NicaNotes: Carlos Fernando Chamorro and Confidencial

By Louise Richards

The political dynamics of the Chamorro family are extremely complex.  Carlos Fernando Chamorro’s father, the late Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, editor of La Prensa, was an outspoken critic of the then 33 year dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza.  His assassination on January 10, 1978 — by agents still unknown — made him a national hero and helped turn the middle class against Somoza. Carlos Fernando’s mother Violeta represented the conservative wing as a member of the five-person Government Junta which was the multi-party Executive Branch of the government between 1979 and 1984 when national elections were held.  She resigned after less than a year when the Council began moving further towards socialism. She then took over her husband’s newspaper, becoming an arch foe of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).  In 1990, backed by the US, she became Nicaragua’s first woman president.

Today, prominent members of the Chamorro family have played and are playing leading roles in the right wing led opposition and are supporting US intervention. Carlos Fernando himself is a leading opposition propagandist. His sister Cristiana Chamorro is touted as a possible future presidential candidate by the Nicaraguan opposition and his cousin Juan Sebastian Chamorro was a leading figure throughout the failed coup attempt between April and July last year.  

The opposition media, both internationally and inside Nicaragua,  played a key role in promoting and exacerbating the attempted coup in the country and in line with the US extreme right wing objectives (Trump, Bolton, Rubio et al), it continues to manufacture a torrent of fake news aiming at creating the conditions for ‘regime change’.  And none more so than Confidencial, which over the past year has persisted in publishing fake news and false information designed to promote further chaos and instability and serving as a mouthpiece for the right wing led opposition.  The role played by the media is well illustrated in the Telesur article (see link below).

https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/After-The-Failed-Coup-After-All-The-Lies-Nicaragua-Rebuilds-20180725-0023.html

Carlos Fernando Chamorro runs the “Confidencial” website associated with his family’s non-profit media NGO CINCO (the Centro de Investigaciones de la Comunicacion), funded by foreign aid organizations, including USAID, under the pretext of promoting democracy. More ruthlessly cynical than even the anti-Sandinista La Prensa newspaper, Confidencial is among the most influential disinformation sources feeding other Western news media what to think and say about Nicaragua. Chamorro’s unfunny joke is that his non-stop, brazen propaganda accuses President Daniel Ortega of attacking democracy while Chamorro himself uses Confidencial to destroy meaningful democratic process by constantly and deliberately misleading its readers.

The history of Carlos Fernando Chamorro’s funding by the US authorities dates back over a decade during which time he and his family have taken money hand over fist from the US government. Back in 2008, CINCO was funded by the military contractor Dyncorp via its subsidiary Casals and Associates whom USAID subcontracted to run a programme called Camtransparencia, which had nothing transparent about it whatsoever.  Via that programme, Dyncorp channelled money not just to CINCO but also to Felix Maradiaga’s IEEPP think tank, IPADE, Hagamos Democracia, the Violeta Chamorro Foundation and many other opposition organisations.

Confidencial has continued to publish following the ‘raid’ on its offices and confiscation of production equipment on 13 December 2018 and persists with the publication of fake news. On 28 December, it claimed that ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of our America) had abandoned Ortega, that the Nicaraguan government was isolated and that “solo Venezuela compartió la posición de Nicaragua. Ecuador cuestionó; Bolivia pidió diálogo. Caribeños y Triángulo Norte siguen en silencio”; in other words, Venezuela was the only country supporting Nicaragua among the ALBA countries.

This is completely untrue and is yet another example of the way in which Confidencial has sought to mislead public opinion and advocate ‘regime change’ on behalf of Nicaragua’s right wing led opposition and create fear in the Nicaraguan population.  Contrary to Confidencial’s reporting, which is now being used by opposition groups outside the country, Bolivia has come out strongly in support of Ortega and the Nicaraguan government, and ALBA also issued a strong declaration of support

http://misiones.minrex.gob.cu/en/articulo/declaration-17th-meeting-alba-tcp-political-council-managua-november-8-2018

It is well known that the social programmes implemented by Daniel Ortega and the FSLN Government have led to a 50% reduction in poverty and extreme poverty. These achievements have been recognised and praised by the World Bank and the IMF. However, in Confidencial’s view ‘the government’s social programs did not have an impact on reducing poverty or improving social conditions, but they generated formidable expectations and generated support as well as an image of a government that was concerned about people.’  

