NicaNotes: The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left

by DAN KOVALIK DECEMBER 7, 2018 COUNTERPUNCH

According to our nation’s paper of record, the New York Times, the Nicaraguan Contras re-activated some time ago in order to take on their old foe, Daniel Ortega, who had been re-elected in 2007 after a long hiatus of 17 years.  One may recall that it was the pressure of the Contras, and their brutal terrorist tactics, which were critical to unseating Ortega from office the first time back in 1990.

Just as a refresher, the Contras (short for “counterrevolutionaries”) were made up largely of the National Guardsmen of the US-backed dictator, Anastasio Somoza.  After the successful 1979 revolution against Somoza – a revolution led by Ortega and the FSLN (or, Sandinistas) — the CIA organized the Guardsmen into the Contras and trained, armed and directed them for the purpose of undermining the fledgling Sandinista government.  The Contras, with the direct encouragement of the CIA, carried out various terrorist acts which included the torture, rape and murder of civilians and the destruction of key civilian infrastructure.  All told, around 30,000 Nicaraguans died in the 1980’s as a result of the US-backed Contra War.

The Contras, after effectively exhausting the Nicaraguan people and extorting them into voting Ortega out of office in 1990, largely disarmed.  However, as the Times wrote back in March of 2016 in a laudatory piece about the Contras’ return, this changed sometime after Ortega’s re-election in 2007.  The Times piece begins as follows:

He calls himself Tyson, wears tattered United States Army fatigues and carries a beat-up AK-47.

He is a rebel fighter in the mountains of Nicaragua, setting ambushes against President Daniel Ortega’s government and longing for the days when covert American funding paid for overt warfare.

Tyson and his men are contras — yes, like the ones from the 1980s who received stealth funding during the Reagan administration to topple Mr. Ortega’s leftist Sandinista government.   . . .

The contras of today, often nicknamed “the rearmed,” are a shadow of what they once were. . . .

Still, skirmishes in rural areas around the country as recently as last week have left police officers, civilians and soldiers dead, a violent expression of the broader anger brewing against the government.

In this same article, the Times acknowledges that “Mr. Ortega enjoys strong support among the poor . . . .”  And of course, this makes absolute sense given Ortega’s enlightened social policies.  As the website Popular Resistance explains,

these policies have yielded the highest growth rate in Central America and annual minimum wage increases 5-7% above inflation, improving workers’ living conditions and lifting people out of poverty. The anti-poverty Borgen project reports poverty fell by 30 percent between 2005 and 2014.

The FSLN-led government has put into place an economic model based on public investment and strengthening the safety net for the poor. The government invests in infrastructure, transit, maintains water and electricity within the public sector and moved privatized services, e.g., health care and primary education, into the public sector. This has ensured a stable economic structure that favors the real economy over the speculative economy. The lion’s share of infrastructure in Nicaragua has been built in the last 11 years, something comparable to the New Deal-era in the US, including renewable electricity plants across the country.

Still, according to the Times, the Contras re-emerged in response to what they viewed as Ortega’s over-consolidation of power. Meanwhile, the Times was not the only one writing about these rearmed Contras.  Indeed, over the years, there have been a number of reports about these Contras.  According to a 2013 article in Insight Crime, for example, “estimates of the numbers of rearmed contras have varied from dozens to hundreds, and even thousands . . . .”   This article explained that eight people had recently been killed as a result of Contra activity in northern Nicaragua near the Honduran border. For his part, Tim Rogers, a viciously anti-Sandinista journalist, has been writing for years about the phenomenon of the rearmed Contras.  For example, in a 2014 piece, Rogers wrote:

A deadly midnight ambush targeting government supporters in northern Nicaragua has stirred the sleeping dogs of war and raised new fears of a pending military campaign against rearmed guerrillas hiding in the mountains.

Five people were killed and 19 injured early Sunday morning in what appears to be a coordinated series of attacks against Sandinista party members traveling by bus through the mountainous coffee-growing region of Matagalpa, one of the main battlegrounds of Nicaragua’s civil war in the 1980s.Video

The buses, filled with pro-government supporters returning from Managua after a day of celebrating the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, were fired on indiscriminately from the darkened shoulder of the road by unidentified men armed with AK-47s.

