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NicaNotes: More Money for Coup Groups from US Agency for International Development

By Nan McCurdy | November 12, 2020

Organizations that led the coup attempt in 2018 against the constitutional government of President Daniel Ortega, continue to receive foreign funding from the United States and some European countries. The latest information on USAID funding of the US-directed opposition was made available by journalist William Grigsby on Radio La Primerísima’s Sin Fronteras Magazine.

USAID fiscal year 2021 (Oct. 1, 2020-Sept. 30, 2021) foreign assistance includes “funds to support the restoration of democracy and human rights in the region.” This document shows funding of US$13.4 million dollars bringing USAID funding of the Nicaraguan opposition since 2017 to US$102.27 million.

Just the wealthy Chamorro family – Juan Sebastian, Cristiana and Carlos Fernando – received US$3.87 million. The Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation managed by Christiana Chamorro received the largest amount, US$1.6 million for the rest of 2020 and 2021. Through this foundation, the US finances some twenty-five media and TV and radio shows including La Prensa and Channel 10 known for their vociferous anti-Sandinismo. Juan Sebastian Chamorro, whose NGO is FUNIDES, receives US$1.37 million. Carlos Fernando Chamorro with his media empire Grupo Cinco, which includes Confidencial, receives US$901,471.

William Grigsby in his Nov. 10 article said that “the abuse, hypocrisy and lack of democracy of the Chamorro family was once again exposed with the release of a series of documents proving that they receive funding from the United States and other European governments to illegally enrich themselves and cause disorder in Nicaragua.”

The latest documents and screenshots here show the amount of money given to the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation from 2014 to 2020 – US$4.39 million. If you add in the latest donation of US$1.6, the total is US$5.99– or almost six million dollars just for the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation.

The Chamorro gang is the darling of the Yankees

The amount of money to finance coup activities through media has increased considerably in the last two years to the Chamorro Foundation which focuses on disinformation through online, print, radio and television. In 2020 and 2021 the amount given to them was US$2.59 million.

This funding is part of the US orchestrated plan called RAIN to destabilize and if possible overthrow the Nicaraguan government leaked from the US embassy in Managua in July and includes a USAID contract to hire a company to head up the destabilization plan. While the document, Responsive Assistance in Nicaragua, tries to portray its intentions as democratic, it is a disturbing example of US intervention in another nation’s internal affairs.

There is also a substantial amount of funding for organizations that work on the Caribbean Coast. US$1.7 million was given recently to three organizations: the Foundation for the Autonomy and Development of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua (FADCANIC) received US$457,759; the Nidia White Women’s Movement Association has a budget of half a million dollars from the US for the period 2020-2021 and the Association for the Development of the Atlantic Coast has a similar budget of US$785,341 for its political activities in 2020-2021. This is particularly interesting as The Oakland Institute received nearly a million dollars in 2018 for their work including the disinformation campaign to attempt to damage Nicaragua’s environmental reputation on the Caribbean Coast.

Organizations that continue to receive USAID financing for their electoral destabilization activities are: Grupo Ética y Transparencia, which has a grant of US$1 million for the election year of 2021 and Hagamos Democracia, which has a grant of US$1.1 million. Both organizations have worked in opposition to the Sandinista party, at least in the last four elections. Movimiento Por Nicaragua, the NGO of Violeta Granera, is receiving US$601,124.

The so-called Permanent Commission of Human Rights headed by the Marcos Carmona (accused of criminal activities) received US$825,671; the Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights (ANDPH) headed by Alvaro Leiva received US$701,032. The board of directors of ANDPH denounced Leiva for stealing nearly half a million dollars and accused him of inflating the number of deaths during the 2018 coup attempt as a tactic to get more US funding.

The United States government portrays this aid as supporting democracy but it is targeted against one side in the political arena of a foreign country and would never be allowed in the US. Why should it be allowed in any other country?

November 14, 2020 Posted by | Corruption | , , , | 1 Comment

USA’s Militarization of Latin America

By Yanis Iqbal | Dissident Voice | August 24, 2020

Maj. Gen. Andrew Croft, the commander of 12th Air Force, wrote on 22 August: “I have seen an increasingly contested strategic space where Beijing and Moscow are aggressively investing time and resources in Latin America to support their authoritarian models of governance. The Air Force must reinforce the strength of our longstanding commitment to the Western Hemisphere. We lose ground when we are unable to commit to spending the time and resources to fly our aircraft south and train alongside our partners.”

Croft’s statement reflects the growing American hysteria against the presence of any extra-regional actors in the Latin American continent. For US policy-makers, Latin America is not an aggregation of sovereign nations but a large lump of subordinated states constituting “America’s backyard”. Consequently, this conceptualization of Latin America as a natural extension of the American empire has led to viewing the engagement of any South American country with China, Russia and Iran as a “threat” to peace and security.

On February 7, 2019, Admiral Craig S. Faller – the commander of the United States Southern Command – told the Congress that the Western Hemisphere is facing “a troubling array of challenges and threats”. These threats included alarmist assertions about the growing dominance of China, Russia and Iran and a general demonization of the socialist governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua:

“China has accelerated expansion of its Belt and Road Initiative at a pace that may one day overshadow its expansion in Southeast Asia and Africa. Russia supports multiple information outlets spreading its false narrative of world events and U.S. intentions. Iran has deepened its anti-U.S. Spanish language media coverage and has exported its state support for terrorism into our hemisphere. Russia and China also support the autocratic regimes in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, which are counter to democracy and U.S. interests. We are monitoring the latest events in Venezuela and look forward to welcoming that country back into the hemisphere’s community of democracies.”

In response to the perceived threats posed by the China-Russia-Iran nexus, the Secretary of Defense has decided to conduct an assessment of the sufficiency of resources available to the U.S. Southern Command, the U.S. Northern Command, the Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to carry out their respective missions in the Western Hemisphere. This assessment is required to include “a list of investments, programs, or partnerships in the Western Hemisphere by China, Iran, Russia, or other adversarial groups or countries that threaten the national security of the United States.”

In addition to warlike preparations, USA has also pursued a policy of increased militarization wherein it has tried to ensure “technological superiority” with regard to “anti-US actors”. In March, 2020, USA decided to send additional ships, aircraft and forces to South America and Central America in order to combat the influence of Russia and China. According to Navy Adm. Craig Faller, commander of Southern Command, “This really was born out of a recognition of the threats in the region,”. Along with the mobilization of the Southern Command, USA has substantially enlarged its security aid to Latin America: From $527,706,000 in 2019, US security aid to Latin America has increased by 10% to $581,270,000.

Chinese Footprint

The present-day US militarization of Latin America is rhetorically driven by an imperialist discourse framing the continent as a possession of the American empire which China, Russia and Iran are trying to appropriate. To take an example, R. Evan Ellis, a Latin America Research Professor at the US Army War College, stated before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission that China’s engagement with Latin America “threatens the position of the United States, our security and prosperity, and the democratic values, rights, institutions and laws on which we depend.” To substantiate his statements, Ellis enunciated various strategies through which China is undermining USA’s dominance:

  • “Trade with, loans to, investment in, and other forms of economic and other support to anti-US regimes, indirectly enabling their criminal activities and contributions to regional instability”.
  • “Through providing an alternative to commerce, loans and investment from the West, making governments of the region less inclined to support the US on political, commercial, or security issues, or to stand up for rule of law, democracy or human rights, particularly where it might offend the PRC;”

In both these points, one can observe the imperialistic high-handedness with which Ellis is declaiming his pro-US rhetoric. While Beijing’s efforts to engage with sovereign nations and construct an alternative to the global American empire are regarded as enabling “regional instability”, no questions are asked about USA’s expansionist quest to imperialize the entire world through militaristic tactics.

In order to vilify China and smear its non-aggressive foreign policy, hawkish security experts have framed the country’s diplomatic involvement with various Latin American nations as a type of authoritarian tactic. Using this line of reasoning, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) writes: “Beijing has now officially established its own version of soft power… which emanates from its undemocratic system and rests on its ability to shape the viewpoints of others through co-optation and persuasion.” Not having any empirical evidence to prove its unconvincing statements, NED talks vaguely about the “hypnotic effects” exercised by “Chinese-style warm welcome”: “The Chinese-style warm welcome, the carefully selected tours that include visits to sites with symbolic historical and cultural significance, and ad hoc friendly discourse delivered by the Chinese hosts can have hypnotic effects on their foreign guests.” This is an indication of the extent to which America hysteria against China can reach.

In the same way as NED, the Brookings Institution has also tried to slander China’s diplomatic initiatives in Latin America to preserve the coercive dominance of USA in the continent. As per the think tank, “it would be fair to assume that China’s growing economic power and ambitions of global leadership, coupled with its inherently closed and repressive model of political control, will hurt the region’s prospects for strengthening its liberal democratic systems and respect for human rights.” While saying this, the Brooking Institution conveniently forgets that it the US, with its Western-styled liberal democracy, that has hurt the region most in the form of coups, violence and overt brutality against social movements. Most recently, a US-backed coup in Bolivia has resulted in two massacres and massive repression of social movements.

The Iranian Connection

Like China, Iran, too, experiences American hostility towards its engagement with Latin American countries. Lieutenant Andrew Kramer of the U.S. Navy terms Iranian support for the “economically backward governments” of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela as efforts “to maintain pockets of instability and hostility close to U.S. borders.” Echoing this perspective, William Preston McLaughlin, a Colonel (Ret.) of U.S. Marine Corps and Magdalena Defort, an Intern Analyst at the Foundation of Defense of Democracies, argue that “Iran’s presence in Latin America is an imminent threat to peace and political stability in the Western Hemisphere because its forces interact with Latin America’s deeply rooted revolutionary ideology and various well-intentioned but flawed “liberation theology” social movements.” Here, both of the analysts are merely parroting the imperialist “Monroe Doctrine” that subverted the sovereignty of Latin American nations and tethered the people of the continent to the whims of the American empire. Through the Monroe Doctrine, USA relegated the entire Latin American continent to the status of the empire’s handmaiden and constantly used its military muscles to overpower any regional initiatives challenging the dynamics of subjugation. Now, when Iran is lending support to the anti-imperialist administrations of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, it has come under the radar of USA for ostensibly destroying peace and political stability in the Western Hemisphere. In August 2020, for instance, USA confiscated four Iranian fuel shipments that had been bound for Venezuela, making it clear that it would not tolerate anti-imperialist opposition in Latin America.

