NicaNotes: Open Letter to 60 Minutes: Stop Spreading Lies about Nicaragua

By Susan Lagos

[Susan Lagos worked as a Spanish and ESL teacher for 30 years. She has lived in Ciudad Dario, Matagalpa, Nicaragua, for 18 years; and also lived in other Latin American nations for 16 years.]

“A 60 Minute team [should] actually come to Nicaragua to interview the people that live here whose lives have improved amazingly since 2007 with free universal education and health care.” Photo of new hospitals built recently from Nicaragua Sandino.

Dear 60 Minutes:

I was appalled to see your program on Nicaragua of June 19, 2022.

I have enjoyed many other 60 Minutes programs, but this one was totally one-sided and false. I have lived in Nicaragua since 2004, and traveled here many times in the 1980’s and 1990’s. So I have lived among people with a totally different reality than those you interviewed.

The two women you interviewed are the wives of Juan Sebastian Chamorro and Felix Maradiaga, from among the wealthy, closely connected with the US government, who studied in US universities and who speak English. Berta Valle, wife of Maradiaga, happens to be from the family down the block from me in Ciudad Dario, Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

The Chamorro and Maradiaga non-profits (IEEPP and FUNIDES respectively) were funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), founded to do overtly what the CIA has done covertly and also by other US organizations like the IRI and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), US foundations, and similar European organizations. The USAID has given more than half a billion dollars to Nicaraguan nonprofits like these since the Sandinistas regained the presidency in 2007. The USAID also organized and funded a destabilization plan known as RAIN (Responsive Action in Nicaragua) for the pre and post November 2021 election periods which is likely still functioning.

In August 2021 the Public Prosecutor’s office accused Maradiaga and Chamorro of being part of a major group conspiring with the US against Nicaragua continually since 2009 and headed by Manuel Orozco Ramírez. Orozco is an associate of Creative Associates International (CAI), a global agency funded by USAID to “engineer political transitions” with over US$2 billion in US government contracts as reported by Mintpress.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, Orozco was in charge of triangulating resources from international organizations to Nicaraguan pro-coup foundations, among them IEEPP, Fundación Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, FUNIDES, CINCO and Movimiento Puente por Nicaragua. In turn, these organizations channeled resources to armed groups, and to gangs of communication assassins (call centers of people paid to spread lies that would favor the destabilization of Nicaragua), coordinated to overthrow the constitutional government of Nicaragua.

Orozco formed a criminal group with the accused José Pallais Arana, Felix Maradiaga Blandón, José Adán Aguerri Chamorro, Juan Sebastián Chamorro García, Arturo Cruz Sequeira, Violeta Granera Padilla, Tamara Dávila Rivas and others under investigation, who received money to manage US aggression against the State of Nicaragua. Likewise, they incited foreign interference in the country’s internal affairs, the destabilization of the country with foreign financing and actions to discredit the legitimately elected Government of Nicaragua.

The nonprofits funded by the US also include pro-US media that the United States not only funds but helped to found; these are used to attempt to destabilize Nicaragua with constant disinformation and lies then picked up by the US corporate media.

Maradiaga and Chamorro’s nonprofits were involved in channeling funds for the 2018 US-directed coup attempt against Nicaragua. This was a very violent three-month long attempt to get the democratically elected Sandinista government out of power – many people were kidnapped, tortured and killed by US-paid thugs, people’s homes and government buildings were burned. People in Nicaragua are still terribly traumatized by the level of violence that took place.

The reason these men were arrested in 2021 is because they committed treason and fraud and laundered money to try to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. That is a crime in any country. It is a lie that they were pre-candidates for the November 2021 election. They represented no party and had no followers or platform, so could not register to run. No one here would vote for them, because they were part of the attempted coup in April-July 2018, which not only tried to remove President Ortega, but attempted to ruin the economy by setting up road blocks everywhere that prohibited travel to school, work, hospitals, anywhere – to get past you had to “pay”; many people were captured, kidnapped, torturing, robbed and killed at these roadblocks. There is a video of Maradiaga with gun-toting thugs at a university in Nicaragua, the Universidad Politécnica (UPOLI), taken over in April 2018 and used as one of the headquarters for those carrying out the coup attempt.

Maradiaga at the UPOLI with thugs involved in the April 2018 coup violence. Photos taken from a YouTube video.

