Tag Archive | "Nicaragua"

Nicaragua in the Shadow of Western Fascism


NOVANEWS
  • Pro governement march in Nicaragua
    Pro governement march in Nicaragua | Photo: teleSUr

    Current US and EU foreign policy embodies fascism in terms of its aspect combining corporate power with State power and policy.

In her Sorbonne University exam results, French philosopher Simone Weil scored better than Simone de Beauvoir or Jean-Paul Sartre. She well understood the varieties of Western fascism and imperialism. So it’s worth paying attention to her remark that Europeans were shocked by Nazi crimes because the Nazis did to them what Europeans did to the people in their colonies. Weil’s remark was hardly news to people in the majority world, but it bears repeating to people in North America and Europe now.

Blood of Augusto Sandino Runs Through Nicaragua’s Veins: Ortega

Current US and EU foreign policy embodies fascism in terms of its aspect combining corporate power with State power and policy. The glitzy contemporary version prioritizes monopoly corporate finance and media as a means to achieving what the US and EU elites want, avoiding the mass destruction of war with uncertain global outcomes against obdurate, determined antagonists. That is the underlying meaning of contemporary sanctions and psychological warfare against Russia, China, North Korea, Syria and, in Latin America, against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, this reality is self-evident given the nature of US and EU proxies. The US and the EU support repressive organized-crime regimes in Colombia, Brazil and Argentina and those regimes’ counterparts among the political opposition of Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. A corollary of that support is the inability of these subaltern political blocs to tell the truth or honor agreements, exactly like their overseers in North America and Europe.

Examples abound of this reality. Early in 2018 the Venezuelan opposition was on the point of signing an agreement with President Nicolas Maduro’s government but dropped out at the very last minute on orders from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Similarly, the US authorities unilaterally abandoned the process easing tensions with Cuba after years of negotiations and just recently they intensified sanctions by activating previously unused measures under the notorious Helms-Burton Act.

In Colombia, the latest violation of the increasingly debased peace agreement has been the re-arrest of Jesus Santrich on phony narcotics charges after his release under the agreement’s key judicial provision, the Special Peace Jurisdiction. That abuse of the agreement follows over 120 murders of demobilized FARC fighters by Colombia’s army and their narco-terror paramilitary allies. Similar gross bad faith characterizes right-wing abuse of judicial practice in Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador and the desperate, unsuccessful maneuvers of the opposition in Bolivia against the presidential candidacy of Evo Morales.

This is the regional context for the political negotiations here in Nicaragua between President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista government and the US bought-and-paid-for opposition. In contrast to the political opposition in Venezuela, in Nicaragua, the talks are not even with elected politicians. The US controlled opposition representatives have deliberately excluded electorally bankrupt right-wing political parties from the talks The opposition negotiators are almost without exception individuals from organizations dependent one way or another on US financial support.

The Nicaraguan government has accepted talks with these unrepresentative opposition figures in a process mediated by the Papal Nuncio and a delegate from the Organization of American States. The discussions have been continuing formally since March this year with some progress on issues like the conditional release of prisoners convicted of crimes during last year’s failed coup attempt, the return of opposition supporters who fled the country last year, electoral reforms and reinforcing existing constitutional guarantees. All of these are important concessions by the government.

For their part, the opposition refuses to commit either to renouncing future violence or to a joint call with the government for an end to sanctions damaging the Nicaraguan economy. Nor do they seem open to agreeing on a mechanism guaranteeing the implementation of any final agreement that may be reached. In effect, they seem to think the threat of continuing US sanctions and even intervention exonerates them from making any meaningful concessions.

As the talks wear on, the government’s good faith contrasts more and more strongly with the opposition’s bad faith, both to the majority of Nicaragua’s people and to the mediating delegates.  As a smokescreen for their perfidy, the opposition periodically stages distractions either via media theatricals or calculated violence. The latest example of this has been a series of attacks by opposition prisoners in the penitentiary where they are detained. But the Nicaraguan authorities preempted the propaganda value of those attacks by inviting the Red Cross to monitor conditions for those prisoners, a measure which has undercut the opposition’s false claims of abuse.

Two things remain absolutely clear at this stage of the failed US and EU attempts to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. Firstly, people supporting the Nicaraguan opposition are accomplices to profoundly anti-democratic, anti-humanitarian Western government efforts at regime change against a successful progressive government. Secondly, like their fascist counterparts in Venezuela and Colombia, the Nicaraguan opposition is treacherous quislings committed to serving and obeying foreign corporate interests. They have nothing to offer in response to the impeccable national human development plan of President Ortega’s Sandinista government.

Everything suggests that the opposition delegates are determined to find an excuse either to walk away from the current talks or to renege on any eventual agreement. President Ortega’s government negotiators have already made and implemented important concessions but are sticking to their demand that the opposition call for an end to sanctions. In the end, a final agreement may well be reached, but the US and EU owners of Nicaragua’s opposition will never let them honor it. In fact, it may not be entirely true that Nicaragua’s opposition has no plan for their country: they want to be the rulers of a neoliberal hell like Honduras or Haiti.

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Blood of Augusto Sandino Runs Through Nicaragua’s Veins


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  • “The man whose country does not require a handful of land for his burial deserves to be heard, and not only be heard but also believed.” | Photo: EFE

    Sandino’s extraordinary feat of arms showed his countrymen the strength of a small, dedicated, guerrilla army when facing a goliath like the U.S.

The blood of Augusto C. Sandino runs through the veins of Nicaragua, said President Daniel Ortega on the 124th anniversary of the nation’s 20th-century hero’s birth.

Nicaragua Asks Opposition to Respect Peace Talks

“The Nicaraguan people raised the red and black flag to rescue the blue and white flag of the homeland — which had been sold to the Yankee invaders — so it would fly high for the homeland yesterday and always,” said Ortega.

A parade of grateful Nicaraguans stood outside the town of Niquinohomo where Sandino was born. Ortega reminded onlookers of the nation’s turbulent history between 1927 and 1933 when Nicaraguans and guerrilla militants fought “hand in hand” against the U.S. interventionists, imperialism, and racial oppression.

