Nicaragua: Left wins presidential elections


This video is called Nicaragua – A Nation’s Right To Survive. A Documentary Film By John Pilger.

Associated Press reports:

MANAGUA, Nicaragua Nov 6, 2006 — Leftist Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega easily defeated four other candidates in Nicaragua‘s presidential race to return to power 16 years after a U.S.-backed rebellion helped force him from office, according to a quick count released early Monday.

Ortega’s victory, if confirmed by final results, would give Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez a strong ally in the region while threatening U.S. aid to the second-poorest nation in the hemisphere.

See also here.

And here.

And here.

Update on Ortega, 19 January 2007: here.

Update September 2007: here.

Update October 2007: here.

Update July 2008: here.

Abortion in Nicaragua: here.

Opposition in Nicaragua: here.

Illegal bird trade in Nicaragua: here.

A boost for literacy rates in Nicaragua: here.

English translation of Sandino interview: here. Sandino’s grandson interviewed: here.

General Juan José Estrada, who had led US-backed military operations against the Nicaragua government of José Santos Zelaya, was installed as president in Managua on August 29, 1910: here.

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13 thoughts on “Nicaragua: Left wins presidential elections

  1. REPUBLICAN Hypocirtes
    Posted by: “Steven Erickson” wake911up@yahoo.com wake911up
    Tue Nov 7, 2006 11:03 am (PST)

    On today’s broadcast of Democracy Now it was reported that D. Ortega was likely the winner in the Nicaraguan Presidential election. I about fell out of my chair when it was also reported that the Bush administration who is unhappy with the choice, was claiming that the election may not have been fair due to long lines, early poll closings, and other electiion day anomalies. Can you believe it?. They’d be complaining about robo calls too if Nicaragua had the capability to also copy that NRC tactic.

    —– Original Message —-
    From: garymyrick
    Subject: REPUBLICAN Dirty Tricks. Again.

    I have capitalized the word REPUBLICAN, because it is REPUBLICANS who are doing this.

  2. Granma Int. – Nella pagina web http://www.lavozdelsandinismo.com
    il Fronte Sandinista di Liberazione Nazionale (FSLN) del Nicaragua ha
    dedicato la vittoria elettorale di Daniel Ortega al presidente cubano,
    Fidel Castro, in occasione del suo compleanno.

    “Questa vittoria elettorale, caro Fidel, è il regalo dei sandinisti
    per il tuo 80° compleanno e dato che tu li festeggerai il 2 dicembre,
    ti facciamo gli auguri in anticipo”, afferma il testo.

    Il leader della Rivoluzione Cubana è nato il 13 agosto del 1926, ma
    poichè era convalescente dopo un’operazione chirurgica subita alla
    fine di luglio, i festeggiamenti del suo compleanno sono stati
    posposti al prossimo 2 dicembre, 50º Anniversario della creazione
    delle Forze Armate Rivoluzionarie cubane. Nella pagina web si legge
    anche il FSLN chiede a Fidel Castro d’inviare un saluto ai Cinque
    patrioti cubani ingiustamente reclusi negli Stati Uniti da otto anni,
    per aver lottare contro il terrorismo.

    “Comandante, Le chiediamo per cortesia di trasmettere il nostro saluto
    a quei Cinque patrioti cubani che resistono nelle carceri nordamericane:
    Fernando, René, Antonio, Gerardo e Ramón. Questa vittoria appartiene
    anche a loro”, è scritto.
    Nel messaggio si ringrazia il presidente Fidel Castro per le borse di
    studio concesse a migliaia di studenti nicaraguensi, per l’attenzione
    medica offerta ai cittadini poveri con l’Operazione Miracolo e l’aiuto
    dato nell’alfabetizzazione, con il metodo “Io sì che posso”.
    “Questa vittoria è sua, Comandante e del suo popolo, l’eroico,
    valoroso ed ineguagliabile popolo cubano”, specifica il messaggio che
    si legge nel sito elettronico che pubblica anche il messaggio d’auguri
    inviato da Fidel Castro a Daniel Ortega. Il leader sandinista ha vinto
    le elezioni del 5 novembre in Nicaragua ed il 10 gennaio prossimo
    riprenderà il potere perduto con le elezioni di 16 anni fa. (ABN).

