Some Respectful Notes from Nicaragua for AMLO

Jorge Capelán and Stephen Sefton

In these times of increasing popular struggle in Latin America, comrades who should be more familiar with the reality of our countries cause many of us perplexity and hurt when they go against the grain of history.

Last week, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called on the government of Nicaragua to set free a group of oligarchs and political operators currently being investigated for very serious crimes of treason, terrorism, fraud and corruption. According to the Mexican president, the Sandinista government is acting unlawfully using illegitimate force and may also be denying the Nicaraguan people the chance of choosing freely and democratically in our elections next November 7.

He said all this while affirming that “Mexico’s foreign policy prohibits intervention in the affairs of other countries” but that in matters of human rights “we can indeed give our opinion in a very respectful manner”. Out of courtesy, we apologize for the comparison, but for an example of similar “respectfulness” on the part of Mexican public officials, we would have to go back to the sad days of Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda when “with all due respect” he told Comandante Fidel “eat the dish of goat and leave” at the Monterrey Summit luncheon for Heads of State, so as not to bother George W. Bush, the imperial Caesar of that time. AMLO is by no means a Vicente Fox, but his gesture this week towards Nicaragua is not dissimilar.

AMLO’s remarks are unfortunate on many levels, both ethical and political.

On an ethical level, because, according to his own words, which he no doubt did really think were respectful, the Mexican leader is echoing a campaign of military grade lies against Sandinista Nicaragua, a revolution very dear to Mexico, to which it is linked by ties of blood shed in combat, symbolized by the presence of the grandchildren of Sandino, Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata one July 19th, in a plaza full of the true Sandinista people, whose leaders are Comandante Daniel and Compañera Rosario.

Among AMLO’s allies we have excellent friends, as well as among the members of his political movement, and we view with great sympathy and solidarity AMLO’s struggle to rescue the long-betrayed Great Mexican Revolution to which the people of Nicaragua owe so much.

Writing from the trenches of Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution, which has been neither defeated nor betrayed, the first armed revolution on the mainland of Latin America, the first armed revolution in the world to lose power in elections and regain it via elections, a revolution that has been the necessary condition allowing democracy to exist at all in Nicaragua, we can assure Andrés Manuel López Obrador that should, God forbid, the coup project currently under way against his government succeed, in Nicaragua he will find complete solidarity and support, just as those persecuted by each and every one of the dictatorships imposed by the United States “in the name of democracy” in Latin America have done.

What we have in Nicaragua is not a government cornered into imprisoning opponents out of fear of losing an election. What prevails in Nicaragua is a rule of law investigating in strict accordance with the Constitution, current legislation and the country’s criminal law code, a network of citizens who for years have persistently conspired against democracy here, who in 2018 organized an attempted coup d’état financed by foreign powers, which failed, since when they have continued openly conspiring against democracy in Nicaragua without even minimal popular support. No democratic State can tolerate such a situation undermining the foundations of that same State, because it violates and damages the genuine democratic consensus among the vast majority of the population.

Over the last three years, these people promoting a coup in Nicaragua have not been able to organize even a kermesse and not because of any kind of “repressive regime” No. Quite simply they have no support, they have no people behind them. Even most people who are ideologically right wing in Nicaragua want nothing to do with these coup plotters. It is absurd to think the Nicaraguan people would meekly swallow a government they consider illegitimate. Neither Duque in Colombia nor Piñera in Chile with all the repressive frenzy they unleashed against their people were able to frighten their peoples back into their homes, despite the fact that both Colombia and Chile invest and receive astronomical sums for their repressive apparatus. Anyone who visits the various countries of Central America will instantly realize that the Nicaraguan police are definitely the least repressive of the isthmus.

Who are the individuals under investigation for whom the Western media dictatorship are shedding a flood of crocodile tears? Let’s see: The managers of the country’s two largest banks; members of the Chamorro family, which is the leading oligarch family in Nicaragua, with a long line of presidents, generals and treacherous ministers to their credit, and with a virtual monopoly of Nicaragua’s pro-yankee news media; a former Minister of Education who, when he took office during the neoliberal governments, the first thing he did was to burn all the manuals of the 1980s Literacy Crusade; the wife of the corrupt former President Arnoldo Alemán; a few USAID paid operators and various traitorous former Sandinistas, also paid either by USAID or the various NATO country embassies.

