Michael Boudreau, May 29th 2019
Nicaragua and Venezuela both had to carry out revolutions in order to rid themselves of U.S. imperialist rule. In Nicaragua, the revolution to overthrow U.S. backed dictator Somoza and the subsequent war in the 1980’s to stave off the U.S. trained and financed contras took thousands of lives. Since then, both governments have reduced poverty significantly and have consistently shown a preference for supporting the poor.
Let's look at some indicators of Nicaragua’s social and economic progress since 2007 (the year the Sandinistas got back into power) :
- Second highest economic growth rates and most stable economy in Central America
- Only country in the region that produces over 90% of the food it consumes (80 percent of land is owned by small farmers/ranchers, who produce this food)
- Poverty and extreme poverty have been halved and it is the country with the greatest reduction of extreme poverty (from 17% in 2009 to 6% in 2016)
- One of the first countries to reach the UN Millennium Development Goal of cutting malnutrition by half
- Free basic healthcare and education (my wife received very good pre- and post-natal care during both of her pregnancies, as well as when she gave birth at the hospital. All completely free!)
- More than 96% of the population has access to electricity (55% in 2006)
- Illiteracy virtually eliminated (36% in 2006)
- The average economic growth of 5.2% for the past five years (according to the IMF and the World Bank). “The macroeconomic policies implemented by the Government of Nicaragua are positive and should serve as an example for Latin America”, said Min Zhu, Deputy Managing Director of the IMF
- The safest country in Central America (United Nations Development Programme) with one of the lowest crime rates in Latin America
- One of the very few countries in Latin America and the entire developing world that produces all its textbooks at all levels, from primary school to University and Adult Education
- The highest level of gender equality in the Americas ‘World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2017.’ – It has reached levels of political participation of women that are only found in developed countries
- The second fastest growing tourism destination in the Americas, becoming a world-renowned tourist destination for travelers in search of peace, tranquillity and healthy and environmentally friendly cultural experiences.
- Had managed to stop the mass exodus of Nicaraguan migrants to the United States under previous governments
- 75% of energy from renewable resources (wind, solar, geothermal)
- Half of government representatives are women
- Fifty percent of police officers are women
- Law enforcement employs community policing and restorative justice
- Prison sentences are capped at 30 years and reviewed annually.
- One of the highest levels of economic equality in Latin America
- 56 percent of the national budget is devoted to healthcare and education (the U.S. uses about 12% on health and education. The U.S. uses 54% of its budget on the military—the new U.S. budget will increase military spending by 750 billion)
- Labor unions are strong. Plus, the minimum wage is raised yearly, by law.
- 100,000 land titles have been recently granted (more in progress)
- A national credit union serves only the poorest. Thus, co-ops and
- small family businesses contribute over half of the GDP and create 70 percent of all jobs.
- The best road and highways in all of Central America
If you compare what Nicaragua has accomplished to other Latin American countries, they are a far more progressive and successful country than just about any other. Indeed, if you compare these accomplishments to the U.S. government they also stack up pretty nicely. People are hurting in the U.S. In fact, there are more people living in poverty in the U.S. then there are people in Venezuela (and of course, Nicaragua as well). People in the U.S. also want free health care (Medicare for all), free higher education, safer cities, a reduction in poverty, a yearly increase in the minimum wage, gender equality, and more action on climate change (Nicaragua 75% renewables, planning on 90% in the next few years). The majority also want an end to the wars and a reduction in the military budget.
Who do governments work for?
Whenever anyone talks about free healthcare and education in the U.S., they are always asked, “but how are we going to pay for it?” However, no one ever asks how we are going to pay for more war. The U.S. government just voted to increase the military budget by 750 billion. Democrats are great at calling out trump for his corruption and for supposedly colluding with Russia to steal our elections. However, they have no trouble at all giving him billions more dollars for war and are equally as quick to support him on his stance on Venezluea or Iran.
That is because our government works for the 1%, not for the people and they certainly don’t seem to care about the poor. If it did, then the U.S. (the wealthiest, most powerful country on the planet) would have achieved many of the things the Nicaragua government already has.
When people here in Nicaragua (and in Venezuela) defend their governments, they are supporting and defending all of these gains and achievements. They are supporting governments who have given priority to the poor, the well-being of the planet, and who have resisted U.S. imperialism.
And ever since Nicaragua and Venezuela have resisted U.S. imperialism, they have had the U.S. breathing down their necks. It is not only about access to resources, it is also about crushing any alternative development model that counters US hegemony. The threat of a good example. The U.S. is constantly meddling in elections, supporting coup attempts, implementing sanctions, and supporting and funding violent right wing oppositions groups. (U.S. economic sanctions cause death and suffering to millions of peoplearound the world and are against international law. A recent report found that as many as 40,000 have died in Venezuela as a result of crippling US sanctions—in year 2017 alone!).
