Tell Congress to Support Dialogue in Nicaragua, not Impose More Sanctions

House Resolution 981 calls on the U.S. government to more aggressively employ the Magnitsky Act as a means to sanction individual members of the Nicaraguan government, while also condemning violence in Nicaragua. The stated goal is to support democracy, but the text of the resolution is not based on a balanced accounting of what has transpired in the country over the last three months. If serious about supporting democracy in Nicaragua, Congress should support the process of dialogue and join with other international organizations in calling for “all political actors” to halt the violence and work toward a negotiated solution.

Contact your member of Congress and tell them to vote against H. Res 981, support the dialogue, and allow the people of Nicaragua to determine their future without the further intervention of the United States.

You can call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224- 3121, or send an email directly to your representative using the Alliance for Global Justice’s email platform here.

Background

The House International Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere voted the Resolution out of Committee on July 12. It will be taken up by the full committee in the coming days before going to the House floor for a vote.

The Magnitsky Act is a mechanism that allows the Trump administration to level sanctions against individuals in other countries that it determines have violated human rights or have been involved in corruption. The Magnitsky Act was first employed in Nicaragua to apply sanctions against Roberto Rivas, head of the Supreme Electoral Council last year (he has since resigned). Last week further sanctions were announced against Francisco Diaz, deputy chief of the national police, Antonio Moreno Briones, secretary of the Managua mayor’s office, and Francisco Lopez, vice president of Albanisa (a joint venture between Nicaragua and Venezuela). The individuals sanctioned seem to have been targeted for the perception that they are close to Ortega – not because of specific incidents they are directly responsible for during the last three months of turmoil.

For the past three months, Nicaragua has been in the throes of a political crisis unlike anything witnessed since the 1980s. While the spark for protests in April was an announced reform of the social security system, violence over the next several days led to the deaths of nearly 50 people. Though investigations of the violence make clear that police were not acting unilaterally – as opposition groups burned buildings throughout the country and fired upon police (one of the first deaths was a police officer killed by a shotgun blast), the media has continued to present all of the deaths as the result of state forces firing on peaceful demonstrations. The government annulled the reforms and launched a process of national dialogue, mediated by the Episcopal Conference of Bishops.

As the weeks have gone by, the dialogue has moved forward in fits and starts, with opposition groups blockading major roads and eventually building smaller blockades within cities throughout the country to impede travel and disrupt commerce. The blockades have become the sight of further violence. In international media, accounts all of the violence has been blamed on the police and parapolice forces. However, it is clear that opposition forces have utilized extreme force as well. At least 20 police officers have been killed and hundreds wounded. A Sandinista student representative from the Polytechnic University who was taking part in the dialogue was beaten, shot, and left for dead in a ditch in Managua. Independent analysis of reported deaths over the past three months indicates that many are not related to the demonstrations at all, that opposition forces are responsible for dozens of killings, and that many people have died for simply being near skirmishes between the opposition and pro-government groups. 

Against this backdrop, the dialogue has made some progress. Agreements have been reached to allow investigators from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, UN High Commission for Human Rights, and the European Union to work alongside domestic investigators to document the violence. An agreement was reached to organize the dialogue around three tables of discussion – human rights, security, and democratization. While there are clearly major differences between groups at these tables about how to proceed, working through the process for as long as possible to reach an agreement is the only way out of the crisis. The United States should not be adding to the polarization at this time by taking a hardline position on the outcome.

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Read more of our coverage on Nicaragua here.

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Update on Nicaragua: The National Dialogue is back on…for now

Following fighting between the Nicaraguan government and protestors in mid-April during which nearly 50 people were killed in four days, the National Dialogue was set up as a means to discuss the conflict and work toward justice for the victims of the violence. At the table are the government, representatives of the national university system, labor unions, and the opposition Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, composed of students from the April 19th Movement, the Superior Council of Private Enterprises, and representatives of “civil society” organizations. Catholic Bishops from the National Episcopal Conference are working as mediators in the talks – they have largely sided with the Civic Alliance in setting the agenda for discussions. The Dialogue was launched on May 16 – but then suspended on May 23, as the opposition refused to remove blockades throughout the country, and the government refused to talk until they did.

