By Fiorella Isabel – March 10, 2022
On November 7, 2021, Nicaragua celebrated presidential elections; three months later, on Feb. 6, Costa Rica had what turned out to be their first round of presidential elections; the final round would be held April 3. These neighboring countries’ elections were treated like night and day by the United States government and its media. The United States did everything they could to attempt to sabotage the Nicaraguan elections and US media did not say one positive thing about them; whereas for the US government and media, the Costa Rican elections were hyped as some of the best in Latin America.
On November 16, 2021, the Biden administration barred Nicaraguan officials including President Daniel Ortega, from entering the United States in response to Nicaragua’s refusal to entertain allegations that their November 7 Presidential elections were fraudulent. With over 75% of the vote the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) secured another victory for its president, Daniel Ortega.
In stark contrast, Costa Rica is constantly hailed as the beacon of democracy by the U.S and yet has some problematic issues when it comes to the current structure of its democracy. “The Citizens’ Audit On The Quality Of Democracy In Costa Rica,” showed many elements of undemocratic practices occurring in the country. On February 6th, Costa Rica had its first round of elections with 25 candidates. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) calculated that former President of Costa Rica, Jorge Figueres, with 27.29% and Rodrigo Chaves, of the Party for Social and Democratic Progress (PPSD) with 16.66%, were the top vote-earners and will go to a second final round on April 3, 2022. All 57 seats of the national legislative assembly are also up for grabs. According to the TSE, 40% of eligible voters stayed away from the first round of electoral voting. A higher percentage of eligible voters participated in Nicargua’s election (66%) than in Costa Rica (about 60%).
Even before the November 7, 2021, Nicaraguan elections took place, the US propaganda machine, made up of US government agencies, the US-controlled Organization of American States (OAS) and corporate media, called the election illegitimate, pushing false news and disinformation to attempt to subvert the validity of Nicaragua’s elections.
Two of the primary pieces of disinformation repeated again and again to turn lies into “truth” was that President Ortega was jailing his opposition and that he was highly unpopular. After the elections, the US falsely claimed there was a low turnout ; Nicaragua’s election turnout at 66% of the eligible voters is the highest in any country in the America’s in recent years. The graphic below shows percentage won of eligible voters participating, and Nicaragua also comes out on top.
The opposition media in Nicaragua and the US made many false claims for which there is no proof. The final count from Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) noted the FSLN won more than 75% of the votes of those who turned out, 66%.
In reality, Ortega was not jailing actual opposition party candidates and continues to be very popular, if not revered, by the majority of people in Nicaragua. Some 77.5% of Nicaraguans polled days before the election, expressed that in order for the country to advance socially and economically, the FSLN should govern the country, extremely similar to the percentage win of the FSLN. The FSLN’s presidential win has increased in each election since 2007 primarily because the standard of living and ease of access to health, education, electricity, potable water, cheap food and credit has risen every year. But this data didn’t stop U.S President Joe Biden from signing the RENACER Act, using false accusations as reasons to impose crippling and internationally illegal sanctions on the country. In reality both independent journalists and election observers verified that Nicaragua’s elections far surpass those of most countries, including but not limited to both the U.S and Costa Rica, a close ally to the U.S, in terms of direct democracy, organization, and security.
Dispelling the Claims against Nicaragua’s Elections
The United States spent hundreds of millions of dollars to attempt to destabilize the Sandinista government, even prior to the 2018 coup attempt which they funded. Many Nicaraguans were on the US payroll and/or laundered money for themselves and the coup through their nonprofit organizations. “Progressive” Democrats like Congressman Ro Khanna released statements in favor of sanctions on Nicaragua with the excuse that Ortega’s fury against his rivals justified the need to defend “democracy.”
On the false US claim that President Ortega jailed candidates, having interviewed locals, journalists and officials in Nicaragua, none of those who were investigated, indicted and detained, either in their homes or in jail, were candidates. In fact, according to an interview with Brenda Rocha, President of the CSE, who lost an arm at age 15 in a 1983 US-backed Contra attack, Ortega was not jailing any actual ballot-worthy opponents. The five people indicted for crimes such as money laundering, conspiracy and treason, who claimed to aspire to the presidency, were never actual candidates.
