Category Archives: Daniel Ortega

What Does Health Care For All Look Like in Nicaragua?

Since the Sandinistas returned to power in January 2007, child malnutrition has dropped by 45% for children under five and by 66% for children ages 6-12.

I’d like you to imagine for a moment that you are the parent of a child with asthma, living in Ciudad Sandino, just outside the capital of Nicaragua, in a barrio called Nueva Vida, which was recently founded after your family – along with 1,200 other families – was flooded out of your home along the lakeshore in Managua during Hurricane Mitch. The year is 2001, and although your family now has a concrete house and the bus runs regularly down your street in the daytime, nights are filled with rival gangs throwing rocks and bottles, and regular work has been nearly impossible to find. These days, you travel into the market in Managua before dawn to wash potatoes for a vegetable seller; with what you earn, you can usually bring home a little food for your family’s lunch.

Although you have five children, it’s your middle child, the seven year-old, who worries you the most. She suffers from asthma, and you haven’t been able to save up to buy the expensive inhalers she needs to stop her persistent wheezing. Tonight, while your family is trying to sleep, smoke from burning trash in the nearby dump is heavy in your home, and your daughter can’t breathe. In the half-light you can see her eyes wide, struggling with an asthma attack. All you can think is that you have to help her. You don’t have a motorcycle, let alone a car, and the buses don’t run at this hour. You load your daughter onto the crossbar of your bicycle and ride through darkened streets – going around the long way to avoid the gangs – until you arrive at the Hospitalito. Although it’s called the little hospital, it’s really just a clinic. The doctor on duty is distressed when you arrive, he listens to your daughter’s lungs and sadly tells you that he has no medicine, no inhaler, no nebulizer, no tools to help you. Your daughter must go to a larger hospital in Managua, but there is no ambulance to take her. So you set her, weak and wheezing, on the curb, and begin to beg passersby for bus fare as light dawns over the useless hospital.

Life under the neoliberal governments in Nicaragua – 1990-2006 – was exceptionally hard. In those years, the poor got poorer and the rich got richer and Nicaragua became one of the most unequal countries in the world. Lack of access to basic health care was one of the ways in which everyday people suffered.

Health Care 1999

Under the Somoza dictatorship in 1978, there were a total of 209 health units in the country – that is hospitals, health centers and health posts combined. After the Triumph of the Revolution in 1979, the new Sandinista government made health care free, and even in the midst of an economic embargo and fighting the Contra War during the 1980s, they managed to increase health units five-fold; by 1990 there were 1,056 units. But during 16 years, the neoliberal governments only managed to build 35 more health units, the majority of which were in rural areas and sat empty due to lack of personnel and materials.

One of these units was our “Hospitalito,” in Ciudad Sandino. At that time, the public budget for medicines and materials was minimal: when the doctors who were working at our clinic during the day took the night shift at the Hospitalito, they had to turn sick people away because they didn’t even have gloves to examine patients or basic medicines. Even when patients managed to be seen by a doctor, they were given prescriptions for medicines they couldn’t afford. Imports of drugs were in the hands of foreign companies and production of generic drugs was restricted. Patients unfortunate enough to need surgery had to bring their own alcohol, gauze, sutures and sheets – oh, and also family members who could donate the blood they would need. Laboratory tests, specialized treatments, and surgeries were so expensive that poor families effectively could not access the service. During these years, patients literally died on the street outside hospitals for lack of basic medical care.

Since the return of the Sandinista government in 2007, the difference in medical care is stark. Today, the Hospitalito is a fully equipped hospital with emergency care and admitted patient beds. There is outpatient care – general medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, psychology, natural medicine, a rehabilitation center, and a maternal wait home.

Maternity Care

Ciudad Sandino is just one city – public health care has been revolutionized all over the country, the entire structure and indeed culture of the health system has changed. Today, it is a more holistic system focused on families becoming active participants in their own health, and relying heavily on a small army of community workers doing everything from mosquito elimination door-to-door vaccination to health promotion and education.

Since 2007, the largest public health infrastructure in Central America has been built, now with a total of 1,565 health units. In 14 years, Nicaragua has built 21 new hospitals and remodeled 46 more. It has built or remodeled 1,259 medical posts, 192 health centers and 178 maternity homes. In an effort to see patients who don’t normally go to health centers, MINSA also has 66 fully-equipped mobile health clinics. These are made from semi trucks that have been confiscated in drug busts, and converted into clinics; in 2020 these mobile clinics provided nearly 1.9 million consults. In the midst of the pandemic, MINSA rolled out the My Hospital in My Community program which sees patients at neighborhood health fairs with orthopedists, cardiologists, gynecologists and urologists and includes screening for prostate, breast and cervical cancers. Patients are then referred to a specialist at a hospital for follow up.

Healthy Baby

Access to specialized care has drastically changed – services such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy that were once only offered in the capital are now offered at regional hospitals. Prior to 2007, many surgeries were only performed by international brigades; last year 120 child heart surgeries and 4 kidney transplants were performed, all by local doctors. This year, Nicaraguan doctors became the first team in Central America to perform in-utero surgery, on a fetus with spina bifida.

The list of improved health services is comprehensive by any standards: 260,000 cataract surgeries, care of 358,000 older adults and people with disabilities, three prosthetics and orthotics workshops, 91 centers for people with special needs, 265 free daycare centers, and 188 natural medicine clinics, 72 pain clinics, 34 mental health clinics integrated into existing public health centers.

Nicaragua has made a long term financial investment in public health: in 2020, 40 cents of every dollar the government spent was for health care and education. Nicaragua now spends 476% more on health than previous governments, investing 5.2% of its GDP in the sector annually.

In 14 years, total number of health care workers employed in the public sector is up by 66%, doctors up by 123%, free medical consultations are up by 329%, All this, combined with the school lunch program which guarantees a hot meal of beans and rice to 1 ½ million primary school children daily, has resulted in a 46% reduction in chronic malnutrition in children under five and a 66% reduction in chronic malnutrition in children six to 12 years old.

School Lunch

Investment leads to results: a 385% increase in pap tests plus equipping clinics with colposcopy and cryotherapy machines has led to a 25% decrease in cervical cancer mortality, previously one of the biggest killers of Nicaraguan women of child-bearing age.

Both infant and maternal mortality have markedly dropped in the 14 years since the Sandinistas returned to power.

A 212% increase in maternal wait homes has led to an 87% decrease in home births, followed by a 70% decrease in maternal mortality over the more than 1.5 million births attended since 2007, and a 61% reduction in infant mortality.

Moving forward, Nicaragua plans to continue expansion – finishing five more new hospitals before the end of the year, building 12 more new by 2026 and continuing hospital remodeling as well.

It is in this context of more than a decade of these revolutionary changes to the health care system that Nicaragua faced the coronavirus. When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Nicaragua was already prepared by having a healthier population with access to the best public healthcare in the region.

Kids with Masks

To date, it has seen fewer cases and fewer deaths than any country in the region; in fact, it compares favorably to the most developed countries in the world. Nicaragua has achieved this by refusing to carbon copy the approach of the developed world like the rest of the region has done – with lockdowns, strictly enforced curfews, and school closures – but rather choosing to fight the pandemic on its own terms, with a strategy devised for Nicaraguan reality. The government recognized that in a country where most people depend on daily earnings to survive, lockdown would result in hunger; that with children depending on their free school lunch for vital nutrition, school closures would result in hunger; and that with the economy already suffering from the failed coup attempt in 2018 (damages are estimated to be equivalent to that of 52 hurricanes like Eta and Iota which hit Nicaragua in 2020), forced economic shut down would cripple the nation. Instead, the government strategy to fight the pandemic played to Nicaragua’s strengths: its well-organized community health system and resilient population.

From late March 2020 when the first coronavirus case in the country was confirmed, through mid-May when the first wave began to peak, lay health promoters carried out 5 million home visits to the country’s 1.3 million homes to share information on the virus, go through symptom checklists and identify possible cases. The public was encouraged early on to learn to live with the virus by going about their business safely, something the international scientific community is now also promoting as the world begins to recognize it is moving from pandemic to endemic COVID-19.

Nicaragua’s adaptation has been agile and widespread: schools, markets, shops, taxis and bus cooperatives came up with creative hand-washing ideas right away. [Author’s note: This was when doctors still thought the virus could be passed through touching surfaces.] The population adapted to wearing masks in crowded areas early on, and we did not see a politicized mask debate. Unlike in countries where the government has made decisions for people what is safe and what is not, Nicaraguans have learned to judge for themselves what is safe, and life has continued.

Cataract Surgery

Nicaragua’s softer approach has resulted in fewer COVID cases than any country in the region, and its economy is in better shape. Nicaragua was forecast to have a 14% loss of its GDP in 2020, but managed only a 2% loss and was the only country in Central America to increase its exports in 2020. Even when adjusting for “excess” deaths – those above the expected death rate – Nicaragua has not only fared better in the pandemic than any other country in the region, but also larger countries like the U.S. and U.K.

Unlike the developing world, the Nicaraguan response has never relied on testing – due to cost and lack of reagents, testing has been necessarily limited; but we also know that testing is also slow and unreliable. Although COVID tests are available – mostly for those who require it for traveling outside the country, at a cost of $150 per test – the current public health protocol calls for only testing at-risk patients: pregnant women, the elderly and healthcare workers. Rather than waiting for a test-confirmed diagnosis, any patient presenting even one symptom is treated as a suspected case. Recently, a member of our community got COVID, so we saw up close what happens when a patient is sick. When she first got a fever and aches, she called the free hotline to ask what to do. The doctors told her to go to the Hospitalito. She was examined and, like all patients with suspected COVID, was given two specific medications, plus others as needed in accordance with her own medical history. She was told to isolate at home for 14 days and come back if she presented more symptoms. Patients are also asked who they have been in contact with, and those contacts are then visited by health care workers, given a round of prophylactic medicines and told to come to see a doctor if they present more symptoms.

Community Health Promoter

In the area of prevention, Nicaragua is vaccinating against COVID-19, but the rollout has been slower than hoped for due to a lack of vaccines. This is especially frustrating because Nicaragua knows how to vaccinate: this country created the internationally used model for how to vaccinate in war zones when it eradicated polio and other childhood diseases with its vaccination campaign during the Contra war in the 1980s. Since 2007, Nicaragua has maintained a nearly universal vaccination rate, and public health workers participate in annual vaccination campaigns door to door throughout the country. Even in the first months of the pandemic, 2 million people were vaccinated against influenza and pneumonia with vaccines made at a lab in Nicaragua.

But, as we have seen around the world, the COVID vaccine rollout is not equal and has been politicized with what is being called “vaccine diplomacy.” The United States – where to date 15 million unused vaccines have been thrown out, enough to vaccinate every Nicaraguan twice – has donated vaccines to every other Central American county except Nicaragua.

Since March, Nicaragua has been vaccinating for free, starting with oldest population – those over 30 are currently eligible. So far, more than half a million people have been vaccinated, with the goal of doubling that by October 9th. Although there was initially some vaccine hesitancy in the older population, as COVID cases have risen in recent weeks, demand for the vaccine has also risen. Fortunately, the health care system’s organization is up to the task of dealing with long lines: I recently went to one of the five hospitals in Managua offering the vaccine. Although I was daunted by the snaking line outside the hospital, once I joined, it moved quickly. Despite the wait, there was a jubilant mood among us all and within two hours we were jabbed and done. We estimated 10,000 people got their vaccine at that hospital that day.

Laboratory

In Nicaragua we are currently experiencing a second wave – which is remarkable since other countries are already on their fourth wave. With this second wave, we are also fighting what Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo calls “health terrorism,” meaning disinformation about the pandemic situation, which has been widespread during both waves. Around the world, the pandemic has been politicized, and that is especially true in Nicaragua. The USAID “regime change” plan for Nicaragua, Responsive Assistance in Nicaragua, or RAIN, which was leaked in July 2020, specifically mentions exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic into a “humanitarian emergency” through what it calls Nicaragua’s “weak healthcare system.” Even before there were reported cases in Nicaragua, we saw this playing out through manipulation of international media, scare tactics via WhatsApp messages and Facebook, and even the creation of a parallel “authority,” the Citizens Observatory for COVID-19 in Nicaragua, an organization of anonymous “interdisciplinary volunteers” with a slick website. Throughout the pandemic they have reported exaggerated “parallel” numbers; and despite the fact that they admit one of their sources is “rumors,” international media have quoted Observatory counts as if they were official numbers.

I personally have been told that hospitals have “collapsed,” there are bodies stacked in corridors, and patients being turned away, only to speak with someone who had been in that hospital or go myself and find out that simply wasn’t true. Unfortunately, this health terrorism has deadly consequences. The constant disinformation scares people, and understandably so – especially older people who remember the neoliberal years when patients did die for lack of care outside of hospitals. So instead of seeking medical care, patients are self-medicating at home, and too often go to the hospital too late and wind up much sicker or even die. To combat it, this week health care workers have again been deployed to go door-to-door checking on people, giving information, and convincing those who are sick to seek medical care.