In addition to portraying Iran as a threat to global peace, both the analysts also used a shrill, scaremongering rhetoric to over-exaggerate the strength of the country. According to the analysts, “Iran has used every agency within its borders to help extend Iranian tentacles into the political, cultural, economic, and military life of Latin America.” This bears striking resemblance to the traditional war-mongering US narrative that frames Hezbollah as a menace to justify the militarizary raising funds, seeking recruits, probing for our weaknesses and challenging our defenses,”. Through these discourses, USA seeks to unleash a new war against the anti-imperialist axis of Latin America which is standing up to militaristic predatoriness of the global hegemon.

Russian Presence

Besides Iran and China, Russia is another nation perceived as a “threat” to US security. General John Kelly, commander of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) noted in his Congressional testimony, “it has been over three decades since we last saw this type of high-profile Russian presence” in Latin America. In his command’s 2015 Posture Statement, Kelly added:

“Periodically since 2008, Russia has pursued an increased presence in Latin America through propaganda, military arms and equipment sales, counterdrug agreements, and trade. Under President Putin, however, we have seen a clear return to Cold War tactics. As part of its global strategy, Russia is using power projection in an attempt to erode U.S. leadership and challenge U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere.”

John Kelly’s representation of Russia as a military threat has been repeated by the Commander of US Southern Command, Admiral Kurt W. Tidd who said in his February 2018 Posture Statement to the US Senate Armed Services Committee that:

“Russia’s increased role in our hemisphere is particularly concerning, given its intelligence and cyber capabilities, intent to upend international stability and order, and discredit democratic institutions… Left unchecked, Russian access and placement could eventually transition from a regional spoiler to a critical threat to the U.S. homeland.”

With the help this narrative, USA has aggressively pushed forward the agenda of greater militarism in Latin America as it strives to maintain “technological superiority” in relation to Russia and expand its already large military expenditure.

On top of depicting Russia as a military threat, US analysts have additionally portrayed the country’s support of socialist governments in Latin America as a danger to the economically empty liberal democracies of the West. According to IBI Consultants, a National Security consulting company specializing in Latin America, Russia’s growing presence in Latin America “is now an integral part of an alliance of state and nonstate actors that have shown their hostility toward the United States in their ideology, criminalized behavior, and anti-democratic nature.” Reiterating this point, on July 9, 2019, Admiral Faller declared before the Congress that “Russia seeks to sow disunity and distrust, propping up autocratic regimes in Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, which are counter to democracy and U.S. interests.” For Faller, those nations which don’t doggedly toe America’s imperialist line automatically become “threats” to democracy and if Russia shows solidarity with these anti-imperialist nations, it, too, classifies as a threat to US interests.

As the USA continues to militarize Latin America, it is increasingly becoming clear that it wants to protect its old, imperial structures from being challenged by anyone. It has been explicitly acknowledged even by pro-US analysts such as Ellis that US military assistance in Latin America “potentially serves U.S. strategic interests by helping to inoculate receiving states against radical or anti-democratic [read “socialist”] solutions which find receptivity when populations lose faith in the ability of a democratic political system and a free market economy to effectively address the corruption, inequality, injustice, and other dysfunctionalities plaguing their country [Emphasis mine].” US military assistance, therefore, is not apolitical and is ideologically tarnished with the objectives of stabilizing free market economies-bourgeoisie democracies and subverting socialist countries.

The United States Intelligence Community’s assessment of threats to US national security had stated in 2019 that “anti-US autocrats [in the Western Hemisphere]will present continuing challenges to US interests, as US adversaries and strategic competitors seek greater influence in the region.” Here, “anti-US autocrats” refers to the socialist administrations of three Latin American countries: Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. These three countries have been facing strong US belligerence for their anti-imperialist stance. US sanctions against Cuba have tightened during the pandemic; USA’s hybrid war against Venezuela has intensified as Trump has decided to use frozen funds to topple Nicolas Maduro and USAID (United States Agency for International Development) has strengthened its regime change operations against the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Due to the support lent by China, Russia and Iran to the socialist governments of Latin America, USA has decided to eradicate these extra-regional actors from its “own” backyard and re-proclaim a complete American dominance in the region. In times like these, the international community needs to oppose the militarism of USA against new regional alliances in Latin America.

Yanis Iqbal is a student and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India.

August 24, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

The US contracts out its regime change operation in Nicaragua

By John Perry | COHA | August 4, 2020

Masaya, Nicaragua – An extraordinary leaked document gives a glimpse of the breadth and complexity of the US government’s plan to interfere in Nicaragua’s internal affairs up to and after its presidential election in 2021.

The plan,[1] a 14-page extract from a much longer document, dates from March-April this year and sets the terms for a contract to be awarded by USAID (a “Request for Task Order Proposal”). It was revealed by reporter William Grigsby from Nicaragua’s independent Radio La Primerisima[2] and describes the task  of creating what the document calls “the environment for Nicaragua’s transition to democracy.” The aim is to achieve “an orderly transition” from the current government of Daniel Ortega to “a government committed to the rule of law, civil liberties, and a free civil society.” The contractor will work with the “democracy, human rights, and governance (DRG) sub-sectors” which in reality is an agglomeration of NGOs, think tanks, media organizations and so-called human rights bodies that depend on US funding and which – while claiming to be independent – are in practice an integral part of the opposition to the Ortega government.

To justify such blatant interference, a considerable rewriting of history is needed. For example, the document claims that the ruling Sandinista party manipulated “successive” past elections so as to win “without a majority of the votes.” Then after “manipulating the 2016 presidential elections” to similar effect, it was warned by the Organization of American States (OAS) that there had been various “impediments to free and fair elections” as a result of which the OAS requested “technical electoral reforms.” What the document omits, however, are the overall conclusions of the OAS on the last elections. Although it identified “weaknesses typical of all electoral processes,” the OAS explicitly said that these had “not affected substantially the popular will expressed through the vote.” In other words, the nature of Daniel Ortega’s victory (he gained 72% of the popular vote) made any minor irregularities irrelevant to the result: he won by an enormous margin. The leaked document makes clear that the US is worried that the same might happen again and aims to stop it.

Not surprisingly, the document also rewrites recent history, saying that the “uprising” in 2018 (which had strong US backing) was answered by “the government’s brutal repression” of demonstrations, while it ignores the wave of violence and destruction that the opposition itself unleashed. The economic disruption it caused is still damaging the country, even though (pre-pandemic) there were strong signs of recovery. USAID, however, has to paint a picture of a country in crisis “… broadening into an economic debacle with the potential to become a humanitarian emergency, depending on the impact of the COVID-19 contagion on Nicaragua’s weak healthcare system.” Someone casually reading the document, unaware of the real situation, might get the impression that, in Nicaragua’s “crisis environment,” regime change is not only desirable but urgently required. The reality – that Nicaragua is at peace, has so far coped with the COVID-19 pandemic reasonably well, and hasn’t suffered the severe economic problems experienced by its neighbors El Salvador and Honduras – is of course incompatible with the picture the US administration needs to present, in order to give some semblance of justification for its intervention.

A long history of US intervention

Given the long history of US interference in Nicaragua, going back at least as far as William Walker’s assault on its capital and usurption of the presidency in 1856, the existence of a plan of this kind is hardly surprising. What’s unusual is that someone has made it publicly available and we can now see the plan in detail. Of course, the US has long developed a tool box of regime change methods short of direct military intervention, such as when it sent in the marines in the 1920s and 1930s or illegally funded and provided logistical support for  the “Contra” forces in the 1980s. It now has more sophisticated methods, using local proxies, which are deniable in the unlikely event that they will be exposed by the international media (which normally displays little interest, being much more interested in electoral interference by Russia than it is in Washington’s disruption of the democratic processes).

The latest escalation in intervention began under the Obama presidency and continued under Trump, although the motivation probably has more to do with the US administration’s ongoing concerns about the success of the Ortega government’s development model since it returned to power in 2007 and began a decade of renewed social investment. Oxfam summarized the problem in the memorable title it gave to a 1980s report about Nicaragua: The Threat of a Good Example. Between 2005 and 2016, poverty was reduced by almost half, from 48 percent to 25 percent according to World Bank data. Nicaragua had a low crime rate, limited drug-related violence, and community-based policing. Over the 11 years to 2017, Nicaragua’s per-capita GDP increased by 38 percent—more than for any of its neighbors. Its success contrasted sharply with the experience of the three “Northern Triangle” countries closely allied to the US. While Nicaragua became one of the safest countries in Latin America, neighboring Guatemala, El Salvador and particularly Honduras saw soaring crime levels, rampant corruption and rapid growth in the drug trade that prevented social progress and produced the “migrant caravans” that began to head north towards the US in 2017.

The US administration’s efforts in 2016 and 2017, building on long experience of manipulating Nicaraguan politics, appeared to produce results in April 2018. The first catalyst for action by US-funded groups was an out-of-control forest fire in a remote reserve, inaccessible by road.[3] The tactics were clear: take an incident with potential to get young people onto the streets, blame the government for inaction (even though the fire was almost impossible to control), whip up people’s anger via social media, organize protests, generate critical stories in the local press, enlist support from neighboring allies (in this case, Costa Rica) and secure hostile coverage in the international media. All of these tactics worked, but before the next stage could be reached (protesters being repressed by the Ortega “regime”) the forest fire was extinguished by a rainstorm.