To be a candidate in Nicaragua you must be proposed by and run for a legal party; none of the five were even members of a party in 2021. Their “aspirations” to be president were part of the US propaganda campaign against the elections. The US press continually referred to them as “pre-candidates.” Let’s say one of them had been part of a legal political party and proposed by that party for president, they would have been disqualified by electoral law for a number of reasons. Two of the five who the US claimed to have been candidate “wannabes,” had lived more than six months of the previous four years outside of Nicaragua, disqualifying them from running for president. And all broke an electoral law that in order to run for office you cannot have committed any crimes. One of them, Medardo Mairena, was found guilty of murder and other crimes in the 2018 attempted coup but was freed as part of an amnesty in June 2019. The only requirement to keep all your rights was to not commit crimes. But they ended up once again getting millions in funding via NGOs from the United States in an attempt to overthrow the Sandinistas government.
Many of the Nicaraguan – US agents came from the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) a faction of upper class Sandinistas who got tired of no longer having the upper hand in government during the 1990s and broke off to work with US-friendly neoliberal governments. The group is no longer aligned with Sandinistas in any way, has changed their name to eliminate the word Sandinista, and abandoned anti-imperialism and socialism from their platform, but the western media constantly uses them to suggest that “Sandinistas” disapprove of Ortega. Wikileaks cables show a staunch history of the MRS meeting regularly with the US embassy, acting as informants and spies on behalf of the West.
There were more than 260 journalists and other foreigners from more than 21 nations following and monitoring the November election. The election ballot was agreed upon by all participating parties with six opponents for the presidency. For basic facts on Nicaragua’s very secure electoral system see here. No one from any political party was allowed to mass campaign (more than 250 people) due to COVID-19 restrictions; US-directed propaganda claimed only the FSLN campaigned. The US shamelessly lied about there being no advertising for any party other than the Sandinistas, something easily proven entirely false by independent media who were following the election on the ground and in real time. Western outlets like the New York Times flagrantly lied about closed voting centers while many observers and journalists were there witnessing no such thing. That same day Joe Biden released a statement calling the Nicaraguan election a “pantomime” sham election. Western mainstream media failed to cover the elections on the ground but proceeded to write smear pieces about several independent journalists. Business Insider wrote a propaganda piece alleging journalists were paid (with no evidence) by the Sandinista government and were swayed to be “uncritical” of the elections.
The reality was that from the moment polls opened at 7a.m. to the time they closed at around 6 p.m., the election process was extremely well-organized and people were in a celebratory mood. There were computers at every voting precinct with aides to help voters find their polling station. In Nicaragua there are 13,459 polling stations (mainly in classrooms) in some 3,100 voting centers (mostly schools) in every corner of the nation. Most citizens walk less than one kilometer to their voting center.
The website to look up your voting center and polling station worked very well, but there were also polling station lists plastered on the walls of each voting center (school). Upon entering your particular polling station along with the polling station board officials, there were also members of participating parties there to monitor the process (poll watchers). More than 80,754 poll watchers from seven parties had been trained and sworn in.
Journalists and observers (who had to wear special vests) were also able to monitor the entire process, as long as they did not disturb voters. A voter would go up to the table and check in with their official ID (held by more than 95% of the population age 16 and over) and their name and picture would be found on a list. Then they were given a ballot and went to mark it in private and place it in the urn. Once they voted their thumb was marked with black ink that would stay on for days to ensure that no one committed fraud by attempting to vote again. Except for the first and last hour of the voting day, lines were short and in one of the larger precincts we timed a person who took 8 minutes to vote. Once polls closed, the counting process was done by the voting station board; party poll watchers monitored and all signed the polling station results and received a copy. One copy of the “acta” was pasted outside the school so anyone could know the results by 8pm. The original of the “acta” was transported with those same people from the polling station, by bus and with police security, to each departmental electoral board office. The results were also submitted electronically to Managua, the capital, where the members of the Supreme Electoral Council were posting updates to the media and the official website.