Nueva Vida 2000

What does the future hold? Nicaragua will keep caring for its people, plugging away to reduce inequities in health and to eradicate poverty. As President Ortega said recently:

The most terrible virus that exists on the planet is the one that causes poverty, because it is in the genes of those who dominate the world economy under capitalism. It is based on the principle of survival of the fittest, no matter how many dead it leaves in its wake.… That is savage capitalism, the most terrible disease on the planet.

Sources: 1

  1. Gobierno de Reconciliación y Unidad Nacional: Plan Nacional de la Lucha Contra La Pobreza Para el Desarrollo Humano 2022-2026 ; Interview with Ivan Acosta, Nicaraguan Minister for Housing and Public Credit; Ministry of Citizen Power for Health Nicaragua: Advances in Health From 2007 to 2020.
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New Report Exposes the US’ Brutal and Illegal Economic War

NOTE: In April of this year, my family had a medical emergency that required most of my time and attention. The result is that I am now the sole legal and physical guardian of two young children with significant needs. I hope to return to writing a regular newsletter now that they are in school. There is a lot going on and a lot to do. Solidarity, Margaret Flowers

This month, the Sanctions Kill coalition (Popular Resistance is a member) released its report: “The Impact and Consequences of US Sanctions.” The 35-page report was written in response to the Biden administration’s January call for a review of the US sanctions to determine if they ‘unduly hinder’ the ability of targeted nations to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

To date, there is no word on whether that review has been conducted, but given that the State Department and Treasury are tasked with conducting it, the same institutions that impose sanctions, the Sanctions Kill coalition had no confidence their report would challenge the US’ current foreign policy path of escalating economic war on 39 countries, or a third of the world population.

The Sanctions Kill report found that sanctions, which are being increasingly imposed by the United States in lieu of or in addition to military aggression, cause tremendous suffering and death, violate international laws, harm US industries, place the US in a position of civil and criminal liability and are isolating the US from the community of nations. The corporate media are silent on these harmful effects and criticism of sanctions.

Venezuelan UN Ambassador Samuel Moncada described the impact of sanctions this week at The People’s Forum (view the event here):

Sanctions are killing us…. They are homicidal. One of the awful effects of sanctions as a weapon, because it’s a kind of war, is that you don’t feel it here. You don’t even realize that sanctions are acting abroad…. You don’t feel it in any way. But we feel them…. That’s why they are so insidious and dangerous. [The US] is waging economic war against millions of people.

The sanctions imposed by the United States include restrictions on financial transactions, trade and travel, blockades on foreign loans and aid and the seizure of assets. The Sanctions Kill report found these measures violate the human rights of people in affected countries because they block access to basic necessities such as food, medicines and fuel and they prevent maintenance of important infrastructure such as water services, power generation and transmission and transportation. The so-called humanitarian exceptions that are supposed to prevent sanctions from blocking food and medicine don’t work – banks won’t allow the sales and shipping companies won’t transport the goods.

Technically what the United States is doing are not sanctions but are unilateral coercive measures (UCMs), which violate international law because they operate outside the structure provided by the United Nations. Legal sanctions are used as a punishment after a legal process determines a country violated a law. Unilateral coercive measures are imposed by the US and its western imperialist allies based on lies and without due process in order to effect a desired political outcome, such as regime change or retaliation.

For example, following the failed US-backed coup attempt in 2018 against Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega, the United States Congress passed the NICA Act, which began an economic war against socialist Nicaragua. With presidential elections being held this November, the United States has ramped up both a propaganda campaign against the popular Ortega, who is expected to win, and Congress is in the process of passing the RENACER Act, which will impose more UCMs against Nicaragua.

Here is what US activists are saying about the RENACER Act and what you can do to stop it. If you want to learn more, BreakThrough News recently interviewed Jill Clark-Gollub of Friends of Latin America about the RENACER Act.

The Sanctions Kill report also found that the US is imposing secondary sanctions on countries that do business with sanctioned countries, another violation of international law, and is using sanctions to target business people, such as Meng Wanzhou of Huawei, and diplomats, such as Alex Saab. Saab is being held in Cabo Verde where he stopped last year on his way to Iran to negotiate the purchase of food and medicines for Venezuela. The US is working to extradite him while international support for Saab, whose imprisonment violates the Vienna Convention, is growing. Clearing the FOG spoke earlier this year with Roger Harris of Task Force on the Americas after he traveled with a delegation to Cabo Verde to visit Alex Saab. Click here to take action.

In front of the United Nations after the People’s Mobe rally and march.  (September 2019. By Yuka Azuma)

Clearing the FOG spoke with two of the authors of the report, international lawyer John Philpot and Latin American solidarity activist David Paul. Philpot predicts a day of reckoning is coming for the United States because the UCMs violate multiple international laws, including the United Nations charter. They are a form of collective punishment, which is a crime against humanity.

As the United States’ status as a global hegemon declines, targeted countries are finding ways to work together to resist the brutal economic wars being waged by the US and build power. For years now, countries have worked on alternative financial instruments to bypass US sanctions in order to do business. One example is INSTEX, a trading mechanism developed by European nations and Iran.

One of the first major acts of defiance against US UCMs was in the spring of 2020 when Iran sent four tankers of oil and equipment to Venezuela despite a large US military presence in the surrounding waters. Recently, Iran defied US UCMs again when it sent a convoy of oil trucks through Syria to Lebanon, which is suffering greatly from an economic crisis and fuel shortage.

Cuba has been under a US economic blockade for more than 60 years but it continues to be a model of international solidarity, especially during the pandemic. Henry Reeves Medical Brigades have been sent to numerous countries to assist them in caring for COVID-19 patients. Now Cuba is in need of aid and Mexico is stepping up to provide it using its naval ships since commercial ships face many barriers due to the UCMs. People and organizations outside Cuba also worked to supply millions of syringes so Cubans can receive vaccinations against COVID-19.

Mexico was the host of the recent CELAC (the community of Caribbean and Latin American states) meetings where leaders openly criticized the Organization of American States as a tool of US imperialism and called for its reform or the creation of a new body. CELAC countries are working on ways to practice greater solidarity in the face of the pandemic, climate crisis and debt.

Similarly, the first African/CARICOM summit was held virtually earlier this month. A third of the countries being targeted by the US’ economic war are in Africa. In fact, almost all of the countries being sanctioned by the US are majority black or brown. Don Rojas covered the summit for Black Agenda Report, writing:

“The Summit was also a recognition of the political and economic imperative that the governments of Africa and the Caribbean must succeed in restructuring if our black and brown people and nations are ever going to assume their rightful place in the world.”

And this week, during the United Nations general assembly meetings, the foreign ministers of 18 countries met as the Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations and released a statement pledging to work together. They wrote, “…we convey our support to nations and peoples subjected to unilateral and arbitrary approaches that violate both the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the basic norms of international law, and renew our call for the full respect to the inalienable right of peoples to self-determination, as well as the territorial integrity and political independence of all nations.”

By Medea Benjamin

Those of us who live in the United States and its allied imperialist nations that enable these serious violations of human rights and international law have a responsibility to act to stop the use of economic warfare through unilateral coercive economic measures. Global power is shifting and we face multiple worldwide crises. It is imperative that imperialist nations change their foreign policy from death and destruction to diplomacy, solidarity and cooperation.

An important step is education so people understand that UCMs are as lethal as bombs and that they affect the whole world, including people living in countries that wage economic war. The SanctionsKill.org website contains numerous resources to help with this including a toolkit that provides you with a power point and script so anyone can give a presentation on sanctions. The toolkit informs about what UCMs are and the specific harms they do.

You can also send the new Sanctions Kill report to your members of Congress and demand they end them now or publicize the report in any way you can – use social media, local or independent media outlets, your organization’s website, etc. We must break through the media blockade and demand the truth be told about the illegality of UCMs and their devastating impact on people in targeted countries. Write letters to the editor when you see articles about sanctions.

Take action to stop the RENACER Act and join the call to free Alex Saab. There are many solidarity organizations that are working to support people in countries attacked through economic measures. One example is the Saving Lives Campaign, a joint effort by people in the US and Canada to provide aid to Cuba.

Ending sanctions will save millions of lives and move us forward on the path toward a world of cooperation, peace and solidarity. Nations like the United States use sanctions because their deadly impacts are not as visible as dropping bombs. We must expose this brutal economic warfare and demand an end to it.

The post New Report Exposes the US’ Brutal and Illegal Economic War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

US Targets Nicaraguan Presidential Election

Before Henry Kissinger became a Clinton pal, liberals condemned him for saying: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.” The 1973 US-backed coup and bloodbath in Chile followed. Now Uncle Sam has a problem in Nicaragua, where independent polls predict a landslide victory for Daniel Ortega’s leftist Sandinista slate in the November 7th presidential elections.

The US government and its sycophantic media are working to prevent Ortega’s reelection. On July 12, the US slapped visa restrictions on one hundred Nicaraguan elected legislative officials, members of the judiciary, and their families for “undermining democracy.” A month earlier, the Biden administration imposed sanctions on President Ortega’s daughter, along with a military general, the head of the central bank, and an elected legislator.

These and other recent illegal US sanctions on Nicaragua are designed to promote regime change and are based on the ridiculous charge that this poor and tiny nation is a “extraordinary and unusual threat to the US national security,” when the opposite is the case.

The NICA Act of 2018, under the Trump administration, imposed sanctions, including blocking loans from international financial institutions controlled by the US. In August 2020, the Responsive Assistance in Nicaragua (RAIN) plan was revealed, which is a multi-faceted coup strategy by which the US contracted corporations to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. RAIN calls for a “sudden, unanticipated transition” government to forestall what they admit would otherwise be a Sandinista victory in a free election. In a seamless handoff from the Trump to the Biden administration, the pending RENACER Act would further extended “targeted sanctions.”

US intervention in Nicaragua and, indeed, in all of Latin America under the 1823 Monroe Doctrine has a long history continuing to the present. Back in 1856, US citizen William Walker tried to impose himself as head of a slave state in Nicaragua, only to be assassinated four years later. In 1912, the US began an occupation of Nicaragua, forcing the country to become a US protectorate. The US was ousted in 1933 in a war led by national hero Augusto C. Sandino, after whom the present revolutionary party was named. In the 1980s, the US government proxies, the Contras, fought the new Sandinistas after they overthrew the US-backed Somoza dictatorship.

Problematic premises

In the past, most US progressives opposed the imperialism of their government. But more recently, as Jeremy Kuzmarov of CovertAction Magazine observed: “United States warmakers have become so skilled at propaganda that not only can they wage a war of aggression without arousing protest; they can also compel liberals to denounce peace activists using language reminiscent of the McCarthy era.”

A recent Open Letter to the Nicaraguan Government from U.S. Solidarity Workers 1979-1990 reflects the US imperial talking points. This US open letter, dated July 1, is joined by one from Europeans, formerly active in solidarity with Nicaragua, and one from international academics, mainly in the field of Latin American studies. (Links to all three letters may be dodgy.) All three letters, likely coordinated, use similar language to make matching critiques and demands.

While other international activists from the 1980s still prioritize non-intervention and solidarity with the Sandinista government, the concerns expressed in the open letter should be respectfully evaluated. The open letter is based on the following problematic premises:

  1. The open letter claims the Ortega “regime” is guilty of “crimes against humanity.”

In fact, Nicaragua is by far the most progressive country in Central America under the Sandinista government.

Unlike the Guatemalans, Hondurans, and El Salvadorians in these US client states, Nicaraguans are not fleeing to the US in search of a better life. Poverty and extreme poverty have been halved in Nicaragua, and the UN Millennium Development Goal of cutting malnutrition has been achieved. Basic healthcare and education are free, and illiteracy has been virtually eliminated, while boasting of the highest level of gender equality in the Americas. Nicaragua, which enjoys the lowest homicide rate in Central America, also has the smallest police force with the smallest budget in the region. These are not the hallmarks of a dictatorship.

  1. The open letter claims the 2018 coup attempt was simply a “demonstration of self-determination.” While the open letter correctly notes that the events of 2018 reflected an element of popular discontent, it renders invisible the millions of dollars and many years of US sponsored subversion in Nicaragua.

Social media campaigns of false information orchestrated by US-sponsored groups fueled viciously violent protests. According to solidarity activist Jorge Capelán: “those who kidnapped, tortured, robbed, murdered and raped citizens here in Nicaragua in April 2018 were the coup promoters. They themselves recorded everything with their cell phones. They even set fire to murdered Sandinista comrades in the street.”

Benjamin Waddell, a signatory to the open letter, admitted “it’s becoming more and more clear that the US support has helped play a role in nurturing the current [2018] uprisings.” Dan La Botz, another Ortega-must-go partisan, provided 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.”

No substantive progressive alternative was offered by the opposition in 2018, according to William Robinson, another signatory to the open letter. Rather, 2018 was an attempt to achieve by violent means what could not be achieved democratically at the ballot box.

