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The Story of a Coup

La Progressive

October 23, 2018

By Barbara Moore

nicaraguan coup

 

Bismark Martinez was missing for more than sixty days before a video turned up showing a handful of men standing around as he sat on the ground hardly able to move. Martinez was a government worker and his grandson is often on the podium of pro-government convocations along with the family members of other victims demanding justice. The video documenting his gruesome torture was obtained through accessing the phones of suspects detained from the Jinotepe area. The tranque (road block or barrier) in Jinotepe was a site of brutal opposition violence. This young man speaks about the killing of both his father and younger brother.

As the dust begins to settle many of the criminals are being charged and more evidence comes to light. One couple who had assumed a decisive role in the criminal activities based in the Masaya neighborhood of Monimbo are alleged to have received financing from Miami. While the international media continues to back the regime-change narrative some justice is taking place and it is taking place in an orderly manner with an awareness that, in the eyes of the world, it is the government of Nicaragua which remains on trial.

Meanwhile there is evidence which cannot even be revealed because it could put others in danger. Specific, eye-witness accounts of sniper use by the opposition have been shared with me and according to the same source even the government has withheld some information for the sake of relations with neighboring countries. That transnational gang members were involved in the attempt to destabilize the country was confirmed in June, but the extent to which that was the case is not yet known.

More recently, a pitched battle was fought on social media which originated with an article written by Max Blumenthal and a counter-attack which appeared on Buzz Feed regarding a self-proclaimed free-lance journalist named Carl David Goette-Luciak. The media opera unfolded with allegations against Blumenthal of doxing and even of placing the life of Goette-Luciak in danger. The International Committee to Protect Journalists joined the fray, yet no one bothered to ask why Carl David was posing with armed-masked gunman and as far as I know no one attempted to defend the articles written by Goette-Luciak through which he legitimized an opposition which was brutal and treacherous.

As a journalist, Carl David Goette-Luciak could have written about the opposition supporters who wandered away from the ‘March of Flowers’ protest and who killed one squatter and took another hostage. I can’t speak as to who was present when the first squatter was killed, but as they later walked with their hostage Carl David Goette-Luciak was with them. He was present as they began beating him. Goette-Luciak never mentioned the incident.

Miraculously, Blumenthal was able to fire back with an interview of a good friend of Goette-Luciak’s named Wyatt Reed. The friend detailed how he had traveled to Nicaragua with Goette-Luciak, people they met and the close ties Goette-Luciak had forged with opposition members. He discussed Goette-Luciak’s career ambitions and the role his friend had played in the recent coup-attempt. Wyatt was honest in disclosing his own misgivings about the regime-change operation in terms of what it would mean for the people of Nicaragua.

Vindicated, Blumenthal emerged like Hans Solo leaving his detractors in the dust, with little choice but to confront the solid evidence of intrigue and regime-change objectives. Clashes related to empire are seldom resolved so decisively. If a sequel to the controversy was inevitable it should have occasioned questions regarding journalistic standards and integrity. Instead, The Guardian wasted no time in publishing yet another propaganda piece, this time by Hannah Summers who materialized like the spiritual twin of Carl David Goette-Luciak, making outlandish claims about the Ortega/Murillo government without offering a shred of evidence.

As Nicaragua strives to recover and the security situation here improves by the day, the drama has a second front in Great Britain and that divide will be one to watch.

As Nicaragua strives to recover and the security situation here improves by the day, the drama has a second front in Great Britain and that divide will be one to watch. Jeremy Corbyn, a long-time supporter of Palestinian rights has been subjected to his own share of calumny as the Labor Party of which he is now the head deals with a barrage of claims of anti-Semitism. The Guardian is known to view Corbyn with a degree of disfavor while The Canary which not only re-published the Blumenthal piece, but stood by him even before the Wyatt Reed interview, views Corbyn approvingly.

