Eraserhead Versus Nicaragua

The enormous cluster of frantic media eraserheads are rubbing out unwanted news, hoping to leave just a cartoon world free of inconvenient facts.

Opposition activists burn political material bearing a picture of Nicaragua
Opposition activists burn political material bearing a picture of Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega during a protest in Masaya city, Nicaragua August 27,2016. | Photo: Reuters

Tortilla con Sal

August 27 marked the second anniversary of the murder of Margarita Murillo, another of the extraordinary Honduran women like Berta Caceres who challenged the 2009 U.S.-backed coup and its successor regimes before being assassinated for daring to resist.

Honduras is a corrupt gangster state where just this week a third news media outlet has been closed down by the government. For human rights activists, lawyers and journalists, Honduras is one of the deadliest countries in the world. Similar conditions prevail in Guatemala, while the mesoamerican region’s most important country, Mexico, is dominated by organized crime, routine massacres by the security forces, and over 27,000 people are currently disappeared. However, Western news media attacks hardly ever finger those systemically corrupt countries’ murderously repressive right wing governments. They mostly attack progressive governments of countries like Venezuela, among the most democratic in the world and, increasingly, Nicaragua.

Western news, opinion and info-tainment outlets meld together into one enormous cluster of frantic eraserheads, rubbing out unwanted news to leave just a cartoon world free of inconvenient facts. Erased, for example, are Nicaragua’s world leading role promoting the political participation of women, its role leading the global fight for sustainable policies on Climate Change, or repeated international recognition of its revolutionary public health model or approval levels of around 80 percent for Daniel Ortega and his partner Rosario Murillo. Begrudgingly, Western media acknowledge Nicaragua’s economic success and its success fighting organized crime. But they never recognize those achievements are the result of explicitly socialist policies built on the revolutionary changes achieved by the Sandinista Revolution in the 1980s.

Now Nicaragua is in another year of national elections, the US and its allies are applying an aggressive program of coordinated attacks against the Sandinista government of President Daniel Ortega. Over the last month, Western media have widely reproduced one version or another of the right-wing Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) recent declaration explicitly linking events in Venezuela and Nicaragua. The declaration is signed by almost every recent right-wing former political leader in Latin America, as well as former Spanish Primer Minister José Maria Aznar. On Venezuela, this right wing phalange falsely accuse the country’s Bolivarian authorities of refusing to authorize a recall referendum. On Nicaragua, they accuse the Nicaraguan authorities of denying the main opposition Independent Liberal Party (PLI) its legitimate representation in the country’s national legislature and for this year’s national elections. Both these claims are outright falsehoods.

The recall process in Venezuela has followed to the letter the relevant provisions of the country’s constitution. If the opposition comply with the legal requirements, the referendum will take place some time in the first half of 2017. In Nicaragua, five opposition parties and political alliances including the PLI’s political alliance will contest the national elections in November against the Sandinista FSLN party, now in government. So it is a complete lie that the Nicaraguan authorities have barred opposition political parties from fighting the election campaign. Since even before the last national elections in 2011, the Nicaraguan right wing’s own insane petty narcissism has prevented them from working together as a coherent political force.

The IDEA intervention is self-evidently coordinated with Nicaraguan opposition groups sponsored by the U.S. embassy in Nicaragua who have made very public their intention to promote a boycott of the elections. So IDEA’s blatant misrepresentation of events in Nicaragua is right on message. That message is projected in almost every report in NATO’s psychological warfare propaganda network from the New York Times to the Washington Post to the Miami Herald to the Guardian. The Guardian recently published an opinion piece by the Nicaraguan novelist Gioconda Belli, entitled Nicaragua is drifting towards dictatorship once again.”

Belli’s views exemplify the kind of elite bad faith most ordinary Nicaraguans recognize from a mile away. So when she dismisses the Christian faith of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo she makes clearer than ever why the Nicaraguan opposition has lost all credibility.

She writes, “Miraculously, the couple went from dangerous atheists to fervent Christians from one day to the next. The illusion worked.” Belli’s opinion, falsely presented as fact, is worthless. The various churches in Nicaragua know Daniel and Rosario’s faith has been sincere since the 1980s and strengthened the closer they became over the years to Nicaraguans at grassroots across the country. Among opposition politicians only Arnoldo Alemán ever came close to building the kind of loyal national popular support enjoyed by Daniel Ortega. Like her right wing political cronies, Belli cannot acknowledge her own consummate political failure. She has to rubbish Daniel Ortega’s religious faith because his tremendous sincerity and his credibility with ordinary Nicaraguans makes nonsense of the cynical hate campaign she has spent her political life developing over the last 20 years.

What many find unforgivable about former Sandinistas like Belli is not just their cynical collaboration with Nicaragua’s right wing but with the very U.S. terrorists who deliberately destroyed Nicaragua all through the 1980s. One of those terrorists is Robert Callahan, ambassador to Nicaragua between 2008 and 2011. In the years until 1985, Callahan was assistant to death squad manager supreme John Negroponte, helping organize the dirty war in Honduras in which U.S.-trained and organized forces disappeared or murdered hundreds of Honduran opposition activists. But that death squad activity in Honduras was just a hobby. For Negroponte and Callahan, the main event was to organize the Contra terror campaign in Nicaragua against teachers, medical staff, farmers and their families, anyone working on government programs.