After several intense weeks of conflict in the streets, the National Dialogue reconvened on Friday, June 15 with the intention of addressing two broad themes: 1. Human rights and justice for victims of the violence and 2. Democracy. The discussions held in a plenary session in front of cameras did not yield an agreement. However, behind closed doors on Friday and into Saturday agreements were reached on the first theme, including:

  1. Formal invitations to the Interamerican Human Rights Commission, the Organization of American States, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, and representatives of the European Union to participate in investigating the violence that began in April, leaving 170+ people dead and over 2,000 wounded.
  2. Creation of a Commission for Verification and Security, represented by members of the government and the opposition Civic Alliance, to participate in the investigation.
  3. Creation of a second commission, also represented by members of the government and the opposition Civic Alliance, to work to guarantee the security and human rights of all the people of NIcaragua.
  4. Beginning the process of taking down the blockades that have been erected around the country (though the opposition later recanted on this point – clearly seeing the blockades as an important bargaining chip. It is also not clear that the people at the table actually have control over the blockades).

On Monday, the Dialogue broke down again, when the opposition Civic Alliance walked out on the discussions, citing the government’s unwillingness to share official letters of invitation to the international organizations mentioned above, while also refusing to address the ongoing issue of the blockades. The government later made the content of the letters public and international organizations have since verified receipt and acceptance of the invitations.  As of Thursday, June 21, the Dialogue is scheduled to resume.

When the Dialogue gets back underway, the discussion will focus on proposals to end to the political crisis. From the opposition side, members of the Civic Alliance have indicated they will simply demand that Ortega resign, and that an interim council be established to oversee new elections – the council drawn from the ranks of the opposition. Breaking with members of the Civic Alliance, the Superior Council of Private Enterprises (COSEP) joined with the Bishops, who are acting as “mediators” in discussions, to propose that elections be moved up to March of 2019 for all levels of government; the new government then taking office in April. Finally, the government has countered that it is already in the process of reforming the electoral system with the Organization of American States, and that a package of reforms will be ready in January. Elections should be held as scheduled (2021 for national elections), not moved up.

It is hard to read where this will all go at the moment. If the Civic Alliance withdraws its demands that Ortega resign and joins in the call for early elections (their original position), it will put a lot of pressure on the government to agree. However, it will also split the opposition. Some student leaders, for example, have indicated that they want Ortega out and may well continue protests regardless of what the people at the table decide. The resignation scenario – at least as proposed – would be a direct violation of Nicaragua’s constitution. The president can, of course, resign, but the National Assembly has the constitutional responsibility for selecting an interim president, and he or she would certainly come from the ranks of the Sandinista Party. Which is to say, the opposition is essentially arguing for the government to bypass the constitution, and in essence, agree to a coup d’etat. This seems unlikely.

The early elections proposal seems to be where the momentum is heading. This has its own pitfalls. Again, presumably the National Assembly would need to affirm a new elections calendar. If the government agrees to this at the Dialogue, the vote in the Assembly would likely follow suit. However, left out of the discussion at this point are representatives of other political parties in the county, who are not officially represented at the National Dialogue. For example it is not clear where the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC), Nicaragua’s second largest party, stands on this process. They currently control 15% of the seats in the National Assembly and several municipalities. Perhaps they will see a chance to gain more seats, but they may also view the Civic Alliance as a threat to their position if the Alliance runs its own slate of candidates. Of course, there is also a strong chance that if early elections are held, the Sandinistas will win again. They remain the largest political party in the country, facing an opposition with no clear ideological framework or cohesion.

The United States government has now begun pressing for early elections as well. Florida Senator, Marco Rubio called for a referendum on Ortega’s government, to be followed by new elections next year. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a “transitions” expert, who advised the opposition to press for early elections. The State Department joined in the call and on Tuesday dispatched the U.S. Ambassador to the OAS, Carlos Trujillo, to Nicaragua to meet with Ortega and opposition leaders separately, where he also indicated that early elections were the way out of the crisis.