“The defense of a country’s sovereignty is the defense of the conditions to continue the battle against poverty and the exclusion of rights,” the president said.

Vice President Rosario Murillo also said a few words, encouraging citizens to help keep Sandino’s “immortal legacy of courage and dignity” through “hard work for better health and education programs.”

The new National Production Plan is “a way to honor Sandino, who always had the Nicaraguan countryside in mind, with the production of more food to guarantee national consumption and exports, but also to fundamentally improve the lives of Nicaraguan families,” she added.

Sandino was assassinated by the national guard in 1934, but not before inspiring thousands of Nicaraguans to found the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in his honor and memory. The party was pivotal to the destruction of a brutal 40-year dictatorship, which came to an end in 1979.

Sandino’s extraordinary feat of arms showed his countrymen the strength of a small, dedicated, guerrilla army when facing a goliath like the U.S. and what a band of impassioned soldiers can do to change history and the fate of a nation.

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How an American Anthropologist Tied to US Regime-Change Proxies Became the MSM’s Man in Nicaragua


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It might seem cavalier for an academically credentialed anthropologist to assert political influence on the population he is supposed to be studying; however, Goette-Luciak’s activities fit within a long tradition.

Carl David Goette-Luciak

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A Specter of Peace Is Haunting Nicaragua


NOVANEWS

Nicaragua and its allies represent a breathing space in a world dominated by the US empire.

A protester wears a mask to hide his identity, in front a defaced billboard of Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega and his wife, first lady and Vice President Rosario Murillo, outside the Agrarian University in Managua, Nicaragua. Pro-government billboards have become targets for protesters. Esteban Felix | AP

A protester wears a mask to hide his identity, in front a defaced billboard of Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega and his wife, first lady and Vice President Rosario Murillo, outside the Agrarian University in Managua, Nicaragua. Pro-government billboards have become targets for protesters. Esteban Felix | AP

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How Washington Manipulated Nicaragua’s Death Toll to Drive Regime Change


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A protester wears a mask to hide his identity, in front a defaced billboard of Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega and his wife, first lady and Vice President Rosario Murillo, outside the Agrarian University in Managua, Nicaragua. Pro-government billboards have become targets for protesters. Esteban Felix | AP

A protester wears a mask to hide his identity, in front a defaced billboard of Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega and his wife, first lady and Vice President Rosario Murillo, outside the Agrarian University in Managua, Nicaragua. Pro-government billboards have become targets for protesters. Esteban Felix | AP

Did Nicaragua’s Sandinista government really kill 300+ peaceful protesters? A forensic analysis of the death toll exposes the claim as a dangerous lie.

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Nicaragua, Venezuela: One Enemy, One Fight For Democracy


Tortilla Con Sal looks at some of the similarities between the violent street protests in Nicaragua and those seen in Venezuela in 2014/2017.

By Tortilla con Sal – Telesur English
All the signs are that – just as in Venezuela – people at the grassroots level in Nicaragua won't get fooled again. (Reuters)
All the signs are that – just as in Venezuela – people at the grassroots level in Nicaragua won’t get fooled again. (Reuters)

Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are all targets of the U.S. government because they challenge control of Latin America and the Caribbean by Western corporate elites and their local allies. By means of soft coups these interests have – at least for now – taken power in Brazil and Argentina, hijacked the government in Ecuador and derailed the peace process in Colombia. Currently, U.S. efforts at regime change focus most urgently on Venezuela and Nicaragua, while reverting to the failed policy of punitive sanctions against Cuba and biding their time for the moment in Bolivia.

Despite the relentless psychological warfare campaign to discredit them, the governments of Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela defend their peoples’ fundamental democratic rights to peaceful economic development focused on human needs rather than corporate profit. This is especially important to understand in the case of Nicaragua. There, the government has democratized the economy to the point where the cooperative, associative and family-based small- and micro-business sectors generate 70 percent of employment, contributing over 50 percent of GDP.

In their different ways, these four countries – all members of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) – have developed viable economic models directly opposed to Western corporate monopoly finance capitalism. They all face illegal actions by the U.S. government and its allies aimed at destabilizing – and, if possible, overthrowing – their legitimate governments. They all promote diverse models of genuine political and economic democracy for their peoples. Theirs is a common struggle against the U.S. and European imperial elites, whose governments are desperate to brake their own accelerating decline relative to China, Russia and other majority world countries.

Nicaragua and Venezuela: Similarities

While the endless war on Venezuela aims at controlling the country’s enormous oil and mineral resources, Nicaragua also has significant natural resources. It has Central America’s most abundant water resources, well over 60 percent of Central America’s natural eco-systems and also around seven to 10 percent of the world’s biodiversity.

The geostrategic position of Nicaragua and Venezuela enables their governments to project into the Caribbean and their respective neighboring countries the political and economic vision of a multi-polar world based on solidarity and cooperation rather than the subjugation and pillage now rampant in Brazil, Argentina and elsewhere.

The minority opposition – led by the private business, media and NGO sectors in both Venezuela and Nicaragua – have consistently failed electorally and politically, resorting to insurrectional violence aimed at regime change, rejected by the countries’ majorities.

The political opposition is deeply divided in both countries, incapable of offering the electorate a viable inclusive program of sustainable national human development that meets everyone’s needs in every sphere of civil, political, economic, social and cultural life.

The governments of both countries have repeatedly demonstrated their institutional legitimacy in serial elections.

Both countries are surrounded by U.S. and allied military bases.

Both countries are committed to regional integration initiatives – Venezuela in Unasur, Nicaragua in the Central American Integration System (SICA), while both are strong supporters of CELAC.

In the United Nations and other international forums, Venezuela and Nicaragua defend international law, condemning the criminal actions of the United States and its allies against, for example, Palestine, Syria and Iran.

Both governments insist on dialogue and mutual respect to resolve both domestic national conflicts and regional and global international conflicts.

De Facto Popular Front

Differences between the two countries result directly from their different geography and economic structure. Venezuela was able to decide to leave the Organization of American States because its status as a supplier of oil and mineral resources give it sufficient autonomy. Nicaragua, more dependent on agricultural and commercial trade with regional partners, has chosen not to abandon the OAS. That decision may well be partly in order to maintain the number of OAS member countries resisting pressure to legitimize the illegal U.S. war on Venezuela. But Nicaragua’s government also thinks maintaining dialogue with this North American-dominated forum will help disarm potentially strongly aggressive measures from the U.S. government against Nicaragua’s vulnerable economy.

