This week we include a guest blog by Tortilla con Sal which was first published by Telesur. Amnesty International has followed international non-governmental groups Frontline Defenders and Global Witness with a hit piece on Nicaragua using false claims of government human rights violations by conflating anti-canal organizing in the far south of the country with indigenous peasant vs. mestizo peasant land dispute violence in the North Caribbean Autonomous Region. The anti-canal opposition and government response have both been for the most part peaceful. The three international liberal organizations’ negative reports are curiously timed to feed into the anti-Nicaragua discourse being used to promote the NICA Act in Congress. The NICA Act would make it US policy to choke off international loans to Nicaragua, thus damaging the economy and the promoting right-wing opposition supported by far right Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and others.
Amnesty International –
Weaponizing Hypocrisy for the US and NATO
Over the last year, in Latin America, Amnesty International have taken their collusion in support of NATO government foreign policy down to new depths of falsehood and bad faith attacking Venezuela and, most recently, Nicaragua. The multi-million dollar Western NGO claims, “We are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion”. That claim is extremely dishonest. Many of Amnesty International’s board and most of the senior staff in its Secretariat, which produces the organization’s reports, are individuals with a deeply ideologically committed background in corporate dominated NGO’s like Purpose, Open Society Institute, Human Rights Watch, and many others.
Mexico has over 36000 people disappeared and abuses by the security forces are constant. Colombia has over 4 million internally displaced people with over 53 community activists murdered just in 2017. Amnesty International generally puts that horrific reality in context by including criticism of forces challenging those countries’ authorities. By contrast, its reporting on Venezuela and Nicaragua, like those of other similar Western NGOs, reproduces the false claims of those countries’ minority political opposition forces, all supported one way or another by NATO member country governments.
In Venezuela and Nicaragua, Western human rights organizations exaggerate alleged government violations while minimizing abuses and provocations by the opposition.
This screenshot of Amnesty International’s three main news items on Venezuela from August 9th gives a fair idea of the organization’s heavily politicized, bad faith coverage of recent events.
This is identical false coverage to that of Western mainstream corporate media and most Western alternative media outlets too. Amnesty International’s coverage minimizes opposition murders of ordinary Venezuelans, setting many people on fire, violent attacks on hospitals, universities and even preschools and innumerable acts of intimidation of the general population. That headline “Venezuela: Lethal violence, a state policy to strangle dissent” is a pernicious lie. President Nicolas Maduro explicitly banned the use of lethal force against opposition demonstrations from the start of the latest phase of the opposition’s long drawn out attempted coup back in early April this year.
Likewise, against Nicaragua, Amnesty’s latest report, kicking off their global campaign to stop Nicaragua’s proposed Interoceanic Canal, also begins with a demonstrable lie: “Nicaragua has pushed ahead with the approval and design of a mega-project that puts the human rights of hundreds of thousands of people at risk, without consultation and in a process shrouded in silence” That claim is completely false. Even prior to September 2015, the international consultants’ impact study found that the government and the HKND company in charge of building the Canal had organized consultations with, among others, over 5400 people from rural communities in addition to 475 people from indigenous communities along the route of the Canal and its subsidiary projects. There has been very extensive media discussion and coverage of the project ever since it was announced.
That extremely prestigious Environmental Resources Management (ERM) consultants’ Environmental and Social Impact study, which together with associated studies cost well over US$100 million, is publicly available in Spanish and in English. Two years ago, it anticipated all the criticisms made by Amnesty International and was accepted by the Nicaraguan government, leading to a long period of analysis and revision that is still under way. Amnesty International excludes that information. Recently, government spokesperson Telemaco Talavera, said the continuing process involves a total of 26 further studies. Until the studies are complete, the government is clearly right to avoid commenting on the proposed Canal, because the new studies may radically change the overall project.
Amnesty International states, “According to independent studies of civil society organizations, along the announced route of the canal, approximately 24,100 households (some 119,200 people) in the area will be directly impacted.” But, the ERM study notes, “HKND conducted a census of the population living in the Project Affected Areas. The census determined that approximately 30,000 people (or 7,210 families) would need to be physically or economically displaced.” But Amnesty International’s report omits that contradictory detail, demonstrating how irrationally committed they are to the false propaganda of Nicaragua’s political opposition.
Amnesty International claim their research team interviewed “at least 190 people” concerned about the effects of the Canal. By contrast, the Nicaraguan government and the HKND company have discussed the project with around six thousand people in the areas along the route of the Canal. In that regard, even the local church hierarchy has criticized the way the Nicaraguan opposition have manipulated rural families on the issue of the Canal. But that fact too, Amnesty International omits. Their whole report is tailor made to supplement the political opposition’s campaign for US intervention via the notorious NICA Act.
The Nicaraguan government has made an express commitment to a fair and just resolution of the issue of expropriations. Its 2015 report on the Canal in the context of its National Development Plan, states : “The Nicaraguan government and HKND will guarantee that persons and families on the route of the Canal’s construction will have living conditions superior to those they currently have (without the Canal). To that end, the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity, via the Project’s Commission, will guarantee not just a fair and transparent indemnification of their properties, via negotiations and direct agreements with each family affected, but furthermore will promote actions to improve their economic conditions, health care, education, housing and employment.
