NicaNotes: US Interference in Nicaragua’s Elections

Some of the organizations that receive “democracy promotion” funding from USAID

By Chuck Kaufman

[This presentation was part of a Nicaragua Network webinar on July 18, 2021, that also included panelist Nils McCune. You can watch that webinar here. The next Nicanet webinar is August 22 and will feature Saul Arana and Sofia Clark. Register here.]

(Chuck Kaufman has been on the national staff of the Nicaragua Network/Alliance for Global Justice since 1987. He has led many delegations including the one prior to the 2006 presidential election in which the US Ambassador admitted he had $12-13 million to spend on the election.)

My talk today is limited to US electoral interference since the 1979 Triumph of the Sandinista Revolution whose 42nd anniversary we celebrate tomorrow. There are new webinars each month covering other aspects of Nicaragua-US relations. I recommend you tune in regularly.

Let’s start with the first democratic election in Nicaragua’s history, that of 1984, organized by the Reconstruction Junta and the Council of State which had ruled since the 1979 overthrow of the dictatorship. Although eight parties or coalitions of parties ran in the 1984 election, when the Sandinista victory began to look inevitable, the Reagan Administration forced the leading coalition of right-wing parties to pull out of the race, giving the US the pretext to refuse to recognize the results. Other international observer groups found the elections to be primarily “free and fair.”

So already in 1984, we saw the United States place itself as the final judge and jury as to whether or not an election was legitimate. Legitimacy is not based on the facts or conduct of an election, but solely on US foreign policy objectives. So an election in Venezuela called by Jimmy Carter the best election ever monitored by the Carter Center can be delegitimized by the US and corporate media whereas a corrupt election like that of Honduras in 2013, where I myself witnessed vote buying and changing vote totals can be declared free and fair by the State Department’s stenographers in the corporate media.

Delegitimizing elections is one of the primary overt tools used by the United States to subvert democracy around the world. Covert actions are outside my mandate for today.

But the 1990 election in Nicaragua is where the US game plan for electoral intervention was written, perfected, and victorious. It is the game plan that has been used overtly to distort elections not just in Nicaragua, but around the world. Allen Weinstein, a founder and theoretical planner for the NED, noted in a 1991 interview with the Washington Post, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

US elites have no respect for democracy at home or abroad — especially abroad. Henry Kissinger lifted the curtain of illusion and told us a snippet of truth prior to the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende in Chile: “I don’t see why,” Kissinger said, “we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”

Allen Weinstein was talking about the National Endowment for Democracy which was created by Reagan in 1983 and expanded by Bush Senior, Clinton, Bush Junior, Obama, Trump and now Biden. Nicaragua in 1990 was its first victory. Through the use of money and pressure, the US took advantage of Nicaragua’s lack of laws controlling foreign money in its elections to create a unified 14 party anti-Sandinista coalition united behind the candidacy of Violeta Chamorro, widow of the martyred anti-Somoza newspaper publisher, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro.

The US then spent more per Nicaraguan voter than George H W Bush and Michael Dukakis combined spent per US voter in our 1988 presidential election. At the same time the US warned Nicaraguan voters that the Contra War, which had cost them 40,000 sons and daughters, would continue if Daniel Ortega won reelection.

You can bet your bottom dollar that the US quickly declared the 1990 Nicaragua election to be “free and fair” when Chamorro won. I have always thought it interesting, and it is seldom noted, that when Daniel Ortega placed the presidential sash over the shoulders of Violeta Chamorro, that was the first time in Nicaragua’s history that governing power passed peacefully from one political party to another. The supposedly brutal autocrat Daniel Ortega achieved the first peaceful transition of power in his nation’s history.

Let’s talk a minute about the National Endowment for Democracy and its primary funder, US Agency for International Development. USAID, over the last 40 years, has been converted from a brick and mortar foreign aid agency to the coordinator of foreign election manipulation, which the US calls “democracy promotion.”

The NED is made up of four core groups – The International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute are affiliated with the two political parties. Warmonger John McCain was chair of the IRI until his death in 2018, and Clinton Secretary of State Madeline Albright is the long-time chair of the NDI. The AFL-CIO has its own affiliate, the American Center for International Labor Solidarity also known as the Solidarity Center and to round out the engines of empire, the Chamber of Commerce has its affiliate the Center for International Private Enterprise.

