass protest in Managua, various cities had their own, in some cases very sizeable ones.

People have wanted peace to return to Nicaragua. They have also wanted the roadblocks removed, which have resulted in closed businesses, job loss and loss of mobility. Roadblocks have been removed, even in the opposition stronghold of Masaya. There were two opposition deaths and one police officer killed in the removal. There was also an earlier death of a policeman in Masaya, captured when he was off-duty, tortured and burnt to death. This brings the total of police killed since April up to at least 21 with hundreds injured. With the opening of the main road on the east side of Masaya, all Nicaragua’s main routes are open to traffic and buses, etc., are operating normally.

At the rally, President Ortega called on the people of Nicaragua to defend peace and reinstate the unity that existed in the nation before the violent opposition protests. He described how the violent coup attempted to destabilize the country and ended the peace that has existed through the eleven years of his time in office. He said, “Peace must be defended every day to avoid situations like these being repeated.”

He also criticized the Catholic Bishops for their role in the failed violent coup. Ortega described the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua as “coup leaders” for collaborating with the opposition during the protests. Not only did the Catholic leadership side with the opposition during the national dialogue, but priests were involved in kidnapping and torture. Pope Francis has a lot of work to do to reign in the Catholic Church in Nicaragua. If their role in these violent protests and opposition to an economy for the people is not stopped, this will become a scandal for the Catholic Church.

Other Latin American leaders spoke out against involvement in the coup. Bolivian President Evo Morales condemned US “interference” in Nicaragua, denouncing the “criminal strategies” used against the government of Daniel Ortega. Morales accused the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) of “openly supporting violence” in Nicaragua. Also at the celebration were the foreign ministers of Cuba and Venezuela, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, and Jorge Arreza, all supporting Nicaragua over the violent coup of the United States and oligarchs.

The United States is Escalating Economic War and Support for Opposition

The United States is not giving up. Also on the anniversary of the revolution, the NICA Act, designed to escalate the economic war against Nicaragua, was introduced in the Senate. It has already been passed by the US House of Representatives. The Senate bill, called the Nicaragua Human Rights and Anti-corruption Act of 2018, imposes sanctions, calls for early elections and escalates US intelligence involvement in Nicaragua. It is a law that ensures continued US efforts to remove the democratically-elected government.

At the same time, USAID announced an additional $1.5 million for Nicaragua to build opposition to the government. This will fund the NGOs that participated in the protests, human rights groups that falsely reported the situation, media to produce the regime change narrative and other support for the opposition.

The coordination between Nicaraguan opposition and the United States was shown by Max Blumenthal‘s attempted visit to an organization that funnels USAID and NED money to the opposition. He visited the Managua offices of the Institute of Strategic Studies and Public Policies (IEEPP in Spanish), but it was closed because its director, Felix Maradiaga, who was at the heart of the violent unrest, was in Washington, DC seeking more funding from USAID.

On July 18, the US-dominated OAS passed a resolution concerning “The Situation in Nicaragua.” An earlier effort to endorse a report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) was so biased that it failed. The report ignored the opposition’s widespread violence and only reported on the defensive violence of the government. The resolution approving the IACHR report was supported by only ten out of 34 countries.

The resolution, which was finally passed by the OAS, condemned violence on all sides and urged Nicaragua to pursue all options including the national dialogue to seek peace begun by Ortega. On the issue of elections, the resolution urged Nicaragua “to support an electoral calendar jointly agreed to in the context of the National Dialogue process.” Only this mainly symbolic resolution could pass muster in the OAS, despite US domination.

What Happened and What Was Learned

In our article “Correcting the Record: What Is Really Happening In Nicaragua,” Nils McCune and I describe what was behind the violent coup attempt. We reported that there was a lot of misinformation on what was occurring in Nicaragua, indeed the false narrative of regime change was part of the tactics of the failed coup. Perhaps most importantly we described the alignment of forces behind the coup.

