Nicaragua: Do What We Want or Else…

Anyone stepping back from the recent hyped-up drama engineered by the minority right wing parties in Nicaragua and their overseas allies will see all the tell-tale signs of yet another instance of US and allied country intervention in the region designed to overthrow a non-compliant government. The national march led by the centre-right MRS party in Managua on June 27th, heavily funded by grants from the US government and related organizations, attracted between 6,000 (police estimates) and 15,000 (march organizers’ figure) participants. Opposition daily La Prensa reported that the march was “against hunger, the high cost of living, the ‘institutional dictatorship’ and in defence of democracy”.

The march followed last week’s decision by the Supreme Electoral Council to cancel the legal status of two opposition parties, the centre-right Movimiento Renovador Sandinista (MRS) and the Conservative Party. The electoral body, a power independent of the executive, the judiciary and the legislature under Nicaragua’s political constitution,judged that both those parties had failed to comply with the relevant electoral legislation. The MRS had been given almost 15 months to comply with its legal obligations, but did not do so.

Article 173 of Nicaragua’s political constitution authorises the Supreme Electoral Council to cancel or suspend the legal status of political parties that fail to comply with relevant electoral law. The electoral authority found that, with duly constituted departmental authorities in only 10 of the country’s 16 departments and two autonomous regions, the MRS left itself in non-compliance with Nicaragua’s electoral law and the party’s own statutes.

Nicaraguan opposition — dependent on foreign support

The opposition and its supporters accused the electoral body of acting under orders of the leaders of the two main political parties in Nicaragua, the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional and the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista. Among the opposition’s supporters are the representatives of foreign development cooperation programmes in Nicaragua, the US government and foreign intellectuals. The day after the electoral tribunal’s decision was made, the foreign development cooperation programme representatives published a pronouncement in the country’s two main daily newspapers questioning the electoral authority’s ruling.

The pronouncement alleged that the ruling was open to question because it was based on an electoral law they thought left too much to the discretion of the CSE magistrates. The statement argued that this called into question the development of democratic governance in Nicaragua. This, it noted, suggested lack of compliance by the Nicaraguan government with the terms of relevant development cooperation agreements.

The pronouncement ended with an avowal that the development cooperation community would monitor developments closely. The blatantly presumptuous neocolonial sub-text could hardly be clearer: “do what we want, or else…” The list of countries supporting that pronouncement consists almost entirely of US and allied countries and also multilateral bodies, like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, controlled by the US and its allies.

The electoral tribunal’s decision and the donor countries’ pronouncement came after a high-profile 11-day hunger strike by the opposition leader Dora María Tellez. The opposition won international publicity for Tellez’ protest when a group of leading international intellectuals including Eduardo Galeano, Noam Chomsky and Mario Benedetti published a letter supporting her call for a national dialogue. They may or may not have been aware that Dora Maria Tellez’s idea of dialogue is to demand, in the most insulting possible terms, that Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s President, resign.

NGOs — part of opposition electoral maneuvres

This latest episode in the Nicaraguan opposition’s efforts to destabilise the FSLN coalition government re-runs similar US and allied-country funded conspiracies to overthrow democratically elected governments leading to the coups d’état in Venezuela in 2002 and Haiti in 2004. NGOs and the managerial class that lives by them are invariably important players in such coups. They mushroomed in Nicaragua after the Sandinista revolutionary government lost the watershed 1990 presidential election. Almost all are heavily dependent on funding from US and allied country governmental and non-governmental institutions and agencies.

With those resources Nicaraguan NGOs are able to play a political role in Nicaragua because they constitute in large part the electoral base for the centre-right MRS party, which won barely 7% of the vote in the 2006 presidential election. Because their political support is located overwhelmingly in Managua and other urban centres on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, the MRS has difficulty complying with the electoral law. They voted for that law when the measure was passed in 1995 but have subsequently found it hard to consolidate the national structures that electoral law requires.

