Nicaragua stands up to U.S. election interference

Celebration of the 42nd anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution in Managua, Nicaragua, July 19.

On Sunday, Nov. 7, voters in Nicaragua will go to the polls in elections for president, vice president and National Assembly representatives. According to polls, they are likely to hand a convincing victory to incumbent President Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista party. Wall Street, Washington and reactionary forces throughout Latin America are not happy about it.

Reports in mainstream U.S. media present as fact that the upcoming elections will be “fraudulent” and denounce “dictator” Ortega’s administration for detaining opposition leaders and businesspeople. 

Left out is the fact that those who’ve been arrested, detained or disqualified from the elections have been exposed for participating in the violent 2018 anti-government protest movement and collaborating with Western governments and NGOs to halt the country’s progressive social reforms.

Rarely mentioned is that seven political parties, including pro-U.S. opposition parties, are on the ballot.

“It is every country’s right to defend its peace and sovereignty. That is what we will do, in accordance with the United Nations Charter. The Nicaraguan people are the only ones responsible to resolve their problems,” President Ortega declared Oct. 26.

The Nicaraguan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned U.S. Ambassador Kevin Sullivan. A Donald Trump appointee kept in his position by Joe Biden, Sullivan continues a long and inglorious tradition of U.S. diplomatic personnel coordinating counterrevolutionary plots and scheming with the CIA against the peoples of Latin America.

“We demand that Mr. Sullivan cease his covert attacks, his hypocritical salutations, disguised as a diplomatic courtesy that he abandoned long ago, and that rather has been, and is, an example of the continuous, perverse, detestable, invasive interference of the U.S. in our Nicaragua, so many abusive and criminal interventions that we have denounced and will continue to denounce,” according to the ministry’s Oct. 11 statement.

A delegation from the U.S., led by the Nicaragua Network/Alliance for Global Justice, visited the country from Oct. 3-10 to observe election preparations firsthand and investigate Nicaragua’s progress in the fight against COVID-19. The delegation met with numerous government officials and leaders of the National Assembly. They also traveled to cities and towns throughout the country to see Nicaragua’s public healthcare system in action.

At the end of the visit, the delegates condemned “the tsunami of false information generated daily by the U.S. State Department and its allies in the national and international media against Nicaragua” and called for “the mobilization of the entire progressive movement in defense of Nicaragua.”

On Oct. 18, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – People’s Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP), an alliance of Latin American and Caribbean countries that seek to be independent of U.S. domination, also condemned the U.S. and Organization of American States for “destabilizing attempts against the legitimate government of the sister Republic of Nicaragua.

“The Alliance welcomes the preparation of the electoral process of the Republic of Nicaragua. Moreover, it reaffirms its support to the Sandinista government, President Daniel Ortega Saavedra, Vice President Rosario Murillo and the Nicaraguan people in their decision to continue defending the sovereignty, peace and notable social, economic and security advances, as well as the national unity achieved.

“The member countries of the Alliance call on the international community to reject [U.S.-directed] intimidations and to defend the sovereignty, the self-determination and the political independence” of Nicaragua. 

Setbacks and advances

The Sandinista political party is the offspring of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), an alliance of guerrilla movements which overthrew the U.S. puppet Anastosio Somoza in 1979. The wealthy and brutal Somoza family had ruled the country nonstop since the 1930s. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) said in 1939, “Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

Because of an unrelenting U.S. proxy war throughout the 1980s, coupled with internal differences in the FSLN, the Nicaraguan Revolution was not able to fully overturn the capitalist state and uproot the system of exploitation for profit. Nevertheless, great efforts were made throughout the decade to raise the living standards of the masses, eliminate illiteracy and increase access to housing and healthcare, in the midst of a civil war that killed more than 30,000 people.

(Washington famously funded the so-called “contra war” in part by flooding Black and other oppressed communities in the U.S. with cocaine — serving the additional purpose of accelerating racist mass incarceration of “surplus” workers here at home.)

In 1990, after years of bloody war and as counterrevolutionary developments overwhelmed Nicaragua’s socialist allies in the USSR and Eastern Europe, U.S.-allied Violeta Chamorro was able to capture the presidency. Over the next two decades, Nicaragua’s capitalist class rolled back many of the gains of the revolution.

