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Being Made Invisible

Being Made Invisible

Tortilla con Sal,

October 7, 2020

By Stephen Sefton

 

 

Over thirty years ago, the moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre* noted that an inability to engage competing rationalities critically disables the proponents of the moral and intellectual tradition failing to do so. That kind of fundamental, banal critical failure has always characterized the societies of the Western imperialist powers, in every sphere of intellectual and moral life. It may have been less noticeable before the current advent of a challenging multi-polar world, but the resulting crisis of Western elites’ power and prestige has highlighted their innate moral and intellectual bankruptcy as never before.

 

Anyone challenging the moral and intellectual bad faith of entrenched corporate elite interests gets attacked or ignored. Various otherwise quite well-known figures defending Julian Assange against US and allied NATO country governments’ efforts to destroy him, have experienced this, finding themselves attacked or marginalized even more than usual. Slightly different, but ultimately just as sinister, has been the treatment of dozens of very eminent scientists questioning received wisdom about the current COVID-19 outbreak. In both cases, justice and freedom of speech are important underlying motifs.

Few are surprised that defenders of Julian Assange against the UK injustice system are misrepresented or excluded by imperialist country governments supported by all the disinformation outlets their countries’ oligarchs control. However, scientists questioning public policy on COVID-19 find themselves marginalized not only by dominant liberal opinion but also by majority progressive opinion too. Eminent scientists like John Ioannides, Sunetra Gupta, Sucharit Bhakdi, Alexander Kekulé, Dolores Cahill and dozens of others find themselves in effect, if not disappeared, certainly generally excluded from public discussion.

Julian Assange

Overall, Western liberals and progressives have failed to engage, let alone credibly refute, the arguments of this very significant, unquestionably well-qualified body of scientific opinion. Nor do they engage  the savage class attack enacted as public policy on COVID-19 to impose a corporate capitalist economic reset on the peoples of North America and Europe.  In a similar way, the West’s disinformation lynch media have misrepresented the case against Julian Assange, lying about the facts and unjustly smearing him at every turn while also burying the massive attack on free speech his probable extradition to the US represents.

In general, prescribed untruths are propagated and imposed not just via corporate news and entertainment media, but also by almost all the main international information sources. These include practically all the high profile international non governmental organizations and practically every international institution in the United Nations system, the European Union or the Organization of American States. Sincere witnesses to truth have little to no chance of surviving uncompromised in these morally and intellectually corrupt organizations and systems.


Leonard Peltier, Ana Belén Montes, Mumia Abu Jamal

 

Sinister political power and corporate money smother and suffocate efforts to challenge the cynical, mendacious status quo. Extreme historical examples in the US include the murders of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King and the subsequent persecution of the Black Panther movement. A great number of anti-imperialist heroes like Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal, Ana Belen Montes or Simon Trinidad, among many others, remain unjustly imprisoned. Among current examples of Western information perfidy, the Assange show trial, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons scandal and the prolonged Russiagate farce stand out.

Everyone will have their own experience of this reality. For example, efforts to suppress the “Planet of the Humans” film highlighted how corporate money moulds, manipulates and corrals opinion in favor of a phony Green New Deal which environmentalists like Cory Morningstar have challenged for years against systematic suppression of their arguments. Liberal and progressive environmentalists mostly exclude incisive class-conscious analysis while celebrating pseudo-progressive, corporate-friendly pap. Across the board, systematic disinformation deliberately negates democratic process by denying people fair access to vitally relevant factual appraisal and analysis. Knowledgeable people presenting well attested evidence find themselves effectively disappeared.

For people in countries targeted by the North American and European imperialist powers none of this is new. In most Western foreign affairs reporting on countries from Russia and China, to Iran and Syria, to Venezuela and Cuba, intellectual and moral honesty are almost entirely absent. In the majority world, this experience of being practically invisible extends to whole peoples. Most people in North America and Europe could hardly care less about people far away in distant, usually culturally very different countries. Very few people know enough to be able to effectively challenge the unending deceit of most official Western accounts of events in those countries targeted by North American and European oligarchies and the governments they direct.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, Haiti is perhaps the most egregious example, or maybe Honduras, or perhaps Bolivia… Unquestionable though, is the vicious, psychopathic hatred propagated by Western media, NGOs and institutions against Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. These are the last three revolutionary governments in Latin America left standing after the wave of US and EU promoted coups and lawfare offensives of the last fifteen years. In Cuba’s case, the hatred is occasionally dressed up as grudging recognition of the Cuban Revolution’s great example of international solidarity and love between peoples, embodied in so many ways, but above all by its unparalleled international assistance during the ebola and COVID-19 outbreaks.

If influential media outlets, NGOs and international institutions in the West really admired Cuba’s infinitely-far-beyond-their-reach example of human love and solidarity , they would campaign relentlessly demanding an end to the criminal US coercive measures attacking Cuba’s people’s basic well-being. Of course they do not, because they are cynical hypocrites who detest Cuba’s revolutionary commitment to and defence of the human person as the centre and focus of the country’s national development. The same is true of Venezuela and Nicaragua. On these two countries, Western disinformation media, NGOs and institutions have sunk to previously unplumbed depths of in-your-face criminality and odious falsehood.

Despite everything, Venezuela continues resisting outright violation of basic UN principles by North American and European elites who have directed their countries’ regimes and institutions to steal Venezuela’s wealth and attack the country’s people, just as they did successfully to Ivory Coast and Libya up to and including 2011. They have attempted to do the same to Iran, without success. Despite every indication to the contrary, they believe the delusion that by destroying Venezuela they stand a better chance of overthrowing the Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions and crushing the nationalist revolutionary impulse in the region for good. They can barely tolerate even the social democrat versions of that impulse in Mexico and Argentina.

Nicaragua is still in the early stages of Western attempts to attack its people so as to weaken support for the country’s Sandinista government led by President Daniel Ortega. That is likely to change through 2021, which is an election year here in Nicaragua. In Nicaragua’s case, the big lie is that the country is a brutal dictatorship that has failed to protect its people from COVID-19. Precisely the opposite is true. Nicaragua has been the most successful country in Latin America and the Caribbean in protecting both its people’s health and their economic well being during the international COVID-19 crisis. Similarly, it is the country’s political opposition, bankrolled, trained and organized by the US government and its European Union allies, which has brutally attacked Nicaragua’s people. They did so using armed violence in 2018 and they have done so by demanding more and more illegal coercive economic measures against their own country from both the US and the EU. Likewise, they promote an endless international disinformation war.

