Archive | Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s Sandinista Achievements Baffle World Bank, IMF

NOVANEWS
teleSUR

No one can take at face value any report, governmental or quasi non-governmental, coming out of the imperialist bureaucracy in Washington. Ideological bias and institutional self-justification prevent these reports from giving a true account of virtually anything.

The latest World Bank report on Nicaragua is no exception.

The implicit but unstated truth in this report is that President Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista National Liberation Front have achieved an unprecedented economic turnaround in just seven years, starting in 2010.

Reading the report, it is impossible to ignore the tension between latent ideological and political imperatives and the obligation to report the facts. Put another way, mild conflict clearly prevails between the World Bank’s Washington head office and its reality based local officials. From Washington, the tendency is both to minimize Ortega’s achievement and also to cover up the World Bank’s own lamentable history in Nicaragua. On the other hand, in Nicaragua, local World Bank staff dutifully report the facts as they see them.

A total of 71 people contributed to the report. Supposing those 71 people each worked for a month to prepare the research and say their average salary was about US$80,000, then pro rata a month’s work by that team cost over US$500,000, a very conservative guess. Even so, in summary, that money bought policy recommendations for Nicaragua’s development amounting to little more than better infrastructure; better basic services; more private business investment; more efficient government; better targeted social policies. That’s it, for US$500,000 or more.

In general, the report recognizes Nicaragua’s achievements in reducing poverty and inequality, raising productivity, diversifying economic activity and promoting security and stability. The report’s 130 or so pages include, among the economic and sociological analysis, many self-confessed guesses to fill in “knowledge gaps” and much gerrymandered history to cover up what Harold Pinter in his 2005 Nobel prize winning address justly called “the tragedy of Nicaragua.”

Pinter himself might have remarked the report is almost witty in its audacious, glib omissions. It acknowledges the catastrophic destructive effects of the 1980s war in Nicaragua, but carefully omits the U.S. government’s deliberate role in that destruction, now repeated against Syria and Venezuela.

The report talks about a “democratic transition” starting in 1990. In fact, the Sandinistas organized the first free and fair democratic elections ever in Nicaragua in 1984, but the U.S. government ordered the main Nicaraguan opposition to boycott them. Despite the war, Ortega and the Sandinistas won with 67 percent of the vote, very similar to the most recent presidential elections in 2016.

The heavy ideological bias also explains the World Bank’s curious dating of when Nicaragua’s economic turnaround began, placing it firmly in the neoliberal era prior to 2007. But at just that time, the World Bank was cutting back the public sector as much as they could, pushing, for example, to privatize Nicaragua’s public water utility and its education system.

Back then, Nicaragua’s neglected electrical system collapsed through 2005 and 2006, incapable of generating even 400 megawatts a day, plunging swathes of Nicaragua back into 19th-century darkness for 10 to 12 hours at a time, day after day. That was the World Bank and IMF’s gift to Nicaragua after 17 years of so-called “democratic transition.” That period included Hurricane Mitch, devastating Nicaragua to the tune of 20 percent of its GDP, only for the corrupt neoliberal government at the time to misuse hundreds of millions of dollars in disaster relief. The only structurally significant economic achievement of the neoliberal era in Nicaragua was substantial foreign debt relief.

When Ortega took office in January 2007, he faced four years of domestic crisis with an opposition controlled legislature persistently sabotaging his government’s programs. From 2007 to 2008, Nicaragua and the whole region struggled in vain to contain a balance of payment deficits against oil prices reaching US$147 a barrel in 2008.

That disaster was compounded by the collapse of the Western financial system in late 2008 to 2009, a year when Nicaragua’s economy suffered a 3 percent contraction. Only in 2010, did the Nicaraguan government finally enjoy domestic and international conditions stable enough to be able to consolidate and improve its social programs, improve infrastructure investment, democratize and diversify the economy, extend basic services, and attract foreign investment, among other things.

If that sounds suddenly familiar, it should. It is exactly the development recipe offered up by this latest World Bank report, essentially an embellished review of policies the Nicaraguan government has already been implementing for a decade. Put positively, the government’s National Human Development Plan and other relevant documents suggest that the World Bank’s engagement with the Nicaraguan government has been one of mutual learning. So much so, that the current country program is likely to continue and may even expand.

The political opposition in Nicaragua has seized on parts of the report to try and discredit the Sandinista government’s outstanding achievements. In fact, for 17 years under neoliberal governments implementing World Bank and IMF policies, areas criticized like, for example, access to drinking water and adequate sanitation, or education, suffered chronic lack of investment, compounded by egregious waste and corruption. Now, the World Bank hypocritically criticizes Nicaragua’s government for intractable policy difficulties the IMF and the World Bank themselves originally provoked.

Similarly, when the World Bank report criticizes the targeting of social programs, they omit the unquestionable success of the government’s Zero Usury micro credit program and the Zero Hunger rural family support program, both prioritizing women. These programs have lifted tens of thousands of families out of poverty and, along with unprecedented support for Nicaragua’s cooperative sector, radically democratized Nicaragua’s economy, especially for previously excluded rural families and women. That supremely important national process is entirely absent from the World Bank report.

In its discussions of almost all these issues, the report makes more or less detailed contributions, mostly already identified by the government itself. In every case, the underlying cause of problems or lack of progress, for example, on land titling or social security, has been the legacy of neoliberal governments between 1990 and 2007, that reinstated elite privilege, rolled back the revolutionary gains of the 1980s and failed to guarantee necessary investment.

The World Bank and the IMF were enthusiastic ideological partners in that endeavor. They would have continued their ideological offensive had not Ortega and his government dug in their heels in 2007 and 2008, backed by investment support for social and productive programs from Venezuela as part of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas.

Since then, the World Bank, as this report suggests, seems, at least for the moment, to have learned two key lessons from the Sandinistas. In a world dominated by corporate elite globalization, their report implicitly recognizes the importance, firstly, of a mixed economy under a strong central government and, secondly, the crucial role of broad dialogue and consensus, across all sectors of society, to promote and sustain national stability. Essentially, the World Bank has acknowledged the undeniable success of the Sandinista Revolution’s socialist inspired, solidarity based policies, decisively prioritizing the needs of people over corporate profit and demonstrating the systemic inability of capitalism to meet those needs.

