By Peter Bolton – Nov 1, 2021
On October 25, about two weeks before Nicaragua’s 2021 presidential election, the Socialist International (SI) released a statement titled Nicaragua: A Contemporary Victim of Absolute Power. Given the steady stream of tendentious twaddle about Nicaragua that’s been disseminated from Washington and dutifully repeated by the corporate-owned media, one might reasonably assume that the global federation of social democratic and labor parties would at least provide some semblance of balance.
But far from adding nuance, the statement reads as if it were a press release sent directly from the US State Department. Apparently, the SI isn’t interested in supporting socialist movements in other countries unless they are pro-Washington neoliberal-lite formations in the vein of Tony Blair’s Labour Party in the United Kingdom and Gerhard Schroder’s Social Democratic Party in Germany.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised. After all, the SI counts amongst its members some parties with laughably dubious socialist credentials. Examples include the highly corrupt, clientelist and largely centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) from Mexico as well as the Colombian Liberal Party, whose membership included hard-right former president Álvaro Uribe until 2001. But perhaps the most notable example is the Venezuelan party Popular Will, which was admitted to membership in 2014.
Popular Will purports to be a “social democratic” party despite being led by the notorious far-right Venezuelan opposition figure Leopoldo López. The party emerged in 2009 as a splinter group of Justice First, the party to which fellow right-wing opposition leader Henrique Capriles has belonged since defecting from the hard-right COPEI in 2000. Popular Will’s most notable member of late is Juan Guaidó, the leader of the Washington-backed coup attempt that has been ongoing since January 2019. Guaidó was a member until 2020 when he left to become an independent. If ever there were a reductio ad absurdum to the SI’s claim to be a socialist organization, then the inclusion of Popular Will is surely it.
It’s only a small step, therefore, for the SI to start openly propagandizing for Washington’s coercive foreign policy. It has now done so with a statement that patently serves to support the US-led effort to delegitimize the upcoming election in Nicaragua. Apparently, the statement’s authors couldn’t even get past the first sentence without repeating all of the usual self-serving talking points, which Washington uses to provide bogus justification for its self-interested campaign of regime change. It reads:
Since the grave events of April 2018, when the violent repression of social protests by the government of Daniel Ortega left hundreds of fatalities among the thousands of citizens who demonstrated in the streets and cities of the country to make their voice heard for their rights, the sombre will of authoritarianism emerged in Nicaragua.
Contained within just this one sentence is an avalanche of dishonest misrepresentation and manipulative rhetoric that can be easily debunked by even the most cursory examination of what happened during the social unrest in 2018. For a start, the “violent repression of social protests” in part resulted from the fact that some of the protesters were themselves engaging in violence and other criminal acts. They, therefore, could only have expected to face arrest, as they would have in any country with a functioning criminal justice system. So, far from constituting “authoritarianism,” the Ortega government was simply upholding the rule of law—a purported lack of which Washington frequently invokes to provide cover and manufacture consent for its global campaign of regime change.
The sentence also contains some staggering lies-by-omission. Among the “hundreds of fatalities” were those committed by anti-government actors, who also attacked public property and houses belonging to government officials. Anti-government mobs even firebombed a building that housed an independent media outlet called RadioYa!, which they perceived to be pro-Sandinista—while the station’s 22 staff members were still inside! There were also many people marching in support of the government, whose point of view evidently counts for nothing to the pro-Washington media, given that it largely failed to report these gatherings, or to the SI, which did not mention them once in its statement.
The statement then says:
It is within this context that in recent months a number of citizens in opposition to the regime made known their aspirations to stand as presidential candidates in the elections on November 7, and ended up in prison. Today there are 37 opponents arrested, including seven who had made known their intention to run as candidate for the presidency.
The first thing to mention here is that the statement is clearly trying to imply that the government arrested these figures because of their purported political ambitions. But it fails to point out that many of these so-called dissidents have been receiving money from Washington’s major regime change bodies such as the CIA and/or CIA front groups such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and National Endowment of Democracy (NED). This behavior, which amounts to serving as an agent of a hostile foreign power, is criminalized in many other countries including in the US itself. Indeed, in a cruel irony, the new national sovereignty laws that Ortega’s government introduced to address this problem of foreign interference in the country’s political processes were based on the US’s own FARA Act.
Furthermore, none of those arrested were in consideration as candidates for the upcoming presidential elections. None of them even belonged any active, registered Nicaraguan political party. So, the (itself dubious) claim that they “had made known their intention to run as candidate for the presidency” is (even assuming it’s true) seemingly just a useful ad hoc declaration made solely to discredit Ortega and his government. Indeed, the SI statement says that in addition to Ortega’s own registration as a candidate, “five other lists… were accepted by the current electoral bodies that will supervise the elections.” In other words, Ortega has numerous opponents in the election, a fact which contradicts the statement’s own insinuation that he is misusing the criminal justice system to remove rival candidates.
Next the statement says:
The United Nations, the European Union and the Organization of American States have spoken out and reiterated their concern over these developments, which indicate that elections can hardly be considered free, fair and transparent.