That is also probably why Nicaragua remains a faithful ally of Taiwan, while U.S. client states such as Costa Rica and Panama have abandoned Taiwan in favor of the People’s Republic of China, a key investment and trading ally of Venezuela. However, its loyalty to Taiwan has not prevented Nicaragua from working with China to develop the proposal for a new inter-oceanic canal to complement the Panama Canal by expanding shipping capacity across the Central American isthmus. Nicaragua also maintains excellent commercial and development cooperation relations with South Korea and Japan, as well as various Arab nations, as well as Iran. Venezuela and Nicaragua share this eclectic approach to international relations. Both have very important trade and investment relations with Russia and are developing relations with India.

In effect, the ALBA countries form a modern-day Popular Front. Regionally, they resist the determination of the region’s fascist corporate elites to seize or keep power and subordinate their countries’ economies to North American and European corporate interests. Globally, they defend the vision of a multi-polar world based on solidarity and international law against repeated criminal imperialist economic and military aggression from the United States and its allies. Nicaragua is under attack now because it is a vital component of that regional Popular Front, both for strong political and economic reasons and, too, for deep historical and cultural reasons.

Current National Developments

After five years of unprecedented siege, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has again defeated the U.S. government and its allies, decisively winning the May 20 elections. Now the war on Venezuela will intensify even more: economically, diplomatically and militarily. Similarly, U.S. government efforts to overthrow Nicaragua’s elected government will also fail. In what amounts to a war of attrition, President Ortega and his government team are  systematically dismantling the illegitimate pretensions of the minority opposition’s makeshift coalition, despite cynical manipulation by the mediating Episcopal Conference trying to gerrymander the National Dialogue for Peace in the opposition’s favor.

Just as in Venezuela, public opinion in Nicaragua is strongly against the violent tactics of extortion and intimidation by the minority opposition. Even OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has denounced the lies of the opposition representatives in Nicaragua. The Inter American Commission for Human Rights has acknowledged that the deaths and injuries mentioned in its preliminary report have yet to be investigated. As the facts come out, a truer picture will emerge confirming that most of the deaths and injuries have been of government supporters or bystanders caught up in the violence. For example, testimony from one of the protesters unable to square events with his conscience alleges that the two students killed on April 20 in Esteli were shot by paid opposition thugs. Similar testimonies will confirm that the violence in Nicaragua was deliberately instigated by the opposition – exploiting genuine protest – to discredit the government unjustly, just as in Venezuela.

This weekend, campesino leader Comandante Jorge Diaz, president of a demobilized ex-combatants association, withdrew from the opposition side of the National Dialogue urging his rank and file to dismantle their roadblocks, a phenomenon that has paralyzed the country for weeks. He denounced manipulation of his rural worker membership by some of the bishops and the opposition. That move recalls the clear-sighted remarks of assassinated former Nicaraguan Contra leader Comandante Franklin to a Sandinista leader after the 1990 elections: “The oligarchy used you to overthrow Somoza. Now they have used us to overthrow you.” All the signs are that – just as in Venezuela – people at the grassroots level in Nicaragua won’t get fooled again.

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In Nicaragua the Month of July Is Sandinista


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  • July 19th is the 39th anniversary of the Triumph of the Sandinista Revolution.
    July 19th is the 39th anniversary of the Triumph of the Sandinista Revolution. | Photo: Reuters FILE
Up until April, Nicaragua was the most peaceful country in Central America.

“We were in the opposition for 17 years and we never even thought about burning the houses of the liberals,” Daniel Ortega, Constitutional President of Nicaragua, said in a speech during the Masaya “Repliegue” (the retreat to Masaya city).

RELATED: Nicaragua Defeats The Not-So-Soft Coup

In the book “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official Gene Sharp set up a manual that in its fifth phase indicates the breaking of institutionality and the development of a beachhead from where a country could be infiltrated with “multinational” forces to support an insurrection against the dictatorship.

In fact, the creation of this phase in Nicaragua has been preceded by “tranques” (barricades or blockades of roads) where quotas are charged, and Sandinistas, police officers and ministries staff are kidnapped.

Many of those kidnapped are tortured and assassinated by these “self-convened pacific opposition” groups. The attacks against public bodies and assaults on police units are led by criminals, by former Sandinistas and former “contras” (counterrevolutionary forces).

Many of the conservative press and media outlets won’t stop presenting the Nicaraguan situation as the struggle against a dictatorship, despite the fact that Daniel Ortega has constitutionally won the elections, after having spent 17 years in the opposition’s side.

From outlets like Deutsche Welle, going through the BBC and CNN, we get the versions that make us see a peaceful people, waving national flags, supported by an impartial Catholic Church that seeks dialogue, fighting against a dangerous and violent left-wing dictatorship.

The number of killed police officers and civilians has been increasing, and if there are police officers killed by firearms it means that on the other side there are armed civilians.

The crisis seemed unstoppable, but Sharp’s fifth phase never arrived.

Up until April, Nicaragua was the most peaceful country in Central America. The country had an 8 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants rate, while Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador’s rate goes as far as outnumbering 50 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

The Nicaraguan police force is considered as one of the most efficient ones in Latin America and was developed as a community force, with great insertion in the neighborhoods and communities. It has controlled drug trafficking and the Maras (the very violent Central American gangs whose origin is linked to the U.S.) had never managed to enter the country. The Nicaraguan National Police inherited the best Sandinista ideals and was founded by Tomas Borge (FSLN revolutionary commander) as “the sentinels of the people’s joy.”

As I have written in previous articles, this police force is exemplary and there is a lot to learn about community work and about participation in citizen security from it. At the same time, it is a police force that defends the institutionality and the Constitution. The dark destabilization plan now in place, pretends that the police force doesn’t respond to armed aggression.

