Tortilla con Sal, Telesur, May 2nd 2018
The disturbing events in Nicaragua between April 20th and April 24th provoked the usual corporate and alternative media fake news and social media disinformation attacking a progressive government resisting US foreign policy. The hypocrites avow concern for democracy and human rights while helping deliberately to destroy them. Superficially, the main propaganda point was that President Ortega’s government had lost legitimacy and had to go. This is the classic regime change mantra used in 2011 against Laurent Gbagbo in Ivory Coast, Muammar al Gaddhafi in Libya, Bashar al Assad in Syria, in 2016 against Dilma Rousseff in Brazil and, ever since 2013, against President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. These vicious, cynical assaults to destabilize and, if necessary, destroy whole countries cloak the inescapable global economic reality that Western corporate capitalism is hopelessly uncompetitive compared to emerging rivals Russia and China.
These countries and their regional allies place their national interests and their own people at the center of economic development policy. In Nicaragua, the trigger for the initial protests was extreme misrepresentation of proposed social security reforms. Right wing news outlets and social media networks demonized and distorted the government’s proposal for modest, fairly distributed increases in Social Security contributions plus better health care coverage for pensioners. But they systematically omitted the business sector’s savage, IMF-inspired, neoliberal proposals to cut benefits, reduce coverage and privatize public sector clinics. Subsequently, violent shock groups comprised of several hundred well organized, highly mobile, armed opposition activists hijacked the ill-informed student protests. They provoked death and destruction of property so as to create the false impression of a repressive government struggling to manage out of control events.
All that was done in close coordination with right wing news outlets and effective, sophisticated use of social media to sustain permanent disinformation dominance of available information networks. But the extremists over reached. The government withdrew the proposed reform and restrained counter-violence on the streets. Likewise, important private business sector interests called for an end to the violence, fearing damage to Nicaragua’s economy would increase their costs and reduce their profits. Those developments isolated the violent shock groups of opposition activists and their paid delinquent accomplices, depriving them of both moral support and any credible pretext. President Ortega then put the right wing church hierarchy on the spot by requesting them to mediate a national dialogue for peace, something they could hardly refuse given the national mood rejecting minority extremist violence.
The Sandinista government and the Sandinista controlled legislature then announced an investigation process into the deaths and injuries during the disturbances, a Victims Committee for justice and reparation by the Nicaragua’s official human rights office and a Truth Commission of leading public figures instigated by the National Assembly. Subsequently, at this year’s May Day march, held on April 30th to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the death of Comandante Tomas Borge, well over 100,000 government supporters listened to President Ortega declare the government’s commitment to work for peace and to defend workers’ and pensioners’ rights under all circumstances “however difficult”, in a clear reference to the possibility of increased aggression against the Sandinista government from the United States and its local proxies.
This is the context in which the international media have paraded their spectacular ignorance, cynicism and hypocrisy. NATO propaganda outlets like the New York Times. the BBC, Spain’s El País, the Washington Post or CNN spread the usual poisonous disinformation they have always produced targeting progressive governments in Latin America. However, just as in the case of Libya in 2011, alternative and anti-US media also published and broadcast spurious reports distorting events in Nicaragua very much in line with the imperialist psychological warfare offensive. The reports of the Real News Network in the US, Iran’s HispanTV, Russia’s RT, the supposedly anti-imperialist Spanish language Rebelión web site and the social democrat Nodal web site, all reported on Nicaragua just as most international news media did on Libya, parroting the egregious falsehoods and disinformation of the US government and its paid local proxies.
The main political figures behind the manipulation of the student protests and the infiltration of violent shock groups were embittered former Sandinista leaders, mostly funded for many years now by the US government and openly working with extreme right wing US political figures like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Former Sandinistas like Sergio Ramirez, Dora Maria Tellez and Edmundo Jarquín have been allies of Nicaragua’s political right wing since 2006 or long before. Likewise, also for well over a decade, ex-Sandinista Carlos Fernando Chamorro has been not just a leading center-right anti-Sandinista media figure but also coordinator of CINCO, the most influential US government and European Union funded NGO in Nicaragua. Among intellectuals promoting US intervention and destabilization in Nicaragua one finds supposed leftists like, among others, the Argentinean Marcelo Colussi, Uruguay’s Raul Zibechi, and, in Nicaragua, former Sandinistas like Monica Baltodano and Oscar Rene Vargas. These pseudo anti-imperialist writers have long promoted the falsehoods of the US funded Nicaraguan opposition attacking President Daniel Ortega and Vice-President Rosario Murillo.
All these figures are apologists for the recent sinister, extreme political violence which exploited highly manipulated and ill-informed student protests to try and advance in Nicaragua the US government’s broader regional policy of regime change. But Nicaragua’s right wing and their phony leftist collaborators face two fundamental problems in their efforts to facilitate US regime here. Ideologically, just as in Venezuela, the extreme right wing in Nicaragua are a small minority. Most people in Nicaragua want the kind of mixed economy and social programs that, under President Ortega’s Sandinista government, have brought the country unprecedented stability and prosperity. Secondly, Nicaragua’s wealth does not come primarily from the country’s private business sector but rather from public sector investment in infrastructure, health and education and from the 70% of the population working variously in the informal economy, in small and medium sized businesses, in small scale agricultural and livestock production and in the country’s diverse and vibrant cooperative sector.
Nicaragua’s political opposition are a structural minority both in the country’s national politics while also representing the interests of a structural minority in the country’s economy. So the conundrum the US government has to solve in order to overthrow the country’s Sandinista government is not just a matter of eroding President Ortega’s social base, as US ambassador Laura Dogu and her colleagues work constantly to do, but also of destroying Nicaragua’s economy. Everything indicates that the US and their local proxies are gearing up for the next phase of their regime change agenda. Just as in Venezuela, their plans are likely to involve sanctions of various kinds, persistent outbreaks of terrorist violence and even more intense, permanent psychological warfare. However, as they have always done, they certainly underestimate the intelligence and resourcefulness of people in Nicaragua generally and, especially, the deep reserves of the country’s Sandinismo which has shown its resilience and durability ever since Sandino’s murder at the behest of the US government in 1934.