Not one international human rights NGO or any international human rights institution has researched the experience of the thousands of victims of Nicaragua’s opposition violence in 2018. Not Amnesty International nor Human Rights Watch nor the International Federation for Human Rights nor the Inter-American Human Rights Commission nor the Office of the UN High Commisioner for Human rights, nor any European Union institution, none of them have. To do so would reveal the big lie that the opposition protests were peaceful. Every single one of those institutions has falsely claimed the Nicaraguan government brutally repressed peaceful demonstrations in 2018. All the Western corporate media and alternative information outlets covering international affairs have parroted that lie. The truth about Nicaragua and the events of 2018 is available in independently produced texts, audio visual material and testimonies like these:

So far, virtually none of this substantial material or other available material has been publicly addressed or seriously analyzed by any academic, anywhere, comparing, contrasting and appraising official accounts, witness testimony and audio-visual and documentary evidence. Practically every single academic writing on Nicaragua has been content to regurgitate the same lies and misrepresentations spread about by all Western media, NGOs and institutions who have relied absolutely exclusively on US government funded opposition sources. None of them have done genuine original honest research on the issue of opposition violence. Not one. All the abundant material documenting the truth of what happened in Nicaragua in 2018 is invisible.

Being made invisible by Western media, NGOs and academics is nothing new. It just means becoming subsumed in the anonymous masses of the majority world whom the Western elites have always looted, murdered and abused. Despite this reality, the overwhelming majority of people in North America and Europe hold the irrational, ultimately self-destructive belief that their rationality is morally superior to their rivals’. To make sure they hold on to that demented false belief, their ruling classes have to disappear the truth, whether it’s to do with an individual like Julian Assange or a whole country, like Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela.

* “Whose Justice? Which rationality?” (PDF 21Mb)

 

Human Rights Fraud from Ukraine to Nicaragua

Tortilla con Sal

July 26, 2020

Stephen Sefton

Current Western human rights industry practice has nothing to do with establishing the truth. Increasingly in recent years, US and allied elites have sought to legitimize illegal aggression by exploiting human rights motifs in their attempts to recolonize the majority world.

 

In any given crisis, human rights NGOs funded by the US and allied corporate elites and governments deploy sensationalist false claims, for example of police murdering peaceful protestors, so as to create a cognitive limbo of doubt and suspicion aimed at disabling opposition to the West’s recolonization campaigns. Over the medium and long term, the steady drip of false accusations against countries resisting recolonization, like Syria and Iran, or Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, creates false memories, corrupting and distorting the historical record and obscuring the West’s crimes against those and so many other countries in the majority world.

Western ruling elites have corrupted human rights organizations and institutions at practically every level using corporate grant making and government funding. The practical results of this corruption mirror corporate techniques of control fraud and strategic avoidance of regulation. Economics writers like Michael Hudson and  William Black, among others, have explained how corrupt US and allied corporations have exploited these fraudulent abuses for decades.  Control fraud is essentially no different from ancient practices like debasing coins, adulterating food products or selling defective goods as fit for use. They all fool people into accepting something that causes them loss, hurt and damage.

In the United States, powerful corporations control US political and institutional life sufficiently to be able to co-opt justice and escape criminal prosecution. This reality crowds out honest, socially responsible business and financial practice. Parallel to control fraud by major financial institutions, other multinational corporations, for example oil, mining or information technology corporations,  operate what various writers call a “veil of tiers” strategy misrepresenting their earnings so as to avoid tax or other regulation, and legal prosecution. More legitimately, in the field of insurance, the “veil of tiers” strategy spreads risks associated with potential litigation. The international human rights industry uses similar techniques to justify and cover up Western attacks against the peoples of the majority world.

The dependence of international human rights NGOs on corporate and government funding and on publicity via corporate media and public relations over time has generated the osmosis of corrupt corporate practice into the human rights industry. Writers like Cory Morningstar have analyzed exhaustively how this takeover by corporate culture of the “non-profit industrial complex serves hegemony as a sophisticated fine-tuned symbiotic mechanism in a continuous state of flux and refinement. The ruling elite channel an immeasurable amount of resources and tools through these organizations to further strengthen, protect and expand existing forms of power structures and global domination.”

In a human rights context, control fraud takes the form of politically motivated, false, sensationalist accusations based on egregiously one-sided, often fact-free research, sometimes using fake pseudo-scientific reconstructions. Accountability for these false accusations is rendered negligible by means of a “veil of tiers” strategy starting at a low level with small, local or national human rights NGOS, progressing via larger international human rights NGOs and auxiliary private contractors to regional human rights institutions, then reaching United Nations organizations and ultimately the highest levels of the international human rights legal system. By excluding independent corroboration, the interchange from one level to the next imparts spurious mutual legitimacy of varying degrees between the organizations and institutions involved.

The process is quasi-judicial with zero accountability, such that attempting to counteract false accusations is extremely difficult if not impossible, especially in the short term. If anything, the human rights industry is even less accountable than multinational corporations. Two recent examples, among innumerable others, confirm the creeping monopolization of the human rights industry by corrupt corporate practice. Against both the Ukraine government in February 2014 and against the Nicaraguan government in May 2018, Western human rights NGOs made very similar accusations that their police forces murdered peaceful protestors indiscriminately. In both cases, the accusations were false.

The context of the killings in both cases was a violent attempt at regime change by a US government funded political opposition. In Ukraine’s case, the opposition had been supported for over twenty years with US government funding amounting to over US$5 billion as confirmed in 2013 by Victoria Nuland, then US Assistant Secretary of State. That US government finance was in addition to funding from US corporate oligarchs like Pierre Omidyaar and George Soros. The most notorious event in the regime change campaign in Ukraine took place over February 18th-20th in 2014 when over 70 people were killed in Kiev’s Maidan square during violent confrontations between police and protestors. The massacre led to the overthrow of the legitimate government and its replacement by a fascist US client regime.