NED operates its own grants and also makes grants to its sub-groups like the IRI and NDI which they then administer. It’s a pretty sweet money laundering scheme which they call “democracy promotion” when it is actually just the opposite.

When we at Alliance for Global Justice first started tracking NED and its affiliates, it was easy to see what they were doing because it was right on their web pages. But especially after we helped reveal their role in the quickly reversed 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, they began hiding the names of their grantees and disguising where the money is going by allotting it through regional grants.

One way to follow the money is to track job announcements. Whenever there is an election Washington wants to influence, NED, IRI, NDI, and USAID job ads start to appear about a year earlier.

When I led a pre-election delegation to Nicaragua in 2006 to investigate US interference in the election that returned the Sandinistas to office, we met with an International Republican Institute staff member. She told us, “The relationship between the US and Nicaragua is like that of a parent and a child, and a son should not argue with his father!”

The National Democratic Institute and the IRI both ran a lot of the trainings of students and youth in Nicaragua prior to the failed 2018 coup effort. There are too many people in the US progressive movement who are still convinced of the realty of the fake social media videos the opposition was taught to produce in those “democracy” workshops.

The AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center, another core group of the NED, has been heavily involved in destabilizing Venezuela, but has not been involved much in Nicaragua so in the interest of time I’ll skip over it and the Center for International Private Enterprise.

USAID, NED, and its core groups also focus on funding opposition press. In Nicaragua, media ownership is concentrated in the hands of the Chamorro family and Nils may have more to say about that.

Following the electoral defeat in 1990, Nicaraguans suffered through 17 years of neoliberal governments that indebted them to the international financial institutions, destroyed the rural economy forcing workers into sweatshops, ended government subsidies for food, education, and health care. Grinding poverty and hopelessness replaced the pride and hope of the revolutionary years.

Daniel Ortega probably won the 1996 presidential election. The US funded an electronic system to compile the votes from the various municipalities and voting tables which gave highly questionable results. I was told personally by one observer that he overheard former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias say that Costa Ricans would never have accepted the results of the election. It was also said that Jimmy Carter told Ortega that he had to accept the results or be responsible for another Contra War.

The election of 2001 was again held under conditions controlled by the US and the International Monetary Fund and Daniel suffered his third defeat in a row. But it should be noted that throughout these dark years of neoliberalism the FSLN remained the largest party in the National Assembly where they were able to stop some of the worst depredations of what Pope John Paul II called “savage capitalism.”

By the 2006 election, Nicaraguan voters had been suffering under neoliberalism for 17 years with infant and maternal mortality skyrocketing, the rural peasant economy moribund, education too expensive for tens of thousands of families; prescriptions were free in the health care system, but there was no medicine, and electricity was available for scant hours a day.

The voters had had enough and Daniel Ortega squeaked into office with a bare plurality of 38%. That is the election I mentioned where our pre-election delegation met with the IRI representative. The delegation also met with US Ambassador Paul Trivelli. Trivelli had failed his assignment to unify the right behind one candidate and he equally failed to learn who we were. He proudly told us that he had between $12-$13 million to spend on the election. We had a press conference at the end of the delegation and revealed both the IRI’s contempt for Nicaragua and the ambassador’s admission of blatant interference. I like to think we played some small role in the Sandinista victory that year.

Daniel Ortega was re-elected in 2011 and 2016 each time by greater majorities as government policies have restored the economic and social rights of the people, reinvigorated the rural economy, restored labor rights to garment workers, restored free education and healthcare and gave Nicaragua the fastest growing economy in the Americas prior to the US-backed failed coup of 2018.

The US did not recognize either of those elections as legitimate. As in 2006 US ambassadors failed to unify the right around a single candidate and had to settle for destabilizing tactics and lies in the corporate media as they have had to do with this year’s election. Nils will talk about that.

