NicaNotes: Exclusive interview with Nicaraguan Foreign Minister

Note from the editor
Beginning this week, I will be joined by a new co-author of NicaNotes, Nan McCurdy. You may recognize Nan as the compiler of the BRIEFS section of NicaNotes. She has been writing the English summaries of the news from Nicaragua since early in the coup months of April and May. In addition to continuing to edit the BRIEFS, Nan will share responsibility with me for writing or selecting guest blogs for NicaNotes.

Nan is a US citizen, but long-time Nicaragua resident. She founded Casa Baltimore Limay, a faith-based sistering relationship between people in the area of Baltimore, Maryland, and a remote town near the Honduran border of Nicaragua, San Juan de Limay, with her late husband Philip Mitchell in 1984. This relationship-based program has remained strong for thirty-five years with visits back and forth and support for social development projects in Limay. It has survived because of the dedication to bridge-building of a small number of people in Limay and Baltimore. Nan lived in Limay until 1989 working primarily in accompaniment with the people, a majority of whom had lost a family member in Reagan’s Contra war.

In 1989 Nan began working as a United Methodist missionary with the Antonio Valdivieso Ecumenical Center in Managua and later, until 2014 with Women and Community in San Francisco Libre and Limay, an organization of women and youth that works to prevent violence and promote gender equity. Nan’s husband Phil died in 1991 and she married Miguel Mairena in 1995. Together they have six children.

Nan’s love is facilitating educational experiences about the history of US involvement in Central America and how that has wreaked havoc in that region and led to the migration crisis that has actually gone on for many years; about the effects of NAFTA and DR-CAFTA; neo-liberalism, the debt, and other topics related to the impoverishment and subordination of the people of Central America and Mexico.

Nan currently works with a Methodist-related organization in the state of Puebla, Mexico, providing educational experiences for US people about the situation there and how the US is involved in the extreme poverty of rural Mexico, as well as facilitating programs with the Mexican people in the countryside so that they can improve their lives. She returns frequently to her home and family in Managua. Since the US-backed coup in Nicaragua in April 2018, Nan uses all her spare time to attempt to educate people about what happened.

  • Chuck Kaufman

 

Exclusive interview with Nicaraguan Foreign Minister: “We call on the US to respect international law”

13 Jan 2019   ALEX ANFRUNS

 

After a year that saw an unprecedented political crisis in the country, Nicaragua, the safest country in Central America, returned to calm. But some international players, including the United States, continue to stoking the flames by passing sanctions and calling for the overthrow of a democratically elected government. Luis Almagro, the secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS) based in Washington, is the most zealous agent. He has just called for a special session of the OAS Permanent Council to activate a mechanism to isolate Nicaragua from other Latin American countries. If you believe that the media has properly informed you about Nicaragua, this exclusive interview with Foreign Minister Denis Moncada, will lead you to examine these certainties.

Alex Anfruns: At the initiative of its General Secretary, the OAS will hold a special session of its Permanent Council on Friday, January 11th, whose agenda will be “to examine the situation in Nicaragua”. What will be the goal? [Translator’s note: this interview was conducted before the OAS session took place]

Denis Moncada: The General Secretary, Luis Almagro requests the immediate and urgent convocation of the Permanent Council to, according to his intentions and declarations, start the process of activating Article 20 of the OAS Democratic Charter. We insisted and reiterated that Almagro was taking an unlawful, illegal and abusive step.

The charter does not confer on the General Secretary the power to delegate, substitute, replace or assume the sovereignty of states. The Charter of the OAS does not give Almagro the authority he claims to exercise, because it can not replace the role of states in their independence, self-determination and the exercise of their sovereignty. Almagro does not have the prior consent from the state, and thus claims to carry out a retrograde activity, contrary to the provisions of the Democratic Charter. It aims to strengthen the democratic states and governments of Latin America and the Caribbean, when a coup was committed and broke the constitutional and democratic order in a country.

The spirit of the Charter, when it was adopted, was precisely to put a stop to the coups that took place in previous decades in Latin America, to re-establish or re-open the way to strengthen the constitutional governments and institutions of that period. This was a period when the United States applied the doctrine of national security, where armies acted as armies of occupation.

In Nicaragua, we had an attempted coup and a break in the constitutional order that took place against the legitimate government of President Ortega. Nicaragua did not request any intervention by the OAS in the internal affairs of our country. This is why Almagro is mistaken and has no legal basis or justification to pretend to do what he does, namely convening an OAS meeting to initiate the application of Article 20 of the Democratic Charter.

What implications could this initiative have and what is your response to it?