  3. Amérique latine rebelle

    Numéro coordonné par Maurice Lemoine

    Age d’or
    Ignacio Ramonet
    I. D’espoir et de plomb

    C’est le 14 octobre 1492 qu’a lieu, dans l’île caraïbe de Guanahani, la première rencontre des Européens et des « Indiens ». C’est au cours de son troisième voyage, en 1498, que Christophe Colomb découvre, à l’embouchure de l’Orénoque (sur l’actuel territoire vénézuélien), ce qu’il va appeler les « Indes occidentales », en réalité un continent inconnu. C’est en parcourant, en 1501, l’embouchure de la future baie de Rio qu’Amerigo Vespucci laissera son prénom à ce Nouveau Monde : Amérique. En 1519, Hernán Cortés s’enfonce dans la jungle mexicaine à la tête de quelques centaines d’aventuriers. Trois ans plus tard, l’Empire aztèque est à genoux. En 1532, Francisco Pizarro débarque sur la côte péruvienne et entraîne quelques dizaines de compagnons à l’assaut de la cordillère des Andes, au coeur de laquelle se retranche, puis s’effondre, l’armée inca…

    Ethnocide, esclavage, exploitation, domination : l’Empire espagnol parviendra quasiment intact jusqu’en 1810. En 1806, lorsque Francisco de Miranda, patriote vénézuélien auréolé de sa participation à la Révolution française, a lancé son fameux « cri de liberté et d’indépendance pour toute l’Amérique latine », bien peu ont prévu l’ampleur des bouleversements que ce manifeste produirait. Pendant plus de vingt ans, son compatriote Simón Bolívar, secondé par les brillants généraux Antonio José de Sucre et José de San Martín, va multiplier les campagnes. En 1824, lors de la bataille d’Ayacucho, il met irrémédiablement fin aux prétentions de la métropole.

    L’indépendance des nouveaux Etats se révèle vite illusoire. Les tyrans étrangers laissent la place à des tyrans locaux et rivaux. Au pouvoir colonial succède le pouvoir féodal des grandes familles, des propriétaires terriens, de l’Eglise catholique et des militaires. Par ailleurs, le déclin d’un empire va souvent de pair avec l’essor d’un autre. Vient le temps des Etats-Unis…

    La doctrine Monroe, en vertu de laquelle, depuis 1823, Washington s’arroge une souveraineté implicite sur la région, ne constitue en rien un mythe. Interventions militaires et occupations se succèdent à un rythme échevelé à Cuba, au Nicaragua, à Porto Rico, en Haïti, au Panamá, au Mexique et ailleurs entre 1903 et 1933, avant de prendre une tournure plus indirecte, mais tout aussi réelle, au cours des années suivantes.

    L’Amérique latine doit désormais lutter pour sa « seconde libération ». De Cuba au Chili, en passant par l’Amérique centrale, elle entreprend une nouvelle conquête, marquée par des moments d’enthousiasme et d’espoir, des victoires, des tragédies, des « guerres de basse intensité ».

  4. Close the SOA! This weekend: Converge on Fort Benning, GA
    Posted by: “Compañero” companyero@mindspring.com chocoano05
    Fri Nov 17, 2006 1:41 am (PST)
    People from all walks of life from across the Western
    Hemisphere have begun to converge in Columbus, Georgia for
    the November vigil and nonviolent direct action to close
    the School of the Americas and to change the racist system
    of violence and repression that the school represents.

    Civil rights veterans and other social justice activists
    who have been walking since November 12 in an historic
    march from Montgomery, Alabama to Columbus, Georgia, are
    expected to arrive here tomorrow to join the thousands who
    will converge at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia.
    Together, we will stand in solidarity with the people in
    Oaxaca, Mexico, and with all the people throughout the
    world who have become the targets of SOA-style repression,
    torture and injustice. Simultaneous internationally
    coordinated actions against the School of the Americas and
    U.S. militarism in Latin America are taking place over the
    next three days in Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, El
    Salvador and Colombia.

    Visit the SOA Watch webpage at http://www.SOAW.org for
    frequent updates from the events.

    The November Vigil has grown into a massive convergence
    and organizing space with close to 100 side events
    including nonviolence trainings, a labor caucus, regional
    organizing meetings, counter-recruitment workshops,
    teach-ins with activists from Latin America and with farm
    workers from Florida, puppet shows, film screenings and
    more.