I know I’m over time, but I do want to say that US election manipulation in Nicaragua would be so much less effective if it were not for the so-called left in the US which time after time acts to reinforce the objectives of US imperialism by swallowing the US narrative hook, line and sinker. We on the anti-imperialist left have to do a better job of educating our base and promoting a competing narrative of economic justice, respect for sovereignty, and peace. Follow us on AfGJ’s web page www.AFGJ.org, subscribe to the weekly NicaNotes blog, and join the discussion listserv Nicanet@googlegroups.com.

Barbara, back to you.

 

Briefs

By Nan McCurdy

5% Salary Increase Due to Fiscal Discipline

The funds for a 5% salary increase starting in August, announced by President Daniel Ortega in his July 19th speech, are available because of the fiscal discipline that the country has achieved, according to economist Frank Matus who spoke to Radio La Primerisima on July 20. The expert emphasized that the control of expenditures and tax collection allows modifying the General Budget for this public expenditure. “Families can increase their purchasing power and, in macroeconomic terms, with a greater aggregate demand we have what we call a virtuous circle for the economy,” he explained. Matus highlighted the good administration of the Ministry of Finance as well as the small and medium enterprises, among other economic actors, that make this possible in the midst of US sanctions. The country’s more than 67,000 public school teachers are pleased with the 5% salary increase according to Professor José Antonio Zepeda, leader of the teacher’s union ANDEN. “We are the largest payroll in the State, we will have more purchasing power for the food and welfare of our families,” said Zepeda. (Radio La Primerisima, 20 July, 2021)

Half Million Property Titles Since 2007

President Ortega in his July 19 address announced that since 2007 the Sandinista government has delivered 500,380 property titles to families throughout the country. (July 19 Speech, President Daniel Ortega, 19 July 2021)

Large Majority Support the FSLN

The newest M&R survey indicates that the FSLN has 62.8% total voting strength, without mentioning candidates, with 43.2% of the hard vote in its favor, 10.8% of the soft vote and 8.8% tending to vote for this party. The survey was carried out at national level, between June 27 and July 3, among Nicaraguans over 16 years of age. 60.7% of the surveyed population says that they would do better with an FSLN Government and 60.4% believes that for the country to advance, the FSLN must govern the country. The FSLN also obtains 55.1% of political sympathy from those surveyed, compared to 37.3% who consider themselves independent, but of which 16.2% are inclined to the FSLN because it generates hope, tranquility and security. In addition, 88% of Nicaraguans consider that their vote to elect authorities is very important and there is a 73.3% probability that they will vote in the next elections. 77.9% consider that, if the people so decide, whoever holds the government can be reelected for a new term. Nicaraguans believe that in order for Nicaragua to advance in its economic and social development, peace (90.6%) and stability (90.5%) should not be put at risk under any circumstances. Likewise, in the intention to vote, Nicaraguans (60.2%) opt for the FSLN and as for the geographic distribution of the results, in the West is where the Sandinista Front has the highest proportion of preferences with 67%. It is followed by the Caribbean with 62.7%, the North with 60.2%, the Southeast 58.8%, Managua 58.2%, the Center 56% and Central Zelaya with 54.2%. See full information: Presentación-Nicaragua-Rumbo-a-Noviembre-2021_8va-Ola_Julio-2021 (Radio La Primerisima, 14 July 2021)

Expanded Virology and Tuberculosis Lab

The Ministry of Health inaugurated the rehabilitated and expanded virology and tuberculosis laboratory at the National Center for Diagnosis and Reference. The US$971,000 rehabilitated lab was financed by the General Budget of the Republic and will increase capacity to diagnose known diseases such as Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika, Leptospirosis, Tuberculosis and HIV, as well as investigation of highly infectious organisms capable of causing public health problems at the local, regional, or global level. (Nicaragua News, 15 July 2021)

More Vaccines Received

A new shipment of the SPUTNIK V vaccines for immunization against COVID-19 was received; the shipment contains 12,000 doses, allowing continuation of the COVID-19 National Voluntary Vaccination Program. This is the fourth shipment of the 1.9 million doses purchased by Nicaragua through the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). (Nicaragua News, 20 July 2021)

More than 4 million Inscribed to vote.

