Who’s Afraid of Sandinista Nicaragua? (Interview)

Interview with Fabrizio Casari
Despite continuing to be the object of strong US interference and coup attempts, Nicaragua is resisting with all the contradictions the situation implies, continuing to scare the oligarchy out of its wits. We talked about this and much more with journalist Fabrizio Casari, director of the on-line magazine Altrenotizie.org, someone very knowledgeable about Nicaragua.

1) Elections will be held in Nicaragua in November 2021. Who are the candidates and parties that will run?

There are 11 national parties and 6 regional parties (belonging to the Atlantic and Caribbean coast) that will participate in the elections to elect the President and Vice-President, the National Assembly and the Central American Parliament. There are two alliances: “Nicaragua Unida Triunfa”, headed by the FSLN, and “Alianza de Ciudadanos por la Libertad”, headed by the party of the same name. The latter is also supported by the country’s main private business organization, COSEP.

2) The mainstream media never talk about Nicaragua, but on their web pages these days they amuse themselves by pointing to Daniel Ortega for another “authoritarian turn”. What is the truth?

First of all, it must be said that linking Daniel Ortega to some kind of “authoritarian turn” is, at this point, a ridiculous cliché, one pronounced against any country that is not part of the United States dominated alliance system, as one might euphemistically term what is really a relationship of servitude. In fact, it is enough to scan a map of the world to see the extraordinary coincidence between so-called “authoritarian states” and how practically all of them are governments not aligned with Washington or Brussels. Continuing with that theme of coincidence, you will observe how almost all these countries are subjected to unilateral coercive measures and suffer coup attempts that are sold to us as spontaneous rebellions poetically dubbed this or that “spring”.

And this is exactly what is happening in Nicaragua, where the judiciary, based on well supported revelations by investigative journalism and incontrovertible material evidence, has opened an criminal investigation into money laundering by the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation which, together with two other Chamorro family owned foundations – FUNIDES and CINCO – received substantial funds from the United States and the European Union which they have used to organize Nicaragua’s political opposition. The funds – some 100 million dollars in recent years – were invested in setting up and reinforcing anti-government media and political networks (funding newspapers, online media outlets, television and radio stations and political parties); but also a good part of those funds financed the coup attempt of 2018 and were used to establish a paramilitary network with which to attempt a new coup after next November’s elections.

The plan, conceived in Washington and called Responsive Assistance in Nicaragua (RAIN), was to be implemented once the expected victory of Daniel Ortega and the “Nicaragua Unida Triunfa” coalition became official.

3) What about Mrs. Chamorro?

Mrs. Chamorro is legally responsible for her foundation. The money came to her from the U.S. and Europe. She refused to answer the Nicaraguan investigating magistrates’ questions about the money trail, arguing that the U.S. State Department described the funding process as normal and, therefore, she had no grounds to cooperate with the Nicaraguan judiciary. Above all, she has refused to say where US$7.5 million went, which is unaccounted for, but has disappeared from the relevant accounts. The investigators suspect the money went to finance the logistics of paramilitary gangs operating in the north of the country, the new Contras, in short.

The judicial investigation has as its legal basis the laws that the legislative system has issued relating to the country’s national security. These laws are substantially identical to those in force in all European countries and in the United States itself. They refer to the obligation to report funds coming from abroad, in particular from foreign institutions and the obligation to document their existence, intended purposes and final use. Then there are laws prohibiting collaborating with foreign countries, requesting foreign military invasions, or seeking boycott activities, sanctions and embargoes against the country and they also refer to a law issued by the right wing Liberal government of Violeta Chamorro in 1995. The fact that we now see the daughter becoming the object of sanctions proposed by a law promulgated by her mother is perhaps pure coincidence.

They are accused of treason and conspiracy with foreign states against the country’s national integrity and, really, it is hard to see anywhere in the world where the authorities might have have acted differently. The difference between Nicaragua and the United States, for example, is that the same law in the United States provides for a minimum of 15 years imprisonment, which is more than the maximum penalty applicable in Nicaragua.

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Similarly another law regulating candidacy for public office, was sought after and passed in the 1990’s by the same people who are now complaining that it is being used against them. What is being applied is precisely the law they argued for at a time when they never imagined it might after all be applied to them.

It should be noted that the same type of investigation, related to money laundering, corruption, illegal financing from abroad and tax evasion, is currently happening in Costa Rica, but no one protests about it. So, if laws are enforced to protect national security, crush illegal trafficking and the financing of armed gangs, the democratic integrity of that is applauded everywhere, but if the same thing happens in Nicaragua it is accused of being an authoritarian State. Strange, isn’t it?

4) So much commotion about the arrest of members of the Nicaraguan right wing, but nobody has said why they were arrested. Is there a repeat of the 2018 coup attempt?

