NicaNotes: Which Way Forward for Solidarity?

New and remodeled hospitals are among the advances seen in Nicaragua since the Sandinistas returned to power in 2007. (Photo: El 19 Digital)

Which Way Forward for Solidarity?

By Chuck Kaufman

Conversations have been taking place recently about the Nicaraguan government’s decision to arrest certain people for money laundering and violations of the Foreign Agents law passed in October 2020 as well as the December 2020 law making treason a crime. The Foreign Agents law, like the Foreign Agent Registration Act in the US requires individuals and organizations to register if they receive foreign funding and submit reports on how that money is spent. One would think that committing treason by calling for a foreign government to overthrow your own democratically-elected government would by its nature be a crime. Only in December 2020 did Law 1055 make it such in Nicaragua.

There is no doubt that these arrests and shutting down of some NGOs makes our solidarity work harder. But that is not a criticism of the elected government of Nicaragua. More than forty years of history confirms that Nicaragua gains nothing by trying to please the United States. My opinion is that nothing we, as solidarity activists, could have done to explain the reality in Nicaragua and nothing that the government could have done would have appeased the United States to recognize the validity of the upcoming presidential election anyway.

The Revolutionary Government led by Daniel Ortega in the 1980s tried to jump over hurdles set by the US. The US’s only reaction was to set higher hurdles. As solidarity activists, we are playing a fool’s game if we think our true, eye-witness accounts about the real Nicaragua will convince US politicians to change our country’s ingrained policy of imperialism. Reasoned arguments do not influence congressional votes. Money does. Fear of losing their power does. We can’t compete on the money level, but we can make them fear to lose the next election. In fact, we did accomplish that in the solidarity movement of the 1980s, even convincing Congress to cut off aid to the Contras for a while.

So it is important to make those calls to Congress and to write those letters-to-the-editor. It is not that any particular call is going to change a vote or that any particular letter is going to change public opinion, but they are tools to build a movement that will be able to influence policy no matter which party of the 1% holds the reins of power.

Solidarity is working to change — to smash — US imperialism and Capitalism. That is why our work is never just about Nicaragua. It is about Nicaragua and Venezuela and Cuba, and Bolivia and on and on. Nicaraguan poet Roberto Vargas once told me, “Venezuela solidarity is Nicaragua solidarity because if Venezuela goes down, we all go down.” Alliance for Global Justice acts on that premise every day.

The Nicaraguans rose up in a bloody revolution that cast down the Somoza dictatorship and US domination almost 42 years ago. They have no obligation to play by the rules of Western Liberal Democracy which enslaved them in the first place. The electoral defeat of 1990 was partially the result of trying to meet the conditions demanded by the US while the US continued to kill and destroy and at the same time to throw an overwhelming amount of money and propaganda into the election. Too many lives were spent to win national liberation to give it away to the oligarchy-rigged nose counting scheme that we in the US call democracy even though the rules have been rigged in favor of Capital and white male property owners since we became a nation. Nicaragua has no obligation to cooperate in the unseating of its Revolution on a rigged roulette wheel.

Our solidarity strategies should not treat Nicaragua as a victim and we should not apologize that Nicaragua protects its sovereignty with similar rules that the US has to keep foreign money out of its elections. Nor should we apologize when people are arrested for crimes that are crimes in most of the world, including the US. Just because they are doing it to accomplish US imperialist objectives, that doesn’t make money laundering or inciting and treason legal nor the people arrested political prisoners. None of them are the nominee of any opposition party and none of them score above single digits in public opinion surveys, counter to what the corporate press would have us believe.

Our solidarity needs to lift up Nicaragua as the heroic country that it is; a country and a government which feeds its children, keeps them healthy, and educates them to be doctors and teachers and sustainable farmers. We repeat the old saying that Nicaragua is the threat of a good example, but we often don’t act as if that is the living, powerful call to action that it still is today!

I challenge us to put just as much energy into helping to tell the world Nicaragua’s stories of success in the face of unrelenting sabotage by the world’s strongest bully as we do emoting about the latest sanctions bill or NYT or Guardian article. I’m not saying don’t do those things, but let’s give equal time to the incredible Gains of the Sandinista Revolution and what those gains mean for our own struggle for liberation in our own country or countries.