It would represent a blocking of the access to international funding sources that Nicaragua has, with the political and social consequences that this could imply…

We have started and continue to hold meetings with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, where we explained to them the position that Almagro is taking with regard to Nicaragua.

It is in this sense that we ask the support of the Latin American and Caribbean brother countries so that within the OAS, this claim of Mr. Almagro is not realized. We call on them to oppose or abstain at the meeting that will see the participation of the Foreign Ministers of the OAS member countries.

The US Senate finally approved the Nica Act, ratified by President Donald Trump. In addition, it signed a decree calling Nicaragua “an extraordinary threat to the security of the United States.” What’s your reaction?

We utterly refute these statements of the United States, as well as their policy of interference and interventionism, which does not date from today. They continue to apply the Monroe Doctrine in Latin America and the Caribbean, considering that our countries are their “backyard.”

But we are free, sovereign and independent countries that develop our own internal policies. We act in the concert of Latin American countries, within the framework of legality, constitutionality, inter-American law, international law, the charter of the United Nations and even the charter of the OAS. For many decades, Nicaragua has suffered from the effects of US military and political intervention. Today, this country continues its traditional policy of interference through history.

We call on the United States Government, its State Department and its President, Trump, and even the governments of Latin America, to reflect, to abide by and respect international law. We must strive to promote peaceful coexistence, development of cooperation and friendly relations between our countries. We insist that this is what defines the behavior of nations and states: to respect the rules of international law based on non-aggression, peace, tranquility and mutual cooperation, and trade in all domains. Do not ignite internal situations in the hemisphere, where a positive dynamic is emerging with the very existence of organizations such as CELAC (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas), thanks to which the cooperation has been very effective.

In fact, Nicaragua is not alone. In the context of a Central America that has suffered so much from US interventions, what roles do organizations such as ALBA play?

ALBA is a fraternal organization of brothers and friends. It’s spirit is to continue strengthening Central American, Caribbean and Latin American unity. It is a positive organization that makes proposals for cooperation, solidarity and complementarity for all our countries. Let us remember that it began from a fraternal policy between Commander Fidel and Commander Chávez. From there, other countries have gradually joined the alliance, such as Bolivia, Nicaragua, the Caribbean countries, the member countries of the CariCom (Caribbean Community)… This is truly a project for the present and the future.

We reiterated our fraternal solidarity, militant and unconditional, to the comrades and friends of Venezuela; in the government of President Nicolás Maduro; to the comrade and brother of the Republic of Cuba, where a positive path towards international and inter-American dialogue and understanding has begun, including the participation of the United States in the framework of mutual respect and cooperation. Our desire is for these peace and stability projects in Latin America to have continuity. Let us remember that four years ago, the declaration of CELAC on a Latin American “region of peace, stability, and peaceful cohabitation” was approved in Havana by the different countries and heads of state.

Fortunately, the situation in Nicaragua has eased with regard to the crisis that took place between April and June 2018. What is your assessment of this crisis last year?

In Nicaragua, what took place was a real coup attempt. This tendency to want to break the constitutional order of the rule of law and replace the legitimate government of President Ortega has been undermined and neutralized by the activity of the population, namely the Nicaraguan people and the government.

However, both international law bodies and some media outlets have focused on creating a context in which the public opinion against the government is unfavorable, disguising the situation in Nicaragua. This campaign of some international media outlets was aimed at skewing national and international public opinion. To do this, lies and false information have been widely used.

Can you tell us about some of the actors involved in the crisis, such as representatives of the Church, some private media, NGOs and the private sector COSEP (Superior Council of Private Enterprise), as well as the result of the holding of dialogue tables with the opposition? 

In the situation that began in April in Nicaragua, President Ortega encouraged and organized a dialogue for which he invited the Episcopal Conference to act as mediator and guarantor. The participation of some members of the Conference in this dialogue, who took a favorable position on the putschist fringe in Nicaragua, has not borne fruits, and they have used dialogue as a form of support for this extreme fringe.

This has caused difficulty for the roles of mediators and guarantors, due to a lack of objectivity, impartiality and good faith, as well as being able to conduct a dialogue as mediators. In addition, the Church’s television channel, which has treated this dialogue with rather little seriousness and responsibility, has truly transformed itself into a kind of platform of propaganda and communication favorable to particular interests.

Dialogue was necessary for peace to reign again. But it was difficult to achieve… How did the relationship with the opposition sectors unfold?

Our government has stated that it is difficult to continue the dialogue under these conditions and to a certain extent that has not changed. It was not really Nicaragua’s political parties that participated in this dialogue, but members of NGOs, representatives of the private sector and some student sectors. They were representatives of the opposition and the putschist group, since they made it clear that their purpose was not to establish a dialogue table to discuss and exchange, but to force the government of President Ortega to relinquish power.