As it happens, it is worth pointing out that those detained are not candidates for anything, since the presentation of candidacies has not taken place yet. These are aspirants who, moreover, are fighting aggressively among themselves. Another proof of the lack of any relationship between the arrests and the electoral campaign is the fact that most of those being investigated are not candidates for anything and many, such as the president of the Banpro banking group, are not even members of a political party.

Yes, what is brewing is a new coup attempt and this time the Government of Nicaragua has not been caught by surprise and has decided to act preemptively, having enough proof and evidence to be able to activate a program of prevention.

5) In July 2020, journalist William Grigsby Vado revealed that between 2017 and 2018 Washington paid 28 million dollars to anti-Sandinista opponents. Is there still US interference in Nicaraguan politics?

U.S. interference in Nicaragua continues to be very strong. Without it there would be no coup attempts nor the permanent efforts at destabilization. Not only in Nicaragua, for sure, but in the whole Latin American region, but in Nicaragua they have been historically very significant ever since 1927 and before. It should be noted that practically since the Sandinista Front, led by Comandante Daniel Ortega, returned to government in January 2007, Nicaragua has been officially defined by Washington as a “threat to the national security of the United States.” Considering that a country the size of Lombardy, with six and a half million inhabitants and a GDP ranked 140th in the world, is hardly a credible threat to a huge country with over 300 million inhabitants, the second largest economic and military power in the world, it is understandable that political hostility is in fact the only driving force behind U.S. attempts to destabilize Nicaragua.

The US has given a lot of funding to the fifth column in Nicaragua, i.e., the oligarchic families, the ultra-right and the Catholic Church hierarchy, as well as the FSLN traitors who are the most extreme part of the right wing but falsely present themselves as being on the Left. NGOs and foundations, human rights organizations and other phony enterprises were set up precisely so as to receive money from the United States. Under U.S. law, if it comes from government agencies (such as USAID and NED), that money cannot be paid to individual citizens, but only to organizations and associations deemed to satisfy U.S. objectives and interests.

The funds donated by USAID, NED, IRI, NDI, the Soros foundations, and other European foundations, Spanish ones in particular, as well as the EU itself, amount to some US$100 million over the last 5 years. A huge sum in a country where the minimum wage is just US$200 a month and an electoral campaign for the presidency costs 10-20 million Euros.

6) A few years ago, Ortega was criticized by former Sandinistas for having made a pact with the right wing, for having spoken out against abortion “conquering the Church”. However, currently, it does not seem that the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference is on good terms with the Sandinista government.

Those who have criticized Ortega for having made a pact with the right wing are ex-Sandinistas who themselves allied with the right wing in successive elections. The difference is that Daniel Ortega made a constitutional agreement over electoral reform (which is done everywhere with the participation of all parties) while the MRS has been an organic political ally of what is now the coup mongering right wing since 1994. As for abortion, it is an objective limitation of Nicaraguan legislation resulting from both an agreement with the country’s churches and the support of the deep Christian culture that characterizes both the very base of the FSLN and the population in general. But along with this it must be remembered that under the Sandinista government the role of women has changed profoundly, to the point that they are the ones who have the protagonists of loans and property titles facilitated by the State to promote the country’s family-based popular economy and it should be emphasized that Nicaragua is among the top five countries in the world in terms of the reduction of the gender gap. An extraordinary result for a Latin American country with a rural base.

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The Episcopal Conference is the ideological soul of the coup and in 2018 played an extremely lurid role, presenting itself as mediator while in fact leading the coup, trying to deceive the population and the government. But the population discovered the trick and eventually stormed the churches, finding that they were concealing criminals, weapons, medicines, provisions and money. The basements of some churches were used for torture and a priest in Masaya participated directly in the murder of a police lieutenant, beaten, tortured and burned alive in front of a barricade by the so-called “peaceful students”.

7) How did Sandinista Nicaragua respond to the Covid-19 health crisis?

The only way it could. That is, by continuing to implement free and quality health care policies, including mass vaccination campaigns for the entire population, which is now epidemiologically among the most protected in the continent. In 14 years, 20 hospitals have been built and Nicaragua is, together with Mexico, the only country in the region that has two linear accelerators for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

8) How can the Sandinista Revolution, in a small country like Nicaragua, continue to scare the US oligarchy?

In the first place, it must be said that Washington remains faithful to the Monroe Doctrine, which is based on the motto “America for the Americans”, understanding by the former the territory from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego and by the latter exclusively US citizens. They consider Central America and the Caribbean as their “backyard”, and have a vision of political relations with the region’s component States based on the model of Puerto Rico, that is, that of colonial protectorates.

Looking at the matter more deeply, I must explain to you that there are several aspects, all of them very important, leading the United States to maintain a permanent war against Nicaragua. Let us break the matter down.

The ideological aspect is the absolute unwillingness of the United States to accept governments that are not subjugated to them, no matter where they are in the world.

