By Chuck Kaufman
As the crisis in Nicaragua intensifies and the US and European corporate media, the human rights industrial complex, and voices traditionally hostile to Nicaraguan sovereignty grow ever more strident, I have become mystified at the reactions of some people who I used to think were of the Left, or at least were solidarity activists.
Let’s do a brief review. In 1979, an armed rebellion led by the Sandinista Front for National Liberation toppled the Somoza family dynasty which, backed by the United States, had repressed the Nicaraguan people and robbed them of their national wealth for 45 years. For the next 10 years, first the revolutionary government and then the constitutionally elected government pursued a non-aligned foreign policy anddomestically developed a democratic, pluralistic political system and a mixed private/State-owned economic system with what Liberation Theology called “a preferential option for the poor.” Despite the war, there were huge advances in economic and social justice and in health and education.
When Ronald Reagan gained the US presidency in January, 1981, he launched a proxy war by training and funding members of Somoza’s feared National Guard and he launched a simultaneous economic war to prevent Nicaragua from recovering from the war and Somoza’s greed. In 1990, exhausted and demoralized by almost 10 years of war and economic hardship, Nicaraguans voted for the Nicaraguan Opposition Union (UNO) Coalition candidates which was constructed and financed by the US government. Voting with a gun to their heads, Nicaraguans consigned themselves to peace, but even more economic hardship under three successive US-backed neoliberal governments which systematically dismantled the gains of the Sandinista Revolution. None of those elections met any half-way serious criteria for a democratic election.
In 2006, Nicaraguans had had enough of neoliberal hardships and elected Daniel Ortega once again to the presidency. His first action as president was to end school fees, allowing 100,000 children into the schools whose poverty had kept them uneducated. This was rapidly followed by his administration building the free public health system into a robust institution that treated people rather than just wrote prescriptions that the patients were too poor to fill. The peasant agriculture sector was revitalized bringing hundreds of thousands up out of abject poverty, especially women and children.
Impoverished Nicaragua became one of the first countries in the world to achieve the UN Millennial Challenge to cut poverty in half by 2015. Along the way, the Ortega government achieved sustained economic growth of 5% and achieved labor stability through the famous Tripartite Model in which unions and big business negotiated semi-annual increases in the minimum wage with the government intervening when the two other parties couldn’t agree. The World Bank, IMF, and European countries all praised Nicaragua for its lack of corruption and effective use of grants and loans. Finally, Nicaraguan women’s participation in public and private affairs raised Nicaragua to one of the top four countries in the world for gender equality.
President Daniel Ortega was elected democratically by increasing margins two more times, the third in 2016, and at the time that violence broke out on April 18-19, he had the best ratio of positive to negative ratings of any president in Latin America and the Caribbean according to the polls. Oh, and I should mention that Nicaragua’s community based policing, and their women’s police stations, specializing in domestic violence, were studied by police departments throughout the world and were famous for their record of positive community relations.
So now we are supposed to believe that all that changed on April 18 when the government declared changes needed to restore the social security system to solvency; changes that were far less painful for retirees than those supported by the IMF and the nation’s major businesses.
We’re supposed to believe that the National Police, which in the 39 years since the Triumph of the Sandinista Revolution have not repressed the Nicaraguan people, are suddenly no different than the murderous Honduran police.
We’re supposed to believe that Daniel Ortega is a dictator when he’s been democratically elected with successively larger majorities in elections that no reputable international institution has claimed did not represent the actual will of the people.
We’re supposed to believe that the Ortega family is personally as corrupt as the Somoza’s were when all the bilateral and multilateral lenders praise Nicaragua for its effective use of loans and grants and the obvious improvement in the standard of living of the very poor.
US and European solidarity activists, when we start using the language of the New York Times and Fox News, it is time to ask ourselves just whose interests we are in solidarity with. Do we really want to contribute to throwing all of this away?
Every current and former US and European migrant and colonizer in Nicaragua with whom I’ve spoken agree that it would be a complete disaster if the Ortega government is driven out other than through democratic elections. So why, I ask, in your own minds is it okay for you to contribute by your social media postings and the blogs and articles that you write to exactly that outcome?