    For a complete SCHEDULE OF EVENTS, visit
    http://www.SOAW.org

    IN THE NEWS: Read Patrick Mulvaney’s article “Dismay Grows
    Over US Torture School” that talks about the growing
    international movement to reject US military policy and
    the Bush Administration’s decision to increase training
    and aid for the militaries of Latin America so as to
    reverse the region’s leftward swing. To read the article,
    visit:
    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20061127/school_of_the_americas

    IF YOU HAVEN´T MADE YOUR TRAVEL PLANS YET, IT´S NOT TOO
    LATE! CHECK OUT THE RIDE BOARD ON THE SOA WATCH WEBPAGE OR
    GATHER YOUR FRIENDS TO DRIVE TO COLUMBUS, GEORGIA. YOU CAN
    FIND THE RIDE BOARD AT
    http://IMAGINACTION.ORG/SOAW/RIDE.PHP

    PLAN TO BRING …

    Please bring banners, crosses, Stars of David and other
    commemorative symbols for the funeral procession. On
    Sunday, as the funeral procession ends, we will transition
    into a celebration of life. Bring flowers of all kinds –
    fresh, plastic, paper, clot – and trumpets, drums, and
    conch shells for this ritual of life and resistance.

    If you plan to cross the line onto Fort Benning, plan to
    bring $1,000 for bail money, and plan to attend the direct
    action preparation sessions in the convention center on
    Friday and Saturday nights.

    During the funeral procession, there will be a space for
    non-arrestable actions in the center of the street for
    groups to reenact massacres and to create commemorative
    vignettes. If your group would like to be a part of one of
    these vignettes, please plan to attend the direct action
    session.

    ACCESSIBILITY & INTERPRETATION

    Braille programs, a wheelchair access area and
    sign-language and simultaneous interpretation into Spanish
    will be available on Saturday & Sunday at and near the
    stage.

    Help make this weekend a success! Please donate to support
    the convergence and the Campaign to close the SOA by
    clicking here: http://www.soaw.org/new/article.php?id=546

    “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will
    have the final word.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

    November 16, 2006: We remember 14 year old Celina Ramos,
    her mother Elba and six Catholic priests, professors of
    the University of Central America, who were murdered 27
    years ago in El Salvador. Presente!

  5. Gates Advocated Bombing Nicaragua
    Posted by: “Compañero” companyero@mindspring.com chocoano05
    Sat Nov 25, 2006 10:02 pm (PST)

    Gates Pushed for Bombing of Sandinistas

    By Julian E. Barnes
    The Los Angeles Times
    Saturday 25 November 2006

    His 1984 memo called for “hard measures” against Nicaragua.

    Washington – Robert M. Gates, President Bush’s nominee to lead the Pentagon, advocated a bombing campaign against Nicaragua in 1984 in order to “bring down” the leftist government, according to a declassified memo released by a nonprofit research group.

    The memo from Gates to his then-boss, CIA Director William J. Casey, was among a selection of declassified documents from the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal posted Friday on the website of the National Security Archive, http://www.gwu.edu/nsarchiv/

    In the memo, Gates, who was deputy director of the CIA, argued that the Soviet Union was turning Nicaragua into an armed camp and that the country could become a second Cuba. The rise of the communist-leaning Sandinista government threatened the stability of Central America, Gates asserted.

    Gates’ memo echoed the view of many foreign policy hard-liners at the time; however, the feared communist takeover of the region never materialized.

    “It seems to me,” Gates wrote, “that the only way that we can prevent disaster in Central America is to acknowledge openly what some have argued privately: that the existence of a Marxist-Leninist regime in Nicaragua closely allied with the Soviet Union and Cuba is unacceptable to the United States and that the United States will do everything in its power short of invasion to put that regime out.”

    Gates predicted that without US funding, the Nicaraguan anti-communist forces known as Contras would collapse within one or two years. But he said that providing “new funding” for the Contras was not good enough. Instead, he advocated that the United States withdraw diplomatic recognition of the Sandinista government, provide overt assistance to a government in exile, impose economic sanctions or a quarantine, and use airstrikes to destroy Nicaragua’s “military buildup.”

    “It sounds like Donald Rumsfeld,” said National Security Archive Director Thomas S. Blanton. “It shows the same kind of arrogance and hubris that got us into Iraq.”

    In the memo, Gates noted he was advocating “hard measures” that “probably are politically unacceptable.”

    Indeed, Blanton said, Gates’ advocacy of military strikes against Nicaragua was extreme.

    “It sure wasn’t a mainstream opinion; most Americans thought we shouldn’t be doing anything in Nicaragua,” Blanton said. “How possibly was our national security interest at stake?”

    Reached late Friday, Scott Stanzel, a White House spokesman, said he was not familiar with the memo. Stanzel said Gates would not be available for comment because it was standard practice for nominees to reject interview requests before Senate confirmation hearings.

    Blanton said it would be wrong to look at a 22-year-old memo as evidence of Gates’ current thinking. Gates seems to have changed after his nomination for CIA director was withdrawn in 1987, Blanton said. When Gates became CIA director in 1991, he was chastened and his earlier “arrogance” diminished.

