Nicaragua: Do What We Want or Else

by Toni Solo, July 3, 2008


Anyone stepping back from the recent hyped-up drama engineered by the minority right wing parties in Nicaragua and their overseas allies will see all the tell-tale signs of yet another instance of US and allied country intervention in the region designed to overthrow a non-compliant government. The national march led by the centre-right MRS party in Managua on June 27th, heavily funded by grants from the US government and related organizations, attracted between 6,000 (police estimates) and 15,000 (march organizers' figure) participants. Opposition daily La Prensa reported that the march was "against hunger, the high cost of living, the 'institutional dictatorship' and in defence of democracy".

The march followed last week's decision by the Supreme Electoral Council to cancel the legal status of two opposition parties, the centre-right Movimiento Renovador Sandinista (MRS) and the Conservative Party. The electoral body, a power independent of the executive, the judiciary and the legislature under Nicaragua's political constitution,judged that both those parties had failed to comply with the relevant electoral legislation. The MRS had been given almost 15 months to comply with its legal obligations, but did not do so.

Article 173 of Nicaragua's political constitution authorises the Supreme Electoral Council to cancel or suspend the legal status of political parties that fail to comply with relevant electoral law. The electoral authority found that, with duly constituted departmental authorities in only 10 of the country's 16 departments and two autonomous regions, the MRS left itself in non-compliance with Nicaragua's electoral law and the party's own statutes.


Nicaraguan opposition - dependent on foreign support

The opposition and its supporters accused the electoral body of acting under orders of the leaders of the two main political parties in Nicaragua, the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional and the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista. Among the opposition's supporters are the representatives of foreign development cooperation programmes in Nicaragua, the US government and foreign intellectuals. The day after the electoral tribunal's decision was made, the foreign development cooperation programme representatives published a pronouncement in the country's two main daily newspapers questioning the electoral authority's ruling.

The pronouncement alleged that the ruling was open to question because it was based on an electoral law they thought left too much to the discretion of the CSE magistrates. The statement argued that this called into question the development of democratic governance in Nicaragua. This, it noted, suggested lack of compliance by the Nicaraguan government with the terms of relevant development cooperation agreements.

The pronouncement ended with an avowal that the development cooperation community would monitor developments closely. The blatantly presumptuous neocolonial sub-text could hardly be clearer: "do what we want, or else" The list of countries supporting that pronouncement consists almost entirely of US and allied countries and also multilateral bodies, like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, controlled by the US and its allies.

The electoral tribunal's decision and the donor countries' pronouncement came after a high-profile 11-day hunger strike by the opposition leader Dora María Tellez. The opposition won international publicity for Tellez' protest when a group of leading international intellectuals including Eduardo Galeano, Noam Chomsky and Mario Benedetti published a letter supporting her call for a national dialogue. They may or may not have been aware that Dora Maria Tellez's idea of dialogue is to demand, in the most insulting possible terms, that Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua's President, resign.


NGOs - part of opposition electoral maneuvres

This latest episode in the Nicaraguan opposition's efforts to destabilise the FSLN coalition government re-runs similar US and allied-country funded conspiracies to overthrow democratically elected governments leading to the coups d'état in Venezuela in 2002 and Haiti in 2004. NGOs and the managerial class that lives by them are invariably important players in such coups. They mushroomed in Nicaragua after the Sandinista revolutionary government lost the watershed 1990 presidential election. Almost all are heavily dependent on funding from US and allied country governmental and non-governmental institutions and agencies.

With those resources Nicaraguan NGOs are able to play a political role in Nicaragua because they constitute in large part the electoral base for the centre-right MRS party, which won barely 7% of the vote in the 2006 presidential election. Because their political support is located overwhelmingly in Managua and other urban centres on Nicaragua's Pacific coast, the MRS has difficulty complying with the electoral law. They voted for that law when the measure was passed in 1995 but have subsequently found it hard to consolidate the national structures that electoral law requires.

Faced with that difficulty and its very limited electoral support, the MRS, by default or by design, set itself up for elimination as a legal political party. Its leaders and the party's right wing allies, principally Eduardo Montealegre, generally regarded as the leader of Nicaragua's traditional oligarchy, seem to have carefully planned events around that predictable outcome. They have used their resource-rich NGO base to mobilise high profile protest. It chimes well with the motif of dictatorship and democratic crisis the US and allied country interventionist scenario demands.

