NicaNotes: Dismissing the Truth Debunks Amnesty International’s Misleading Reports

By Chuck Kaufman

On Tuesday, February 26, the Alliance for Global Justice and the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group (UK) released a report, Dismissing the Truth, that exhaustively rebuts two reports on human rights in Nicaragua in 2018 by Amnesty International. The Amnesty International reports accuse the democratically-elected government of Nicaragua of “a strategy of indiscriminate repression.” Dismissing the Truth is a 55-page report researched and written for the US and UK historic Nicaragua solidarity groups by an independent group of people based both in Nicaragua and in the US/UK. It uses eye-witness accounts, reports from government and human rights bodies, media analysis and knowledge of the places where events highlighted by AI took place, to examine AI’s analysis and claims.

Our new report, Dismissing the Truth, not only refutes the claims made by Amnesty International about the period of mid-April to mid-July of 2018, but shows that the evidence they produce is biased, incomplete and in several cases simply wrong. The Nicaraguan government was accused by AI of using ‘arbitrary detention’ and ‘excessive, disproportionate and unnecessary force’ against a basically unarmed, peaceful opposition.

Dismissing the Truth shows that:

  • The city of Masaya was the subject of armed siege by opposition forces for several weeks. AI claims that the government, in ending this siege, used indiscriminate and lethal force and also pro-government armed forces. We explain how, given the failure of peace negotiations, the police were obliged to use armed force to free Masaya from heavily armed actors who had declared their ‘independence’ from the national government.
  • Serious events in the town of Morrito on July 12 are omitted from Amnesty International’s timeline and unmentioned in the report. The opposition made an unprovoked attack on the police station and town hall, killing four policemen and a teacher and kidnapping and torturing nine others.
  • Amnesty International reports that use of heavy weapons was ‘limited’ when they were actually widespread, as is obvious from the fact that 22 police officers were killed and 401 injured by bullets, quite apart from deaths and injuries to civilians.
  • Amnesty International wrongly asserts that a police officer killed during the violence was the subject of a possible ‘extrajudicial execution’ by the government for deserting his post. In fact, he was killed by opposition sniper fire, along with a colleague, while carrying out his duties. We explain the details of events surrounding his death.
  • Other cases of alleged ‘extrajudicial execution’ or ‘arbitrary detention’ cited by AI can be shown either to be false or to present conflicting evidence. In each case, AI virtually ignores any evidence that contradicts their pre-existing beliefs about the situation.

Dismissing the Truth includes a case study of one region of Nicaragua showing how AI might have carried out a balanced appraisal of the violence and who caused it. It shows that, over a similar period to that covered by AI reports, half the deaths reported as linked to the protests in this region had other causes, and of the protest-linked deaths, all but one resulted from opposition violence.

Dismissing the Truth concludes that AI completely fails to establish its case that there is “a strategy of indiscriminate repression” on the part of the Nicaraguan government. As an independent human rights body, Amnesty International (AI) should have taken a different approach, making a balanced assessment of the scale and nature of human rights abuses, ascribing responsibility correctly between the opposition and the government.

Based on the evidence in Dismissing the Truth, Alliance for Global Justice and the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group both urge Amnesty International either to make a radical change in its approach to judging human rights issues in Nicaragua, or to desist from publishing further reports.

Amnesty International’s protocol fails to incorporate the violence and human rights violations of non-State actors resulting in deeply flawed reports that lack real-world context. I remember when I started at Nicaragua Network in 1987 how angry we would get when Amnesty would publish a new report about alleged Nicaraguan government human rights violations that virtually ignored the fact that the country was at war with a terrorist force that was funded by the United States to commit acts of terror, including assassination, arson, kidnapping, etc.; many of the same tactics employed by the opposition in 2018. Knowingly or unknowingly, Amnesty International’s outmoded protocols, in the era of “low intensity warfare,” not only paint a false picture of the human rights situation in Nicaragua, Venezuela, and other countries targeted by the US for regime change, they actually act to support the Empire’s goals for global dominance.

Dismissing the Truth is available here:

Executive Summary: Dismissing the Truth https://afgj.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Dismissing-the-Truth-Executive-Summary.pdf

Dismissing the Truth https://afgj.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Dismissing-the-Truth-with-links.pdf

Rechazando la Verdad https://afgj.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Rechazando-la-Verdad-informe-completo.pdf

You can also listen to an interview with me on Sputnik Radio’s “By Any Means Necessary” with Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon. My interview is the second segment of the show.

My analysis is also included in this article.

In Other News

Friends of the ATC, which AfGJ partners with for delegations to Nicaragua, has completed its report on their January food sovereignty delegation. This is one of the first international delegations to return to Nicaragua since last year’s failed coup, so it should make for some interesting reading from that angle in addition to the fact that the ATC, Nicaragua’s farmworker’s union, is one of the most advanced national unions when it comes to sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty.