The coup was a class war turned upside down. The Ortega government includes none of the oligarchic families, a first in the history of Nicaragua. He has put in place a bottom-up economy that has lifted people out of poverty, provided access to health care and education, given micro-loans to entrepreneurs and small businesses and created an economy energized by public spending. Ortega expanded coverage of the social security system; as a result, a new formula was required to ensure fiscal stability.

Ortega made a counter-proposal to the IMF/business proposal, which would cut social security and raise the retirement age. He proposed no cuts to social security and increasing employer contributions by 3.5% to pension and health funds, while only slightly increasing worker contributions by 0.75% and shifting 5% of pensioners’ cash transfer into their healthcare fund.  These reforms were the trigger as it was the business lobby who called for the protests.

The forces aligned with the violent coup included the oligarchs, big business interests, foreign investors (e.g. Colombian financiers), the US-funded NGO’s and the Catholic Church, a long-term ally of the wealthy. Also involved was the Movement for Renovation of Sandinismo (MRS), a tiny Sandinista offshoot party, of former Sandanistas who left the party when Ortega lost an election in 1990 who are aligned with the US State Department.

Regarding students, there were already student protests around university elections, and these were redirected by the violent coup effort and supported by a small minority of students from private universities, the April 19th Movement. Some of these students had been brought to the US by the Freedom House, which has long ties to the CIA and met with far-right interventionist members of the US Congress, including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Sen. Ted Cruz.

These groups acted in opposition to the bulk of Nicaraguan society and showed their true colors. This includes:

  • Being tied to and subservient to the US government.
  • Being led by oligarchs and big business interests that are out of power and cannot win elections.
  • Using violence as a strategy of creating chaos and trapping the government into responding with violence to restore order.
  • Spreading false propaganda through oligarch-controlled media, often funded by NED, as well as highly-manipulated social media echoed by western media, especially The New York Times, The Guardian, Washington Post and cable TV news outlets.

No doubt more will come out about this in the future as the coup is researched and analyzed. As the facts become clear, the opposition will lose more political power and be even less likely to win elections. The blockades of roads with violence undermined the economy and had a negative impact on the poor and working class. If it becomes evident that this was a strategy of the opposition, they will lose power. NGO’s that are funded by the US and run by members of the MRS will be noted for their dishonest narrative and will be seen as an arm of the United States and not trusted by the people of Nicaragua. Media outside of Nicaragua will come to understand that human rights groups and NGOs are not reliable sources of information but need to be questioned. They need to be pushed to break their ties with the United States.

This does not mean all is well on the Sandinista side of the alliance of forces. The coup is an opportunity for self-reflection and self-criticism that is already happening, as seen in this list of 20 results from the coup, which begins with “A more consolidated and United FSLN.” In addition, the Action Group of the Solidarity with Nicaragua Campaign put forward seven propositions to unify around. The protest took advantage of challenges the Nicaraguan government faces in continuing to lift up the poor and economically insecure. It shows their need to build their capacity to quickly let the public know their side of the story. And, it shows the need for planning for a post-Ortega Sandinista government, as the president is in his third term.

The anniversary of the revolution was a good beginning at strengthening the unity of the Sandinista movement and celebration of the defeat of the coup, but there will be challenges ahead. Nicaragua is a poor country that needs foreign investment. If the United States escalates the economic war, which seems to be the intent, it will make it challenging to continue the social and economic programs that are lifting up the poor. Nicaragua had relied on investment from Venezuela, but it is also in the midst of an economic war, which along with the low oil prices has created economic challenges for them. Nicaragua has begun to build economic relationships with China, Russia, Iran and other countries; these will likely need to expand.

The misinformation was deep and widespread. Inside Nicaragua, there were stories of students being killed that never happened but that escalated the protests. The opposition claimed to be nonviolent when their strategy was to use violence to force regime change while the government quartered the National Police. False news and videos of attacks on neighborhoods and universities never stopped being manufactured.  One example, students calling for help and claiming they were under attack, was later exposed in a video showing the students practicing the false social media narrative.