RELATED: Nicaragua: Legitimacy And Human Rights

Since April, Nicaragua has been included in the plan for the destruction of the new democratic governments in Latin America. A plan that is conceived and orchestrated by the Think Tanks serving the large transnational corporations.

I am making reference to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) that was founded during the Reagan administration, the Usaid, the CIA, of course, and many other intelligence agencies, that work at the development of a conservative way of thinking. The ominous role of the OAS (Organization of American States) and the IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights), convicted and confessed accomplices of this master plan at the ‘American’ level, has to also be taken into account.

The national oligarchies, and in this case the Catholic Church, represented by its most conservative sectors, play the local triggering role. The errors committed by the FSLN, such as the Social Security issue and other decisions that did not favor the democratic construction project that the Sandinista government is proclaiming, must also be added to the equation. This last factor must be amended as required by the strategic perspective: the destruction of these governments’ frameworks, the case of Nicaragua, which has reached armed violence extremes.

This violence is driven by social actors unable to develop democratic options in which they have been defeated in recent years as is the case of former Sandinistas grouped in the MRS (Sandinista Renovation Movement).

The serenity demonstrated by Ortega and his government has consolidated a massive response summoned by the FSLN that is channeling the return of the stability. The government has always attended the dialogue table, even when it meant listening to absurd proposals such as early elections that had to take place or even worse, Ortega’s resignation.

The march of “El Repliegue” to Masaya, the demonstrations in Managua and those in other cities, are the way to prove the Government and FSLN party’s capacity to summon people. Certainly, this situation has polarized the country, and the proposals to restore the lost peace will have to be handled with great care. Those who thought that there would be a triumphant counterrevolutionary government board, are only left with a dangerous frustration.

From the part of this right-wing, there is no real desire to return to the institutional channels, although the defeat might make them think. The personal ambitions and resentments of former Sandinistas are not the best factor for Peace. The government must deepen measures to consolidate an organized popular democracy, both in the exercise of citizen participation and in the construction of an effective popular power, as well as in speeding up the redistribution of resources and the improvement of living conditions for the still disadvantaged sectors. Moving forward in these two areas, simultaneously, is the only way to guarantee the continuity of the institutions and the governability in the country.

RELATED: Nicaragua Reiterates Call For Peace As US Ramps Up Pressure

The teachings of South America have shown us the fragility of our triumphs. These are more vulnerable when the popular power is not consolidated and when the alliances with the productive capitalist sectors are not properly managed, which must be only alliances without making those sectors part of the government.

Brazil and Ecuador are the most recent examples of the right-wing’s ability to dismantle and appropriate everything that we have advanced, either by destroying it or by converting it into resources for their own benefit. The high cost in lives in Nicaragua and Venezuela, during the attempt “to return to the dark neoliberal night,” should lead us to a deep self-critical reflection about the role of political parties, about the transformations towards a culture of solidarity and about the need to consolidate the effective and participatory mechanisms of popular power.

In the political projects that intrinsically carry the proposal of an alliance of different class sectors, we must learn to handle its inherent contradictions implied. It is an extremely complex task and in that difficulty, the “Cantos de Sirena” (mermaid’s call or siren songs, a seductive or deceptive call) of corruption, enrichment and using the state as booty, are always present.

Today in Nicaragua, and particularly in Managua, the month of July is Sandinista. It is “rojinegro” (red and black, an allusion to the FSLN flag). People from the “caviar left-wing” and those from the right-wing thought they would be able to celebrate the defeat of the FSLN Government but they were defeated in every single battlefield. In the political one, in the streets and in the military field where they entered by killing people.

The army did not go out to the streets and it is only with the National Police and organized Sandinistas that this triumph was achieved. We can not claim victory or let our guard down, yet. We need to consolidate and deepen the popular democratic exercise, street by street, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community.

Serenity and self-criticism, as demonstrated by the Sandinista government and by the Comandante Ortega, are needed.

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Correcting the Record: What Is Really Happening in Nicaragua?


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Featured image: A massive peace march was held on July 8, 2018, in Managua showing support for the Nicaraguan government. (Source: UK Morning Sun)

There is a great deal of false and inaccurate information about Nicaragua in the media. Even on the left some have simply repeated the dubious claims of CNN and Nicaragua’s oligarchic media to support removal of President Ortega.

This article seeks to correct the record, describe what is happening in Nicaragua and why. As we write this, the coup seems to be failing, people have rallied for peace (as this massive march for peace held Saturday July 7 showed) and the truth is coming out. It is important to understand what is occurring because Nicaragua is an example of the types of violent coups the US and wealthy use to put in place business dominated, neoliberal governments. If people understand these tactics, they will become less effective.

Mixing up the Class Interests

In part, US pundits are getting their information from media outlets, such as Jaime Chamorro-Cardinal’s La Prensa, and the same oligarchical family’s Confidencial, that are the most active elements of the coup media. Repeating and amplifying their narrative delegitimizes the Sandinista government and presents unconditional surrender by Daniel Ortega as the only acceptable option. These pundits provide cover for nefarious internal and external interests who have set their sights on controlling Central America’s poorest and yet resource-rich country.

The coup attempt brought the class divisions in Nicaragua into the open. Piero Coen, the richest man in Nicaragua, owner of all national Western Union operations and an agrochemical company, personally arrived on the first day of protests at the Polytechnic University in Managua, to encourage students to keep protesting, promising his continued support. 

The traditional landed oligarchy of Nicaragua, politically led by the Chamorro family, publishes constant ultimatums to the government through its media outlets and finances the roadblocks that have paralyzed the country for the last eight weeks. 

The Catholic Church, long allied with the oligarchs, has put its full weight behind creating and sustaining anti-government actions, including  its universities, high schools, churches, bank accounts, vehicles, tweets, Sunday sermons, and a one-sided effort to mediate the National Dialogue. Bishops have made death threats against the President and his family, and a priest has been filmed supervising the torture of Sandinistas. Pope Francis has called for peace dialogue, and even called Cardinal Leonaldo Brenes and Bishop Rolando Alvarez to a private meeting in the Vatican, setting off rumors that the Nicaraguan monseñores were being scolded for their obvious involvement in the conflict they are officially mediating.  The church remains one of the few pillars keeping the coup alive.