As the United States has not been invited to play any kind of mediating role, taking sides in the Dialogue strikes me as an inappropriate (if far from surprising) intervention. Indeed, whatever other role the U.S. may have played in the current unrest behind the scenes, out in the open it has steadily distorted the electoral process in Nicaragua through financing opposition organizations for over 30 years. It is hard to imagine that this has not contributed to the polarization we are seeing today. And of course, the U.S. has most recently been helping opposition voices build an online messaging machine for which the international media has adopted the role of stenographer since the conflict began in April.  

As the National Dialogue continues, we remain hopeful. The Quixote Center is not advocating for a particular outcome, but we do believe the process should be determined by the people in Nicaragua – not Washington, D.C.  

 

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What the media is getting wrong about violence in Nicaragua

The situation in Nicaragua seems to worsen with every day, and the framing of the conflict in international media has worsened with it. Despite overwhelming evidence of violence and intimidation being employed by opposition groups, articles in the Miami Herald, The Atlantic, the BBC and elsewhere continue to talk about protesters as if all were non-violent students under the gun by a thuggish government. The only violence discussed is then blamed on the government – mostly through alleged support for para-police forces. The goal here is not to deny that the government has at times engaged in violent tactics. But this is far from the whole story.

Certainly the worst day since the original demonstrations in April was May 30, when someone opened fire on the Mother’s Day March in Managua. In that attack and other conflicts Masaya, Esteli, and Chinandega 16 people were killed. In an article that appeared on The Atlantic‘s website, the author claimed the police opened fire indiscriminately on the march and that “government snipers went headhunting.”

But there is no evidence that the police fired “indiscriminately” at protesters – no one I’ve read other than this author has claimed this. Some people at the scene blamed “turbas Sandinistas,” or Sandinista mobs, for the conflict that erupted when people leaving a Sandinista rally ran into the Mother’s Day March. However, no one knows who was doing the shooting. One theory is that pro-government/para-police forces fired on the crowd, a competing narrative is that it was armed groups affiliated with the political opposition. No one – including the Amnesty International statement that was presented as “evidence” of this claim – is able to say “government snipers” went “headhunting.”

Sixteen people were killed that day – but throughout the country. In Managua the death toll was 8. Other people who died included Sandinistas who were killed in Esteli when a caravan trying to get to Managua for a peace rally was attacked. Of course, the political affiliation of many of the people who died that day is actually unknown. They were, however, all men – which strongly suggests that no-one was firing “indiscriminately” but, to the contrary, quite purposefully.  The point is that even on this day, the violence was coming from multiple directions. 

Two-Weeks of Violence

During the two-week period since the collapse of the National Dialogue on May 23, nearly 60 people have died in Nicaragua – bringing the death toll since the original demonstrations were launched on April 16 to 139.  I reviewed local press reports of 41 of the deaths during this two week period and there are a few discernable patterns. Firstly, in only one case was a police officer directly implicated. A witness reported that a police officer shot someone twice, killing him during conflicts in Masaya on the night of June 2 that left 5 people dead. The rest of the deaths in Masaya that night were attributed to fighting between pro and anti-government gangs. This is the case for most of the deaths reported in the last two weeks.  

Secondly, this speaks to a larger pattern in which many deaths have occurred in conflicts in and around the “tranques,” or blockades that have been set up throughout the country by opposition groups. Who is responsible for these deaths is not clear. There is a pattern of armed gangs riding around on motorcycles and in pickup trucks, firing into groups at tranques. This is a tactic that has been blamed on government supporters by some local human rights groups – though the latest victim, Marcos González Briceño, was a police officer, killed on June 10. It is also becoming increasingly evident that organized criminal gangs are involved in staffing the tranques in some areas. 