After the event, even CNN felt bound to report a leaked conversation between Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs in which Paet confirmed that a  pro-opposition doctor treating wounded protestors claimed opposition snipers, not government security forces, had shot the protestors. That report was followed by the broadcast from Italy’s Mediaset Matrix television channel of interviews, here and here, with mercenary snipers confessing they had fired on both protestors and police during the Maidan protests in February 2014. The mercenaries had come forward aggrieved at not getting paid by the opposition aligned figures who hired them. Even so, the Ukraine authorities announced their investigation into the shootings was complete, simply repeating the false accusations against the former Ukrainian government despite categorically clear evidence to the contrary.

A prominent part of the Ukraine prosecutors’ false case was a virtual reconstruction of events  by a private New York contractor called SITU Research whose human rights work is funded by US oligarch owned grant making bodies, like the MacArthur Foundation, the Oak Foundation and the Open Society Foundations. Ivan Katchanovski of the University of Ottawa has exposed as phony the SITU Research reconstruction of the Maidan shootings, demonstrating, for example, that in various cases SITU Research’s imaging moved wound locations indicated in the respective forensic autopsy reports in order to suit the video’s conclusions. Katchanovksi’s detailed analysis draws on other evidence omitted by SITU Research which also contradicts their claims, for example witness testimony from 25 wounded opposition supporters that they were shot from opposition controlled buildings.

Katchanovski points out that numerous video and TV footage shows opposition snipers and shooters in buildings controlled by the opposition. That footage is supported by over 150 witness testimonies confirming snipers were firing from those locations. Katchanovski also notes that Brad Samuels, founding partner of SITU Research “said in a video [start at 55:16] that ‘…eventually, there is a consensus that there was a third party acting. It is clear from forensic evidence that people were shot in the back. Somebody was shooting from rooftops.’ ” Katchanovski remarks that Samuels’ “striking observation was not included anywhere in the SITU 3D model report that he produced.” Katchanovski’s critical analysis of SITU Research’s material and of the broader official Ukraine investigation into the Maidan massacre has never been seriously challenged.

Similar false accusations ignoring readily available contradictory evidence and also using SITU Research modeling were made against Nicaragua’s government earlier this year. On May 30th the Organization of American States subsidiary body the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), the Argentinian Forensic Anthropology Team and SITU Research jointly published a video allegedly proving that Nicaragua’s police shot and killed unarmed protesters at a demonstration on May 30th 2018. But detailed analysis of the video shows that in this case too SITU Research have misrepresented data, namely the distance between the police and the protestors which was in fact about 175 metres, in order to harmonize the reality of what happened with their virtual reconstruction which claims police snipers fired from a distance of around 250 metres.

The video footage of the protests in Nicaragua contains no scenes where Nicaraguan police use their firearms. Similarly, just as in their false reconstruction of events in Kiev’s Maidan square, SITU Research omitted a substantial body of information contradicting their account of the shootings in Managua on May 30th. The context in this case too was of extremely violent protests by organizations funded by the US government with over US$15 million just in 2017-2018. For example, local human rights organizations received over US$3 million from the US government that year as did local media NGOs. Although, two solidarity organizations wrote and published an open letter to the organizations who produced the video, respectfully questioning their findings, to date the letter has received only a formal acknowledgment without replying to the questions.

In both Ukraine and Nicaragua, the US government funded local opposition aligned NGOs to make false allegations of very serious human rights violations. A private company contractor was funded by US corporate interests to produce false pseudo-scientific material unfairly incriminating the governments for those violations. International human rights NGOs repeated the false accusations on the basis of that same false evidence. Regional human rights institutions accused the governments concerned on the basis of that same material.

The accusations are false but the Nicaraguan government and accused members of the former Ukrainian government are denied a fair defense. This same process has been repeated over and over again against governments resisting US and allied policies. Western human rights organizations share the same corrupt methodology as their corporate and government patrons. They make false claims, suppress inconvenient evidence, do all they can to avoid independent scrutiny and systematically evade accountability.

 

Why the West Hates Sandinista Nicaragua

Tortilla con Sal

April 20,  2020

Stephen Sefton

 

Sandinista rally in Managua | Photo: El19Digital

Nicaragua’s success in containing the COVID-19 virus makes the failure of the US and its allied countries look pathetic. The country’s low numbers of nine confirmed cases to date and just two fatalities categorically vindicate the policies of its Sandinista government led by President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo. The same is true of other revolutionary and socialist governments around the world. Cuba has given a shining example of global leadership and solidarity. Most notably elsewhere Venezuela, Vietnam and India’s state of Kerala have also implemented diverse but successful policies containing the pandemic.

But in North America and Europe, the success in addressing COVID-19 of these impoverished socialist countries, even when under attack from the US and the European Union, like Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, has been suppressed. In Nicaragua’s case, Western media and NGOs have comprehensively distorted and repeatedly lied about the country’s Sandinista government’s extraordinary achievement in comparison with other countries in the region, let alone the damning contrast with the catastrophic situation in North America and Western Europe. Many reasons contribute to that reality, both contemporary and historical.

However one reason is fundamental. The Western liberals and progressives who generally control information and communications in North America and Europe cannot acknowledge the success of Nicaragua’s Sandinista government without conceding their own monstrous cynicism and hypocrisy. In general, ever since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, they have effectively colluded with corporate capitalism and its neoliberal political sales team. At best, they have beseeched minor tweaks and adjustments to the worst capitalist excesses in their own countries so as to mitigate somewhat all the injustice and suffering at home.

Managua, Apr 20 (efe-epa).- “On Monday, classes in public schools – primary and secondary – as well as state universities, resumed in Nicaragua following long vacations amid the coronavirus outbreak that has claimed two lives in the country.”

But overseas they have colluded in coups, wars and genocidal sanctions targeting peoples with independent governments. They have effectively abandoned victims of their allies, like the Palestinians or vulnerable populations in the Congo. Western liberals and progressives in communications media and NGOs could hardly be more comfortable with the fascist union of corporate and State power currently controlling the US, Canada and the European Union. So it has been perfectly natural for these Western liberals and progressives effectively to support, for example, nazi inspired extremists in Ukraine, fanatical pseudo-religious terrorists in Libya and Syria and the extreme right wing and allied forces in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

One of the effects of that support is that there’s no going back. Nicaragua’s success in addressing the COIVD-19 pandemic is irrefutable. But Western liberals and progressives cannot admit that, because doing so would contradict the lies and fabrications of the right wing and allied forces they support. Finally admitting that their right wing allies are lying frauds would mean radically questioning their version of the violent failed coup attempt of 2018 or the absurd claim ever since President Ortega took office in 2007 that Nicaragua is a dictatorship. Nicaragua is just one example of how Western liberals and progressives find themselves suffocating in a miasma of thoughtless prejudice, moral cowardice and cynical hypocrisy, making an honest appraisal of their own moral and political contradictions impossible.