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Nicaragua: Global ‘False’ Witness

NOVANEWS
By Tortilla con Sal | teleSUR 

Global Witness is a well-established environmental and human rights non-governmental organization based in Britain.

As with many other similar organizations, its reports often figure in news media as authoritative sources on international issues. Ever since the 1980s and, increasingly so, after the turn of the century, the status of NGOs as trustworthy information sources on foreign affairs has become increasingly untenable as they have been more and more co-opted by corporate interests and governments to promote the Western elites’ neocolonial global policy agenda.

In the case of Nicaragua, in 2016 Global Witness produced a brief, flawed and unreliable account of land conflicts in Nicaragua’s Northern Caribbean Autonomous Region in a report called “On Dangerous Ground”. In June 2017, they produced a report called “Defenders of the Earth”, with a section on Nicaragua even more poorly researched and false than the previous one. Three main reasons stand out to dismiss the latest Global Witness report on Nicaragua as unreliable and in bad faith.

Firstly, the report itself is clearly biased and flawed, from even a cursory analysis of its references and their sources by anyone familiar with Nicaragua. Secondly, the organization’s human and material resources all come from a very narrow managerial class and corporate funding base, overwhelmingly advocating the foreign policy positions of the United States government and its allies. Thirdly, the history of Global Witness clearly indicates its categorical bias in favor of NATO country governments’ policy positions in the countries that figure in its reports and too its systemic defense of the very corporate capitalism whose destructive effects Global Witness superficially and selectively criticizes.

Global Witness sources on Nicaragua

Before looking at the text of the false Global Witness attack on Nicaragua, it is worth looking at the sources they identify in their footnotes, of which there are 23, composed of a total of 44 references. For anyone familiar with Nicaraguan politics and society since the war of the 1980s many of the sources are wearily familiar and readily identifiable as anti-Sandinista, for example, the virulently anti-Sandinista La Prensa newspaper. Some of the references are duplicates and some disguise the fact that while apparently distinct, ultimately the information they provide comes from one single source. (Here’s a link to the relevant spreadsheet for anyone interested in a more detailed analysis.)

Of the 44 references, some of which are duplicates, not one represents the view of the Nicaraguan authorities or others criticized in the report or any source sympathetic to them. 16 references are to sources inside Nicaragua politically opposed to the Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. 25 of the sources are external to Nicaragua but with a long record identifying them as ideologically opposed to the Sandinista government. Of those 25 sources, one might argue that the Washington-based Interamerican Commission for Human Rights or the EFE Spanish language news agency are impartial, but their record is indisputably biased against Nicaragua’s Sandinista authorities.

For all but imperialist ideologues, the Paris based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has been discredited in particular, most recently, by its flagrant partisan bias in favor of NATO country government policies attacking the populations of Libya and Syria. One source, a reference to the law authorizing Nicaragua’s Canal, is completely neutral. Only one media source, El Nuevo Diario, is generally independent. Two references are to sources within the Western environmental scientific lobby, which has its own set of highly questionable biases, prejudices and neocolonial hypocrisy.

“Methodology”

As if by way of justifying this desperately unfair selection of sources, Global Witness also offer an account of what they call their “methodology”. They aver, “We have recorded data about the cases using the HURIDOCS Event Standard Formats and Micro-Thesauri, an approach which is widely used to manage and analyse material of this nature.”

That Global Witness claim is demonstrably untrue. Whatever their aspirations they certainly did not use the HURIDOCS approach.

HURIDOCS (Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems, International) is a European NGO established in 1982 to facilitate networking between human rights organizations around the world. HURIDOCS says its ‟specific role in this capacity-building process lies in improving access to and the dissemination of human rights information through more effective, appropriate and compatible methods and techniques of information handling. HURIDOCS recognises that we live in an age of tremendous advances in information and communication technologies. There is the need to master these technologies to aid us in our human rights work. At the same time, we must be conscious of the fact that the technologies to be applied should be appropriate and responsive to the main focus of the mandates of human rights organisation.”

HURIDOCS exposition of their approach includes the following definitions:

Fact-finding is the process of identifying the violations in one event, and establishing the facts relevant to these violations. Fact-finding and investigation are terms that are used interchangeably.

Documentation is the process of systematically recording the results of an investigation or fact-finding in relation to an event or number of events. Fact-finding and documentation are organically related and should not be viewed as separate processes.

Monitoring is closely observing a given situation in society over a long period of time to see whether human rights standards are met. To carry out monitoring, investigation and documentation of a large and/or representative number of events are conducted.”

Global Witness are not in compliance with the HURIDOCS approach because their practice in their reporting on Nicaragua demonstrably violates all of these definitions.

Their fact-finding or investigation is so heavily biased as to make it impossible for them to establish the facts. Consequently, thanks to this gross fact finding bias, their documentation is partial, often inaccurate and categorically incomplete. Nor do they show any sign of having done due diligence in monitoring consistently over time via ” investigation and documentation of a large and/or representative number of events” or the context of those events in Nicaragua.

Other theoretical considerations

Apart from these chronic procedural failures, other theoretical considerations cry out for clarification.

Global Witness say, “This report is based on research on killings and enforced disappearances of land and environmental defenders, who we define as people who take peaceful action to protect land or environmental rights”.

But in a bitter property dispute between competing communities, clarifying who is defending whose rights becomes a fundamentally important question. Certainly in Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean Coast, unscrupulous Miskito community leaders are themselves involved in provoking these property disputes by illegally selling land to rural families migrating in search of a better life. Miskito gangs have attacked and murdered many such people, a factor not even mentioned by Global Witness. They completely evade the issue of identifying in a responsible, proportionate way whose rights are being violated.

Similarly, Global Witness state, “cases were identified by searching and reviewing reliable sources of publicly online information”. But  Global Witness obviously used heavily politicized criteria for deciding what is a reliable source, because not one single reference in their report on Nicaragua gives the Nicaraguan authorities’ side of the story and only one reference can fairly be described as ideologically independent. That renders completely incredible the phony Global Witness claim to systematic research.

