Special thanks to Informe Pastran for pulling together a number of sources about the efforts of Cuban gusanos in the US Congress to impose sanctions on Nicaragua and to report the State Department and USAID responses which are just about as bad. The quotes I use below were first made in English then translated into Spanish and then translated back into English by me. Therefore there may be cases where the translated English isn’t exactly the same as the original English. But, since none of the speakers were exactly presenting nuanced statements, I do not believe I did violence to the points they intended to make.
The Western Hemispheric Affairs Sub-committee of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee is considering a bill called the H.R. 5708, NICARAGUA INVESTMENT CONDITIONALITY ACT (NICA) OF 2016 that would restrict multilateral loans unless Nicaragua becomes a vassal of the US. It is a smoke and mirrors play for right-wing home district votes since Congress is in its final week before the election and there won’t be time in the lame duck session after the election for such legislation to wend its way through the legislative process. Any unpassed legislation must be started from scratch in the new Congress that will be sworn-in in January.
Nevertheless, the sub-committee hearing gives us a window into US policy where we can see that policy toward Nicaragua (and Latin America in general) does not change from administration to administration regardless of which party of the 1% is in power.
Two Obama administration officials testified at the hearing: Juan Gonzalez, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Marcela Escobari, Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean of USAID.
Gonzalez told the committee, “The United States is concerned about the actions of the government of Nicaragua and the Supreme Court to limit democratic space.” He dismissed the Nov. 6 elections to as “a pantomime” and demand the Sandinista government change course and promised the US government would support the religious, civil society, and business leaders and to advocate for democracy and separation of powers.
Translation: The US will continue to call Ortega a dictator and his government anti-democratic no matter what Nicaraguan voters say on Election Day. And the US will continue to fund the anti-Sandinista opposition, both the largely US-created so-called civil society, and the minority of business leaders, led by banker Eduardo Montealegre, who are driven by ideology. The majority of Nicaraguan capitalists have discovered that they can make more money cooperating with the government and labor to achieve labor stability and supporting poverty alleviation programs which create workers for their industries and consumers for their profits. About the only change in US government discourse in over 30 years is they don’t call Ortega a Communist Dictator anymore. The new buzz words are authoritarian and anti-democratic.
Support for the anti-Sandinista “civil society” and business leaders is the job of USAID (US Agency for International Development) which since the Reagan administration has been less and less about development and more and more about destabilizing Left governments and manipulating elections. They call it “Democracy Promotion.” That’s why Marcela Escobari testified at the hearing.
Escobari claimed that USAID’s work in Nicaragua is “to meet the most urgent needs of the country, including support for civil society, improving public safety and better opportunities for young people.”
Translation: The most urgent needs of the country, according to the US government, are to finance the anti-Sandinista civil society, undermine the National Police, and to indoctrinate young people to support Empire and neoliberal capitalism. No wonder there was no progress made on reducing poverty during the 17 years of neoliberal governments beholden to the US; a time when USAID had free reign to pursue its priorities.
Escobari also said, “USAID remains committed to supporting the people of Nicaragua, including civil society, and to demand a more open, transparent and accountable government” and “to promote democratic processes in the country such as freedom of association, policy dialogues, and to demand accountability of public resources .” Since Nicaragua already has freedom of association, lively public debate on policy, and accountability of public resources — which is code for Venezuelan oil aid — it would seem that most of USAID’s commitments have already been met.
Escobari’s comments on youth were interesting. She said USAID programs are aimed to “engage and empower the next generation to participate in democratic processes” and therefore “to teach youth the rights and responsibilities of a democratic society, including the crucial need for a significant [non-Sandinista] political party with presence and participation at national and local levels.” “USAID has also developed courses and leadership training for a group of politicians and young civic leaders,” she added, explaining that they are also supporting some social media communication in Nicaragua to defend “the right to freedom of expression and access to public information.”
I would just note that these training programs for opposition politicians and youth leaders are conducted openly and without interference from the Great Dictator and the media is free and uncensored by the “dictatorship.”