The US government has, since the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, tried to control all of Latin America, but especially Nicaragua: William Walker in the 1850’s, the US Marines who occupied and ran Nicaragua, including most elections between 1909 and 1933, the US backed Somoza dictatorship from 1936-79, the Contra War (Nicaraguans call it Reagan’s war) of the 1980’s, and the neo-liberal governments in favor of the wealthy and US interests from 1990 to 2007. Then we had the attempted coup, previously planned according to Gene Sharp’s theories and carried out by his disciples, US agents, including Felix Maradiaga and Juan Sebastian Chamorro.

Chamorro, nephew of US-backed president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (1990 – 1997), was chosen by the US to head the Millennium Challenge Corporation under President Bolaños where he was known for giving contracts to his friends.

The correction of this travesty of reporting from 60 Minutes requires a 60 Minute team to actually come to Nicaragua to interview the people that live here whose lives have improved amazingly since 2007 with free universal education and health care; 99.2% of homes have electricity; about 90% have running water; the best roads in the region; housing programs; more than half a million people have received a registered title to their land. The primary goal of the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity is the elimination of poverty.

Your team needs to see with your own eyes the truth and reality here, that this government of Daniel Ortega was elected by over 75% of voters in a legal election, with six other parties participating and nearly 300,000 people involved in making sure the election was free and fair. Why? Because the population sees that he cares about the future of the country and the well-being of its citizens.

I bet US citizens would prefer a government that uses their taxes for housing, health care and education, instead of starting conflicts all over the globe, spending more than half of the national budget on weapons and war, for the benefit of corporations who make weapons.

Please let me know what you plan to do to rectify your very lopsided and false report on Nicaragua.

Susan Lagos

By Nan McCurdy

Thousands Take Part in Reenactment of Retreat to El Vapor
Historical combatants, youth and inhabitants of Managua participated on June 25 in a reenactment of the June 16, 1979, tactical retreat to the El Vapor hacienda. Historical combatant Héctor Luis Obregón, who participated in the 1979 retreat, recalled that, at the time of the Somoza dictatorship, being young was forbidden, and thousands offered their lives so that the triumph of the Revolution could take place. Obregón pointed out that Somoza’s genocidal National Guard had mounted “Operation Cleanup”, and as the revolutionaries in San Judas neighborhood had run out of ammunition, it was decided to retreat to the El Vapor Hacienda area to avoid a greater massacre. Silvio Mercado said that the youth stood out in the struggle and that one of the important historic actions that saved lives was the El Vapor Retreat on June 16, 1979.  The Somoza dictatorship was intensifying its attacks against the people, including with aerial bombing. The populous San Judas barrio stood out as a guerrilla bastion of the FSLN. The El Vapor operation consisted of the strategic withdrawal of the population of San Judas and other barrios in western and southern Managua to the El Vapor hacienda and others located in the municipality of El Crucero, where they would reconcentrate forces to give the final blow to the Somoza dictatorship. (Radio La Primerisima, 25 June 2022)

Government Prepared for Tropical Storm
345 shelters are in perfect condition and ready to take care of the families that might require protection in view of a tropical disturbance advancing towards Nicaragua [on June 28], said National Assembly Deputy Shaira Downs of the South Caribbean Autonomous Region. She added that the entire prevention system through COMUPRED and SINAPRED at the municipal, regional, and central government levels has been activated with the updating of emergency plans following the orientations of the government for the protection of families in the zones that could be affected. “We have more than 174 critical zones and at least 31 areas of landslide risk,” she said, adding that “We have a lot of experience in these issues and all entities are coordinating to safeguard lives.” (Radio La Primerisima, 28 June 2022)

Almost 84% Fully Vaccinated against Covid
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported yesterday that with 83.9% of the population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Nicaragua is the country in the Central American region with the highest percentage of fully vaccinated people, followed by Costa Rica (80.6%); Panama (71.1%); El Salvador (66%); Honduras (53.2%); Guatemala (34.6%). (Nicaragua News, 24 June 2022)

