NicaNotes: Nicaragua vs. Costa Rica on Elections and Government

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Nicaragua vs. Costa Rica on Elections and Government
By Fiorella Isabel

[Fiorella Isabel is an independent journalist on Substack, and host of the news show The Convo Couch. She covers U.S politics, foreign policy, elections, and the surveillance state.]

On November 7, 2021, Nicaragua celebrated presidential elections; three months later, on Feb. 6, Costa Rica had what turned out to be their first round of presidential elections; the final round will be held April 3. These neighboring countries’ elections were treated like night and day by the United States government and its media. The United States did everything they could to attempt to sabotage the Nicaraguan elections and US media did not say one positive thing about them; whereas for the US government and media the Costa Rican elections were hyped as some of the best in Latin America.

On November 16, 2021, the Biden administration barred Nicaraguan Officials including President Daniel Ortega, from entering the United States in response to Nicaragua’s refusal to entertain allegations that their November 7 Presidential elections were fraudulent.  With over 75% of the vote the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) pulled another victory for its president, Daniel Ortega.

In stark contrast Costa Rica is constantly hailed as the beacon of democracy by the U.S and yet has some problematic issues when it comes to the current structure of its democracy.  “The Citizens’ Audit On The Quality Of Democracy In Costa Rica,” showed many elements of undemocratic practices occurring in the country. On February 6th, Costa Rica had its first round of elections with 25 candidates. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) calculated that former President of Costa Rica, Jorge Figueres, with 27.29% and Rodrigo Chaves, of the Party for Social and Democratic Progress (PPSD) with 16.66%, were the top vote-earners and will go to a second final round on April 3, 2022. All 57 seats of the national legislative assembly are also up for grabs. According to the TSE, 40% of eligible voters stayed away from the first round of electoral voting. A higher percentage of eligible voters participated in Nicargua’s election (66%) than in Costa Rica (about 60%).

Even before the November 7, 2021, Nicaraguan elections even took place, the US propaganda machine made up of US government agencies, the US-controlled Organization of American States (OAS) and corporate media, called the election illegitimate, pushing false news and disinformation to attempt to subvert the validity of Nicaragua’s elections.

Two of the primary pieces of disinformation repeated again and again to turn lies into “truth” was that President Ortega was jailing his opposition and that he was highly unpopular. After the elections, the US falsely claimed there was a low turnout ; Nicaragua’s election turnout at 66% of the eligible voters is the highest in any country in the America’s in recent years. The graphic below combines percentage won of eligible voters participating, and Nicaragua also comes out on top.

The opposition media in Nicaragua and the US made many false claims for which there is no proof. The final count from Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) noted the FSLN won more than 75% of the votes of those who turned out, 66%.

In reality, Ortega was not jailing actual opposition party candidates and continues to be very popular, if not revered by the majority of people in Nicaragua. Some 77.5% of Nicaraguans polled days before the election, expressed that in order for the country to advance socially and economically, the FSLN should govern the country, extremely similar to the percentage win of the FSLN. The FSLN’s presidential win has increased in each election since 2007 primarily because the standard of living and ease of access to health, education, electricity, potable water, cheap food and credit has risen every year. But this data didn’t stop U.S President Joe Biden from signing the RENACER Act, using false accusations as reasons to impose crippling and internationally illegal sanctions on the country. In reality both independent journalists and election observers verified that Nicaragua’s elections far surpass those of most countries, including but not limited to both the U.S and Costa Rica, a close ally to the U.S, in terms of direct democracy, organization, and security.

Dispelling the Claims against Nicaragua’s Elections
The United States spent hundreds of millions of dollars to attempt to destabilize the Sandinista Government, even prior to the 2018 coup attempt which they funded. Many Nicaraguans were on the US payroll and/or laundered money for themselves and the coup through their nonprofit organizations. “Progressive” Democrats like Congressman Ro Khanna released statements in favor of sanctions on Nicaragua with the excuse that Ortega’s fury against his rivals justified the need to defend “democracy.”

On the false US claim that President Ortega jailed candidates, having interviewed locals, journalists and officials in Nicaragua, none of those who were investigated, indicted and detained, either in their homes or in jail, were candidates. In fact, according to an interview with Brenda Rocha, President of the CSE, who lost an arm at age 15 in a 1983 US-backed Contra attack, Ortega was not jailing any actual ballot-worthy opponents. The five people indicted for crimes such as money laundering, conspiracy and treason, who claimed to aspire to the presidency, were never actual candidates.