A week later, the opposition forces were unexpectedly given a second opportunity.  The government announced a package of modest social security reforms, and quickly faced new protests on the streets. The same tactics were deployed, this time with much greater success. Violence by protesters on April 19 (a police officer, a Sandinista supporter and a bystander were shot) brought inevitable attempts by the police to control the protests, leading to rapid escalation. Media messages proliferated about students being killed, many of them false. Only a few days later the government cancelled the social security reforms, but by now the protests had (as planned) moved on to demanding the government’s resignation. The full story of events in April-July 2018, and how the government eventually prevailed, is told in Live from Nicaragua: Uprising or Coup?

A section of the report

Laying the groundwork for insurrection

How were the conditions for a coup created? The aims of US government funding in Nicaragua and the tactics they paid for in this period were made surprisingly clear in the online magazine Global Americans in 2018, which is partly funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).[4] Arguing (in May 2018, at the height of the violence) that “Nicaragua is on the brink of a civic insurrection,” the author Ben Waddell, who was in Nicaragua at the time, pointed out that “US support has helped play a role in nurturing the current uprisings.”

His article’s title, Laying the groundwork for insurrection,[5] was starkly accurate in describing the ambitions behind the NED’s funding program, which had financed 54 projects in Nicaragua over the period 2014-17 and has continued to do so since then. What did the projects do? Like the recently leaked document, NED promotes ostensibly innocuous or even apparently beneficial activities like strengthening civil society, promoting democratic values, finding “a new generation of democratic youth leaders” and identifying “advocacy opportunities.” To get behind the jargon and clarify the NED’s role, Waddell quotes the New York Times (referring to the uprisings in Egypt, where NED had also been active):[6]

“… the United States’ democracy-building campaigns played a bigger role in fomenting protests than was previously known, with key leaders of the movements having been trained by the Americans in campaigning, organizing through new media tools and monitoring elections.”

In the case of Nicaragua, the NED’s funding of groups opposed to the Sandinista government began in 1984, giving the lie to their aim being to “promote democracy” since that was the year in which Nicaragua’s revolutionary government held the country’s first-ever democratic elections. Waddell makes it clear that the NED’s efforts continued, years later:

“… it is now quite evident that the U.S. government actively helped build the political space and capacity in Nicaraguan society for the social uprising that is currently unfolding.”

The NED is not the only non-covert source of US funding. Another is USAID, which describes its role in the 2018 uprising in similar terms to the NED. Not long before he exposed the new document, William Grigsby was able to publish lists of groups and projects in Nicaragua funded by USAID and by the National Democratic Institute (NDI).[7] He showed that upwards of $30 million was being distributed to a wide range of groups opposed to the government and involved in the violence of 2018, and that in the case of the NDI at least this funding continued into 2020.

Last year, Yorlis Gabriela Luna recounted for COHA her own experiences of how US-funded groups trained young people, in particular, and influenced their political beliefs in the build-up to 2018.[8] She explained how social networks and media outlets were “capable of fooling a significant portion of Nicaragua’s youth and general population.” She explained how the groups used scholarships to learn English, diploma programs, graduate studies, and courses with enticing names like “democratic values, social media activism, human rights and accountability” at private universities, “to attract and lure young people.” She went on to explain how exciting events were organised in expensive hotels or even involving trips abroad, so that young people who had never before been privileged in these ways developed a sense of “pride,” belonging, and “group identity,” and as a result “wound up aligning themselves with the foreign interests” of those who funded the courses and activities.

The new task during and after the pandemic

Two years after the failed coup attempt, what are the organizations that receive US funding now supposed to do? The new document is full of jargon, requiring the contractor (for example) to engage in “targeted short-term technical and analytical activities during Nicaragua’s transition that require rapid response programming support until other funds, mechanisms, and actors can be mobilized.” The work also requires “longer-term programs, which will be determined as the crisis evolves.” Preparation is required for the possibility that “transition [to a new government] does not happen in an orderly and timely manner.” The contractor will have to prepare “a roster of subject matter experts in Nicaragua” to provide short term technical assistance, “regardless of the result of the 2021 election, even in the event of the Sandinistas ‘winning fairly’.” The document is full of requirements like being able to offer “a rapid response” and “seize new opportunities,” emphasizing the urgency of the task. In other words, a fresh attempt is underway to destabilize Daniel Ortega’s government and, in the event that this doesn’t work, and even should the Sandinistas win the next election fairly, as the document admits is a possibility, US attempts at regime change are stepping up a gear.

Who will carry this out? The document places much emphasis on “maintaining” and “strengthening” civil society and improving its leadership, which appears to refer to the numerous NGOs, think tanks and “human rights” bodies which receive US funding. At one point the document asks “what should donor coordination, the opposition, civil society, and media focus on?” – clearly implying that the contractor has a role in influencing not just these civil society groups but also the media and political parties.

Not surprisingly, the document has been interpreted as a new plan to destabilize the country. Writing in La Primerísima, Wiston López argues that the plan’s purpose is “to create the conditions for a coup d’état in Nicaragua.”[9] Brian Wilson, the VietNam veteran severely injured in the 1980s when attempting to stop a freight train carrying supplies to the “Contra,” and who lives in Nicaragua, concludes that the US now realizes that Ortega will win the coming election.[10] In response, the “US has launched a brazen, criminal and arrogant plan to overthrow Nicaragua’s government.”

Supposing that there is a clear Sandinista victory in 2021, will the US nevertheless refuse to accept the result? Having implied that the OAS had serious criticisms of the last election when this was not the case, the document implies that it will be pressured to take a different attitude next time, saying that “whether the OAS decides to pick up the pressure on electoral reform again will be an important international pressure point.” No doubt the US will try to insist that the OAS must be election observers, and if this is refused it will allow the legitimacy of the election to be called into question, if the result is unfavorable to US interests. Many question whether the OAS is even qualified to have an observer role any longer, however, after the serious harm it did to Bolivian democracy in 2019 by casting doubts on what experts considered a fair election and, in effect, instigating a coup.[11] This document creates legitimate concern that the US government would like to use the OAS to prevent another government that is not to its liking from winning an election, as it did so recently in Bolivia.

Not only must conditions be created to replace the current government, but once this is achieved the changes must extend to “rebuilding” the institutions of government, including the judicial system, police and armed forces. After the widespread persecution of government officials, state and municipal workers and Sandinista supporters that occurred in 2018, it is not surprising that this is interpreted as requiring a purge of all the institutions and personnel with Sandinista sympathies. As Wilson says, “the new government must immediately submit to the policies and guidelines established by the United States, including persecution of Sandinistas, dissolving the National Police and the Army, among other institutions.”

USAID makes it clear that it is internal pressure in Nicaragua that might eventually provoke a coup d’état, so it calls on its agents to deepen the political, economic and also the health crisis, taking into account the context of COVID-19. The US State Department recently awarded an extra $750,000 to Nicaraguan non-government bodies as part of its global response to COVID-19, and this includes “support for targeted communication and community engagement activities.”[12] As López points out in Popular Resistance, “Since March the US-directed opposition has focused 95% of their actions on attempting to discredit Nicaragua’s prevention, contention, and Covid treatment. However, this only had some success in the international media and is now backfiring since Nicaragua is the country with one of the lowest mortality rates in the continent.”[13] The Johns Hopkins University’s world map of coronavirus cases currently shows Nicaragua with 3,672 cases compared with 17,448 in El Salvador, 42,685 in Honduras and 51,306 in Guatemala.[14] Even though higher figures produced by Nicaragua’s so-called Citizens’ Observatory[15] are regularly cited in the international media, they currently show just 9,044 “suspected” cases, still far below the numbers in the “Northern triangle” countries.

What will the opposition do next?

COHA has already documented the disinformation campaign taking place against Nicaragua during the pandemic and how this has been repeated in the international media. So far, however, warnings of the health system’s collapse have proved to be unfounded.[16] If, as happened with the Indio Maíz fire and the social security protests in 2018, the opposition fails in its attempt to use the pandemic to destabilize the Ortega government, what will it do next? A recent incident shows that attempts to seize on events to spur a crisis will continue. On July 31, a fire occurred in Managua’s cathedral. The fire department responded quickly and put out the blaze within ten minutes, but a crucifix and the chapel where it stood were badly damaged. Within minutes opposition newspaper La Prensa reported that “an attack” had occurred involving a “Molotov cocktail” and that the government or its supporters were implicated.[17] This was echoed by other local and international media, opposition parties, the Archbishop of Managua, and by one of the NGOs which received USAID funding.[18] Despite the lack of any evidence to back up the media stories, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR) also condemned the incident, obviously implying that it was an attack on human rights.[19]

Yet a police investigation quickly established that there was no evidence at all of any foul play, or that petrol or explosive materials were involved.[20] Their investigations pointed instead to a tragic accident involving lighted candles and the alcohol spray being used as a disinfectant as part of the cathedral’s anti-COVID-19 precautions. The Catholic Church has already announced that the damaged chapel will be restored to its former state. However, the damage that has been done to the government’s national and international reputation, and to its highly politicized relationship with the Catholic Church, will be more difficult to repair.

John Perry is a writer based in Nicaragua.

 


End notes

[1] Downloadable in English (pdf) at https://s3.amazonaws.com/rlp680/files/uploads/2020/07/31/aid-mayo-2020-ingles.pdf

[2] “EEUU lanza descarado plan intervencionista para tumbar al FSLN”, https://www.radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias/general/287264/eeuu-lanza-descarado-plan-intervencionista-A histotrypara-tumbar-al-fsln/

[3] “International Forces ‘Distorting’ Nicaragua’s Indio Maíz Fire,” https://www.telesurenglish.net/analysis/International-Forces-Distorting-Nicaraguas-Indio-Maiz-Fire-20180414-0019.html

[4] See details at https://www.ned.org/wp-content/themes/ned/search/grant-search.php (NED is nominally independent of the US administration, but is funded by Congress.)