US Sanctions Will Not Stop Trade
The Minister of Finance and Public Credit, Iván Acosta, in an interview with RT, said that the sanctions imposed by the US on other countries “are an uncivilized way of doing politics.” Acosta affirmed that sanctions have affected Nicaragua’s trade and banking services. In addition, they have had a negative effect on transportation, ports and logistics. “The impact is on the great majorities and the poor,” he said. “Sanctions and aggressions are impactful, but they do not stop our effort to guarantee trade, mobilize investments and exchange in different areas,” he maintained. Acosta asserted that in recent years “broad cooperation in various areas” with Russia has been achieved. The cooperation between both countries, despite the sanctions imposed on both of them, is carried out in the areas of pharmaceuticals, vaccines, cultural activities, energy for peaceful purposes, education, trade, and transportation, among others. He explained that the US dollar will continue “to be a reference currency”, as it has been since the 1970s. However, due to the imposition of coercive measures on other countries that prevent making transactions in dollars, “it is not going to be as relevant due to the same exclusionary US policy errors in trade and banks.” “Using trade and financial operations to attack countries is equivalent to a rolling tank,” he said. With the prohibition on making commercial operations with dollars, “the countries with more participation in global trade are going to look for solutions where the dollar is not included.” In his opinion, this will not make the currency “disappear from one day to the next”, but it will ensure that “it will not have as much influence.” (Radio La Primerisima, 27 June 2022)

Exports to Mexico Have Increased
The Nicaragua Investment Promotion Agency reported that exports of goods and merchandise to Mexico totaled US$768.6 million in 2021, 92.8% growth compared to 2020. The products with the highest demand in the Mexican market were vehicle harnesses (65.3%), beef (15.9%), miscellaneous merchandise (12%), and crude oil (6.8%). Mexico is the third most important commercial partner of Nicaragua, representing 11.8% of total exports in 2021. (Nicaragua News, 27 June 2022)

More Teachers with University Degrees
There are now 100 more primary schools where all teachers have university degrees, according to presidential advisor on educational issues Salvador Vanegas. With these 100, there will now be more than 8,000 schools where all teachers have degrees in education science. (Radio La Primerisima, 27 June 2022)

Some 60,000 Teachers to Receive Bonus
The Ministry of Education will give a bonus to 60,000 teachers in celebration of the National Teachers’ Day. More than 4,000 MINED facilitators began the second week of training, prior to the national day of strengthening the training of the 60,000 teachers of the public system. “We are going to be working with more than 4,000 facilitators, among them, directors, deputy directors of educational centers who are coordinators of pedagogical meetings. We also have national advisors, departmental and municipal pedagogical advisors who will serve as facilitators for this process,” said Alina González, Director of Teacher Training. The facilitators will learn about scientific, methodological and didactic contents that they will reproduce with teachers to update competencies. (Radio La Primerisima, 27 June 2022)

Pharmaceutical Labs in Iran and Nicaragua Sign Agreement
A Cooperation Agreement was signed between Barekat Pharmaceutical Group of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Nicaragua Social Security Institute and Ramos Laboratories, to strengthen public health capabilities in both countries. The agreement provides for the exchange of best practices in public health, transfer of technologies to produce medicines, as well as the distribution of Iranian made medicines, raw materials, and medical supplies in Nicaragua. (Nicaragua News, 27 June 2022)

More than 2,000 Students Finishing Technical Degrees

In the first semester of 2022, the National Technological Institute (INATEC) supervised 175,770 students in programs throughout the country, reported Loyda Barreda, director of INATEC. 2,467 new technicians are finishing their study programs and are apprenticing or starting their own businesses. This week the National Technological Institute is closing this semester with a good balance in the program’s technical schools. 15,693 producers and their children have been incorporated, with 63% of the enrollment being women. Since February 2021, INATEC is the governing entity that accredits the training offered in public and private centers. (Radio la Primerisima, 27 June 2022)

Loan to Cover Increases in Petroleum, Gas and Electricity
President Ortega authorized a loan with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) for US$200 million to help cover the rise in fuel prices in the country. The government will continue absorbing 100% of the increase in fuel, liquefied gas, and electricity costs mitigating the effect that high prices have on the final consumers and producers. The loan is part of the “Temporary Support Program for Rise in Fuel Costs in Regional Member Countries of CABEI.” (Nicaragua News, 23 June 2022)