Thirdly, while many of the people killed are of traditional age for students, many are not, suggesting that many are not students at all. Of the 19 reports of deaths during this two week period where ages were given, 11 people were 25 or older, and 8 of those were over 30 years old. In addition, the people who are dying are not all simply anti-government protesters.  Indeed, a gang attacked the police station in Mulukuku Monday morning (June 10), killing two more police officers. Police have died (three officers killed in one day). Sandinista activists have been killed. And people associated with local government have been killed and beaten. Some people have been killed just for being near a tranque when guns were fired.

It seems obvious that the violence is coming from multiple directions – and not simply state-supported. It is hard to find such discussion in international media accounts.

Beyond Killing

When the Mother’s Day March on May 30 broke up, some of the “non-violent” protesters in Managua tried to burn down Radio Ya, a Sandinista affiliated radio station, while people were still inside (arsonists finished the job the next night, burning what was left of the station to the ground). They also burned the offices of the ALBA Caruna near the University of Central America. These points are missing from IACHR report on that day’s events, though they do mention an attack with rocks on opposition media outlet, 100% Noticias.

Arson has become a tool of opposition groups throughout the country. Just a few examples from the past two weeks include: gangs burned the municipal offices in Granada, burned a high school and family courthouse in Masaya, burned down the Radio Nicaragua station, threw molotov cocktails in the national revenue building in Masaya, burned down a tax office in Esteli, and have set fire to numerous private homes of people affiliated with the Sandinista government. These attacks never register in international media accounts.

Of course, if there is a strategy that will come to define this historical moment, it is the “tranques,” or roadblocks. Setting up a roadblock as part of a protest is not a violent act. Setting up dozens of blockades in just one city, stifling commerce, causing food shortages, making it difficult, if not impossible, for people to receive medical assistance, stopping people at the point of a gun (or home-made mortar) to ask for papers, and then beating and or humiliating people suspected of being pro-Sandinista, on the other hand, has passed the bounds of nonviolence.

The tranques are no longer just roadblocks to disrupt inter-city travel, but have been set up within towns in increasing numbers – over a hundred in Masaya alone – with growing numbers in Managua, Esteli, Leon, and Chinandega. El Nuevo Diario reported Sunday that 4,000 trucks are now halted at the borders with Honduras and Costa Rica because they cannot travel through the country – tranques are not just impacting the domestic economy, but also intra-regional trade.

On Monday, June 11 the government began taking some tranques down in Managua. Though the police were accused of mobilizing alongside “turbas” in some neighborhoods, and of firing guns, no one in was reported to be seriously injured. Certainly in parts of Managua the process of taking down the tranques and cleaning the streets went smoothly.

Responsibility

To raise such points is to be dismissed as an Ortega apologist or some unreconstructed leftist who missed the memo on the neo-liberalization of the Sandinista Party. Meanwhile people who have consistently served the interests of opposition parties throughout the years are read as objective, and their ideas repeated by international media outlets unchallenged. To be clear, whether Ortega ultimately stays or goes is not my concern. My concern is that the simplistic, and ultimately false, narrative resounding in international outlets is feeding the violence. It gives cover to the opposition to continue to employ these tactics, which in turn is making any effort to restart a process of dialogue nearly impossible; unless, of course, Ortega meets opposition demands and pre-emptively agrees to step down.

At this point, the government has agreed to adopt recommendations by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and establish the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts to investigate the violence. The Organization of American States received testimony last week after which it issued a resolution calling on “all political actors” to stop the use of violence. On Friday, Bishops in Nicaragua delivered a letter to Ortega giving their conditions for re-starting the National Dialogue. As I am writing on Tuesday afternoon, everyone is waiting for his response. There seems to be a small window of opportunity here before the situation blows up completely.

In the end, where the government has committed human rights abuses, the people responsible should be held to account. Non-state actors responsible for the majority of the killing, must also be held to account. However, by presenting such a one-sided narrative, the international media is undermining any chance that either of these things will happen. That should concern everybody interested in the truth and in reconciliation, whatever one thinks of Ortega.