 

Briefs

By Nan McCurdy

Nicaragua Could Grow by 4% or More in 2021

The President of the Central Bank of Nicaragua, Ovidio Reyes, reported on June 14 that the country’s economic growth prospects have improved notably in the first quarter of the year. “In the first quarter of 2021 the economy grew by 3.4%. That growth turned out to be quite considerable, considering where we were coming from…three years of negative economic activity, now we are already at 3.4%. The positive thing is that most economic sectors are growing. The agro-industrial and free trade zones, grew by 8.6%; fishing and aquaculture by 6.8% and the commerce sector by 6.7%. Agriculture, which is a very important sector, shows a 3.3% growth. With the pandemic, 210,000 jobs were lost. But in the second semester, 215,000 were recovered. That is to say that what was lost was recovered and a little was added.” (Informe Pastran, 14 June 2021)

Former President Bolaños Dies

Former President of Nicaragua Enrique Bolaños died on June 14 at the age of 93. Bolaños served as the country’s president from 2002 to 2007 following the term of Arnoldo Aleman whom Bolaños denounced for corruption. He was succeeded by current President Daniel Ortega. Vice-President Rosario Murillo announced that the government was declaring three days of mourning for the former president who she said will be remembered as a man dedicated to promoting the knowledge of the history of Nicaragua. In retirement, Bolaños founded and developed a noted library and archive on Nicaraguan history. (Informe Pastran, 15 June)

Growth in Free Trade Zone Exports

So far this year free trade exports have grown by 21%; shipments abroad are already reaching US$575 million, compared to US$400 million in the same period last year. (Informe Pastran, 15 June 2021)

 

Vaccination against COVID-19 is expanding rapidly in Nicaragua. (Photo: El 19 Digital)

 

US$100 Million Loan for 6 Million COVID-19 Vaccines

A loan for US$100 million to purchase more than 6 million vaccines against Covid-19, was unanimously approved June 10 by the National Assembly. With the loan from the Central American Bank for Central American Integration (CABEI), 70% of the population will be immunized and medical supplies for the prevention of the pandemic will also be purchased. “While some are looking for sanctions to harm our people, the government is looking for more funding to fight the pandemic,” said Deputy Walmaro Gutiérrez. (Radio La Primerisima, 10 June 2021)

 

Important Bridge Inaugurated in Pueblo Nuevo

The new Vado Río Grande Bridge, in the Municipality of Pueblo Nuevo was inaugurated June 15. This 60-meter-long bridge had collapsed due to the impact of several natural phenomena, and its reconstruction generated 40 direct jobs. The project benefits about 30,000 residents. See photos: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias-generales/destacado/inauguran-puente-vado-rio-grande-en-pueblo-nuevo/ (Radio La Primerisima, 15 June 2021)

 

Nicaragua is President of XLII Conference of the FAO

Nicaragua became the president of the XLII Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), held virtually this week. The Agriculture Minister Edward Centeno said, “during this important session the 194 member countries will be deciding on the FAO strategic framework for the 2022-2031 period, as well as the selection of new members of the Council and Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs for the 2021-2024 period.” (Nicaragua News, 15 June 2021)

 

Nicaragua at the OAS: We Are Not Anyone’s Colony

The Government of Nicaragua, through its permanent representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Alvarado, energetically rejected a resolution against Nicaragua that the OAS later passed, and declared it inadmissible and without any binding effect. “The OAS is violating the principles of international law by continuing to transgress the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and its own founding charter, which establish that the Organization of American States has no powers other than those expressly conferred by the present Charter, none of whose provisions, let it be heard loud and clear, authorizes it to intervene in matters within the jurisdiction of its Member States,” said the Nicaraguan representative to the OAS. “We condemn the blackmail and pressure that the imperial power [the US] has exerted on the Member States of this Organization to make them submit to the directives of the government of the United States in its campaign of aggression and its media war of distortion of our national reality. We condemn the practice of interference by this discredited organization and its General Secretariat in the internal jurisdiction of Nicaragua and other Member States of the Organization.” Alvarado’s speech available here in English: http://www.tortillaconsal.com/tortilla/node/11915 The vote in the OAS was 27 votes in favor of the resolution, two votes against (Nicaragua and St Vincent and the Grenadines) with Mexico, Argentina, Belize, Honduras and Dominica abstaining. (Radio La Primerisima, 15 June 2021)

 