They claim their investigation is systematic because “We set up search engine alerts using keywords and conducted other searches online to identify relevant cases across the world.” However, in the case of a small country like Nicaragua, a genuinely systematic search can readily be done covering a much wider range of sources than those accessed by Global Witness without recourse to modish, geeky “search engine alerts”. The poverty of sources evident in the report’s footnotes make Global Witness’s procedure look ridiculous.

Global Witness claim they “verify” the results of their investigation because “Where possible, we checked with in-country or regional partners to gather further information”. But they only cross-checked with ideologically and politically biased organizations, apparently using the same highly questionable, politically compromised sources they cite in their report.

Karl Popper, philosophical darling of the Open Society ideology embraced by Global Witness, explained over 50 years ago in “Conjectures and Refutations”  that verification is essentially authoritarian. He argued that a truly scientific investigation requires conjecture and falsification, a search for errors rather than for  justification.

If one goes along with Popper, it should surprise no one that Global Witness uses an essentially authoritarian methodology. Self-evidently, their job is not to discover the facts or to impartially establish the truth via a hypothetic-deductive Popper-style process , but to project a manipulative version of events justifying ideologically loaded interpretations favored by their corporate funders, an inherent bias understandably unacknowledged by Global Witness.

Nor is it surprising to learn from their account of their methodology, “While we have made every effort to identify and investigate cases in line with the methodology and criteria, it is important to add that our research mostly relies on public information and that we have not been able to conduct detailed national-level searches in all countries.”

That is not true either. Gobal Witness did not make “every effort” to investigate cases in line with their alleged methodology and criteria because they are flagrantly out of compliance with the definitions advanced by HURIDOCS.

A broader range of sources

Nor is is true that they were unable to conduct a detailed national-level search in the case of Nicaragua, because they could easily have included references from sources that contradict much of the information in the Global Witness report. The following is a brief sample of many other relevant sources, gleaned in a few hours searching on the Internet :

– Indigenous group splits from Miskito party in support of Sandinista government
– Attacks by indigenous gangs on settlers, killing nine
– Miskitos claim their own leaders illegally sold over 3000 acres of communal lands to outsiders
– Historic lease agreement between Canal Authority and indigenous people along the canal route
– Interview with HKND’s Bill Wild about the benefits of the Interoceanic Canal
– HKND’s Bill Wild on the Environmental and Social Impact Study
– Environmentalist Kamilo Lara explains why he believes in Nicaragua’s Interoceanic Canal
– Nicaragua’s Canal – the environmental and economic arguments
– Public Consultation on Lake Nicaragua for the Interoceanic Canal project
– Environmental and Social Impact Assessment of Nicaragua’s Interoceanic Canal – Conclusions and Recommendations
– Bishop accuses political opposition of manipulating canal protests
– Canal protestors attack and injure six police officers

Even this very limited sample of sources, put together from just a few hours searching on the Internet, gives a very different picture to the one presented by Global Witness. So it is false of Global Witness to suggest they lack the resources to be able to stress test and falsify the version of events they have published in their report. Given the tremendous resources and the numerous skilled, experienced, talented people working at Global Witness, only abject intellectual dishonesty explains their failure to report faithfully on Nicaragua

Incoherent claims

Be that as it may, based on their cynically biased sources and their absurdly deficient methodology, Global Witness proceed in their report to make the following claims:

11 defenders killed in 2016 – making Nicaragua the most dangerous country in the world per capita

But, as independent journalist John Perry and others have pointed out, none of those people killed can fairly be described as having being killed for defending the environment. They were in property disputes and all of them were killed either directly or indirectly  in the course of those property conflicts. This is true in particular of the case cited by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (CIDH) , that of Bernicia Dixon Peralta, her husband Feliciano Benlis Flores and their 11 year old son Feliciano Benlis Dixon. Perry mentions some of the context. More context of the property disputes in the RAAN can be found herehere and here. Not a single person mentioned by Global Witness died in Nicaragua for defending the environment in the way that someone like Berta Cáceres did. Even so Global Witness have tended disingenuously to implicitly compare the situation in Nicaragua with that in Honduras, in particular with Berta’s murder.

The bad faith with which they do so is clear from the second claim in their report on Nicaragua:

10 of those murdered were indigenous people, with most killed in conflicts with settler communities over land. Meanwhile rural ‘campesino’ defenders faced threats, harassment and attacks, including for opposing the construction of an inter-oceanic canal.

Global Witness fails to make clear that groups from the indigenous Miskito people, whom Global Witness inaccurately portray as defenseless environmental defenders, are themselves guilty of murderous attacks against migrants settling land which in many cases the migrants apparently believed they had bought legitimately. Furthermore, the Global Witness report deliberately and falsely confuses the very specific situation of these property conflicts in Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean Coast with protests over the possible displacement of communities along the still to be exactly defined route of the proposed Inter-oceanic Canal 300 kilometers to the south. Global Witness unscrupulously frame their distorted version of events in the two regions to give the impression that in both cases the Nicaraguan authorities may in some way be directly or indirectly responsible for the violence.

In fact, even the New York Times has acknowledged in their otherwise generally hostile anti-Sandinista reporting that the Nicaraguan authorities do what they can with limited resources to protect the rights of indigenous peoples in the Northern Carribean Autonomous Region.

The situation along the route of the Canal is very different from that in the RAAN. Protests against the Canal are exploited by Nicaragua’s political opposition and groups participating in the protest demonstrations have damaged property and attacked police officers. In relation to this situation, completely separate from the property disputes more than 300km to the north, Global Witness claims:

Activists were increasingly criminalized: foreign environmentalists were expelled, community leaders arrested and legislation passed restricting freedoms of speech and association.

However in the very next paragraph, the report quotes anti-Canal activist Francisca Ramirez saying, ““We have carried out 87 marches, demanding that they respect our rights and we have had no response. The only response we have had is the bullet.”

Thus, the Global Witness allegation that rights to freedom of association are restricted is immediately contradicted by Francisca Ramirez declaring her group has organized over 80 public demonstrations to express their views.

Similarly, Ramirez claims “The only response we have had is the bullet.” But, in the next paragraph, we learn “a member of her community lost an eye and another was shot in the stomach”.

Thus, after 87 demonstrations, some of which supposedly involved many thousands of participants and in which “The only response we have had is the bullet”, Ramirez cites precisely two people suffering serious injury and only one of them with a gunshot wound. Ramirez omits that the protesters on the marches she organizes go armed with machetes and home-made mortars. They block highways, intimidate ordinary people going about their business, damage property and attack police officers.