Peace and justice activists in the United States and western nations have learned they need to be much more careful believing reports on what is occurring in Nicaragua. The US-funding of NGOs involved in women’s issues, environmental protection and human rights in Nicaragua make them questionable sources of information for justice advocates. In addition, US-funded regime change efforts are getting more sophisticated at social media; and thus, care must be taken as social media has it is abused by regime change advocates. We must look to other sources that have shown the ability to report accurately; e.g., Tortilla con Sal, Telesur, Redvolucion.  Peace and justice advocates must be grounded in anti-imperialism and nonintervention by the United States.

In Nicaragua, is Operation “Contra bis” failing?

Thrown under the spotlight since mid-April, the homeland of Sandino is still facing an intense political crisis. From now on, the crisis seems to be approaching its final resolution. On the one hand, the Nicaraguan people are mobilizing more and more alongside the authorities to help them dismantle barricades in insurgent spots. And on the other hand, in one week two big demonstrations for peace took place. Against the wishes of an opposition camp and spokespersons of the US administration, the message of Daniel Ortega during the march for peace of July 7 in Managua was crystal clear: “Here it is the people who set the rules in the Constitution of the Republic. They will not change overnight by the will of some coup leaders. If the putschists want to come to the government, let them seek the people’s vote in the next elections. With all the destruction they have provoked, we will see what support they will have.” But these facts are minimized by the private media and major news agencies, which continue to hide the evolution on the ground and blow on the embers of the dispute. Which side will tip the scales?

*****

A dreadful propaganda scheme

In a recent article, I examined a number of contradictions in the treatment by international media of Nicaragua. Notably, one can recognize one of the principles of war propaganda which is to reverse the aggressor and the victim. The scheme works as follows: first, an opposition sector, one that refuses dialogue with the government, plans to control some parts of the capital and other cities by means of barricades. These areas are then considered “liberated from tyranny”, and thus represent the hearth of insurgency that must recur throughout the country, to defeat the operations of “repression” of police forces. This tactic of deploying barricades has been theorized as an effective means of preventing the authorities from gaining control over the national territory, because it is “impossible for the government to have enough personnel to control every inch of the country”. The first obvious thing to emphasize is that this is not a completely spontaneous crisis that emerges from a massive popular mobilization, but that there is indeed an insurrectional plan in place capable of standing up to the authorities for months. We are witnessing the first phase in the development of an unconventional war to overthrow a democratically elected government.

Then, a number of clashes take place in these areas “liberated” by the opposition. At this point, it is not trivial to note that the activists who defend these barricades are no longer peaceful protesters that the mainstream media has portrayed. Images of hooded youths handling homemade mortars and other explosive devices are impossible to conceal. In fact, they even contribute to the creation of a “romantic” dimension of popular resistance in the context of face-to-face contact with the professional police corps. This is where the second phase of the unconventional war comes in, namely, the decisive role of media corporations that contribute to the production of a dominant and one-sided narrative of the crisis. It is easier to identify with a young demonstrator who is rebelling than a young police officer compelled to use force to enforce the law. Thus, when there have been deaths around the barricades, it becomes complicated for an outside observer to know the truth.

Who is not concerned with these victims?

A simple and quick tour of private media news will make anyone realize that the idealized dimension mentioned above serves only to delegitimize government action. No one is asking themselves this simple question: “Was the victim a pro-government Sandinista helping the police dismantle the barricades, or an opponent who defended them?” Many testimonies in favor of the first version have been systematically dismissed! Indeed, the role of the private media is fundamental in order to give maximum credibility to the opposition’s side of the story. Would the latter be manipulating the victims’ memory with the complicity of some private media in Nicaragua? This is quite a strong point for us: what about the many cases of victims whose membership in the pro-government camp has been proven?

