Tortilla con Sal, 9 de mayo 2018
(An earlier version of this article incorrectly asserted that the MAP-ML formed part of the opposition UNO coalition in the1990 elections. That was not the case. We apologize for that error.)
In a systematically inaccurate article from the Socialist Worker publication “the Bullet” reproduced by Global Research, Trevor Evans recycles the familiar falsehoods and skewed interpretations of Nicaragua’s North American and European funded right wing. Few people familiar with Nicaragua’s history will be taken aback by this, because many among Nicaragua’s radical left and anarchists, along with their foreign sympathizers, have always collaborated with Nicaragua’s US funded social democrats and extreme right. In 1990, for example, the radical left MAP-ML party campaigned against the FSLN separately but alongside the US-funded and directed UNO opposition led by Violeta Chamorro who won that year’s presidential elections.
So it is no surprise now, almost 30 years on, that radical leftists like Trevor Evans and his comrades are attacking Nicaragua’s Sandinista government led by President Daniel Ortega. Evans gets many of his facts wrong and for the rest recycles the same well worn falsehoods and half-truths as the country’s North American and European funded social democrat center right and their extreme right wing allies. For example, at the end of his article, Trevor Evans asserts “A demonstration in Managua by pensioners against the reduction in their pensions was supported by students from the city’s public universities”.
But, like all Nicaragua’s right wing media and their Western corporate and alternative media allies, he omits that the pensioners national organization in fact accepted the reduction because, in exchange, they received the same full health coverage as active workers. Also, it was mainly students from Nicaragua's private universities that lead the protests. Evans follows the US funded opposition’s playbook aligning himself with right wing business figures like Piero Coen, Nicaragua’s wealthiest business leader by far (contrary to Evans’ incorrect assertion that Carlos Pellas is Nicaragua’s wealthiest business person). Coen opposes the government's social security reforms and urged on the protests precisely because the reforms favor working people. The misguided student protesters were fooled into promoting a deeply neoliberal, politically right wing agenda.
Trevor Evans completely misses that self-evident reality. Similarly, he notes, “Over the next three days the scale of the street confrontations increased, spreading to several other cities, and resulting in the death of over 40 people and many more injured.” But he omits that the “confrontations” from April 20th onwards were no longer clashes between rival student groups involving police efforts to restore public order, but all out attacks by armed opposition militants bused from one city to the next, local delinquent gangs and, many fewer, local student protesters, deliberately provoking destruction, death and injury. Evans uncritically cites the inflated opposition NGO figure of “over 40 deaths” without noting that many of the dead and wounded were either police, Sandinista activists, journalists or bystanders caught up in the fighting.
Evans goes on, “After four days, Daniel Ortega appeared on television, flanked by his wife and the chiefs of the police and army, and he decried what he described as the manipulation of innocent students by political opponents with ulterior motives” In fact, after three days of lethal opposition violence, President Ortega appeared on television together with one of the mayors whose municipal offices were attacked, Julia Mena, not a Sandinista. Also present was the Minister of the Family, Marcia Ramirez, as well as Guiomar Irias coordinator of Nicaragua’s Institute for Municipal Development. So the appearance was far from being, as Evans implies, merely a show of solidarity by Nicaragua’s security forces with the government. In that session on the night of April 22nd, President Ortega insisted on the need for dialogue and restraint and accepted the private business sector’s appeal for talks.
On Sunday April 23rd, Nicaragua’s minority right wing opposition fomented a day of criminal looting and violence by gangs of delinquents and political activists completely unrelated to the student protests, resisted by thousands of ordinary people across Nicaragua’s capital city Managua. That afternoon, President Ortega again addressed Nicaragua’s people accompanied by representatives of foreign investors concerned about not just their profits, but also their workers, hard though it may be for academic theorists like Trevor Evans (who “teaches at the Institute for International Political Economy, Berlin School of Economics and Law”) to understand. Pesident Ortega lamented “the violent acts that have occurred, we express our solidarity with the families of people who have died in the violence and we call on Nicaragua’s people to continue uniting efforts to put an end to the violence”. President Ortega also called on the Catholic Church hierarchy to mediate, which put pressure on the right wing Catholic bishops who had been encouraging the violence against the wishes of their institutional and spiritual head, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes.
Of course, none of that detail appears in the account of Trevor Evans. In his article, he is too busy negotiating the fine line between ideological purity and political opportunism to discern the moral niceties and the political reality in Nicaragua on which he is so anxious and so ill-qualified to pronounce. In any case, for anyone who’s interested, here are some notes on the more egregious distortions Trevor Evans puts forward in his article.
Defending people’s right to vote for the candidate they want
In 2010, the Supreme Court declared inapplicable an anti-democratic 1994 constitutional reform railroaded through the legislature by social democrats allied with Nicaragua’s right wing with zero consultation. The 2010 ruling allows candidates to stand for re-election in both presidential and municipal elections.
Marginalization of the opposition
While Evans argues that government measures marginalized Nicaragua’s right wing opposition, in fact, the opposition lost support as a result of their own infighting and the Sandinista government’s successful economic policies
Collaboration with private business
Since 2007 as part of the government’s national human development plan, Nicaragua’s economy has enjoyed unprecedented stability thanks to a model of dialogue and consensus involving all sectors of Nicaragua’s economy and society, including the private business sector, labor unions, the cooperative movement, rural workers organizations, the evangelical churches and the Catholic Church hierarchy among others.