    “People change,” Blanton said. “And very possibly the Robert Gates
    nominated for secretary of Defense is the Robert Gates who is the best CIA director we ever had, and not the Robert Gates who was a ‘mini-me’ Rumsfeld..”

    The memo offers some insights into how Gates viewed historical lessons, at least in 1984.

    Gates wrote that the United States wrongly thought in the late 1950s that it could encourage Castro to form a pluralistic government. And he said that in Vietnam the United States took a series of half measures that “enabled the enemy to adjust to each new turn of the screw” by the war’s end, he said, the country was able to tolerate severe bombing campaigns.

    “Half measures, halfheartedly applied, will have the same result in Nicaragua,” Gates wrote.

    It was probably the election of Daniel Ortega to the Nicaraguan presidency in November 1984 that prompted Gates to write his memo of Dec. 14, 1984.

    Ortega was elected again to the presidency this year, although he now presents himself as a moderate.

    In the memo, Gates concluded that the Contra rebels alone would not be able to overthrow the Sandinista regime, even with US money.

    It was the Reagan administration’s attempts to find ways to provide funding for the Nicaraguan rebels even after Congress forbade such support that led to the Iran-Contra scandal, a plan to use the proceeds of arms sales to Iran to fund the Contras.

    The Iran-Contra affair erupted in the public spotlight 20 years ago. Gates’ role in the scandal was investigated by Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh and was the focus of confirmation hearings for Gates’ 1987 nomination for CIA director.

    Gates denied any wrongdoing in the scandal. Most of the debate over Gates’ role centers on what he knew about the plan.

    According to documents released by the National Security Archive and others, Gates seems to have known about Oliver North’s attempts to raise money for the Contras, but opposed the idea and tried to keep the CIA out of it.

    Critics have said Gates failed to make inquiries about the scandal that could have stopped the scheme from going forward.

    Walsh concluded that Gates was “less than candid” but did not bring charges against him.

    Gates’ suggestions for Nicaragua policy were never adopted by the Reagan administration. And, on the whole, Gates’ predictions in the 1984 memo didn’t pan out.

    Nicaragua did not become a communist dictatorship. The Sandinista regime did not lead to the fall of US-backed governments in El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala. Ortega and the Sandinistas were voted out of office in 1990. A year later the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

    //////

    From Canada

    Nicaragua’s Sandinista Government Allies with Anti-Imperialist Forces

    Phil Stuart Cournoyer

    5-10-2007

    (from: Socialist Voice)

    Nicaragua’s Sandinista Government Allies with Anti-Imperialist Forces

    More than six months have passed since the inauguration of the new “21st Century Sandinista” government of Nicaragua last January. Jubilant celebrations of that event expressed the excitement of hundreds of thousands of Sandinista supporters. New hopes for an escape from the hell of neoliberal catastrophes breezed across our country’s mountains, volcanoes, valleys, and lakes, from the large cities to the remote hinterlands and coasts.

    The FSLN leadership had used the election campaign to assure the country (and Washington) that no second edition of the 1979 revolution would take place. Even so, many wanted to believe that the new government would signal a return to the inspiring days and social advances of the revolution.

    What does the first six-month performance of the new government tell us about the relationship between reality and such hopes?

    The Ortega government inherited a nearly “Africanized” country. Nicaragua is second only to Haiti as the poorest country in the hemisphere. Almost 80% percent of the population lives on less than US$2 a day, and over half of them on less then US$1 a day. The health and educational systems have been hollowed out. Over the previous 17 years a million or more Nicaraguans have gone into economic exile (mostly to Costa Rica, El Salvador, and the United States). The country now depends on family remittances and foreign aid to stay afloat.

    Lights out
    The privatized national electrical system has been bled dry and brought to near collapse – especially its generating capacity. In 2006 severe power cuts were imposed across the country. The new government alleviated the problem for a time, relying on donated generator plants from Cuba and Venezuela. But more breakdowns in the system soon forced a return to long power cuts, from five to 10 hours daily in both rural and urban areas. This has created havoc in the economy, especially the retail sector, the health system, and people’s daily lives.

    The collapsed electrical system can be taken as a metaphor for the condition of the republic on the eve of the elections. The Sandinistas won the presidency largely because the traditional right-wing forces assembled in the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC) had split down the middle. The Catholic Church was also divided, with now retired Cardinal Obando y Bravo opting to back the FSLN in return for its support to a government-initiated bill that illegalized therapeutic abortion. These divisions, splits, and confusion in traditional ruling class formations (the Church hierarchy included) stemmed from a mounting lack of confidence in their own ability to keep the ship afloat, or rather, to re-float the shipwreck and pilot it away from rocky shores.