To be a candidate in Nicaragua you must be proposed by and run for a legal party; none of the five were even members of a party in 2021.  Their “aspirations” to be president were part of the US propaganda campaign against the elections. The US press continually referred to them as “pre-candidates.”  Let’s say one of them had been part of a legal political party and proposed by that party for president, they would have been disqualified by electoral law for a number of reasons. Two of the five who the US claimed to have been candidate “wannabes,” had lived more than six months of the previous four years outside of Nicaragua, disqualifying them from running for president. And all broke an electoral law that in order to run for office you cannot have committed any crimes. One of them, Medardo Mairena, was found guilty of murder and other crimes in the 2018 attempted coup but was freed as part of an amnesty in June 2019. The only requirement to keep all your rights was to not commit crimes. But they ended up once again getting  millions in funding via NGOs from the United States in an attempt to overthrow the Sandinistas government.

Many of the Nicaraguan – US agents came from the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) a faction of upper class Sandinistas who got tired of no longer having the upper hand in government during the 1990s and broke off to work with US-friendly neoliberal governments. The group is no longer aligned with Sandinistas in any way, has changed their name to eliminate the word Sandinista, and abandoned anti-imperialism and socialism from their platform, but the western media constantly uses them to suggest that “Sandinistas” disapprove of Ortega. Wikileaks cables show a staunch history of the MRS meeting regularly with the US embassy, acting as informants and spies on behalf of the West.

There were more than 260 journalists and other foreigners from more than 21 nations accompanying and monitoring the November election. The election ballot was agreed upon by all participating parties with  six opponents for the presidency. For basic facts on Nicaragua’s very secure electoral system see here. No one from any political party was allowed to mass campaign (more than 250 people) due to COVID-19 restrictions; US-directed propaganda claimed only the FSLN campaigned. The US shamelessly lied about there being no advertising for any party other than the Sandinistas, something easily proven entirely false by independent media who were following the election on the ground and in real time. Western outlets like the New York Times flagrantly lied about closed voting centers while many observers and journalists were there witnessing no such thing. That same day Joe Biden released a statement calling the Nicaraguan election a “pantomime” sham election. Western mainstream media failed to cover the elections on the ground but proceeded to write smear pieces about several independent journalists. Business Insider wrote a propaganda piece alleging journalists were paid (with no evidence) by the Sandinista government and were swayed to be “uncritical” of the elections.

The reality was that from the moment polls opened at 7AM to the time they closed at around 6 PM, the election process was extremely well-organized and people were in a celebratory mood. There were computers at every voting precinct with aides to help voters find their polling station. In Nicaragua there are 13,459 polling stations (mainly in classrooms) in some 3,100 voting centers (mostly schools) in every corner of the nation. Most citizens walk less than one kilometer to their voting center.

The website to look up your voting center and polling station worked very well, but there were also polling station lists plastered on the walls of each voting center (school). Upon entering your particular polling station along with the polling station board officials, there were also members of participating parties there to monitor the process (poll watchers). More than 80,754 poll watchers from seven parties had been trained and sworn in.

Journalists and observers (who had to wear special vests) were also able to monitor the entire process, as long as they did not disturb voters. A voter would go up to the table and check in with their official ID (held by more than 95% of the population age 16 and over) and their name and picture would be found on a list. Then they were given a ballot and went to mark it in private and place it in the urn. Once they voted their thumb was marked with black ink that would stay on for days to ensure that no one committed fraud by attempting to vote again. Except for the first and last hour of the voting day, lines were short and in one of the larger precincts we timed a person who took 8 minutes to vote. Once polls closed, the counting process was done by the voting station board; party poll watchers monitored and all signed the polling station results and received a copy. One copy of the “acta” was pasted outside the school so anyone could know the results by 8pm. The original of the “acta” was transported with those same people from the polling station, by bus and with police security, to each departmental electoral board office. The results were also submitted electronically to Managua, the capital, where the members of the Supreme Electoral Council were posting updates to the media and the official website.

Costa Rica, the Capitalist Haven & Privatized Counterpart to Nicaragua
Costa Rica, a favorite for U.S expats and often highly praised in Western media, is a US  capitalist dependent country, where many things like health care that used to be fairly good for the population have been privatized in recent years. The country is dominated by tourism and the private sector. According to a recent audit, over 80% of people think that justice is not equal in Costa Rica and “that it facilitates cover-ups of crooked politicians.”  Costa Rica is also the only nation in Latin America that’s a Catholic state, not a secular state. Costa Rica says it doesn’t have a military, but their Civil Guard effectively operates as such. There was a large movement of organizations against CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) in Costa Rica, but the US and the  wealthy pressured for it. When it was ratified in 2006, this led to more concentration of economic power as well as privatizations.