Absence of left wing alternatives
No electorally viable political force has emerged on the left of the Frente Sandinista in Nicaragua’s politics because there are none. The center right social democrat Movimiento Renovador Sandinista has long received funds from the US government and the European Union via their NGO base while Monica Baltodano and Henry Ruiz and their Rescate movement have practically zero support and in practice collaborate with the now center right MRS.
2016 elections turn out - 65%
President Ortega and the FSLN won the 2016 presidential elections on a turnout of 2.49 million out of 3.8 million eligible voters - 65% of registered voters. Even the anti-Sandinista Organization of American States accepted that the elections reflected a free and fair vote.
Daniel Ortega’s public appearances and Rosario Murillo’s role
Contrary to Trevor Evans false assertion, President Daniel Ortega appears regularly at important public events and Vice President Rosario Murillo is one of the leaders of women’s political representation in Latin America in relation to which Nicaragua figures among the top ten countries in the world with most political representation for women.
NICA Act and the OAS
Nicaragua’s center right social democrat opposition actively lobbied for the NICA Act working directly with extreme US right wing Congress person (at the time) Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The Nicaraguan government in principle resists the interventionist brand of electoral observation favored by North American and European governments. For the 2017 municipal elections, they accepted an OAS team led by Wilfredo Penco, a trusted and well-respected Uruguayan electoral specialist who had previously participated in electoral accompaniment in Nicaragua as part of the Latin American Commission of Electoral Experts (CEELA). As if to give Penco their perverse seal of approval Nicaragua’s social democrat center right Confidencial web site condemned Penco as an “electoral tourist” validating electoral fraud, a Nicaraguan opposition label Penco can wear as a badge of pride.
Since 2007, Nicaragua has maintained an enviable reputation among international institutions for efficient and honest use of loans. In cases of allegations of corruption like those made against Roberto Rivas, the government has a record of taking measures that recognize the seriousness of any allegations without allowing the kind of manipulation of the justice system all too evident in cases of US accusations against public figures elsewhere in Latin America, most recently Jesus Santrich in Colombia.
Police and Army
The head of Nicaragua’s police service is Commissioner Aminta Granera who is universally well regarded in Nicaragua by all sectors of public opinion, as is the head of Nicaragua’s army, General Julio César Avilés Castillo. The leadership of both the police and the army in Nicaragua are almost all people who began their careers during the Sandinista People’s Revolution in the 1980s, so most of them naturally share a strong loyalty to the Sandinista ideology, and by extension the Sandinista government, making them impervious to US subornment, much to the chagrin of Nicaragua’s opposition.
Nicaragua’s main national newspapers, La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario, are both owned owned by the private business sector. Most cable companies and local radio stations are either independent or aligned with Nicaragua’s political opposition. Of the national television companies Canals 2, 4, 6, 8 and 13 favor the government, Canal’s 9,10, 11 and 12 are independent or favor the opposition.
Economic Growth declining inequality
Contrary to Trevor Evan’s assertion in his article, the UN’s ECLAC predicted GDP growth for Nicaragua in 2018 and 2019 of over 4%. Also contrary to Trevor Evans’ argument, Nicaragua’s inequality measured by the GINI index is the lowest in Central America. Since 2008 overall poverty has declined from almost 40% to around 24% with extreme poverty almost halved from around 14% to around 7% or less.
For now, as of May 9th, it seems the North American and European funded opposition’s efforts to sink Nicaragua into chaos are failing. Sporadic outbreaks of terrorist violence occur, invariably as expressions of mere vandalism in the service of the minority right wing anti-government agenda . Outside Nicaragua's capital Managua, rival demonstrations of government and opposition supporters take place generally without confrontation. Today in Managua, after a massively superior turnout defending the government, opposition activists bussed in from outside Managua joined local delinquent gangs to violently attack a couple of locations in Managua.
These incidents are likely to continue over the coming weeks and months as Nicaragua’s political opposition become more and more frustrated with their lack of popular support. The dialogue process has still to begin because Nicaragua's political opposition have been unable to agree their representatives. National opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of social peace, economic stability and political dialogue. So on that score at least, Trevor Evans has got it right. Only the Sandinista government led by President Daniel Ortega offers Nicaragua a viable political program for economic stability and social peace.
By contrast, the opposition, as in Venezuela, can only squabble about how to get quotas of political and institutional power for which they have no legitimate mandate and zero viable policy proposals. Meanwhile, the violent terror gangs organized by Nicaragua’s right wing and the political forces supported by Trevor Evans and his comrades, are assaulting and murdering workers returning home from work, attacking and burning buses carrying ordinary Nicaraguans to and from their daily activities murdering and wounding police officers, murdering and stealing from journalists reporting on events.
Time will tell how long it will take for Nicaragua to recover from its current trauma, bought and paid for by the US and its allied imperialist governments and Nicaragua’s mercenary local NGO sector. Whatever the outcome, urban and rural workers in Nicaragua can thank Trevor Evans and his comrades for once again, just as they have done from Syria, to Ukraine to Venezuela and, now, Nicaragua, being completely mistaken and ill informed about events in a country targeted by Western imperialist elites .