In no Western country would that be tolerated without, to put it mildly, a robust response from the police and security forces. Even so, Global Witness promote Francisca Ramirez’s account as if she and her movement were non-political and non-violent, which they are not. But Global Witness excludes those facts.

Likewise, as John Perry has pointed out, the foreign environmentalists expelled from Nicaragua were involved in a suspicious incident involving a small explosion. Again, a reasonable question to Global Witness is why they excluded this highly relevant information given that in Britain or the United States any foreigner, especially any non-white foreigner, involved in such a suspicious incident would face prosecution and a potential jail term under those countries wide-ranging anti-terrorist laws.

Inaccuracies and falsehoods

Mixed in with these disingenuous, incoherent claims, Global Witness also allege, presumably as supporting context, that the proposed Canal “would force up to 120,000 indigenous people from their land”. This outrageous falsehood is sourced from the pro-NATO, right-wing dominated European Parliament, but is categorically contradicted by the relevant multi-million dollar Environmental and Social Impact report by the extremely prestigious ERM company based in the UK. The falsity of that claim is further confirmed by the Canal concessionary HKND company’s representative Bill Wild who argues that the route of the Canal has been altered to take local concerns into account in such a way that fewer than thirty indigenous families will be directly affected.

Overall, ERM reckons that up to 7210 families or around 30,000 people are likely to be displaced along the whole route of the Canal, over 270 kilometres. The scandalously untrue figure quoted by Global Witness is propaganda from Nicaragua’s political opposition who are exploiting Ramirez’s quasi-celebrity status among Western environmentalists to amplify overseas the marginal support for their unpopular position against the Canal in Nicaragua. That fact is reflected in the incoherence of the arguments set out by Ramirez and her backers in Nicaragua’s political opposition.

If 120,000 people were really going to be displaced by the proposed Canal then the figure of 30,000 protestors from around the country the same political opposition regularly quote to describe national opposition to the Canal just does not add up. Quoting that same opposition figure, Global Witness state, “Francisca has rallied campesino groups from around the country who will be adversely affected by the canal to call for a meaningful say in its development. In June 2015, 30,000 people gathered for an anti-canal protest – Francisca organized 40 trucks so her community could attend.”

In Nicaragua, the cost of hiring a truck or a bus to carry 60 people or a similar amount of material goods on a round trip of 100km is around US$120, while a round trip of 300km costs about US$175. So hiring 40 diesel-guzzling trucks and buses with their drivers will have cost a minimum of US$4000. But Ramirez is an impoverished mother of five from a similarly impoverished community.

Even if only one quarter of the more than 80 protests Ramirez says she has helped organized involved similar costs, the total amount involved runs into tens of thousands of dollars just for Ramirez’s community. Whatever the exact financial accounting, Ramirez is clearly supported by a great deal more than her own resources and those of her community.

Even so, Global Witness completely evade the obvious conclusion to be drawn from that incoherence implicit in their report. Namely, that Francisca Ramirez, far from being a simple altruistic community organizer defending her home is in fact a savvy political opposition activist promoting an inaccurate image of herself as well as concealing her real political agenda. Ramirez alleges that she and her family have been attacked and harassed. Supposing those accusations are true, no convincing evidence points to involvement of the government or the security forces and certainly not the HKND company in charge of planning and building the Canal. That contrasts with the situation of activists in Honduras or Guatemala who can in most cases offer reliable details with corroboration from witnesses to identify their assailants.

The press report cited by Gobal Witness contains no credible evidence from Ramirez except her say so, no corroborating evidence, no witnesses. Likwise the report’s reference to Frontline Defenders’ advocacy for Ramirez links to a summary profile including the false opposition propaganda, repeated by Global Witness, that the proposed inter-oceanic Canal has been imposed without consultation. But in fact preliminary consultations took place in July 2014 and subsequently a continuing consultative process has developed both before and after the publication of ERM’s Environmental and Social Impact Study, which recommended improvements to the consultation process which both HKND and the government accepted.

The Study did also criticize the handling of the expropriation issue and recommended that international standards be applied to any expropriation of land (reckoned to total 1359km2 of dry land out of Nicaragua’s total  area of 139,375km2) that may eventully be decided. Those ERM recommendations were accepted by the  government and HKND, and the subsequent consultative process has led to several important changes in the precise route of the Canal and to more detailed environmental studies which have been one reason for the delay in the Canal’s construction.

Frontline Defenders’ advocacy of Ramirez, cited by Global Witness, is based on her own account of events with no apparent attempt at corroboration despite the role of Ramirez as a front person for an anti-government campaign openly supported and facilitated by Nicaragua’s political opposition. In the course of framing their benign, heroic account of Francisca Ramirez, Global Witness present an account of the Canal’s origins and procedural progress which repeats virtually word for word the extremely hostile and systematically disingenuous interpretation of Nicaragua’s political opposition.

Garbage in – Garbage out

Winding up their version of the falsehoods, disinformation and propaganda copied from Nicaragua’s political opposition, Global Witness assert, “Resistance to the canal takes place against a terrifying backdrop of multiple murders in indigenous communities elsewhere in the country which have stood up against the arrival of agricultural settlers and demanded the government guarantee their land rights. Even requests by the Inter-American human rights system haven’t spurred the government into protecting community activists from being disappeared, mutilated and murdered.”

But, as is clear from reviewing a wider selection of sources of information in relation to the complicated land situation in Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean Coast, indigenous people themselves are responsible for murderous violence and their own leaders are implicated in corrupt land dealings. It is simply untrue to label the murders as being generically the result of attacks on community activists in the sense in which that term is commonly understood. The general consensus is that the Nicaraguan government has done more than any government in the region, with the possible exception of Venezuela, to protect indigenous people’s land rights with almost a third of the national territory designated as indigenous peoples’ communal land. Global Witness’s allegations on that score are demonstrably inaccurate and grossly unfair.

Similarly, the suggestion that the Canal protest movement is vulnerable to the kind of murderous violence prevalent in Nicaragua’s Northern Caribbean Autonomous Region is egregiously false. The protesters themselves have used violence and intimidationagainst the general population to carry out their protest actions, so far, thankfully, with no fatalities.