But the Amnesty International report systematically excludes that and any other sources giving the government’s point of view, claiming it was unable to access primary sources either from the government itself or from among the Canal’s numerous advocates. However, secondary sources abound that categorically contradict Amnesty’s advocacy against the Canal. Their report specifically and extensively attacks the Law 840, facilitating the construction of the Canal and its sub-projects, but cynically omits a fundamental, crucial detail, while also failing completely to give relevant social and economic context.
The crucial detail is that Law 840’s Article 18 specifically states the Canal project “cannot require any Government Entity to take any action that violates the political Constitution of the Republic of Nicaragua or the terms of any international treaty of which the State of the Republic of Nicaragua is a party.” Amnesty International completely omit that absolutely crucial part of the Law 840 from their report because it makes redundant their advocacy of opposition claims attacking the equity and legality of the Canal’s legal framework. The same is true of the relevant political, social and economic context.
Nicaragua’s political culture is based on dialog, consensus and respect for international law. All the main business organizations and labor unions in Nicaragua and all the main international financial and humanitarian institutions acknowledge that. President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo enjoy levels of approval of over 70%. There is good reason for that massive majority approval. Among many other factors, the precedents of how the Nicaraguan authorities have resolved relocating populations affected by large projects, for example the Tumarín hydroelectric project, completely contradict the scaremongering of the Nicaraguan opposition propaganda, so glibly recycled by Amnesty International.
Nicaragua’s current Sandinista government has been the most successful ever in reducing poverty and defending the right of all Nicaraguans to a dignified life. To do so, among many other initiatives, it has mobilized record levels of foreign direct investment. In that context, Law 840 explicitly protects the huge potential investments in the proposed Canal, while at the same time implicitly guaranteeing constitutional protections. Similarly, ever since the announcement of the Canal, President Ortega has repeatedly, publicly reassured people in Nicaragua that any families who may eventually be relocated should the Canal go ahead will get every necessary help and assistance from the government.
Just as it has done in the case of Venezuela, on Nicaragua, Amnesty International misrepresents the facts, cynically promoting the positions of the country’s right wing political opposition. In Latin America, under cover of phony concern for peoples’ basic rights, in practice Amnesty International, like almost all the big multi-millionaire Western NGOs, gives spurious humanitarian cover to the political agenda of the US and allied country corporate elites and their governments. The destructive, catastrophic effects of Amnesty International’s recent role in the crises affecting Syria, Ukraine and now Venezuela, are living proof of that.
- Nicaragua Supreme Court President Alba Luz Ramos announced the creation of the Nicaragua Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges (AIMJ-Nicaragua), the purpose of which is to strengthen women’s participation in the judicial sector. “This is an international association of female judges and magistrates and we believe that Nicaragua can make valuable contributions in the promotion and protection of women’s rights,” Magistrate Ramos said. (Nicaragua News, Aug. 14)
- The Nicaragua Center for Exports (CETREX) reported that coffee exports totaled US$409.8 million during the first seven months of this year, US$82 million more than in the same period of 2016. The United States, Venezuela, Belgium, Germany, Canada, Japan, Spain, and Taiwan are among the main markets for Nicaragua coffee exports. (Nicaragua News, Aug. 14)
- A World Bank report entitled, “Toward a Shared Prosperity in Nicaragua,” published last week, reaffirms the commitment of the Bank to support efforts undertaken by the Nicaragua government in the fight against poverty. The report states that the Nicaraguan government over the last 10 years has successfully managed projects financed by the World Bank. The multilateral lending institution also noted that it is important to continue to support programs and projects in sectors such as infrastructure, healthcare, education, water and sanitation, property rights and agricultural production in Nicaragua. (Nicaragua News, Aug. 11)
- Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo announced that the Saudi Arabian government has donated 309 tons of dates to strengthen the Nicaragua School Lunch Program. The donation will benefit more than 365,000 students in municipalities of the Nicaragua Dry Corridor. (Nicaragua News, Aug. 11)
- Polaris Energy of Canada announced that its Nicaragua San Jacinto-Tizate geothermal plant reported more than US$29.3 million in revenue during the first six months of this year, US$5 million above the amount reported in the same period of 2016. “Geothermal energy generation grew from 46.5MW to 59.2MW and greater growth is being projected for this year,” the company said. (Nicaragua News, Aug. 10)
- Rosendo Mayorga, president of the Nicaragua Chamber of Commerce, announced that the commercial sector reached 186,000 formal jobs last May, representing growth of 14.3% over the same period of last year. He also noted that commercial activity in May was 4.7% above the same period of 2016. (Nicaragua News, Aug. 9)
- The Nicaragua Central Bank announced that the annual inflation rate in July was 3.1%, representing a reduction of 0.99% compared to the same period in 2016. The report also noted that the Nicaragua economy is projected to grow 5% this year, with an estimated inflation rate of 4.5%. (Nicaragua News, Aug. 9)
- A National Institute of Information for Development (INIDE) report states that the Nicaragua housing occupancy rate grew 4%, going from 94.5% in 2009 to 98.2% last year. The report also noted that access to potable water service increased 8% and electric service 9%. (Nicaragua News, Aug. 9))
- The President of the Nicaragua Energy Chamber, César Zamora announced that the government has approved the building of two new renewable energy projects. “The first is a 30MW biomass electricity generating plant at the CASUR sugar mill that will begin operation next year and the other is a 6MW hydroelectric plant in the northern part of the country. The construction of these two plants confirms the strong commitment of the Nicaragua government to diversify the national energy matrix,” Zamora said. (Nicaragua News, Aug. 8)