Negroponte and Callahan made sure the Contra murdered many thousands of Nicaraguan civilians, cutting their throats, blowing them up, gunning them down. The objective was regime change, which U.S. death squad diplomacy eventually achieved in elections under the threat of continued war if their terrorist clients lost. In a recent article for the Miami Herald, Callahan has dusted off his skills as an apologist for terrorism and mass murder to once again recycle the usual plethora of mini-lies and tendentious interpretations dressed up as fact to help spread this year’s Big Lie. Referring to the Nicaragua’s PLI opposition party, Callahan writes that Daniel Ortega’s “lackeys on the Supreme Court have declared the principal opposition party illegal and banned it from contesting the November elections”. This lie is inexplicable, because the PLI and another four opposition political forces just weeks ago registered their parties electoral participation with the country’s electoral authorities.

Callahan also criticizes the absence of electoral observation teams from the Organization of American States and the European Union. Of course he does, because that decision by the Sandinista government eliminates the aggressive electoral observation model applied by Western governments to intervene in the elections of countries they want to destabilize. Instead, the Sandinista government has invited a group of 14 highly distinguished electoral specialists from all over Latin America and the Caribbean to accompany the elections as advisers. That move is a conscious rejection of the destabilizing role of conventional electoral observation applied by Western governments to intervene in the elections of countries they want to destabilize.

In yet another good example of the convergence between right wing mainstream media and neocolonial progressive alternative media, Jonah Walters, while making an unconvincing rice-paper-thin avowal that he would prefer not to be associated with it, repeats various elements of Robert Callahan’s attack on Daniel Ortega for Jacobin magazine. Walters repeats this year’s Big Lie about opposition participation in the elections, noting “the court’s decision prevents the PLI and its coalition partners from participating in this year’s contest.” Walters himself confirms that the opposition have only their own discord to blame for failing to agree a coherent opposition platform but supplements this year’s Big Lie with baseless innuendo of his own, remarking that Daniel Ortega has “repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to go beyond the bounds of normal political practice to neutralize his opponents and shore up his power.”

Walters offers no facts or reasoning for this nonsense; like Belli, he merely asserts his arbitrary opinion as fact. For anyone familiar with the literature, he basically offers a summary English language version of the self-serving and carefully selective arguments of the Spanish academic Salvador Martí-i-Puig. As a gloss to his own highly selective account of Nicaragua’s economic policies Walters remarks, “Ortega’s entirely top-down vision of development is insufficient and unsustainable — even dangerous.” Taken together Walters’ and Puig’s attacks manage to recycle almost every tendentious, discredited accusation of Nicaragua’s opposition from before the 2006 elections to the present in a kind of compendium of disinformation and irrelevance. They barely mention the fundamental reason for the extraordinary success of the Sandinista government’s social and economic policies, namely the profound economic and social democratization carried out since January 2007.

Currently around 70 percent of the country’s economically active population organized in family, community, cooperative and other associative forms of production produce around 53 percent of production-based GDP (and above 60 percent of disposable income-based GDP) including over 75 percent of food for domestic consumption. Orlando Nuñez Soto has given a detailed and authoritative theoretical exposition of this model of an associative economy. But Walters barely acknowledges this fundamental reality, gratuitously opining instead that somehow “these programs are undercut by Ortega’s continued support for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).” How they are undercut we are not told. Furthermore, like all the critics of the President Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, Walters seems deliberately to omit that Nicaragua’s government is now under the legal obligation, since the consensus based constitutional reform of 2014, to pursue national dialog in the design and implementation of public policy. That constitutional reform made statutory the moral obligation assumed by the Sandinista government in 2007 of promoting National Unity and Reconciliation.

None of the Sandinista government’s critics can possibly acknowledge that fundamental political reality without making their claims that President Daniel Ortega is a dictator look downright stupid. Likewise, those critics have to omit serious discussion of the proliferation of programs covering almost every area of Nicaragua’s national life promoting and defending social economic and cultural rights. Instead they offer one skewed opinion after another as fact and leave it at that. In any case, the convergence of left and right wing attacks in North America and Europe on Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution or on Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution is nothing new, especially given the context. This year in Venezuela the main focus of political attacks has been the recall referendum. In Nicaragua the focus is on next November’s national elections for the Presidency and the Legislature. All the signs are that people in Nicaragua will turn out in force to vote and the Sandinista Front for National Liberation will win another highly deserved electoral victory with an increased majority in the legislature and Daniel Ortega will be vindicated once again as the country’s President. Perhaps just once in awhile Western mainstream and alternative media will give us all a break from their vindictive disinformation campaigns against Venezuela and Nicaragua and find time to focus on the very real disastrous humanitarian crises, wholesale corruption and vicious repression in, for example, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.