This particular 2022 election has come down to two candidates, one extremely problematic and the other not offering any real change, sort of a reformist social democratic candidate. The platforms of both include social austerity (social spending cuts), more privatizations of state-owned entities, taxes on workers, not on the wealthy or large businesses, more free trade, and tax havens to hide fortunes – everything the United States wants.

The more progressive candidates got about 8% in the legislature, but did not fare well in the presidential elections.

Jose Figueres, currently the favored candidate, comes from a political dynasty and was already President of the nation at the age of 39, in 1994, under the National Liberation Party (PNL). His father was rabidly anti-communist and took power by military force. Like many US approved intelligence assets and DC beltway politicians, Figueres studied at the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard. While President, he privatized much of the country, shutting down the National Railway System and closing down the oldest state-owned bank, Banco Anglo Costarricense. He attempted to slash the teacher’s special pension fund, which led to a series of strikes, including the longest in Costa Rican history. Described as a centrist, technocrat with a vision for national development as “Green Capitalism,” he wants to open Costa Rica more to world trade.

More troubling is Figueres ex-title as CEO and executive director of the World Economic Forum (WEF) where he resigned in 2004 in the midst of allegations of financial misconduct related to receiving US$900,000 for consultancy work in telecommunications with the Alcatel Corporation. Although Figueres was never charged by the Costa Rican Attorney General’s office, the Paradise Papers shows evidence against him. But ultimately, he is a very familiar name, and that alone is on his side.

In this election Figueres proposed and defended making English a “co-official” language to give Costa Ricans more “opportunity” but this is opposed by many who find it humiliating to focus more on being good laborers for corporate America.

Rodrigo Chaves also attended Harvard and sold himself as a social democrat but more as a technocrat. He worked at the World Bank and served as minister in the current government. He wants to make English mandatory in schools and his strategy for running is based on “anti-corruption” on a national front. Sexual harassment complaints against him have been brought up even in debates.

Chaves, like most Costa Rican politicians, does not offer the fundamental changes needed to break the country free from Western reliance both economically and politically. Neither candidate proposes social improvements in employment, health or education. Whoever wins, business as usual will continue benefitting the wealthy Costa Ricans and foreigners, most of whom are US citizens.

In contrast Nicaragua remains ahead of most Latin American countries in health statistics, social infrastructure, gender equity and food sovereignty, where 90% of its food comes from within the country. Nicaragua is leaving the OAS (Organization of American States) to protect its own electoral sovereignty. On December 9, 2021, it recognized China over Taiwan, and will be working with the superpower to invest in infrastructure. Nicaragua is number one in the world for women in ministerial positions, number 3 for women in Parliament and number one in the Americas in gender equity. It is no wonder that with rapidly increasing advances in economic development, infrastructure, and equity, that Nicaragua has become a threat to the power elite in the US. In spite of targeted sanctions and smears, Nicaragua is a nation to be emulated by many, including its Central America neighbor, Costa Rica.

By Nan McCurdy

Nicaragua Number Three in the World in Percentage of Women in Legislature
The Interparliamentary Union’s “2021 Women in Parliament” list of countries with the best gender balance in their legislative bodies states that Nicaragua with 50.6% of women holding seats in the National Assembly, ranks third worldwide with women in legislative positions, surpassed only by Rwanda (61.3%) and Cuba (53.4%).
(Nicaragua News, 4 March, 2022)

Good News on Vaccination Coverage
Vice President Rosario Murillo reported the good news that 63.18% of the population has received its complete vaccination schedule against Covid-19 and 86% have received at least one dose making Nicaragua number one in Central America. 9.47 million doses of vaccines have been administered to people over two years of age. 1,250 communities will have health fairs this week where mobile clinics and specialists will treat more than 96,000 people. “We try to take everything in health every week from community to community,” Murillo said. (Radio La Primerisima, 3 March 2022)

Government Meets the Property Titling Needs of the People
Between 2007 and 2021 the Sandinista government, through the Attorney General’s Office provided property titles to more than 552,288 families around the country, including the two Caribbean regions and Indigenous territories. The Attorney General of the Republic, Wendy Morales, told INFORME PASTRAN that since 2007 they have legalized all the indigenous territories of the Caribbean giving legal security to 22 indigenous territories comprising 315 communities and an extension of 38,426 square kilometers of titled area. This work was achieved with different instances such as the National Commission of Demarcation and Titling working according to the law that governs them. Morales pointed out that “we have no more titles pending to legalize in the Caribbean Coast, the last titles that were issued were in 2021 in the area of Jinotega del Alto Wangki, which was completed by agreements with some native families in the communities.” All the municipalities have been covered and now every week 2,500 titles are delivered to the same number of families, 10,000 titles per month. (Radio La Primerisima, 3 March 2022)