These people are being investigated because they were publicly calling for coercive measures to damage the Nicaraguan economy, for having conspired to commit terrorist acts, and for establishing a fraudulent structure of non-profit NGOs laundering multi-million dollar amounts of money sent from abroad, which was in fact a political intervention in the country aimed at provoking catastrophic instability.

Some of these individuals were imprisoned after the defeated coup attempt of 2018 and were subsequently pardoned through an Amnesty Law that establishes the “principle of non-repetition” according to which in case of re-offending they would again face trial for their original crimes. Over the last three years these people have benefited from amnesty and invitation to attempts at dialogue that have, in the end, led nowhere. Throughout this time they have repeated like robots the coup incantation of “insurrection against the regime” and persistently called for indiscriminate coercive measures  from foreign governments affecting not only the Nicaraguan government but the country’s entire population.

One can probably safely assume that many Mexicans would like to have a similar round up of the oligarchs and fascists in their own country. After all, it is highly salutary and beneficial for democracy and human rights. But we should clarify that they are only under investigation, nothing more. Several of them are in preventive detention, given that the law contemplates an extension of preventive detention for up to 90 days, because of the obvious flight risk they represent, as has happened in the past in many of our countries where such people have fled to the United States or Spain as, for example, our Bolivian sisters and brothers can attest.

It is worth noting also that 17 political parties are participating in Nicaragua’s elections next November 7th, eleven national parties and six regional parties. The following seven parties in opposition to the government are participating: Partido Alianza por la República (APRE), Partido Liberal Independiente (PLI), Partido Alianza Liberal Nicaragüense (ALN) Partido Camino Cristiano Nicaragüense (CCN), Partido Yapti Tasba Masraka Nanih Asla Takanka (YATAMA), Alianza Ciudadanos por la Libertad (CxL) and Partido Liberal Constitucionalista (PLC). Maybe two or three of the people under investigation belong to one or the other of these legal political parties. None of those under investigation are “pre-candidates” in the correct technical sense of that term, because none of the legal opposition parties have selected them prior to seeking ratification of any candidacies by the country’s electoral authority.  They were called “pre-candidates” as yet one more gratuitous misrepresentation on the part of the giant Chamorro family media vampire squid, the main recipient of NED and USAID destabilization money in Nicaragua and in effect the only source used by the international acronym-soup media cartel AP, AFP, CNN, DW, EFE, BBC, DPA, REUTERS, etcetera.

The truth is that Nicaragua’s foreign owned coup network tried every possible means to coax and cajole the legally registered parties into letting the coup network leaders parachute in as presidential candidates in the elections. But that maneuver did not work, simply because most of the country’s political class of this country does, after all, live here in Nicaragua, and they are unwilling to give up their rights just because some oligarch flunky paid by a foreign embassy turns up offering a wad of cash. It is true that Nicaragua’s opportunistic right wing suffer from a total lack of endogenous ideas, but among most of them the “reality principle” prevails. They live in Nicaragua and if they want to be politically active they know that they have to do so within the system, not outside it.

Any coup attempt in Nicaragua is a dead end. In April 2018, after many years of secret preparation, they tried to launch a “color revolution” against the Sandinista government. They used a series of memes they had managed to implant in some sectors of society (the manipulation of a fire in the Indio Maíz Biosphere Reserve, criticism of the Police, the Sandinista Youth, and so on) and then they used the issue of the Social Security reform to give the impression of a “popular revolt” which overnight, very deliberately, turned very violent. The acronym soup of the imperial news media cartel did not report but rather deliberately omitted that Comandante Daniel called for a dialogue just a couple of days after the initial protests. And although it is true that to begin with the coup perpetrators managed to confuse many people, they themselves undertook the task of teaching Nicaragua’s people what their real “program” was, namely, to loot the country and destroy it.