[5] “Laying the groundwork for insurrection: A closer look at the U.S. role in Nicaragua’s social unrest,” https://theglobalamericans.org/2018/05/laying-groundwork-insurrection-closer-look-u-s-role-nicaraguas-social-unrest/

[6] “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” https://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/15/world/15aid.html

[7] “Asi financia EEUU a los terroristas,” http://www.radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias/general/286068/asi-financia-eeuu-a-los-terroristas/

[8] “The Other Nicaragua, Empire and Resistance,” https://www.coha.org/the-other-nicaragua-empire-and-resistance/

[9] “EEUU lanza descarado plan intervencionista para tumbar al FSLN,” http://www.radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias/general/287264/eeuu-lanza-descarado-plan-intervencionista-para-tumbar-al-fsln/

[10] “NIcaragua targeted for US overthrow in 2020-21,” https://popularresistance.org/nicaragua-targeted-for-us-overthrow-in-2020-21/

[11] “Bolivia’s Struggle to Restore Democracy after OAS Instigated Coup,” https://www.coha.org/bolivias-struggle-to-restore-democracy-after-oas-instigated-coup/

[12] See https://www.state.gov/update-the-united-states-continues-to-lead-the-global-response-to-covid-19/

[13] “US Launches Brazen Interventionist Plan to Overthrow the FSLN,” https://popularresistance.org/us-launches-brazen-interventionist-plan-to-overthrow-the-fsln/

[14] See https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

[15] See https://observatorioni.org/

[16] “Experts Warn about Possible Health System Collapse in Nicaragua,” https://www.voanews.com/episode/experts-warn-about-possible-health-system-collapse-nicaragua-4320606

[17] See https://www.laprensa.com.ni/2020/07/31/nacionales/2702954-lanzan-bomba-molotov-adentro-de-la-capilla-de-la-catedral

[18] See for example https://confidencial.com.ni/atentado-con-bomba-molotov-en-la-catedral-de-managua/ and https://elpais.com/internacional/2020-07-31/un-atentado-con-bomba-molotov-incendia-la-capilla-de-la-catedral-metropolitana-de-managua.html

[19] See https://twitter.com/OACNUDH/status/1289574031159488514?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1289574031159488514%7Ctwgr%5E&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.laprensa.com.ni%2F2020%2F08%2F01%2Fnacionales%2F2703388-organismos-de-derechos-humanos-condenan-ataque-a-la-catedral-de-managua

[20] “Esclarecimiento de incendio en Capilla de la Sangre de Cristo, Catedral de Managua”, https://www.el19digital.com/articulos/ver/titulo:105922-esclarecimiento-de-incendio-en-capilla-de-la-sangre-de-cristo-catedral-de-managua-presentacion

August 14, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Immunity for the CIA?

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | August 11, 2020

Amidst the controversy over the doctrine of qualified immunity for cops, no one is talking about the full immunity accorded to the Central Intelligence Agency, an agency within the national-security establishment that wields omnipotent power.

Among the most interesting lines in the new Amazon Prime series The Last Narc is what a CIA official says to DEA investigator Hector Berrellez, who was charged with leading the investigation into the kidnapping, torture, and murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. The official tells Berrellez that the CIA is not a law-enforcement agency and, therefore, doesn’t have to comply with the Constitution. Its mission, he said, is to protect the United States. Therefore, the implication is that the Constitution cannot be permitted to serve as a barrier to that end.

That’s the way it’s been since the beginning. The CIA has had omnipotent power to do whatever it deems necessary to protect “national security.” That includes, of course, the power of assassination, a power that the CIA assumed practically since its inception. In fact, as early as 1952, the CIA was developing a formal assassination manual for its assassins.

The CIA also wields the power of torture, the power to record its torture sessions, and the power to destroy such recordings to prevent Congress or the public from listening to them or viewing them.

The CIA also wields the power to lie, at least if it’s in the interest of “national security.”

No one jacks with the CIA. Not the Justice Department, including every U.S. Attorney in the land. Not the Congress. Not the president. Not the military. Who is going to mess with an organization that wields the omnipotent power to destroy or kill people and is more than willing to exercise that power in the name of protecting “national security”?

The kidnapping, torture, and execution of Kiki Camarena

A good example of this phenomenon is found in The Last Narc, which I wrote about in a blog post last week.

In 1985, 37-year-old DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was kidnapped on the streets of Guadalajara, Mexico, and brutally tortured for 36 hours before finally being executed.

It was commonly believed that the crime had been committed by the Guadalajara drug cartel, which was headed by Rafael Caro Quintana, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, and Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, all of whom are featured in Netflix’s series Narcos: Mexico. But Mexican officials steadfastly refused to extradite the three drug lords to the United States for trial.

The DEA assigned Berrellez to take charge of the investigation. Berrellez, who felt as comfortable operating in Mexico as he did in the United States, found three former members of the Jalisco State Police who were willing to talk. They came to the United States and told Berrellez that back in 1985, they had been working double jobs — as state policemen and also as bodyguards for Caro, Fonseca, and Gallardo.

Berrellez interviewed them separately to ensure the integrity of their statements. They each pointed toward complicity of high Mexican officials with the cartel in the distribution of drugs into the United States, which I don’t think would surprise anyone.

The three former cops and bodyguards told Berrellez that they were in the room while Camarena was being tortured. Each of them stated that there were several high Mexican officials present in the house in which Camarena was being tortured while he was being tortured.

The heroism of Hector Berrellez

But then Berrellez discovered something else. According to the three former Mexican state policemen, a man named Max Gomez, also known as Felix Rodriguez, was inside the torture room and taking an active role in the brutal interrogation of Camarena. Berrellez investigated and determined that Rodriguez was a “retired” CIA agent.

Among the principal questions that was being addressed to Camarena was the extent to which he had discovered, in the course of his investigation, the nexus between the drug cartel, the CIA, and the Mexican government in the drug trade.

It was later learned that the interrogation was being recorded, which is something that one would not expect drug lords to do but that one would expect a CIA agent to do.

At that point, Berrellez was in trouble. It’s one thing to conduct an investigation that leads to the Mexican government’s involvement in Camarena’s torture and murder. It’s another thing to conduct an investigation that leads to the U.S. government’s involvement in the torture and murder of a DEA agent who is also an American citizen.

As Berrellez states in The Last Narc, he was warned to back off and let sleeping dogs lie. He was warned that if he didn’t, his life would be in jeopardy. If he didn’t back off, U.S. officials even threatened to forcibly return him to Mexico to face criminal charges that the Mexican government had leveled against him.

But Berrellez refused to back off, and so U.S. officials removed him from the investigation. Even though he could have remained silent, he instead decided to go public with his findings and cooperated in the making of The Last Narc. He comes across as a heroic figure in the series.

For his part, Rodriguez denies that he was in the torture room or that he has had anything to do with Guadalajara cartel and with drug dealing. The problem, however, is that CIA agents will lie if they believe that it is in the interest of “national security.” And they all know that they have immunity when it comes to lying and anything else that touches on “national security.”

Full immunity for the CIA

Here you have a prima facie case of U.S. governmental involvement in the torture and assassination of a U.S citizen, one who was an agent of the DEA. The alleged purpose of the torture was to determine if Camarena had uncovered evidence of CIA complicity with the Guadalajara Cartel and the Mexican government in the drug trade. Three witnesses, all giving their testimony separately, identified Rodriquez as one of Camarena’s interrogators.

That’s clearly enough evidence to launch a formal investigation into the matter. Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that Camarena’s murder took place during Iran Contra, when U.S. officials were breaking the law to raise the money to give to the Nicaraguan contras.

Has any of this caused any U.S. Attorney or the U.S. Congress to launch an aggressive investigation into the matter?

Don’t make me laugh. This is the CIA we are talking about. No one investigates the CIA, which makes the U.S. government as crooked and corrupt as the Mexican government. If you want to get a good sense of how both governments operate, I highly recommend watching The Last Narc.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics.

August 11, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Film Review | , , , , | 4 Comments

‘Coup-Plotters for Hire’: Unearthed USAID Nicaragua Regime Change Doc Puts 2018 Protests in Context

Sputnik – 05.08.2020

An uncovered US Agency for International Development (USAID) document lays out a blueprint for regime change in Nicaragua. An expert told Sputnik the playbook shines a new light on the 2018 protests in Nicaragua as well as similar operations in other countries targeted by the US, such as Venezuela.

A new report by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) has revealed a guide to regime change in Nicaragua by USAID. The document, which dates to March-April of this year, describes in frank terms how the agency, which maintains close ties with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), could create or exploit a variety of scenarios to remove democratically-elected Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his FSLN party from power in or around the upcoming 2021 elections.

Jill Clark-Gollub, assistant editor and translator at COHA, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear Wednesday that many of the tactics outlined in the USAID document can be observed in the demonstrations that rocked Nicaragua in the summer of 2018.

‘Code-Speak for a Coup’

“It’s a contract hiring coup plotters – a ‘coup-plotters for hire’-type contract. And it’s really astounding how the whole document is based on the premise that we can impose a better version of democracy for the Nicaraguan people. It talks about a crisis and a transition, and all of this is code-speak for basically bringing about a coup.”

“It talks about three scenarios in which the transition can take place, and it says a transition could take place if our candidate wins the election, but other parts of the document make it clear that they don’t expect their pro-US candidate to win the election. They don’t even have a candidate. Then they talk about creating a crisis for a sudden transition – another code-speak for a coup – and then it talks about a delayed transition in which the FSLN party, the Sandinista Front for National Liberation, wins. And it’s even a free and fair election, and it’s recognized internationally, so it takes a longer time to get them out of there.”