In one of his regular interviews (September 2017) with World Bank representative Luis Constantino,  Carlos Fernando was talking to the World Bank representative and trying to get him to agree that the poverty reduction figures that the government had put out were not accurate; however, Constantino insisted  that they were the World Bank figures and refused to back down. Finally Carlos Fernando had to change the subject. The link to the interview is below:-

http://ml.afgj.xyz/dada/mail.cgi/r/twoshoes/214195176767/

Connections between the Chamorro family and Washington have deep roots. Washington bankrolled the National Opposition Union or UNO which brought Violeta Chamorro (Carlos Fernando’s mother) to power in 1990.  Carlos Fernando’s brother in law, Edmundo Jarquín was the presidential candidate of the opposition group MRS (Sandinista Renovation Movement) in 2006.  The MRS, whose popular base within the country is minuscule, plays a much greater role in what is recognised as the opposition than its size warrants and it has been adept at courting Western support, particularly in the media.

The past eleven years of Ortega’s ambitious administration have seen poverty cut in half, advanced use of renewables to produce electricity at an accelerated rate, greatly increased access to healthcare and education, and democratisation of the economy through the use of micro loans and by the granting of land titles. Yet the Nicaraguan government is now being confronted by a US-driven and Washington-funded right wing opposition whose battle line is a smear campaign based on a collection of false allegations aimed at overthrowing the democratically elected FSLN government.  Félix Maradiaga, Dora María Téllez, Vilma Núñez and Carlos Fernando Chamorro, well-known public figures united by their disdain for President Daniel Ortega and the Vice President, Ortega’s wife, Rosario Murillo have not only all played a prominent role in the coup attempt, they continue to be key instruments of US efforts to oust the government, funded directly by the US and/or its European confederates.

Western media and NGOs describe Chamorro as a freelance journalist. But he has received funding from US authorities via USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) for more than 10 years, during which he has been one of the main spokespersons for the country’s right-wing political opposition. 

Confidencial cannot be described as an “independent” media outlet. Confidencial’s framework of taking on Ortega is funded, at least in part, by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), through an intermediary. In 2014, for example, INVERMEDIA received a $60,000 grant in order to “foster independent digital media in Nicaragua” and they received an additional $175,000 in subsequent years.  In 2017, they received $75,000 from the NED. The stated purposes of these grants were:

To promote freedom of expression and independent media in Nicaragua. The organization will work to consolidate and expand the reach of an independent digital news platform. The grantee will produce a series of investigative reports on the most salient issues affecting Nicaraguans.’

and

‘..to strengthen the organizational capacity of the digital newspaper, Confidencial. Confidencial will conduct investigative reports on issues affecting Nicaraguan democracy. Confidencial will also establish working relations with leading civil society organizations in order to provide a media platform for coordinated action. Confidencial will strengthen its social media presence.’

CINCO, Chamorro’s non-profit NGO, also received $395,000 in US grants to “foster collaboration among civil society organizations” and promote “A common civil society strategy to defend democracy in Nicaragua”

In the past decade there were two instances of alleged money laundering claims in which CINCO and another NGO, FUNIDES, were suspected of having received funds from NED and the National Democratic Institute and, claimed sources, distributed the funds to various entities in an effort to undermine the Ortega government. 

For detailed information about US meddling in Nicaraguan internal affairs by funding opposition outfits see: https://grayzoneproject.com/2018/06/19/ned-nicaragua-protests-us-government/

Regarding the recent police raid on Chamorro’s office on 13 December, it is believed that CINCO, and some of the other NGOs in question moved computers and records to Carlos Chamorro’s office in advance of the government’s legal action to close down and investigate the NGOs. As would have happened in most countries, the police sought a warrant and raided Chamorro’s office. They now have those materials and reportedly have already found a receipt for US$3,000 signed by Carlos Fernando and made out to Dora Maria Tellez on the day the coup attempt began, April 18. Tellez is one of the primary leaders of the Sandinista Renovation Movement and a key leader of the attempted coup. It is likely that the seized records will finally unravel the whole story of the coup including who paid for it and who its intellectual authors were.

On the raid itself, Carlos Fernando, his wife Desiré Elizondo, Monica Baltodano (a leading figure in the opposition) and over 20 “journalists” appeared at Plaza de Sol demanding of the police the computers and documents and wouldn’t back off even after being asked for over an hour to remove themselves from the restricted area. The police sent out the anti-riot police. The worst that happened is that one of them brushed up against Chamorro but, in common with the tactics used for many months – and still being used by the opposition – a video was taken and a well edited version was put out by Chamorro later that night on his show Esta Semana and is being used by the opposition to indicate that Chamorro and his colleagues were attacked by the police.

In summary, it is worth reading in full an article published by the Quixote Centre on ‘Manufacturing Dissent’

https://www.quixote.org/MANUFACTURING-DISSENT-THE-N-E-D-OPPOSITION-MEDIA-AND-THE-POLITICAL-CRISIS-IN-NICARAGUA/

The following is an extract from the article:-

“But it is perhaps on the pages of the Confidencial, the “independent” news source … that one can best appreciate the impact of coordinated opposition messaging. Concerning the protests, the most detailed overview of events published by Confidencial is an analysis from the Centro de Investigaciones de la Comunicación, yet another NED grantee. According to this report, students protested, and the state and “paramilitaries” repressed them. Period.