We Sandinistas also mobilized large demonstrations of support for the government at the end of April, but the empire’s media did not report on that either. The coup attempt was not a popular revolt against the government, but an effort to provoke a civil war. If the Sandinista government had wanted to, it could have set Nicaragua ablaze. Instead, at the request of the reactionary bishops of the treacherous Episcopal Conference, the government ordered the police to stay in their barracks and confirmed the order given to the army from the very beginning not to intervene. In Nicaragua it is unthinkable that the army would get involved in repression. When the late former Liberal President Enrique Bolaños  tried to do so at the beginning of this century he failed miserably.

The coup perpetrators themselves finished off any chance of success with their attacks on the general population: they robbed, raped, kidnapped, tortured and also caused at least one out of every four businesses in the country to close down. They damaged the economy, leaving thousands of people in the street, especially from the most impoverished sectors, affecting the many women heads of households in particular. So, very soon they lost whatever ephemeral social support they had initially gained by means of their blitzkrieg of lies and fear, but since they continued to receive money from USAID and many Western embassies, it was necessary to wait a while before launching an operation to clear the roadblocks so as not to have more civilian casualties. That is what happened, culminating in the liberation of the population of Masaya on July 18th 2018.

The misnamed “soft coup” financed by the empire and defeated thanks to the prudent leadership of Comandante Daniel Ortega, turned out to be a massive political education class for Nicaragua’s people. The country’s people were able to understand what was in the national interest and what was not. For the vast majority of the people here in Nicaragua what happened in 2018 was that the stability and prosperity they had enjoyed up to that moment thanks to Sandinista policies was eroded. And a hegemonic majority came to understand that the guarantor of their future here in Nicaragua is the Sandinista National Liberation Front. No one in this country swallows the coup fantasies that even now imperialist propaganda continues to spread and broadcast. It is truly disconcerting that our brother Andrés Manuel López Obrador repeats them.

In these three years, the US owned coup promoters did all they could to destroy Nicaragua’s economy: They continue to call for coercive measures against the country. They made several attempts at business lock outs which only the large private businesses obeyed. They damaged the country’s image abroad trying to discourage investment and tourism. They have done all this uninterruptedly, still determined to repeat the coup attempt of 2018…. Their logic has always been one of wearing down Nicaragua’s institutions so as to topple the FSLN government.

This strategy is nothing new, let’s remember that the FSLN came to power in 2007 with a minority government, although the party was the strongest and best organized in the country. That was confirmed in 2008 during that year’s municipal elections and, thanks to the policies it promoted, the FSLN won a majority of municipalities demonstrating that it could defeat the right-wing forces in the country even when they all united. Since then, with a lot of work, a lot of commitment and great understanding of the Nicaraguan reality, as well as the international context, the Sandinista Front under the leadership of Daniel and Rosario has steadily increased its social base.

The figures are there for all to see, summarized extraordinarily well in a recent article by comrade Carlos Fonseca Terán. Ever since 2008, the slogan of the coup promoting right wing in every election has been “if we lost it’s because there was fraud”. In fact, their objective has always been to take power by creating a situation of ungovernability with foreign support. But a true revolution took place in Nicaragua and continues to take place, one of the most profound in Abya Yala. In the 1980s the foundations of a sovereign nation were laid (a national popular army and police, literacy, agrarian reform, mass popular movement, promotion of cooperatives, a new constitution and true democracy, autonomy of the Atlantic Coast…).

The pillars of that process were not destroyed by Washington’s misnamed “low intensity” war, nor by the subsequent 17 years of neoliberal governments between 1990 and 2016. Today, the country’s grass roots sectors that in the last forty years either received or occupied land, control 80% of small and medium sized businesses, produce most of the country’s GDP and control around 60% of its disposable income. This is a true revolution. For 40 years, the oligarchy focused mainly on financial speculation, and when, very late in the day, they started paying attention, by then they had already lost control of the country’s real economy. For this reason among many others in Nicaragua we say of the right-wing coup plotters, “They could not prevail, nor will they”.