Friends of the ATC, co-sponsored by Alliance for Global Justice, will also have a delegation to Nicaragua in July for the 40th Anniversary of the Triumph of the Sandinista Revolution over the US-backed Somoza dictatorship. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime delegation, not to be missed. For more information and to get an application go to this link.

You can also download the Solidarity with Nicaragua Flyer.

BRIEFS

New M&R Poll Released
M&R General Manager Raúl Obregón released the results of his firm’s latest poll at a press conference on Feb. 26 in which he highlighted that almost 80% of those polled said they were willing to tolerate and accept those who have political ideas different from their own and 90.2% said they believed that dialogue was the best mechanism for resolving conflicts. When asked how they evaluated President Daniel Ortega, 54.6% said they approved of his performance as President while 32.3% disapproved.

Over 69% want the country to retake the route that it was on before last year’s disturbances that began on April 18th. Sixty percent agreed that the period between 2007 and 2018 has been the best period for Nicaragua in terms of its economic situation and social policies. When asked, 54.9% said that the country had progressed in the last six years while 7.5% said it was the same and 37.1% said it had gone backwards. But 41% said that their family’s economic situation at the moment was worse than one year ago while 34.4% said it was the same and on 21.5% said it was better. However, 83.2% expected their situation to improve over the next year. When given a choice between the two, only 9.6% of those polled said that good relations with the United States were necessary for the country to move forward while 87.8% felt that Nicaragua should have good relations with as many countries in the world as possible.

The poll was carried out by in person interviews countrywide in urban and rural areas between Jan. 25 and Feb. 11, 2019 with 1,600 people over 16 polled and a margin of error of 2.5% and a level of confidence of 95%. (Informe Pastran, 1/26/19;
https://www.el19digital.com/app/webroot/tinymce/source/2019/FEBRERO/26FEB/SISMO%2058%20-%20Presentacion%20Resultados%20(1).pdf)

New loan for infrastructure
The Nicaragua government announced that the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) approved a US$201.8 million loan for infrastructure projects. The loan includes US$176.6 million for the Highway Construction Program and US $25.2 million for the Airport Modernization Project in the South Caribbean Autonomous Region. (Nicaragua News, 2/25/19)

Election Materials Being Sent to the Caribbean Coast for the March 3 Elections
The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), the National Police and the Nicaraguan Army began this Saturday to move the electoral material to the Caribbean Coast for the upcoming regional elections. The elections for governors in the autonomous regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast are scheduled for March 3. The Supreme Electoral Council also signed a collaboration agreement with the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman to accompany the voting process in the Caribbean Coast, according to Magistrate Mayra Salinas. The official explained that the prosecutors will guarantee the protection of human rights of the candidates and voters who will participate in the vote on March 3. Ombudsman Corina Centeno explained that 502 CSE officials will be in the 419 Voting Centers verifying the transparency of the elections, together with the 26,000 political party officials of the 419 Voting Centers. (La Primerisima, 2/23/19)

Nicaragua has the Fastest Growth in Energy Coverage and Generation in the Region
Nicaragua has invested US$2.8 billion in the electricity sector over the past 10 years, said Salvador Mansell, president of the National Electric Transmission Company (Enatrel). Coverage has grown from 54% to 95%, the fastest growth in Central America. “In 2006, the last of the 16 years of three neoliberal governments that preceded the Sandinista return to power, the country generated 754 megawatts, the Nicaraguan electricity industry currently produces 1,534 megawatts,” Mansell said. The government’s plans for the sector indicate that this year coverage will reach 96% of the population. Another noteworthy achievement of Enatrel is the change in the energy matrix, which allows the generation of 60 percent of the total from renewable sources. “Nicaragua currently leads the Central American region in the generation of wind energy and biomass”, said Mansell. The work planned for the four-year period 2019-2023 contemplates an investment of US$863 million, of which US$120 million is being allocated this year to the electrification of 528 communities throughout Nicaragua. According to the generation plan the objective is to increase renewable generation up to 80%. (Informe Pastran, 2/21/19)

Former Member of FSLN National Directorate Received $800,000 from US Annually for NGO He Founded
Seven days after the attempted coup against the Sandinista government began, Harvard graduate Jaime Wheelock Román sent an allegedly “friendly” letter to President Daniel Ortega, in which he endorsed the proposals of the coup plotters and asked, among other things, to confine the Police and the Army to their quarters, and repeal the INSS decree they used as an excuse to protest.

Wheelock was one of the founders of the proletarian tendency of the FSLN in the 1970s and served as Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform and a member of the National Directorate during the revolutionary era of the 1980s. When the FSLN lost the elections in 1990 due to the US war of aggression and overwhelming US electoral intervention, Wheelock went to the United States to obtain a master’s degree in public administration. Upon his return, he founded the Institute for Development and Democracy (IPADE), which became a center for the MRS (Sandinista Renovation Movement) after they split from the FSLN party in 1995.