In summary, the Global Witness report in its section on Nicaragua uses politically and ideologically prejudiced sources which could readily have been supplemented with sources offering a contradictory account. The sources used themselves do not always corroborate the claims made in the report. Apart from the ideological bias, various substantive inaccuracies render the report extremey unreliable. The report’s conclusions are flawed because its initial premises are false – Garbage In, Garbage Out.

It remains true that there are serious property conflicts in Nicaragua’s Northern Caribbean Autonomous Region which the government is attempting to address despite a lack of administrative, judicial and security resources, against an intricate social, economic and political context and also the constantly changing opportunistic interaction of corrupt business interests with local indigenous peoples’ leaders, and unscrupulous local officials.

In the case of Nicaragua’s proposed Interoceanic Canal, it is true various issues, including the issue of expropriation, have to be clarified. Protestors claim they want dialog, but Francisca Ramirez sets the precondition that the Canal be scrapped.

The Canal’s critics never acknowledge that Nicaragua is already suffering chronic environmental degradation. The government and many environmentalists argue that the Canal will provide Nicaragua with the resources it needs to reforest deforested areas, better manage its water resources and reverse the current deterioration in Lake Nicaragua, while at the same time helping to reduce poverty.

Foreign and national environmentalists offer no viable proposals to enable Nicaragua to reverse the socio-economic and climate processes already driving accelerating environmental degradation in the country.

Protestors against the Canal exaggerate the number of people likely to be displaced by its construction and often dishonestly claim people affected by displacement will not be compensated. Meanwhile, they themselves are among those responsible for the environmental degradation that will definitely get progressively worse without the resources the Canal is projected to provide.

Corporate funders and the elite NGO revolving door

Few plausible explanations except intellectual dishonesty offer themselves for the desperate failure of Global Witness, firstly to adequately research the issues involved or, secondly, supposing they in fact did so, to acknowledge the complexity of the issues they examine. Global Witness frankly explain in their financial statement for 2016, they had income of over US$13 million. So they do not lack resources. Similarly, their Board, their Advisory Board and their CEO are all very experienced, smart, talented people. So even if they depend on younger inexperienced staff to do the research, their senior staff presumably review the product before publication. Lack of experience is not a reasonable explanation for the report’s glib dishonesty and inaccuracy.

A review of Global Witness funders reveals that for 2016 the two biggest funders were the Open Society Foundation of George Soros associated with the numerous so-called color revolutions in support of NATO country government foreign policy objectives and the Omidyar Network of Pierre Omidyar whose links with US intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton are well known. Less well known is Omidyar’s support for NGOs that fomented the successful right wing coup in Ukraine. The complete list of Global Witness funders is available in the financial statement for 2016 on their web site. That document reports that in 2016 Global Witness received US$3.4 million from the George Soros Open Society Foundation, US$1.5 million from Pierre Omidyar’s Omidyar Network, US$840,000 from the Ford Foundation and over US$3 million from various European NATO governments plus Sweden.

All of these funding sources are unrelenting ideological opponents of Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. A broad pro-NATO bias is very clear in the composition of the Global Witness Board and Advisory Board and CEO. Their profiles make clear they are almost all luminaries from the Western elite neocolonial non governmental sector, while many have a strong corporate business background as well. Just as there is a revolving door between government and corporate business and finance in North America and Europe, so too there is also a revolving door within that region’s elite NGO sector, a sector very clearly serving NATO country foreign policy goals.

Cory Morningstar has exposed the pro-NATO global political agenda of organizations like US based organizations like Avaaz and Purpose. In the case of Global Witness, their Board member Jessie Tolka is also a board member of Purpose and too of 350.org: Current Global Witness CEO Gillian Caldwell was also a very successful Campaigns Director of Sky1, now merged into 350.0rg. Cory Morningstar argues, “the most vital purpose of the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC) has not been to destroy the ecocidal economic system that enslaves us while perpetuating and ensuring infinite wars. Rather, the key purpose of the NPIC is and has always been to protect this very system it purports to oppose from being dismantled. Hence the trillions of dollars pumped into the NPIC by the establishment.”

Confirmation of Cory Morningstar’s argument can be found in the history of Global Witness itself. For example on Libya, despite their superficial anti-corporate gloss, Global Witness relentlessly apply NATO country government criteria here and here. Also on Ukraine, Global Witness project the same anti-corporate message while simultaneously reinforcing NATO country government propaganda. Global Witness has also received US National Endowment for Democracy grants in Cambodia and in Liberia.

Also, a decade ago, writers Keith Harmon Snow and Rick Hines questioned Global Witness’ corporate links in relation to the “Blood Diamonds” controversy and the organization’s role in relation to De Beers and also Maurice Templesman’s diamond companies. No doubt more thorough research would reveal information casting similar doubt on Global Witness’s integrity and independence.

Conclusion

This latest Global Witness report in relation to Nicaragua is important because it is so readily falsifiable. It thus presents a clear litmus test: no news and information media can use the Global Witness report’s material in relation to Nicaragua without compromising their credibility.

The bias and inaccuracies in the section on Nicaragua in the Global Witness 2017 report call into doubt the integrity of the whole report. No news or information media interested in accuracy or honest reporting can conscientiously rely on Global Witness as a source without thorough cross checking and systematically comparing, contrasting and evaluating information from sources giving a different account of the events and issues in question.

Global Witness is neither independent nor trustworthy. It clearly has a strong but unacknowledged neocolonial political agenda promoting the regional policy goals of NATO country governments, while, conversely, attacking governments and other regional actors opposed to those goals.

NGOs like Global Witness, International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch, Transparency International and so many others, self-evidently fabricate psychological warfare inputs serving NATO country government policy, itself shaped by the same corporate elites that fund the class of NGOS of which Global Witness is a part.

They operate as the soft, extramural arm of NATO country governments’ foreign policy psychological warfare offensives, targeting liberal and progressive audiences to ensure their acquiescence in overseas aggression and intimidation against governments and movements targeted by NATO. To that end, they deceitfully exploit liberal and progressive susceptibilities in relation to environmental, humanitarian and human rights issues.