Faced with that difficulty and its very limited electoral support, the MRS, by default or by design, set itself up for elimination as a legal political party. Its leaders and the party’s right wing allies, principally Eduardo Montealegre, generally regarded as the leader of Nicaragua’s traditional oligarchy, seem to have carefully planned events around that predictable outcome. They have used their resource-rich NGO base to mobilise high profile protest. It chimes well with the motif of dictatorship and democratic crisis the US and allied country interventionist scenario demands.

In fact the electoral authority’s ruling may help the MRS party achieve two things. It makes it much easier for them to justify electoral alliances with the right because they can claim they have to do so in order to be able to participate in elections. It also means they can focus their resources on the electoral areas in Managua and the urban centres of Nicaragua’s Pacific coast where they have most support. This will help Nicaragua’ s right wing and centre-right consolidate their electoral campaign more effectively.

Democracy — look who’s talking

While the local European representatives talk human rights to Nicaragua, their European Union governments are accomplices both to the genocidal collective punishment applied by Israel to Palestinians in the Gaza strip and to systematic racist abuses and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank. Wherever one looks in the world, from Equatorial Guinea to Morocco to Uzbekistan, one will find that the same European countries currently threatening Nicaragua, support the most cruel and vicious tyrannies. Canada did the same in Haiti during that country’s long agony under the illegitimate Latortue regime.

These are the people warning Nicaragua’s FSLN-led coalition government to respect the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Inter-American Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States and the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Together with that contemptible hypocrisy, if one turns to the practice of democracy and transparency in Europe itself, the picture looks much worse than it does in Nicaragua.

European countries colluded in CIA torture flights and then obstructed investigation by the European Parliament into that appalling betrayal of public trust. One should remember episodes like the comprehensive ELF corruption scandal and the Taiwan frigates affair in France, the British Aerospace-Saudi Arabia scandal, the mass resignation of the European Commission in 1999, the corruption scandal around Helmut Kohl in Germany. In Italy, one has to recall the Parmalat scandal and the systematic corruption associated with Bettino Craxi’s regime, never mind Silvio Berlusconi.

The endemic corruption in Ireland embodied by the governments of Charles Haughey has been rife too in other small European countries like Greece or Portugal. Many scandals like those mentioned were found out. But the culture of corruption recurs time and agai, surviving along with all the scandals that never see the light of day. And yet, these are the countries trying to wag their finger convincingly at Nicaragua about good governance.

As for the EU’s bogus espousal of democracy, all the EU countries except Ireland have denied their peoples a say on the corporate friendly Lisbon Treaty because these countries’ ruling elites know their peoples would very likely reject the treaty if they had the chance. That is what happened in Ireland, the only country whose constitution forced the ruling elite to put the Lisbon Treaty to a democratic vote. The European Union’s executive, the European Commission, is appointed, not elected. So it is absolutely clear that the development cooperation representatives of these countries in Nicaragua operate by longstanding neocolonial double standards.

Nicaraguan government stresses sovereignty

By contrast, the Nicaraguan government’s response has been fine, dignified and clear. The Vice-Minister of the office of External Cooperation said of the donor representatives: “they have not accepted that there are substantial changes, a fundamental transformation in the way we relate to each other, and here there are two keywords: sovereignty and dignity… if they argue there is to be no cooperation because we don’t do a particular thing, we have no other option but to say ‘well, if you want to go off with it, then off you go,’ that is dignity’s final argument, that is the final point.”Jaentschke ratifica principos de política exterior sandinista

Nicaragua’s FSLN-led coalition government is ultimately in a stronger position to resist foreign intervention than was, for example, Haiti’s President Jean Bertrand Aristide. But the strength of the Nicaraguan government’s position depends overwhelmingly on support from Venezuela. It is hard to see how Nicaragua could defend itself against consistent US and allied country blackmail and incessant destabilisation were it not a bona fide member of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, the ALBA bloc of countries comprised currently of Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Neither the US government nor its European allies look kindly on the socialist inspired, solidarity based, trade and development cooperation model being developed by the ALBA countries. They support the Nicaraguan opposition’s destabilisation campaign just as they support similar opposition campaigns in Venezuela and Bolivia. All these campaigns are part of US and allied government efforts to roll back attempts by Latin American countries to move towards progressive sovereign integration outside the capitalist scheme of corporate globalization.