Costa Rica, the Capitalist Haven & Privatized Counterpart to Nicaragua
Costa Rica, a favorite for U.S expats and often highly praised in Western media, is a US capitalist dependent country, where many things like health care that used to be fairly good for the population have been privatized in recent years. The country is dominated by tourism and the private sector. According to a recent audit, over 80% of people think that justice is not equal in Costa Rica and “that it facilitates cover-ups of crooked politicians.” Costa Rica is also the only nation in Latin America that’s a Catholic state, not a secular state. Costa Rica says it doesn’t have a military, but their Civil Guard effectively operates as one. There was a large movement of organizations against CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) in Costa Rica, but the US and the wealthy lobbied for it. When it was ratified in 2006, this led to more concentration of economic power as well as privatizations.
This particular 2022 election has come down to two candidates, one extremely problematic and the other not offering any real change, sort of a reformist social democratic candidate. The platforms of both include social austerity (social spending cuts), more privatizations of state-owned entities, taxes on workers, not on the wealthy or large businesses, more free trade, and tax havens to hide fortunes – everything the United States wants.
The more progressive candidates got about 8% in the legislature, but did not fare well in the presidential elections.
Jose Figueres, currently the favored candidate, comes from a political dynasty and was already President of the nation at the age of 39, in 1994, under the National Liberation Party (PNL). His father was rabidly anti-communist and took power by military force. Like many US approved intelligence assets and DC beltway politicians, Figueres studied at the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard. While President, he privatized much of the country, shutting down the National Railway System and closing down the oldest state-owned bank, Banco Anglo Costarricense. He attempted to slash the teacher’s special pension fund, which led to a series of strikes, including the longest in Costa Rican history. Described as a centrist, technocrat with a vision for national development as “Green Capitalism,” he wants to open Costa Rica to more world trade.
More troubling is Figueres’ ex-title as CEO and executive director of the World Economic Forum (WEF) where he resigned in 2004 in the midst of allegations of financial misconduct related to receiving US $900,000 for consultancy work in telecommunications with the Alcatel Corporation. Although Figueres was never charged by the Costa Rican Attorney General’s office, the Paradise Papers shows evidence against him. But ultimately, he is a very familiar name, and that alone is to his advantage.
In this election Figueres proposed and defended making English a “co-official” language to give Costa Ricans more “opportunity” but this is opposed by many who find it humiliating to focus more on being good laborers for corporate America.
Rodrigo Chaves also attended Harvard and sold himself as a social democrat but more as a technocrat. He worked at the World Bank and served as minister in the current government. He wants to make English mandatory in schools and his strategy for running is based on “anti-corruption” on a national front. Sexual harassment complaints against him have been brought up even in debates.
Chaves, like most Costa Rican politicians, does not offer the fundamental changes needed to break the country free from Western reliance both economically and politically. Neither candidate proposes social improvements in employment, health or education. Whoever wins, business as usual will continue benefitting the wealthy Costa Ricans and foreigners, most of whom are US citizens.
In contrast Nicaragua remains ahead of most Latin American countries in health statistics, social infrastructure, gender equity and food sovereignty, where 90% of its food comes from within the country. Nicaragua is leaving the OAS (Organization of American States) to protect its own electoral sovereignty. On December 9, 2021, it recognized China over Taiwan, and will be working with the superpower to invest in infrastructure. Nicaragua is number one in the world for women in ministerial positions, number 3 for women in Parliament and number one in the Americas in gender equity. It is no wonder that with rapidly increasing advances in economic development, infrastructure, and equity, that Nicaragua has become a threat to the power elite in the US. In spite of targeted sanctions and smears, Nicaragua is a nation to be emulated by many, including its Central America neighbor, Costa Rica.
Fiorella Isabel is an independent journalist on Substack, and host of the news show The Convo Couch. She covers U.S politics, foreign policy, elections, and the surveillance state.
Featured image: File photo.
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