In the framework of the peace talks, the Nicaraguan government first accepted that the IACHR (Note: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, organ of the Organization of American States (OAS)) lead a human rights observation mission. But it went on to denounce that its report does not include the description of many cases of attacks against civilian victims, including public officials, as a result of the violence unleashed by the opposition. Are the dice loaded? Here are some recent examples that illustrate a much more nuanced situation than that described by some media:

– On June 19, the authorities launch an operation in Masaya to release the Deputy Director of the National Police Ramon Avellan and his agents, who were entrenched in the police station, surrounded by barricades since June 2. Every night, protesters fired mortar at the police station, accompanied by threats: “What do you think? That there were only “güevones” (rascals) in this fight? Here again, here is my little sister… ” Then, the mortar fire would start again near the police station… Under the pretext of playful action, a video shows how protesters positioned behind a barricade sing menacing songs against General Avellan, accompanied by shots. According to the Pro-Human Rights Nicaraguan Association ANPDH organization, as a result of the police rescue operation, six people – including three whose identity remains to be verified – were murdered in several surrounding neighborhoods.

– On June 30, in the context of an opposition march, a protester was shot dead. Recorded a few minutes before the tragedy by a journalist who was there, a video shows how opposition members surround a private security officer and ask him to hand over his weapon, simulating a hostage situation in order to justify their action. Then, the images show a person who stands behind the agent, points a pistol at his temple and steals his rifle. Later, the protesters will attribute the death to government repression.

– On July 3, two people were kidnapped in Jinotepe by a group of armed hooded men: police major Erlin García Cortez and Enacal worker Erasmo Palacios. Three days later, Bismarck de Jesús Martínez Sánchez, a worker from the Managua City Hall, was also kidnapped. A week later, relatives had still not received any sign of life from them.

– On July 5, the lifeless body of National Police officer Yadira Ramos was found in Jinotepe. She had been kidnapped, raped and tortured. She had been forced to get off her vehicle and her husband had been killed on the spot.

– On July 6, FSLN member Roberto Castillo Cruz was killed by opposition hoodlums who held barricades in Jinotepe. His son, Christopher Castillo Rosales had been killed just a week before him. In a video published shortly before his own murder, Castillo Cruz denounced the murderers: “This criminal gang of the right has killed my son, I only ask for justice and that peace prevails so that our children do not lose their lives!”

– On July 8, during a nighttime clash in Matagalpa, a 55-year-old man named Aran Molina was killed while rescuing Lalo Soza, a Sandinista activist who was under attack. The following day, Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) paid tribute to him through a procession. The same day, two other people were killed: social worker Tirzo Ramón Mendoza, executed by hooded people after being kidnapped, and a third victim whose identity remains unknown.

– On 9 July, the authorities dismantled the barricades that prevented free movement in the towns of Diriamba and Jinotepe. Many residents then testified about the many violent actions of the opposition, including torture against the Sandinistas. At the same time, representatives of the Episcopal Conference arrived. Citizens of Jinotepe then entered the church, where they found opposition members disguised as members of the clergy. Residents accused church officials of protecting them and not saying anything or doing anything to stop the violence unleashed in the last two months. In Diriamba, the inhabitants also discovered an arsenal of mortars hidden in the church of San Sebastian.

– On July 12, a criminal gang attacked the Morrito Town Hall in Rio San Juan. A historical Sandinista fighter, Carlos Hernandez, was kidnapped there. Seriously wounded and unable to escape, a youth Sandinista activist, two police officers and their superiors are murdered. A Sandinista activist received a bullet in the abdomen. Later, schoolmaster Marvin Ugarte Campos would succumb to his injuries. The version of the opposition? It says the massacre was … a “self-attack by paramilitaries”!

