Disinformation campaigns from foreign supported right-wing controlled media create discontent in Nicaragua and hide its embedded enemy, the imperial United States. The CIA’s psychological warfare program (PSYOP) makes traitors out of Nicaragua’s elite families, stooges out of religious organizations, and pawns out of well-meaning, but misguided, students.
Mural at Nicaragua’s Revolutionary museum.Photo: Lauren Smith
The absurd and unconscionable comparison between President Daniel Ortega, a revolutionary war hero and Anastasio Somoza, a murderous puppet dictator trained and installed by the United States, is not new and dates back to the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), which was founded in the 1990s. In 2005, the MRS began openly accepting money from the United States government and its satellite agencies, such as the International Republican Institute, which has bankrolled its defamation campaigns. In the Sandinista Renovation Movement’s shared quest with the United States government for regime change, its members have even gone as far as to call for President Ortega’s assassination by making parallels to the “Rigoberto viene…” campaign of 2007. Rigoberto López Pérez was a poet who heroically executed Anastasio Somoza.
While elite families that profited under Somoza have selective memory about Somoza’s bloody crimes against humanity, such as Edgar Chamorro (former director of the Nicaraguan Democratic Force), others do not. Chamorro wrote in “Confessions of a Contra” that “Somoza’s National Guardsmen were professional soldiers and not necessarily bad guys.” In contrast, Father Fernando Cardenal testified, in writing before the U.S. House of Representatives, that Somoza’s National Guard, a de facto death squad, routinely used heinous torture in the interrogation of political prisoners.
Common practices of torture by Somoza’s National Guard included: rapes; beatings; the hanging of prisoners by the wrists and/or upside down by the feet; electric shocks; immersion of the head in water; hooding or blindfolding; keeping naked detainees in air-conditioned rooms at very low temperatures; as well as food and drink deprivation. Some prisoners had their nails ripped off and their eyes gouged out. Other prisoners had their tongues cut off and were disemboweled and/or had their genitals removed and forced down their throats. The “disappeared” were routinely buried in mass graves and killing fields.
To understand the influence the United States exerted over Somoza and Nicaragua, it’s important to note that U.S. military schools trained Somoza from the age of ten. Additionally, the United States trained approximately 4,318 members of his National Guard at the School of the Americas (SOA). At the SOA, National Guard members were specifically taught psychological and physical torture techniques in its plan to terrorize Nicaragua citizens into submission. The title of the CIA’s declassified Torture Handbook says it all: “How to create a World of Fear, Terror, Anxiety, Dread”. Somoza’s National Guard was responsible for the murder and disappearance of approximately 45,000 students, clergy, teachers, farmers etc. out of a then population less than 3,000,000.
The PSYOP manual the CIA gave to its Contra enemy combatants can now be understood as the CIA’s playbook in its planned coup d’état against Nicaragua’s elected president, Daniel Ortega. It demonstrates its strategic use of criminals in protests and its willingness to kill its own agents to achieve martyrdom. The use of mortar wielding enemy combatants referred to in the complicit news media as “students” or “protestors” are precisely such criminal and delinquent mercenaries. The murder of actual students and local journalist Angel Gahona by these enemy combatants can best be understood as its attempt to create fake martyrs to incite and justify violence against the elected government. These unthinkable actions are strategic and well planned and straight out of the manual.
The manual further demonstrates the insidious role CIA’s financial and technical assistance has in disinformation and defamation campaigns. In “Confessions of a Contra” and “CIA and Media Manipulation” Edgar Chamorro describes the greed of fellow Nicaraguan exiles; CIA and Washington scripted press conferences; his payoff for being a traitor, egregious passages from the PSYOP manual which he helped the CIA author; and a dire warning for the autonomy of Nicaragua.
“Our propaganda efforts were coordinated with Washington’s Office of Public Diplomacy, which disseminated false stories about how the Sandinistas persecuted each of these [church people, Jewish groups and the private sector] groups. They don’t care if the Catholic Church suffers—all they care about is magnifying tensions and provoking conflict between the Sandinistas and the Catholic hierarchy. The CIA thought the church was the best way to put pressure on the Nicaraguan government.”