IPADE operated with funding from the US and Europe including $800,000 dollars a year from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), funneled through the National Democratic Institute (NDI), one of the four pillars of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US “democracy manipulation” tax-funded agency. IPADE is among the handful of NGOs that lost their legal status in December 2018. (La Primerisima, 2/22/19)

 

On 85th Anniversary of Sandino’s Death: New Negotiations to Begin in Nicaragua
On Thursday, Feb. 21, President Daniel Ortega announced that he has convened new negotiations for February 27 between the government and business representatives.During the ceremony to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the assassination of General Augusto C. Sandino, Ortega recalled that on Saturday, February 16, there was a meeting “to discuss the issues of stability, security, peace and economic issues”.  President Ortega said that at the meeting they agreed to work on a proposal for a new dialogue. “And we have been in this process, and I would say that we are making efforts so that this roundtable can be set up for negotiation for Wednesday February 27, without a huge crowd and without the media.” Ortega said it is essential to recognize that the path to peace is negotiation and with the utmost seriousness and the greatest responsibility as a government, “we assume the commitment to that negotiation which we hope will be full of good will, with commitments that will bring about peace with justice and dignity.

“We agreed on what we must do to ensure peace, stability and security, and that we can open a route, because we can no longer talk about returning to the previous situation [of violence in 2018]. Not anymore, that’s over. It’s a stage that was burned with everything that was that April terror. We negotiate to consolidate peace, to build a new way that improves conditions for the country so that the Nicaraguan people can recover more quickly from the effects of the attempted coup in April.”

Ortega described how Nicaraguan families have been facing the challenges left by the attempted coup d’état, not only the irreparable loss of human lives, but also the damage to infrastructure, hospitals, schools, homes and other economic damage like unemployment. “In that criminal action many Nicaraguans were thrown into unemployment. It affected the foundations of our economy, which, before, had uninterrupted sustainable growth, growth that ranged between 4.5% and 5% annually. Before, we were substantially reducing poverty; health programs and education were developing and everything was for the benefit of the poor who are the majority of our country, everything for the benefit of workers and peasants, for the benefit of youth, for the benefit of women.

He pointed out that the attempted coup d’état was so hard on the economy that the National Assembly discussed how to work with all sectors so that they could offer proposals to the tax reform law: “A tax reform whose objective is to seek how to collect, in an extraordinary situation, the basic resources to sustain health programs, so that hospitals are not closed, to sustain schools …to guarantee the basic services of the population, to inject greater strength to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Nicaraguan. …. These initiatives have multiplied and have led to the strengthening of productive activities from below. By joining forces all Nicaraguans can resume the path that we were on before April.” President Ortega said that, in this struggle to rebuild progress in Nicaragua, we are inspired by the example of our General Sandino, because it is a struggle for sovereignty, it is a struggle for self-determination, and it is a struggle for the well-being of Nicaraguan families.

The Path to Peace

He indicated that peace must be defended “and peace will finally triumph because I am convinced and this is what all Latin American and Caribbean leaders have expressed, in that they have been unanimous, beyond differences, in that they do not admit, do not endorse, an intervention, a military aggression against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

This commitment to peace has also been ratified by the countries of the European Community “beyond their differences, beyond their political positions, they have said it very clearly. Differences do not mean that they are in favor of intervention, of war, but that there is an agreement that Venezuela can develop initiatives within the constitutional framework of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, peaceful initiatives to find a solution by peaceful means. We all hope that it can transcend the attempts to convert the region into one of armed conflict.”

Nicaragua must return to the path of well-being

Ortega stated that Sandino incorporated social programs and placed great emphasis on programs for the benefit of peasants, artisans, the economically active population of those years, at that time and as a son of Bolívar he claimed the Dream of Bolívar: the unity of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples.

Ortega pointed out that we are immersed in a struggle in which expansionist interests are always moving. “They think that borders have to be constantly delimited by the force of military power. In spite of the fact that the world has advanced in plurality in the economic order, in the commercial order and in the military order, there are those who don’t want to understand that the world for a long time has ceased to be unipolar,” he stressed.

He said the planet earth cannot be subjected to any empire, because those times are behind us and other economic, political and cultural forces have already been configured, and we are now facing the emergence of a multipolar world. “And that is what we have now on our planet. And it is what must be consolidated and it is what will finally come to affirm peace on our planet. In this region we have the possibility of developing and strengthening a power without atomic weapons,” he emphasized. He added that our weapons have to do with the enormous wealth of our nations in Latin America and the Caribbean. “The first wealth we have are people with identity, creativity, entrepreneurship. And then we have the natural resources of the entire region.

“That’s why Bolívar said it, and then Sandino also: United Latin America and the Caribbean, not to make war on anyone, not to become a power to dispute territories, but to eradicate poverty in our entire region and develop wellbeing, develop health, education, culture, technology, everything that today is in the hands of the developed world, to develop it here in the Latin American and Caribbean region. United, it is clear that we are becoming a great power, a power for peace and a power for joining with other peoples, with other nations to put into practice the principle of solidarity, which is a principle that is in human nature. (La Primerisima, 19 Digital, Canal 4, 2/22/19)