The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), reported on July 20 that the Online Voting Center has been enabled for use. Through this new mechanism, located in the CSE web page, www.cse.gob.ni, citizens will be able to easily find the location of their Voting Center and can go to verify their inscription on July 24 and 25. The website will show the location, address and municipality of the Voting Center where citizens can do their Citizen Verification. In case they are not on the Electoral Roll, they may request reincorporation by going to their nearest Voting Center during the Mass Verification exercise. The provisional Electoral Roll available at the online voting center includes 4,347,340 registered citizens. (Radio La Primerisima, 20 July 2021)

Road Section in El Rama Finished

The 11 kilometer road section between El Areno and Monte Rosa, in the municipality of El Rama, will be inaugurated July 22. The road benefits 58,607 citizens, boosts trade, promotes conditions for the expansion of livestock productivity, agriculture, improves access to health, education and other social benefits. It also saves time and mobilization costs. (Radio La Primerisima, 20 July 2021)

Weekly Covid Report, July 13 to 19, 2021

The Ministry of Health reported 269 new registered cases of Covid-19, 233 people recuperated and 1 death. Since March 2020 there have been 7,313 registered cases of Covid, 6,778 people recuperated and 193 deaths. (Radio La Primerisima, 20 July 2021)

 

 

Parts of President Daniel Ortega’s Speech during the Celebration of July 19

Good evening, Nicaraguan Sisters and Brothers, beloved Families, beloved Youth, beloved Children of this Blessed Land;

Beloved invited guests to this Concert, a Concert of Love and Peace, a Concert with the Vice President of the Republic, Rosario Murillo, grand-niece of our General Sandino.

Today I spoke with Blanquita, with Blanca Arauz, because every time I speak with Blanquita here, who is the daughter of Blanca and General Sandino, I feel that I am speaking with Blanca Arauz and with the General himself…In truth, every time I talk to her, as I have told her, I feel that she fills me with the Energy of General Sandino and Blanca Arauz. Our Greetings to all the Family of Sandino…

Here is the combination of men and women, which has given us a worthy place in the World; Nicaragua is ranked the fifth country in the World in compliance with this principle [of gender equity].

We are also accompanied by Compañera Doctor Wendy Morales, Attorney General of the Republic. And I will pause for a moment here with Wendy. I asked Wendy right now to update me on the data we have, regarding the issuing of Property Titles, from 2007 to date. This Revolution, which is one made by the Poor for the Poor, which is one made by Peasants for the Peasants, which is of the Workers, for the Workers, has already distributed, as of today, 501,380 urban and rural property titles.

And we continue doing so, we continue, and we will continue, delivering Property Titles, until in our Nation… we have all Nicaraguans, who have their modest house, who have their plot of land, who have their homes, their modest houses, who have their small farm, all with their Property Title registered in the Land Registry because after receiving the Title, it has to be registered in the Land Registry, because otherwise it is of little value. It is necessary to take that step, and that is the task that corresponds to Wendy, which is to take the title to the Land Registry, and when the property is noted in the Land Registry, no thieving landowner who wants to will be able to steal that property from the farmer.

Well, I was telling you that we are accompanied by two of the nation’s Heroines. In the struggle, when they were very young girls, let’s see how Brenda [Rocha] would have been at the time of the attack on Las Minas… How old were you, Brenda? Brenda was 15 years old, and there she fought against the mercenaries, the criminals, the terrorists of the Yankee Government, and there she received a hail of bullets, and she survived, thank God, and now she is the head of the Supreme Electoral Council. Brenda brings honor to the Institution.

We are also accompanied by another heroine… Alma Nubia Baltodano, how old were you, Alma Nubia, when you were a victim in the struggle? Because you were fighting and you were a victim too… 16 years old. That’s when you lost both your hands, Alma Nubia, and Brenda lost her arm. And now she is also in the Supreme Electoral Council. Two Heroines of our Nation! They were Heroines as girls, when they were 15 and 16 years old. They did not retreat, they did not surrender, but defended the Nation….