As Orlando Nuñez, the director of Nicaragua’s landmark Zero Hunger program has said, the destabilization campaign in Nicaragua is the latest stage of an ongoing low-intensity war to re-establish the neocolonial debt-plus-aid model imposed for so long in Nicaragua and the rest of Latin America by the United States and its allies. They want to prevent Nicaragua’s progressive government implementing its programme successfully so as to ensure it loses electoral support. The next decisive battleground will be the municipal elections in November this year.

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Gioconda Belli said on July 3rd, 2008 at 5:19pm #

    Liar, liar, pants on fire. So many lies are hard to find in one place. The MRS did not get a cent from the US for this march.
    Toni Solo’s articles on Nicaragua are so lacking in objectivity that one has to wonder who this person is. His web page certainly seems like nothing but propaganda for the Ortega government. Cabinet members who routinely refuse to talk to the press in the country, grant him long interviews. Toni Solo describes him or herself as “a non-Nicaraguan activist who has lived in many places in Nicaragua during the last 14 years”. Not divulging his nationality indeed seems like a curious choice.

    Recently, Rosario Murillo, Ortega’s wife who acts as a de facto co-president, distributed an article by Solo, that accused people of impeccable left wing credentials such as Noam Chomsky, Tom Hayden, Eduardo Galeano, Mario Benedetti, Ariel Dorfman, among others as “peons of Negroponte”, because they expressed their support for revolutionary hero, Dora Maria Tellez who was on a 12 day hunger strike to protest the illegal proceedings that were used by the Nicaraguan Electoral Council to outlaw the MRS, the party that has among its members some of the most highly regarded figures of the Sandinista Revolution. The party has become a thorn in Ortega´s back because it has questioned his Machiavellian manipulations, and his alliance with right wing and corrupt former Nicaraguan president, Arnoldo Aleman.
    Murillo used the government’s letterhead and personally signed a letter that went along with Solo’s piece. Ortega’s wife is not only the government’s spokesperson, head of communications, head of the so called “People’s Power Councils”, head of the cabinet for social affairs among other responsibilities, but she is also the architect of slander campaigns aired by the official media, that seeks to discredit anybody who dares disagree with her and her husband’s messianic dictates for Nicaragua. Nowadays, anybody who disagrees with Ortega and Murillo’s pretense that their government is the reincarnation of the Sandinista Revolution, becomes by default a neo-liberal who is either paid by or serving the United States. Ortega and his wife are particularly interested in discrediting the criticism from the Nicaraguan left. According to them, the truth is one and it is theirs. They define what is or not revolutionary, who is or not an enemy, neo-liberal, capitalist. Their inflamed rhetoric is used to sustain an illusion that no longer agrees with the reality of the current FSLN. They have marginalized and satanized revolutionary icons such as Tellez and most recently singer, song writer, Carlos Mejia Godoy, whose music they continue to use in spite of his will, arguing that it now “belongs to the people”. They , of course, also define who “the people” is. Those who do not agree with their peculiar ways, are just non-entities who deserve to be labeled traitors, deserters, right wing supporters or facilitators of the imperial will of the US.
    The argument used to outlaw the MRS, after it had submitted all the requisites to participate in the municipal elections and its list of candidates had been published by the Electoral Council in the newspaper, couldn’t be more absurd. According to these magistrates elected by Ortega and its ally, the former Somocista Liberal Party, the MRS had not complied with one of its own statutory regulations when restructuring functions within the party. Besides a blatant lie, it was a total smoke screen to hide the fact that Ortega’s increasing unpopularity would have turn many Sandinistas into MRS supporters, especially in Managua.
    It was the outrageous nature of the argument that led the donor community to issue a strong statement warning about the consequences of using such minutiae to limit legitimate parties from exercising their political rights.
    The pact Ortega has brokered with the right-wing Partido Liberal, has allowed his government to manipulate the Constitution and the judicial system in such a way that his government is beginning to look very much like an institutional dictatorship. Citizens have no recourse whatsoever. Political participation is limited to his allies and those willing to tow his party’s line. The country is in disarray faced with an economical and social crisis that Ortega’s government has no answer for and seems not to have a clue how to handle.
    Yet, what is nothing but a caricature and phony imitation of the true Sandinista Revolution, is being presented by Toni Solo in many alternative and left wing publications as a rebirth of revolutionary Nicaragua.
    Who is this mysterious and prolific Toni Solo anyway? Seems like a solitary person indeed. Where is he from? Why should he be a credible source? It would be interesting to find out.