UPDATE, June 13, 2018

After publishing this I read that 10 more people were killed yesterday in Nicaragua. El Nuevo Diario covered the deaths in relationship to the mobilization of the police and “fuerzas de choques” (shock troops) to attack blockades in Managua and several other cities. However, the details, as much as are available, make clear that more was going on.

Of the four people killed in Managua: one was murdered while driving to work by armed men in a truck (not at a blockade), another was a man accused of being one of the “choques,” and the two other deaths are unclear (may or may not be related to the protests). In Carazo two more so called “choques” were shot in the head. In Jinotega a member of the Sandinista Youth was shot and killed. A young man was killed during fighting in front of the police station in Diriamba – story does not indicate how he died. In the community of La Bodega on the Atlantic Coast another man was killed in a drive by shooting. An unidentified body was also found in Jinotega. All of this is surely tragic – and yet cannot all be laid at the feet of the government.

 

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Update on Nicaragua: Interview about Situation in Masaya

Over the last week there has been an increase in violence in Nicaragua. In Masaya several people were killed, government buildings burned, a market ransacked, and ongoing blockades of the roads leading into the city.  Much of the media attention about the ongoing political crisis in Nicaragua has ignored the conflicts in cities outside of Managua, or focused solely on accusations of excessive force by the police. We feel it is important for people to understand the complexity of the situation, and the ways in which violence and intimidation are also being used by opposition groups, with most of the people simply caught in the middle.

This week, I interviewed John Perry, who has lived in Masaya, Nicaragua for the last 15 years, and works as a volunteer with a local NGO in the field of sustainable rural development. We talked about the situation in the city over the last few weeks. The views expressed here are John’s, based on his observations.

There has been a tremendous amount of violence in Masaya over the last week. Several people have been killed, a school was set on fire, and people assumed to be supporters of the government have been attacked, or houses set aflame. What have you been seeing and hearing from friends in the area?

Until mid-April, Masaya was a peaceful city (and Nicaragua the most peaceful country in Central America). All that changed when police responded violently to a student protest in Managua. This awoke a lot of resentment in Masaya against the government, including from its previous supporters, and barricades appeared in the streets. There were pitched battles between pro- and anti-government groups. Even demonstrations calling for an end to violence (like one I took part in on Sunday May 6) were attacked.

Since then the violence has become far worse. Ransacking of businesses (with people running off with TV sets and motor bikes), destruction of public buildings (including the tourist market) and burning down the houses of Sandinista sympathisers have become a nightly occurrence. We are in the bizarre situation where Masaya’s people (for the most part) are destroying their own city.

The international media has been focused solely on a narrative that presents protesters as peaceful, and laying almost all of the blame for violence on state forces. It sounds like things are a lot more complicated than that. Does the violence in Masaya seem to be coordinated?

All that can be said for certain is that the media’s simplistic narrative is wrong. Both ‘sides’ are using violence. Protesters claim that government sympathisers are destroying public buildings, but even if this were true, would they then burn their own homes?

If you look at the BBC coverage here, it faithfully follows the narrative. Yet you look at the photo and observe (a) the road has been ripped up to make the barricades and (b) those manning them have lethal weapons. In what other country would this be regarded as exercising a constitutional right to protest (which is what the protesters claim)? In what other country would the police not arrive in force to remove the barricades and arrest those holding the weapons?

Throughout the country, blockades have been the dominant strategy of the opposition to create tension and put pressure on the government.  I understand you are actually trapped between two different blockades, and that travel is difficult, if not impossible outside the city. Can you say what it is like to be in a blockaded city now?

Masaya is effectively cut off by road from everywhere else and has been for several days. We live outside the city so can only enter it on foot. There are two major problems with the barricades. One is obvious – they disrupt the normal life of the city, preventing people from working and getting food, preventing deliveries to shops. In a city where most work in low-paid jobs, this is creating enormous hardship. My wife walked to the Masaya market this morning and came across a young woman trying to walk to the hospital who had started to give birth in the street. She persuaded a passing cyclist to take her to the Red Cross on his crossbar.