I am not telling Nicaraguans what they should do or say. I’m talking to those of us of European descent, both in Nicaragua and outside of it. You may have lived there long enough that you feel entitled to a voice in the debate, but that is your white privilege talking. You are not going to be as affected by whatever happens as are your Nicaraguan neighbors. At the very minimum you have an obligation to expose the actions of our home countries in exacerbating Nicaragua’s current agony, and you need to examine your own actions to insure that you are not contributing to fulfilling the goals of the Empire.
We “Me First” Worlders are responsible for the actions of our governments. Exposing and opposing those actions is our job. It is the job of Nicaraguans to determine what kind of country they want to create. We can share their joy and their sadness, but we can’t do that job for them.
Following is a summary of what has been going on in Nicaragua in the past week. I want to thank Nan McCurdy, a long-time Nicaragua resident for compiling this news from media sources, but sources left out by the US corporate media.
Week in Review
By Nan McCurdy
OAS General Assembly delegations want peace and a dialogue in Nicaragua
Various Latin American delegations declared in favor of an end to the violence and in favor of the dialogue in Nicaragua to peacefully resolve the crisis. There was no resolution about the situation such as members of the opposition hoped for; but an outline of a declaration was sent to committee for consensus-building and will probably be presented on June 5. The delegations called on Nicaraguans to resolve their differences peacefully and avoid death, destruction of public and private property and follow the human rights recommendations of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights. The outline of the declaration does not disavow or delegitimize the government of Nicaragua, it exhorts the government to consolidate representative democracy with respect for the principal of non-intervention…they find most satisfactory the acceptance of the government of the visit by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights from the 17th to the 21st of May to observe the human rights situation in the country, as well as the acceptance by the government of the creation of the Interdisciplinary, International group of Independent Experts (GIEI) to investigate the events since April 18.
Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo dies at age 92
The Cardinal presided over the Commission of Verification, Peace and Reconciliation beginning in 2007. Six years ago he was awarded the Cultural Independence Ruben Dario. In the 1970’s he mediated the liberation of various Sandinista leaders including Daniel Ortega during the Sandinista assault on the house of Chema Castillo, a Somoza government leader. He was also the mediator in the Sandinista takeover of the National Assembly in 1978. During the Sandinista government in the 1980’s he was a very strong critic and worked closely with the government of Ronald Reagan. But in 1987 he was once again named mediator in the peace process. He was a witness in April 1990 in the ceasefire between the government and the contra. (La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario, June 3)
US citizen is killed in Reubenia in the early morning of June 2
Sixto Henry Vero, age 48 (son of a Nicaraguan policeman — this information from a family member) had a bar at km 13 carretera Masaya. His body was found dead two blocks north of the Reubenia overpass in the early morning of June 2. Neighbors say they saw armed men on motorcycles and in trucks. The shooting went on quite a while and terrorized the neighborhood around 3:30am. The perpetrators had their heads covered and were in double cabin trucks and on motorcycles. They were chasing Vero and another man. The murder appeared unrelated to the current unrest and on the evening of June 4, the police gave a press conference saying they have identified the perpetrators as Néstor Molina y Ezequiel Leiva. Police Commissioner Sergio Gutierrez said a group of men with guns and mortars attacked Sixto Henry Vero to rob him.
US ambassador Laura Doug said the death of a US citizen is a great concern to the embassy. (El Nuevo Diario, June 3)
Police reports on some crimes, June 2 and June 3
- Public property is being burned in many places, most recently in Masaya, Granada and Leon.
- Masaya, June 3: Armed hooded men burned the major high school in the center of Masaya where nearly 4,000 kids study morning, afternoon and evening. They also burned down the house of a doctor because her last name is Ortega (no relation). Another group damaged much of the new boardwalk by the lake.
- 5:30 am: Hooded well-armed men attacked the Masaya Police Delegation, damaging the exterior and causing panic in the neighborhood.
9:10: They attacked the Artisan Market and burned a restaurant.