Their psychological warfare role supporting the NATO government’s aggressive destabilization of Ivory Coast, Libya and Syria in 2011, of Ukraine in 2014,  and the NATO country government’s low intensity war against Venezuela ever since 2013, as well as the campaign against Cuba over five decades, has been unmistakable.

More broadly their systemic ideological role is very obviously to protect and defend global corporate capitalism while superficially and selectively questioning and criticizing some of its worst abuses. Cory Morningstar’s insight bears repeating “the key purpose of the non-profit industrial complex is and has always been to protect this very system it purports to oppose”.

The coverage of Nicaragua in the latest 2017 Global Witness report is a text book example of that sinister fact.

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Why Nicaragua Was Smart to Reject Uber

NOVANEWS
  • Taxi drivers protest against Uber in Mexico City.
    Taxi drivers protest against Uber in Mexico City. | Photo: Reuters
The clear business strategy of Uber’s investors is to work ruthlessly to gain a monopoly position both within individual countries and internationally.

Back in July 2016, New York radio journalist Don Debar, reporting on the Democratic Party Convention in Philadelphia, found that people arriving for the convention in taxis were stopped at the security cordon over a mile from the convention center. From there, they had to get out and walk in the exhausting Philadelphia summer sun in order to attend Hillary Clinton’s preordained triumph.

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But passengers arriving with the Uber app taxi service were driven right up to the convention center into the company’s air-conditioned reception area. Debar’s anecdote about the Democratic elite’s cozy cronyism towards Uber is a microcosm of why Trump in the end easily defeated an out-of-touch Democratic leadership committed to Clinton’s corrupt, war-mongering candidacy.

In January, Nicaragua’s Sandinista government under President Daniel Ortega announced it would not give Uber permission to operate in the country. In Central America, Uber operates in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama. Its regional representatives say it has over 20,000 drivers serving more than 700,000 customers.

Uber projects the image of an innovative business, offering greater efficiency, convenience, economy and security for its customers and benefiting its drivers and the local economies where it operates. But Uber’s business model is aggressive, secretive and predatory, glossing over its questionable sustainability and distorting comparisons with competitors it seeks to displace. As a private company, Uber is not obliged to publish its accounts nor to have them audited by accepted accounting standards applicable to public companies. Transport analyst Hubert Horan reckoned that through 2015 Uber’s investors were effectively subsidizing passenger fares by as much as 49 percent, thus making it easy for Uber to underbid its competitors.

That is especially relevant in the case of Nicaragua where the taxi sector of the transport industry is dominated by low-income drivers grouped in cooperatives, and by very small family businesses, especially in the capital of Managua. Nicaragua’s government policy supports providers of public transport across the country, from Managua’s urban bus and taxi services to the river buses of the Rio San Juan, or from Nicaragua’s very efficient inter-city transport network to the boats that serve communities along the country’s Caribbean coast.

The support takes various forms, for example compensating bus cooperatives for the cap on bus fares in Managua, preferential prices to taxi and bus cooperatives for lubricants, tires and spare parts or credit support for the purchase of new vehicles. This support for Nicaragua’s transport industry keeps fares within the reach of ordinary Nicaraguan families, most of whom are on very low incomes.

By contrast, the clear business strategy of Uber’s investors is to work ruthlessly to gain a monopoly position both within individual countries and internationally. That strategy has involved years of pricing fares at below cost in order to hijack market share and promote an image of Uber as some kind of unstoppable natural force, encouraging more investors and creating an enormous wannabe Ponzi-like contraption vainly trying to generate enough business to be able to take off. A more likely outcome is that the business will eventually fall apart into one or more smaller viable components, for example selling data extracted from customers’ patterns of using the company’s service.

RELATED:ALBA Summit Begins, Honors Hugo Chavez’s Revolutionary Legacy

Uber’s public relations falsely suggest it introduces healthy competition into a transport market vitiated by special interests jealously protecting poor service and anti-competitive practices. But the basis of Uber’s business model has nothing to do with innovation or fair competition and everything to do with classic predatory capitalism, maximizing profits by externalizing costs as much as possible and minimizing costs it cannot externalize.

For example, prior to 2016, Uber’s commission on each journey was 20 percent. Then, Uber hiked its cut to 25 percent of each fare. In contrast to conventional car hire and taxi businesses, Uber’s model avoids taxation, regulation and costs like auto insurance, vehicle purchase, maintenance, and depreciation or security. All that burden is absorbed by the drivers before they even begin to make any money.

Similarly, Uber’s multinational business tax profile offers minimal contribution to the upkeep of roads and highways. Uber may pay the authorities of a given country for permission to operate there, but the amount will certainly be much less than the revenue lost from transport operators displaced by Uber.

Nor is it true, as its promoters argue, that Uber makes more efficient use of its drivers’ vehicles. A typical Uber driver wastes 40 percent of their time driving between fares. So it is false to argue that Uber contributes to the local economy or is environmentally more sustainable than other taxi businesses. Uber contributes nothing to public health systems to cover costs from accidents involving their drivers or to mitigate environmental pollution their drivers’ vehicles create.

Uber’s app is easy for anyone technically competent to develop and was hardly innovative even when it appeared. For decades, local car-sharing and solidarity-taxi initiatives have pooled resources to reduce costs and make more efficient use of transport resources by reducing operating, administrative and insurance costs and parking problems. They too use communications technology via smartphones and the internet. The only thing uniquely extraordinary about Uber is how its promoters have managed to network elites so effectively as to attract over US$60 billion in investment for a business model that, as Hubert Horan demonstrated, will never match the rise of internet-based companies like Amazon or Facebook.

The idea that Uber might start operating in Nicaragua was floated by the private business umbrella organization COSEP based on the suggestion that Uber would help modernize, diversify and make Nicaragua’s existing taxi services more efficient. COSEP’s support for Uber is logical given the corporate business interests dominating its membership. Nor was it surprising that Uber’s public relations campaign bamboozled consumer organizations and media outlets with shallow “innovation” gobbledygook.

Announcing the government’s policy decision, leaders of Nicaragua’s cooperative movement attributed it to the need to avoid conflict with the cooperatives and family businesses that operate Nicaragua’s taxi services. Nicaragua’s transport services may be defective in some respects, but they deliver a proven, robust service to millions of Nicaraguans every day.