They had staged a coup, but they also joined the dialogue table, trampling Nicaragua’s political constitution and laws. Their goal was to replace the legitimate government of President Ortega, who was elected… by more than 70% of voters!

At the moment, these mobilizations no longer take place…

Today, Nicaragua is at peace. Its activities are normal and are those of a nation that continues to develop, as it already did before the coup attempt. The productive activity of the country resumes its normal course, the institutions of the state assure their functions, each one fulfills the mandates that the law conferred on it. In Nicaragua, there is a division of powers: there is an executive, legislative, legal and electoral power. According to the constitution, we work in harmony, coordination and cooperation, each fulfilling the missions that the relevant law stipulates.

The famous “tranques” (road blocks) took place in your country. This is a type of mobilization based in particular on blocking traffic. There was also the participation of the private sector, COSEP, in the employers’ strike, an appeal against the right of Nicaraguans to work. Is this situation still going on?

It was something that had never been seen in the history of Nicaragua. The blocking of the main communication routes, the Pan-American Highway (which connects the Central American countries and facilitates trade), but especially the road blocks and barricades that were built in the cities and on motorways, gave way to a massive ‘kidnapping’ of part of the Nicaraguan population, it was as if they were taken hostage.

The roadblocks were then formed in a place where kidnappings, crimes, murders, rapes, etc., were committed. Finally, there was a massive terrorist activity in our country, attacking the free movement of people and vehicles of all types, including those useful to the population such as ambulances or fire brigades called upon to control the fires provoked by the putschists themselves in the various town halls, public buildings, shopping centers and private homes across the country.

Let’s go back to the international scene. During various sessions of the Organization of American States (OAS), in which you have waged a strong diplomatic battle, you denounced the fact that some organizations had published “subjective, prejudiced, and biased” reports on the reality of your country…

It is in the midst of this dynamic of violent activity the result has been an unfortunate amount of deaths. We counted 22 police deaths, more than 400 of them were wounded, and the government reported the official figure of 198 people who died during this coup attempt.

Therefore, we do not pick up the figures, often inflated, that some human rights organizations communicate, because they have confused the deaths as a result of natural causes, road accidents and others, with those having perished because of this specific context.

In conclusion, I would like to have your comments on the initiative of the National Assembly, which created the Commission for Truth, Justice and Peace. The latter has produced a report whose conclusions have been ignored by the vast majority of the international media. Here is an excerpt: “the existence of violent and radical groups acting outside the law (…), in opposition to the spirit of justice, peace and democracy of the national dialogue, worries us”. What would you take away from the work of this commission?

The National Assembly has approved a law allowing the creation of this Commission for Truth and Justice, and its activities and work have always been carried out in a perspective of objectivity, because it is we, Nicaraguans, who have to face these problems. The situation of violence that we have experienced is unprecedented in our country and has had an impact on our population, with many dead and wounded. The truth commission did this work because the people demanded justice and compensation.

With such destruction and with the pain of our people, the institutions of the state that are functioning; the police, the Attorney General, the public prosecutor’s office and the courts are investigatating, within the framework of the law, what happened and who was responsible for it.

In Nicaragua, there is a constitutional state of law that is in place, and we are committed to respecting the fundamental rights of every individual, without exception. But also faced with a situation like the one we have known, that included a clear desire to break the constitutional order, the state is obligated to investigate what happened, with a view to accountability and a fair trial. It is not a question of condemning innocents, but individuals who have been proven to be responsible. And to acquit those who have been duly proven to be innocent. This is the spirit of the law and the courts and the Nicaraguan State.

Thank you very much for the time you have given me for this interview. I take this opportunity to send you my best wishes for peace and happiness for this year 2019 to the Latin American and Nicaraguan people who fight for their dignity and their sovereignty.

A people like the Nicaraguan one has had the natural reaction of a people who, with a great sense of dignity and with great courage, defend their security, their peaceful coexistence, the economic and social projects that the population benefits from. The people supported these and that is why President Ortega was elected with more than 70% of the vote. What we are doing is going beyond the neoliberal policies of previous governments, and establishing inclusive economic and social policies for the vast majority, including policies of dialogue, alliance and consensus with the private sector. With a social profit enjoyed by everyone and which does not exclude anyone.

This combination of internally and internationally funded actors was intended to change the government by force, breaking the constitutional order and by doing so, to destroy precisely the development of Nicaragua in all the programs that allowed the country make some progress. Fortunately, this coup has been neutralized and activities in Nicaragua have resumed their normal course.