This very sort of attack against Sandinista rank and file members was played out time and again over this past summer during the three-month-long crisis which received significant media attention.  Indeed, when I was in Managua this past July for the anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, I was told that, contrary to traditional practice, there would not be buses sent to Managua from other parts of the country for the celebration for fear of such attacks.

And yet, while the mainstream press covered the crisis in Nicaragua this past summer with rapt attention, and while Tim Rogers himself published a number of pieces in the mainstream press about it, there was not one whisper about the rearmed Contras, nor was there coverage of the regular assaults against Sandinista rank and file – attacks which included torture, rape and murder.Instead, we were told by the mainstream press, and by most of the “left-wing” press as well, only of peaceful protesters being attacked by an allegedly repressive Sandinista government.  And, when people were killed by sniper attacks, we were told that it had to be government security forces because the opposition used only peaceful means, and, in any case, did not have the capacity to carry out such assaults.

Just as the devil was able to do about his own existence, the greatest feat accomplished in this instance was to convince the public that the rearmed Contras did not exist.  Of course, this is not a difficult task given that most Americans’ historical memory is about 24 hours.

What is most deeply disappointing and frustrating, however, is that most of the American left, which presumably should know better, has also fallen for this devil’s trick, and has quickly leapt to join in the right-wing chorus calling for the removal of Ortega and the Sandinistas from office.  This despite the fact that, as journalist Max Blumenthal explained, there is clear evidence that the US itself has been behind the violent push to unseat Ortega.  As Blumenthal related, on May 1, 2018, a publication funded by the Cold War-era National Endowment for Democracy (NED) “bluntly asserted that organizations backed by the NED have spent years and millions of dollars ‘laying the groundwork for insurrection'”which took place over the summer.  And, the US AID just announcedthat it will continue this work by sending another $4 million to support opposition civil society groups in Nicaragua.

What’s more, as far back as 2012, former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst Wayne Madsen was not only writing about the rearmed Contras but also about the US and Israeli support for them.  While Madsen can sometimes be prone to conspiracy theories which do not always pan out, his claims back then about this particular subject seem spot on and indeed quite prescient.

Thus, in his 2012 book, The Manufacturing of a President, Madsen claims, based upon his numerous intelligence sources, that the CIA and Mossad have both been funding these rearmed Contras, and that they have been shipping these Contras arms over both the Honduran and Costa Rican borders.  He claims also that the Honduran government which came to power through the 2009 coup – a coup which the Obama Administration actively aided and abetted to unseat a leftist government which, by the way, happened to be friendly to Ortega – has been key to helping both support the Contras as well as to provide a staging ground for the covert operations to bring down the Sandinista government.  In other words, Honduras is playing the very same role it did in the 1980s, and the US-backed coup in 2009 – a mere 2 years after Ortega was elected – was crucial to this role.

And, just last week, in a further attempt to unseat Ortega, the US Senate finally passed the NICA Act which will cut Nicaragua off from all international financing – financing which the Ortega government has been using to effectively combat poverty in Nicaragua.  The NICA Act has been in the works for some time, and Nicaraguan opposition forces, including the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), have openly been lobbying for this.  This, however, has not stopped most of the left in the US, who obviously have not been impressed with Ortega’s successful social programs and his real support for the poor, from cheerleading and romanticizing these very same opposition forces.

The result of the NICA Act sanctions will be massive suffering for the poor of Nicaragua who support Ortega the most.  These sanctions will be particularly painful after the crisis this past summer in which the opposition managed to trash the economy along with substantial civilian infrastructure (just as the Contras had done in the 1980s).  And, should Ortega be unseated as a result of all this, it will most certainly be the violent and most right-wing portion of the opposition which will take power, for it is they who have the resolve and the means to do so.

But, guided by the new religion of “humanitarian interventionism,” the pro-imperialist left of the US is indifferent to the consequences of their support, whether explicit or tacit, of Western imperial aggression.  Just as many on the US left cheered on the NATO invasion of Libya – an invasion which inevitably left that country broken and with slaves being sold openly on the streets – they now applaud the counterrevolution taking place in Nicaragua.  This shows once again that the US left has a very high tolerance for the suffering of Third World peoples so long as they feel that this suffering is endured for the sake of their own abstract notions of human rights.