    The FSLN drove through the gap opened by the split in the oligarchic parties and won a minority government in the November 2006 election with just 38% of the national vote. What followed caught the country and most political analysts, including this writer, quite by surprise.

    Inauguration day
    The course of Ortega”s new government was foreshadowed by the events surrounding its inauguration on January 10.

    Presidents and high-level delegations attended from most Latin American and Caribbean countries, including the presidents of Mexico and other Central American countries. Hugo Chávez attended from Venezuela, and Evo Morales from Bolivia. Cuban vice-president José Ramón Machado stood in for Fidel Castro. Taiwan sent its president Chen Shui-bian; Iran and Libya sent high-profile representatives. Spain sent its Crown Prince. Perhaps just to be different, Canada and the United States sent low-profile delegations whose presence was not even noted in the official welcoming.

    It turned out that Chávez had to delay his arrival by over three hours. Ortega kept the assembled VIPs and the Crown Prince himself waiting throughout the hot afternoon until our Venezuelan guests appeared. The event, including the long wait, was televised live. Broadcasts on rightwing TV and radio were punctuated by howls of protest from commentators about the “national disgrace” entailed in making Spanish royalty and visiting presidents wait around (and around!) for Chávez.

    That was just the thin end of the wedge. After a drastically abbreviated swearing-in ritual, Ortega cut short the ceremony to join, as he explained, tens of thousands of workers, farmers, and youth waiting at a nearby lakeside plaza. They too had been celebrating for many hours under the hot sun. Off he went, accompanied by the new cabinet and his closest allies among the presidential visitors.

    In the plaza, Chávez, Morales, and Ortega addressed the tired, but tumultuous crowd with strong appeals for Latin American unity, anti-imperialist struggle, national liberation, and socialism. Ortega interrupted his own speech to invite Cuba’s José Ramón Machado to take the mike. The crowds greeted the Cuban compañero with a thundering roar of enthusiasm. The Taiwanese president shared the platform but did not speak.

    The mass inaugural celebration introduced a new theme song for the FSLN, one that has accompanied both FSLN rallies and official functions ever since – la Internacional with its opening appeal “Arriba los pobres del mundo” (arise ye poor of the world). Our president-elect proclaimed that the new government represented a continuation of the Sandinista revolution of the eighties. He announced that his first acts as president would be to restore free education and health services, a social conquest of the revolution, reversed by the pro-U.S. government elected in 1990.

    He also announced that Nicaragua would join the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (its Spanish acronym ALBA also means “dawn”) to become fourth member after Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia. ALBA’s mandate is to facilitate commerce and cooperation among its members based on principles of solidarity and economic harmony, in overt opposition to the exploitative relations maintained by the world capitalist and imperialist market.

    The next day the four ALBA presidents convened a public session carried live on radio and TV, where they signed a packet of agreements projecting major trade and cooperation initiatives to help lift Nicaragua out of the abyss. Venezuela forgave Nicaragua its debt.

    Nicaragua-Iran agreements

    On the Sunday following the inauguration Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Managua on a state visit. The two presidents announced major trade agreements and ties based on cooperation and friendship. Daniel Ortega used the visit to denounce U.S. aggression against Iraq and threats against Iran – a theme he again stressed during his state visit to Iran in June.

    Recent follow-up announcements include an agreement that Iran will build a US$350 million ocean port on the south Caribbean coast of Nicaragua and a pledge of US$120 million to help build a massive hydroelectric project that could go a long way to solving the country’s long-term electricity deficit. Iranian cooperation, reached in bilateral agreements, is coordinated through ALBA, because it often involves joint Venezuelan-Iranian initiatives such as a recently constructed tractor factory in Venezuela that is supplying Nicaraguan farmers with low-priced machines.

    In March Hugo Chávez returned to Nicaragua. He went to the indigenous community of Sutiava (in Léon province) where he and Ortega announced that Venezuela would build a US$3.5 billion oil refinery on the Pacific Coast near Nagarote. This refinery will process Venezuelan oil both for Nicaragua and for export to other Central American countries and to China. Chávez insists that it will be completed before Ortega’s six-year term is finished, even if work has to take place 24-7. An allied petrochemical complex will also be built near the refinery, promising thousands of long-term jobs to local workers. These projects, when completed, should generate annually hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue for the country.

    Chávez used the occasion to talk about his vision of the way forward for Latin American nations.