That is largely why the next US President will be yet another demented bellicose tool of the US plutocracy and why the European Union will survive ever more clearly as a similarly dysfunctional tool of US and European oligarchs. Hope that the current crisis will lead to a safer, more humane multipolar world is almost certainly misplaced. Daniel Ortega’s recent call for better health care instead of more military spending, for a focus on human solidarity rather than capitalist greed, is unanswerable. His government’s patient, practical, prudent but also brilliant example in this crisis is irrefutable. That is why the Western ruling elites and the politicians, media and NGOs they own have responded with yet more lies, falsehoods, evasions and threats. They all hate Sandinista Nicaragua because they cannot stand so much Truth and Light.

Nicaragua and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Nicaragua and the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 29, 2020
By Stephen Sefton
While each country’s experience facing the COVID-19 pandemic is different, some common fundamental factors can make the difference between widespread catastrophe and relative stability. Nicaragua has so far been among the most successful countries in Latin America in protecting its population from the virus while also maintaining normal economic life. As of March 28th, Nicaragua has three confirmed cases with one fatality. Another 14 people who may have the virus are under observation but have so far tested negative.

Brigadistas visit house by house (Photo: Voz del Sandinismo)

 

Nicaragua’s public health system offers free, universal health services based on community focused preventive care. The national network of hospitals, health centres and health posts is supported by a network of tens of thousands of volunteer health promoters called brigadistas. Over the last week, health personnel and brigadistas have visited over 1.2 million households in an education and monitoring campaign to address the pandemic.

Since the country is still in the first phase of the pandemic, the government has prioritized prevention and education. Its borders remain open, as do the country’s schools and public offices. Public events have not been canceled. Business, travel and trade activities continue without restrictions. Ever since January, when the World Health Organization declared a health emergency in relation to the COVID-19 virus, Nicaragua’s government team has coordinated closely with the Panamerican Health Organization, following the relevant protocols for the different phases of the pandemic. Nicaragua’s authorities have promoted an intense education campaign aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. The principal measures the government has stressed during the current first phase of the pandemic in Nicaragua have been the importance of thorough hand washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water and taking care when sneezing or coughing so as not to infect other people.

Travellers arriving from countries where the virus is active are told to self-isolate for 14 days with follow up from health personnel to check how they are. Other measures frequently promoted every day via radio, television, social networks, posters and printed materials have been: cleaning constantly-used surfaces like desks, phones and computers, work surfaces and toys; keeping a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres when talking with other people; and, most importantly, reporting to the nearest health unit at signs of possible symptoms of the virus. Once the second phase of the pandemic begins, requiring measures of containment, then the government may well ban public events, close schools, enforce social distancing, limit travel and seek to maximize work from home.

Likewise, in any third phase involving potential uncontrolled spread of the virus among the population, more extreme measures may be taken such as the general quarantine already applied in countries like Venezuela or Argentina. The government has prepared the public health system and the National System of Disaster Prevention’s (SINAPRED) civil defence system along with the country’s armed forces for that eventuality. At a regional level, Nicaragua has coordinated closely with the mechanisms of the Central American Integration System (SICA) and the system’s member governments. SICA has produced a regional contingency plan aiming to protect people from the pandemic and treat those affected while maintaining regional economic life and security.


Photo: Jairo Cajina/Canal 4

Nicaragua is one of the few countries in the region with a laboratory of molecular biology approved by the World Health Organization. Its director has said it is the only laboratory in the region that produces the reactive agents for the serological diagnosis of dengue and was the only molecular biology laboratory in Latin America able to diagnose influenza types accurately in 2019. Similarly, Nicaragua has the only public sector plant in Central America producing vaccines. The plant is a joint venture between the Nicaraguan government and the Russian Federation and is preparing to produce the Cuban Interferon Alfa-2-B antiviral medicine for use treating patients with the COVID-19 virus. On March 18th, the “Henry Reeve” Cuban medical brigade arrived in the country, composed of epidemiologists, virologists, intensive care specialists and other expert medical professionals to strengthen Nicaragua’s response to the pandemic. Nicaragua has also participated in regional video conferences facilitated by the Association of Caribbean States, in video conferences with experts from China and has also benefited from the experiences of experts from Taiwan.

For the moment, Nicaragua has been successful preventing the virus from spreading. The authorities have prepared 19 hospitals should the pandemic begin to spread in the general population. 37,206 health workers in both public and private health institutions have been trained in preventive measures, how to identify suspected cases, how to protect fellow health workers, how to provide medical care and how to transfer patients safely between local health units, health centres and hospitals. Similarly, the health ministry has trained 250,000 community health promoters in preventive measures, early identification of patients with symptoms and how to ensure referral of suspected cases to the different health posts, health centres and hospitals.

In Nicaragua, the popular economy of medium, small and micro businesses of all kinds, small farming households and cooperatives across many different industries generate 70% of all employment. The remainder is provided by the public sector along with the private business sector including free trade zone businesses. This economic structure means that a majority of the economically active population depend on daily or weekly income to be able to buy food and other basic items. So for Nicaragua, as for so many other countries impoverished by centuries of rich-country depredation, this makes shutting down the economy practically impossible.

For their part, Nicaragua’s right-wing opposition continue the same relentess disinformation campaigns that they used during their violent, failed coup attempt in 2018, spreading false rumours and scaremongering via their news outlets and social media. At times, this propaganda reaches extreme levels of malevolent hysteria, claiming the government is concealing hundreds of cases of the virus. In interviews, international media uncritically retail the views of inveterate frauds like Confidencial’s Carlos Fernando Chamorro acccusing Nicaragua’s President Ortega of not doing enough to address the pandemic. Opposition propagandists like Chamorro lurch insanely from demented accusations of savage dictatorship to phony complaints of laissez faire negligence.