It seems that some deaths and violent acts have no value, while others are erected as martyrs for a sacred cause. In the end, does everything depend on the prism through which we look at reality? Are we already placed in a camp in a conflict without knowing it or even suspecting it? In this case, would it be a waste of time to try to form one’s own opinion from fact analysis? The search for peace and truth prevents us from succumbing to such resignation.

In a remarkable 46-page work entitled “The monopoly of death – how to inflate figures to assign them to the government”, Enrique Hendrix identified the numerous inconsistencies in the various reports presented by the three main human rights organizations, the CENIDH (Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights), the IACHR and the ANPDH. Comparing the various reports from the beginning of the crisis to the date of the last reports presented (from April 18 to June 25), he concluded that the three organizations recorded a total of 293 deaths. In 26% of cases (77 citizens), information on the deaths is incomplete and remains to be verified. In 21% of cases (60 citizens), the dead are persons murdered by the opposition, either public officials or Sandinista militants who were murdered for helping the authorities dismantle the barricades. In 20% of the cases (59 citizens), the dead were protesters, opposition members or people who erected barricades. In 17% of cases (51 citizens), the dead do not have a direct relationship with the demonstrations. Finally in 16% of the cases (46 citizens), the dead were passers-by who did not take part in the clashes.

As can be seen in this study, the balance sheets of these organizations are sorely lacking in rigor and mix all sorts of victims (fights between gangs, road accidents, murders in the context of vehicle theft, conflict between land owners, police officers, a pregnant woman in an ambulance blocked by barricades …). Conclusion: if we take into account the exact circumstances of each death, it is obvious that we cannot attribute the responsibility to the government alone. In light of these elements, we have the right to challenge the international media about their lack of objectivity. Why such an alignment with a sector of the opposition who has declared itself fiercely hostile to any dialogue?

Who is not interested in dialogue?

This propaganda mechanism is completed by the “blackout” of other information that is not considered relevant. However, while the media focuses on the clashes, other sectors of the opposition continue to participate in the various sessions of the “dialogue tables for truth, peace and justice”, organized to listen to different points of view and seek to establish responsibility in the wave of violence ravaging the country. Moreover, the final conclusions of the various human rights observation missions in the country had not yet been made. They were to be discussed and include new elements. But what can we expect from the dialogue between the two parties, when a number of observers have already decided in advance that the government alone is responsible for the violence?

All over the world, the role of the police is to repress in case of “disturbance of public order”. But we struggle to understand why the authorities would order it to attack civilians wildly and arbitrarily at the same time as the peace dialogue is taking place. On the other hand, one could expect such an attitude from those who, refusing to participate in the dialogues, would seek to sabotage it, having an interest in the derailment of this process. In this case, it is not unlikely that hooded thugs have been posing as police forces on several occasions.

In any case, it is no less credible than the version of these same hooded thugs, who say that the government of Daniel Ortega would have given the green light to disguised civilians to destroy infrastructure and kill other civilians! Still, the government did not deny that at the beginning of the crisis some police officers sometimes acted using disproportionate violence, and it responded that justice will have to determine their responsibility in actions punishable by law. The National Assembly, for its part, has launched an initiative to create a “Commission for Truth, Justice and Peace” with the aim of reporting on the responsibilities of human rights violations within three months.

But in the fairy tale that the mainstream media is manufacturing from dawn to dusk, and on the internet 24 hours a day, it is not even conceivable that the government of Nicaragua is facing difficulties whose causes would be complex and numerous. The media hype and the positions of foreign political figures serve as irrefutable proof! As has been the case in Venezuela in recent years, taking the public hostage in this way is an insult to its intelligence. Of course, not everything is explained by the tentacles of the imperialist octopus. But for those who are interested in the history of inter-American relations for the last two centuries, it is not serious to forget about its weight and consider that this influence is a thing of the past.