  2. mich said on July 3rd, 2008 at 6:38pm #

    You can find his posts in The Real Nicaragua web.
    under psudo El Doc

  3. darrel said on July 3rd, 2008 at 8:08pm #

    have you ever been to nicaragua?

  4. Warren said on July 4th, 2008 at 1:02pm #

    I went to the March on June 27th. I am half Nicaraguan and have lived there for ten years and can definitely say that there is huge opposition to the Sandinistas and their support is fading away fast. I read what the Sandinistas had to say about the march on the canal 4 website which is the website for a tv channel controlled by them. Although biased I like to see what they say and I can tell you that this article is almost identical to what the Sandinistas wrote on their website. They are afraid of the opposition…they want to trick people in to thinking there is no opposition and that the few that oppose them need help from the United Sates…those are all lies…Come to Managua and take a look at the billboards with Ortega’s picture on them…they have all been vandalized…Nicaragua’s economy is going down hill…and any chance for change is almost out of the question since the Sandinistas have a hold on the electoral council….not allowing those parties to participate in the elections is a way to get rid of opposition…I hope you post my comment and you don´t ignore my disaproval of this piece…like I believe the Sandinistas are ignoring the majority of Nicaraguans.

  5. toni solo said on July 5th, 2008 at 6:33am #

    the person toni shares a skin with is an Irish citizen who has worked on community projects in Nicaragua and Honduras for about 17 years all told since 1986 and has lived in Nicaragua since 1994

    my commitment is to promote education and healthcare in rural communities and urban barrios in various places in northern Nicaragua

    my partner knew most of the MRS leadership personally at the time of the insurrection against Anastasio Somoza during which time she received an award for exceptional valour from the FSLN

    I first started writing about the MRS in Nicaragua after I discovered that the MRS were systematically deceiving people outside Nicaragua with deliberately misleading propaganda that distorts the facts and is part of the overall destabilization campaign run by the United States to attack progressive political movements in Latin America and more especillay the member countries of the Alternativa Bolivariana of the Americas – something the MRS continue to do

    the comments on my article were not surprising since the MRS manage an Israeli-lobby-style propaganda strategy – behind-the-scenes whispering campaigns and nasty personal attacks –  seeking to discredit and silence critics they decide to target

    they also have very influential friends in North American and international progressive circles, as the recent well-publicised letter from Eduardo Galeano, Noam  Chomsky and Mario Benedetti indicates

    the protest march referred to in the article was organized in close
    coordination with the Movimiento pro Nicaragua run by MRS supporter Carlos Tunnerman Bernheim

    the MpN web site – – listed as its donors on its site (or it did  last week) all the usual US intervention outfits, National Endowment for Democracy, International Republican Institute, National Democratic Institute, USAID, Open Society Institute

    as other writers have noted, the t-shirts, baseball-caps, banners and buses bringing participants from other parts of Nicaragua, the stage, the public address system all constitute a very significant cost, running into several tens of thousands of dollars

