Despite ‘the Donald’ and the CIA being on quite a roll in Latin and Central America, they have failed to squash Sandinista leader President Daniel Ortega, whose left-wing party are overcoming US sanctions to achieve significant poll leads, reports KEN LIVINGSTONE
THE US is renewing its attack on the elected government of Nicaragua by imposing yet more sanctions, coupled with new draft congressional legislation aiming to secure “regime change.”
This drive of sanctions against Nicaragua dates back to December 2018 when Trump signed into law the “Nica Act” (Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act), over two years after the draft legislation was first approved by the US House of Representatives in September 2016.
The Nica Act is an attempt to use economic pressure to destabilise the country’s government and economy. Its main thrust was to try to cut Nicaragua off from loans and financial or technical assistance by the multilateral-lending institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Central America Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI).
Additional powers granted under the Nica Act to Trump as President, enable him to block and prohibit financial and other asset transactions — and deny or revoke visas for Nicaraguan government officials, former officials, or people purportedly “acting on behalf of” the government in Managua.
To date over 20 Nicaraguan individuals and entities have been targeted.
When the Nica Act was passed, loans to Nicaragua were running at $250 million (£189m) annually for investment in education, social programmes, electrification, roads and other infrastructure initiatives.
In practice, both the IDB and CABEI have continued to make loans, including for health, technology and infrastructure projects to Nicaragua while IMF structural adjustment loans, which come with onerous conditions, are no longer needed (or indeed wanted) by the country.
But once World Bank-funded projects in the pipeline in 2018 had worked through, no new Nicaraguan project loans have been approved by the Bank, despite Nicaragua’s excellent record for utilising loans and grants for poverty reduction and infrastructure
There is also the concern at the moment that the IMF may reject any requests for an emergency loan (as they have done with Venezuela) if the coronavirus crisis was to hit the country hard and such support was needed.
Since 2007, the Nicaraguan government has achieved a remarkable transformation in Nicaraguan society, bringing benefits to the poorest and most vulnerable in society and restoring rights to Nicaraguan workers and families.
For example, poverty has been more than halved from 48.35 per cent to 23 per cent and extreme poverty has dropped from 17.2 per cent to 6 per cent. Eighteen modern new hospitals have been built and plans are already under way to reach a total of 33 in the next four years. Some 97 per cent of households had electricity by the end of 2019 (compared to only 54 per cent in 2007).
Even green-energy production increased from 22 per cent to 62 per cent, with plans to increase the share of renewable energy to 86 per cent by the end of 2020. Nicaragua has now been named by the Renewable Energy Network as one of the world’s top ten countries for renewable initiatives.
Meanwhile, the Fitch financial-rating agency announced last November that the economic outlook for Nicaragua is stable and in clear recovery.
But this has not deterred the Trump administration in its explicit aim of “regime change” in Nicaragua and support for those it can count on to support its policies in Latin America.
The day after the military coup in Bolivia, Trump said: “These events send a strong signal to the illegitimate regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua that democracy and the will of the people will always prevail. We are now one step closer to a completely democratic, prosperous and free Western Hemisphere.”
A White House statement followed on November 25 2019 which characterised Nicaragua as “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” — thus prolonging for an additional year an executive order signed by Trump in 2019 declaring a “state of emergency” in Nicaragua.
Encouraged by this US support and no doubt emboldened by the success of the US-backed coup in Bolivia, US-financed right-wing Nicaraguan opposition groups are again set to up their activity in furtherance of the US goal of regime change.
These groups though are very much in a minority.
In the latest survey by Managua-based M&R Consultores, 78 per cent of the population say that the imposition of sanctions by the US is intervention in Nicaragua’s internal affairs, with 92 per cent agreeing that sanctions harm all Nicaraguans.
Some 74 per cent of Nicaraguans disapprove of those who promote sanctions, which even includes some of the right-wing opposition groups.
Despite the lofty sentiments about economic and political rights in Nicaragua expressed in the draft congressional legislation, the reality is that the Nica Act and Trump’s continuing focus on Nicaragua have little to do with US concern for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The Act and the new Bill are simply tools to achieve the Trump administration’s “regime change” agenda. This is not restricted to Nicaragua but includes Cuba and Venezuela, which together the former national security adviser John Bolton called a “troika of tyranny.”
Nicaragua poses no threat to the United States, other than the threat of a good example.
The US is on a roll here, with Brazil back in pro-US, extreme right-wing hands following the 2016 coup, Lula’s jailing and Bolsonaro’s victory — and now with Bolivia’s Evo Morales driven from office by a military coup as well.
But it is against international law for the Trump administration to decide who should be the government of any other country — the Nicaraguan people are the ones to decide what kind of government they should have.
Currently, Daniel Ortega and the FSLN party are on course to win the elections scheduled for 2021, with a recent Gallup poll reporting a 58 per cent approval rating for them.
The aforementioned social achievements since 2007 would be in jeopardy if a US-installed regime were to succeed in Nicaragua, judging by both historical and current experience in Central and Southern America where US-sponsored regimes have been installed.
There are still some divergent views on recent developments in Nicaragua on the left internationally — but whatever one’s views, if you think further sanctions by Trump that will damage Nicaragua’s recovery and the living standards of ordinary people are the answer, you’re asking the wrong question.
Join the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign at http://www.nicaraguasc.org.uk/get-involved.
Originally published in The Morning Star