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More importantly, they do so as a grassroots associative network defending the still precarious standard of living of many thousands of Nicaraguan families in a mutually beneficial relationship with local and national government. As more people in Nicaragua adapt to new technologies, they will themselves develop new ways of mediating exchanges in goods and services without paying a cut to foreign multinationals like Uber. For the moment, Nicaragua has been able to defend an important component of its grassroots cooperative, community and family-driven economy against Uber.

As Sandinista strategist Orlando Nuñez Soto argued in his introduction to the Foro Sao Paulo’s just published “A Consensus for Our America,” the region’s progressive governments and social and political movements have created a new economy based on strategies by which people at the grassroots across Latin America and the Caribbean survived the long years of neoliberal catastrophe. That new economy, much of it still precarious, contributes over 50 percent of the region’s GDP.

As it becomes more sophisticated, the new economies are progressively expanding into regional and global markets despite increasing corporate efforts to exclude them so as to preserve the chokehold of capitalist businesses leeching surplus from the region’s economies. Since 2010, that new economy has made it possible for Nicaragua to grow faster than its Central American neighbors. Excluding Uber shows Nicaragua’s Sandinista government is serious about defending that new economy and promoting genuine economic democracy.

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Farmers, Indigenous Peoples and NGOs Take to Streets in Ten Cities Demanding an End to World Bank’s Morally Bankrupt Development

NOVANEWS

Image result for World Bank' CARTOON

Washington, D.C. — On October 10, 2014, NGOs, farmers’ groups, and indigenous organizations from across the world are coming together as part of the Our Land Our Business campaign to denounce the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings. The campaign, endorsed by over 235 organizations, will be staging  “creative resistance” events at the Bank’s annual meetings in Washington D.C. and nine other cities around the world. The D.C. event is drawing support from a wide range of activist communities, including Occupy groups who will join representatives of impacted communities from Kenya, Mali, and Ethiopia.

“Under the banner #WorldVsBank, this movement is calling for the end of the Doing Business rankings and the new Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture project. They are tools of a pro-corporate, anti-poor, environmentally unsustainable model of development. If the World Bank keeps promoting economic activity that destroys biodiversity and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, pastoralists, and indigenous communities, they should not have a mandate to exist,” said Alnoor Ladha of /The Rules.

The World Bank’s lending to developing countries reached $35 billion in 2012. The Doing Business rankings play a critical role in determining what form of economic development takes place around the world. According to the World Bank’s own literature, they are “an incomparable catalyst for business reforms initiatives.” In practice, this has meant liberalizing developing country economies so that large-scale land investment and western corporations can move in unimpeded. The casualties are the smallholder famers and providers who currently feed 80% of the developing world but who are all too often rendered invisible or actively dispossessed.

“Working for the World Bank’s Social Fund in Gambella, I protested the widespread coercion and forced relocation of people. Today I live in political exile in Kenya. I am protesting the World Bank on October 10 because I know firsthand how their policies negatively impact communities,” said Okok Ojulu who will share his experiences at actions planned in D.C.

To coincide with the #WorldVsBank mobilization, the Oakland Institute, one of the world’s leading think tanks on land issues, is releasing a new study tackling the Bank’s approach to land, agriculture, and development, Unfolding Truth: Dismantling the World Bank’s Myths on Agriculture and Development. In addition, the Institute will also release six new country fact sheets that expose the reforms promoted by the World Bank in Kenya, Uganda, DRC, Laos, Cambodia, and Uruguay. In each country, the Bank’s policies have served as a catalyst for massive land grabs, dispossession, and forced eviction of countless small-scale farmers.

“If you look behind many of the recent land grabs, you will find World Bank policies that enable investors to come in with projects that promise benefits to communities but don’t follow through. We can keep going after each corporation and investment group but it would be more effective if the World Bank stopped using their immense political and financial power to pave the way for what has become the systematic exploitation of land and people,” said Anuradha Mittal of the Oakland Institute.

Our Land Our Business is also launching the world’s first transnational “missed call” campaign–uniting a call-to-action across multiple countries. The idea is to make a call to a local phone number; the mobile number is then registered as an expression of support, then supporters receive free text messages to get further involved (e.g. showing up at a creative resistance). In parts of the world where first-generation mobile phones are ubiquitous but computers and the Internet are costly and inaccessible, this is a new powerful tool for mass engagement in political action.

On October 10, a street mobilization featuring speakers and artists will take place at 4pm in Rawlins Park, Washington D.C. This is followed by further action on October 11 when activists and concerned citizens from around the world will again gather outside the World Bank at 11am to protest the Bank’s attempt to dismantle critical protections for people and the planet that are currently enshrined in its operational policies. These changes come at a time when the Bank is making plans to scale up its lending to the private sector and return to the sort of risky mega-projects that characterized its now-discredited structural adjustment programs in the 1980s.

The October 10 – 11 actions send a message to the Bank that the world won’t stand for its exploitive practices.

For more on the two-day event, please visit www.ourlandourbusiness.org.

Download Unfolding Truth: Dismantling the World Bank’s Myths on Agriculture and Development and the country fact sheets.  

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The Peasant Farmer Who Stood Up to the President of Nicaragua

Francisca Ramírez, the head of the peasant movement that is leading the fight against the construction of an inter-oceanic canal in Nicaragua, which has made her a victim of harassment by the administration of Daniel Ortega. (Credit: Luis Martínez / IPS)

Francisca Ramírez, the head of the peasant movement that is leading the fight against the construction of an inter-oceanic canal in Nicaragua, which has made her a victim of harassment by the administration of Daniel Ortega. (Credit: Luis Martínez / IPS)

The unequal battle that small farmer Francisca Ramírez is waging against the Nicaraguan government of Daniel Ortega has become so well-known that people are calling for her security and her rights from the political heart of Europe.

Who is she and why did the European Parliament order Nicaragua on Feb. 16 to protect her life and rights, as well as those of thousands of peasant farmers in the centre-south of this impoverished Central American country?

Ramírez is a 40-year-old indigenous farmer who has lived all her life in the agricultural municipality of Nueva Guinea, in the Autonomous Region of Caribe Sur, 280 km from the capital.