A common claim is Ortega has cozied up to the traditional oligarchy, but the opposite is true. This is the first government since Nicaraguan independence that does not include the oligarchy. Since the 1830s through the 1990s, all Nicaraguan governments– even during the Sandinista Revolution– included people from the elite “last names,” of Chamorro, Cardenal, Belli, Pellas, Lacayo, Montealegre, Gurdián. The government since 2007 does not, which is why these families are supporting the coup.

Ortega detractors claim his three-part dialogue including labor unions, capitalists and the State is an alliance with big business. In fact, that process has yielded the highest growth rate in Central Americaand annual minimum wage increases 5-7% above inflation, improving workers’ living conditions and lifting people out of poverty. The anti-poverty Borgen project reports poverty fell by 30 percent between 2005 and 2014. 

The Ortega economy is the opposite of neoliberalism, it is based on public investment and strengthening the safety net for the poor. The government invests in infrastructure, transit, maintains water and electricity within the public sector, and moved privatized services. e.g., health care and primary education into the public sector. This has ensured a stable economic structure that favors the real economy over the speculative economy. 

What liberal and even leftists commentators overlook is that unlike the Lula government in Brazil, which reduced poverty through cash payouts to poor families, Nicaragua has redistributed productive capital in order to develop a self-sufficient popular economy. The FSLN model is better understood as an emphasis on the popular economy over the State or capitalist spheres.

While the private sector employs about 15% of Nicaraguan workers, the informal sector employs over 60%. The informal sector has benefitted from $400 million in public investments, much of it coming from the ALBA alliance funds to finance micro loans for small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises. Policies to facilitate credit, equipment, training, animals, seeds and subsidized fuel further support these enterprises. The small and medium producers of Nicaragua have led the country to produce 80-90% of its food and end its dependence on IMF loans. 

As such, workers and peasants– many of whom are self-employed and who accessed productive capital through the Sandinista Revolution and ensuing struggles– represent an important political subject of the stable, postwar social development of the last decade, including the hundreds of thousands of peasant farmers who have received land title and the nearly one-quarter of the national territory that has been given collective title as territory of indigenous nations. The social movements of workers, peasants, and indigenous groups were the base of popular support that brought the FSLN back into power. 

Land titling, and assistance to small businesses have also emphasized equality for women, resulting in Nicaragua having the lowest level of gender inequality in Latin America and ranked 12 out of 145 countries in the world, just behind Germany. 

Over time, the FSLN government has incorporated this massive self-employed sector, as well as maquiladora workers (i.e. textile workers in foreign-owned plants located in free trade zones created by previous neoliberal governments), into the health care and pension system, causing the financial commitments to grow which required a new formula to ensure fiscal stability. The proposed reforms to Social Security were the trigger for the private sector and student protests on April 18th. The business lobby called for the protests when Ortega proposed increasing employer contributions by 3.5% to pension and health funds, while only slightly increasing worker contributions by 0.75% and shifting 5% of pensioners’ cash transfer into their health care fund. The reform also ended a loophole which allowed high-income individuals to claim a low income in order to access health benefits. 

This was a counter-proposal to the IMF proposal to raise the retirement age and more than double the number of weeks that workers would need to pay into the pension fund in order to access benefits. The fact the government felt strong enough to deny the IMF and business lobby’s austerity demands was a sign that the bargaining strength of private capital has declined, as Nicaragua’s impressive economic growth, a 38% increase in GDP from 2006-2017, has been led by small-scale producers and public spending. However, the opposition used manipulative Facebook ads presenting the reform as an austerity measure, plus fake news of a student death on April 18th, to generate protests across the country on April 19th. Immediately, the regime change machine lurched into motion.

The National Dialogue shows the class interests in conflict. The opposition’s Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy has as its key figures: José Adan Aguirre, leader of the private business lobby; Maria Nelly Tellez, director of Cargill in Nicaragua and head of the US-Nicaragua Chamber of Commerce; the private university students of the April 19th Movement; Michael Healy, manager of a Colombian sugar corporation and head of the agribusiness lobby; Juan Sebastian Chamorro, who represents the oligarchy dressed as civil society; Carlos Tunnermann, 85-year-old ex-Sandinista minister and ex-chancellor of the National University; Azalea Solis, head of a US government-funded feminist organization; and Medardo Mairena, a “peasant leader” funded by the US government, who lived 17 years in Costa Rica before being deported in 2017 for human trafficking. Tunnermann, Solis and the April 19th students are all associated with the Movement for Renovation of Sandinismo (MRS), a tiny Sandinista offshoot party that nonetheless merits special attention.

In the 1980s, many of the Sandinista Front’s top level cadre were in fact the children of some of the famous oligarchic families, such as the Cardenal brothers and part of the Chamorro family, in charge of the revolutionary government’s ministries of Culture and Education and its media, respectively. After FSLN’s election loss in 1990, the children of the oligarchy staged an exodus from the party. Along with them, some of the most notable intellectual, military and intelligence cadre left and formed, over time, the MRS. The new party renounced socialism, blamed all of the mistakes of the Revolution on Daniel Ortega and over time took over the sphere of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Nicaragua, including feminist, environmentalist, youth, media and human rights organizations. 

Since 2007, the MRS has become increasingly close with the extreme right-wing of the US Republican Party. Since the outbreak of violence in April, many if not most of the sources cited by Western media (including, disturbingly, Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!), come from this party, which has the support of less than 2% of the Nicaraguan electorate. This allows the oligarchs to couch their violent attempt to reinstall neoliberalism in leftist-sounding discourse of former Sandinistas critical of the Ortega government.

It is a farce to claim that workers and peasants are behind the unrest. La Vía Campesina, the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers, the Association of Rural Workers, the National Workers’ Front, the indigenous Mayangna Nation and other movements and organizations have been unequivocal in their demands for an end to the violence and their support for the Ortega government. This unrest is a full-scale regime change operation carried out by media oligarchs, a network of NGOs funded by the US government, armed elements of elite landholding families and the Catholic Church, and has opened the window for drug cartels and organized crime to gain a foothold in Nicaragua. 

Nicargua meeting of the National Dialogue for Peace by Óscar Sánchez.