Since President AMLO has “respectfully” expressed his views on democracy in Nicaragua, we take the liberty of also “respectfully” observing the following:

  •     The maize tortillas we eat here in Nicaragua are produced in the country, they are not made from genetically manipulated maize.
  •     Moreover, 90% of the basic basket of popular consumption consists of Nicaraguan agricultural products, grown by peasants and indigenous people working in cooperative, community solidarity-based production.
  •     We are a poor country, but we feel quite sure that any poor person in Mexico would like to have access to the kinds of free public hospitals we have here in Nicaragua, or the preschools and schools, or the technical education programs, or to receive the subsidies for urban public transportation and basic services people in Nicaragua take for granted.
  •     In Nicaragua our trainee teachers study in peace so we do not have to set about investigating their disappearance, since our authorities guarantee the effective rule of law throughout the national territory thanks to Nicaragua’s police force and  its army, two institutions that are above all else Nicaragua’s people in uniform working hand in hand with rural communities, with producers, with indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, with the urban population and with youth to promote and defend our culture of peace which the right wing coup promoters and their foreign owners want to destroy.
  •     Likewise, and just as fundamental as Nicaragua’s citizen security policy, we have a rural education program, including university level education, covering the whole country, which is the envy of our Central American region, and probably of most Latin American countries. Our technical education system serves all our youth and is totally free. Under this “authoritarian” “regime” young people have a future. That is one of many reasons why so few Nicaraguans end up in Mexico on their way to the United States.
  •     We are an impoverished country, but one that can still guarantee affordable electricity to practically 100% of its population, the vast majority of it generated from renewable sources.
  •     We are a country – just like Mexico – where machismo still tends to prevail, but at the same time we are the country that has made the most progress in the world in closing the gender gap, being world leaders in the number of women ministers, the number of women in parliament, the number of women who control their economic situation, in the participation and empowerment of women at all levels.

What kind of democracy and human rights is our brother AMLO talking about? Before he offers us lessons in these areas, he might be well-advised to make a bit more progress in his own government program.

In truth, Nicaragua’s reality contrasts tremendously with AMLO’s questionable statements of last week. But there are also other aspects that are important to note besides those related to morality, ideology and factual reality, for example, we think “with all due respect” that our brother AMLO’s remarks make no sense in terms of geopolitics .

One need not know much geopolitics to understand that for Mexico, a country “so far from God and so close to the United States”, the victim of a colossal dispossession of its territory by the Yankee empire, it is of fundamental importance to be strong, united and at peace, and also to have a genuinely respectful, democratic, stabilizing influence in our mesoamerican region, because, put simply, a prosperous, safe, united, independent and peaceful Central America is vital for the United Mexican States to be able to confront the empire successfully.

We remind President AMLO that Nicaragua is the country with the largest territory in Central America, even though it has the lowest population density. Nicaragua is the key to a stable Central America, with social justice, with sustainable development, free of drug trafficking and organized crime, guarantor of economic flows between north and south, and also guarantor of an eventual flow of goods between east and west via the Great Interoceanic Canal, which is a strategic project for the nation and the region.

It makes no sense if AMLO is indeed seeking to ingratiate himself with the interventionist Biden Plan for Central America, which is nothing but an attempt to enforce the Monroe Doctrine in the region, one with the contradictory goals of at once destroying Nicaragua, but also stopping migratory flows to the north, a plan that supports local elites even the United States itself mistrusts. Certainly, Mexico is indeed promoting its own plan for Central America parallel to the Biden Plan, but AMLO’s remarks last week in practice reinforce a central element of U.S. regional policy, namely, relentless aggression against Nicaragua.

Apparently, Mexican authorities hope to solve Central America’s problems with US$30 billion. However, Nicaragua’s example demonstrates precisely that fundamental to stability in the region is the recovery of a practical culture of peace, of genuine moral and spiritual values for the common good and a true economic democratization of our countries. All of this renders completely meaningless and irrelevant all the false Yankee and European style manipulation of motifs like human rights and democracy as in the cases of Julian Assange or the “gilets jaunes” in France or of those promoting Catalonia’s independence or  countless other cases of Western hypocrisy. That ill starred kind of democracy here in Nicaragua brought us William Walker, Somoza, the Contra and the violent failed coup attempt of April 2018.

In short, we wish our brother President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador every possible success in his efforts to build a secure and democratic Mexico committed to solidarity, and we reiterate our own solidarity especially for the most fateful and arduous moments he may face, while we also urge him to rectify his opinion about our country. In any case, here in Nicaragua we have no intention of taking a single step backwards.