In Nicaragua, as everywhere else in the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the unremitting global class war of elites against the impoverished majority. As in the violent, failed 2018 coup attempt, responses in Nicaragua to the crisis generally reflect that class reality. While the country’s right wing opposition elite and their middle class followers dilute their rum and cokes with tears of self-pity, Nicaragua’s salt-of-the-earth workers and rural farming families are once again pulling the economy through hard times. Nicaragua’s Sandinista government’s so far successful measures against the pandemic, as in Cuba and Venezuela despite vicious US sanctions, confirm the superiority of revolutionary grass roots democracy over the all too apparent failures of Western neoliberal plutocracies.

Green-smearing from Nicaragua to Bolivia

Tortilla con Sal

September 4, 2019

“Green-smearing from Nicaragua to Bolivia”

By Stephen Sefton

 

 

On one level the intensifying deceit of Western media foreign affairs coverage corresponds to the increasing desperation of Western elites confronting their failing global power and influence. But it also signals yet another crisis of capitalist economic growth. After 1945, North America and Western Europe based their genocidal imperialism on a social compact promising prosperity to their peoples at home in exchange for their collusion in imperialist military aggression and neocolonial crimes overseas. That system operated successfully based on the fundamental neocolonial fiction that Western governments and societies promote freedom, justice and democracy around the world, while doing the very opposite.

Now, stagnation and recession in the U.S. and its allied countries demand new dimensions to the endless psychological warfare necessary to sustain the basic neocolonial fiction. Psychological warfare in North America and Europe works to create enduring false beliefs generating, over time, permanent false memories, all serving the purposes of Western elite perception management. That is why the authorities in Sweden, Britain and the U.S. elites have been so vengeful and vindictive towards Julian Assange, among innumerable other less high profile victims. Anyone who effectively exposes the big neocolonial lie is met with the sadistic vindictive revenge of the elites they defied.

A fundamental dimension of contemporary psychological warfare has been dual-purpose corporate co-option of non-governmental organizations. In that psy-warfare dimension, NGOs serve both as disinformation partners with Western news media and too as false interlocutors in international forums and institutions, where they attack governments challenging the U.S. elites and their allies. They actively subvert governments inside countries challenging the West, for example, in Latin America, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia. But they also pervert due process in institutions like the UN, posing as civil society but in fact serving Western elite corporate imperatives, for example in international human rights and environmental mechanisms and forums.

Among these NGOs figure high profile human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights and Avaaz along with environmental organizations from 350.org and the World Resource Institute to Global Witness and Greenpeace. An increasing interrelationship has developed between corporate NGO funding and the exploitation of people’s general willingness to volunteer for and support apparently good causes. Symbolic of this is the way World Economic Forum attendees like Kumi Naidoo move readily between top management from one NGO to another, in Naidoo’s case from Greenpeace to Amnesty International. From Libya and Syria to Venezuela and Nicaragua, Amnesty International has played a key role using false reports to demonize governments resisting the U.S. and its allies.

As Cory Morningstar has pointed out, Greenpeace is a key player in promoting the corporate driven New Deal for Nature aimed at financializing what remains of the natural world, especially its biodiversity, as a way of engineering a “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Western corporate greed underlies the identical patterns of news media and NGO misrepresentation and outright deceit supporting regime change offensives against Libya and Syria, or Venezuela and Nicaragua. Right now, that very same pattern of media and NGO manipulation is clearly at work preparing for an intervention to prevent Evo Morales being re-elected as President of Bolivia.

Bruno Sgarzini and Wyatt Reed have noted how Western media and NGOs have falsely attacked Evo Morales blaming him for not controlling the fires in Bolivia’s Amazon. This is exactly what happened in Nicaragua immediately prior to the coup attempt in 2018 when the Nicaraguan authorities were fighting a fire in the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve. That episode softened up Nicaraguan public opinion and set in motion social media networks involving thousands of youth activists trained for that purpose beforehand over several years with U.S. and also European government funding. In mid-April 2018, barely a week after the Indio Maiz fire was extinguished; those networks launched a social media blitzkrieg of lies and inventions marking the start of the actual coup attempt. A practically identical process is well under way now in Bolivia, which holds presidential elections next October 20th.

The timing of the fires in Bolivia’s Amazon is extremely propitious from the perspective of the U.S. authorities and their allies. It takes almost two months for the effects to wear off of the initial psy-warfare bitzkrieg of the kind waged against Nicaragua in 2018 and against Brazil’s Worker’s Party as part of Jair Bolsonaro’s successful 2018 election campaign that same year. Bolivia will almost certainly experience the same kind of psy-warfare assault via social media prior to the October elections. The campaign will be timed to optimize the effect of mass false accusations of government wrongdoing and corruption along with false media and NGO claims of security force repression. Opposition activists are likely to exploit peaceful demonstrations on indigenous peoples and environmental issues so as to commit murderous provocations, just as they did in Nicaragua and Venezuela.

All of these tactics are likely be deployed against Bolivia so as to destroy the current prestige and high levels of support for President Evo Morales. In Bolivia, as in Nicaragua and Venezuela, the governing progressive political movement enjoys around 35-40% core electoral support, the right wing opposition have around 25-30% with 30-40% of voters uncommitted. The Western elites know they need to motivate something over half of those uncommitted voters against Evo Morales so as to get the right wing government they so desperately need in Bolivia to try and make good the unmitigated debacle of Mauricio Macri’s right wing government in Argentina.

The intensity of any Western media and NGO campaign against Morales is likely to reach similar levels as their cynical campaigns of lies and defamation against Venezuela and Nicaragua. Should that offensive go ahead, as seems probable, the difference will be that this time Evo Morales and his team are alert and unlikely to be taken by surprise as the Nicaraguan authorities were by the vicious, sudden attack against them in April 2018. A likely variation in Bolivia’s case will be a higher profile of environmentalist NGOs working in tandem with their human rights counterparts feeding misrepresentations and downright lies into Western news media. For the U.S. and European Union elites the regional geopolitical stakes are high enough to make an attack on Bolivia imperative.