Meanwhile as the perfidy of The Guardian continued, The Daily Beast owned by the conglomerate IAC Company published a piece by Charles Davis, the latest voice to join the chorus of Ortega haters. Davis took on the case of Dania Valeska Alemán Sandoval who within Nicaragua is viewed less as the brave soldier Davis describes, than she is as an actress who has switched sides and disappeared more than once only to reappear and resume a highly public presence, seemingly in the best of spirits, galivanting with her blue and white compatriots.

That was the case following the first time she claims to have been abducted, an experience she did not speak of at the time and which no one had heard of until Marco Noel Novoa suddenly appeared in a Washington Post expose, claiming he and others had been tortured. Dania Valeska was alleged to have been apprehended at the same time that Novoa claims to have been. Not without coincidence there were many videos circulating at the time which documented opposition use of torture, cases with hard evidence and in this case, a follow up interview.

While the mainstream media had showed no interest in the abuse of some poor kid, which incidentally took place in the presence of a Catholic priest and an Evangelical pastor, lo and behold, the opposition produces Marco Novoa who drops out of the sky with his claims of torture at the hands of the Nicaraguan security forces. Speaking from the comfort of Miami, his case was granted first-rate publicity and all without offering any evidence, not a bruise, a cut, nor a picture of a bruise or cut.

Valeska Sandoval moved center stage through her participation in the in the 24-hour-siege-hostage massacre. In the course of that event she placed a call to her mother, asking her mother’s forgiveness, as though she was about to be killed. These types of stunts are par for the course in terms of opposition behavior and some felt the entire incident was timed to obscure a massacre that had just recently taken place in a rural part of the country which left five dead and for which there is no question the opposition was responsible.

Following the hostage-siege hoax, the students celebrated by burning a day care center which was part of the public university known as UNAN. The next day as police moved on a nearby tranque two young males were killed; they were not students. At some point following these events Dania Valieska was taken into police custody which resulted in a video-taped confession. Charles Davis calls into question the information she detailed in the confession which involved events that took place inside and outside of the UNAN campus. Davis also gives credence to her most recent claim that her torture had led to the confession.

But Charles Davis fails to acknowledge that much of what Valeska described in the video confession matches up with other accounts of the criminal activities which took place at UNAN. He omits evidence such as the huge cache of weapons that were recovered from the site including various firearms and Molotov cocktails as well as stolen cars and stolen motor bikes, evidence which substantiate the details provided in Dania Valeska’s confession, mainly that by night the criminal element which had converted the university into its base of operations went out and perpetrated crimes in the neighboring communities. Davis also declines to mention or possibly did not know that, like the technical college, the UNAN had been utterly trashed by those who had taken over the site; the computer laboratory, medical teaching facilities, classrooms and offices were destroyed and the day care center was burned to the ground.

The claim by Davis that the Dania Valeska confession was over-acted is itself a bluff. The confession is delivered in a natural, casual manner and Valeska shows no sign of trauma, let alone any sign of physical abuse. Conversely, the ‘perdoname’ is poorly acted and so over the top in terms of hysteria that in country, the whole incident is viewed by many as a complete joke. In some versions of the call she is laughing just before the faked desperation begins. If Charles Davis had any notion of how things have actually played out here, he might have guessed it is far more likely the case that Dania Valesksa was pressured to say she had been tortured. As soon as the video was released, the opposition had labeled her as a traitor. At any rate had she not been accepted back into the opposition camp, I think she would have been very much alone.

The opposition unquestionably carried out both random acts of terror and destruction as well as acts which targeted individuals connected to the FSLN party, government workers and those considered to be Sandinista sympathizers. Any legitimate pro-democracy opposition would have completely distanced themselves from such acts of terror, but instead members of the Civic Alliance, high ranking clergy members and team Chamorro, (the right-wing dynastic family which controls numerous media outlets and NGOs including: Confidencial, La Prensa, the Violetta Chamorro Foundation, CINCO, (a media collective with radio interests which has received U.S. funding), and the Nicaragua Foundation for Economic Development or FUNIDES), all of these institutions and the individuals affiliated with them supported, encouraged and by some accounts financed the tranques (barricades or roadblocks).