  1. The open letter claims the Nicaraguan government “in no way represents the values, principles and goals of the Sandinista revolution.” This stance arrogates to foreigners the role of telling the Nicaraguan people how to evaluate their revolution. The electoral process in Nicaragua makes clear that the Nicaraguans think otherwise.

After successfully overthrowing the US-backed dictator Somoza and fighting the counter-revolutionary war against the US-backed Contras, the Sandinista’s lost the 1990 election. Notably, outgoing President Ortega without hesitation obeyed the electoral mandate, the first time in Nicaragua’s history that governing power was passed peacefully to another political party.  After 17 years of neoliberal austerity, Daniel Ortega won the presidential election of 2006 with a 38% plurality and went on to win in 2011 with 63% and 72.5% in 2016. Ortega’s ever increasing electoral margins suggest the majority of Nicaraguans support him as the legitimate leader of the Sandinista revolution.

Problematic proposals

 Using the same loaded language as the US government, the open letter calls on the “Ortega-Murillo regime” to release political prisoners currently being held, including “pre-candidates,” members of the opposition, and “historic leaders” of the Sandinista revolution; rescind the national security law under which these individuals were arrested; and negotiate electoral reforms.

Nicaragua has passed two recent laws: the Foreign Agents Law and the Law to Defend the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination for Peace. These laws, which the open letter wants rescinded, criminalize promoting foreign interference in Nicaragua’s internal affairs, seeking foreign military intervention, organizing acts of terrorism, and promoting coercive economic measures against their country. These are activities, it should be noted, that are similarly prohibited in the US’s FARA Act, after which the Nicaraguan laws were modeled.

 The recent actions of the Nicaraguan government prosecuting people who break their laws is a normal function of governance. That some of the accused perpetrators may have political aspirations does not immunize those individuals from arrest for unlawful activities.

The letter from the aforementioned academics claims that among those detained are the “most prominent potential opposition presidential candidates.” In fact, none of the 17 political parties in Nicaragua have chosen their candidates, and “most of those currently under investigation do not belong to any legally registered party.” In fact, Stephen Sefton reports from Nicaragua that “no leading figure from Nicaragua’s opposition political parties has been affected by the recent series of arrests of people from organizations that supported the 2018 coup attempt.”

One of the most prominent of those arrested is NGO director Cristiana Chamorro, charged with money laundering for receiving millions of dollars from the USAID, other US government agencies, and allied foundations for regime-change purposes. In her defense, she incredulously claimed that the US State Department had audited her and found everything to their liking.

The “historic leaders” of the Sandinista revolution are just that; people who had broken with the revolution long ago and since 1994 had collaborated with the US-allied rightwing opposition and NGOs. More to the point, they are being charged with illegal collusion with foreign powers.

The open letter calls for “negotiating electoral reforms,” but electoral law in Nicaragua as in the US is determined by the legislative process and not by negotiations among various power blocks. Nicaragua has implemented some but not all reforms mandated by the Organization of American States. The fourth branch of government, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), oversees elections. A third of the current CSE is composed of representatives of parties other than the ruling party, even though the Sandinistas hold a super-majority in the legislature.

The right of the Nicaraguan revolution to defend itself

While acknowledging “the long and shameful history of US government intervention,” the open letter does not acknowledge the right of the Nicaraguan revolution to defend itself. On the contrary, their implied endorsement of the 2018 coup attempt is a call for regime change by non-democratic means and an implicit pass for US interference.

The open letter’s finding that “the crimes of the US government – past and present – are not the cause of, nor do they justify or excuse” the behavior of the current government in Nicaragua is a door that swings two ways. Whatever the alleged wrongdoings the Ortega government, that still does not justify the US government’s regime-change campaign. The open letter is thunderously silent on current US intervention, notably the punishing NICA and RENACER acts.

The Nicaraguan government has prioritized the needs of poor and working people and has made astounding progress on multiple fronts. That is why they are being targeted for regime change, and why the Nicaraguans have taken measures to thwart US intervention.

The Trump administration specifically targeted the so-called “Troika of Tyranny” – Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua – with repressive illegal sanctions aimed at regime change. That policy of US domination did not start with Trump, nor is it ending with the new US administration.

The imperialists are clear on who they target as their enemy; some elements on the left are less clear on who is their friend and whether Nicaragua has a right to defend itself.  If the signers of the open letter believe, as they claim, “in the Nicaraguan people’s right to self-determination…of a sovereign people determining their own destiny,” then the November 2021 election should be protected, free from interference by the US, its international allies, and its funded NGOs.

The post US Targets Nicaraguan Presidential Election first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The CIA: Attempting Coups in Nicaragua with Tax Dollars Through US Agencies and Corporate Foundations

Since the Sandinistas won the 2006 election their anti-poverty policies have had enormous success.

The country is 90% self-sufficient in food. 99% of the population have electricity in their homes that is now generated with 70+% green energy; International financial Institutions including the World Bank, the International Development Bank and The Central American Bank for Economic Integration praise Nicaragua for its excellent, efficient project execution. it has one of the best health systems in Latin America praised by the International Monetary Fund, with 20 new state of the art hospitals since 2007 achieving one of the lowest Covid mortality rates in the world. Poverty, extreme poverty, maternal, child and infant mortality have all been cut at least in half. Nicaragua is number one in the world in both women in politics and women in ministerial positions and it is fifth in gender equity behind the Nordic nations.

Many more advances for the majority of the population in education, housing and infrastructure have resulted in huge wins for the FSLN in the last two elections (2011 and 2016) and polls indicate that in the November 7 presidential elections they will garner at least 60% of the vote with at least 70% voter turn-out. Some 95% of the adult population have identity cards needed for voting. If the US public knew what this nation, impoverished by nearly 200 years of US war and aggression, has been able to achieve in fourteen years it would surely encourage them to demand better education, infrastructure and universal health care in the United States.

To prevent similar acts of sovereignty by small nations still considered colonies by the United States, the CIA prepared the way for the 2018 coup attempt and has never stopped trying to overthrow the Sandinista government since. The CIA uses US agents, many who pass themselves off as journalists or activists, as well as those eternally stationed at the US embassy; it has provided millions of dollars to hundreds of Nicaraguans acting as foreign agents as well as their nonprofit organizations that conspire against the Sandinista government like those recently arrested for money laundering, fraud and requesting foreign intervention.

The US helped grow the pro-US anti-Sandinista media in Nicaragua

Much of the US-directed propaganda apparatus was designed and funded by the US after the FSLN won the 2006 elections ending 17 years of three US-directed governments. A subversive front of newspapers, magazines, television stations, radio stations, websites, news agencies, and social media pages was formed. Journalists and media outlets were paid by the US (millions through the USAID, NED, IRI and US foundations) and much of it was administered by the Chamorro family media cartel, specializing in fake media campaigns to try to promote anti-Sandinista hatred and mistrust of the government.

Part of this has been known for some time. For example, in May, 2018 during the coup, Tom Ricker of the Quixote Institute described 55 NED grants awarded between 2014 and 2017 for US$4.2 million “as part of a U.S. government-funded campaign to provide a coordinated strategy and media voice for opposition groups in Nicaragua. NED grants fund media (radio, social media and other web-based news outlets) and opposition research. In addition, strategies targeting youth get substantial funding, along with programs seeking to mobilize women’s and indigenous organizations. Though the language is of support for “civil society” and “pro-democracy” groups, the focus on funding is specifically to build coordinated opposition to the government.”

US propaganda funds for 2018 coup channeled through Chamorro family media dynasty

On June 2, Journalist William Grigsby on his news analysis program, Sin Fronteras, revealed (see below) US documents which show that the CIA openly channeled US$16.7 million for the coup attempt, between February 2017 and July 2018, through the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation whose director Cristiana Chamorro is part of a famous family of oligarchs that count eight members as previous presidents; she is also the daughter of former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. She and her uncle are owners of the only daily, La Prensa, funded by the US for pro-Contra lies since the 1980s. Her brother Carlos Fernando has his own media empire. US funds to the VBCHF support these family businesses. Her now-deceased husband, Antonio Lacayo is widely considered to have exercised great power during her mother’s presidency from 1990 to 1997 overseeing some 7 billion dollars in privatization of state property, as well as privatization of education and health care. During the early 90s you couldn’t get so much as an aspirin at a government hospital without paying for it.

Chamorro Family, 1990s, Cristiana and Antonio Lacayo are on the right , laprensa.com.ni

The US$16.7 million was given by US agencies and foundations specifically to finance media terrorism [lies, fake news and distortion to foment assassinations and hate, destabilize and create chaos] to incite and maintain the coup attempt. The Chamorro Foundation also received €679,530 from European government-financed organizations during this period. The attempted coup left more than 200 families in mourning, thousands of people traumatized as well as much destruction and severe damage to the economy resulting in the loss of at least 130,000 jobs.

The Foundation’s Director, Cristiana Chamorro, was accused by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of money laundering, and given house arrest on June 2, 2021. She closed the Foundation in February of this year saying she didn’t want to comply with the “Foreign Agents” law passed in October 2020, similar to, but not as strict as, the 1938 US Foreign Agents Act. Under the Nicaraguan law, organizations receiving foreign funding must report that funding and how it is used – thousands of nonprofits are doing this with no problem.

According to Grigsby and Liberal Party news analyst, Enrique Quiñones, there was still at least US$7 million in the Foundation account when she closed it and this money appeared soon afterward in three of her personal banks accounts.

The US$16.7 million given by the CIA during that short time-span was just the money given for fake news – to fund every kind of news media, programs, social media and to directly fund individuals. Many millions more were provided to other nonprofits and “Human Rights” organizations. It is telling that in a country of 6.3 million people there are four human rights organizations – all funded by the US government and one was even founded by the US government in the 80s to cover up for the Contra.

Within that US$16.7 million, US$9,409,853 was provided by USAID for individuals, projects and media. The National Endowment for Democracy gave the Foundation US$564,134 for a project “promoting independent journalism and freedom of expression” in November 2017.

US Financing of Propaganda for Coup Attempt

The Soros Foundations – owned by New York-based tycoon George Soros – also financed fake news in Nicaragua through several organizations that are known to fund destabilization efforts around the world: US$6,722,325 was given by two of the Soros Foundations: US$6,148,325 by the Soros Foundation for the project, “independent and transparent journalism” given in March 2018 a month before the coup began, and $574,000 in July 2018, the month the coup was defeated, by the Open Society Foundation for the “independent journalism and citizenship” project.

The 2017-2018 funding of opposition media and journalists through the Chamorro Foundation by USAID, NED and Soros Foundations – US$16,696,312 million provided just before and during the attempted coup is a small part of funding provided by agencies like USAID, NED, IRI, Freedom House and foundations, like those of Soros with close ties to the Council on Foreign Relations.

USAID spent US$160 million on agents and agent organizations to try to topple the Sandinistas

The US began major destabilization attempts after the Sandinistas won the 2006 elections.

The bigger picture on USAID financing for destabilization in recent years is that it gave US$160 million to opposition organizations and individuals between 2015 and early 2021, information still available by year on the web; however, much information about recipient organizations has been removed. Most information about NED money has also been removed.

Official US documents presented by Grigsby in July 2020 provide more detailed evidence about which nonprofits and individuals benefitted from US$30 million right before the 2018 coup.

Breaking the Yankee Propaganda Apparatus

The USAID says this about their role in Nicaragua:

USAID/OTI partnered with independent media to operate and produce more targeted digital content during the political crisis. The program enabled independent media to preserve and promote democratic discourse, absent further economic destabilization or dramatic state intervention.

In a recent article Rita Jill Clark-Gollub writes:

Anyone who has been watching Nicaragua knows that these supposedly “independent” media in Nicaragua have been the main source of Nicaragua news reported here in the United States. In other words, in my country most people get information about Nicaragua from the CIA!

New laws passed in 2020 (a Foreign Agents Law and a law against terrorism, coups and inciting foreign intervention, which the US vilifies even though they are similar but less punitive than those of the US), and the recent arrests of US Foreign Agents are actions to try to limit US intervention and prevent coup attempts. The US will still get money to their agents, but it won’t be nearly as easy as before and this will limit their ability to carry out the kind of terrorist actions they did in 2018.

William Grigsby on June 2 described what is happening right now in Nicaragua:

[We are] breaking the heart of the Yankee propaganda apparatus in Nicaragua, which was their main way of intervening, now, for the elections – influencing public opinion with lies, instilling fear, instilling hatred in order to try to defeat the Sandinistas. This whole operation that is being carried out from the prosecutor’s office as a spearhead is just that, to destroy the propaganda apparatus of US imperialism.” He asked what all the journalist agents in Nicaragua will do without the salaries they were getting. “Are they committed enough to actually do independent journalism?