 

Translated from French by Marius Tankou
Source: Journal of Our Americas, Investig’Action

BRIEFS

By Nan McCurdy

Nicaragua Successful in Reducing the Gender Gap
The latest gender gap index published by the World Economic Forum places Nicaragua as the only country in Central America where the government has overcome the gaps in equity issues by implementing policies where women and men have the same conditions to perform in political, economic and social positions. “There has always been a stigma in society about the capabilities of women in the workplace and if Nicaragua is implementing policies to open this field to women, I think that they must continue to be replicated, not only in institutions, but also in companies”, said Alfredo Tejeda, an expert on Human Resources issues at the Nicaragua Catholic University. (Informe Pastran, 1/11/18)

Fourth Forum on Love, Peace and Solidarity Examines the Coup
At the opening session of the solidarity event on January 10 in Managua, the speakers agreed that the coup attempt of 2018 was well planned, its organizers had been working for years to find the right moment. The fourth Forum of Love, Peace and Solidarity with Nicaragua brought together representatives of solidarity movements from 21 countries. President of the National Assembly, Gustavo Porras: “We feel safe again, what happened, happened, now another road is open.” Porras insisted that the attempted coup was prepared ahead of time and the media campaign of false news against the government was a major part of it. Porras described a few of the false news campaigns against the government:

“They used the fire in the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, which had been recently controlled at the time of the beginning of the coup. In that case the opposition used fake news to spread the notion that the government wasn’t doing anything to halt the fire. The coup was ultimately launched when the government announced social security reforms in mid-April, which primarily would have affected the business sector; they and other coup-makers were able to mobilize young people with social media. On April 18, the first day of protest, the opposition invented the death of a student at the Central American University (UCA), which proved to be totally false, but went viral on social media like wild-fire with the creation of hundreds of thousands of fake social media accounts with messages that came mainly from the US and Columbia.” He added that the first death was police officer Hilton Manzanares, of the Special Operations Directorate of the National Police, murdered on the night of April 19 in Managua. Porras, who is the president of the National Assembly, referred to the evidence that there was a coup platform with mechanisms used to manipulate the hearts and minds of many Nicaraguans. “Now it is up to us to promote a culture of dialogue, reconciliation, work and peace, as well as a popular economy of small and medium sized enterprises”.  (Radio La Primerisima, 1/11/19)

Nicaragua rejects interventionist policies 
Foreign Minister Denis Moncada rejected and condemned the session convened by OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, to analyze the situation in Nicaragua. “Mr. Almagro continues to act as a political agent of the US government, supporting coup plotters and radical sectors seeking to overthrow the legitimate and constitutional government of Nicaragua. The Inter-American Democratic Charter does not empower any state, or Secretary General Almagro, to support coup plotters against the government that was legitimately elected by the Nicaraguan people,” Foreign Minister Moncada said. (Nicaragua News, 1/11/19)

Human rights of prisoners respected 
Nicaragua Truth Commission Coordinator Dr. Cairo Amador announced that visits to the National Penitentiary System are being organized to ensure respect for human rights of the individuals charged with crimes during the failed coup attempt of last April. “The Commission has verified that the Nicaragua government is guaranteeing full respect for the human rights of prisoners, ensuring they receive medical attention as well as visits of relatives, spouses and friends,” Amador said. (Nicaragua News, 1/10/19)

Greater Nicaragua – Taiwan cooperation  
The Taiwan Ambassador in Managua, Jaime Wu, announced that a 3-year agreement was signed with the Nicaragua Ministry of Health to strengthen cooperation in healthcare services and chronic kidney diseases. “Taiwan wants to continue to strengthen cooperation with the people and government of Nicaragua and we know that the healthcare sector is a priority issue,” Ambassador Wu said. (Nicaragua News, 1/10/19)

President Ortega Attends Second Inauguration of President Nicolas Maduro 
Along with President Daniel Ortega, 94 nations were represented at the second inauguration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Since President Hugo Chávez began his first term as president in 1999, the Bolivarian Republic has promoted regional integration and independence, resisted neoliberalism, opposed “free trade” agreements, and supported the emergence of a multipolar world. On account of these policies, Chávez (1999-2013) and now Maduro, have faced relentless attacks by the US. Today the Maduro administration faces the challenges of defending national sovereignty from imperial domination and overcoming crippling US sanctions that have exacerbated a severe economic crisis. On May 20, 2018, the Venezuelan electorate had the audacity to re-elect Maduro by a 67.84% majority with a participation rate of 46.07% (representing 9,389,056 voters). Two opposition candidates ran for office, Henri Falcón and Javier Bertucci, despite a boycott orchestrated by opposition hardliners and the US. (Canal 2, 1/10/19, Telesur 1/10/19, Counterpunch, 1/9/19)