    “Every day I say even more vigorously that the only way out of poverty and backwardness is to take the road of socialism, a new socialism built by ourselves._

    “I believe that Christ is the first great socialist of our era, because Christ advocated equality, love among us, and the only way that we can have equality in society is through socialism. Capitalism is the kingdom of exploitation, inequality, and hate, of ambition and egoism. Socialism is the kingdom of love, fraternity, and equality. This was what Christ came to preach to the world. And so, even though some priests will get uptight, I will keep on saying, for me as the Christian that I am, my Lord is one of the greatest revolutionaries in history, one of the greatest socialist revolutionaries in history.”

    Venezuelan aid
    Fast forward to July 19: Chávez and Morales returned to Managua to join the celebrations of the 28th anniversary of the 1979 insurrectionary defeat of the U.S.-backed Somoza dynasty. The three presidents again united their voices to stress the urgent need for Indo-Latin American unity and vigilant anti-imperialist struggle. Chávez, never shy, once more used his formidable oratorical skills to advocate a socialist, anti-capitalist course for our Patria Grande – our term for the vast Indo-Black-Latin American nation extending from the Rio Bravo on the U.S.-Mexican border to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of the continent, taking in the Caribbean island countries.

    Venezuelan aid and trade agreements now amount to over US$5 billion dollars. Much of this aid will be executed over a period of several years, and the overall amount will no doubt increase significantly over that time. Projects, in addition to the refinery, include an all-season highway from Bilwi (Puerto Cabezas) on the north Caribbean coast, southwest to Rio Blanco. The highway project will require the rebuilding of the Puerto Cabezas docks and a modern hospital for road construction workers that will also serve regional communities. Other programs include agricultural inputs such as farm credits, fertilizers, and related technologies, and also educational and health projects. Venezuela has guaranteed the country’s petroleum needs at fair prices, in the ALBA spirit. This involves long-term, low-interest payment agreements, including the option to pay in kind with agricultural, maritime, and mineral products – hence opening the possibility of expelling the dollar from commerce between the two Caribbean countries. All oil collaboration between the two countries is being channeled though an autonomous company – ALBANISA – responsible to the Venezuelan and Nicaraguan state oil companies.

    Cuban aid mainly targets the health and educational sectors and is also channeled through ALBA. Cuban doctors and medical specialists are working mainly in the Caribbean coast autonomous regions, and in a newly opened eye clinic in Ciudad Sandino near Managua, part of ALBA’s Operation Miracle (OM). To date more than 12,000 Nicaraguans have attained improved or restored vision through the OM program. Many received their operations either in Havana or Caracas, but soon it will be unnecessary for Nicaraguans to leave our country to get treatment. Two more clinics will be opened in each of the two coastal regional capitals.

    Nicaragua is to become a regional center for the program, enabling people from Mexico and Central America to get attention here. Cuban specialists are training Nicaraguan doctors who will later take full responsibility for the Nicaraguan component of OM. As well, about 80 just-graduated Nicaraguan general practitioners have recently returned from medical school in Cuba and are doing their internships with Cuban doctors in remote areas of the autonomous regions.

    Cuban educators play a key role in the national literacy program, set in motion by an FSLN-inspired NGO two years ago. The new Ministry of Education adopted the program, creating the National Literacy Council to press the attack on a 34% illiteracy rate. Using the Cuban Yo sí puedo technique and tens of thousands of TV monitors donated by that country, the program has now conquered illiteracy in Managua. Soon UNESCO will declare Managua the first Central American capital to free itself from illiteracy. The Literacy Council’s two-year target is to help 800,000 more Nicaraguans to read and write.

    Brazil’s Lula
    Other countries beyond the ALBA alliance and Iran are also stepping up aid to Nicaragua, most importantly Brazil. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (most often known as Lula) visited Nicaragua in July and signed a series of agreements in various areas including tourism, education, energy, forestry, industry, commerce, generic medicines, and agriculture. He and Ortega concurred that ethanol should not be produced from corn or other food products except sugar cane or palm oil, a compromise position that was subsequently endorsed by Venezuela.

    In August Taiwan’s president again visited Nicaragua, promising to increase his government’s aid. Taiwanese capital employs over 30,000 Nicaraguan workers, mostly in the maquila sector. Chen Shui-bian promised that Taiwan would buy Nicaragua’s entire coffee crop, hoping that this and other aid will entice Nicaragua not to follow Costa Rica’s lead and break relations with Taipei in order to re-establish relations with China. In his parting words as he left for home, Chen Shui-bian suggested that Daniel Ortega would merit a Nobel Prize if he succeeds in convincing Beijing to accept Nicaraguan recognition without compelling a break with Taipei!