 RAIN: the CIA destabilization plan in progress now

Nevertheless, Uncle Sam will still continue efforts to destabilize the country. US ambassador Sullivan is constantly seen meeting with the agents, even denounced by President Daniel Ortega:

This goes for the Yankee ambassador (U.S.) and other ambassadors; they like to meddle everywhere and want to make decisions for us; the Yankee ambassador (Sullivan) parades his candidates, promoting them as if he were Nicaraguan… The Yankee ambassador should not get involved here, nominating candidates, pressuring political parties so that the political parties accept the candidate the Yankee wants, the Yankee ambassador should not forget, Nicaragua is sovereign, Nicaragua belongs to Sandino…

In July 2020 William Grigsby received a USAID document leaked from the embassy. It details in couched terms US destabilization plans for “transition” in Nicaragua and even the contracting of a US company to head it all up. RAIN – Responsive Action in Nicaragua has since been deleted, but not before it was archived. RAIN is a blatant plan for destabilization and overthrow of the democratically elected government of Nicaragua. It is likely that much of what the US has financed in the last year is part of the RAIN plan.

The USAID document establishes three scenarios that they call “democratic transition in Nicaragua:”

RAIN will pursue these activities against a variety of scenarios generally falling under three categories: 1. Free, fair and transparent elections lead to an orderly transition [the US candidate wins] 2. A sudden political transition occurs following a crisis [a coup leads to a US backed government] 3. Transition does not happen in an orderly and timely manner. The regime remains resilient in the face of domestic and international pressure. It is also possible that the regime may remain in power following electoral reforms and a fair election, but without changes to the rule of law or democratic governance [i.e. without changes that benefit US corporations].

It is clear from the RAIN document that the U.S. government realizes that the Sandinistas will win the 2021 election by a large margin: that is another reason they have provided millions to agents, organizations and fake news media, hoping that they can put a dent in the 60% Sandinista win predicted in the polls, or to undermine the elections altogether.

The long-time US agents under investigation for very serious crimes are not leaders: there has not been even one small protest since the arrests began June 2 because those arrested have no “pueblo.” People know that the US funded the very violent coup attempt through them – and hold them accountable. The foreign media tout them as presidential candidates, which they are not. When some of them saw that they might be arrested they ran to try to inscribe with the CXL (Citizens for Freedom) party as pre-candidates thinking this might protect them from detention. They all had the opportunity to form new political parties, but they didn’t even try because they don’t have enough members to fulfill minimal requirements. And more importantly, 17 parties are participating in the November 7 elections that don’t receive foreign funding.

And while the United States wastes millions of tax-payer dollars destabilizing the country, Nicaragua effectively and efficiently makes social and economic advances lauded by international organizations and banks, like universal health care, education, affordable housing, social infrastructure, gender equity, conversion to green energy, natural disaster and climate change mitigation, free recreation, and job creation with the creative and popular economy. The majority of the safest population in Central America with the lowest Covid mortality rate and the lowest emigration rate, who are healthier, better educated and housed, with electricity and potable water, whose food is locally grown and available at a decent price, with parks, fairs, pools and sports stadiums to enjoy their free time, are unlikely to let Uncle Sam influence their vote in November.

The post The CIA: Attempting Coups in Nicaragua with Tax Dollars Through US Agencies and Corporate Foundations first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Nicaragua: Building The Good Life (Buen Vivir) Through Popular Revolution


As I traveled in Nicaragua on the recent Sanctions Kill delegation, one thing was clear:  social transformation (revolution) requires both political power and participation by the people. Without political power, revolutionary programs will not have the material resources they require. Without the participation of the people, revolutionary programs, even with resources, cannot be put into practice and defended.

Right now, Nicaraguans have both and they are making great progress in building a new society or as it is often referred to in Latin America, ‘Buen Vivir,’ (the good life). They are demonstrating what we mean when we say “transforming society to put people and the planet over profits.” And this is one of the reasons why the United States is targeting Nicaragua through hybrid warfare including a misinformation campaign, direct interference in the politics of the country and economic attacks. It is clear the United States is already working to undermine the upcoming presidential election in Nicaragua scheduled for November 7, but that is a necessary topic for another day.

In this newsletter, I will focus on two aspects of the ongoing Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua: building power through organizing peasant workers and building a multicultural society that respects the sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples. Both contain lessons for activists in the United States.

Wall at the site of the tombs of revolutionary heroes in Managua (Margaret Flowers)

In the last newsletter, I wrote a bit about the history of the popular struggle in Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America that has a low-density population of around six million people. Through a mass armed movement, Nicaraguans ousted the US Marines in the early twentieth century but that was followed by almost 50 years of the brutal dictatorship of the US-backed liberal party led by the Somoza family. Throughout that period, a minority of people (5%) owned most of the land (80%).

In 1979, the same year that the US-backed Shah of Iran was defeated, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which began in the 1960’s, overthrew the Somozas and was finally able to start putting its 13-point socialist program into practice. Although there were setbacks during the US-backed Contra War of the 1980s and the neoliberal period from 1990 to 2006, in the past 14 years, Nicaragua has made major achievements that other poor countries and many a rich country like the United States have not been able to make.

Their successes include access to free education from preschool through the university level for all people, universal healthcare, land ownership, a pension, the empowerment of women, youth, and marginalized populations and more. Nicaragua has a primarily popular economy composed of cooperatives and small farms and businesses. It has achieved food sovereignty with 90% of the food consumed being produced locally and a growing agricultural export market. It is building infrastructure, particularly roads, electricity, and potable water. Currently, over 98% of homes have electricity and 75% of that comes from renewable sources. Almost one-fourth of the energy produced is geothermal as Nicaragua is a land of volcanos. Learn more in this Clearing the FOG episode taped in Nicaragua.

It took many decades to create the conditions in which these achievements could be made. The struggle to put the Sandinista revolution into practice and to defend the gains continues. Both the FSLN and the Rural Workers Association (ATC) are integral parts of that struggle.

Yorlis Luna, a professor and coordinator with IALA, lectures the delegation (Margaret Flowers)

The Rural Workers Association officially began forty-three years ago this week, although the work to start organizing and unionizing peasant workers began in the early 1970’s at the same time that the FSLN was growing. In my interview with Fausto Torres, who has been with the ATC from early on and currently serves as the Secretary of International Relations, he explains that the ATC and FSLN were born out of the same struggle with the ATC being composed of workers and the FSLN providing a political platform rooted in worker empowerment. Both arms of the revolution complemented each other. For example, the ATC provided food and safe houses for FSLN fighters during the Contra War and many Sandinistas who defended the revolution during that time came from the ATC.

After the Somoza dictatorship was overthrown, it was the ATC that made the agrarian reform, which transferred land from large landowners to over 120,000 peasant families, a reality and helped to defend those land gains. The ATC provided literacy programs and helped new land owners learn to make their small farms productive. Some land owners formed cooperatives.

After the Contra War, the ATC facilitated a reconciliation process between people who fought on both sides. Today, Sandinistas and former Contras live and work side-by-side in many communities and belong to the same cooperatives. The ATC continues to organize rural workers and educate them about labor laws and it has special programs for youth and women.

The ATC has several schools. One of its newer ones is the Latin American Institute of Agroecology or IALA (based on the name in Spanish), which educates people from all over Latin America. IALA incorporates traditional knowledge and the latest science to create practices that are sustainable, address the climate crisis and serve the cultural needs of local communities. In line with the values of the ATC and FSLN, emphasis is placed on the inclusion and empowerment of youth and women to support the development of new leaders.

In the early 1990’s, the ATC globalized its peasant movement by founding La Via Campesina, a member organization that currently operates in the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania and represents over 200 million rural families who are working to build a democratic and non-exploitative society. In addition to peasant workers, La Via Campesina members include migrants, landless peasants, and human rights defenders. There are four major areas of work: land reform, food sovereignty, peasant culture and socializing common goods. As an organization, it operates through collective leadership and participatory democracy. La Via Campesina values gender equality, youth participation, diversity, discipline and international solidarity. It is anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-patriarchal.

La Via Campesina runs a number of campaigns. One of them targets transnational corporations, particularly those based in the United States, that are pushing the “Green Revolution,” which is trying to dominate land ownership, control food production and push a toxic and exploitative food system based on profits for a few. A recent success in that struggle was the passing of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas in late 2018 at the United Nations. It should not be a surprise that the United States and some European Union countries opposed it.

The ATC and La Via Campesina are building the local and global popular movement necessary to challenge corporate power and capitalism and create a world that can protect the rights of all people and mitigate the climate crisis. We activists in the US have much to learn from them.

Aminta Zea explains who our group is for members of the community council in Tuapi (Margaret Flowers)

Another accomplishment in Nicaragua is their ongoing work in the Autonomous Zone, composed of 47% of the nation’s land on the Northern and Southern Caribbean Coasts, to restore the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendants who have been discriminated against for a long time. It offers a model for the United States to consider.

This work is grounded in the Nicaraguan Constitution passed after the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship that values a multi-ethnic society. Due to the Contra War and the neoliberal period that followed, most of the gains have been made in the last decade or so since Daniel Ortega was restored as the president. There was a ten year period of negotiations between the government and the autonomous communities that resulted in the titles of 33% of the national territory being granted to twenty three Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples who requested them.

Indigenous leaders decide what parts of the land are to be used for housing or agriculture and the regulations regarding whether or not non-Indigenous people could live there. For example, the capital of the Northern Caribbean Coast, Bilwi, is owned by the people in Karata and they receive taxes from the city, which was formerly called Puerto Cabezas.

In recent years, unprecedented amounts of money have been spent on building highways to connect the communities with each other and with markets for their goods. There was also a big expansion in health care facilities and infrastructure for electricity and water. Education is also a high priority. Schools are multilingual to include the maternal language as well as Spanish and English. The university system is dedicated to multiculturalism and “rescuing” traditional knowledge. Their development plan is based on human development rather than exploitation.

Some of the major industries in the region include mining, forestry and cattle. They are working on mining methods that reduce the environmental impact and pollution from it. For timber, the community has to approve any plans and it owns and benefits from the entire process. Similarly for cattle, the community decides who can have cattle farms. As the climate crisis expands the “dry zone” outside of the Autonomous Region, non-Indigenous cattle farmers have been looking for other areas to raise their herds and this has been used by the United States as a way to attack Nicaragua through a false tale of assaults on Indigenous communities, known as “the Conflict Beef” story. This is far from the reality, as John Perry explains.

Although there have been a few small victories recently in the United States of returning land to Native American tribes, we still have a long way to go. Nicaragua demonstrates a model that is indigenous-led with the state playing a supportive role. Imagine if land in the United States was returned to the Indigenous Peoples who would control what is done on the land, including who could live there. This would go a long way to reversing the centuries of oppression and stolen wealth and could finally end the era of settler colonialism.

The Sanctions Kill delegation with members of the ATC in Managua (Friends of the ATC)

There is a lot we can learn from Nicaraguan people about how to organize, resist and build a multicultural society based on participatory democracy, empowerment and healing the Earth. The Sanctions Kill delegation provided a glimpse into this powerful work but there is more to know about the specific programs and how they could be translated into our work here to hold our government accountable and transform our society.

One concept that arose during the delegation is that of “revolutionary discipline.” Revolutions don’t just happen. They are the fruit of dedication to education and struggle. We can each practice revolutionary discipline in our communities through political education, organizing, putting pressure on the government and building alternative programs. Through this work, we will build the mass movement necessary to succeed.

We must also work to protect Nicaragua and other revolutionary societies that are targeted by US foreign policy for daring to defend their self-determination and sovereignty. We witnessed the violence and destruction of the 2018 US-backed coup attempt. We already see the US laying the groundwork to interfere in the presidential election in Nicaragua this November. Let us also put revolutionary discipline into practice by not allowing ourselves to be fooled by false media narratives and by raising our voices against US interference.

The photo at the top of this newsletter was taken at the ATC School in Managua. It reads “Globalize the Struggle, Globalize the Hope.” This is our call to action so that we can build a world of Buen Vivir for everyone.

The post Nicaragua: Building The Good Life (Buen Vivir) Through Popular Revolution first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Peace Delegation Visits Nicaragua To Explore Impact Of US Sanctions

For the next two weeks, I am in Nicaragua on the first delegation organized by the Sanctions Kill coalition and the Friends of the ATC (Asociacion de Trabajadores del Campo – Association of Rural Workers) to study the impact of sanctions imposed by the United States on Nicaragua and learn about the Sandinista Revolution. The ATC is a member of the global movement of peasant workers, Via Campesina, that was born in Nicaragua. The NICA Act, passed by the US Congress in 2018, is the beginning of the US’ economic war on Nicaragua after the US-backed coup attempt against the democratically-elected President Danial Ortega failed earlier that year.

Learn more about the sanctions being imposed by the United States on 39 countries representing a third of the world’s population using the new Sanctions Kill toolkit. It includes a short basic presentation with a sample script that teaches what sanctions are, why they are illegal, their impacts and how you can get involved in the work to stop them.