The Elephant in the Room

Which brings us to US government involvement in the violent coup.

As Tom Ricker reported early in this political crisis, several years ago the US government decided that rather than finance opposition political parties, which have lost enormous legitimacy in Nicaragua, it would finance the NGO civil society sector. National Endowment for Democracy (NED) gave more than $700,000 to build the opposition to the government in 2017, and has granted more than $4.4 million since 2014. The overarching purpose of this funding was to “provide a coordinated strategy and media voice for opposition groups in Nicaragua.” Ricker continues:

“The result of this consistent building and funding of opposition resources has been to create an echo chamber that is amplified by commentators in the international media – most of whom have no presence in Nicaragua and rely on these secondary sources.” 

NED founding father, Allen Weinstein, described NED as the overt CIA saying,

“A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

In Nicaragua, rather than the traditional right-wing, NED funds the MRS-affiliated organizations which pose left-sounding critiques of the Sandinista government. The regime change activists use Sandinista slogans, songs and symbols even as they burn historic monuments, paint over the red-and-black markers of fallen martyrs, and physically attack members of the Sandinista party.

Of the opposition groups in the National Dialogue, the feminist organization of Azalea Solis and the peasant organization of Medardo Mairena are financed through NED grants, while the April 19th students stay in hotels and make trips paid for by Freedom House, another regime change organ funded by NED and USAID. NED also finances Confidencial, the Chamorro media organization. Grants from NED finance the Institute of Strategic Studies and Public Policy (IEEPP), whose Executive Director, Felix Maradiaga, is another MRS cadre very close to the US Embassy. In June, Maradiaga was accused of leading a criminal network called Viper which, from the occupied UPOLI campus, organized carjackings, arsons and murders in order to create chaos and panic during the months of April and May.

Maradiaga grew up in the United States and became a fellow of the Aspen Leadership Institute, before studying public policy at Harvard. He was a secretary in the Ministry of Defense for the last liberal president, Enrique Bolaños. He is a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum and in 2015, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs gave him the Gus Hart Fellowship, past recipients of which include Cuban dissident Yoani Sánchez and Henrique Capriles Radonski, the Venezuelan opposition leader who attacked the Cuban embassy during the coup attempt of 2002. 

Remarkably, Maradiaga is not the only leader of the coup attempt who is part of the Aspen World Leadership NetworkMaria Nelly Rivasdirector in Nicaragua of US corporate giant Cargill, is one of the main spokespersons for the opposition Civic Alliance. Rivas, who currently also heads the US-Nicaragua Chamber of Commerce, is being groomed as a possible presidential candidate in the next elections. Beneath these US-groomed leaders, there is a network of over 2,000 young people who have received trainings with NED funds on topics such as social media skills for democracy defense. This battalion of social media warriors was able to immediately shape and control public opinion in Facebook in the five days from April 18th to 22nd, leading to spontaneous violent protests across the country. 

Protesters yell from behind the roadblock they erected as they face off with security forces near the University Politecnica de Nicaragua in Managua, Nicaragua, April 21, 2018. Source: Voice of America

On the Violence

One of the ways in which reporting on Nicaragua has ventured farthest from the truth is calling the opposition “nonviolent.” The violence script, modeled on the 2014 and 2017 guarimba protests in Venezuela, is to organize armed attacks on government buildings, entice the police to send in anti-riot squads, engage in filmed confrontations and publish edited footage online claiming that the government is being violent against nonviolent protesters. 

Over 60 government buildings have been burned down, schools, hospitals, health centers attacked, 55 ambulances damaged, at least $112 million in infrastructure damage, small businesses have been closed, and 200,000 jobs lost causing devastating economic impact during the protests. Violence has included, in addition to thousands of injuries, 15 students and 16 police officers killed, as well as over 200 Sandinistas kidnapped, many of them publicly tortured. Violent opposition atrocities were misreported as government repression. While it is important to defend the right of the public to protest, regardless of its political opinions, it is disingenuous to ignore that the opposition’s strategy requires and feeds upon violence and deaths.

National and international news claim deaths and injuries due to “repression” without explaining the context. The Molotov cocktails, mortar-launchers, pistols, and assault rifles used by opposition groups are ignored by the media, and when Sandinista sympathizers, police or passers-by are killed, they are falsely counted as victims of state repression. Explosive opposition claims like massacres of childrenand murders of women have been shown to be false, and the cases of torture, disappearances and extrajudicial executions by police forces have not been corroborated by evidence or due process. 

While there is evidence to support the opposition claim of sniper fire killing protesters, there is no logical explanation for the State using snipers to add to the death toll, and counter-protesters have also been victims of sniper fire, suggesting a “third party” provocateur role in the destabilizing violence. When an entire Sandinista family was burned to death in Managua, the opposition media all cited a witness who claimed that the police had set fire to the home, despite the house being in a neighborhood barricaded off from police access.

The National Police of Nicaragua has been long-recognized for its model of community policing (in contrast to militarized police in most Central American countries), its relative lack of corruption, and its mostly female top brass. The coup strategy has sought to destroy public trust in the police through egregious use of fake news, such as the many false claims of assassinations, beatings, torture, and disappearances in the week from April 17th to 23rd. Several young people whose photos were carried in opposition rallies as victims of police violence have turned out to be alive and well. 

The police have been wholly inadequate and underprepared for armed confrontations. Attacks on several public buildings on the same night and the first major arson attacks led government workers to hold vigils with barrels of water and, often, sticks and stones, to fend off attackers. The opposition, frustrated at not achieving more police conflicts, began to build roadblocks across the country and burning the homes of Sandinistas, even shooting and burning Sandinista families in atrocious hate crimes. In contrast to La Prensa’s version of events, Nicaraguans have felt the distinct lack of police presence, and the loss of safely in their neighborhoods, while many were targeted by violence.

Since May, the strategy of the opposition has been to build armed roadblocks across the country, closing off transport and trapping people. The roadblocks, usually built with large paving stones, are manned by between 5 and 100 armed men with bandannas or masks. While the media reports on idealistic young people running roadblocks, the vast majority of roadblocks are maintained by paid menwho come from a background of petty crime. Where large areas of cities and towns are blocked off from government and police forces, drug-related activities intensify, and drug gangs now control many of the roadblocks and pay the salaries.