World Bank Loan for Health
The World Bank Board approved a loan for US$116 million to support the Nicaragua Covid-19 Prevention and Management Plan. The World Bank Representative in Nicaragua, Kinnon Scott, stated that “the loan is only the second disbursement by the bank since the start of the pandemic in 2020. The Bank recognizes the progress made in the Nicaragua public health system and with this loan, supports the efforts by the government to guarantee essential medical care for all Nicaraguans and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on human well-being and economic recovery.” The loan will be used for medical supplies and equipment in support of the functionality and expansion of the national cold chain to preserve vaccines and used to strengthen the healthcare system response capabilities to the pandemic and other diseases. (Nicaragua News, 24 June 2022)

Excerpts from Remarks by Vice President Rosario Murillo on the Birthday of Carlos Fonseca, which is Father’s Day in Nicaragua, June 23, 2022
How beautiful all these days are, how intense these days, how replete these days… Full of heart, full of emotion, full of revolution, of song and flowers, of breeze and light. Full of a Nicaragua blessed with dignity, sovereign and forever free! Our Nicaragua, where peace shines beautifully, where our flags are not stained with the blood of brothers and sisters. Our blue and white flag that some tried to stain, our red and black flag … always to the fore … defending the white and blue, in defense of freedom, dignity … in this Nicaragua for us all.

June 23rd, Father’s Day, once more a warm embrace to all the Fathers… June 23rd, the Day of Carlos… And June 23rd means so very much that we have lived through. We are privileged to have lived through such striking, transformative, evolutionary moments in our history. ….

Times to learn… All times are for learning, but during those days, all the sacred blood that was given, that the perverse, criminal, genocidal, nefarious dictatorship shed everywhere. How can we not venerate that sacred blood today, how can we not give thanks to each of these brothers and sister and their families, how can we not feel that their sacrifice and their dedication must be compensated with ever more dedication and ever more willingness to serve our country’s families … and to continue making our way with heroism every day.  ….

Because always in a Country, in a Nation like ours, and with a people like ours, it is impossible to forget where we come from, what we are, forget the History that makes us strong, and if such hateful attacks occur, how we must face them, and drive them off, extinguishing them with love, hope and faith.

That is what we have lived through and are living through as a great and dignified people… How proud we are to be Nicaraguans. How proud we are to be a free country… with every day making a more enlightened dawn, more prosperous and victorious…

I feel very moved by these dates, because being present in these anniversary events I remember what it is to be alive. They say, “to remember is to be alive,” so long as the past does not paralyze us, neither the good times, nor the not so good times, because we have to keep moving onward. But one is strengthened when one remembers everything in the life of a country like ours, of sacred beliefs, sacred practices, and limitless courage, vigor and glory!   ….

These are complex and difficult times the world is living through, with so many conflicts provoked and created by empires which are evil … which are perverse, which are diabolical. But more and more the world’s Peoples are aware of freedom and more aware of our duty to go and do good. And doing good means defending our rights, the right to live peacefully, safely, to work and study, and above all with the basic conditions for well-being, for prosperity.

So, here we are, today on the 23rd, honoring Carlos [Fonseca], the founder, the visionary, the one who knew how to see beyond his limitations. That is a metaphor and at the same time a symbol: Beyond physical limits. Because I remember that Carlos was said to have very limited physical vision… But what a vision! As a revolutionary, as a militant, as an evolutionary, special being, in many ways an unrepeatable being.

And when we think of Carlos and we pay tribute to Carlos, we say he is an example, as our General Sandino is an example. It’s simply that this country is full of miraculous beings. And we must always recognize that prophetic vision of Sandino, who was able to glimpse his role in this plane of life, without believing himself to be special, but rather out of duty, the duty to defend his country’s dignity, with nothing, just with his open hands, as a laborer, an artisan, a worker. He had nothing, but he did have heart and spirit, strength of spirit, and that is what we Nicaraguans have.

Strength of spirit generated Zeledon. Strength of Spirit describes Andrés Castro. Strength of Spirit defines our General Sandino, who bequeaths it to us, passing it on to us. The strength of spirit of Carlos! All these our heroes, who are spirit, transmit to this special people exactly the special strength of spirit that defines us, distinguishing us and … making us great.

Nicaragua will stay free … because it has sons and daughters able to see with their heart, with their soul, with both their eyes and their consciousness; able to see what is the given task at each moment, to move onward, lighting the way ahead today and for the future and, above all, ensuring the continuity of our history of Sovereignty, of Dignity, of Triumphs. And we are going on to even more Victories!

Thank you, Compañer@s. A warm embrace to you all.