The delegation of about a dozen people, pictured above, is composed of activists, students and independent media. Not only will the group learn about the impacts of the coup in 2018, which shut down the economy and destroyed basic infrastructure, and how Nicaraguans are organizing to limit the effects of the economic war, but it is also learning about the long history of resistance to imperialism in Nicaragua and lessons that are pertinent for current struggles in the Americas.

The Sanctions Kill delegation at the Central Park in Managua in front of a silhouette of Augusto C. Sandino. Ramiro Funez.

For a long time, Nicaragua was the axis of the United States’ power in Central America. The short version of the struggle is that in the early twentieth century, the Nicaraguan people rose up against the US Marines, who were present in the country to protect US interests. Augusto C. Sandino fought in battles to oust the US Marines. He developed a powerful guerilla force in the mountains that refused to lay down its arms as long as there were foreign soldiers on the land undermining Nicaragua’s sovereignty.

In 1932, the US Marines withdrew from the country but they left behind a national guard led by Anastasio Somoza that started capturing, injuring and killing Sandino’s soldiers. Sandino traveled to Managua in 1933 to try to negotiate a peace agreement, but he was captured on the way and assassinated. Beginning in 1936, Nicaragua was controlled by a brutal dictatorship led by members of the Somoza family, which lasted until they were overthrown by the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN), or the National Sandinista Liberation Front (called the Sandinista Front), on July 19, 1979.

The Sandinista Front was formed in 1961 by three students at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in Managua. They were Carlos Fonseca, Silvio Mayorga and Tomas Borge. The Sandinista Front fought against the US-backed Contras during the 1970s. The Contras caused a tremendous amount of destruction and killed tens of thousands of people during that ten year period (in a country of under three million people) but they were never able to capture even one town or city due to the popular resistance of the Sandinistas.

Daniel Ortega, a member of the Sandinista Front and a fighter who was imprisoned for ten years and tortured, was made the first leader of the country and then was elected president in 1985. With the Sandinistas in power, they were able to start putting their revolutionary policies into practice. One of the first actions was agrarian reform that redistributed land, of which 80% was in the hands of an elite 5%, to the people. This was accompanied by a literacy program that reduced illiteracy from 60% to 14%, universal healthcare, education, the construction of basic infrastructure and more.

Nicaragua suffered a return to neoliberalism from 1990 to 2006 when the FSLN lost the presidential elections (due to US interference), but with the re-election of Daniel Ortega, they have started to recover. A great focus of the country’s efforts is to establish food sovereignty. Nicaragua currently produces 90% of its food locally through small farmers using agroecological practices. They teach youth to farm and are successful in maintaining small farmers in rural areas through a program called “Volver al Campo” (return to the countryside). A large proportion of their economy is a popular economy of small family businesses.

Yorlis Luna, the Coordinator for the Central South, National Institute of Agricultural Technology. (Margaret Flowers)

The United States has not stopped its efforts to reassert control over Nicaragua. They tried for years to conduct a coup after the re-election of Daniel Ortega and finally gained some traction in 2018 through a campaign of terrorism against Sandinistas (kidnapping, torture and murder), a disinformation campaign and blockades that shut the country down for three months. This attempt failed and so the US moved to impose an economic war on Nicaragua through the use of illegal unilateral coercive measures that cut off access to the capital necessary to implement the country’s programs.

Nicaragua anticipated this economic war and has been working to isolate itself from the impacts but it has also been hit by a number of crises recently including the US-backed coup, the pandemic and two back-to-back category four and five hurricanes last fall. It is currently on track to grow economically but that growth is threatened by the US’ actions. We in the United States must continue to press our government to stop its interference in Nicaragua and demand the US completely overhaul its foreign policy to one of collaboration and cooperation instead of domination and exploitation.

Learn more about Nicaragua in this week’s Clearing the FOG interview (available Monday night) with Erika Takeo of Friends of the ATC, Antonio Tovar of the Farmworkers Association of Florida, a member of Via Campesina North America, and Paul Oqwist, the Minister and Private Secretary for National Policy for the Presidency of the Republic of Nicaragua.

Another country that is currently in crisis due to interference of the United States is Haiti. Learn more about the National Weekend of Actions in Solidarity with Haiti from March 27 to 29 here. Find an action near you or submit your own.

Below is the press release from Sanctions Kill and the Friends of the ATC about the delegation:

A group of 13 North Americans are in Nicaragua from March 14-24 in a delegation organized by Sanctions Kill! and Friends of the ATC to express their deep concern to the Nicaraguan people regarding the impacts of U.S. sanctions on the country. This delegation of journalists, activists and students are meeting with grassroots groups that constitute the Rural Workers’ Association (ATC – Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo) to understand the effects of the sanctions on ordinary Nicaraguans and how they are organizing to mitigate the impact on their day-to-day lives.

“The human and economic costs of the sanctions on Nicaragua have been underreported. One of the goals of the delegation is to share the perspectives of Nicaraguans with U.S. audiences, in the hopes of building bridges of peace. As people from the United States, we need to fully understand the impact of what is being done in our name,” said Teri Mattson of CODEPINK, one of the delegation’s leaders and activist with the Sanctions Kill! coalition.

The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure campaign” on Nicaragua imposed increasingly harsher sanctions against the country, with the goal of fomenting regime change. To date, the Biden administration has given no indication that it will pursue a different policy in Nicaragua.

Friends of the ATC is a solidarity network with the Rural Workers’ Association that spreads awareness, builds solidarity and facilitates support for the struggles and initiatives of the ATC and the international movement La Vía Campesina.

Sanctions Kill! is an international campaign launched in 2019 to end U.S. imposed sanctions and educate the public on the devastating impacts they can have on jobs, healthcare, food, water, education, transportation and more.

The post Peace Delegation Visits Nicaragua To Explore Impact Of US Sanctions first appeared on Dissident Voice.

2020 Latin America and the Caribbean in Review: The Pink Tide May Rise Again

The balance between the US drive to dominate Latin America and the Caribbean and its counterpart, the Bolivarian cause of regional independence and integration, tipped portside by year end 2020 with major popular victories, including reversal of the coup in Bolivia and the constitutional referendum in Chile. Central has been the persistence of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution against the asphyxiating US blockade, along with the defiance by Cuba and Nicaragua of US regime-change measures.

The grand struggle played out against the backdrop of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, impacting countries differently depending on their political economies.  As of this writing, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba had COVID death rates per million population of 35, 25, and 12, respectively. In comparison, the death rates in right-leaning neoliberal states of Peru, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Honduras, and Guatemala were respectively 1123, 888, 849, 805, 843, 306, and 263. The manifestly lower rates on the left reflected, in large part, better developed public health systems and social welfare practices.

Andean Nations

Venezuela’s continued resistance to the US “maximum pressure” hybrid warfare campaign is a triumph in itself. Hybrid warfare – a diplomatic, propaganda, and financial offensive along with a crippling illegal blockade and attack on the Venezuelan currency – kills as effectively as open warfare.  “It bleeds the country slowly and is much more devastating than direct bombardment,” observes Vijay Prashad of the Tricontinental Institute.

Venezuela featured prominently in the campaign speeches of Trump and Biden, with both promoting regime change, as they vied for the votes of the right-leaning Venezuelan émigré community in Florida, the second largest Latinx group in that critical swing state. US-anointed fake President of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, received a standing ovation at Trump’s State of the Union address in February – about the only thing the Democrats and Republicans agreed on – but received a far less friendly reception back home.

In March, the US falsely charged Venezuela of narco-terrorism, placing multi-million-dollar bounties on the heads of Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro and other officials. A naval armada was sent off the coast of Venezuela under the pretext of interdicting drugs. US government data, however, show the source of the drugs and the countries through which the illicit substances transit to the US are precisely the US client regimes in the region such as Colombia and Honduras.

In May, mercenaries launched an attack from Colombia but were captured, including two US ex-Green Berets. Initially, some Iranian oil tankers evaded the US blockade to bring critically needed fuel to Venezuela, where refining capacity has been impacted by the US sanctions. But later the US seized tankers in international waters, like pirates of yore, having a devastating impact on transport, agriculture, water treatment, and electricity generation in Venezuela.

In another victory in June, federal charges were dropped against the final four embassy protectors, who had defended the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington last year from being usurped by the illegal Guaidó forces. Kevin Zeese, one of the four and a revered progressive movement leader in the US, tragically and unexpectedly died in his sleep in September.

In October, Venezuela adopted controversial anti-blockade measures aimed at facilitating private investment and circumventing the US blockade. The unrelenting US regime-change campaign has had a corrosive effect on Venezuela’s attempt to build socialism. With the economy de facto dollarized, among those hardest hit are government workers, the informal sector, and those without access to dollar remittances from abroad who continue to be paid in the bolivar, now ever more grossly inflated.

Prior to calling the US presidential elections a fraud, Trump made the same accusation regarding the elections for the Venezuelan National Assembly and for the same reason; his preferred candidates would not win. The opposition to the leftist government in Venezuela was divided between an extremist Guaidó faction, which heeded the US directive to boycott the election, and a more moderate grouping opposed to the US blockade, open to dialogue with the Maduro administration, and in favor of US recognition of  the Maduro government. Although turnout was low for the December 6 election, the ruling Socialist Party enjoyed a landslide victory giving them a mandate.

Guaidó, who has become an embarrassment, may be dropped by the new US administration. Biden, however, is expected to “keep using [the] US sanctions weapon but with sharper aim,” as reported by Reuters.

Colombia is the chief regional US client state, distinguished by being the largest recipient of US military aid in the hemisphere and the largest world source of illicit cocaine. With at least seven US military bases, Colombia is a principal staging point for paramilitary attacks on Venezuela. President Iván Duque continues to disregard the 2016 peace agreement with the guerrilla FARC as Colombia endures a pandemic of right-wing violence. In October, the largely indigenous Minga mobilization converged on the capital of Bogotá to protest rampant killings. A national strike followed, called by a broad coalition led by the teachers’ union FECODE. Colombia is the most dangerous country to be a social activist with a leader murdered every other day. The approaching 2022 presidential election could portend a sea change for the popular movement.

Ecuador achieved international notoriety with the streets of Guayaquil littered with dead bodies attributed to mismanagement of the pandemic by President Lenín Moreno. A vice president under leftist Rafael Correa, Moreno turned sharp right after his presidential election in 2017, reversing the anti-imperialist stance of his predecessor. Moreno is prosecuting his former allies and privatizing the state-owned electric and oil companies, while poverty has worsened. Moreno’s popularity rating plummeted to an abysmal 8%, and his administration has been wracked with corruption scandals and popular, anti-neoliberal revolt. Polls for the presidential election, scheduled for this coming February 7, give progressive Andrés Arauz a lead as the Pink Tide may again rise in Ecuador.

Peru. The crises in Peru last year, which saw a succession of corrupt presidents replacing former ones with some sent to prison, were repeated this year. President Martín Vízcarra was dismissed in December, followed by the Manuel Merino presidency of less than a week, followed by the appointment of President Francisco Sagasti. COVID raged in a country, where investment in public health is half that recommended by the World Health Organization, while the youth took to the streets in protest, some demanding a new constitution. A left current is building in Peru as seen with the promising candidacy of Verónika Mendoza in the upcoming April 2021 presidential contest.

Bolivia. Evo Morales returned to Bolivia less than a year after a US-backed coup forced him to escape. Morales had won his reelection bid in October 2019, but the Organization of American States (OAS) conspired with the US and the domestic ultra-right to allege that his victory was fraudulent. Although his reelection was proven fair, the intervention of the OAS gave a patina of legitimacy to the ensuing putsch. Right-wing Senator Jeanine Añez was installed as “interim-president” after Morales was forced to resign by the military and police hierarchy. She presided over two massacres and a campaign of repression against the majority indigenous population and activists of Morales’s party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS). A heroic resistance based on strong grassroots organizing by social movements, unions, and the MAS, forced Añez to call a new presidential election, after she had postponed it three times.

On October 18, MAS presidential candidate Luis Arce won with a landslide 55%. The new government has returned to ALBA, CELAC, and UNASUR – regional bodies founded by Hugo Chávez – but is saddled with a $300M loan from the IMF, made by Añez though not authorized by the Senate. The year closed with the Constitution Court propitiously overruling a domestic law that banned same-sex union as inconsistent with international law, permitting the first legal same-sex marriage in Bolivia.

The Southern Cone

Brazil. Jair Bolsonaro’s second year in office was like the first: dismantling social welfare measures and rewarding multinational corporations, while the Amazon burned and the popular sectors protested. His unscientific belief in coronavirus herd immunity contributed to excessive deaths in Brazil, especially impacting indigenous peoples.

Chile has been in turmoil for most of the year with protests against their corrupt President Sebastian Piñera, incidentally the richest person in the country. Finally, on October 23, the right-wing politicians were forced to allow a plebiscite, which passed with a resounding 78% to replace the constitution imposed on the country by the dictator Pinochet. The vote was preceded by a week of massive demonstrations commemorating the first anniversary of the popular struggle against the neoliberal order. Elections for Constituent Assembly members are scheduled for April and presidential elections are scheduled for November, with Communist Eduardo Artés now leading in the polls.