    Days after the inauguration Ortega scuttled the former government’s plan to privatize water. He appointed Ruth Herrera (longtime Sandinista and leader of the consumer protest against water privatization) to take charge of the national water utility. She immediately decreed that the wealth-burdened elite – including their plantations, breweries and bottling plants, industries, and hotels – would have to pay their water bills. They shed this obligation once their cronies took power in 1990.

    The most important economic initiative of the government in the countryside is the Zero Hunger Campaign aimed at the poorest sectors of the population, especially women farm-owners. This US$150 million project is expected to benefit 75,000 families during the next five years through programs to revive and support small-scale family farming.

    Nearly two-decades of neoliberal “adjustment” devastated small farmers and traditional crops that could not compete with highly subsidized U.S. agricultural exports. During that time most of the gains of the agrarian reform of the eighties were reversed as old and new capital bought out farmers bankrupted by lack of access to affordable credit. The new program provides farmers with impregnated cows and sows, chickens, seeds, and free agronomy services. In tandem with the Zero Hunger effort, ALBA launched a low interest farm-credit program, largely financed by Venezuela’s National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES) through its new Managua branch office.

    When Hurricane Felix devastated Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast in early September, the central government responded energetically and in concert with authorities of the regional autonomous government – largely an indigenous administration. Longtime Miskitu leader Brooklyn Rivera, who in the eighties led a wing of the indigenous armed struggle against the Sandinistas, lauded the government not only for its humanitarian aid but for having “reacted with sensitivity, taking into account conditions in the indigenous communities, their way of life, their organization, and their world view.” (For information on reconstruction aid, see end of article.)

    Economic policy
    The most puzzling feature of the first six months of the government has been the relative lack of discussion of basic economic policy, including a new agreement being negotiated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Daniel Ortega’s February budget was a remake of the previous government’s numbers, with the exception of a significant increase of spending on education and health, and allocations to the new Zero Hunger program. A reprieve from some large foreign debts made this spending possible.

    The budget failed to include more progressive taxation measures, despite widespread clamor that the rich – especially bankers and financial sharks – should begin to pay taxes. The budget included commitments to continue to pay off the internal debt, a large part of which is owed to speculators who snapped up a government bond issue used to rescue deposits holders following major bank collapses in 2000-2001. Later, official entities such as the Auditor General and the State Prosecutor declared that this “debt” is illegal.

    Nevertheless, the previous and current governments and the National Assembly have argued alike that failure to honor this “debt” would unleash “panic in financial markets” and “ruin Nicaragua’s international credit status.” The debt payments are crushing, and dwarf the entire fund being devoted to the campaign against hunger. This provokes deep resentment among poor and middle-class sectors who question why their taxes, and foreign aid, should be converted into handouts to parasites – the bankers, finance companies, and coupon clippers.

    The FSLN leadership’s economic strategy is to lift the country out of the pit of neoliberal devastation through market-oriented, capitalist measures coupled with social and budgetary policies to cushion the poorest and most vulnerable sectors from the worst impacts of free trade and capital accumulation. They believe this will only succeed if more foreign investment comes in, and if a “good investor climate” is assured. Hence, the reluctance to repudiate what is clearly an illegal internal debt.

    Secret talks
    The negotiations with the IMF have largely been held in private. To date not much is known about them, except that macroeconomic policy will remain largely unaltered. Both right- and left-wing critics of the government have complained about the secret nature of these talks, although the previous three governments were never known for openness in their dealings with imperial masters. Details of the finalized IMF agreement should become clear with the discussion of the 2008 budget that will have to take into account the impact of last year’s entry into a “free trade” agreement with the United States.

    The U.S. cries foul
    The grand scheme is to cobble together a two-pronged economic course that relies both on U.S.-sponsored “free trade” and the ALBA alliance, in addition to trade and aid with Iran, Brazil, and Taiwan. But imperialism can hardly be expected to accept this combination without protest. The inherent conflict was laid bare by Nicaragua’s recent (and still unresolved) conflict with Esso, the giant U.S.-based oil concern.

    In mid-August Esso arrogantly refused to allow Petronic (Nicaragua’s public petroleum corporation) to offload and store Venezuelan oil in its tanks at the port of Corinto on the north Pacific coast. The government responded by sending Esso a bill for millions of dollars in unpaid taxes and custom charges, and a Corinto judge impounded the oil storage tanks pending resolution of the dispute. The Esso tanks were filled with Venezuelan crude.