    apart from the MpN, virtually all the NGOs participating in MRS aligned anti-government activities like the June 27th march, receive funding either from the US government, via USAID for example, or from US government related organizations, as do Hagamos Democracia and Etica y Transparencia for example, it is reasonable to state that the march was heavily funded by the
    US government and related organizations – anyone arguing otherwise can only be taken seriously if they explain how this large public event, (march organizers estimated 15,000 people from all over the country) was paid for

    as anyone can see from her reply, Belli asserts things without backing them up and completely fails to argue against the points I make in my article – which are themselves supported by a series of articles in both English and Spanish discussing Nicaraguan politics using arguments backed up with facts and reports from Nicaraguan news media

    the MRS has repeatedly struck deals with what Belli knows very well are among the most reactionary elements of the Nicaraguan right wing, for example Eduardo Montealegre and his political associates, they have heavily  criticised Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez both in the Nicaraguan National Assembly and in print – Sergio Ramirez regularly publishes articles in Latin American and Spanish media peddling anti-Chavez insults

    the MRS have met and negotiated repeatedly with the most reactionary representatives of US imperialism, most notably Jeanne Kirkpatrick prior to her death, as well as maintaining frequent friendly exchanges with the US ambassador Paul Trivelli

    it is beyond absurd to pretend that the MRS is not a centre right party, with leading representatives like Sergio Ramirez, Carlos Tunnerman Bernheim and Edmundo Jarquin who all support policies associated with corporate globalization. Even Monica Baltodano (the only MRS leader who could legitimately be described as left wing, whose opportunism and hypocrisy I
    have noted in various articles in Spanish) has had to acknowledge that the MRS, her party, supports neoliberal economic policies  she said at a conference last year in Rio de Janeiro “En realidad, en el conjunto de esta alianza se hace un marcado énfasis en los cambios políticos institucionales más que en la modificación del modelo…….. En definitiva en las pasadas elecciones la izquierda electoralmente hablando  de nuevo apareció representada por Daniel Ortega.”

    which says outright what neutral commentators like, for example, some of the writers at Radio La Primerisima have been saying for some time

    on the cancellation of the MRS legal status as a political party, Belli relies entirely on her false opinion that the Supreme Electoral Council deliberately set out to target and victimise the MRS – but the version of the CSE has been stated on several occasions by its President, Roberto Rivas  and his deputy Emett Lang – the MRS had over a year to get their departmental and municipal
    officials duly inscribed and just didn’t do it

    Belli contradicts this, but it is a matter of fact and the CSE have made available for public scrutiny the documentation on which they based their decision – so far no one has produced a shred of evidence – absolutely none – to contradict the facts of the CSE’s version – even the foreign development cooperation donors did not say in their much publicised pronouncement on the matter that the decision was not in accordance with Nicaragua’s electoral law – they said they questioned it because the electoral law left a margin of discretion to CSE officials that they regarded as undesirable

    despite these facts, Belli and her associates vociferously insult anyone who disagrees with them and simultaneously call Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo intolerant and repressive

    they try to depict as a dictatorship the domination of Nicaraguan politics by two democratically elected parties who received 65% of the vote in the 2006 elections while the MRS and its allies together got just over 7%

    the MRS are participating in a US government promoted destabilization campaign against a progressive Nicaraguan government respected and supported by the governments of Cuba and Venezuela which enjoys wide support among both the
    Nicaraguan population and important economic sectors, for steady improvements in health care, education, infrastructure, agricultural policy and investment seen in Nicaragua over the last two years

  6. toni solo said on July 5th, 2008 at 10:09am #

    warren’s comment is his opinion – spoiled billboards mean only that opposition activists have been busy

    if you talk to people in the barrios and communities even Liberal Party supporters acknowledge the improvements in health and education, the efforts the government has made to hold down transport costs, the subsidised food for people on low incomes, the cheap credit for agricultural producers and small businesses, the recovery of the country’s electrical system so now there are no longer 12 hour power cuts week in week out like there were under the previous government, the etensive infrastructure improvements out in the departments, the extremely successful export strategy combined with inward investment in light industrial and agricultural production

    even the IMF is happy that the government’s economic programme is sound

    my article does not just repeat what the FSLN news channel reported as Warren suggests, but people outside Nicaragua cannot know that, which is why Warren refers to such sources -people outside Nicaragua cannot check them

    the nitty gritty is whether the FSLN do well in November’s municipal elections in which MRS ally Eduardo Montealegre and right wing anti-Sandinista are running as candidates for mayor and vice-mayor of Managua respectively