Daniel Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He is also author of the newly-released, The Plot to Control the World:  How the US has Spent Billions to Change the Outcome of Elections Around the World.

BRIEFS

By Nan McCurdy

Sao Paulo Forum Supports Nicaragua’s Sovereignty
Delegates at the Sao Paulo Forum in Brazil passed a resolution demanding respect for national sovereignty as they offered solidarity and support to Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. The resolution congratulated President Daniel Ortega and the people of Nicaragua for defeating the attempted coup “perpetrated by US imperialism through its lackeys” and welcomed the efforts to consolidate peace. A statement from the forum expressed “solidarity with Nicaragua and its Sandinista revolution against the interventionist actions of the Donald Trump government in the internal affairs of that country,” which the group said included sanctions and threatening statements.

The summit praised the government for its achievements in reducing social inequality and poverty through impressive economic growth, which was threatened by the instability created during the attempted coup period. “We stand in defence of the institutions, sovereignty and self-determination of the people. We demand respect for the legitimately elected government presided over by Commander Daniel Ortega Saavedra,” the statement said, going on to denounce two items of US legislation “which violate the sovereignty of the people, in order to impose the interests of the United States. “We insist on the need for peace and reconciliation for the development and solution of political problems,” the statement concluded. (Morning Star, Dec. 10)

More than 1,000 Prisoners Will Spend Christmas and New Year’s with Their Families
More than a thousand prisoners will enjoy family visits during the holidays. “The Government continues promoting the family unit and social reintegration for more than a thousand prisoners who will be granted the legal benefit of family coexistence in this month of December,” said Minister of the Interior María Amelia Coronel, during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The prisoners will be delivered to their families as demonstrations of Christmas and New Year’s joy, she said. (Radio La Primerisima, 12/11/18)

2019 Budget Will Include Much Social and Infrastructure Investment
The 2019 General Budget will include a series of multi-million dollar investments in infrastructure projects. (See next article.) In 2019, investment in social services is projected to be US$1.4 billion, which represents more than half of expenditures (56.2%), and 10.2% of Gross Domestic Product. The public investment program foreseen for 2019 is US$790.2 million and includes logistics (roads and ports); energy US$28.68 million; water and sanitation US$103.4 million; education and health US$560.5 million; and safety and justice, US$329.9 million. The subsidies for urban public transportation (a bus ride costs less than 8 US cents), electricity, school meals, free health and education are guaranteed. (Informe Pastran, 12/10/18)

Building and Improving Roads, Bridges, and Ports to Continue in 2019
Retired General Oscar Mojica, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure (MTI), announced that multiple roads are near completion and others will be built in 2019. Some of them are: El Rama to Laguna de Perlas on the east coast, as well as Nueva Guinea to Bluefields, where a port is planned with the Dutch, finally connecting the east and west coasts of Nicaragua. A number of roads are being expanded to four lanes: The road from Managua to Tipitapa (Carretera Norte), from Ciudad Sandino to La Paz Centro, (road to Leon), Sapoa to Penas Blancas at the border to Costa Rica, from the new Piedrecitas overpass in west Managua to El Crucero, Diriamba and Jinotepe to Nandaime, all on the Carretera Sur. Nicaragua is already considered to have the best roads in Central America.

Several stretches on the way to Puerto Cabezas/Bilwi on the northeast coast, which have been notorious mega mud holes, like Mulukuku to Siuna, are almost finished; this will greatly reduce travel time which has been 24 hours. Several new bridges have and will be built with help from Japan. Connecting roads to places which have been inaccessible such as La Libertad to El Ayote in Chontales, Granada to Malacatoya, Esteli to San Juan de Limay, Pantasma to Wiwili in Jinotega, Cardenas to Colon on the south shore of Lake Cocibolca, and Potosi to El Carmen on the Gulf of Fonseca. (Adolfo Pastran Program, 12/10/18)

More Evidence Revealed Against Those Who Headed up Roadblocks in Jinotepe
December 10 there was a another session in the trial of defendants Félix Picado, Juan Ramón Medina, Cristian Berma Cruz, Matilde Blandón, Joel Blandón Villagra, Yader Blandón Villagra; Johny Leiva Castro, Juan José Medina and Orlando Granado, who are being accused by the Public Prosecutor of terrorist acts carried out in Jinotepe. These subjects commanded one of the most violent roadblocks in this area. They are accused of murdering Pablo Israel Ramo whose body was also burned.