These roadblocks have been the centers of violence, workers who need to pass through roadblocks are often robbed, punched, insulted, and, if suspected of being Sandinistas, tied up, stripped naked, tortured, painted in blue-and-white, and sometimes killed. There are three cases of people dying in ambulances unable to pass roadblocks, and one case of a 10-year-old girl being kidnapped and raped at the roadblock in Las Maderas. When organized neighbors or the police clear roadblocks, the armed groups run away and regroup to burn buildings, kidnap or injure people in revenge. All of the victims that this violence produces are counted by the mainstream media as victims of repression, a total falsehood.

The Nicaraguan government has confronted this situation by largely keeping police off the streets, to prevent encounters and accusations of repression. At the same time, rather than simply arrest violent protestors, which certainly would have given the opposition the battle deaths it craves, the government called for a National Dialogue, mediated by the Catholic Church, in which the opposition can bring forward any proposal for human rights and political reform. The government created a parliamentary Truth and Peace Commission and launched an independent Public Ministry query.

As a result, a process of organizing self-defense developed. Families who have been displaced, young people who have been beaten, robbed or tortured, and veterans of the 1979 insurrection and/or the Contra War, hold vigil round the Sandinista Front headquarters in each town. In many places they built barricades against opposition attacks and have been falsely labeled paramilitary forces in the media. In the towns that do not have such community-organized barricades, the human toll from opposition violence is much greater. The National Union of Nicaraguan Students has been particularly targeted by opposition violence. A student delegate of the National Dialogue, Leonel Morales, was kidnapped, shot in the abdomen and thrown into a ditch to die in June, to sabotage the dialogue and punish him for challenging the April 19th students’ right to speak on behalf of all Nicaraguan students.

There have been four major opposition rallies since April, directed toward mobilizing the upper-middle class Nicaraguans who live in the suburbs between Managua and Masaya. These rallies featured a who’s-who of high society, including beauty queens, business owners and oligarchs, as well as university students of the April 19th Movement, the moral high-ground for the opposition. 

Three months into the conflict, none of the mortal victims have been bourgeois. All have come from the popular classes of Nicaragua. Despite claims of total repression, the bourgeois feels perfectly safe to participate in public protests by day — although the last daytime rally ended in a chaotic attack by protesters against squatters on a property of, curiously enough, Piero Coen, Nicaragua’s richest man. The nighttime armed attacks have generally been carried out by people who come from poor neighborhoods, many of whom are paid two to four times the minimum daily wage for each night of destruction.

Unfortunately, most Nicaraguan human rights organizations are funded by NED and controlled by the Movement for Sandinista Renovation. These organizations have accused the Nicaraguan government of dictatorship and genocide throughout Ortega’s presidency. International human rights organizations, including Amnesty International have been criticized for their one-sided reports, which include none of the information provided by the government or individuals who identify as Sandinistas. 

The government invited the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the OAS, a Washington-based entity notoriously unfriendly to leftist governments, to investigate the violent events of April and determine whether repression had occurred. The night of a controversial skirmish in the highway outside the Agrarian University in Managua ended a negotiated 48-hour truce, IACHR Director Paulo Abrao visited the site to declare his support for the opposition. The IACHR ignored the opposition’s widespread violence and only reported on the defensive violence of the government. Not only was it categorically rejected by Nicaraguan chancellor Denis Moncada as an “insult to the dignity of the Nicaraguan people,” a resolution approving the IACHR report was supported by only ten out of 34 countries.

Meanwhile, the April 19th Movement, made up of current or former university students in favor of regime change, sent a delegation to Washington and managed to alienate much of Nicaraguan society by grinning into the camera with far-right interventionist members of the US Congress, including Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz. M19 leaders also cheered Vice-President Mike Pence’s bellicose warnings that Nicaragua is on the short list of countries that will soon know the Trump Administration’s meaning of freedom, and met with the ARENA party of El Salvador, known for its links to the death squads that murdered liberation theologist Archbishop Oscar Romero. Within Nicaragua, the critical mass of students stopped demonstrating weeks ago, the large civic protests of April and May have dwindled, and the same-old familiar faces of Nicaraguan right wing politics are left holding the bill for massive material damage and loss of life.

Nicaraguan students meet with right-wing Republicans, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen  in Washington, DC. Source Twitter Truthdig.

Why Nicaragua?

Ortega won his third term in 2016 with 72.4 percent of the vote with 66 percent turnout, very high compared to US elections. Not only has Nicaragua put in place an economy that treats the poor as producers, with remarkable results raising their standard of living in 10 years, but it also has a government that consistently rejects US imperialism, allying with Cuba, Venezuela, and Palestine, and voices support for Puerto Rican independence and a peaceful solution to Korean crisis. Nicaragua is a member of member of Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, a Latin American alternative to the OAS, neither include the US or Canada. It has also allied with China for a proposed canal project and Russia for security cooperation. For all of these reasons the US wants to install a US-friendly Nicaraguan government. 

More important is the example Nicaragua has set for a successful social and economic model outside the US sphere of domination. Generating over 75% of its energy from renewable sources, Nicaragua was the only country with the moral authority to oppose the Paris Climate Agreement as being too weak  (it later joined the treaty one day after Trump pulled the US out, stating “we opposed the Paris agreement out of responsibility, the US opposes it out of irresponsibility”). The FMLN government of El Salvador, while less politically dominant than the Sandinista Front, has taken the example of good governance from Nicaragua, recently prohibiting mining and the privatization of water. Even Honduras, the eternal bastion of US power in Central America, showed signs of a leftward shift until the US-supported military coup in 2009. Since then, there has been massive repression of social activists, a clearly stolen 2017 election, and Honduras has permitted the expansion of US military bases near the Nicaraguan border. 

In 2017, the US House of Representatives unanimously passed the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA Act), which if passed by the Senate will force the US government to veto loans from international institutions to the Nicaraguan government. This US imperialism will cripple Nicaragua’s ability to build roads, update hospitals, construct renewable energy plants, and transition from extensive livestock raising to integrated animal-forestry systems, among other consequences. It may also signify the end of many popular social programs, such as subsidized electricity, stable bus fares, and free medical treatment of chronic diseases. 