Enrique Hendrix authored the first independent and comprehensive analysis of the death toll which showed the opposition responsible for at least half of the deaths which occurred between late April and late July and his more recent effort delves further into details which have thus far gone unreported. Probing the time-line of events following the initial eruption of violence and concluding with the beginning of the first round of talks mediated by the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua or CEN, Hendrix asks a few questions and reaches some interesting conclusions. A graph shows the spikes and nadirs of the violence which took place during that period and reveals that no deaths occurred at the site of any of the three large protests held between April 24 and May 10. During that time there was violence and one death and much of that took place in the environs of the technical university known by its acronym UPOLI.

According to Hendrix the pause in violence was a period in which the opposition consolidated their numbers at specific sites, namely the public universities and made decisions regarding what youth would be presented to the media as members of the April 19 student movement. He further implicates a group known as the rural farm workers, who represent a miniscule percentage of the rural population and within Nicaragua are more often referred to as the anti-canal group. Led by Francisca Ramirez, the group has a reputation for using coercive tactics to induce campesinos to join their protests. Hendrix asserts that the group was instrumental in organizing and installing tranques in the northern part of the country, The roadblocks would eventually leave the small rural nation paralyzed and become the loci of much violence.

Not long before reading the latest analysis by Hendrix I had come upon an article in El Nuevo Dario which detailed the case of an adolescent named Angel Sanchez who was killed on May 17. Apparently, a bus had been commandeered by a bunch of delinquents and the youth was killed when he was run over. The bus just happened to end up in close proximity to UPOLI. I then followed a series of links through a labyrinth of articles which focused on events which occurred in the vicinity of the university between May tenth and twelfth. What became interesting were the number of contradictions between the articles and even within a single article. This one described four victims and interviewed a close friend of one of the victims as well as a number of youth who were identified as members of the April 19 student movement. The students described the perpetrators of the violence to be dressed in civilian clothes, masked and riding around in trucks and some on motorcycle. All of the witnesses claimed the masked culprits to be Sandinista sympathizers or Sandinista Juventud (JS). According to the article the victims included Carlos Alberto Miranda, 19 years of age, Kevin Joel Valle, 21 years of age and Jimmy Parajón Gutiérrez, 28 years of age. Kevin Valle and Jimmy Parajón were said to be university students and there was another fatality a 53-year-old man named Alejandro Estrada Vega. All of the articles placed the violence at UPOLI.

In some of the articles Jimmy Parajón Gutiérrez was stated to be 28 years old including the article where a close friend dating back to childhood was interviewed. In other articles he was stated to be 35. Nothing was said about the death of Carlos Alberto Miranda and very little detail was provided regarding the death of Alejandro Estrada Vega. An anonymous witness was able to describe in detail the weapons which the JS had in their possession. That seemed odd as it is doubtful any pedestrian could have recorded that level of detail from a passing truck especially as one would more likely take cover given the circumstances. Additionally, if the shooters had first appeared around seven p.m. as one of those who were interviewed maintained, it would have been completely dark outside.

Interestingly, in the same article Rodrigo Espinoza one of the students who was identified as a member of the April 19 Movement, stated they had called their friends in Monimbo, (one of the neighborhoods in the small city of Masaya), because UPOLI was under attack and they needed support. But even more interesting is that the weapons described by one of the witnesses match up almost identically with those which were later recovered in Monimbo. I received this message from Masaya on June 12: “The antimotines, (anti-riot police) got through to the police station, now relieved after more than 2 weeks of daily/nightly mortar attacks. They removed a lot of tranques on the way, arrested a lot of people I think and found 5 AK47, three M16 and six escopetas (shotguns).”