On behalf of the National Police we are also accompanied by Commissioner General Adolfo Marenco and Commissioner General Ramón Avellán, another Hero, who resisted the provocations, bullets, deaths, there in Masaya. And how difficult at that moment it must have been to have to tell the comrades there, don’t shoot, resist, hold on, don’t shoot. And the terrorists, firing hails of bullets, financed by the Yankees and the oligarchy, attacking every day. It was pure provocation, they wanted the police to react and for a massacre to take place. Because it is false that they had the police cornered there. The police were simply carrying out an order to resist, without firing a shot, orders which are most difficult to carry out when an institution is under attack, when a command post is under attack. And they resisted and finally the attackers were defeated, when the decision was taken, they were defeated with the stroke of a pen….

And well, we salute all these young people…. I never tire of saying and repeating that phrase of our great Master Rubén Darío: Youth Divine Treasure! Youth Divine Treasure! And how much Darío teaches all of us, in terms of what is, I would say is the most important thing, the defense of Human Dignity….

And these are the battles we still have to fight today in this world, a world that is more and more perturbed by the pretensions of the North American leaders, wanting to impose their hegemony, wanting to become masters and lords of the planet, even wanting to take over the universe. Their plans really do go that far, because they have atomic bombs, because they have a lot of money, and they do not completely understand that this current stage, where imperialism had a period of hegemony, when the balance between the Soviet Union and the United States was broken, that this moment of hegemony they had, was just a few seconds, and has disappeared.

Now peoples throughout the world are struggling; the American people are struggling, courageously, and European peoples are also struggling. In other words, those countries that still dream of imposing their colonialist, neocolonialist policies on the world are simply out of touch with reality. That is no longer possible. The only way ahead is for them to understand once and for all, that when the universe was created…and the earth was created, there was no God that said: The Yankees must be the owners of the World. Neither in Africa, nor in Asia, nor in our American lands where our ancestors, our roots were. There was a multitude of gods venerated by the different cultures, and no god said “We must submit to the Yankee Empire.”

Usually we affirm that the will of God is expressed by the people, it is the will of the people, and no people wants oppression, just as no Nicaraguan family would like to have their rights taken away (as they were taken away in the past) to healthcare, to education, when they were evicted from their homes and had their lands stolen, to be left without work, to have healthcare and education privatized. No Nicaraguan family wants that!

Even those Nicaraguan families that for various reasons are unable to understand the struggle for dignity, for justice, which has to do with their own material realities, those families are also victims. Namely, the people who oppose us, because there are people who oppose us, as a result of the fierce propaganda that exists, and they live in poverty.

But when they see a new highway come along they are happy, and they do not get upset because it is the government of the People-President building that highway. And when a clinic is built there and a hospital is built there, as dozens of hospitals have been built in these years, clinics for women, the doors are open to all Nicaraguan families. They are not clinics or hospitals only for Sandinista families…. They are clinics and hospitals for all Nicaraguan families!

Therefore this is a very complex struggle, because it is a struggle that has to do with the global interests of an empire that wants to dominate all countries. It wants to subjugate great powers; instead of reaching an understanding with the great powers, it wants to subjugate them. It wants to subjugate the Russian Federation; it wants to subordinate it. It wants to subordinate the People’s Republic of China. They are mad! They are completely mad!

They want to subjugate the great powers and they also want to subjugate nations, like Nicaragua, because we are located in a strategic point, and that is the origin of the Yankee persecution of Nicaragua. Because here there is only one gigantic resource, namely the [possible] inter-oceanic Canal through Nicaragua. And they do not want it; they have never wanted it. Since Nicaragua came into existence they have imposed treaties so that Nicaragua could not sign any agreement with any country in the world, even in Europe, if the US did not authorize it. They gave themselves rights over all our territory and because our governments then sold out Nicaragua, the Yankees gave themselves the right to say to the Europeans, you cannot enter here; we, the United States, the Yankee Empire, decide about the Canal here.

We are in the midst of that battle in this current struggle, and it is a struggle, yes, in which we are making progress. I am not going to make a long review of the various situations we have faced and of which we have spoken constantly. What I can simply say is that, in spite of the Empire’s attempts to destroy our country, Nicaragua is still here standing firm and moving forward.