Escobari told the subcommittee that “as conditions deteriorate and power is consolidated in the executive branch of Nicaragua, USAID will examine how to adapt our programming this new reality,” while “we are considering new ways to support traditional organizations of civil society to improve its effectiveness in an increasingly hostile environment “…”we believe that the elections must be free, fair and transparent, and that every vote should count…It is imperative that the US Government continue to participate and support the people of Nicaragua, including youth and civil society, offering a lifeline to help them continue to advocate for their rights and freedom in an increasingly challenging time.”
Escobari apparently knows what the people of Nicaragua need better than they do themselves. General Manager of M & R Consultants Raul Obregon, who is no friend of Sandinismo, in analyzing the result of their latest poll said the Nicaraguan population is not numbed as alleged by some opposition leaders and even religious leaders, because they do not come out in the streets to protest against the government. “Nicaraguans in our surveys,” he said, “know what they want. They want to live in peace, security, do not want confrontation, have hopes for a better future and the economy is their primary concern. So in the last survey 8 out of 10 say they are willing to vote.” (Despite the call by the US-backed opposition to boycott the election. This is the same tactic the US used in 1985 when it realized its candidate was going to lose badly. The US government forced him to pull out of the race so it could claim the vote was not legitimate.)
Although both the State Department and USAID representatives opposed the bills for sanctions and US veto of multilateral loans as “against US interests” and because they would hurt the Nicaraguan people, it was clear that their goals did not differ from the committee’s right-wing leadership. Nor have those goals changed since Ronald Reagan’s first day in office in 1980. The Empire can be patient when it has no alternative. There is no viable opposition to Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista Party; not because Ortega has closed democratic spaces, but because the opposition has no unity, no political program that appeals to voters, and because most people’s lives have improved under the Sandinista government of the last nine years. The US goal to return Nicaragua to its position as a vassal state of the US Empire has not changed and will not change. That is why we need to continue to act in solidarity with Nicaragua to thwart US goals.
- Costa Rica has abandoned plans to complete a road on its side of the Rio San Juan that was begun under the presidency of Laura Chinchilla in retaliation for Nicaragua dredging the river which lies entirely within Nicaragua’s borders. The road quickly deteriorated dumping a huge amount of silt in the river. According to the Costa Rican newspaper, La Nacion, 42 people are being investigated for corruption during the road’s construction. The government announced that the road would not be completed due to “lack of design and funds.” (Informe Pastran, Sept. 16)
- José Venancio Berrios, president of the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), met with Republican Senator David Vitter. The PLI is the courageous Liberal Party faction that broke with the dictator Somoza’s Nationalist Liberal Party in 1944 to join the political opposition. Berrios and the traditional leadership of the PLI were ousted in a hostile take-over five years ago by US-backed Eduardo Montealegre. They filed suit against the new leadership and were awarded custody of the party this year by the Supreme Court. Montealegre and several National Assembly representatives refused to recognize the party leadership or turn over the party’s financial records so the PLI replaced them with loyal party members. Berrios said, “I explained to Sen. Vitter that Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen had been misinformed by Eduardo Montealegre, Enrique Saenz of MRS (Sandinista Renovation Movement) and others.” Vitter’s press office said Berrios told Vitters that the replacement of deputies was “made as stipulated in our Policy and Organic Law of the National Assembly and Constitution.” (Informe Pastran, Sept. 16)
- Official World Bank statistics show that Nicaragua reduced poverty from 42.5% in 2009 to 29.6% in 2014 and extreme poverty from 14.6% to 8.3% over the same period. In the last 10 years the Nicaraguan Institute for Urban and Rural Housing (INVUR) reported it has built or improved more than 100,000 homes. Small and medium businesses have had access to favorable credit, and seeds and domestic animals have been delivered to thousands of of peasant farmers. (Nicaragua News, Sept. 15)
- By the end of this year, 115,000 small businesses headed by women will have benefited from the Zero Usury program according to its director, Leonor Corea. The program offers loans up to about US$350 at low interest and easy payments to expand their businesses. Many women have gotten more than one loan. (Nicaragua News, Sept. 14)