Summary of 2021 Loans to Nicaragua
Nicaragua received more than US$800 million in 2021 from Multilateral Financial Institutions for the management of liquidity resources of the Central Bank and attention for the Covid-19 pandemic. Loans received: US$353.5 million were obtained as Special Drawing Rights with the International Monetary Fund, US$200 million from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration and US$300 million from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). (Radio La Primerisima, 4 March 2022)

Support for Small Producers
The Ministry of Family Economy allocated US$84,269 to 100 small producers for the establishment of small businesses in rural areas of Estelí, Carazo, and Rivas. The financing was provided by the Rural Area MSME Microloan Program and is part of the Creative Economy Model being implemented by the Government to promote integral economic development in Nicaragua. (Nicaragua News, 3 March 2022)

Solar System in Village of Pearl Lagoon
The National Electricity Transmission Company inaugurated a 69-panel solar system in Sawawas community, Pearl Lagoon municipality, Southern Caribbean Autonomous Region, benefiting 359 inhabitants. This is part of the Supply and Installation of Solar Panels in Rural Areas Project of the National Program for Sustainable Electrification and Renewable Energy that the government is implementing in all municipalities. (Nicaragua News, 4 Mar. 2022)

Nicaragua Has Leading Role on Promoting Actions in Relation to Climate Change
On March 8, Nicaragua, representing Latin America and the Caribbean, participated as Vice President in the Bureau of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; Nicaragua was elected to this position in 2021 at COP 26, Scotland. The Latin American and Caribbean region was represented by Javier Gutiérrez, Secretary of Climate Change of the Presidency of Nicaragua, who is Vice President and member of the UN-Climate Change Bureau. The objective of the meeting was to approve the framework for the negotiating sessions that will take place in 2022, in particular the meetings of the Subsidiary Bodies that will take place in June 2022, as well as the preparation for the Climate Summit (COP 27), to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Important issues such as financing for adaptation, loss and damage, capacity building and technology transfer were discussed. (Nicaragua Sandino, 8 March 2022)

Nicaragua Urges UN to Stop Manipulating Human Rights
The Government of Nicaragua called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to recognize and respect the rights of the peoples of the world and to stop manipulating and instrumentalizing human rights for other purposes and hegemonic pretensions.
The Nicaraguan delegation stated that international bodies and organizations, such as the UN Council value the application of human rights in a disparate manner among countries, being permissive and tolerant with the barbarities committed by the powers, and irrational with those developing countries, such as Nicaragua, affecting the dignity and sovereignty of the peoples who seek to carve their own destiny. Nicaragua also disapproved of the so-called human rights updates that let through only the voices of some sectors with political, ideological and economic interests. The Nicaraguan delegation affirms that the approach to human rights that this international organization should have is within the framework of respect for the identity, sovereignty and historical development of each country. See full statement: (Radio La Primerisima, 7 March 2022)

Nicaraguans Believe Sanctions are War
On March 2 the M&R Consultants polling firm presented the results of its national survey “Nicaraguans and their Perspectives on the International Environment.” The survey indicates that 91.8% of Nicaraguans believe that sanctions being imposed on Nicaragua harm all Nicaraguans; 71.4% maintain that the imposition of sanctions is one more manifestation of the interventionist policy of the United States in the internal affairs of Nicaragua; 72.4% disagree with activities carried out by Nicaraguan nationals with the purpose of promoting sanctions against the country; 84% state that Nicaragua under no circumstances should allow itself to be subjected to the tutelage of countries or international organizations; 70.2% believe that the Organization of American States violates the principles for which it was created because it intervenes in the internal affairs of some member states to promote the interests of the United States; 64.8% agree with the decision of the Nicaragua government to withdraw from the OAS, given that the organization disrespects the sovereignty and self-determination of some countries; and 88.1% of those surveyed maintain that for Nicaragua to prosper it must act according to the interests of the country, without foreign interference. (Nicaragua News, 3 March 2022)

Fishing Packages to Strengthen Food Security
In support of artisanal fishing activities in Corn Island, Southern Caribbean Autonomous Region, the Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture delivered 76 Fishery Packages consisting of materials to make nets, thermoses, and tools to make 3,800 shrimp pots to increase the yield of artisanal fishing, strengthen food security and family nutrition in the communities. The donation is part of the Zero Hunger Program that the Government is implementing throughout the country. (Nicaragua News, 8 March 2022)