In fact the electoral authority's ruling may help the MRS party achieve two things. It makes it much easier for them to justify electoral alliances with the right because they can claim they have to do so in order to be able to participate in elections. It also means they can focus their resources on the electoral areas in Managua and the urban centres of Nicaragua's Pacific coast where they have most support. This will help Nicaragua' s right wing and centre-right consolidate their electoral campaign more effectively.


Democracy - look who's talking

While the local European representatives talk human rights to Nicaragua, their European Union governments are accomplices both to the genocidal collective punishment applied by Israel to Palestinians in the Gaza strip and to systematic racist abuses and ethnic cleansing in the West Bank. Wherever one looks in the world, from Equatorial Guinea to Morocco to Uzbekistan, one will find that the same European countries currently threatening Nicaragua, support the most cruel and vicious tyrannies. Canada did the same in Haiti during that country's long agony under the illegitimate Latortue regime.

These are the people warning Nicaragua's FSLN-led coalition government to respect the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Inter-American Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States and the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Together with that contemptible hypocrisy, if one turns to the practice of democracy and transparency in Europe itself, the picture looks much worse than it does in Nicaragua.

European countries colluded in CIA torture flights and then obstructed investigation by the European Parliament into that appalling betrayal of public trust. One should remember episodes like the comprehensive ELF corruption scandal and the Taiwan frigates affair in France, the British Aerospace-Saudi Arabia scandal, the mass resignation of the European Commission in 1999, the corruption scandal around Helmut Kohl in Germany. In Italy, one has to recall the Parmalat scandal and the systematic corruption associated with Bettino Craxi's regime, never mind Silvio Berlusconi.

The endemic corruption in Ireland embodied by the governments of Charles Haughey has been rife too in other small European countries like Greece or Portugal. Many scandals like those mentioned were found out. But the culture of corruption recurs time and agai, surviving along with all the scandals that never see the light of day. And yet, these are the countries trying to wag their finger convincingly at Nicaragua about good governance.

As for the EU's bogus espousal of democracy, all the EU countries except Ireland have denied their peoples a say on the corporate friendly Lisbon Treaty because these countries' ruling elites know their peoples would very likely reject the treaty if they had the chance. That is what happened in Ireland, the only country whose constitution forced the ruling elite to put the Lisbon Treaty to a democratic vote. The European Union's executive, the European Commission, is appointed, not elected. So it is absolutely clear that the development cooperation representatives of these countries in Nicaragua operate by longstanding neocolonial double standards.


Nicaraguan government stresses sovereignty

By contrast, the Nicaraguan government's response has been fine, dignified and clear. The Vice-Minister of the office of External Cooperation said of the donor representatives: "they have not accepted that there are substantial changes, a fundamental transformation in the way we relate to each other, and here there are two keywords: sovereignty and dignity if they argue there is to be no cooperation because we don't do a particular thing, we have no other option but to say 'well, if you want to go off with it, then off you go,' that is dignity's final argument, that is the final point."1

Nicaragua's FSLN-led coalition government is ultimately in a stronger position to resist foreign intervention than was, for example, Haiti's President Jean Bertrand Aristide. But the strength of the Nicaraguan government's position depends overwhelmingly on support from Venezuela. It is hard to see how Nicaragua could defend itself against consistent US and allied country blackmail and incessant destabilisation were it not a bona fide member of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, the ALBA bloc of countries comprised currently of Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Neither the US government nor its European allies look kindly on the socialist inspired, solidarity based, trade and development cooperation model being developed by the ALBA countries. They support the Nicaraguan opposition's destabilisation campaign just as they support similar opposition campaigns in Venezuela and Bolivia. All these campaigns are part of US and allied government efforts to roll back attempts by Latin American countries to move towards progressive sovereign integration outside the capitalist scheme of corporate globalization.

As Orlando Nuñez, the director of Nicaragua's landmark Zero Hunger program has said, the destabilization campaign in Nicaragua is the latest stage of an ongoing low-intensity war to re-establish the neocolonial debt-plus-aid model imposed for so long in Nicaragua and the rest of Latin America by the United States and its allies. They want to prevent Nicaragua's progressive government implementing its programme successfully so as to ensure it loses electoral support. The next decisive battleground will be the municipal elections in November this year.


Toni Solo writes for

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