Argentina. The new President Alberto Fernández and VP Cristina Fernández are slowly recovering Argentina after four years of right-wing governance. On October 17, crowds celebrated Peronist loyalty day in support of the center-left government.  Emilio Pérsico said their movement is revolutionary because “it gave power to those who had no power and incorporated the workers into politics.”

Caribbean

Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for its medical missions combatting the pandemic across the world. Cuba is also producing COVID-19 vaccines and is in the process of distributing them to needy countries, all the while suffering under an intensified US blockade. While decrying foreign interference in US internal affairs, the Trump administration has funded some 54 regime-change groups in Cuba through the USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy. The economy has been severely impacted by the pandemic and tightening of US sanctions, forcing Cuba to take pragmatic economic adjustments.

Puerto Rico, a spoil that the US empire gained in the first war of imperialism, the Spanish-American War of 1898, is today one of the few outright remaining colonies in the world. Emblematic of the neglect of Puerto Rico was the physical collapse on December 1 of the Arecibo Observatory’s giant radio telescope, once the largest in the world and source of pride. Nearly 60% of the island’s children live in poverty.

Haiti has been in nearly continuous popular revolt against US-backed President Jovenal Moïse, who has ruled by decree after cancelling elections. Government repression has been violent and intense, which is ignored in the western press.

Central America and Mexico

Central America was battered by not only the pandemic but two devastating hurricanes that hit just ten days apart in October. As conditions further deteriorate, migrants, especially from the US client states of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, continue to flee to the US. Migrants and asylum seekers, who were then deported back from the US, have been killed, raped, or tortured when they were forced to return, according to human rights groups.

El Salvador. In a flagrant overreach of executive prerogative, President Nayib Bukele sent the military on February 9 into the Legislative Assembly to influence a vote on his proposed security program. Bukele, formerly associated with the left FMLN party, has now turned right, militarizing the border between El Salvador and Honduras to enforce the “safe third country agreements” and joining the pro-US interventionist Lima Group.

Guatemala. Angry citizens burned down Guatemala’s congress building on November 21, after a record high budget passed giving the legislators substantial raises and rewarding multinational corporations but cutting social welfare. A national strike followed demanding the resignation of rightist President Alejandro Giammattei, a former director of the Guatemalan penitentiary system.

Honduras. Eleven years since the US-backed coup overthrew the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, the country has devolved into a state where current President Juan Orlando Hernández is an unindicted drug smuggler, the intellectual authors who ordered the assassination of indigenous environmental leader Berta Cáceres run free, Afro-descendent people and women are murdered with impunity, gang violence is widespread, and state protection from pandemic and hurricanes is grossly deficient.

Costa Rica. Workers staged a week-long national strike in October against the neoliberal policies of President Carlos Alvarado, who then ignored the people and resumed negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), sparking more popular demonstrations. Despite intervention by the Catholic Church to diffuse the protests, the rebellion against destructive tax increases, cuts to public services, and privatizations “has changed the political dynamics in a country which was formerly seen as ‘the Switzerland of Central America,’” according to journalist Rob Lyons.

Nicaragua. Under the Sandinista government of President Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua enjoys: “reduction of poverty and extreme poverty, eradication of illiteracy, the highest economic growth in the region for a decade, free quality education, change of the energy matrix to 77% renewable energy, [and] from 90th place to number 5 worldwide…in reducing the gender inequality gap.”

Given this “threat of a good example,” US efforts to isolate Nicaragua economically to achieve regime change continued. Reports by the PBS NewsHour, the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal, and the Oakland Institute of alleged abuses to the indigenous and Afro-descendent communities provided evidence in support of boycotting the import of “conflict beef,” which would have had a major impact on the Nicaraguan economy. After the allegations were exposed as unsubstantiated, the accusers hypocritically claimed their actions resulted in the Nicaraguan government correcting itself.

The US State Department has already called the Nicaraguan presidential election a fraud even though it is not scheduled until November 2021. After Venezuela and Cuba, Nicaragua is the hardest hit country in Latin America by US sanctions.

Mexico is the second largest economy in Latin America, the eleventh in the world, and the US’s top trade partner. After decades of right-wing rule, left-of-center Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and his new MORENA party have been in office for two years.

A little over a year ago, Mexico flew then President Evo Morales out of Bolivia, when his life was threatened by a rightwing coup, and gave asylum in the Mexican Embassy in La Paz to other deposed Bolivian officials. Mexico has also defied the US blockade of Venezuela, and AMLO has called for the release of whistleblower Julian Assange.

Last spring, AMLO closed factories in response to the pandemic except for those supplying essential services. Workers went on strike when some factory owners defied the government closures. The US intervened forcing border maquiladoras that produce goods for the US military to open.

With high COVID infection rates, AMLO has been criticized for what some characterize as a lax and delayed handling of the health crisis. He was also confronted by protests from the extreme right nationalist coalition FRENA, demanding that the “Bolivarian Dictator” must resign, while a rightist plan called Project BOA outlined a strategy for ousting him from office.

In July, AMLO made an official state visit to Washington. “Under Trump, Mexico has had to navigate abrupt demands to stem illegal migration or face trade tariffs.” As the nineteenth century Mexican President Porfirio Díaz famously lamented: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.”

Campaign for 2021

UN Secretary General Guterres’s plea for a “global ceasefire,” ever more necessitated by “the fury of the virus,” has been ignored by the US. Meanwhile, some 30 nations worldwide, including Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, are suffering under suffocating US sanctions, which are a form of hybrid warfare. These unilateral, coercive measures, impacting a third of humanity, are illegal under the UN Charter. As the “liberator” Simón Bolívar presciently observed in 1829: “The US appears to be destined by providence to plague the Americas with misery in the name of freedom.”

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PBS and Other U.S. Media are spreading Disinformation about Nicaragua

In 36 years of living in Latin America I have learned that any time a country changes its conditions so that poverty decreases and the standard of living improves, the United States wages some kind of war on that country. It has waged unconventional warfare on Nicaragua since the Sandinistas returned to the presidency in 2007 providing millions of dollars to nongovernmental organizations, more than 25 different media, three “human rights” groups and many individuals whose job is to lie for their salaries.  Since 2017, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has disbursed over $89 million with the primary focus on “governance” and promoting challenges to the Nicaraguan government. Another aspect of US aggression is the economic sanctions. The U.S. uses its influence to oppose any loan, financial or technical assistance to the government of Nicaragua from international banks and organizations.

In July this year, USAID contracted a US company to head up the current phase of their war through the November 2021 elections. The plan is titled RAIN – Responsive Action in Nicaragua. It is a thinly veiled plan to mount domestic and international pressure for “regime change” in Nicaragua. RAIN is a plan to undermine public order with actions [violent and otherwise] before, during and after the 2021 elections. The document suggests there is a crisis and “economic debacle” with potential to become a “humanitarian emergency” due to Covid-19. Since March the opposition focused most of their attention on telling lies in the media. This strategy had some success internationally but not much at home since Nicaragua has the lowest Covid mortality rate in the region.

The opposition is now on to new topics – like trying to spread the lie that some of the grass-fed beef that is exported to the US is from Indigenous land supposedly stolen in recent years. Although Nicaragua has had some problem with this, it has been much less under the Sandinista government than under the three previous US-supported governments.

One reason the government has a good relationship with much of the Indigenous is their commitment to granting title to the original territories. There are now autonomous indigenous governments elected according to their ancestral forms of organization. There are 23 original territories with 314 communities and 200,000 people. Nearly 38 thousand square kilometers have been titled to the indigenous groups.  They have non-transferrable titles, helping to curb illegal land sales and deforestation. The authorities that administer these lands are designated by the communities themselves.

This is 31% of the national territory and more than 55% of the territory of the Caribbean Coast where 61% have some type of forest. Nicaragua has gained great credibility in environmental issues and was just voted to be part of the World Bank’s Carbon Fund Board (Informe Pastran, 23 Oct. 2020).

There is now a special battalion patrolling these extremely large expanses of land in coordination with many of the Miskito and Mayagna communities.  Since 2007 special emphasis has been given to improving every aspect of life in the Autonomous Regions increasing dramatically health and school facilities, electricity, potable water, sanitation, good paved roads and decreasing every aspect of poverty.

There are internal disputes related to selling land among the 75 different communities of the Mayagna. Their communities elect their own authorities. But things aren’t perfect and the violence is sometimes internal. On January 29, Gustavo Sebastian, president of the Mayagna indigenous territory government, said that a group of Mayagnas shot at a group of community members in an act of revenge for a December 2019 action. Four men were killed, two hospitalized with injuries and 12 homes burned. Then on February 12 the police captured the leader of the group responsible for the January violence in Alal and Wakuruskasna. (Radio La Primerisima, 12 February 2020)

On October 22, Solón Guerrero, director of the Federation of Nicaraguan Cattlemen’s Association, stated that they will present documents that prove that their group signed agreements to protect the reserves held by the indigenous populations. The executive director of the Nicaraguan Chamber of the Meat Industry, Juan Bautista Velásquez, said that the cattle that are processed are identified with two tags, because the cattle come from farms certified by the Institute for Agricultural Protection and Health (IPSA). He said that if the North American market was cancelled, more than 600 thousand people would lose their jobs and 140 thousand producers would be affected.

This misleading story is being promoted by members of Nicaragua’s opposition who are paid with USAID or NED (National Endowment for Democracy) funds. It is a new attempt to interfere with and hurt Nicaragua. Now it is under the guise of protecting indigenous people. While it is true that things are not perfect in Nicaragua, the advances and protections for Indigenous people are much better than in most other countries. Certainly the U.S. treatment of indigenous people is no model to follow. While there are periodic incidents of friction or conflict in the vast expanse of the autonomous zones, this has little to do with the cattle raising and beef export industry where hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans work.

The post PBS and Other U.S. Media are spreading Disinformation about Nicaragua first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Era Of US Domination Of Latin America Coming To An End

Marcha en Venezuela contra las sanciones de Trump (Reuters)

Despite its failings at home, the United States intervenes in countries across multiple continents seeking to control their governments and resources.

This week, we look at the US’ latest efforts in Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Bolivia to undermine their independence and force them to serve the interests of the US government and transnational corporations.

In all three countries, the US has displayed a lack of understanding of the people and their support for their revolutionary processes, and as a result, is failing. As US empire fades, so might the Monroe Doctrine come to an end.

Sandanista- FSLN rally in Nicaragua

Nicaragua: USAID Multi-Year Destabilization Plan Exposed

A US Agency for International Development (USAID) document revealed by reporter William Grigsby describes covert plans to overthrow the democratically-elected Nicaraguan government in the next two years. USAID seeks to hire mercenaries “to take charge of the plan . . . to disrupt public order and carry out other [violent] actions before, during, and/or after the 2021 elections.”

USAID is creating Responsive Assistance In Nicaragua (RAIN), allotting $540,000 in grants to remove the Sandinista government in what it calls “Nicaragua’s transition to democracy.” Daniel Ortega won the 2016 election with 72 percent of the vote in what election observers from the Organization of American States (OAS), a US tool, described as taking “place in a calm, smooth and pacific manner, with no large incidents.”

Brian Willson, who has opposed US efforts to dominate Nicaragua since the 1980s Contra war, concludes the US realizes Ortega will win the 2021 election. In fact, this week, a poll showed support for Ortega’s party, FSLN, at 50% and for the opposition at 10%. One of USAID plans, as they tried in Venezuela in 2018, is for the opposition to boycott the election since they know they will lose, then call it illegitimate and create a political and economic crisis.

The real goal is not a democracy but domination so US transnational corporations can profit from the second poorest country in the hemisphere by putting in place a neoliberal economy to privatize public services, cut social services, and purge all traces of the Sandinistas. USAID also plans to “reestablish” the police and military to enforce their rule. Another goal is to stop Nicaragua from being the “threat of a good example” for its economic growth, reduction of inequality, poverty, illiteracy and crime.

Ben Norton points out in the Grayzone that “the 14-page USAID document employed the word ‘transition’ 102 times” making clear the intent is regime change.  A “sudden transition without elections,” a euphemism for a coup, is one of three possible regime change scenarios.

John Perry writes about “US interference in Nicaragua, going back at least as far as William Walker’s assault on its capital and usurpation of the presidency in 1856.” Since the 1979 Sandinista Revolution, the US has sought to take back control of Nicaragua.

USAID and its National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have been funding the opposition. NED financed 54 projects from 2014-17 to lay the groundwork for a 2018 coup attempt, which  also involved USAID. Wiston Lopez writes the US has provided “more than 31 million dollars between the end of 2017 and May 1, 2020.” When the attempted coup in 2018 failed, the US also put in place illegal unilateral coercive measures, known as economic sanctions, supported by both Democrats and Republicans, to try to weaken the country.