 

[Stephen Sefton is a member of the Tortilla con Sal collective based in Nicaragua]

Playing Politics With Human Rights – How Amnesty International Distorted the Facts on Nicaragua

Tortilla Con Sal

DISMISSING THE TRUTH

Why Amnesty International is wrong about Nicaragua – An evaluation and response to the Amnesty International report ‘Instilling Terror: from lethal force to persecution in Nicaragua’

Published February 2019

Foreword

By Camilo Mejia, former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience

‘In war, truth is the first casualty.’ (Aeschylus)

The above quote, attributed to the ancient Greek tragedian Aeschylus, is timely and relevant to the Nicaraguan crisis more than 2500 years after its writing, not only because what has been happening in Nicaragua since April of last year is nothing shy of a war – military, economic, psychological,
cultural, political – but also because the truth about the crisis, with the full support of Amnesty International, was indeed the first casualty.

Throughout this critique of Amnesty International’s coverage and reporting of the crisis in Nicaragua, readers will find how public opinion has been manipulated in order to present a highly biased, antigovernment account of the violent events that befell the Central American nation between April and September of 2018. For starters, the first three people who died were a Sandinista, a police officer, and an innocent bystander returning home from work, and their deaths were not only violent, they marked the beginning of a pattern of death and destruction carried out by the opposition that was completely ignored by AI’s two reports: Shoot to Kill and Instilling Terror.

Secretary General of Amnesty International, Kumi Naidoo

Equally damaging to AI’s omission of the killing of Sandinistas, and anyone standing up to the opposition, is its insistence in portraying the anti-government protesters as peaceful, despite overwhelming photographic and video evidence to the contrary. Along with the misleading portrayal
of protesters as unarmed and peaceful, Amnesty also insists on painting the different actions by the opposition as legitimate civic acts of protest, when in reality they were marred by violence and death, as is obvious from the evidence throughout the report which follows.

Some of the notable cases overlooked by AI include the kidnapping and attempted murder of student union leader Leonel Morales, who supported the initial marchers on behalf of his union but was nearly killed by the opposition after the government called for a national dialogue, prompting
Morales to call off the protests. Another case was that of Sander Bonilla, a member of the Sandinista Youth whose kidnapping and torture, overseen by both Catholic and Evangelical priests, were captured on video. There are many other cases, presented here, of victims of the opposition that
were either omitted or manipulated by Amnesty International in its two official reports.

Perhaps the most important benefit that this response provides its readers is the encouragement to verify much of the information countering AI’s claims. This response does not address the entirety of AI’s reports (and focuses on the second one), but it provides sufficient information for readers to gain access to enough facts to discover a much wider picture of the crisis, and that in itself is a huge achievement.

While it is of vital importance that people become aware of the reality that we can no longer trust prestigious human rights organizations to tell us what is happening in the world, the real triumph of this critique would be for readers to go beyond both the crisis in Nicaragua and the destabilizing role Amnesty has played in it, because the truth is not a casualty only in Nicaragua, but everywhere else as well. And the real tragedy is not that we may no longer trust AI or others to tell us the truth, but that we have ceded our own agency, our own ability to question dominant narratives, and have chosen instead to blindly trust what powerful entities tell us.

As I write this foreword the United States’ war drums beat on Venezuela, where Amnesty International has also played a very destabilizing role. And that is how the story goes: the United States chooses a government for regime change, calls upon its grantees – media outlets of global
reach, human rights organizations, diplomatic entities, other powerful nations – to vilify the chosen government; before we know, and without ever taking the time to vet the information, we fall prey to the media spell and begin to provide our consent for intervention.

Lives matter! All lives! – including the lives of those whose deaths were omitted by Amnesty International in its two reports on Nicaragua. The lives of those the anti-government opposition robbed, kidnapped, tortured, raped, killed, and even burned in public view, matter. So why not view
this critique of a highly reputable human rights organization as an invitation to question the dominant narratives that herald invasions and occupations? We must reclaim our ability, our moral duty, to search for the truth, to find it and uphold it, to protect it, and to hold everyone accountable to it, starting with ourselves.

This report, Dismissing the Truth, provides a way for readers to do precisely that: find the truth on their own.

Miami, Florida, February 2019

DOWNLOAD THE DISMISSING THE TRUTH REPORT: dismissing_truth

Nicaragua and the Corruption, Cooptation of Human Rights

Tortilla Con Sal

January 5, 2019

By Stephen Sefton

 

Carrie Reichardt & The Treatment Rooms Collective “Power to the People” Quote by Berthldt Brecht  –  Disobedient Objects exhibit, 2014

 

Since the demise of the Soviet Union, almost 30 years ago, abuse and debasement of human rights concerns have served increasingly to create pretexts promoting Western dominance around the world. From former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, to Iraq and Sudan, to Ivory Coast, Libya and Syria, to Myanmar and Ukraine, Western governments have used non governmental human rights organizations and abuse of the United Nations system to attack countries resisting the demands of US and allied elites and the governments they control. In Latin America, that dynamic has long targeted Cuba, more recently Venezuela, now Nicaragua and will soon attack Bolivia and probably Mexico too, if the new progressive government there shows too much independence. The US and European elites have stepped up their efforts at regime change in Latin America and the Caribbean so as to guarantee access to and control of the region’s abundant natural resources, because Chinese and Russian influence is blocking their accustomed control of the majority world in Eurasia and Africa.

Like Venezuela previously, Nicaragua has been targeted by the US dominated Organization of American States using local US and European funded non-profit proxies inside Nicaragua and Western corporate dominated non-governmental organizations. They have manipulated international and regional human rights institutions so as to violate fundamental precepts of international law like self-determination and non-intervention. Just as in the 1980s in Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique and elsewhere, and now both Venezuela and Nicaragua again, violent armed non-governmental actors have been used to destabilize the country and create a context allowing false reporting of human rights concerns so as to discredit revolutionary governments.

As independent US writer Max Blumenthal pointed out in an interview in July last year, “…how I know that there was a regime change operation afoot – and when I say “regime change operation,” I mean an attack not just on a government but on the nation-state, a plan to reduce a country to a failed state like Libya – is that Ken Roth surfaced after the Nicaraguan government had essentially won and removed the roadblocks, allowing the economy which had bled $500 million to start functioning again, allowing citizens to start moving around. Ken Roth, the dictator of Human Rights Watch, who has been in the same position for 25 years, catering to a small cadre of billionaires and elite foundations with almost no constituency base, blamed the government for every single death.  Meaning that zero Sandinistas died according to Ken Roth.”