Though accurate prima facie, the statement nonetheless leaves out some crucial nuance. The Organization of American States (OAS), for example, has long been an instrument of Washington’s coercive foreign policy all throughout the Western Hemisphere. A recent example of its flagrant partiality to the US is the 2019 coup in Bolivia against the democratically elected president, Evo Morales.
The OAS colluded with Washington by falsely claiming that the result was tainted by fraud. The organization based this accusation on its own audit of the election results, which even The New York Times described as “marred by grave irregularities”. The Times concluded: “A close look at Bolivian election data suggests an initial analysis by the OAS that raised questions of vote-rigging—and helped force out a president—was flawed.” The OAS’s secretary-general, Luis Almagro, meanwhile, has used his position to undermine other left-of-center governments such as that in Venezuela, his contempt for which he makes no secret of whatsoever, by misusing the organization’s “Democratic Charter.”
In October, the OAS released a statement about Nicaragua that preposterously claimed that Ortega’s government “has used a series of Russian inspired laws as justification to repress [his] people.” Again, these laws are based on the US’s own FARA Act, which criminalizes foreign funding and other intervention into its elections and political system, and which has counterparts in many other nations.
The United Nations (UN), meanwhile, has frequently been subjected to pressure from pro-Washington organizations such as Human Rights Watch, whose lack of independence is so brazen that it even contains former State Department personnel on its board of directors. In June 2021, Reuters reported:
Human Rights Watch urged the United Nations and member countries on Tuesday to pressure Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to stop alleged human rights abuses, including a crackdown on opposition figures ahead of a November presidential election.
UN votes to condemn Nicaragua, meanwhile, haven’t exactly passed with unanimous approval. In June 2020, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution condemning alleged human rights abuses by Ortega’s government. The measure passed 24-4, but with 19 abstentions. Had those 19 abstaining countries had the courage of their convictions, the resolution would have passed by just a single vote.
In any case, the UN has long been dominated by Western imperialist powers, which make up the majority of the UN Security Council. The US has frequently used its veto power to overrule resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly. Examples include a resolution condemning the US’s unilateral blockade of Cuba, which has passed by a majority every time a vote has been held since 1992.
US intelligence has even, on at least one occasion, illegally spied on other countries in order to blackmail them into supporting its resolutions, as was uncovered by UK whistleblower Katharine Gun in the run up to the invasion of Iraq. In spite of the high hopes that were placed on the UN in the aftermath of the Second World War and the failure of the League of Nations, its structures were ultimately unable to prevent the US from unilaterally deciding to go through with the invasion on patently false pretenses.
As for the European Union (EU), one can only wonder what business a regional institution composed of European nations has commenting on a situation thousands of miles away in a different hemisphere.
The SI concludes its statement:
Today, two weeks before the elections, the SI once again reiterates its rejection of government interventionism and condemns the repression that the government has been deploying throughout the country, on Nicaraguan society as a whole. The regimes of one party and the restriction of freedoms and fundamental rights of the people are incompatible with democracy and contrary to the principles that inspire the Socialist International.
Notice again that its claim of one-party rule is flatly contradicted elsewhere in the statement, where it acknowledges that Ortega will face opposition from five separate challengers in the upcoming election.
But moreover, what this conclusion doesn’t say is even more interesting than what it does say. It talks of “government interventionism” without once mentioning the aggressive foreign US intervention that Nicaragua has been on the receiving end for decades. Even before the Sandinistas entered the scene, Washington was propping up the ruthless dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza. Life for ordinary Nicaraguans was hardly a bed of roses under Somoza given his staunch adherence to strong arm rule and nepotistic policies that led to widespread inequality. But Washington didn’t indignantly pontificate about human rights violations back then since Somoza was obediently serving US economic interests.
As soon as the Sandinistas succeeded in overthrowing the Somoza dictatorship in 1979, the CIA created, armed, and trained a bloodthirsty paramilitary organization called the Contras, which waged a brutal dirty war against the new government and meets the US government’s own definition of terrorism. Washington’s continued support for the country’s right-wing opposition, meanwhile, has involved pumping tens of millions of dollars into organizations like the Chomorro Foundation, which has been a major player in undermining the government and facilitating the US’s regime change efforts.
Whatever shreds of credibility the SI might have had have now been sledgehammered into dust by this pathetic, servile statement, which serves only to provide further cover for Washington’s efforts to undermine Nicaraguan democracy for its own self-serving purposes. It is also another small piece of proof of the complete uselessness of the tepid social democratic ideology that has so disastrously failed to resist the imperialist and neoliberal status quo upheld by both US parties and allied right-wing forces across the world. This failure has now morphed into a new phase of outright support for Washington’s coercive foreign policy, which perfectly demonstrates what a worthless fossil the SI has become.
Featured image: (From left to right) Eduardo Verano de la Rosa (Candidate for Governor for the Atlantic department for the Liberal party in Colombia), Horacio Serpa (Former Colombian presidential candidate) Luis Ayala (Secretary General of the Socialist International), Carlos Vecchio, Guaido’s fake ambassador to Washington, and Luis Florido, a Popular Will politician at a Socialist International event. Photo: La Patilla