The USAID’s RAIN program outlines the usual regime change steps; e.g., remake the police and military as enforcers of the new neoliberal order, move “quickly to dismantle parallel institutions”; i.e., the Sandinista Front, the Sandinista Youth, and other grassroots institutions, and implement “transitional justice measures”; i.e., the prosecution of current government officials and movement leaders.

A new area of attack is a disinformation campaign against Nicaragua’s handling of COVID-19. The opposition misrepresents the government’s response and puts forward false death statistics in an attempt to create chaos. As Wiston López points out, “Since March the US-directed opposition has focused 95% of their actions on attempting to discredit Nicaragua’s prevention, contention, and Covid treatment. However, this only had some success in the international media and is now backfiring since Nicaragua is the country with one of the lowest mortality rates in the continent.”

The US media fails to report on the success of Nicaragua in combating the virus using a community-based health system. Nicaragua has been building its health system for the last 12 years and took rapid action to prepare for the virus. Nicaragua did not impose a lock down because it is a poor country where 80 percent of people are in the informal economy and 40 percent live in rural areas. People must work in order to eat.

Stephen Sefton puts the failure of the United States so far in context. At its root, the US does not understand the people of Nicaragua, their history of fighting US domination, and their ability to overcome right-wing puppets. It also misunderstands what the Sandinista government is doing to better the lives of the people in every sector of the economy. Sefton concludes, “The US government has failed notoriously to meet the needs of its own people during the current pandemic but can still find money to try and destroy a small country whose success makes US social, economic and environmental policy look arbitrary, negligent and criminal.”

Nicolas Maduro kicks out Donald Trump (Photo by Ben Norton

Venezuela: Bipartisan Failed Regime Change

Ever since the 1998 election of Hugo Chavez, successive US administrations have tried and failed to dominate Venezuela. The bipartisan nature of this policy was on display on August 4, when Elliot Abrams, the notorious coup-monger for multiple presidents, testified in Congress. Not a single Senator criticized the attempt to illegally overthrow a democratically-elected government.

Abrams was criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for his inability to remove President Maduro from power. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) was most open about the coup attempt describing it as “a case study in diplomatic malpractice” and claiming Trump botched a winning play in a comedy of errors that strengthened Maduro. After the hearing, Murphy posted a series of Tweets admitting the coup and how it could have been done better.

clip from Murphy’s embarrassing comments was shared widely including by the Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez and Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza. When Vijay Prashad asked Arreaza his reaction, he described the US openly admitting crimes and said the “confessions” of Murphy, Gen. John Kelly, John Bolton, and Elliot Abrams “are priceless evidence for the complaint we raised at the International Criminal Court.”

Elliot Abrams testified that he would continue to work very hard to remove Maduro hopefully by the end of the year.  This echoed a statement by President Trump at SouthCom headquarters in Florida. Sen. Murphy’s comments are consistent with those made by Joe Biden who says he would be more effective at removing Maduro than Trump. Biden described Trump as soft on Maduro because he considered talking to him.

Elliot Abrams announced the US will be starting a media war against Venezuela. The reality is the US has been conducting a media war against Venezuela for more than 20 years.

Venezuela is moving ahead with elections for the National Assembly on December 6, 2020. Unlike 2018, more parties are agreeing to participate including the larger Democratic Action and Justice First parties, as well as a new Communist Party alliance and the hard-right Popular Will party, which was US puppet Juan Guaidó’s former party. There will be 105 political parties contesting for 277 National Assembly seats, 110 more than the current term. Venezuela uses a combination of majority winners and proportional representation. Venezuela also requires half the candidates to be female, and they use electronic voting confirmed by paper ballots with a public citizen audit on Election Day.

Juan Guaidó and others allied with the United States said they would boycott the election. Guaidó cannot risk running because he is likely to be defeated. The US is encouraging a boycott and then will claim the election was not legitimate as it did in the last presidential election. After December, Guaidó will not hold any elected office making his fraudulent claim to the presidency even weaker.

These events come after two major embarrassments for the US in Venezuela. Operation Gideon, an attempt by mercenaries to invade Venezuela was foiled on May 4, leading to their arrests and the arrests of their co-conspirators. The State Department abandoned the mercenaries, and this week two former Green Berets were sentenced to 20 years in prison after admitting their guilt. It was evident that Guaidó was heavily involved in this failure adding to his failed presidential takeover and tainting him beyond repair.

The second defeat was Iran and Venezuela working together to deliver oil and equipment for Venezuelan refineries. Five Iranian oil tankers passed by the largest US armada in the Caribbean since the invasion of Panama. Southcom has been repeatedly sending warships into Venezuelan waters. The solidarity of Iran and Venezuela overcame the naval blockade, undermined US sanctions, and sent a shudder through the US by showing other nations they can defy the United States.

Venezuela has a strong history of struggle against imperialism but the US’ economic war is costing their economy hundreds of billions of dollars and leading to the premature death of Venezuelans. In addition, the United Kingdom is refusing to release more than a billion dollars of Venezuelan gold held in the Bank of England that was to be used for food and medicine. The UK court ruled against Venezuela but they are appealing the decision.

Bolivians protest the postponement of the election

Bolivia: US Dictator Fears Democratic Vote

On November 12 2019, a US-backed coup in Bolivia removed President Evo Morales who had just won re-election. The self-proclaimed President Jeanine Añez, a right-wing Christian, leads a de facto government involved in massacres, persecution and imprisonment of political leaders. It is destroying the social and economic model and achievements of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS Party) led by Morales.

The OAS played a crucial role in the coup with their false analysis of Morales’ re-election. The western media reported the false OAS analysis without criticism. Now, studies by MIT and the Center for Economic and Policy Analysis have shown that Morales clearly won the election and should have remained in power. For months the Washington Post claimed Morales’ re-election was a fraud, but finally, in March, it acknowledged the election was legitimate. Similarly, the New York Times admitted in July that Morales won the election.

Many have called this a lithium coup because the element is plentiful in Bolivia and critical for batteries. This was made evident when Elon Musk, the head of Tesla, said on Twitter “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.” Tesla would benefit from cheap and plentiful lithium for electric car batteries.

The people of Bolivia are struggling to restore democracy. The fraudulent report by the OAS led to a three-week conflict between right-wing Bolivians protesting alleged fraud and pro-government, mostly indigenous, demonstrators defending Morales. The military and police sided with the right-wing coup. The coup government threatened legislators and their families while repressing the people. There were racist attacks against the majority Indigenous population and the Wiphala, the indigenous flag, was burned in the streets. When she took power, Áñez, surrounded by right-wing legislators, held up a large leather bible and declared, “The Bible has returned to the palace.”

The US recognized the coup government, similar to its recognition of the failed coup leader, Juan Guaidó in Venezuela. Añez claimed she’d be transitory until the next election, but at the direction of the US, she is putting in place deep roots and has delayed elections.

The repression has galvanized the MAS party, as well as peasant unions and grassroots organizations who continue their struggle to restore Bolivian democracy. The pressure led to elections being scheduled. Initially, Áñez said she would not run but reversed herself and is now a candidate while she is trying to outlaw the MAS party and its candidates.

Elections were scheduled for May 3, but have been postponed twice allegedly due to the pandemic, but really because this is an ongoing coup.

It is true that the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting Bolivia hard with horror stories about people unable to get medical treatment. Immediately after the coup, the Añez government expelled the Cuban doctors. The coup-government is unable to manage the health system. Corruption is rampant in the purchase of medical equipment. The health ministry has had three ministers during the crisis. The situation is dire with overcrowded hospitals, lack of basic supplies, and corpses in the streets and in their homes with nowhere to be buried.

The coup-government is using the virus to try to delay elections because polls show the MAS candidate, Luis Arce, is far ahead and likely to win in the first round of elections with Áñez coming in a distant third. Áñez has sought to prosecute Arce to keep him from running, so far unsuccessfully.  On July 6, the Attorney General of Bolivia charged Evo Morales with terrorism and financing of terrorism from exile and is seeking preventive detention.

Since mid-July, thousands of Bolivians have been protesting the postponement of elections. They are holding sustained protests throughout the country and blocking many roads. Indigenous and peasant groups, agricultural groups, along with women and unions are joining together calling for elections.  Morales, Arce, and the MAS Party have denounced the delay.

Domination Will Not Reverse Decline

Evo Morales said in a recent interview:

The United States is trying to make Latin America its backyard forever. We know about the hard resistance of the peoples of Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua. The struggle of our peoples is very important. The United States wants to divide us in order to plunder our natural resources. The peoples no longer accept domination and plunder. The United States is in decline, and yet it lashes out.

The US is weakening as a global power and its failures in Latin America are both a symptom of this and are causing further decline. The US’ violations of international law are obvious and are being challenged. But the US is an empire and it will not give up the Monroe Doctrine easily.

As citizens of Empire, we have a particular responsibility to demand the US stop its sanctions and illegal interference in Latin America and elsewhere around the world. In this time of multiple global crises, we must demand the US become a cooperative member of the world community and work peacefully to address the pandemic, recession and climate crisis.

Structures to do this exist to help with this such as the global ceasefire and the Paris Climate agreement. And on the anniversary of the US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, we must add the Nuclear Ban Treaty as another effort the US must join.

Empire’s War under the Radar: Nicaragua

In April of 2018 armed and unarmed proxies of the US in collaboration with Nicaraguan elites launched a war against the Nicaraguan state, its government, its economy and its people. It disrupted transportation and communications throughout the country and sabotaged the economy. This was effected through acts of vandalism, arson, assault, beatings, killings, torture and rape, as well as the construction throughout the country of hundreds of violently enforced roadblocks, and the staging of political demonstrations peppered with violence. Through false and deceptive domestic, international and social media reports and posts, the aggressors in this war managed to enlist a number of Nicaraguans not part of the country’s politically reactionary elite.

The war proper began mid-April and ended mid-July with the removal of the opposition roadblocks. Over 250 people had been killed and many more injured.  More than 250 buildings were burned down or ransacked, with public sector property losses of over $230 million USD. GDP fell nearly 4%, a loss to the economy of nearly 1.5 billion USD, with job losses of up to 300,000. (NB: This review calls the events of 2018 a “war,” though it may also be called a “regime-change operation,” “coup attempt,” and more.)

This 270-page ebook, Live from Nicaragua: Uprising or Coup?, which the editors call a “Reader,” is offered free by the Alliance for Global Justice (AFGJ), the leading anti-imperialist solidarity organization in the US. It includes essays, investigative journalism, interviews and first-hand accounts of the war. It is a thoughtful and multifaceted collection covering a highly significant event in modern revolutionary and anti-imperialist history. Contributors are Alex Anfruns, Paul Baker Hernandez, Max Blumenthal, Michael Boudreau, S. Brian Willson, Jorge Capelán, Enrique Hendrix, Katherine Hoyt, Chuck Kaufman, Dan Kovalik, Barbara Larcom, Coleen Littlejohn, Gabriela Luna, Nils McCune, Nan McCurdy, Nora McCurdy, Camilo Mejía, Barbara Frances Moore, John Perry, Louise Richards, Stephen Sefton, Erika Takeo, Helen Yuill and Kevin Zeese.

Live from Nicaragua exposes and refutes the biased and false accounts of the war presented in the corporate and even alternative media, along with Washington-aligned human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Their narrative imagined a peaceful, progressive protest movement crushed by the brutal national police of a dictatorial regime. Even from the broad Left (however defined) this narrative has been disseminated by North American Congress on Latin America, Democratic Socialists of America, Jacobin Magazine, The Nation, The Guardian, and iconic broadcasts like Democracy Now! (262-263) In the Orwellian world we inhabit it is certain this Reader, despite its importance, scope and quality, will never be acknowledged by the corporate media or most alternative media, much less reviewed or discussed there.

In addition to longer essays and articles, Live from Nicaragua includes news briefs.  From these we learn of the launch of the regime-change war, and that some days before the war began, a fire in the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve was greeted with contrived protests against alleged government inaction. These protests tried but failed to initiate the war and they fizzled with the fire. We learn the details of the proposed social security reforms by which the government sought to avoid the neoliberal plans of the International Monetary Fund and the powerful Nicaraguan business association, the Superior Council for Private Enterprise. These proposed reforms were misrepresented in opposition media and met with pretextual protests with changing rationales. These were the protests that initiated the war.1

These news briefs report the burning of government offices in Masaya, with the fire spreading through much of the neighborhood; the teachers’ denunciation of the violence and the roadblocks; the kidnapping of a high school teacher in Managua who had marched in the protests; shootings in Carazo and Jinotepe; the burning of the pro-Sandinista radio station “Tu Nueva Radio Ya” in Managua; opposition calls for a coup; Mother’s Day violence which killed 16 and wounded 30 police and Sandinista supporters in Managua, Masaya, Chinandega and Estelí; the arrest of Christian Mendoza, “El Viper,” gang leader who carried out murder, car theft and other crimes, and who had been in charge of the initial April violence at the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua; the burnings in Granada of the municipal building and vendor markets, destroying the livelihoods of hundreds of vendors and small business owners.

