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Nicaragua: do what we want or else...

Nicaragua: do what we want or else...


by Toni Solo

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 NATO country government intervention in the region. The national march led by the centre-right MRS party in Managua on Friday June 27th, heavily funded by grants from the US government and related quangos, 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 (CSE) to cancel the legal status of two opposition parties, the centre-right Movimiento Renovador Sandinista (MRS) and the Conservative Party. The CSE, 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 states in paragraph 12 that the CSE has the authority to cancel or suspend the legal status of political parties that fail to comply with relevant electoral law. The CSE 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.

Despite the CSE's forebearance and the legality of its ruling, the opposition and its supporters accused the electoral body of acting on political considerations at the behest 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 like Eduardo Galeano and Noam Chomsky. The day after the CSE's decision was made, the foreign development cooperation programme representatives published a pronouncement in the country's two main daily newspapers questioning the CSE's ruling.

The pronouncement alleged that the decision of the CSE 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 possible 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 presumputous neocolonial sub-text could hardly be clearer - "do what we want, or else..." The list of countries supporting that pronouncement consists almost entirely of NATO member countries from the European Union along with Canada and also multilateral bodies like the IMF and the World Bank controlled by NATO countries. Among the countries drafting the pronouncement, only Sweden and Switzerland are not NATO members. Switzerland is merely home to some of the NATO country's most important banks, grown fat on developing country "debt" while Sweden's corporate profile could hardly be more closely identified with its European Union NATO-country partners.

The CSE's decision and the donor countries pronouncement came after a high-profile 11-day hunger strike by the MRS leader Dora María Tellez. The MRS 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. The letter's signatories were surely aware that inside Nicaragua Tellez' protest was regarded as principally intended to publicise the MRS dispute with the Supreme Electoral Council. 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.

This latest episode in the Nicaraguan opposition's efforts to destabilise the FSLN coalition government re-runs the screenplay of similar NATO-country funded conspiracies against democratically elected governments leading to coups d'état in Venezuela in 2002 and Haiti in 2004. NGOs and the managerial class that lives by them are invariably among the star players in such screenplays. They abound in Nicaragua, almost exclusively funded by NATO country governmental and non-governmental institutions and agencies. All the usual suspects are there, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Open Society Institute and USAID.

The Nicaraguan NGOs constitute in large part the electoral base for the MRS which won barely 7% of the vote in the 2006 presidential election. The reason the MRS had such difficulty complying with the electoral law, which they voted for in the National Assembly when the measure was passed, is that their political support is located overwhelmingly in Managua and other urban centres on Nicaragua's Pacific coast. It is extremely difficult for the MRS party to consolidate its structures nationally in conformity with Nicaraguan electoral law.

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. It chimes well with the motif of dictatorship and democratic crisis the NATO country directed screenplay demands.

To extract maximum pathos and publicity from the developing scenario, Dora Maria Tellez staged her hunger strike as one of the main scenes completing this part of the screenplay. As part of it all, the NATO country development cooperation representatives most likely discussed their pronouncement and may have drafted it even before the CSE decision, since such a large group of very busy people are unlikely to have all met together and agreed a draft in the two days between the CSE decision and publication of the pronouncement. Similarly, the timing of the release of the letter from international figures in support of Dora Maria Tellez was suspiciously pat in terms of the unfolding events.

The whole affair seems to have been carefully and cynically stage-managed from start to finish. All the events were precisely framed in the "democracy crisis" discourse. Carlos Tunnerman Bernheim, MRS supporter and leader of the Movimiento por Nicaragua Organization, supported by all the main US destabilization organizations like the NED and the IRI said of the NATO country representatives' pronouncement, "it isn't an intervention in internal affairs, rather they are making the government see that the general agreement on development cooperation stipulates the existence of democratic governance, strengthening of legal institutions, transparency and the free play of democracy." (1)

Another USAID funded organization that thinks it is entitled to tell the CSE how to interpret Nicaraguan electoral law is the opposition aligned electoral observation organization Etica y Transparencia. This organization's president observed of the donors pronouncement, "in contrast to the electoral tribunal that, ignoring due process, moved to a cancellation not contemplated in the law, they are saying they too can take decisions when agreements are not respected in relation to governance." (2) One could hardly ask for a more ringing endorsement of NATO country neocolonial practice.

The cynicism and dishonesty with which the affair has been reported by MRS media can be seen from a report in Confidencial, the web based news magazine of MRS supporter, local media empresario Carlos Fernando Chamorro. The Confidencial editors took the title of one of two articles distributed by the FSLN press office, one by me and one by Dick Emanuelsson, as part of the FSLN's response to the propaganda onslaught from the right wing controlled opposition media. My article's Spanish title was "Chomsky, Hayden, Wilson, pawns of John Negroponte?"

That became in Confidencial, "Murillo alleges Chomsky is a pawn of the US", referring to Rosario Murillo who coordinates the government's media relations. Murillo in fact alleged nothing. All she did was circulate Dick Emanuelsson's article and my article without comment presumably to show that not everyone with long records of solidarity with progressive movements in Latin America shares the ill-informed views of Chomsky and his fellow signatories. The more one reads MRS material the clearer their cynicism and dishonesty gets.

But that is hardly surprising given the company they keep or the support they seek. The hypocrisy of the European,Canadian and multilateral donor representatives is consummate. The European Union has recently upgraded its relations with Israel to the highest possible level short of EU membership. That is to say they are rewarding a country that has consistently rejected all UN resolutions relating to its occupation of Palestine, a country condemned by the International Court of Justice for its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. The European Union has been an accomplice 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.

These are the people warning the Nicaragua's FSLN-led coalition government to respect international agreements.
If one looks at other countries in receipt of NATO country development cooperation aid one finds vicious dictatorships like those of, among many others, Teodoro Obiang in Equatorial Guinea or King Mohammed the 6th of Morocco, responsible for savage repression of the people of Western Sahara. In Uzbekistan, the European Union supports the murderous dictatorship of Islam Karimov. Wherever one looks in the world one will find that the same European countries currently threatening Nicaragua are vigorously supporting the most cruel and vicious tyrannies, just as Canada did in Haiti during that country's long agony under the illegitimate Latortue regime.

Together with that grotesque 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. Politicians accused of corruption like Jacques Chirac, Silvio Berlusconi and Tony Blair occupy positions of honour in Europe. Tony Blair is believed to have forced the cancellation of investigation into billion dollar corruption in relation to Saudi arms contracts with giant arms multinational British Aerospace.

One should remember episodes like the comprehensive ELF corruption scandal and the Taiwan frigates affair in France, 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 Berlsuconi. 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 that sees them recur time and again survives along with all the scandals that never see the light of day.

These are the countries trying to wag their finger convincingly at Nicaragua about good governance. All are allies of the Bush regime. The governments of Canada and France co-engineered the coup in Haiti with Colin Powell and Haiti's gangster ruling elite. 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. Among the commissioners are shady characters like Peter Mandelson, the bullying EU Trade Commissioner and long-time accomplice of Tony Blair. Mandelson was forced to resign not once, but twice as a result of minor scandals in Tony Blair's government. So it is absolutely clear that the development cooperation representatives of these countries in Nicaragua are behaving in the basest traditions of neocolonial hypocrisy and double standards. 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....They want us to continue via the logic of submission of well, "you're going to do this, you'll jump here or you'll go over there... this is a problem in which we are going to learn to relate to each other so they are going to have to learn to build relations under these new conditions, learn that here is a government clear about where it wants to go, one with clear purposes and which has the will to move things forward whatever the difficulties may be......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 full stop."

Nicaragua's FSLN led coalition government is ultimately in a stronger position that was Haiti's President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Their position depends overwhelmingly on support from Venezuela. It is hard to see how Nicaragua could defend itself against consistent NATO 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.

The current wave of right-wing anti-government destabilization is mostly funded by the US but is actively promoted by NATO donor countries and multilateral allies. As Orlando Nuñez, the director of Nicaragua's landmark Zero Hunger program has said, this destabilization campaign is just the latest stage of the ongoing low-intensity war to re-establish the neocolonial debt+aid do-what-we-want-or-else straitjacket and prevent Nicaragua's progressive government implementing its programme successfully. The next decisive battleground will be the municipal elections in November this year.

*************

Toni writes for tortillaconsal.com

Notes
1. http://www.confidencial.com.ni/politica_589.html
2. as above
3. http://www.radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias/32117

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