The witnesses at the trial recognized the defendants who carried military-use weaponry and held hostages at the roadblocks. The Public Ministry introduced a video where the witnesses stated that they recognized the presence of the accused on the day of the murder of Israel Ramo. They said the defendants called a unit of the Nicaraguan Red Cross to attempt to exchange the body of Ramo for a crony who was hospitalized. (Canal 8, 12/11/18)

Forbes describes Little Corn Island as one of the Best Beaches to Discover in 2019
An article published last Thursday in Forbes Magazine ranks Little Corn Island among the Best Beaches to Visit in 2019. “This wonderful Nicaraguan island is the best kept secret in the Caribbean and is the perfect destination for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city,” the Forbes Magazine report states. (Nicaragua News, 12/10/18)

More Witnesses Describe Atrocities Committed at Masaya Roadblocks 
Last Thursday the trial continued of Cristian Fajardo, Santiago Adrián Fajardo Baldizón and María Adilia Peralta, accused of the crimes of terrorism, financing of terrorism, organized crime, obstruction of public services and kidnapping. These subjects were in charge of the roadblocks located in the city of Masaya, where along with extortion, the group directed by them carried out assaults, looting, destruction and burning of many private and public buildings in Masaya including the craft market and a large secondary school. They attacked the police station daily. Santiago Fajardo and his brother Cristian Fajardo were recognized as the operation chiefs. They were in charge of paying the delinquents in Masaya. At least nine witnesses are expected to give declarations including those who were beaten, tortured, bound, kidnapped and terrorized.

The first witness was a Police agent who patrolled incognito in Masaya and did not carry identification, but a companion with whom he traveled by motorcycle did carry identification. At one of the roadblocks they were detained and tortured to find the document. The police agent who testified in this session recognized the Fajardo brothers. The Police agent said “They had a dispute with the terrorist leaders in Monimbó because they were fighting over who was best at capturing police or Sandinistas.  So because of that they did not take us to Monimbó, but they took us to a place that they called ‘the station.’ They beat us, tied our hands and put us on a pulley; then the Fajardo brothers arrived and that’s where they said ‘open the way, there’s the boss – Chago (Santiago Fajardo)’. He grabbed a gun, fired it, then he made me play roulette”, the victim affirmed. So far, three of the nine witnesses have given testimony. (Canal 8, 12/6/18)

Nicaragua Wins Cigar Producing Competition in London
During the celebration of the Smoker of the Year Awards held in London last Monday, the Nicaragua Joya Cigars company was awarded the Best Producer of 2018. “This is a recognition of the quality and distinction of Joya Cigars products, a franchise which is positioned among the best brands worldwide,” a report published by Smoker of the Year Awards stated. (Nicaragua News 12/6/18)

Trial Begins of the Heads of the Criminal Roadblocks in Carazo
December 6 the trial began of Tomás Maldonado and Carlos Brenes, accused of the crimes of terrorism, organized crime, obstruction of public services and aggravated damage.  Seven key witnesses were presented who claim that these two people were the main instigators of hate, and who directed the attacks and controlled the roadblocks in Carazo. The first witness was Senior Commissioner Pedro Rodríguez Argueta, who was assigned to the police delegation in the city of Jinotepe, where he says the accused were the main promoters of violence and those who armed others involved in roadblock-related violence.