“If you really hadn’t been paying attention at all, you would think there’s this country in crisis and that the US would be doing them a favor to get rid of that government and put in somebody else.”

US Officials Admit to Venezuela ‘Coup’

The news comes amid statements before a Senate committee on Tuesday in which US Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) frankly admitted to having attempted to engineer a coup d’etat against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro beginning in January 2019.

“Our Venezuela policy over the last year and a half has been an unmitigated disaster,” Murphy told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We have to admit that our big play, recognizing [Juan] Guaidó right out of the gate, and then moving quickly to implement sanctions just didn’t work … First, we thought that getting Guaidó to declare himself president would be enough to topple the regime. Then we thought putting aid on the border would be enough. Then we tried to sort of construct a kind of coup in April of last year, and it blew up in our face when all the generals that were supposed to break with Maduro decided to stick with him in the end.”

Josh Hodges, the senior deputy assistant administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), told the panel USAID support has been instrumental in helping Guaidó’s movement to function.

“We are using development assistance to support the interim government and the National Assembly with technical training, staffing support, equipment and communication efforts,” Hodges said. “USAID’s support bolsters the interim government’s ability to effectively operate and interact with constituents, despite the increased repression from the illegitimate regime. Our assistance has enabled increased participation with legitimate officials.”

Manufacturing Crises via ‘Psychological Warfare’

Clark-Gollub told Sputnik that USAID being directly involved in plotting a coup was “interesting,” because “this in the past, I believe, would have been done by the CIA. Now it’s being done by USAID, and as I said, it’s advertised on LinkedIn. It’s like they have no shame anymore.”

“USAID has been funding Nicaraguan opposition and media groups for years,” she said, noting the 2018 civil disturbances were a case study in what the document describes. “You just need to go back two years and look at this document and all of this doublespeak and understand what I mean.”

“It’s almost embarrassing for the people who are allowing themselves to be used for this. The document talks about how they’re going to use NGOs and opposition parties and the media kind of to corral them to do what they need to do for this plot. So it reveals a lot of stuff that we’ve known, and it brings it out in the open. We have known the media is paid by the US; this is recognition that they’re directed by the US. And the shameful thing for people outside of Nicaragua is that our mass media just parrots what the self-serving Nicaraguan opposition media publishes in Nicaragua.”

She further noted the US was “trying to use the [COVID-19] pandemic for this crisis” mentioned in the document as a possible regime change scenario. “They even created their own citizens’ observatory with mysterious ‘scientific experts’ who they would never say who they were, who were publishing their own statistics on the number of infected and dying people in Nicaragua from the pandemic.”

Instead, Nicaragua’s health system, which the FSLN government has spent 13 years rebuilding and expanding, did not collapse on itself under the weight of the pandemic, as the US embassy in Managua predicted it would, but instead has weathered the storm well, with the lowest COVID-19 case fatality rate in Central America and a very low per capita fatality rate.

Clark-Gollub said use of these tactics “amounts to psychological warfare. They are just going to keep trying to build up, dig up things to make things into a crisis, and it’s terrible,” noting Nicaraguans are being “bombarded” with “fake news” about mass deaths and burials that are actually occurring in other countries.

Especially in 2018, the opposition was “on top of social media,” which the document also urges as a tactic. “We know that in 2018, there had been 2,000 young Nicaraguans recruited, mostly through the Catholic Church, to be social media influencers. And these were the ones putting out ‘color revolution’ type posts,” such as urging painting national colors over FSLN symbols. She also noted they would announce police violence at an event before it had happened, which created confusion and drove demonstrations about events that never occurred.

She recalled that former US national security adviser John Bolton called Nicaragua and Venezuela, along with Cuba, a “troika of tyranny,” writing in his recently released memoir that if one of the three falls, so will the others.

“These three countries are working toward a multipolar world, and the US does not want to see that succeed,” she noted.

“The Nicaraguan people got a big education in 2018; they understand that they’re under attack. It’s not as easy for them to be duped again about fake news that comes out, especially on social media. But that said, this does not mean this is not wearing on people, this psychological warfare … I think that the Nicaraguan people are standing firm and are going to continue to build their country.”

August 5, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Leave a comment

How the Nicaraguan Opposition Distorted the Government’s Response to COVID-19

By John Perry | Council on Hemispheric Affairs | April 21, 2020

Masaya, Nicaragua – The right-wing opposition in Nicaragua, having failed in their attempted coup in 2018, still looks at any potential crisis as a new opportunity to attack the Sandinista government. Their latest chance, of course, arrived with the coronavirus pandemic. Even though the virus has barely hit the country yet, the government is under attack. The international media are lapping up opposition propaganda and ignoring or disparaging the government’s efforts to deal with the coming crisis, even though preparations began before those in many other countries.

Since early April, Nicaragua’s well-connected opposition leaders have used their contacts in the international press to push a series of stories relating to the pandemic. These stories – detailed below – variously claim that President Daniel Ortega is in quarantine or has died, that his government is in denial about the coronavirus or that it is ill-prepared and inactive in the face of the threat. None of this is true. What is worse, it seems based on the tone of news coverage, that reporters who are unable to visit the country nevertheless make little attempt to find out what action the government is actually taking and whether opposition criticisms have any substance.

At the time of writing (April 16, 2020) Nicaragua has only nine confirmed virus cases, all of them people who have come from abroad or their immediate contacts.[1] The opposition and the media pour scorn on the official figures and (without evidence) claim that infection levels are far higher. Ignoring the daily press briefings by Dr. Carlos Sáenz, Secretary General at the health ministry,  the opposition claims that Nicaraguans are being kept in the dark. Despite health officials having visited 2.7 million households,[2] sometimes on several occasions, to dispense advice (see photo), the opposition complains that there is little or no guidance on combating the virus.

How the international media attacks developed

The attacks began on April 4 with BBC World, which in addition to criticising President Daniel Ortega for not making public appearances asserted that his government had taken “no measures at all” in the face of the virus threat.[3] Then The New York Times (April 6), asking Where is Daniel Ortega?, said his government had been “widely criticized for its cavalier approach” to the pandemic.[4] It quoted opposition supporters who say the public “is deeply dubious about government claims.” On April 8, The Guardian said that Ortega was “nowhere to be seen.” [5] By April 13, The Washington Post said Ortega had “vanished” and castigated his government’s “laissez-faire approach” (the Post’s print edition even managed to report that nine virus victims had died, when there has been only one death so far).[6]According to The Guardian, on April 12, the “authoritarian” Daniel Ortega is one of only four world leaders who are in denial about the coronavirus (among the others is, of course, the right-wing Bolsonaro in Brazil).[7] The attacks have even been reproduced by the international medical journal, The Lancet.  On April 6, an article entitled Love in the time of COVID-19 labelled the government’s approach as “erratic” and “violating the human rights of its citizens.” [8]

The real situation in Nicaragua

What is the real situation in Nicaragua? The country has had health checks at its borders for months, far sooner than in the US. Travellers entering Nicaragua are managed tightly, and officials follow up with new arrivals by phone and by house visits, as I know from my own and friends’ direct experiences after arriving in the country. Two lengthy and porous land frontiers make it preferable to keep borders open so as to minimise informal crossings which make health checks impossible. When people do cross illegally, neighbors often report them using a free, dedicated phone number set up a few weeks ago. This number is also used to obtain more general advice on the virus. Nineteen hospitals have been identified to receive virus cases and 37,000 health workers and 250,000 volunteers have been trained accordingly.[9] The result is that – so far at least – Nicaragua’s nine virus cases represent the lowest infection rate in Latin America.

Social distancing and its costs

In the international press, opposition spokespeople call for more drastic measures such as social distancing and school closures. Reporters ignore the obvious dilemma that faces poor countries in deciding when to take such steps. Importantly, even though the World Health Organization has emphasized the importance of social distancing, it also recognises this dilemma. Its Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said this on April 16:

“Governments must consider that for some countries and communities, stay-at-home orders may not be practical, and may even cause unintended harm. Millions of people around the world must work every day to put food on the table. They cannot stay at home for long periods of time without assistance.”[10]

In Nicaragua, because all confirmed COVID-19 cases so far have come from abroad, the government assessment is that no or very limited local, community transmission has taken place.[11] This is why there continues to be vigilance while wider measures have not yet been imposed. If self-isolation becomes necessary it will carry a massive cost as seen for example in the US and other countries, as most people need to go to work daily to eat. There is no reliable mechanism to distribute subsidies, nor can small, poor countries like Nicaragua borrow with impunity to pay for them. Many Nicaraguans live in cramped houses in densely populated neighbourhoods, making social distancing extremely difficult. The government is genuinely attempting to balance the fight against the virus with the economic needs of the population. To impose an untimely lockdown, at a time when the spread of the virus appears to be still under control, would not only cause huge resentment and hardship but could be totally counterproductive. Of course, government policy is subject to change as the situation evolves and any objective assessment must be based on the government’s future handling of the crisis, not only on its response to date.

The Lancet article cites approvingly the contrasting policies of El Salvador and Honduras. In the former, President Nayib Bukele forced people to self-isolate, offering a subsidy of $300 per family which caused massive, unregulated queues and then rowdy protests outside government offices.[12] The Los Angeles Times reported (April 7) that in some areas the lockdown is enforced by gangs with baseball bats.[13] In Honduras, a “militarized quarantine” has led to police violence, more than 1,000 arrests and the confiscation of almost 900 vehicles, according to respected human rights group COFADEH.[14] Despite these actions, both countries have much higher infection levels than Nicaragua. So does Costa Rica. All of these neighbouring countries are quick to criticise the Ortega government and express fears for cross-border contamination, when the reality is that Nicaragua should be the country that fears contamination from its neighbours. This is not to say that mitigation is inherently counterproductive; the point is that if a situation does call for quarantine, state actors ought to inspire a sense of solidarity and understanding rather than impose punitive and coercive measures that divide people rather than unite them.