The U.S. is also threatening an invasion of Venezuela. Venezuelans have the examples of Iraq, Syria and Libya for how a U.S. military invasion might affect their country. Indeed, Marco Rubio tweeted a photo of a bloodied and dead Gaddafi with a caption to the effect of, “Maduro, this is what will happen to you, too.” (Remember what Hillary Clinton said about Gaddafi while laughing, “we came, we saw, he died”!). Libya especially has become a total humanitarian disaster with slaves being sold openly on the streets. Ironically, of course, the U.S. invaded precisely to stop the supposed humanitarian crisis and human rights abuses being committed by the Libya government. Now that things are far worse, no one seems to care at all. The vast majority of Venezuelans are not inviting this kind of “humanitarian” invasion and are against all sanctions.
Opposition hatred and bigotry
The violence, bigotry and hatred of Venezuela’s opposition was on full display in recent weeks at the Venezuela Embassy in Washington. There were activists defending the Venezuelan Embassy from supporters of Juan Guaido, the U.S. backed and self-proclaimed, Venezuelan “President”, who are trying to illegally take over the embassy with the help of the federal police representing the Trump administration. Since the peace activists arrived, opposition members have been bused in and have made attempts to break into the Embassy, and have harassed, assaulted, and verbally abused the peace activists defending the embassy. The mostly white, wealthy opposition members have used racial, sexist, and hateful terms when confronting the peace activists. The Secret Service, the law enforcement agency responsible for protecting the embassy, sided with the opposition, even arresting two peace activists after they were assaulted by violent opposition protesters.
They even blocked food from getting into the Embassy to the peace activists, so supporters on the outside had to get food in using a pulley up to a window! Another activist was arrested for throwing food up to a second story window. She was charged with throwing a potentially dangerous projectile—the projectile was a head of lettuce! US authorities then turned off the electricity and water to the Embassy. These tactics of trying to starve and isolate the peace activists in the Embassy is the same strategy being used in Venezuela through economic sanctions and the sabotage of the electrical grid in Venezuela. In the end, the US government violated international law by breaking into the Venezuela Embassy and arresting the 4 remaining activists who were inside.
This same hatred, intolerance and violence was also clearly displayed by the Nicaragua opposition from the beginning of the coup attempt through their vitriol social media campaign which included hate filled, false reports that were intended to instill hate, provoke violence, and pit people against each other. It became clear that their goal was not only to overthrow the government, but eliminate Sandinismo, because those running the roadblocks persecuted and targeted Sandinistas who were tortured, raped and killed, some of whom were burned publically in the street. This is exactly what happened during coup attempts in Venezuela as well.
Nicaraguan and Venezuela also have the examples of their respective neighbors Honduras and Columbia as to who the US allies are and who would replace their revolutionary governments if coup attempts succeed. In both of these countries, the governments are extremely unpopular and massive protests have been met with brutal repression. State forces have targeted and killed human rights workers, indigenous leaders, women’s rights activists, etc. In Honduras, thousands of young people have been killed since the US backed coup put Juan Orlando Hernandez in power. Somehow, however, the international human rights organizations, the OAS (Organization of American States), and the U.S government who have all accused Venezuela and Nicaragua of human rights abuses, are completely silent about Honduras and Columbia.
At the same time that the opposition in Nicaragua had erected road blocks that had totally paralyzed the country, in both Costa Rica and Honduras, where there were massive protests, attempts to set up road blocks were immediately and repressively put down. In Nicaragua, the government had allowed the roadblocks to stay up for over two months, even though they were sources of extreme violence. When the Nicaragua government finally decided to remove the road blocks, after the public has grown completely tired of them, and after the opposition refused to remove them, they were accused of carrying out a “massacre” of peaceful students. Meanwhile, again, the international human rights organizations were silent about Costa Rica and Honduras.
Why did the Nicaragua government allow the road blocks to be put up? Why do they allow opposition members to go to the U.S. to ask for economic sanctions and even a military invasion? Why does the Venezuela government allow Juan Guaido to declare himself president and to openly participate in coup attempts? Precisely because the U.S. is breathing down their necks and are waiting for any excuse to implement more harsh economic sanctions, or to directly invade militarily.
I wonder what would happen if let’s say, members of the Green Party or Black Lives Matter decided that since both the Republican and Democrats were in bed with Wall Street, the military industrial complex and big pharma, that the only way to bring about real change would be to go to Russia (or China) and ask for sanctions? What if half of the media outlets in the U.S. began to also promote these sanctions? The members of these organizations would be in jail and the media outlets would be shut down. What is Hillary Clinton decided she would declare herself president and China and Russia recognized her Presidency? What if Hillary Clinton openly participated in coup attempts to oust Trump? She would be arrested for treason.