The political aspect. Specifically in Latin America – and even more so in Central America and the Caribbean – the example of rebellion against its colonial order by countries like Nicaragua, Cuba or Venezuela or Bolivia mark dangerous geopolitical reverberations for the United States. They fear a contagious effect in the rest of the Continent. Among other things, because the spectacular results of the Sandinista policy at the social level confirm the argument that without US pressure, the region can indeed grow more and do better. Reduction of over 50% of extreme poverty and around 48% of relative poverty; substantial food self-sufficiency; energy self-sufficiency with 60% of energy coming from renewable sources; completely free health care with 20 new hospitals built and hundreds of health posts throughout the country; completely free and subsidized education up to post-graduate level with teaching materials and food for students; a flexible pension system for people over 60; tripling of exports and reduction of imports, a financial surplus, currency reserves of US$3.6 billion for a country that historically struggled to reach US$100 million. Micro-credit loans under the Zero Usury program, support for agricultural cooperatives, houses built by the government for needy families and mass distribution of property titles. This is the Sandinista socio-economic model, based on the fight to reduce poverty: a mixed economy system using the capitalist concept for accumulation and the socialist concept for distribution. A model that would be good to import instead of fighting against.

Geostrategic configuration. Nicaragua has its own foreign policy based on the same criteria as its domestic policy: independence, self-determination and national sovereignty. Already these three concepts clash with the idea that the United States has of Nicaragua, which they expect to be merely a faithful geographical extension of theirs, but to this must be added the decisions the government in Managua makes regarding its economic, social and political growth.

In this sense, the project for the construction of an Interoceanic Canal, which would surpass the Panama Canal, is being considered. The realization of the Canal would give Nicaragua a central role on the international chessboard and would reduce the route between the Pacific and the Atlantic by more than 12 hours of sailing time with the consequent reduction of costs for shipowners around the world, both in the transport of cargo and of tourist traffic. The United States does not tolerate even the idea let alone that it should be a Chinese company carrying out the mega-work (ports, airports, highways and urban settlements)! Washington views as extremely dangerous China’s progressively growing presence in Latin American markets with even possible military repercussions in Venezuela.

In addition, Nicaragua hosts a station of Russia’s Glonass Global Postioning System with which Moscow monitors traffic over the Caribbean and both sides of the oceans in Central America, with the intention of improving its national security, in just the same way as the United States, France and the United Kingdom. Washington fears a progressively more effective Russian offensive and defensive capability in general and especially in what it considers its “backyard”, forgetting the menacing presence of US and NATO troops on Russia’s borders. It is like the fiction of Russian interference in the US elections, denounced with outrage by the same people have bought and rigged elections in almost every country in the world for over 60 years.

The economic aspect. The United States unloads its domestic market’s surplus goods on the Latin American subcontinent while importing mineral and other resources of strategic value at low prices based on very cheap labor. We should remember that the United States produces 22% of the world’s resources, but consumes about 52%. The difference between the two numbers is made up by plundering other peoples’ resources, otherwise the US model would be shown up for what it is: a system sustained only by never-honored indebtedness thanks to continuous printing of currency, coupled with its domination of the international banking system and multilateral financial organizations, and the outright theft of resources by means of military force. If that were not the case, there would not be more than 800 US military bases outside the United States serving a million soldiers.

Reflections on the domestic economy. Illegal immigration, used as a reserve army for the US productive process (in the Southern US states especially) exerts strong pressure on the structure of the labor market; this leads to the reduction of wages and employment rights, increasing the competitiveness of American goods and services in the domestic and international market. If socialist or even Keynesian policies were imposed in Latin American countries, for example as in Nicaragua, which in recent years has enjoyed a 4.5% annual GDP growth rate and the lowest migration on the continent, then labor migration to the US would be drastically reduced and within twenty years we could well see a strong reversal of the trend.

This would have consequences in terms of increasing the wages and rights of US workers, thus reducing even more the employers’ rate of profit in the US where production already lags Asia in terms of product innovation. The US is also undercut by China, India and Russia and all the other emerging players in the world economy, while in response the US imposes sanctions and political pressure to try in vain to maintain its diminishing commercial advantages.

But this is the desperate move of a system that has ceased to be inclusive in any way and has become exclusive. As if it were trapped in quicksand, Western capitalism sinks deeper and deeper with every move it makes. For the US, permanent destabilization in every corner of the planet is their only recourse, because turning the world into a vast theater of war and instability makes military power feasible as the last refuge of capitalism in collapse, a victim of its inability to stop its own insane acceleration towards the precipice. As many analysts had already understood following the fall of the socialist bloc in 1989, the United States has ceased to contribute to planetary equilibrium and instead has become the fundamental problem causing instability.

 

 

Featured image: File Photo

(Internationalist 360°) by Lorenzo Poli

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