This commissioner was wounded with a .22 shot, which broke his left hand. He also received an AK rifle bullet in the left chest; thanks to his bulletproof vest and a rosary that was in his shirt pocket, he wasn’t killed but he did lose consciousness. “Tomás Maldonado, Joao Maldonado and his son, Carlos Brenes, among others, were the ones who carried arms and coordinated all the movement in the area,” the police chief said. “Tomás Maldonado is the one who ran this group together with Carlos Brenes, they prepared the conditions and planned the criminal acts, created and ran the roadblocks in Jinotepe, as well as attacks on public institutions, looting of commercial establishments to get money to buy arms and ammunition.” They are also linked to the burning and destruction of the Jinotepe police station. The trial will continue in the coming days. (Canal 8 12/6/18)

Nicaragua Firmly Against Nuclear Weapons
During the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Science and Technology Conference in Vienna last Monday, Dr. Paul Oquist, Minister for National Policies, reiterated Nicaragua’s firm opposition to the proliferation and use of nuclear weapons. He also condemned the implementation of new programs to modernize nuclear weapons and reiterated Nicaragua’s commitment to world peace. (Nicaragua News 12/5/18)

16 Cruise Ships Visit Nicaragua
The Nicaragua Tourism Institute (INTUR) reported that 16 cruise ships from Europe and the United States visited Nicaragua during the last six weeks. “The Norwegian Cruise Ship Viking Star that arrived in Port Corinto last Tuesday with 1,365 passengers, is the sixteenth of the 2018 cruise season”, the INTUR report states.  (Nicaragua News 12/5/18)

Families and Victims of the Coup Denounce “Journalist” Miguel Mora

Relatives of those murdered and tortured during the attempted coup, denounced Miguel Mora, head of 100% News to the Public Prosecutor. They claim he incited violence and hatred that caused torture and death.

Francisca Méndez, denounced Mora for encouraging torture and killing. She is the daughter of Guillermo Méndez Ortiz who was tortured and murdered at the roadblocks in Jinotepe, Carazo, on June 12, 2018. “I accuse the inciter of hatred, Miguel Mora, who promoted and continues to promote the death-roadblocks, where they kidnapped and tortured my father. That is why I have come to file a complaint, so that justice is done and this does not go unpunished, so that they do not continue to kill innocent people and so that this gentleman does not continue to harm the country.”

Also present was Mirlehn Méndez Ventura, wife of Bismarck Martínez, kidnapped on June 29.

“To date we have not found my husband, and Miguel Mora is aware of this, because he talks about the roadblocks and Bismarck was kidnapped at one. I demand Mora tell us the whereabouts of my husband.”

Henry Serrano: “I was intercepted at the San José school, where they grabbed me, hooded me, kidnapped and assaulted me for four days, beat me, broke me and fractured my nose, violated my physical integrity and that of my family, all because of Mora who incites people to attack the Sandinistas.” Serrano, an inhabitant of the Ana Virgen Noble neighborhood of Jinotepe, says when he was kidnapped, they used his credit card to charge money in San José, money stolen along with his phone and other belongings.

Erasmo Hernandez Palacios, who was also kidnapped and tortured in Jinotepe placed a complaint against Miguel Mora. He was threatened with death for being a Sandinista.

Roberto Rodríguez accused Mora of kidnapping, burning his vehicle and destroying his home. “I accuse Mr. Mora of the destruction of my vehicle and what I ask for is justice and peace for the Nicaraguans, for that reason I demand you close down 100% Noticias. On June 12, Rodriguez was kidnapped at 10:50 am: “It was a very difficult situation for me. On June 31 at 2:00 a.m., they burned my vehicle.”

Róger Escobar filed a complaint for terrorism, damage to his family, private property damage and robbery. “They terrorized my family because of the manipulation of Miguel Mora who said I was a paramilitary, they damaged my image and I received threats.” He had to spend 3 months outside his home because of threats to him on 100% Noticias and social media.

Auxiliadora Sotelo Robleto, blames Miguel Mora, for encouraging criminals who robbed her home on June 16 in the Ayapal neighborhood. “That man only lies and manipulates. They left me on the street. Eighty criminals ransacked my home and took money, computers, cell phones and jewelry. Eight days later they returned to my house and, in stolen vans from the Ministry of Health, took everything and left my house empty, but I was hospitalized and the only ones there were my children and my grandson.”

Carla Teresa Torres Hernández gave more evidence implicating Miguel Mora in the death of her husband, policeman Gabriel de Jesús Vado.  Last week, Ms. Torres made the complaint to the Public Ministry, but this Monday she provided videos and audios, showing that her husband was killed at a roadblock, in addition to threats made by Miguel Mora to her husband on video. (Canal 2, 19 Digital 12/6/18, 12/10/18)