The articles relied almost exclusively on the testimony of youth speaking on behalf of the April 19 movement, most of whom remained anonymous. This supports the view of Enrique Hendrix that the ‘students’ who would present to the media had been selected and groomed. The whole series of articles published by El Nuevo Dario, five in total, were used in the service of promoting the idea that individuals acting on behalf or in defense of the state had again attacked students. The headlines read as follows: “Disturbances leave four dead in Upoli”; and “They raged against us, said a friend of Kevin Valle killed at protests at UPOLI” ; and “Youth dies, shot in early morning attacks at UPOLI” ; and “From Monimbo they traveled by vehicle to back the protesters at UPOLI” ; and finally “Protesters denounce an attack on Upoli which left four injured”

I think the public would have been left with a very different impression had the articles instead taken the deaths in chronological order and reported accurately. It also bears mentioning that on May 7, days before these events took place, El Nuevo Dario reported that the main road which passes by UPOLI was already blocked by tranques which the students themselves had erected. In that article the reporter also speaks with a representative from the police who clearly stated that the police were not operating in the vicinity of UPOLI.

A full and truthful explanation of the events which took place in Managua between May tenth and twelfth would be something like this:

On May 8 Alejandro Estrada Vega was returning from work on a local bus when the bus was intercepted by a gang of masked youth, the passengers were forced off the bus, the bus was burned and the individuals were shot at with morteros artesenal, (homemade mortar weapons) killing Estrada Vega. Two days later masked youth attacked and burned the Alcadia (mayor’s office) killing Carlos Alberto Miranda , a member of the Sandinista Juventud who was shot. Later that night Kevin Valle was shot while standing at a corner with a group of friends. The shooters were described as masked gunmen who drove by in a truck. At some point after midnight Jimmy Parajón Gutiérrez, who was 35 and owned his own mechanic shop was shot by a sniper in front of a hospital.

It turns out that every one of the headlines regarding the events proves to be a false statement. While violence clearly did take place in the environs of UPOLI, the university itself was not under attack. Additionally, neither Kevin Valle or Jimmy Parajón Gutiérrez were university students. Kevin Valle was 18 years old, not 21 as El Nuevo Dario claimed. The family of Kevin Valle said he was not with the protesters, but had been with friends standing at a street corner when the shooters drove by, fired their weapons and he was killed. But the most spectacular omission on the part of El Nuevo Dario is that the burning of the Alcaldía in Managua on May 10 was not even mentioned. That of course leaves open the chance that the reader might assume Carlos Alberto Miranda was also a student whose death the government was responsible for.

La Prensa managed to come up with a witness who blamed the burning of the Alcaldia on the Sandinista Juventud. If there was any evidence to support that I think it would have been the lead story and would have served as the introduction for all the subsequent articles. But El Nuevo Dario did not go down that path because, given the death of Carlos Alberto Miranda in the context of the fire, the idea that the Sandinista Juventud killed one of their own as they burned an office of their own party, is just too far-fetched. El Nuevo Dario more likely sought to maintain some credibility by making a series of omissions, contradictions and distortions through which it was able to advance the critical objective of implicating the state or state actors in ‘an attack on students’ which since April 18 had been the main theme driving the narrative albeit one which was entirely artificial.

Still, those false narrative feed other false narratives and ultimately, they take their toll. Chuck Kaufman of The Alliance for Global Justice: “In the over 31 years I’ve been doing Nicaragua solidarity work the corporate media has always lied and the reporters they’ve assigned might have had one or two articles with multiple sources at the beginning of their careers, but they quickly understand who pays their salary. It is hard for me to get repeatedly enraged about lies in The Guardian and The New York Times . It is hard for me to think that Carl David Goette-Luciak and those of his ilk matter much as human beings or reporters. It mostly makes me tired, thinking about trying to address each and every lie, knowing that nothing I do will stop the lies.”

One way of viewing the current divide in Nicaragua is a struggle between what Marxist philosopher Terry Eagleton, in his book, The Illusions of Post Modernism identified as the new tripartite of late capitalism; ‘careerism, consumerism, post-modernism’

One way of viewing the current divide in Nicaragua is a struggle between what Marxist philosopher Terry Eagleton, in his book, The Illusions of Post Modernism identified as the new tripartite of late capitalism; ‘careerism, consumerism, post-modernism’ and what Nils McCune who is a PhD agricultural technician with Via Campesina refers to as ‘historical memory’ Most people are already invested on one side or another and even when those of us who understand the crisis as a coup attempt can provide evidence to support our view, it isn’t always enough. Between propaganda which was officially presented by newspapers and human rights groups, that which worked its way through social media may have been even more insidious.