Blumenthal’s insight into the inextricable relationship between human rights NGOs and Western corporate elites suggests a series of points which categorically undermine glib acceptance of false human rights accusations against Nicaragua. The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are all guilty of extreme bad faith, non-compliance with basic norms and adherence to long discredited theoretical nostrums. In effect, they are themselves all accomplices to very serious human rights violations by Nicaragua’s US supported armed opposition. Four main considerations apply.

Firstly, on technical grounds none of these organizations have adhered even to the Huridocs guidelines, a tool created by and for Western government and corporate funded human rights organizations. The guidelines propose concepts and good practice in relation to fact-finding, documentation and monitoring of human rights violations. The IACHR, the UNOHCHR. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have categorically failed to comply with  the HURIDOCS guidelines. In terms of fact finding, they systematically omit sources and facts that contradict or exclude their preferred finding. In terms of documentation, they systematically exclude abundant documentation from Nicaraguan government ministries, from the public prosecutor’s office, from the legislature’s Truth and Justice Commission, from the Institute of Legal Medicine and from the Office of the Procurator for Human Rights.

All that information to a greater or lesser extent contradicts the bogus fact finding of the OAS, the UN and foreign NGOs. In terms of monitoring the situation in Nicaragua, all those institutions and organizations depend exclusively on virulently politically biased local media, NGOs and opposition activists. So even on their own terms, their methodology does not comply with basic concepts and standards and, thus, the kinds of cases they have built to justify their findings would never stand up to impartial legal scrutiny. One farcical aspect of their approach has been to accuse the Nicaraguan government of repressing local media when their main sources by far are abundant citations of false reports from those same local media, relayed via dishonest local human rights NGOs.

Secondly, in theoretical terms, the approach of the IACHR, the UNOHCHR and foreign NGOs like Amnesty International has been to exclude violations by non-State actors, exactly the same faithless alibi they all used during the Cold War. But that theoretical framework has been outdated since 1993 when the UN Human Rights Convention in Vienna explicitly recognized the role of non-State actors in human rights abuses (thus recognizing how the US government and its allies used irregular forces, like the Contra in Nicaragua, RENAMO in Mozambique and UNITA in Angola, to apply systematic terrorism against civilian populations). As Carlos Emilio Lopez a leading Nicaraguan human rights activist and legislator has pointed out:

“In 1993, with the approval of the Vienna Declaration of Human Rights, the subject of respect for human rights was re-conceptualized. For many years it was considered that only States should respect human, rights but that understanding is already out of date. The reconceptualization of human rights is that States must respect human rights but companies, churches, organizations must also do so, social organizations, oligopolies, the media, people as individuals. In other words, we are all obliged to respect human rights, not only State institutions.” Thus, every time Amnesty International or the IACHR claim their remit excludes non-State actors, they are appealing to a theoretical framework 30 years out of date deliberately so as to wash their hands of abuses by political actors with whom they sympathize.

Thirdly, specifically with regard to Amnesty International, their organization has been corrupted and co-opted over many years now by corporate influence via links through their senior personnel with corporate globalization advocates whose explicit aim is to undermine and diminish the role of sovereign nation states. Amnesty International’s Secretary General and senior directors, their International Board and its Secretary General’s Global Council freely advertise their background working either directly with multinational corporations, or with corporate funders  or with other heavily corporate funded non profits. In this, Amnesty International, like Human Rights Watch, is very similar to the Purpose/AVAAZ corporate human rights conglomerate. Their human rights activities are guided by emphatic neoliberal hostility to nation-State governments, such that their reporting deliberately sets out to exclude or discredit information from government or other official sources. More broadly in Latin American and the Caribbean, accompanying the encroaching cooptation of NGOs by corporate predators like Purpose, the overtly political Atlas network supports NGOs promoting extreme right wing policies across the region, thus facilitating the ascent to power of fascists like Jair Bolsonaro.

Above: Par for the course marketing. No expense is spared by in the multitude of Amnesty International demonization campaigns targeting leaders that defy US foreign policy. This 2011 ad was created by the advertising firm Euro RSGC (Havas Creative), co-founder of TckTckTck (GCCA).

Fourthly, that corporate corruption and cooptation of Sean MacBride‘s original vision of the role and work of Amnesty International and similar organizations, is clearly manifest in their demonstrable bias in favor of US and allied countries’ foreign policy priorities. In that regard, Professor Francis Boyle, among many others, has been an authoritative and trenchant critic of Amnesty International’s role in Palestine and elsewhere, whereby it downplays or minimizes violations by States allied to NATO countries. On the other hand, institutions like the IACHR and the UNOHCHR and organizations like Amnesty International, systematically exaggerate and even invent violations in countries targeted by NATO member country governments. Thus in Latin America, the current horrific record of human rights violations in Colombia and, until AMLO, in Mexico, has been played down and minimized, while events in Cuba, Venezuela and now Nicaragua have been systematically misrepresented.

All these concerns about the practical bad faith, theoretical dishonesty, corporate co-optation and outright political bias of human rights institutions and organizations should give any intellectually honest person of progressive views pause. People genuinely concerned about human rights should reassess what they think they know about Nicaragua and about Venezuela too. The US and allied country corporate elites are determined to use the governments, institutions and NGOs they have bought, to destroy resistance to their domination in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, the 60th anniversary this year of Cuba’s revolution, together with the 40th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua and the 20th anniversary of Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution suggest they will not have things all their own way.

 

[Stephen Sefton lives in Nicaragua and is a founder of Tortilla con Sal.] 

DEMOCRACY, CLASS AND THE FIGHT AGAINST RECOLONIZATION

Tortilla con Sal

November 5, 2018

By Stephen Sefton

 

Street Art, Managua, Nicaragua [source]

Versión en español

Having lost Eurasia, US and allied elites have prioritized Latin America and the Caribbean, seeking to re-consolidate control of the region’s resources. They work to destroy political movements and leaders who defend their countries’ impoverished majorities against the West’s neocolonial agenda. In particular, Western elites work with local allies to eliminate expressions of national sovereignty. From within, they undermine and co-opt governments and institutions. Externally they deploy all kinds of financial, trade, media and diplomatic aggression as well as military intimidation.

These fundamental processes drove political and economic events in the region through the 1990s. They have done so ever more intensively since the failed 2002 coup against President Chavez in Venezuela and the successful coup against Haiti’s President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004. US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s recent condemnation of the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela marks another explicit escalation of a process already well-advanced under President Obama. This Western offensive to recolonize Latin America and the Caribbean has highlighted the complex link between false foreign news coverage and domestic political control in North America and Europe.