But an even more serious aspect is the intimidation. People are being asked for their papers at the barricades by masked youths carrying homemade mortars; they’re having their bags searched. Anything linking them to the government or police means they won’t get past – or worse. A police guy in civilian clothes was ordered to burn his police uniform publicly (it was hidden in his rucksack). In other cases, people have been stripped and humiliated. We had a call for help from a policewoman who lives between two barricades, and who is scared stiff her house with two young children will be burnt down while she is at work.

It seems amazing that the blockades have been allowed to continue – though I assume the government is reluctant to order the police out to break them up in force. It seems like this is a strategy that will turn on the opposition eventually – as it is wreaking havoc on people’s lives. Do you see this going on much longer?

It’s very difficult to say. Many of the Masaya barricades are at head height so it would be extremely difficult for the police to remove them unilaterally. Even the riot police lack the equipment that most police forces have in developed countries. So the only route to peace is through negotiation – the process of national ‘dialogue’ being led by the Catholic church – but which has made only sputtering progress so far.

From a national perspective, you wrote a piece for the London Review of Books’ blogin early May that noted there is little honest discussion about what happens if Ortega’s government collapses. What comes next? How are you feeling about that a month later? Does there seem to be any strategy here from the opposition other than disruption?

Nicaragua has a past history of conflict, but based on clearly conflicting ideologies – people fighting against the repressive Somoza dictatorship in the 1970s, and the revolutionary government against the US-funded Contras in the 1980s. This time the ideological divide is far from clear. On one side, we have a government which mixes a mildly neoliberal economic policy with social investment, but via a party machine which stifles dissent and fails to bring on a new generation of leaders. It supports LGBT rights and promotes the role of women in politics, yet imposes strict abortion laws. But whatever its deficiencies, it stands in contrast to the governments between here and the Texas border, which all have far greater problems of democratic failure, corruption and violence, whether led by the state or by criminal gangs.

On the opposition side, we have two sets of ideas which contradict each other. One says that the government has given up its revolutionary principles and should return to them; the other (despite being called the Sandinista Renovation Movement, the MRS) has aligned itself with the right both in Nicaragua and in the support it receives from the US. Both are temporary allies because they want more ‘democracy’ and for Daniel Ortega to resign, but if Ortega were to leave peremptorily, who would fill the power vacuum and how? The situation reminds me of East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, when many activists wanted the coming change to lead to democratic socialism. But those who brought in the capital to transform the country were, unsurprisingly, capitalists.

A lot of the discourse about recent events here has focussed on the failure of the international left to criticise the Ortega government (even though, it seems to me, such criticism has been plentiful, especially over the ‘megaproject’ of the interoceanic canal). But what interests me is how the country moves on from the present situation. Who do those destroying Masaya now think will invest to rebuild it next year or the year after, and at what political cost? How can we avoid a further collapse into the chaos of which Masaya gives us both an example and a warning? How do we help Nicaraguans recover their peace and curb the brutality which has been unleashed? Those on the right who want Ortega out of office now have their own plans to prosper from the chaos: they want a massive civic insurrection to get power and then they’ll enter government with a ‘business spirit’ and start cutting taxes. No doubt in both respects they’ll be cheered on by the Trump administration. But what alternative can the left support that shows a better route out of the current crisis?

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Update on Nicaragua: Amidst Ongoing Violence, National Dialogue Suspended Again

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued its preliminary report (available in Spanish and English), following its investigation May 17-21, that 76 people were killed during protests that began in April and in demonstrations since. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, they documented that the government of Nicaragua, especially the anti-riot police, had acted with disproportionate and unnecessary force.

The IACHR is part of the hemispheric human rights system, and as such its mandate is to monitor and make recommendations concerning violations of human rights by state actors. The IACHR’s investigation is not, therefore, telling the whole story concerning violence in the country.