    I was one of the few people prior to the 2006 election who correctly predicted that Daniel Ortega would win – currently I think the FSLN will hold at least 75 of the 83 municipalities they hold at the moment and may possibly win over 90 – that’s apart from the municipalities their Convergencia allies might win

    the fact that their support is holding up so well is a damning indictment of the opposition parties who have a majority in the national assembly and should be making significant gains at this stage of the government’s programme whose benefits are only just beginning to make real headway against rampant inflation caused by de facto devaluation of the US dollar

    people like warren argued that Daniel Ortega would not get elected in 2006 – they were wrong then and they are wrong now

  7. Deran said on July 5th, 2008 at 11:30pm #

    What a flack piece for that corrupt, wannabe gangster, Ortega! Did he write this? Or dictate it over the phone?

    Dora Tellez is the one who speaks honestly, and to describe the SRM as center-right is a vulgar absurdity.

    I knew Ortega was a corrupt hack when he and his wife of the time went to NYC in the early 80s for a luxury shopping trip. Ortega has become an embarrassment to, and denigration of, the Sandinista revolution.

    Ortega and PLC are very much like the Democrats and republicans in the US. The only way they can stay in power is by controling the media and restricting access to the ballot by oposition parties. Ortega should give the junta in Burma a call, I’m sure he can pick up tips on being an autocrat!

  8. Karla said on July 6th, 2008 at 12:49am #

    The ¨12 hour power cuts week in week out like there were under the previous government¨ is a lie. Those power cuts went on last year and lasted all the way through to late November-early December. Those occured under our current government, NOT under Bolanos. We never had such consecutive long power outages during Enrique Bolanos´presidency. Don´t get me wrong, I was never a huge fan of him either, but that´s besides the point. And about the issue on transportation, Nicaragua has among the most expensive gas prices in all of Central America. Yeah Ortega has taken drastic measures to keep bus and taxi drivers content.. for now, but at our expense. As they form long lines at gas stations after 9pm in order to get their reduced-priced fuel, we are among the myriad amount of regular citizens who don´t reap those benefits. It has created a type of black market when it comes time to filling up your tank of gas. It all depends on your bargaining skills.
    I would like to know specifically what area those barrios and communities are in because I highly doubt they share similar opinions with the rest of the country´s barrios and poorer communities.

  9. Cristian said on September 5th, 2008 at 1:19pm #

    Ortega mentions that some of his critics are CIA agents and I have to say he has done more to subdue and divide the left (la izquierda) in Nicaragua than any CIA operation ever did.

  10. Carlos F. said on July 19th, 2009 at 12:08pm #

    My union has an agreement – through a Canadian NGO – to receive funds from the Canadian International Development Agency [CIDA] to support projects in Nicaragua. I have never supported this type of arrangements using “professional international solidarity peddlers” because it distorts the people-to-people relationship. Can anyone think that a powerful US satellite, Canada, would disperse funds to agencies for the good of the people without asking for anything in return?.
    At the very least the donour country will use the NGO to obtain information, pressure the government to obtain a more compliant and friendly climate for corporations and to meddle in its internal affairs.
    I don’t like NGO’s, I don’t trust NGO’s: popular organizations would be better off without them. I support UNPAID international solidarity and people to people programs NO MONEY FROM GOVERNMENT, NO PROFESSIONAL SOLIDARITY PEDDLERS who distort the struggle and serve as neo-colonial instruments, knowingly or unknowingly.
    Solo el pueblo salva al pueblo not the NGO’s or the money from the North.