International media are more sympathetic to other low-income countries

The irony is that international media have carried a number of articles about the dangers of imposing draconian measures in poor countries. In The Observer, Kenan Malik pointed out that whether in the UK or the developing world, we’re not all in coronavirus together.[15] As he says, in many poor countries “only the privileged can maintain any kind of social isolation.” David Pilling in the Financial Times points out that in developing countries, the lockdown cure could be worse than the disease.[16] Mari Pangestu, a managing director with the World Bank, says in the Daily Telegraph that for the poorest countries, the full danger from coronavirus is only just coming into view, because of its effect on their ability to maintain food and medical supplies.[17]

Astonishingly, the international media treat their sources in the Nicaraguan opposition as bone fidewhen there is a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Even in the current crisis, they have excelled themselves, as Ben Norton has shown in The Grayzone.[18] They created a fake account posing as Nicaragua’s TV Channel 4, with invented statements supposedly by Vice-President Rosario Murillo, announcing school closures that were never planned.[19] They purport to give advice on issues such as social distancing, as if this isn’t available from the government, when in fact, it is (and, as Norton points out, in their daily lives several of them ignore their own recommendations).[20] Within Nicaragua, Facebook is alive with false rumours from opposition sources about deaths allegedly caused by the virus, attempting to undermine people’s confidence in official figures.

President Ortega addresses the nation

When he addressed the public on April 15,[21] President Ortega said little about the criticisms being made by his opponents, although he noted one item of fake news. A Nicaraguan woman, returning recently to Costa Rica where she works, via a route with no border controls, had been accused in local media of carrying the coronavirus. However, when tracked down and tested by the Costa Rican authorities, she was shown to be free of the disease.  Ortega also pointed out that a hospital, various health centers and supplies of medical equipment had been destroyed in opposition arson attacks in Nicaragua during the attempted coup of April 2018; all of these have now been rebuilt or restored, and are available to deal with the pandemic. Referring indirectly to the clamour for Nicaragua to adopt measures like the lockdowns employed in adjoining countries, he pointed out that without work the country dies. And he was able to quote one new statistic: since the worldwide pandemic was officially declared on March 11, a total of 1,237 people had died in Nicaragua; but only one of these had been killed by the coronavirus. In the days ahead we may see a change in public health policy in Nicaragua, but any such change will likely be informed by the situation on the ground, rather than by ill-judged comments in the international media.

John Perry is a writer based in Nicaragua and writes on Central America for The Nation, London Review of Books, Open Democracy, The Grayzone and the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

End notes.

[1] See https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries

[2] Informe Pastran, April 15 2020 (http://www.informepastran.com/prueba/).

[3] “La larga ausencia en Nicaragua de Daniel Ortega, el único presidente de América Latina que no ha aparecido en público ante la crisis del covid-19”, https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-52145204

[4] “Where Is Daniel Ortega? Nicaragua’s Leader Drops From View”, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/06/world/americas/nicaragua-daniel-ortega-coronavirus.html

[5] “President nowhere to be seen as Nicaragua shuns coronavirus curbs”, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/08/nicaragua-daniel-ortega-missing-anger-fear-month

[6] “The president has vanished; his wife, the VP, says the coronavirus isn’t a problem. Nicaragua declines to confront a pandemic”, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/coronavirus-nicaragua-daniel-ortega-missing/2020/04/11/3ad1fafc-79c3-11ea-a311-adb1344719a9_story.html

[7] “Bolsonaro dragging Brazil towards coronavirus calamity, experts fear”, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/12/bolsonaro-dragging-brazil-towards-coronavirus-calamity-experts-fear

[8] “Love in the time of COVID-19: negligence in the Nicaraguan response”, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(20)30131-5/fulltext

[9] “Brigadistas de salud visitarán a un millón de familias brindando las medidas preventivas ante el coronavirus”, https://www.el19digital.com/articulos/ver/titulo:101463-brigadistas-de-salud-visitaran-a-un-millon-de-familias-brindando-las-medidas-preventivas-ante-el-coronavirus-

[10] WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the Mission briefing on COVID-19 – 16 April 2020”, https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-mission-briefing-on-covid-19—16-april-2020

[11] This and other details about the effects of the epidemic and steps being taken are published in daily press briefings and on the website of the health ministry (http://www.minsa.gob.ni/).

[12] See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nv0zv1Xv0MQ (March 31, 2020).

[13] “In El Salvador, gangs are enforcing the coronavirus lockdown with baseball bats”, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-04-07/el-salvador-coronavirus-homicides-bukele

[14] “Informe: Crisis de derechos humanos durante la pandemia Covid-19”, https://defensoresenlinea.com/informe-crisis-de-derechos-humanos-durante-la-pandemia-covid-19/

[15] “Whether in the UK or the developing world, we’re not all in coronavirus together”, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/05/whether-in-the-uk-or-the-developing-world-were-not-all-in-coronavirus-together

[16] “In poor countries, the lockdown cure could be worse than disease”, https://www.ft.com/content/6c3a34c2-73f8-11ea-95fe-fcd274e920ca

[17] “For the poorest countries, the full danger from coronavirus is only just coming into view”, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/poorest-countries-full-danger-coronavirus-just-coming-view/

[18] “As Nicaragua confronts Covid, its US-backed opposition exploits the pandemic to create chaos”, https://thegrayzone.com/2020/04/13/regime-change-coronavirus-nicaragua/

[19] See https://www.facebook.com/Canal4Nica/videos/205790274093519/

[20] See https://www.instagram.com/tv/B-Gi31SHlTH/?utm_source=ig_embed

[21] See https://www.el19digital.com/articulos/ver/titulo:102299-presidente-daniel-ortega-se-dirige-al-pueblo-de-nicaragua . For an English translation of President Ortega’s complete speech of April 15, 2020, see “DANIEL : ‘It is time to swap nuclear weapons for hospitals’ in Tortilla Con Sal. April 16, 2020, http://www.tortillaconsal.com/tortilla/node/9104

April 22, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

Green-smearing – from Nicaragua to Bolivia

By Stephen Sefton | September 11, 2019

A fundamental dimension of contemporary psychological warfare has been dual-purpose corporate co-option of non-governmental organizations. In that psy-warfare dimension, NGOs serve both as disinformation partners with Western news media and too as false interlocutors in international forums and institutions, where they attack governments challenging the US elites and their allies. They actively subvert governments inside countries challenging the West, for example, in Latin America, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia. But they also pervert due process in institutions like the UN, posing as civil society but in fact serving Western elite corporate imperatives, for example in international human rights and environmental mechanisms and forums.

Among these NGOs figure high profile human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights and Avaaz along with environmental organizations from 350.org and the World Resource Institute to Global Witness and Greenpeace. An increasing interrelationship has developed between corporate NGO funding and the exploitation of people’s general willingness to volunteer for and support apparently good causes. Symbolic of this is the way World Economic Forum attendees like Kumi Naidoo move readily between top management from one NGO to another, in Naidoo’s case from Greenpeace to Amnesty International. From Libya and Syria to Venezuela and Nicaragua, Amnesty International has played a key role using false reports to demonize governments resisting the US and its allies.

As Cory Morningstar has pointed out, Greenpeace is a key player in promoting the corporate driven New Deal for Nature aimed at financializing what remains of the natural world, especially its biodiversity, as a way of engineering a “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Western corporate greed underlies the identical patterns of news media and NGO misrepresentation and outright deceit supporting regime change offensives against Libya and Syria, or Venezuela and Nicaragua. Right now, that very same pattern of media and NGO manipulation is clearly at work preparing for an intervention to prevent Evo Morales being re-elected as President of Bolivia.

Bruno Sgarzini and Wyatt Reed have noted how Western media and NGOs have falsely attacked Evo Morales blaming him for not controlling the fires in Bolivia’s Amazon. This is exactly what happened in Nicaragua immediately prior to the coup attempt in 2018 when the Nicaraguan authorities were fighting a fire in the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve. That episode softened up Nicaraguan public opinion and set in motion social media networks involving thousands of youth activists trained for that purpose beforehand over several years with US and also European government funding. In mid-April 2018, barely a week after the Indio Maiz fire was extinguished, those networks launched a social media blitzkrieg of lies and inventions marking the start of the actual coup attempt. A practically identical process is well under way now in Bolivia, which holds presidential elections next October 20th.

The timing of the fires in Bolivia’s Amazon is extremely propitious from the perspective of the US authorities and their allies. It takes almost two months for the effects to wear off of the initial psy-warfare bitzkrieg of the kind waged against Nicaragua in 2018 and against Brazil’s Worker’s Party as part of Jair Bolsonaro’s successful 2018 election campaign that same year. Bolivia will almost certainly experience the same kind of psy-warfare assault via social media prior to the October elections. The campaign will be timed to optimize the effect of mass false accusations of government wrongdoing and corruption along with false media and NGO claims of security force repression. Opposition activists are likely to exploit peaceful demonstrations on indigenous peoples and environmental issues so as to commit murderous provocations, just as they did in Nicaragua and Venezuela.

All of these tactics are likely be deployed against Bolivia so as to destroy the current prestige and high levels of support for President Evo Morales. In Bolivia, as in Nicaragua and Venezuela, the governing progressive political movement enjoys around 35-40% core electoral support, the right wing opposition have around 25-30% with 30-40% of voters uncommitted. The Western elites know they need to motivate something over half of those uncommitted voters against Evo Morales so as to get the right wing government they so desperately need in Bolivia to try and make good the unmitigated debacle of Mauricio Macri’s right wing government in Argentina.

