Friday, November 10, 2006

US Interference In Nicaraguan Election May Have Backfired

For the past few days, even with everything else that's been going on, I've been thinking about updating my earlier (short, rushed) post about the Nicaraguan presidential election, which, as you probably already know, was won by Daniel Ortega.

I was thinking about the enormous American effort to interfere with that election, which appears to have backfired, when I stumbled upon an article in Time Magazine which used that very same word: "backfired".

Imagine my horror! Was I thinking along the same lines as the master spinners?

In a short word, no!

Time Magazine: Ortega's Victory: Another Administration Blunder?
The U.S. Congress wasn't the only place the Bush Administration suffered electoral embarrassment this week. In Nicaragua, cold-war bogeyman Daniel Ortega — whose Marxist Sandinista government had been an obsession of the Reagan Administration — was elected president again on Sunday despite frantic U.S. lobbying for his defeat. By most accounts, the yanqui politicking — which included a threat to cut off U.S. aid to impoverished Nicaragua if Ortega won — backfired miserably, actually helping boost the Sandinista leader to his first-round victory. That such U.S. pressure tends to work in favor of its opponents is a lesson Washington seems woefully unable to learn in a post-Cold War Latin America whose electorates have unexpectedly turned leftward in recent years.

The election of Ortega — who won with 38% of the vote, about 8 points ahead of his U.S.-backed opponent, conservative banker Eduardo Montealegre — is no doubt a concern. After he and Sandinista guerrillas toppled Nicaragua's brutal dictator, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, in 1979, Ortega led an authoritarian, Soviet-backed regime that wrecked the economy and fought a civil war with U.S.-backed contra rebels that killed some 50,000 people. [...]
It could be argued that it was the war that wrecked the economy, and that it wasn't a civil war at all, but an attack-by-proxy conducted by the USA. Time Magazine is definitely not interested in going there. But fortunately, there are others who are much less gun-shy when it comes to telling the truth. So let's pay attention to a few of them, shall we?

Here's Tom Regan in the Christian Science Monitor: US fails in effort to derail Ortega presidential bid
In what critics call another sign of waning American influence in Central and Latin America, an "all-out" effort by the United States to convince Nicaraguans not to elect former Sandinista president Daniel Ortega to a second term has apparently failed.
"They did everything but threaten to invade," said Mark Weisbrot, a Latin America expert at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.
The American campaign against Ortega hit a crescendo shortly before Sunday's vote. US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez warned that all US aid for Nicaragua could be at stake. Other officials said the country could be left out of the Central American Free Trade Agreement and that remittances sent home by Nicaraguans living in the United States could be blocked.

By contrast, [Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a friend of Ortega's] promised to step in with economic aid and cheap oil for a leftist Sandinista government. In the end, many voters decided to give Ortega another chance.

"Nicaraguans worry that bad relations with the United States can have really negative consequences," said William LeoGrande, a professor at American University in Washington. "But some were offended (by the US interference) on nationalistic grounds and were more likely to vote for Ortega."
There's much more here and I encourage you to read the entire article, and follow the links.

But now we turn to Chris Floyd: Sandinista! How Will Bush Make Nicaragua Pay for its Disobedience?:
Ortega ran and won with the backing of several prominent ex-Contras, including Jamie Morales, his own running mate. Morales had been the Contras' spokesman in Washington during the Reagan years when, with the direct involvement of VP George Bush, the Administration joined hands with the mullahs of Iran and the druglords of Central and South America to fund, arm and train a terrorist army to overthrow the Sandinista government. Although this exercise in mass state terrorism failed on the battlefield, the Reagan-Bush policy of economic terror managed to reduce Nicaragua to dire poverty, with the open threat that the stranglehold would go on until the Sandinistas were gone.