They have wanted to destroy the country’s economy, and they have killed people, sowing terror, implementing terrorism in Nicaragua. They have laundered millions of millions of dollars in Nicaragua to sow terrorism, and at the moment our authorities are examining the accounts via the investigations being carried out into the notorious foundations and the millions that have appeared here and there, millions, we are talking about millions of dollars to be used to try and destroy the Nicaraguan People. And they have failed. In spite of the pandemic that is affecting the whole world, that affects us, that affects the global economy, that affects labor, employment, etc., here in Nicaragua the tendency is for our economy to be more stable every day, to be stronger every day.

And how upset they get when they hear reports from international organizations, recognizing that Nicaragua is doing well economically, that Nicaragua is investing very well and quickly executing funding programs to do with health centers, hospitals, highways, schools, productive activities, and businesses.

This does not need to be repeated here, because all of you Nicaraguan brothers and sisters see it. You see it in your neighborhood, you see it in your municipality, you see it in your department, how every day there are more roads, better roads, how the economy is growing, how farmers are being trained, how they are given the tools to improve productivity in rural areas.

And after the blows we have had, because we had the April [2018] terrorist coup when they wanted to put an end to the Revolution; then we had the pandemic; then the aggression they call sanctions, how many aggressions have they not launched against Nicaragua? But in spite of all these aggressions our economy continues to grow.

And good news…! Our Minister of Finance, Comrade Ivan Acosta, is currently in Moscow, he is on a state visit there in Moscow. And before he left we talked, working out the calculations. He is an extraordinary Sandinista, a former member of the Army, an Army Officer, a very well prepared Scientific-Technical cadre.

And well, we were talking about how to deal with salaries, because we have spent a long time without being able to increase salaries to what they should be, due to the difficult situation, and what did we agree? Here what we have to guarantee is employment and so for a while we could not increase salaries, because if we increased salaries then some people would be unemployed. We have talked about this issue with all the Labor Union Leaders, with the Workers, and they have understood in solidarity, and have endured with Dignity.

And today, on this 42/19, we can announce with pride that, thanks to our people, as of August, a budget adjustment of 5% will be implemented. This covers, of course, basic salaries, seniority, other accruals, Christmas bonus, employer’s contributions, and INATEC. 5%!

In other words, we are going to end this year and start next year with this increase. How have we achieved this? From discipline in controlling expenses and in tax collection….

Tax policy is always difficult, that is why they call it taxation, because it is obligatory. If it were not obligatory, nobody would pay tax, but where would we get the resources for schools, for health centers, for hospitals, for medicines?

So we have managed to work with great discipline, and those business people who “curse the cow but drink the milk” have had no choice but to continue working, because they know they are doing well. The day they are not doing well, they will close the plant and leave, but as long as they are doing OK, then we will see them there, even if they are complaining, they are doing well….

I would say that this event, this concert, in which we are being accompanied by all of Nicaragua, is being transmitted all over Nicaragua; on all the television channels this event is being transmitted. Those who are out in the communities, in the rural areas, there and in other places are people who may criticize us, or who do not sympathize politically with us, but they know very well that we are speaking the truth; they are well aware of the new road passing by their house; they are well aware of the electricity reaching their community and of the piped water reaching their community. All of them know it perfectly well, and that we are raising productivity in their agricultural sector.

And I would say that, in this 42/19, our commitment continues with our Heroes, with the Martyrs, with their sacred blood. For them, with them and with their example we have to continue pressing forward; we have to continue fighting, with a united people, because a united people will never be defeated! And with a people in arms too, because the people in arms will never be crushed!

Here we have an Army that is here to protect our national sovereignty and also to contribute to security and the fight against organized crime, against drug trafficking. And we have a Police that is also fully dedicated to the fight for citizen security….

Long Live 42/19!

…And congratulations to all these young people, this new generation of artists. Here every artist is indispensable, because Nicaragua has an enormous production of artists, of creators, with great cultural riches, with a great vital force and with an immense soul to sing to its people. Our congratulations to our beloved artists….

Long Live 42/19!

Sandino Lives On, the Struggle Continues!

A Free Nation or Death!

(Tortilla Con Sal, 20 July 2021)