The fact is that the “crisis” in both Venezuela and Nicaragua are invented ones, and caused by the US government’s support of and funding for the right wing opposition in both countries who carry out violent coup attempts and who deliberately spread false news which is repeated incessantly by international (corporate) media. There are no massive anti-government protests in either country. The massive anti-government marches that occurred in the early months of the protesting in Nicaragua were fueled by false claims of government massacres of students which have since been debunked.
The Nicaragua government has recently been involved in a second dialogue with opposition members which has recently been suspended. It is important to understand that the opposition has virtually no support here in Nicaragua, but the government is obliged to sit down with them in an effort to lift the US economic sanctions. The government has already released over half of the prisoners who committed crimes during the violent coup attempt as part of an agreement reached with the opposition. However, the opposition so far has refused to fulfill their agreement of asking the U.S. to lift sanctions.
Interestingly, however, there are real and major crisis in most of the Latin American countries whose unpopular, neoliberal, right wing governments the US supports (Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Columbia, Argentina, Brazil). Meanwhile, despite the false news trying to pit people against the government, the majority in both Nicaragua and Venezuela support their governments.
The kind of hate, intolerance, and violence that engulfed Nicaragua (and Venezuela) when the roadblocks had sequestered the country are what the majority here fear would happen if the right wing opposition succeeds in the ongoing coup attempt. It is clear to people here that if the opposition succeeds in overthrowing the Sandinista government, all the achievements and social programs would be eliminated and they would see similar governments to those in Honduras and Columbia. Those who have been behind the coup attempt are the same people who ran the country from 1990 to 2006 under neoliberal, right wing governments in which poverty, illiteracy, infant mortality all increased.
Indeed, the opposition has offered no alternative plan whatsoever, and hasn’t even offered any criticism of current government policy. Their only criticism is the supposed repression of protests, suppressing freedom of speech, stolen elections, and of course, the torturing of prisoners. However, these accusations have proven to be false. There has been no evidence provided for torturing in the prisons and an international human rights representative is on record as saying so. There is also video evidence of the good health and physical well-being of prisoners.
The last elections were observed by the OAS and they reported them to have been free and fair. Opposition media continue to knowingly publicize false reports about the government without any repercussions. Interestingly, while international media try to convince us that Daniel Ortega is a brutal dictator, in contrast with Columbia and Honduras, where activists and community leaders are being killed, in Nicaragua, no activists, community leaders or opposition leaders have been killed or assassinated. In short, governments that achieve everything the Nicaragua government has achieved don’t need to steal elections or shoot down protestors, because they have wide public support given their successful and popular policies and programs.
So, when people in Nicaragua and Venezuela defend their governments, defeat the violent coup attempts and bravely stand up to the U.S., they are not only defending all of the gains and accomplishments of their governments, they are also defending themselves against a fascist, neoliberal government which would surely take power if the coup attempts succeed.
Dictators and war criminals...the US variety
However, as is the case with governments that the U.S. sees as an enemy and wants to overthrow, the international media portrays these government leaders such as Maduro and Ortega as so repressive, corrupt, and murderous; and demonizes them to such an extent that public opinion ends up agreeing that there is really no other option than for these leaders to either resign or be overthrown. People in Venezuela and Nicaragua who support their governments are criticized in international media for supporting dictators. Anyone who speaks out either against US intervention or in support of these governments is also vilified and accused of supporting dictators or of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses.
Meanwhile in the U.S., as the media goes on and on about “dictators” like Maduro and Ortega, we literally have war criminals running our foreign policy (John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, Mike Pompeo). Whistle blowers that expose the blatant human rights abuses of the US military, and the journalists who publish that evidence are thrown in jail and tortured (Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange). Not only aren’t war criminals tried for their crimes, they are even celebrated and praised after their deaths (George Bush and John McCain are just two recent examples).
In the U.S., no one was vilified for celebrating George Bush who, among other things, was deeply involved in the Iran Contra affair in Nicaragua and who pushed us into the first war with Iraq based on lies (remember the babies in incubators?). No one is vilified for supporting Hillary Clinton, since Trump was seen to be so much worse. In fact, those who did not support Hillary were actually harshly criticized for allowing Trump into office. Talk about turning a blind eye on human rights abuses—supporting Hillary Clinton surely qualifies as such.
The U.S. government blames Nicaragua and Venezuela for fraudulent elections, yet in the U.S. our current president won the election despite getting over 2 million less votes than a candidate who stole her party’s primary through massive fraud.
The hypocrisy and double standard is striking!
May Venezuela and Nicaragua continue to resist