“The CIA viewed La Prensa as a propaganda asset and I’m sure that’s how it’s being used today. I knew that La Prensa received money through the Agency for International Development and the National Endowment for Democracy. And I knew the CIA had contacts with people in La Prensa. Take for example, the case of Umberto Belli, a former priest who served as editor of La Prensa’s editorial page before becoming a director of the Puebla Institute, a front group established by the CIA.”
“Some other Nicaraguan exiles working with me wrote the statement for the press conference. It was mostly about the right to private property, and it was very anticommunist. Thomas Castillo [CIA Agent] was sitting at the conference table in the suite at the Four Ambassadors when he read it. “Shit, who wrote this?” he said, shaking his head. “It sounds like all you want is to get back what you lost. You have to write something more progressive, more political. We’ll get someone from Washington to help you.” That’s when George [another CIA Agent] was called in. My friends who worked with him told me later that he insisted they rewrite everything to make it more socialistic. The Americans, I began to realize, liked to make all the crucial decisions.”
“I was told to speak about bringing democracy to Nicaragua, but we all knew that our purpose was to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. The CIA gave us a list of things to say about the Sandinistas to make them look like Communists.”
“The CIA promised me a salary of $2,000 a month plus expenses and I was put in charge of public relations.” The other three directors mostly enjoyed the $5,000 in expense money that the CIA had given each of them. Lucia Salazar, Alfonso Callejas, and Marco Zeledon, a prominent Nicaraguan businessman, sometimes treated the trip as a free vacation, courtesy of the American taxpayer.”
“The CIA men sat by, with their yellow legal pads, writing down whatever we said we needed. With CIA money, I hired several writers, reporters, and technicians to prepare a monthly bulletin called “Comandos,” to run our radio station, and to write press releases.”
“One [passage in the PSYOP manual] recommended hiring professional criminals. The other advocated killing our fellow Contras to create martyrs for the cause.”
“I know the Nicaraguan government is very serious about peace. The Sandinistas are committed to making it happen, and US control of the situation is slipping. Of course, it’s a very fragile process and it could be sabotaged. I think the CIA will try one more big push before its over. They’ll spend a lot of money to bolster the internal opposition—the right-wing political parties and some of the business groups. They’ll fund demonstrations in an effort to create a major showdown like in the Philippines. But it won’t work with the Sandinistas. They are not like Marcos or Somoza. They still have a lot of popular support, particularly among the poor.”
In marked contrast, the police force, under President Ortega, who attended Central American University in Managua, is trained to work with community committees for the prevention of crime and to respect human rights. According to Insight Crime’s 2017 report on the homicide rate in Central America, Nicaragua is far below the other countries in the region. Per 100,000 inhabitants, El Salvador had 60 homicides, Guatemala had 26, Costa Rica had 12, Panama had 10, and Nicaragua had 7.
Unfortunately, young Nicas are as fooled by the CIA embedded news media’s sound bites and sockpuppet ridden chat rooms as are youth in the United States. Young people have been convinced that online news is accurate and as such they unquestionably repeat CIA scripted slogans without understanding the meaning of what they say or its point of origin.
Under Central Command’s Operation Earnest Voice program, sockpuppet software allows agents of the United States government to post propaganda on foreign-language websites by manipulating multiple fake online accounts. Sockpuppets are used skillfully to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives. Sockpuppets are not only replete with background, history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographically consistent, but they can also appear to originate in nearly any part of the world.
In summary, Somoza oversaw one of the worst human rights campaigns in history against the brave people of Nicaragua for the benefit of the United States. Whereas President Ortega, seeks to negotiate with all sides of the political spectrum to keep peace and balance so Nicaragua can remain a safe and autonomous country. Unfortunately, compromises don’t make everyone happy and don’t necessarily win allies. Truly, if President Ortega were a dictator like Somoza he wouldn’t be up against opposition as ruthless as the United States.
Lauren Smith, author of historical fiction, has a BA in Politics, Economics and Society from SUNY at Old Westbury and an MPA in Development Administration from New York University. Her novel on Nicaragua’s 1979 revolution is due out in 2019.