More Arrests of Alleged Foreign Agents

On June 8, 9 and 14, 15 the National Police arrested and the public prosecutor is investigating more people for crimes related to money laundering, fraud and promotion of intervention by foreign governments in Nicaragua’s internal affairs. On June 8 the former president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), José Adán Aguerri, two former officials of the Bolaños government, Violeta Granera, and Juan Sebastian Chamorro, also linked to the US embassy were arrested. Also on June 8, Felix Maradiaga, alleged to have close ties with the head of the Colombian paramilitaries and Alvaro Uribe, was arrested. Maradiaga was one of the public promoters of the terrorist violence between April and July 2018. On June 9 José Bernard Pallais Arana was arrested for requesting sanctions. Over the weekend, Dora, Maria Tellez, Victor Hugo Tinoco, Hugo Torres, Suyen Barahona, Ana Margarita Vigil and Tamara Davila were detained and are being investigated for organizing destabilization activities with financing from foreign powers. The Executive President of Banco de la Producción (BANPRO), Luis Alberto Rivas Anduray, was arrested on June 15. He was investigated in El Salvador and Ecuador for money laundering within the last few years. (Radio La Primerisima, 8 and 9, June 2021; Informe Pastran, 14 and 15 June)

 

CSE Giving Credentials to Parties and Alliances

The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), reported June 15 that it began the delivery of credentials to political parties and alliances that will participate in the November 7 elections. On June 14 credentials were given to the Alliance that includes the FSLN and other parties and movements; to the two-party Alliance that includes the Citizens for Freedom Party (CXL); and to the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC). “Now the legal representatives are going to present the proposals for the formation of the municipal structures, as established by the electoral law,” said Edwin Castro, legal representative of the FSLN. María Haydee Ozuna, legal representative of the PLC, stated that “As a political party we are complying in time and form. Likewise the CSE is complying with the times established in the electoral calendar, so I believe that the whole process is going correctly.” The CSE announced that this week credentials will be given to legal representatives of the Alliance for the Republic Party (APRE), Independent Liberal Party (PLI), Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance Party (ALN), Christian Way Party (CCN) and Yapti Tasba Masraka Nanih Asla Takanka Party (YATAMA). (Radio La Primerisima, 15 June 2021)

 

17 Parties Ready to Participate in Elections

The choice to participate in the November elections by the political parties is favorable to a good turnout, according to magistrate Cairo Amador, vice-president of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE). A sign of political maturity of many parties is that they are promoting the vote among their bases, said Amador in declarations to Prensa Latina. Amador talked about the decision (in July 2020) of the former CSE to provide more time for new political parties to inscribe with the CSE (the deadline was extended about six months to May 2021) but not one new party registered. “Between May and November 7 we have and will take all the pertinent actions subscribed in the laws for the electoral process, Amador stated. He said the Conservative Party lost its legal status because of an official document issued by them in which they announced that they were not going to participate in the process. And regarding the Alianza Ciudadana, an alliance of two parties, Amador stated that “they had their own agenda, now somewhat modified because they are opening their doors to other presidential pre-candidatures, but they handle it internally according to their statutes.” The May 4 reform to the Electoral Law includes the prohibition of foreign aid, both private and public. “You must keep in mind the permanent interference of the US throughout our history, to understand the importance of this,” said Amador. (Radio La Primerisima, 17 June 2021)

 

British Solidarity Rejects New US Imperial Aggression

In a June 10 th Webinar, the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign Action Group (NSCAG) and British, Irish and US activists demanded an end to the unilateral and illegal coercive measures imposed by the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom. They denounced the economic siege against Nicaragua and the interference that violates national sovereignty and the United Nations Charter. They repudiated the plans, subversion and financing of the 2018 attempt coup, the violence against the peace, democracy and stability of Nicaragua; and the false news campaigns orchestrated by the Empire and its national agents. They also highlighted the support of the people for the Sandinista Government, the electoral reforms and implementing legislation that strengthens Democracy, and they presented a summary of the government’s achievements as well as its success against COVID. They expressed their confidence that the Sandinista Revolution will continue to advance, that coup attempts will be defeated, and the Sandinistas will win by a large margin in the November 7 elections . (Canal 8, 11 June 2021)

 

COSEP Acts as a Foreign Agent

The Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) is not a business union entity, but a “camouflaged foreign agent” that receives financing from abroad to promote all kinds of destabilization activities against the Sandinista Government according to documents exposed in a recent radio and TV broadcast. [Nicaragua’s Foreign Agents Law, similar to that of the US, requires organizations that receive foreign funding to report what was received and how it was used.] In the broadcast of Radio La Primerísima’s Sin Fronteras June 11, documents were revealed that show that the US Government, through the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, based in Washington, D.C., approved US$44,000 monthly for 10 months to execute the “Project to Strengthen the Legal Defense Unit” of COSEP, all this with the support of the Nicaraguan Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUNIDES), directed by Juan Sebastian Chamorro, who is under investigation for requesting US intervention in Nicaragua.