She told IPS in an interview that her family has always lived in that rural area, which was the scene of bloody fighting during the 1980s civil war.

When she was eight, her father abandoned them and her mother had to work as a day labourer, while Ramírez took care of her five younger siblings.

Having survived the US-financed war against the government of the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (1979-1990), Ramírez learned agricultural work, got married at 18, had five children, and with the effort of the whole family, they acquired some land and improved their living conditions.

Ortega, who governed the country in that period, after overthrowing the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, returned to power in 2007. In January, he started a third consecutive term of office, after winning widely questioned elections where the opposition was excluded, supported by a civil-military alliance which controls all the branches of the state.

Ramírez was happy with her life until 2013. “They told us over the radio that they were going to build a canal and I thought that it was a very important thing because they said that we were no longer going to be poor,” she said.

Then, gradually, the news started to change her perception of the project to build the Great Nicaraguan Canal linking the Atlantic and the Pacific, granted in concession to the Chinese group HKND in 2013, and she started to ask questions that nobody answered.

One day, bad luck knocked on her door: delegations of public officials who her community had never seen before, accompanied by members of the police and the military, escorted delegations of people from China who made measurements and calculations about the properties of the farmers.

“The route of the canal runs through your property and all of you will be resettled,” they told her.

Law 840, passed in 2013 to give life to the over 50-billion-dollar mega-project, which she was barely able to understand with her three years of formal schooling, was very clear: they would be paid for their lands a price which the state considered “appropriate”.

So the resistance began. “At first everybody was happy, we thought that at last progress was coming, but when overbearing soldiers and police officers started to show up, guarding the Chinese, the whole community refused to let them in their homes and we started to protest,” she said.

Since then, she said the official response has not varied: repression, harassment and threats to farmers who refuse to give up their land.

Ramírez said that she became an activist in the National Council in Defence of Our Land, Lake and Sovereignty, a civil society initiative to organise the peasant movement to defend their lands and rights.

She started marching behind the rural leaders who led the first demonstrations against the canal.

One of the many demonstrations by small farmers who came to Managua from the southern Caribbean coastal region to protest the construction of an inter-oceanic canal that would displace thousands of rural families and cause severe environmental damage. (Credit: Carlos Herrera / IPS)

One of the many demonstrations by small farmers who came to Managua from the southern Caribbean coastal region to protest the construction of an inter-oceanic canal that would displace thousands of rural families and cause severe environmental damage. (Credit: Carlos Herrera / IPS)

Later on, the leaders were arrested, threatened, intimidated and repressed by the police and military, and Ramírez unexpectedly found herself leading the demonstrations in 2014.

Her leadership caught the attention of the national and international media, human rights organisations and civil society.

Soon, the peasant marches against the canal became a symbol of resistance and more people joined, turning the movement into the most important social force to confront Ortega since he took office again 10 years ago.

The peasant movement against the canal “is the strongest social organisation that exists today in Nicaragua. Within any movement, an authentic and genuine leadership emerges, and that is what Mrs. Ramírez represents,” sociologist Oscar René Vargas told IPS.

The president “is aware that the movement is the most important social force that his government is facing,” he said.

The admiration that Ramírez arouses, with her ability to organize and lead more than 90 demonstrations in the country, has irritated the authorities.

More than 200 peasant farmers have been arrested, about 100 have been beaten or wounded by gunfire, and the government has basically imposed a military state of siege in the area, where it refuses to finance social projects, according to the movement.

Police checkpoints along the entire route to Nueva Guinea and military barricades in the area give the impression of a war zone.

Ramírez has not escaped the violence and harassment: her house has been raided without a court order, her children and family persecuted and threatened by intelligence agents and police officers, her belongings and goods that she sells, such as food, confiscated and damaged, and she has been accused of terrorist activities.

One of the latest episodes occurred in December 2016, during a visit to Nicaragua by Organisation of American States (OAS) Secretary-General Luis Almagro, to discuss with Ortega the allegations of attacks on democracy.

To keep Ramírez and other leaders of the movement from meeting with Almagro, police convoys besieged the community and repressed members of the movement, she said.

They partially destroyed the main bridge out of the area, and suspected members of the movement’s Council were held at military checkpoints.

They even confiscated Ramírez’s work vehicles, used them to transport troops and later damaged them, according to Gonzalo Carrión, from the Nicaraguan Human Rights Centre.

“Ortega’s government has visciously mistreated Francisca Ramírez and the farmers who follow her. Her rights have been violated, from the right to protest to the right to freedom of movement, and we fear that they will violate her most sacred right: to life,” Carrión told IPS.

Walking along footpaths in the dark and crossing a deep river, where she almost drowned, Ramírez got around the military cordon and travelled, disguised and hidden in a truck, to Managua, where she was able to meet with Almagro on Dec. 1, 2016 and tell him of the abuses to which her community had been subjected for refusing to give up their lands.

On Feb. 16, the European Parliament issued a resolution condemning the lack of protection for human rights activists in Nicaragua, putting a special emphasis on the case of Ramírez, and lamenting the deterioration of the rule of law and democracy in this country.

The members of the European Parliament urged “the national and local police forces to refrain from harassing and using acts of reprisal against Francisca Ramirez for carrying out her legitimate work as a human rights defender.”

“Francisca Ramirez is a victim of abuses by the police in the country aiming at risking human rights defenders’ security and livelihood,” the European Parliament denounced.

“Ramírez, coordinator for the Defense of the Land, the Lake and Sovereignty, was in Managua to file a formal complaint over acts of repression, violations of the right to free circulation, and aggression experienced by several communities from Nueva Guinea on their way to the capital city for a peaceful protest against the construction of an inter-oceanic canal, projects which will displace local farmers activities and indigenous people from the premises of the construction,” the resolution states.

While the government remained silent about the resolution, social activist Mónica López believes that it represented a victory for the rural movement.

“Without a doubt, the resolution is a social and political victory for the peasant movement against the canal, a condemnation of Nicaragua, and a global warning about what is happening against indigenous peasant movements in Nicaragua,” López told IPS.

The government asserts that the canal project is moving ahead, although a year has passed with no visible progress, and it maintains that it will eradicate the poverty that affects more than 40 percent of the 6.2 million people in this Central American country.

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