How to export democracy in dollars

It seems that few observers are really shocked by the rapid progression of these events, which are shaped like a breadcrumb trail towards a single objective: condemning the Ortega government and demanding early elections. That’s where the hiccup is: Latin American countries where assassinations of trade unionists, peasants and social leaders have been a common thing for years, where the peace efforts of governments are considered, at best, as totally ineffective, and at worst as non-existent, such as Colombia, Honduras or Mexico, are not at all worried about the image of their “democracies”. There is something wrong, isn’t it? To shed some light on this mystery, a reminder of the history of the twentieth century is worth the detour.

The coups and destabilizations fomented from abroad, such as in the Dominican Republic or in Guatemala, show that in the second half of the 20th century the Latin-American context was still marked by the military interventionism of the Monroe Doctrine and the “manifest destiny” of the United States. It was nothing more than an imperialist policy of controlling the resources and raw materials of Latin America, now presented as an anticommunist “crusade” in the context of the Cold War. On the other hand, the dominance of the United States would not be limited to a demonstration of force based on the “regime change” and the sending of troops on the ground, but it would also take forms of cultural domination, in particular through the so-called “development aid” policies.

In his speech in January 1949, US President Harry Truman described non-industrialized countries as “underdeveloped” countries. Thus, in 1950, the American Congress passed an Act for International Development (AID). On September 4, 1961, a US Congress law replaced the AID by USAID, which was to implement a new, more comprehensive vision of “development assistance” directed anywhere in the planet. As can be seen in the coup against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, the anti-communist struggle was only a pretext. The main concern of the US government was to prevent the development of national consciousness within the armies and police of “underdeveloped countries”. That is why, from 1950 to 1967, “the United States government spent more than $1,500 million on military aid to Latin American countries.”1

After the victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, John Kennedy announced the Alliance for Progress in 1961. It was a similar initiative to the Marshall Plan in Europe. Between 1961 and 1970, the Alliance for Progress provided $20 billion in economic assistance to Latin America. One of the objectives was the stabilization of the regimes that fought against communism and the influence of Cuba.

John F. Kennedy and his advisers are developing an action plan for the region, the Alliance for Progress, consisting of a $ 20 billion investments for economic development and massive military assistance. The decade of the sixties is marked by the formation of a new generation of Latin American military and the transfer of capital and technology from the US military to Latin America. The Pentagon and the CIA draw their strategy to halt the advance of socialism: the US Army-run Panama School trains the cadres of the Latin American armed forces.2

Under the fallacious concept of “development aid policies”, the “creation of strong armies and police” and “military aid to reactionary and pro-imperialist regimes” served to offer to the monopolies “the most favorable conditions of exploitation of underdeveloped countries “.3 In other words, this “aid” represented above all a political weapon in favor of the economic interests of the countries of the Global North. These were represented in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), founded in 1961 and also known as the “Rich Country Club”. It consisted of 27 countries, mostly those of North America, Western Europe and Japan.

Resistance emerges sooner or later

But the new reality resulting from decolonization in Asia and Africa also represented an awareness: the strength of the liberated countries now resided in their unity. This would enable them to exercise some orientation on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly, and to defend the autonomous “right to development”. Thus, in the 1970s, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) would play an important role in defending the interests of the Group 77. Created in 1964, UNCTAD was characterized by the Common Declaration of the 77 countries as a “historic turning point”.

The invasion and the military occupation of Nicaragua by the United States makes it possible to better appreciate the historical value of the Sandinista Popular Revolution and the resistance to the interferences which it showed in the 1980s. The scandal of the financing of Contras by the CIA through the drug trade in Central America was proof that these plans are not infallible. Despite the many interferences and destabilizations suffered throughout history, the peoples of the South have an advantage over the powerful: collective memory and intelligence.

After the dictatorships’ repression, the debt crisis and the rule of the IMF in the 1970s and 1980s, Latin America was to experience many social revolts in the 1990s, paving the way for the arrival of new progressive governments in Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela or Bolivia. The next step was to launch the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), a regional cooperation body created in 2004 to defeat the proposed Free Trade Area of ​​the Americas (ALCA in Spanish) by the United States.