The US Executive Branch has used the Global Magnitsky Act to target the finances of leaders of the Electoral Supreme Court, the National Police, the city government of Managua and the ALBA corporation in Nicaragua. Police officers and public health bureaucrats have been told their US visas have been revoked. The point, of course, is not whether these officials have or have not committed acts that merit their reprimand in Nicaragua, but whether the US government should have the jurisdiction to intimidate and corner public officials of Nicaragua.

While the sadistic violence continues, the strategy of the coup-mongers to force out the government has failed. The resolution of the political crisis will come through elections, and the FSLN is likely to win those elections, barring a dramatic and unlikely new offensive by the right-wing opposition.

Latin American Presidents Zelaya (Honduras), Correa (Ecuador), Chavez (Venezuela), Ortega (Nicaragua), and Morales (Bolivia) celebrate Correa’s inauguration for a second term, in Quito, Ecuador. (Prensa Presidencial)

An Upside Down Class War

It is important to understand the nature of US and oligarch coups in this era and the role of media and NGO deception because it is repeated in multiple Latin American and other countries. We can expect a similar attack on recently elected Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico, if he seeks the changes he has promised. 

The US has sought to dominate Nicaragua since the mid-1800s. The wealthy in Nicaragua have sought return of US-allied governance since the Sandinistas rose to power. This failing coup does not mean the end of their efforts or the end of corporate media misinformation. Knowing what is really occurring and sharing that information is the antidote to defeating them in Nicaragua and around the world.

Nicaragua is a class war turned upside down. The government has raised the living standards of the impoverished majority through wealth redistribution. Oligarchs and the United States, unable to install neoliberalism through elections, created a political crisis, highlighted by false media coverage to force Ortega to resign. The coup is failing, the truth is coming out, and should not be forgotten.

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An Urgent Call for Solidarity with Nicaragua


NOVANEWS
Image result for daniel ortega photography
Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo (Rural Workers Association) 

Friends in Solidarity,

We have lived a month full of tragedy in our country. The peace we achieved as a people, so fragile and at the cost of so many lives, is in immanent danger of disappearing irreparably. There are now two sizeable camps of the population with dangerously contrary positions. On one side, there is a combination of private university students, media outlets with rightwing owners representing the oligarchy, Catholic Church bishops close to Opus Dei, the private sector and, of course, the US Embassy, working together to create a situation of chaos in the country in order to remove president Daniel Ortega. This group of actors accuses the National Police of having killed dozens of protestors in the riots that reached all Nicaraguan cities, ostensibly against a reform—since revoked—to the system of social security. As we have described, the reality is more complex, and the violence was generalized and explosive, involving protestors with homemade firearms that often misfired, as well as counter-protestors, paid pickets, unknown gunmen and street gangs. The National Police was really a minor actor in the violence, using tear gas and rubber bullets to clear crowds in a few points of Managua, but not involved in the vast majority of the 50 or more deaths that have been reported since April. The InterAmerican Commission of Human Rights has been invited by the government and currently is investigating the events of April.

A national dialogue began on Wednesday, May 16th, with the participation of anti-government students, civil society organizations, and the Presidency, and mediation by the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church led by Archbishop Leonaldo Brenes. However, the coup-like violence has only grown and currently, rightwing armed groups have all of the main highways in the country closed. On the other side of the conflict, the militancy of the Sandinista Front continues to withstand phenomenal provocations, including:

  • The destruction of its Sandinista homes (party headquarters) in dozens of cities
  • The destruction or defacement of hundreds of historic monuments, murals, and memorials of Sandinistas
  • The arson of dozens of public buildings
  • The interruption of work and the food shortages that have resulted from the road closures and violence
  • The deaths of passersby and journalists by paid pickets and violent protestors
  • Relentless false accusations and lies circulated by corporate media.

It must be added that Facebook has been the primary means for transforming Nicaraguan society that one month ago was at peace into a toxic, hate-filled nightmare. Currently, hundreds of thousands of fake Facebook profiles amplify the hatred and pressure Nicaraguan Facebook users to begin to share and post hate messages. Many, if not most, of these fake Facebook profiles have been created in countries other than Nicaragua, and in particular, Miami is the city where many of the Facebook and WhatsApp accounts behind the violence are managed.

Historically, the ATC has been a participant in the Sandinista struggle. In truth, we have not felt consulted or represented by the current FSLN government. The current coup attempt makes use of these historical contradictions and is trying to co-opt the symbols, slogans, poems and songs of Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution, since of course the rightwing has none of its own. However we may feel about Daniel Ortega, the ATC would never contribute to making chaos and sowing violence in order to force the collapse of the democratically elected government in order to install a more docile, Washington-friendly neoliberal government. There are clearly real frustrations in sectors of the population, especially youth, and if these sectors are unable to find popular organizing processes, they will end up being the cannon fodder for a war, which would be the worst possible situation for the Nicaraguan people.

In this context, the ATC has called for “all national actors to reorganize themselves based on their aspirations.” With this intention, the ATC proposes to confront the national crisis with a series of dialogues among young people, without party distinction or any ideological basis, in favor of peace and understanding. We propose extraordinary youth assemblies in the cities of San Marcos, Jinotepe, Rivas, Granada, Masaya, Estelí, Matagalpa, Jinotega, Juigalpa, Santo Tomás and Tipitapa, as spaces for young people to discuss the national situation and find points of unity. It is important to mention that we do not have a previously defined “line” to impose upon these debates—they will be spaces for listening, forming ideas and thinking with our hearts.

We call upon your solidarity and generous support for the creation of an emergency fund for peace in Nicaragua that makes possible this round of extraordinary youth assemblies. The national coordinators of the Rural Youth Movement, Sixto Zelaya and Marlen Sanchez, will have the responsibility of organizing the assemblies and administering the fund with absolute transparency.

It is urgent to organize the Nicaraguan family and win peace!

International Secretariat of the ATC

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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.

Posted in NicaraguaComments Off on Nicaragua: Global ‘False’ Witness

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