    Esso and the U.S. ambassador Trivelli cried foul, denouncing the alleged violation of property rights. The big-business association COSEP parroted this line, as did ALN head and banker Eduardo Montealegre, and other right-wing politicians. Vice-president Jaime Morales shot them down. “No private interests,” he insisted, “can be allowed to trump national interests.” He stressed that the oil was desperately needed to cope with constant electricity cuts.

    Esso is refusing to negotiate unless and until the court restores full and uncontested control of the tanks to their foreign owners. Morales warned Esso that it was making a grave error, resorting to a popular expression: “No sólo se le fue la mano sino también los pieds.” His image here is unmistakable – such errors can cost an arm and a leg! Strong words from our vice-president, a former Contra leader.

    Meanwhile the city of Managua has also moved against Esso for unpaid local taxes, and the Ministry of the Environment has re-opened an investigation of a recent perilous oil spill just outside Managua. Esso says vandals caused the spill. As one skeptic put it, “Some spill! Some vandals!”

    Contesting ‘hegemonic values’
    Esso’s provocation in Corinto this August recalls the initial skirmishes between Cuba and the U.S. government and oil monopolies in 1960 that sparked Cuba’s showdown with imperialism. The Nicaraguan government’s alignment with anti-imperialist forces and its initial, limited measures to alleviate popular suffering invite U.S. retaliation, combined with increasing class conflict and polarization.

    Frente leaders are well aware of the dilemmas and risks involved in the Sandinistas’ economic policy, but see no viable alternative. Sociologist Orlando Nuñez, perhaps the main theoretician and ideological defender of the FSLN government, and head of the Zero Hunger campaign, put it this way:

    “For a party with a socialist mission like the Sandinista Front, our situation is very complex and contradictory. The party holds the presidency and has the most political sympathizers in Nicaragua. However, it is still a minority in other state powers, and faces an opposition that is trying to unite and jointly oppose it. This party, now in power, has to administer a country where capitalist economy dominates and must govern a society whose hegemonic values are liberal and neo-liberal. Its strategy implies defending revolutionary measures of the government and acting as a party opposed to the capitalist system now in force.”

    But how can we Sandinistas contest capitalist “hegemonic values”? In Venezuela, repeated popular mobilizations turned back the right-wing assault. Can Nicaragua follow a similar path?

    note:
    Phil Stuart Cournoyer is a Nicaraguan citizen and longtime member of the FSLN [Sandinista National Liberation Front (Sandinistas)]. He has been an active socialist in Canada and Nicaragua for almost 50 years.

  6. Apology at snub to Taiwan’s leader

    Nicaragua: President Daniel Ortega has apologised for standing up Taiwan’s leader during a state visit.

    Ma Ying-jeou was visiting Nicaragua for the first time since taking office 13 months ago, but Mr Ortega didn’t show up at the airport for his arrival.

    Although Nicaragua is one of only 23 countries that officially recognises Taiwan, Taipei has ceased sending financial aid to Managua, allegedly due to the latter’s improved relations with China.

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/world/world_in_brief__69

  7. July 19, 1979: Nicaragua’s Sandinista revolution remembered — Video
    by John Pilger

    On July 19, 1979, the Nicaraguan people led by the Sandinista National
    Liberation Front (FSLN) overthrew the brutal US-backed dictator Somoza.
    In this film, made by John Pilger in the 1980s, the background to the
    revolt and the gains won — and the United States’ virulent opposition
    — are graphically explained

    Watch at http://links.org.au/node/530

  8. Ruling reopens corruption cases

    Nicaragua: The Appeals Court has reopened corruption cases against former president Arnoldo Aleman, defying the country’s Supreme Court, which had already overturned a 20-year prison sentence one year ago.

    Mr Aleman, who served as president between 1997 and 2002, was found guilty of massive embezzlement, with some estimates suggesting that he had looted more than £61 million from the Treasury.

    Mr Aleman, who has always denied the charges, served five years of the sentence under house arrest before the Supreme Court cleared him last year, but the Appeals Court ruling clears the way for a new investigation into the case.

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/86090

  9. Sandinista leader dies aged 81

    Nicaragua: Tomas Borge Martinez, the last surviving founder of the Sandinista movement that overthrew a US-backed dictatorship in 1979, died on Monday night aged 81.

    Rosario Murillo, wife of President Daniel Ortega, announced the death in a simultaneous broadcast on Radio Ya and other stations.

    Government spokeswoman Ms Murillo did not give a cause of death but the military had said previously that Mr Borge was being treated for pneumonia.

    Mr Borge joined with Carlos Fonseca Amador and others in 1961 to found the National Sandinista Liberation Front.

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/118470

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