What remains today of yesterday’s meddling?

Since the 1990s, at the end of the Cold War, US aid no longer had the pretext of restraining communism. It then took the form of “counter-terrorism” or “security and anti-drug policies”. Here are the main recipients of US aid in Latin America: $9.5 billion for Colombia; $2.9 billion for Mexico; and since 2016, aid to all countries in the Northern Triangle of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) has exceeded that of the first two. Which explains why we systematically condemn some countries and not others… regardless of reality and the degree of violence.

Yet the Cold War is not over in the minds of some. Thus, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro believes it is necessary in 2018 to comply with White House requirements, and to harass night and day countries such as Nicaragua or Venezuela at the risk of being ridiculed. Indeed, when in a special session of the OAS the US spokesperson has just criticized the violence in Nicaragua and attributed it exclusively to the government, can we take his word for it? It would be better to remind him that his country does not have the slightest legitimacy to talk about Nicaragua, because it invaded and occupied it militarily for 21 years, then went on to support the clan of the dictator Somoza for another 43 years!

The “conservative restoration” of recent years, with the “soft coups” to overthrow Lugo in Paraguay, Zelaya in Honduras, Rousseff in Brazil; the failure of the peace process in Colombia, the judicial persecution against Jorge Glas, Lula Da Silva and now Rafael Correa, is the ideal context for the OAS, this obsolete organization, to try to put an end to the memory of the social achievements of recent years.

Since the US did not invent hot water, to reach their ends they must use the means at hand. Unsurprisingly, Freedom House, funded among others by USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), decided to create a special task force to fight the FSLN in Nicaragua in 1988. It is always opportune to hear NED Co-Founder Allen Weinstein: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA. The biggest difference is that when such activities are done overtly, the flap potential is close to zero. Openness is its own protection.”4

Today, the interference keeps going through the financing of opposition movements, framed by training programs for “young leaders” ready to defend tooth and nail the values ​​of the sacrosanct “democracy” and to overthrow “dictatorships” from their countries of origin. From 2014 to 2017, the NED has dedicated up to $4.2 million to Nicaraguan organizations such as IEEPP (Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policy), CPDHN (Human Rights Permanent Commission in Nicaragua), Invermedia, Hagamos Democracia and Fundacion Nicaraguense para el Desarrollo Economico y Social. When we remind this to young opponents and their sympathisers, they pretend not to understand…

While it may have been extremely effective in some countries like Ukraine in 2014, the pattern we have described must be confronted with the reality and political traditions of each country. In Nicaragua, the FSLN is the dominant political force that has won democratically in the last three elections. It is significant that opposition sectors that rely on the support of the US, the right wing, and local employers are forced to use references to Sandinismo in an attempt to gain credibility. However, this practice goes too far when it tries to compare the Sandinista government and the dictatorship of Somoza, thus demonizing Daniel Ortega.

The march for peace convened by the FSLN on July 13, in tribute to the 39th anniversary of the historic “tactical retreat” of Sandinism in Masaya, was a new show of strength of the Nicaraguan people and its willingness to defeat the violent strategy of the opposition. Will the peoples of the world live up to the solidarity that this moment demands?

• First published at Investig’Action

  1. Yves Fuchs; La coopération. Aide ou néo-colonialisme ? Editions Sociales. Paris, 1973, pp. 55 (Cooperation. Help or neo-colonialism?).
  2. Claude Lacaille; En Mission dans la Tourmente des Dictatures. Haïti, Equateur, Chili : 1965-1986. Novalis, Montreal, 2014. p 23. (In Mission in the Torment of Dictators. Haiti, Ecuador, Chile: 1965-1986).
  3. Gustavo Esteva, “Desarrollo” in SachsWolfgang (coord.) Diccionario del Desarrollo, Lima, PRATEC, 1996. p. 52.
  4. Washington Post, 22 September 1991.