The intensity of any Western media and NGO campaign against Morales is likely to reach similar levels as their cynical campaigns of lies and defamation against Venezuela and Nicaragua. Should that offensive go ahead, as seems probable, the difference will be that this time Evo Morales and his team are alert and unlikely to be taken by surprise as the Nicaraguan authorities were by the vicious, sudden attack against them in April 2018. A likely variation in Bolivia’s case will be a higher profile of environmentalist NGOs working in tandem with their human rights counterparts feeding misrepresentations and downright lies into Western news media. For the US and European Union elites the regional geopolitical stakes are high enough to make an attack on Bolivia imperative.

(A longer version of this piece was published at Tortilla con Sal on September 4, 2019.)

September 13, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Newspeak at the Media Freedom Conference

Joint UK-Canada Event Littered With Insidious Undertones

By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian  | July 16, 2019

OffGuardian already covered the Global Media Freedom Conference, our article Hypocrisy Taints UK’s Media Freedom Conference, was meant to be all there was to say. A quick note on the obvious hypocrisy of this event. But, in the writing, I started to see more than that. This event is actually… creepy.

Let’s just look back at one of the four “main themes” of this conference:

building trust in media and countering disinformation

“Countering disinformation”? Well,that’s just another word for censorship.

This is proven by their refusal to allow Sputnik or RT accreditation. They claim RT “spreads disinformation” and they “countered” that by barring them from attending.

“Building trust”? In the post-Blair world of PR newspeak, “building trust” is just another way of saying “making people believe us” (the word usage is actually interesting, building trust not earning trust).

The whole conference is shot through with this language that just feels… off.

Here is CNN’s Christiane Amanpour:

Our job is to be truthful, not neutral… we need to take a stand for the truth, and never to create a false moral or factual equivalence.”

Being “truthful not neutral” is one of Amanpour’s personal sayings, she obviously thinks it’s clever.

Of course, what it is is NewSpeak for “bias”.

Refusing to cover evidence of The White Helmets staging rescues, Israel arming ISIS or other inconvenient facts will be defended using this phrase – they will literally claim to only publish “the truth”, to get around impartiality… and then set about making up whatever “truth” is convenient.

Oh, and if you don’t know what “creating a false moral equivalence is”, here I’ll demonstrate:

MSM: Putin is bad for shutting down critical media.
OffG: But you’re supporting RT being banned and Wikileaks being shut down.
BBC: No. That’s not the same.
OffG: It seems the same.
BBC: It’s not. You’re creating a false moral equivalence.

Understand now? You “create a false moral equivalence” by pointing out mainstream media’s double standards.

Other ways you could mistakenly create a “false moral equivalence”:

  • Bringing up Gaza when the media talk about racism.
  • Mentioning Saudi Arabia when the media preach about gay rights.
  • Referencing the US coup in Venezuela when the media work themselves into a froth over Russia’s “interference in our democracy”
  • Talking about the invasion of Iraq. Ever.
  • OR Pointing out that the BBC is state funded, just like RT.

These are all no-longer flagrant examples of the media’s double standards, and if you say they are, you’re “creating a false moral equivalence”… and the media won’t have to allow you (or anyone who agrees with you) air time or column inches to disagree.

Because they don’t have a duty to be neutral or show both sides, they only have a duty to tell “the truth”… as soon as the government has told them what that is.

Prepare to see both those phrases – or variations there of – littering editorials in the Guardian and the Huffington Post in the coming months. Along with people bemoaning how “fake news outlets abuse the notion of impartiality” by “being even handed between liars the truth tellers”. (I’ve been doing this site so long now, I have a Guardian-English dictionary in my head).

Equally dodgy-sounding buzz-phrases litter topics on the agenda.

“Eastern Europe and Central Asia: building an integrated support system for journalists facing hostile environments”, this means pumping money into NGOs to fund media that will criticize our “enemies” in areas of strategic importance. It means flooding money into the anti-government press in Hungary, or Iran or (of course), Russia. That is ALL it means.

I said in my earlier article I don’t know what “media sustainability” even means, but I feel I can take a guess. It means “save the government mouthpieces”.

The Guardian is struggling for money, all print media are, TV news is getting lower viewing figures all the time. “Building media sustainability” is code for “pumping public money into traditional media that props up the government” or maybe “getting people to like our propaganda”.

But the worst offender on the list is, without a doubt…

“Navigating Disinformation”

“Navigating Disinformation” was a 1 hour panel from the second day of the conference. You can watch it embedded above if you really feel the need. I already did, so you don’t have to.

The panel was chaired by Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian Foreign Minister. The members included the Latvian Foreign Minister, a representative of the US NGO Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Information

Have you guessed what “disinformation” they’re going to be talking about?

I’ll give you a clue: It begins with R.

Freeland, chairing the panel, kicks it off by claiming that “disinformation isn’t for any particular aim”.

This is a very common thing for establishment voices to repeat these days, which makes it all the more galling she seems to be pretending its is her original thought.

The reason they have to claim that “disinformation” doesn’t have a “specific aim” is very simple: They don’t know what they’re going to call “disinformation” yet.

They can’t afford to take a firm position, they need to keep their options open. They need to give themselves the ability to describe any single piece of information or political opinion as “disinformation.” Left or right. Foreign or domestic. “Disinformation” is a weaponised term that is only as potent as it is vague.

So, we’re one minute in, and all “navigating disinformation” has done is hand the State an excuse to ignore, or even criminalise, practically anything it wants to. Good start.

Interestingly, no one has actually said the word “Russia” at this point. They have talked about “malign actors” and “threats to democracy”, but not specifically Russia. It is SO ingrained in these people that “propaganda”= “Russian propaganda” that they don’t need to say it.

The idea that NATO as an entity, or the individual members thereof, could also use “disinformation” has not just been dismissed… it was literally never even contemplated.

Next Freeland turns to Edgars Rinkēvičs, her Latvian colleague, and jokes about always meeting at NATO functions. The Latvians know “more than most” about disinformation, she says.

Rinkēvičs says disinformation is nothing new, but that the methods of spreading it are changing… then immediately calls for regulation of social media.

Nobody disagrees.

Then he talks about the “illegal annexation of Crimea”, and claims the West should outlaw “paid propaganda” like RT and Sputnik.

Nobody disagrees.

Then he says that Latvia “protected” their elections from “interference” by “close cooperation between government agencies and social media companies”.

Everyone nods along.

If you don’t find this terrifying, you’re not paying attention. They don’t say it, they probably don’t even realise they mean it, but when they talk about “close cooperation with social media networks”, they mean government censorship of social media. When they say “protecting” their elections… they’re talking about rigging them.

It only gets worse.

The next step in the Latvian master plan is to bolster “traditional media”. The problems with traditional media, he says, are that journalists aren’t paid enough, and don’t keep up to date with all the “new tricks”.

His solution is to “promote financing” for traditional media, and to open more schools like the “Baltic Centre of Media Excellence”, which is apparently a totally real thing. It’s a training centre which teaches young journalists about “media literacy” and “critical thinking”.

You can read their depressingly predictable list of “donors” here.

I truly wish I was joking.

Next up is Courtney Radsch from CPJ – a US-backed NGO, who notionally “protect journalists”, but more accurately spread pro-US propaganda. (Their token effort to “defend” RT and Sputnik when they were barred from the conference was contemptible). She talks for a long time… without saying much at all. Her revolutionary idea is that disinformation could be countered if everyone told the truth. Inspiring.

Beata Balogova, Journalist and Editor from Slovakia, gets the ship back on course – immediately suggesting politicians should not endorse “propaganda” platforms. She shares an anecdote about “a prominent Slovakian politician” who gave exclusive interviews to a site that is “dubiously financed, we assume from Russia”.

They assume from Russia. Everyone nods. It’s like they don’t even hear themselves.

Then she moves on to Hungary.

Apparently, Orban has “created a propaganda machine” and produced “antisemitic George Soros posters”. No evidence is produced to back-up either of these claims. She thinks advertisers should be pressured into not giving money to “fake news sites”. She calls for “international pressure”, but never explains exactly what that means.

The stand-out maniac on this panel is Emine Dzhaparova, the Ukrainian First Deputy Minister of Information Policy. (She works for the Ministry of Information – nicknamed the Ministry of Truth, which was formed in 2014 to “counter lies about Ukraine”. Even The Guardian thought that sounded dodgy.)

She talks very fast and, without any sense of irony, spills out a story that shoots straight through “disinformation” and becomes “incoherent rambling”. She claims that Russian citizens are so brainwashed you’ll never be able to talk to them, and that Russian “cognitive influence” is “toxic… like radiation.”

Is this paranoid, quasi-xenophobic nonsense countered? No. Her fellow panelists nod and chuckle.

On top of that, she just lies. She lies over and over and over again.

She claims Russia is locking up Crimean Tartars “just for being muslims”, nobody questions her.

She says the war in Ukraine has killed 13,000 people, but doesn’t mention that her side is responsible for over 80% of civilian deaths.

She says only 30% of Crimeans voted in the referendum, and that they were “forced”. A fact not supported by any polls done by either side in the last four years, and any referenda held on the peninsula any time in the last last 30 year. It’s simply a lie.

Nobody asks her about the journalists killed in Ukraine since their glorious Maidan Revolution.

Nobody questions the fact that she works for something called the “Ministry of Information”.

Nobody does anything but nod and smile as the “countering disinformation” panel becomes just a platform for spreading total lies.

When everyone on the panel has had their ten minutes on the soapbox, Freeland asks for recommendations for countering this “threat” – here’s the list:

  1. Work to distinguish “free speech” from “propaganda”, when you find propaganda there must be a “strong reaction”.
  2. Pressure advertisers to abandon platforms who spread misinformation.
  3. Regulate social media.
  4. Educate journalists at special schools.
  5. Start up a “Ministry of Information” and have state run media that isn’t controlled, like in Ukraine.