No burning of public buildings, no murder of police officers, no torching police motorcycles.

A “common civil society strategy” must omit facts that do not fit with the prevailing storyline advanced by the Centro de Investigaciones de Comunicación and others who participate in the network of media outlets and opposition groups funded by the NED.”

It is clear that the defeat of the violent coup attempt between April and July 2018 is leading strategists in the US to rethink tactics so as to strengthen a weakened Nicaragua opposition at least in the international arena, by intensifying the smear campaign that is deliberately targeting traditional sources of support for Nicaragua’s national sovereignty. Though the tactics may have changed, the strategic objective remains: a US-led and US-funded drive to oust the democratically elected government of Nicaragua. Trump’s recent signing of the NICA Act fully confirms this.

 

BRIEFS

By Nan McCurdy

Government and Business Begin Negotiations
Negotiations between the government and the business sector began Feb. 28. “In this first session, the parties worked on the approval of a Roadmap that establishes the norms and procedures of the negotiations. Nine out of twelve points presented in the meeting were approved. The remaining points were approved in the second session. Between the two sessions the Nicaraguan Army expressed its strong support for the negotiations between government authorities and the various sectors of the country. “The Nicaragua Army supports this effort to reach the necessary consensus, as the only way to find solutions that will help us return to the path that consolidates security, tranquility, stability, development, well-being and the greatest desire of all: PEACE!” The parties agreed to continue meeting Monday through Friday, so that the negotiation is concluded in the shortest possible time.” (Nicaragua News, 2/28/19, 3/4/19)

 

Atlantic Coast Regional Elections a Great Success
The Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN) won majorities in both autonomous regional council elections on Sunday. In the North Caribbean Autonomous Region (RACN) the FSLN won 30 of 45 seats followed by the Miskito political party YATAMA with 13 and the Constitutional Liberal Party with 3. In the South Autonomous Regional Council (RACS) the FSLN won 34 seats with the PLC in second place with 9 and Yatama winning 2. Each Council is composed of 45 seats. The councils will elect regional governors. The Alianza Civil, which led last year’s failed coup, criticized the election claiming that “conditions did not exist for free and fair elections.” There was no violence reported during voting on Sunday. (Radio La Primerisima, 3/4/19, 3/5/19, El Nuevo Diario, 3/6/19)

 

Fire Consumes 70 Small Businesses in the Oriental (Eastern) Market
In the early hours of this Monday, a fire broke out in the El Calvario Street sector in the Oriental Market in Managua. The incident was controlled at 3:47pm with 8 fire trucks, 6 tanks and 76 firefighters and police as well as other national and municipal agencies and the affected merchants responded to the fire. The fire burned 1,825 meters square where approximately 70 small businesses were located. The firefighters are working in coordination with the National Police to determine the causes. (19 Digital, 3/4/19)

New Tax Law Goes Into Effect
The recently passed tax reform went into effect on February 28, when it was published  in the Official Gazette. The objective of the tax reform is to guarantee social programs that help combat poverty in Nicaragua. Tax exemptions are guaranteed for inputs for production and basic necessities. The reform stipulated an increase in the minimum Income Tax (IR) from 1% to 3% for large taxpayers and from 1% to 2% for medium-size businesses. The Selective Consumption Tax was also increased for carbonated beverages, sugared drinks based on artificial concentrates and fruit pulp. Taxes on alcoholic beverages were also increased. (Radio La Primerisima, 3/2/19)

 

Government gives House for Prison to more than One Hundred Prisoners
On February 27 the government began to release prisoners from the penitentiary system of Tipitapa at La Modelo and La Esperanza. These prisoners will enjoy house arrest, described as house for jail, instead of serving their time in prison. Yesterday a judicial authority reported that there would be between 100 and 150 prisoners who would be given house for prison. In the Women’s Penitentiary System, La Esperanza, moving scenes of tears and hugs were seen as women were released under the measure of house as prison. The release of prisoners came within hours of the beginning of an economic negotiation between the government and opposition business leaders. In the social networks there are several videos of the moment in which young people from Leon are received by their relatives in this city. (El Nuevo Diario, 2/27/19)

Friends of the ATC Announces Internship Cohort for Summer 2019
Friends of the ATC announced an internship cohort for summer 2019 in Nicaragua, June 12th – August 21st. This is a collaboration between the ATC and the Friends of the ATC. For those interested here is the internship announcement & application (due by April 15th). Please share with your organizations and allies in universities.