The Sandinista movement was converted into an opposition political party with an essentially social-democratic program. Nevertheless, its strong popular roots allowed the party to reemerge as a force in the early 2000s with the rise of Chavismo in Venezuela and the subsequent “pink tide” in Latin America. In 2006, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was elected president again, and the party has led Nicaragua since.

In 2018, a violent, far-right protest movement, financed and encouraged by the U.S. government, threw the country into chaos. It attempted to topple Nicaragua’s government the same way the right ousted Bolivian leader Evo Morales in 2019. 

Fortunately the Sandinistas were able to weather this storm and begin rebuilding from the attempts to wreck the country’s economy, including U.S. sanctions.

‘Liberal’ media used against Nicaragua

A key role in the information war against Nicaragua is being played by some left/liberal media. These efforts aim to isolate Nicaragua by breaking down solidarity from supporters among Western progressives.

For example, British newspaper The Guardian has recently published articles attacking Nicaragua’s election process. An Oct. 22 piece by Guardian Latin America correspondent Tom Phillips sports the headline, “Nicaraguan business leaders arrested in Ortega’s pre-election crackdown.”

Leading off with the detention of Michael Healey, president of Nicaragua’s business association Cosep, Phillips quotes unnamed opposition activists who called it a “kidnapping” of “a key figure in the unusual alliance between student activists and big business that tried to topple Nicaragua’s strongman president in 2018.” 

The Guardian then goes on to spread the slander, approvingly quoting right-wing newspaper La Prensa’s claim that Nicaragua is experiencing “a level of repression that surpasses even violent and oppressive governments such as Venezuela’s.”

Similarly, The Nation magazine has been drawn into the imperialist propaganda war, publishing a hit piece on Sept. 28 entitled “Why the media no longer cares about Nicaragua” by Eric Alterman. After reviewing the long history of U.S. intervention in Nicaragua, Alterman then stands reality on its head, asserting that the current Sandinista government is somehow the modern version of the U.S. contras, shielded by Washington and media “elites.”

Alterman’s lies were exposed in a letter to the editor of The Nation written by Richard Kohn, a member of Friends Of Latin America, and shared with Struggle-La Lucha:

“The Nation should be embarrassed for publishing such right-wing drivel and CIA propaganda. … Neoliberal governments that let their people starve while shipping their resources north for a pittance are ‘free’ and ‘democratic’ and what we all want. Governments that try to improve the lives of their own people are corrupt Marxist dictatorships. …

“In the 1980s, Stephen Kinzer corresponded for the New York Times, writing some of the most virulently anti-Sandinista lies that were dutifully repeated by most other outlets. The Nation was one of the few outlets that occasionally reminded us that the Sandinistas’ supposed human rights violations were exaggerated, and that they did improve the lives of many Nicaraguan people early after overthrowing the dictator Somoza and before the U.S. sanctions and war had their full impact. They had reduced illiteracy and poverty and built health clinics throughout the countryside, all achievements that were systematically attacked by U.S.-backed terrorists (Contras).

“Ortega returned to power in 2007 and Alterman claims he ‘proved himself not to be a [Bernie] Sanders-style democratic socialist’. That may be true. The Sandinistas built 21 hospitals, hundreds of health clinics, and low-income homes. They supported women’s rights and now Nicaragua is fifth in the world (after the Nordic countries) for gender equity. They did not legalize abortion because most of their population would not support it. They reintroduced free public education to everyone from primary school through university. I don’t recall Senator Sanders accomplishing anything like that. 

“What the Sandinistas didn’t do is arrest people for running for office or speaking out against President Ortega. Some people were arrested for laundering money from the U.S. to promote violent protests, but none of them were candidates for office, although some became candidates after being arrested. The police eventually used force against violent street protests that had killed many bystanders and police officers in 2018. They did not censor the press or kill or torture journalists (that’s the U.S.).”

With the Biden administration continuing to promote anti-people, pro-war policies against Cuba and Venezuela to Colombia and Peru, it is important for workers, anti-war activists and progressive people not to be misled by the deluge of anti-Nicaragua propaganda. 

We must be ready to take to the streets in solidarity with Nicaragua if the U.S. engineers another right-wing attack tied to the upcoming election.