- 9:50 La Concepcion: Hooded, armed groups kidnapped municipal worker Jimmy Espinoza, burned down three houses and damaged three more.
In the early morning of June 2, after they damaged public and private property in Masaya, eleven men were captured. They had guns and bullets, 11 mortar shooters and 120 mortars, 6 Molotov bombs and other weapons. The police said this group caused chaos in the early morning of June 2. Police gave the names of those detained. They all have police records for “robbery with intimidation”, force, violence and one has a history of sexual violence.
- Masaya, May 29th, 3 am, Banpro Bank denounced that hooded well-armed men robbed the bank to the tune of US$7878.27 and destroyed the automatic cashier.
- Municipality of Diria, Department of Granada: in the early morning of June 2 hooded, armed groups took over, ransacked and damaged the municipal building and burned a vehicle, a motorcycle and burned hotel Joshua Kelly and the home of professor Vanessa Gomez. Then they destroyed the FSLN center in town, the computer school and burned a truck. Some were recognized as being the same guys at the roadblock next to the cemetery.
- Managua June 1: 1:30 am, parking lot of Community House, Colonia Miguel Gutierrez, hooded delinquent groups with guns, handmade guns and mortars, threated the guard, took two motorcycles and a vehicle and caused damage to two other vehicles.
- June 1, 3pm, Barrio Georgino Andrade: There was an armed fight between two gangs, with guns and handmade guns. A fourteen-yr. old boy who was in the area was wounded and taken to the hospital.
- June 2, 12:30 am in the sector near the Parrales Vallejos Bus Coop, hooded delinquent groups that operate in the area of the UPOLI, with guns, handmade guns, mortars and Molotov bombs assassinated Sixto Henry Vero, gravely wounding Marcos Pomares Varella and burning two vehicles. (See June 3 END article about this).
- June 1, Esteli, 19-year-old Darwin Salcedo Vichez was shot dead at the same time that unknown men burned the DGI (equivalent of the IRS).June 2, 1 am Juigalpa, Chontales, Barrio Las Flores. Armed delinquent groups burned down the Angelito Store. Three were recognized. They are part of the roadblock in the exit to Managua.
Newspaper La Prensa fires 120 employees due to financial problems
This Friday journalists who have worked for the paper for many years say it has entered into a financial crisis. The paper had cut in half the number of published pages due to the fall in publicity. Their justification is the current economic situation of the country. The editor of the editorial page, Luis Sanchez, was sent to get his retirement pay. All who worked with him also lost their jobs. El Nuevo Diario, June 2)
Government of Nicaragua will meet with the OAS to discuss Electoral Reforms
Today the OAS published the chronogram of work proposed to the Nicaraguan government for the implementation of recommendations to reform the electoral system, outlined by the OAS in 2017. Next Sunday the government will meet with the OAS to define a plan of activities to reform the electoral system. (El Nuevo Diario, June 1)
Pope Francis calls for Dialogue, justice and peace to confront the crisis
The letter from the Pope is in response to one sent to the Pope by President Ortega on April 29. In the letter the Pope encourages different sectors of Nicaragua to find the route to justice, dialogue and peace. “Mr. President, I received your letter, which makes me a participant in the situation going on in this beloved country. You manifest your will to dialogue and look for an understanding between all”. The Pope said that a humble and sincere dialogue is a good way to bring about peace. He called on all sectors to be responsible and to reject all darkness and violence that only contributes to multiplying division and suffering especially among the poor and vulnerable. (El Nuevo Diario, June 1)
Cristhian Mendoza, El Viper, Arrested
The police captured three citizens investigated for the crimes of organized crime, assassination and car robbery among others. According to the police on May 31 at 7pm the police captured various subjects among them Cristhian Josué Mendoza Fernández, alias “Viper”, Andrew Salavador Úbeda Martínez and Katherin Maurian Ruiz López.Personal note about “El Viper”: Students who have been at the UPOLI (one of the universities taken over by students, and later, probably by thugs) say he was one of those in control during the most violent days. (Radiolaprimerisima.com, June 1)
Delinquents set fire to large government complex Friday night in Leon
In Leon Aníbal Toruño, Álvaro Montalvan, Byron Estrada and Gerald Chacón were captured for burning the German Pomares Complex where seven government institutions are housed. Two buildings were severely damage and the rest moderately. (Radiolaprimerisima.com, June 1)
The OAS will help with reestablishment of Institutions and in creating an electoral process with guarantees for everyone, as the most viable way out of the current crisis.
The Secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, asked Daniel Ortega to stop the violence and repression of the opposition after a tragic sixteen deaths on May 30. Almagro said, “We condemn the assassinations committed by repressive forces and armed groups and we express our solidarity with the victim’s families. Only justice, through the identification of those responsible at the highest levels, will stop the violence”. “We are carrying out a negotiation to create an independent group of experts to investigate these cases…This work needs to begin immediately…We know that the campaign of lies about our position continues… Those who lie, it’s obvious, do so because their truth is worth even less than their lies…The only political road ahead for Nicaragua is democratic, with free, transparent, just elections that represent the will of the people…We are working on the implementation of the recommendations of the last OAS Electoral Accompaniment Mission”. Almagro has insisted that the OAS will not endorse any anti-democratic solution. (Informe Pastran May 31)
Roberto Rivas resigns: Roberto Rivas resigned from his position as President of the Supreme Electoral Council. The announcement was made by the OAS and the government of Nicaragua. Last year the National Assembly reformed the Electoral Law to take some functions away from the president. Rivas was accused of corruption. Rivas began his post in 1995 and became president in 2000. (El Nuevo Diario, May 31)
MITRAB Machinery station for Northern Nicaraguan is burned.
About 3pm a violent group took over the large machinery station of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in Sebaco, Matagalpa and set fire to the warehouses. Nine workers were kidnapped and taken to the roadblock near the bridge and eventually freed. Two of them were beaten up. The armed men forced their way in threatening with M16’s and AK47’s. This is where the machinery is stored that is used to build and repair roads in Matagalpa, Jinotega all the north. Minister of Transport General Oscar Mojica said the delinquents claimed to be protesting peacefully. They wouldn’t let the firefighters enter to put out the fire. Very near the burning bodegas are tanks with 50,000 gallons of gasoline. (Radio La Primerisima, May 31)
Masaya Family Court burned Johanna Flores, General Director of Adoptions for the Ministry of family, said the burning of the family courts in Masaya will negatively affect the rights of children. This terrorist act will affect all the judicial processes of families, adolescents and children in Masaya. All of the files were destroyed in the fire so people, primarily women, will have to begin from zero in putting together documentation for their cases. Families where there are children who need their food pension will be most affected. (Radio La Primerisima, May 31)
Sixteen Dead in attacks on Protesters in Mother’s Day March
Eight of the dead were killed in Managua. Three were killed in Masaya. One was killed in Chinandega and four people were killed in confrontations in Estelí. In the El Nuevo Diario article they give the names of all sixteen who died. In Managua witnesses say that some shots came from the area of the baseball stadium. As shots were fired in Managua thousands took refuge in the Central American University. There were also many people who took refuge in the Cathedral and in the Metro Centro mall. Some protesters accuse gangs of the killing who they say are Sandinista sympathizers. At the end of the opposition march protesters got into the new Denis Martinez Baseball Stadium and destroyed it, breaking windows and vandalizing it. And near the Engineering University (UNI) there were once again confrontations between different sectors with mortars. 100% News TV station denounced they were attacked by Sandinista Sympathizers with rocks and broke a window at the entrance. Very nearby the anti-government protesters burned Radio Station “Tu Nuevo Radio Ya” with the workers inside. (The Radio was totally burned down the next day). They also burned the offices of ALBA Caruna near the Central American University UCA. Two Sandinistas were killed and many were wounded by anti-government protesters at a roadblock in Trinidad, Estelí. Buses from the north were not allowed to travel to Managua to a pro-Government gathering (about a mile from the area of the anti-government march). The Inter American Commission on Human Rights said they received grave complaints about dead and wounded, also about attacks on the Media, Public buildings and universities. (El Nuevo Diario, Informe Pastran, May 30)