Of course, the stated reason for the Reagan-Bush hatred of Ortega was that he was an evil Commie tyrant and dictator who opposed democracy. However, oddly enough, when a majority of Nicaraguans bowed to the American blackmail in 1990 and voted against Sandinistas, these evil, anti-democratic Commie tyrant dictators....left office. They obeyed the obviously coerced but democratically expressed will of the people. And now, Ortega -- no shining knight but, in the end, a rather typical politician eager for power but with at least an inclination toward mitigating some of the most pernicious effects of predatory crony capitalism -- has been returned, democratically, to power...without "robocalls," without "push-polls," without strangely malfunctioning voting machines that only make "mistakes" in favor of one party, with "voter roll purges," etc. etc.

What will happen now? It's obvious: the Bush II administration -- which is clotted with many of the same Constitution-hating state terrorists who threw in with druglords and Islamic extremists during the Contra War -- has already announced its intention to resume the old economic terrorism against the wretchedly poor people of Nicaragua. American officials stated plainly that trade restrictions and cutbacks, if not cut-offs, in U.S. aid were in the cards if the Nicaraguans exercised their democratic rights in favor of the Sandinistas. They even sent Oliver North down to tour the country before the election -- the clearest possible signal for the rabble to get in line, rather like having Frank Nitti drive through the neighborhood to remind the shopkeepers to pay up their protection money to Al Capone.

The only question remaining is whether the Iran-Contra criminal gang now restored to the White House will be content with economic sabatoge of the Nicaraguan government. After all, this time Ortega will have the backing of Venezeula's Hugo Chavez, who has promised cheap oil and other economic benefits to the Sandinistas. The Washington squeeze play won't be quite as effective this time around. So will they move on to more physical methods of destabilization? Will they sponsor another mass-murdering civil war? Or will it be confined to covert ops? After all, the great googily-moogily of American intelligence, John Negroponte, made his bones in the region during the Reagan-Bush reign of terror, operating out of Honduras as the United States spread war and repression across Central America.
Horrendous, isn't it? But don't get me started! Instead, I'd prefer to leave the last word (or several of them) to William Blum:
For 27 years, the most powerful nation in the world has found it impossible to share the Western Hemisphere with one of its poorest and weakest neighbors, Nicaragua, if the country's leader was not in love with capitalism.

From the moment the Sandinista revolutionaries overthrew the US-supported Somoza dictatorship in 1979, Washington was concerned about the rising up of that long-dreaded beast -- "another Cuba". This was war. On the battlefield and in the voting booths. For almost 10 years, the American proxy army, the Contras, carried out a particularly brutal insurgency against the Sandinista government and its supporters. In 1984, Washington tried its best to sabotage the elections, but failed to keep Sandinista leader Ortega from becoming president. And the war continued. In 1990, Washington's electoral tactic was to hammer home the simple and clear message to the people of Nicaragua: If you re-elect Ortega all the horrors of the civil war and America's economic hostility will continue. Just two months before the election, in December 1989, the United States invaded Panama for no apparent reason acceptable to international law, morality, or common sense (The United States naturally called it "Operation Just Cause"); one likely reason it was carried out was to send a clear message to the people of Nicaragua that this is what they could expect, that the US/Contra war would continue and even escalate, if they re-elected the Sandinistas.

It worked; one cannot overestimate the power of fear, of murder, rape, and your house being burned down. Ortega lost, and Nicaragua returned to the rule of the free market, striving to roll back the progressive social and economic programs that had been undertaken by the Sandinistas. Within a few years widespread malnutrition, wholly inadequate access to health care and education, and other social ills, had once again become a widespread daily fact of life for the people of Nicaragua.

Each presidential election since then has pitted perennial candidate Ortega against Washington's interference in the process in shamelessly blatant ways. Pressure has been regularly exerted on certain political parties to withdraw their candidates so as to avoid splitting the conservative vote against the Sandinistas. US ambassadors and visiting State Department officials publicly and explicitly campaign for anti-Sandinista candidates, threatening all kinds of economic and diplomatic punishment if Ortega wins, including difficulties with exports, visas, and vital family remittances by Nicaraguans living in the United States.