This is the Global Conference on Media Freedom… and all these six people want to talk about is how to control what can be said, and who can say it.

They single only four countries out for criticism: Hungary, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Russia…. and Russia takes up easily 90% of that.

They mention only two media outlets by name: RT and Sputnik.

This wasn’t a panel on disinformation, it was a public attack forum – a month’s worth of 2 minutes of hate.

These aren’t just shills on this stage, they are solid gold idiots, brainwashed to the point of total delusion. They are the dangerous glassy eyes of a Deep State that never questions itself, never examines itself, and will do anything it wants, to anyone it wants… whilst happily patting itself on the back for its superior morality.

They don’t know, they don’t care. They’re true believers. Terrifyingly dead inside. Talking about state censorship and re-education camps under a big sign that says “Freedom”.

And that’s just one talk. Just one panel in a 2 day itinerary filled to the brim with similarly soul-dead servants of authority.

Truly, perfectly Orwellian.

Kit Knightly is co-editor of OffGuardian. The Guardian banned him from commenting. Twice. He used to write for fun, but now he’s forced to out of a near-permanent sense of outrage.

July 16, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , | Leave a comment

Nicaragua Honors Police Killed During US-backed Protests

teleSUR | June 15, 2019

The National Police of Nicaragua’s Sandinista government held a ceremony Wednesday to honor the 22 police officers killed by right-wing protesters during the failed coup d’etat against President Daniel Ortega one year ago. Activists also paid tribute to two Sandinista supporters who were murdered during the same period.

The ceremony was held in the nation’s capital of Managua by senior National Police members and attended by the friends and families of the police officers who were killed during the violent coup attempt by armed right-wing groups backed by the United States.

Also Wednesday, the city of Jinotepe paid tribute to Marcos Gutierrez and Guillermo Mendez, two Sandinista activists, at the one year anniversary of their murder at the hands of the anti-government protesters.

In Managua, Police Commissioner General Aldo Saenz Ulloa said at the ceremony: “Thanks to the sacrifice of our 22 fallen brothers and sisters in defense of the well-being of Nicaragua’s families, we have peace, stability and security that we will carry forward to rebuild well-being (in Nicaragua) for all”.

Jinotepe Mayor Mariano Madrigal spoke at the city’s gathering, saying “Nicaragua will never forget the spirit of hate that was inculcated in the population when terrorist and coup elements kidnapped, tortured and assassinated citizens here.”

Violence broke out in Nicaragua during May and June of 2018 when the right-wing opposition launched a bid to overthrow the leftist Sandinista administration lead by Ortega. The opposition in Nicaragua have been recipients of funds and training from the U.S. government.

Right-wing elements also burned the leftist Radio Ya! Community radio station during the protests, and kidnapped and tortured elderly Sandinista supporter Bismarck Martinez, whose remains were recently found after a year long search.

The Amnesty Law was approved this week by the Nicaraguan National Assembly that grants a one-off amnesty for those involved in clashes on the condition that perpetrators do not re-offend. The government hopes this law will bring peace and reconciliation to the nation.

June 15, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Nicaragua Approves Amnesty Law To Bring Peace

teleSUR | June 9, 2019

In an effort lead by the FSLN, to bring peace and reconciliation, Nicaragua’s National Assembly has approved a law that will provide amnesty for those involved with right-wing violence during the distabilization process last year.

The new law will grant a one off amnesty to those who committed crimes during the right-wing protests last year, it will apply equally to those with or without active cases against them. However, article 3 of the constitution states that the amnesty is conditional and will be withdrawn if the perpetrators re-offend.

The law was proposed by 70 lawmakers of the ruling Sandinista party, the FSLN, who hold a majority in the Assembly, Edwin Castro, a FSLN lawmaker said; “this is a sovereign act that seeks peace, reconciliation, that seeks forgiveness with justice, with reparation, and with no repetition.”

Castro continued; “it hurts us to have to grant amnesty to confessed assassins of policemen, to torturers of the San Jose school in Jinotepe, who murdered Bismarck Martinez, but we are aware that we have to put our country first.”

The right-wing opposition in Nicaragua, who have allegedly received funds and training from the U.S. government’s NED, have been responsible for a number of criminal offenses in their bid to overthrow the elected government led by Daniel Ortega. Most recently, the remains were found of an elderly Sandinista supporter, Bismarck Martinez, who was kidnapped and tortured to death in Jinotepe by opposition activists. Another high profile offense was in 2018 when demonstrators set fire to the leftist “Radio Ya” station whilst journalists were still inside.

However, the government hopes that they can bring peace to the country by granting amnesty on the condition of not re-offending. This is part of wider efforts to bring the country together, other initiatives have included the establishment of peace talks between government and the opposition, which the government has remained committed to despite the failure of the opposition coalition, Alianza Civica, to condemn US economic sanctions, which was an early request from the FSLN.

June 9, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

The United States Is at It Again: Compiling an Enemies List

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 24.01.2019

Many American still long for the good old days when men were still manly and President George W. Bush was able to announce that there was a “new sheriff in town” pledged to wipe terrorism from the face of the earth. “You’re either with us or against us,” he growled and he backed up his warning of lethal retribution with an enemies list that he called the “axis of evil.”

The axis of evil identified in those days in the 2002 State of the Union Address consisted of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Iraq, which had not yet been invaded and conquered by the American war machine, was number one on the list, with Saddam allegedly brandishing weapons of mass destruction deliverable by the feared transatlantic gliders that could easily strike the United States. Bush explained that “Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax and nerve gas and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens, leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections, then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.”

North Korea meanwhile was described as “A regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens” while Iran “aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom.”

The phrase “axis of evil” proved so enticing that Undersecretary of State John Bolton used it two months later in a speech entitled “Beyond the Axis of Evil.” He included three more countries – Cuba, Libya and Syria because they were “state sponsors of terrorism that are pursuing or who have the potential to pursue weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or have the capability to do so in violation of their treaty obligations.” The nice thing about an Axis of Evil List is that you can make up the criteria as you go along so you can always add more evildoers.

Iraq was removed from the playing field in March 2003 while Libya had to wait for President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be dealt with, but North Korea, Cuba, Syria and Iran are still around. Nevertheless, the idea of an enemies list continues to intrigue policy makers since it would be impossible to maintain the crippling burden of the military industrial complex without a simple expression that would convey to the public that there were bad actors out there waiting to pounce but for the magnificent efforts being made by Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and Raytheon to defend freedom.

The Administration of President Donald Trump, not to be outdone by its predecessors, has recently come up with two enemies lists. The first one was coined by the irrepressible John Bolton, who is now National Security Adviser. He has come up with the “troika of tyranny” to describe Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, where he sees “… the dangers of poisonous ideologies without control, and the dangers of domination and suppression… I am here to convey a clear message from the President of the United States about our policy towards these three regimes. Under this administration, we will no longer appease the dictators and despots near our coasts in this hemisphere. The troika of tyranny in this hemisphere — Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua — has finally found its rival.”

Bolton also demonstrated that he has a light touch, adding “These tyrants fancy themselves strongmen and revolutionaries, icons and luminaries. In reality, they are clownish, pitiful figures more akin to Larry, Curly, and Moe. The three stooges of socialism are true believers, but they worship a false God.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has apparently also been looking at Venezuela and not liking what he is seeing. On his recent road trip to the Middle East he told reporters that “It is time to begin the orderly transition to a new government [in Caracas].” He declared that “The Maduro regime is illegitimate and the United States will work diligently to restore a real democracy to that country. We are very hopeful we can be a force for good to allow the region to come together to deliver that.” “Force for good” is another key soundbite used by Pompeo. In his Cairo speech on January 10th, he described the United States as a “force for good” in the entire Middle East.

Bolton might have thought “troika of tyranny” was a hands down winner, but he was actually upstaged by the dour Vice President Mike Pence who declared to a gathering of US Ambassadors that “Beyond our global competitors, the United States faces a ‘wolf pack of rogue states.’ No shared ideology or objective unites our competitors and adversaries except this one: They seek to overturn the international order that the United States has upheld for more than half a century.” The states Pence identified were North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Of the five, only North Korea can even plausibly be considered as a possible threat to the United States.

As wolves are actually very social animals the metaphor provided by Pence does not hold together very well. But Pence, Bolton and Pompeo are all talking about the same thing, which is the continued existence of some governments that are reluctant to fall in line with Washington’s demands. They have to be banished from polite discourse by declaring them “rogue” or “tyrannical” or “evil.” Other nations with far worse human rights records – to include Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Israel and Egypt – are given a pass as long as they stay aligned with the US on policy.

So useful “lists” are all about what Washington wants the world to believe about itself and its adversaries. Put competitors on a list and condemn them to eternal denigration whenever their names come up. And, as Pence observes, it is all done to prevent the overturning of the “international order.” However, his is a curious conceit as it is the United States and some of its allies, through their repeated and illegal interventions in foreign countries, that have established something like international disorder. Who is really doing what to whom is pretty much dependent on which side of the fence one is standing on.

January 24, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Connecting the dots: Crack, Contras, and the CIA

Brass Check TV

This 1996 interview with Gary Webb took place after his “Dark Alliance” newspaper series made waves across the country for piecing together the puzzle of the US crack epidemic.

The pipeline of CIA backed drug smuggling into the country and money smuggling out of the country to support the Nicaraguan Contras was wide open from the mid 1970s on, with players using everything from their shoes to freighters to move cocaine.

Webb was widely smeared by the CIA’s favorite newspapers (The New York Times, the Washington Post, The LA Times ) shortly after this interview.

He was eventually vindicated, but not before his career was destroyed. He was found dead of an apparent suicide in 2005. The price of being a whistleblower?

December 16, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment