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Nicaragua : strategic model for regional change

Nicaragua : strategic model for decisive regional change

by Toni Solo

Current efforts to secure an amnesty for corrupt Right wing political leaders in Nicaragua are hugely embarrassing for international critics and enemies of Nicaragua's Sandinista government. The record of President Daniel Ortega's government makes the desperate counterfactual claims of hostile media across the political spectrum look ridiculous. The latest effort by leading Nicaraguan right-wing politicians to evade justice for their crimes could hardly demonstrate this more clearly.

The opposition-controlled Economic Commission in the legislature initiated the corruption amnesty after right wing opposition legislators' failed in their efforts to provoke a constitutional crisis over voting new authorities for the country's Supreme Court of Justice and Supreme Electoral Council, among other posts. Daniel Ortega faced down the unconstitutional right-wing challenge to procedural legitimacy via a presidential decree. That decree confirmed current office holders in their positions until such time as the National Assembly complies with its constitutional duty.

Subsequently, right wing political leaders hoped to vote through an unconstitutional amnesty for hundreds of former government officials involved in a mountain of cases processed by the Controller General's office under right wing governments over the last 16 years. (1) The amnesty's main beneficiaries would be the US embassy's perennial candidate Eduardo Montealegre and disgraced former President Arnoldo Aleman. The opposition generated mini-crisis has completely destroyed all the absurd claims that Nicaragua is, or runs the risk of becoming, a dictatorship under Daniel Ortega. In the event, the opposition could not muster the minimum votes needed to vote through their amnesty.

Influential Sandinista journalist William Grigsby points out that commentators who lament the politicization of Nicaragua's legal system are absolutely right. But, he observes, it is the right wing who have politicized judicial process by consistently threatening the minority Sandinista government with legislative boycotts in the National Assembly. By doing so they extort concessions from the government's legal officers in relation to the processing of corruption cases involving opposition political leaders. The opposition leaders' amnesty proposal was meant to exonerate them entirely so as to be able to freely sabotage the Sandinista-led coalition government's extremely successful social and economic programmes.

The latest judicial outrage facilitated by rogue judges under pressure from the opposition has been the exoneration of two of Arnoldo Aleman's henchmen on corruption charges. Former Head of Nicaragua's Revenue Office, Byron Jerez, and former Treasury Minister Esteban Duquestrada, were both exonerated of egregious corruption offences following the Supreme Court's similar exoneration in December 2008 of some of the charges against Arnoldo Aleman. Other charges against Aleman remain pending, as well as cases involving the notorious CENIS financial operation under Presidents Aleman and Bolanos that cheated the Nicaraguan taxpayer out of over US$300 million.

All these events demolish claims by United States and European Union government representatives, generally given uncritical currency by corporate and alternative media, such as :

the Sandinista government is an undemocratic dictatorship
the Sandinista government controls the Nicaraguan justice system
the opposition political parties are the only trustworthy democratic forces in Nicaragua

All these false propositions have been repeated ad nauseam by almost all the main international corporate and alternative media. Not a single one of the politicians or political groups they have supported emerges from the affair looking good.. It has been the Sandinista-led coalition government that has defended basic norms of good governance and democratic procedure, as it has done from the day it took office in January 2007.

The media darlings of the social democrat Movimiento Renovador Sandinista groupuscule have suffered what looks like terminal damage as a political force. Now reduced to just two deputies, the MRS has to borrow deputies from the extreme right-wing group led by Eduardo Montealegre in order to continue as an autonomous bloc in the legislature. The MRS and former MRS member Monica Baltodano voted solidly for three years with the same right wing politicians responsible for cheating the Nicaraguan people out of over US$800m. At least, that is the amount that can be proved in court. The true figure may well be twice that.

Further evidence of the competence and integrity of the Sandinista governemtn came recently as a result of an audit of the State petroleum company, Petronic and of the Institute of Social Security. Local Nicaraguan media criticised both bodies constantly and aggressively all through 2008 and 2009 accusing them of being egregiously corrupt. The Comptroller-General's Audit demonstrated that apart from recommendations for trivial technical improvements, no trace of deliberate fraud was found. The news was totally buried by local, regional and international corporate and alternative media. Of course it was. It ran against those media's prewritten script.

The competence, integrity and political and economic success of President Daniel Ortega's government make the Nicaraguan political opposition and their backers in the United States, Canada and Europe look like sinister idiots. Despite obvious, unsurprising practical obstacles, contradictions and failings, the Nicaraguan government has become a strategic regional model in Central America in terms of participative democracy, poverty reduction and economic progress. It has done so largely as a result of its membership of the Bolivarian Alliance of the peoples of the Americas (ALBA), lead by Venezuela and Cuba.

The neocolonial corporate and alternative media choke on this unpalatable truth just like their governments do. In practice that means that the huge social and economic advances made by the Sandinista government in Nicaragua in just three years, since January 2007, go unreported. The same is true of the massive regional impact of the ALBA programmes and their associated energy and food security initiative Petrocaribe. The challenge now facing Nicaragua and ALBA is to sustain their categorical success despite continuing economic stagnation in the US and Europe, which may well last for years into the coming decade.

1. Details of the main cases involved can be found at the website of Nicaragua's Attorney General.


Toni writes for

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