In the 2001 election, shortly after the September 11 attacks, American officials tried their best to tie Ortega to terrorism, placing a full-page ad in the leading newspaper which declared, among other things, that: "Ortega has a relationship of more than thirty years with states and individuals who shelter and condone international terrorism." [Nicaragua Network (Washington, DC), October 29, 2001 -- and New York Times, November 4, 2001, p.3]

That same year a senior analyst in Nicaragua for the international pollsters Gallup was moved to declare: "Never in my whole life have I seen a sitting ambassador get publicly involved in a sovereign country's electoral process, nor have I ever heard of it." [Miami Herald, October 29, 2001]

Additionally, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) -- which would like the world to believe that it's a private non-governmental organization, when it's actually a creation and an agency of the US government -- regularly furnishes large amounts of money and other aid to organizations in Nicaragua which are opposed to the Sandinistas. The International Republican Institute (IRI), a long-time wing of NED, whose chairman is Arizona Senator John McCain, has also been active in Nicaragua creating the Movement for Nicaragua, which has helped organize marches against the Sandinistas. An IRI official in Nicaragua, speaking to a visiting American delegation in June of this year, equated the relationship between Nicaragua and the United States to that of a son to a father. "Children should not argue with their parents." she said.

With the 2006 presidential election in mind, one senior US official wrote in a Nicaraguan newspaper last year that should Ortega be elected, "Nicaragua would sink like a stone". In March, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, the US Ambassador to the UN under Reagan and a prime supporter of the Contras, came to visit. She met with members of all the major Sandinista opposition parties and declared her belief that democracy in Nicaragua "is in danger" but that she had no doubt that the "Sandinista dictatorship" would not return to power. The following month, the American ambassador in Managua, Paul Trivelli, who openly speaks of his disapproval of Ortega and the Sandinista party, sent a letter to the presidential candidates of conservative parties offering financial and technical help to unite them for the general election of November 5. The ambassador stated that he was responding to requests by Nicaraguan "democratic parties" for US support in their mission to keep Daniel Ortega from a presidential victory. The visiting American delegation reported: "In a somewhat opaque statement Trivelli said that if Ortega were to win, the concept of governments recognizing governments wouldn't exist anymore and it was a 19th century concept anyway. The relationship would depend on what his government put in place." One of the fears of the ambassador likely has to do with Ortega talking of renegotiating CAFTA, the trade agreement between the US and Central America, so dear to the hearts of corporate globalizationists.

Then, in June, US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said it was necessary for the Organization of American States (OAS) to send a mission of Electoral Observation to Nicaragua "as soon as possible" so as to "prevent the old leaders of corruption and communism from attempting to remain in power" (though the Sandinistas have not occupied the presidency, only lower offices, since 1990).

The explicit or implicit message of American pronouncements concerning Nicaragua is often the warning that if the Sandinistas come back to power, the horrible war, so fresh in the memory of Nicaraguans, will return. The London Independent reported in September that "One of the Ortega billboards in Nicaragua was spray-painted 'We don't want another war'. What it was saying was that if you vote for Ortega you are voting for a possible war with the US." [The Independent (London), September 6, 2006, and "2006 Nicaraguan Elections and the US Government Role. Report of the Nicaragua Network delegation to investigate US intervention in the Nicaraguan elections of November 2006"]

Per capita income in Nicaragua is $900 a year; some 70% of the people live in poverty. It is worth noting that Nicaragua and Haiti are the two nations in the Western Hemisphere that the United States has intervened in the most, from the 19th century to the 21st, including long periods of occupation. And they are today the two poorest in the hemisphere, wretchedly so.
Here's a late update, from USA Today: U.S. seeks better ties by aiding militaries
Concern about leftist victories in Latin America has prompted President Bush to quietly grant a waiver that allows the United States to resume training militaries from 11 Latin American and Caribbean countries.

The administration hopes the training will forge links with countries in the region and blunt a leftward trend. Daniel Ortega, a nemesis of the United States in the region during the 1980s, was elected president in Nicaragua this week. Bolivians chose another leftist, Evo Morales, last year.
And so on.

If at first you don't succeed...

When will our so-called leaders realize that you can't "blunt a leftward trend" by killing people?

Don't answer that unless you want to.