That money (US$440,000) was used to pay lawyers, buy flags, water, and food during the marches and at the roadblocks in 2018 with the support of the Union of Agricultural Producers of Nicaragua (UPANIC). Likewise, US$13,000 per month was used to rent vehicles. Ana Bolaños is the program official in Nicaragua and Yara Nara Fauné  coordinates the management of funds between FUNIDES and COSEP. The money through COSEP was used to pay lawyers for the “heads of the roadblocks,” who all received checks for US$556.70 per month for 10 months at COSEP’s facilities. It was reported that COSEP’s president, Michael Healy, ordered workers to erase computer hard drives. Healy is in hiding, evading justice. (Radio La Primerisima, 11 June, 2021)

 

Government Dismantles Terrorism Promoters

On June 10 on Canal 4, Journalist William Grigsby described how President Ortega is defending Nicaragua in the face of a foreign-supported conspiracy. The politicians arrested in recent days for alleged money laundering and other crimes that threaten national sovereignty, were not arrested for their actions in the coup attempt of 2018, but “they are being arrested for what they are doing now and for what they were preparing to do.” Grigsby said there were clear indications that these people were preparing a new “coup attempt with much greater terrorism and force,” To defend the country the government proceeded to disband that effort, since clear crimes were being committed.

Grigsby added that “what Daniel is doing is exceptional, since he is defending the nation in a preventive manner.” He noted that, as the country is moving towards the general elections of November 7, “this conspiracy appears and it has no other choice but to defend itself with the legal instruments within the government’s reach.” He reiterated that the source of power exercised by the Sandinista government is democratic and is based on an existing legal framework, not invented for the occasion.

Grigsby stated that a family communication cartel is operating here, managed by the Chamorro family. The Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation (FVBCH), whose representative Cristiana Chamorro is facing a judicial process for alleged money laundering, financed a media outlet (La Prensa newspaper) of which she is a partner and that alone is corruption, he argued. Grigsby pointed out that at that time when its director, Cristiana Chamorro chose to close down the FVBCH, it had US$7 million in its coffers. The authorities then found that amount in her personal accounts.

He also referred to Arturo Cruz, another of the defendants, who the week before he was detained boasted of a trip to Washington where he lobbied to remove Nicaragua from the U.S. Free Trade Agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic (DR-CAFTA). Such action could affect the employment of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans and is a crime under law 1055 Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace. (Radio La Primerisima, 10 June 2021)

 

Nicaragua Denounces Yankee Interference

In response to new United States sanctions against four Nicaraguans, the Nicaraguan government released the following statement: “The Government of Reconciliation and National Unity strongly protests this repeated violation of the international instruments that govern the sovereign right of states. We are not a colony of any power. We claim our national dignity and decorum in legitimate defense of our self-determination before the US and any other colonialist or neocolonialist entity that at this stage in history believes it has the power to subjugate us and humiliate our independence. [We make this statement] in the Bicentennial Year [of the independence of Central America from Spain], and with the brave and courageous memory of resistance to the Yankees in all their shameful presentations…This new violation of sovereignty only confirms what we have previously denounced about terrorist actions and hegemonic pretensions which since the 2018 coup attempt have been accelerating. We affirm our historical judgement precisely in these days when the main promoters and actors of that US-sponsored terrorist coup attempt are being investigated, as demanded by the Nicaraguan People.”

The US Treasury Department dictated illegal and arbitrary reprisals [sanctions] against three Nicaraguan officials and against President Ortega’s daughter, Camila Ortega Murillo on June 9. The three officials are Deputy Edwin Castro, head of the Sandinista Deputies in the National Assembly, the president of the Central Bank of Nicaragua, Ovidio Reyes, and General Julio Rodriguez, head of the Army’s Institute of Military Prevision. (Radio La Primerisima, 9 June 2021)

 

Weekly Covid Report, June 15, 2021

For the week of June 8 to 14 the Health Ministry reported 158 new registered cases of Covid-19, 123 people recuperated and one death. Since March 2020 there have been a total of 6,243 registered cases, 5,839 people recuperated and 189 deaths.  (Nicaragua News, 15 June 2021)