Recent Western media attacks on Max Blumenthal and Kerry Ann Mendoza over their coverage of a US writer embedded in Nicaragua’s political opposition categorically exposed that reality. Western journalists and editors were more concerned about a coup-mongering activist-writer legitimately deported home to the US, than tens of pro-government journalists almost burned alive by the opposition terror gangs he supported. These Western journalists share their role as intellectual managers with university academics and managers of non-governmental organizations.

Across the political spectrum, they pose as trustworthy guides, offering false maps of the psychological warfare terrain they aim to control. John Bolton’s counterfactual attack on the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela as a “troika of tyranny” exposed the pernicious class role of these self-interested Western media, academic and NGO managers, who attack those countries’ governments using the same false information and deliberate omission as Bolton. A few recent examples related to Nicaragua make this clear.

Sociology professor Benjamin Waddell falsely claims the Sandinista government has banned protest demonstrations. In fact, the Nicaraguan government has applied its own existing laws to match public order norms in North America and Europe. Public protests in Nicaragua now have to get permission from the police agreeing the time and route of their demonstration. Before that measure, opposition extremists persistently used firearms during demonstrations to provoke the casualties they needed to be able to claim lethal repression.

Waddell himself mentions casualties include “a 16-year-old boy caught in the crossfire between government forces and demonstrators.” A more honest account would have noted the independent parliamentary Truth Commission’s reports showing how the briefing Waddell cites includes well over a hundred deaths entirely unconnected to the protests and other alleged deaths completely undocumented. Nor does Waddell acknowledge independent reports confirming that around two thirds of the fatalities have been shown to be either Sandinista supporters or innocent bystanders.

Across the political aisle, Bill van Auken explains about President Ortega “Until now, Washington has exhibited a certain ambivalence toward the government of the Sandinista leader, who returned to power in 2007 on the basis of an economic program geared to the interests of Nicaraguan and foreign capital.” You read that right. Auken claims the US government will no longer tolerate a Nicaraguan regime geared to the interests of foreign capital. Similar self-contradictory irrationality bedevils ill-informed foreign coverage of Nicaragua.

Other writers display their lazy ignorance via outright falsehoods. Academic Jenny Pearce, commenting on the attempted coup in Nicaragua claims President Ortega “responded to protests at corruption and authoritarianism by unleashing para-police forces against protesters”. In fact, Daniel Ortega quickly responded to the initial extremely violent opposition protests by calling for national dialogue with mediation by the Catholic Church. Compounding her falsehood, Pearce also claims “most” of the coup promoters in Nicaragua “are neither counter-revolutionaries nor right-wing.” To the complete contrary, the coup promoters were all either well known right wing leaders or else foreign-funded groups long openly allied with them.

The coup promoters quickly and openly identified themselves: Piero Coen, Nicaragua’s wealthiest individual; Micheal Healy a manager for Colombian agribusiness interests; the private sector employers’ organization COSEP; fascist Catholic bishops and right wing Nicaraguan political parties; US funded NGOs and media all closely associated with the US allied MRS political party; a foreign-funded rural workers group; and very small numbers of unrepresentative, foreign-supported students. MRS leaders openly accept funding from the US authorities and lobby for support from fascist politicians like Marco Rubio and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. But Jenny Pearce thinks these components “express a democratising, ethical, equitable, environment and land-protecting politics from below.”

Another respected progressive academic, Belgium’s Eric Toussaint overtakes Pearce’s counterfactual analysis with deliberate outright disinformation. Toussaint’s latest attack starts with the long debunked falsehood, that Nicaragua’s proposed Social Security reform was dictated by the IMF. The reverse is true. The Nicaraguan government defended workers and pensioners against IMF proposals. That is why the government proposal was rejected by the right wing coup promoters who cleverly used mass manipulation via social networks and right wing media to mobilize ill-informed protesters. By contrast, Toussaint has no excuse for ignoring the clearly documented reality.

Among much other disinformation Toussaint, defends sinister individuals like Francisca Ramirez and Medardo Mairena who in recent years, regularly organized often violent roadblocks to protest against Nicaragua’s proposed inter-oceanic canal. In retrospect, they were clearly preparing for the recent coup attempt. During the attempted coup between April and July, Ramirez, Mairena and their violent thugs operated roadblocks intimidating and extorting local farmers and business people while ensuring free transit for their own supporters’ farm animals and produce. Medardo Mairena, earlier expelled from Costa Rica accused of people trafficking, now awaits trial for the murder of four police officers and a school teacher on July 12th just as the failed coup attempt was ending.

Right or Left, Western apologists for the attempted coup in Nicaragua cover up what is self-evident. The US authorities and their allies attack the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela precisely because they have democratized their societies and economies against Western and allied elite interests. This year’s failed coup attempt in Nicaragua faithfully copied the serial coup attempts in Venezuela since 2013. All these attacks have been organized and timed to facilitate US government sanctions aimed at regime change. Currently, on Nicaragua the big lie is that the crisis continues, when in fact it has been over since July and life quickly returned to complete normality.

Recycling falsehoods promoting the US regime change agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean corrupts democratic debate in the West and creates an alibi for the phony, anti-democratically framed elections of US allies like Brazil’s fascist ideologue Jair Bolsonaro. Clear-sighted anti-imperialist writers like Max Blumenthal, Kerry Ann Mendoza and Jonathan Cook, among many others, repeatedly make this same point. Untruthful foreign affairs coverage by the Western intellectual, NGO and media class, destroys democratic debate at home, to the benefit of NATO country elites. Western coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean, especially Nicaragua and Venezuela now, demonstrates that reality over and over again.

 

[Stephen Sefton lives in Nicaragua and is a founder of Tortilla con Sal.]

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.

Camilo Mejia Analyzes the Soft Coup Attempt in Nicaragua

TeleSUR

August 28, 2018

By Rick Sterling

At the Oakland event, Camilo showed a torture video which demonstrates opposition violence. | Photo: Reuters

Camilo Mejía wrote an open letter condemning the Amnesty report for being biased and actually contributing to the chaos and violence.

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

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

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

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

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

Camilo Mejía

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goal Accomplished

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

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

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

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

 

[Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist and current board president of Task Force on the Americas.]

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