Elsewhere are vivid eyewitness accounts of the war, such as this from Maribel Baldizón, a self-employed Managuan fruit-seller and General Secretary of the Federation of Workers at Bus Stops and Traffic Lights (226):

[W]e couldn’t be in our streets; we couldn’t walk freely because we were worrying about those who might rape, kill or steal…I sell here in the sector of the [University of Central America]…they set my stand on fire…they shot mortars where I sell, and they burned down [Tu Nueva Radio Ya, pro-Sandinista radio station] across the street…

She rejected the media’s false narrative, saying of the opposition:

What they did was against the people, it was not a struggle in which the people rose up, no, it was a struggle against the poor.

In “Correcting the Record: What is Really Happening in Nicaragua” (115, 179), Kevin Zeese and Nils McCune analyze the regime-change operation, the violence committed by opposition forces, and opposition claims of government use of excessive force. They identify the class character of the conflict, aptly calling it “an upside-down class war.”

In “How Nicaragua Defeated a Right-wing US-backed Coup” (57), Max Blumenthal interviews Nils McCune. This especially compelling interview gives an overview of the war from its inception. Also discussed is the role of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)-funded Felix Maradiaga and his criminal operatives in organizing and committing the violence, as well as the role of nominally Left parties of the opposition: Movement for Sandinista Renovation, and Movement for the Rescue of Sandinismo (both parties known by the acronym MRS). McCune notes that these parties lack popular support and give a perpetually weak showing in elections, always in single digits and nearly always at the low end. “They’re very strong outside the country,” McCune notes, but “very weak within the country. There’s not one MRS member in Tipitapa [McCune’s town] because it’s a very working-class city.”

Previously AFGJ and the British organization, Nicaraguan Solidarity Campaign Action Group (NSCAG), collaborated on Dismissing the Truth, a detailed refutation of two Amnesty International reports on the violence in Nicaragua. The 55-page analysis is excerpted in the Reader (195) and available free at afgj.org. Amnesty International has been a primary purveyor and ostensibly authoritative source of the false narrative embraced by the media, and this debunking by AFGJ and NSCAG makes plain AI’s subservience to the anti-government narrative promoted by the US and Nicaraguan opposition press.

In “The 15 Days of Protests without Deaths” (83), Enrique Hendrix references his own longer study, “Monopolizing Death,” which examined every death occurring during period of the war, from April 19 through September 23, 2018. Hendrix’s work refutes the myth of a popular peaceful opposition protest movement met with brutal police repression.

In “How Washington and Soft Power NGOs Manipulated Nicaragua’s Death Toll to Drive Regime Change and Sanctions,” (191), Max Blumenthal discusses the falsification of the death toll by partisan NGOs in the reporting of the regime-change war and the use of so-called human rights organizations in propagating false and misleading accounts. These organizations include the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights, the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights, relied upon by the US Congress, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and Human Rights Watch (HRW). Blumenthal also reports the close and unconcealed ties between leading young activists of the Nicaraguan regime-change efforts and the right wing of the US Congress.

With precision and wit, like a defence lawyer delivering a summation to a jury, Chuck Kaufman in “The Case Against Ortega” (138) eviscerates the charge that Ortega is a dictator, as well as the claims of those who assert that they stand to the left of the Sandinistas. Explaining his motivation (and startling this reviewer), Kaufman opens his piece with a collective self-reproach to the US solidarity Left:

[S]ince the [Sandinistas]’ return to power with the 2006 election of Daniel Ortega as president, we haven’t really countered the disinformation campaign against Daniel, his wife, and his government. We mistakenly assumed that the demonstrably improving standard of living, the reduction in poverty, infant and maternal mortality, the lack of Nicaraguans coming north to the US border, the return of economic and political rights stripped from the people during seventeen years of neoliberal US vassal governments [1990 to 2006], would outshine the lies.

John Perry studies the role of “social media, Nicaragua’s corporate media and the international press,” in “Nicaragua’s Crisis: The Struggle for Balanced Media Coverage” (208):

Nominally the protests that began on April 18 were in opposition to a series of quite modest reforms to the social security system. A vigorous disinformation campaign fooled large numbers of students and others into joining the protests by misrepresenting the details of the government’s proposals. But the students leading these protests were soon joined by those with a much wider agenda of attempting to bring down the Ortega government. Rather than arguing about changes in pension arrangements, social media were quickly promoting regime change.

This campaign “included many more fake videos and false reports. Facebook posts reported that public hospitals were refusing to treat injured protestors. Fake videos appeared of ‘injured’ students being treated in universities and at the Catholic Cathedral of Managua.” Social media disseminated “instructions to track down and kill government sympathizers or officials.” On July 12, a caravan of motor vehicles ”attacked both the police station and the town hall.” Four police and a teacher were killed. “Around 200 armed ‘protestors’ kidnapped the remaining police, took them away, beat them up and threatened to kill them.”

Perry remarks the existence of a “consensus narrative” on Nicaragua. International media, including the New York Times, Guardian, New Yorker, BBC, and Huffington Post adhere to the narrative, often comparing Ortega’s government to famous dictatorships of history. And AI, HRW and IACHR repeat the false claims and invented body counts of local Nicaraguan ‘human rights’ organizations that are “aligned with the opposition, are notoriously biased and have often received US funding.”

Chuck Kaufman’s “US Regime-Change Funding Mechanisms,” briefly outlines the alphabet-agencies and fronts responsible for the regime-change operations of 2018. (171) These include the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the AFL-CIO, and others, along with Nicaraguan-based NGOs, some not only funded but created by US regime change organizations. Max Blumenthal’s essay, “US Government Meddling Machine Boasts of ‘Laying the Groundwork for Insurrection’ in Nicaragua” (174) details these US operations and their evolution from covert to overt operations in US foreign policy. It is estimated that the US may have spent hundreds of millions on the efforts that culminated in the regime-change war of 2018 (Willson and McCune, 13).

In pieces by Gabriela Luna (5), Chuck Kaufman (10, 171), Brian Willson and Nils McCune (13), and Dan Kovalik (186, 256), the long arc of the Sandinista Revolution and its accomplishments emerge, from the triumph in ’79, the reversal in 1990, and the return to power in 2007. During the first Sandinista period:

The death penalty was abolished. Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced by a third. Polio was eradicated. (Dan Kovalik)

Then in 1990 came the electoral defeat of the Sandinista Revolution, but as Noam Chomsky noted at the time, “the Nicaraguan people were voting ‘with a gun to their heads,’” understanding that if they did not vote out the Sandinistas the US would continue the dirty war. Counter-revolutionary government followed, during which the gains of the Revolution were reversed: in public health care, education, land redistribution, and much more. (Willson and McCune)

With the return of the Sandinistas in 2007, the Revolution began its second phase, with enormous and rapid progress in poverty alleviation, food sovereignty, gender equality and much more. (Kovalik) For example, the “absolute number of undernourished people in the country has been reduced by half, access to free education and health care has been guaranteed to rural communities, maternal mortality has been reduced by 60% and infant mortality by 52%, while access to electricity has been increased from 54% to 96% of the rural population.” (Gabriela Luna)

One of the accomplishments least known in North America are Nicaragua’s achievements in gender equity (Kovalik, 258-259): “[I]n 2018 Nicaragua was ranked number 5 in the world for gender equality by the World Economic Forum (WEF).” Only Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland were ranked higher. A 50-50 law mandates gender equality in party candidate lists for elections. All this, Kovalik remarks, “is at great variance with the derisive claims of many in the US left and the human rights community that Nicaragua is being led by a sexist ‘caudillo’ in the person of Daniel Ortega, but few will acknowledge this glaring contradiction.”

The Reader includes essays on Nicaragua that cover much more than the events of 2018. Nils McCune writes of the unique Nicaraguan “popular economy” (221), which he aptly calls “Nicaragua’s Anti-Shock Therapy,” referring to Naomi Klein’s work on neoliberal opportunism, The Shock Doctrine.

While the formal private sector — represented politically through the Supreme Counsel of Private Companies — employs about 15% of Nicaragua workers the informal, popular sector employs upwards of 60%…The capitalist creates employment in order to maximize accumulation; the self-employed worker, family business or cooperative uses accumulation as a tool in order to provide employment.

And it is the popular economy that provides much of Nicaragua’s food, clothing and housing.

In “A Creative, Enterprising and Victorious Economy to Defeat the Coup” (232), Jorge Capelán has written an expert, statistic-rich, but extremely readable analysis of the Nicaraguan economy as a whole, its development over the last forty years throughout the first and second periods of Sandinismo, as well as during the interim neoliberal period of 1990 through 2006. Capelán explains why such an economy was able to maintain stability and provide for the needs of the people both during and after the war. This success owes much to strategic government policy and regional alliances with Venezuela and Cuba  (e.g., Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America: Peoples’ Trade Treaty [ALBA] and PetroCaribe).

This very economic success, as Kevin Zeese and Nils McCune explain (“Correcting the Record: What is Really Happening in Nicaragua,” referenced above), answers the question of why the modern Nicaraguan state became the target of empire: because the country’s popular social, economic and political achievements, and its open rejection of imperialism, present the classic “threat of a good example” that might inspire other countries of the global south to break free of the imperialist choke-hold. It is also because of Nicaragua’s alliances with Cuba, Venezuela and the Palestinian struggle, its support for Puerto Rican independence, its membership in ALBA, and its alliances with China for a canal project and with Russia for security cooperation. (122)

Taking opposition critics of the government at their word, Kathy Hoyt (143) writes that for some, including those trained by NGOs funded by the US and the EU, “material improvements are not enough for them or they are not particularly interested in them.” Instead, they have particular complaints about the political system, the nature of Nicaragua’s political parties, elections, the person of Daniel Ortega, etc. But for supporters of the government, both in Nicaragua and abroad, the remarkable improvement in the lives of the poor of Nicaragua matter, and as Hoyt notes, quoting Orlando Nuñez Soto speaking of Cuba, “we are seduced by the fact that the children eat and go to school.”

In “The Catholic Church Hierarchy and Its Role in the Current Political Crisis in Nicaragua” (243), Colleen Littlejohn writes of ideological or theological differences within the Catholic Church, and the Church hierarchy’s participation in the war, both as instigator and organizer of the violence, and as a duplicitous negotiator and mediator. While the hierarchy formed part of the opposition, other Church elements resisted the betrayal of revolutionary Liberation Theology, which still has deep roots in Nicaragua’s Catholic laity and some clergy.

In “US Imperialism and Nicaragua: ‘They would not let our flower blossom’,” (13) Brian Willson and Nils McCune have written a gripping introduction to the century-and-a-half history of the US attempt to control Nicaraguan “resources, infrastructure and a potential interoceanic canal route.” One learns that the US has used every technique in its campaign against Nicaraguan sovereignty: direct and mercenary war, military occupation, assassination of political leaders, financing of opposition political and media organs, use of international institutions to exert pressure, coup attempts, sanctions on trade and credit, and manipulation of US credit rating corporations to misrepresent Nicaragua’s financial stability. Even the world’s first use of planes to drop bombs was done by the US, on Nicaragua.

In the 1930s General Augusto César Sandino led a guerilla war against US occupation. He was assassinated in 1934 by Anastasio Somoza García, who also massacred Sandino’s troops. Backed by the US, the Somoza family then ruled the country from ’34 to ’79. Although the Sandinista Revolution was victorious in 1979, the US seamlessly continued the counter-revolutionary efforts that preceded the revolution, beginning the Contra War. President Jimmy Carter, after briefly wavering just before the Sandinista triumph, initiated the effort that was next taken up with such brutality and sadism by the Reagan administration. Ancillary techniques of this war of murder, torture and rape of civilians, and the destruction of hospitals, clinics and schools, included US funding, via the CIA and the NED, of a reactionary pro-Contra press, economic and election sabotage, radio propaganda broadcast from neighboring Honduras and Costa Rica, and manipulation and recruitment of Nicaragua’s indigenous Miskito population on the Atlantic Coast. The Iran-Contra Affair, a US national scandal, helped the administration fund the Contra without telling the public or Congress. This is the period when the CIA’s covert funding of opposition parties for regime-change efforts in many places in the world began to be done overtly by the NED, which loomed large in the 2018 war.

But victories are rarely final. With the recent passage of the NICA Act (unanimous in both Congress and Senate), the US has announced that its war on Nicaragua is far from over. This unlawful siege-by-sanctions and the international campaign of demonization against the country continues, immiserating the lives of the poor and vulnerable in particular, just like the illegal, unilateral sanctions the US wields against dozens of countries, including Venezuela, Cuba and Syria. Live from Nicaragua should arm the solidarity Left in its resistance to the cruel and reactionary methods and aims of the empire.

  1. “The Events of 2018 and Their Context,” Nan McCurdy and Stephen Sefton, 76ff.