New technologies have enabled new strategies. Writing for a site called The Wrong Kind of Green, Cory Morningstar and Forest Palmer have outlined the goals and strategies of a for-profit group called Purpose. According to Kevin Zeese, co-director of the site Popular Resistance, Purpose is a corporate NGO outfit associated with Avaaz (White Helmets) which has people in both Amnesty International’s International Secretariat team and in Global Witness. The condemnation of the Nicaraguan state by Amnesty and GW served as a tacit endorsement of opposition conduct which certainly exacerbated the crisis and in each case ran counter to the stated mission of the organizations. Morningstar and Palmer wrote: “The emergent “new power” model dominates with influence and persuasion. And while this has been achieved for some decades now by the NGOs that comprise the non-profit industry, more and more corporations, institutions and states, are now applying it to their business models. The key differences are that 1) the organizers remain invisible and 2), the populace is manipulated into believing that they control said movements.”

This is the Latin American arm of Purpose . The web site comes across as a hybrid advertising company, public relations firm and a well-designed motivational playground that is conscious of youth culture. I can’t say the extent to which Movilizatorio may have been behind (and still are behind) the various strategies deployed in Nicaragua by the opposition; fake accounts in Miami and fake messages distributed through What’sApp and scores of fake organizations which have only a handful of members and which don’t actually do anything aside from promote the anti-Ortega agenda.

It was the youth who were essential for the crisis to appear as a legitimate protest and the goal was to convince them that the time had come for another revolution though it was actually a counter-revolution; a rejection of the old ideals for something new even if the new remained undefined and abstract. These strategies (in addition to organized criminal elements), were used to fuel unrest and destruction. I wouldn’t be the first to identify the smart phone as a tool of imperialism. It’s really the perfect tool used both to influence and to distract. Morningstar and Palmer: “At the helm of this new model is Avaaz/Purpose co-founder Jeremy Heimans. Purpose, the PR firm (with many arms) specializes in movement building and behavioral change. Heiman’s vision is to organize “people not as citizens but as consumers.”

It was disturbing to realize how easily the peace can be shattered. The disintegration of Brazil’s fortunes is another example of a country which went from headlining as an economic powerhouse to one which is in desperate straits and that is now at risk of being governed by an extreme right-wing candidate who some believe will further erode protection of the Amazon basin which will have drastic impacts on climate change. Brazil’s fall from grace and the soft coup which ousted Dilma Rousseff was largely a product of economic sabotage and was likely, at least in part, a response to the formation of the BRICs trade block. (BRICs is the acronym of the block of emerging countries including Brazil, Russia, India, China and later South Africa)

“Culture—what you would die for—and what you would kill for.” Terry Eagleton’s definition of culture had always given me a chill; it seemed so extreme. Yet the crisis in Nicaragua proves it relevant as it is another front in the culture wars where the left is pushed into a corner as disguised or foreign interests attempt to instill the idea that another path would be more glamorous, more sophisticated and deliver greater wealth.

Countless journalists have taken sides without the least interest in the reportorial adage about fair and balanced. Charles Davis conflated the heroes with the villains, oh well. Carl David Goette-Luciak was a novice, willing to jump at an opportunity despite a script which would lead to some highly unsavory outcomes. After years of Nicaragua bashing Tim Rogers found his calling as a cheerleader for the overthrow of a legitimate and elected government. Hannah Summers seems to have arrived just in time to fill the shoes of Goette-Luciak, but then The Guardian also has Tom Phillips who is equally willing to conform.

As Wyatt Reed suggested the trade-off will come at a price and most Nicaraguans cannot afford to lose basic services like healthcare and security. I propose the trade-off comes with other drawbacks, increased inequality, a war budget, the erosion of democratic principles leading to a more autocratic form of government. This is what is happening around the globe where the democracy on offer is one which creates the very extremes it purports to resolve.