One of the weaknesses of this report, and one issued by Amnesty on Tuesday, May 29, is that there is little effort to contextualize the state response with documentation concerning violence perpetrated by opposition groups, who have burned government facilities, attacked demonstrations, fired guns and homemade mortars at police, blockaded roads throughout the country, and so on. So, while most of the protest activity appears peaceful, there is also violence coming from some of the government opponents.

Against this background, the National Dialogue entered its fourth session on May 23rd with a discussion on proposals from a coalition of opposition groups called the “Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy.” The proposed approach called for substantive systemic changes, including:

  • Moving up the general, regional and municipal elections,
  • Non re-election for the president,
  • Reduction of the number of deputies of the National Assembly
  • Application of recommendations of the IACHR.
  • Electing a new Supreme Electoral Council
  • Separating Social Security from the Government (which I read as privatizing these services, a core demand of COSEP).
  • Allowing the Police and the Army to remain subject to civil authority (which they already are, so it’s not clear what specific institutional remedy is sought here).

The government indicated a willingness to discuss the proposals, which are clearly designed to challenge the dominant role of the Sandinista party in all branches of the government, on the condition that the blockades on major highways be lifted. The opposition coalition declared that the blockades would remain. In their view, the blockades are applying the only meaningful pressure on the government to negotiate.

The result was a stalemate, and the National Dialogue was suspended on May 24.

The blockades of all major highways in Nicaragua has had an enormous impact on commerce. Though the blockades are cleared periodically to allow some vehicles through, the delivery of goods and the ability of people to get around has been severely impacted. As the blockades continue, they are predictably leading to skirmishes between the blockaders and others; one person was killed at a blockade near Leon last Wednesday. 

Following the suspension of the National Dialogue, tensions increased further. In Leon and Chinandega protesters and counter-protesters fought in several neighborhoods. Manuel de Jesús Chávez, a young man caught in the crossfire, was killed with a bullet to the head. Another 76 people were injured, some remain in critical condition. 

On Wednesday, May 30, Mothers Day in Nicaragua, the Madres de Abril, mothers of students and others killed in the April protests, held a march in Managua with thousands of supporters.  Going on at the same time was a Sandinista rally, where Daniel Ortega spoke, calling for peace. As the rally ended, and people began leaving, the two marches came into contact. Conflict erupted, and spiraled quickly. Two Sandinista youth were among the first killed. In all, 16 people died, 80 more were injured. While most reports speak of an “attack on” the Mothers Day march, it seems things were a bit more complicated. An account from Giorgio Trucchi, in Managua:

[t]he same ‘peaceful protesters’ again attack the pro-government Nueva Radio Ya, burn, loot and destroy what was left of it. Then they go to the Caja Rural Nacional (Caruna), a cooperative that for years has managed ALBA funds for social projects that have benefited thousands of families. They attack the facilities and burn everything, including parked vehicles.

And so, the bloodshed continues. While everyone is pointing a finger at the government, it is important to point out that since the demonstrations were launched in April, the only groups that have actually benefited from the violence are in the political opposition. Indeed, the opposition strategy seems to be to make the country ungovernable, through roadblocks and attacks on government facilities, until the current administration agrees to a process that will lead to Ortega’s departure.

It is hard to imagine the government agreeing to this. But as the days wear on, the government’s position is weakened by the conflict in the streets – and the perception that it is the government or allied forces responsible for the majority of it. In the meantime, government opponents have little reason to go back to the table. 

Like Manuel de Jesús Chávez, most of the country is left caught in the crossfire.

Following the deaths during the Mother’s Day March, the National Dialogue, scheduled to restart on May 31, was suspended again by the Bishops acting as mediators.

 

 

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Statement of the Cooperative Movement of Nicaragua on National Dialogue

The Cooperative Movement of Nicaragua issued the statement below on May 5, 2018 regarding their participation in the National Dialogue process, which was formally launched on May 16. As of this writing, Orlando Núñez has not been included at the main table of negotiation as requested in this letter. [Graphic with participants listed,  from El Nuevo Diario].  We provide a translation into English below. A scanned copy of the original with the full list of signatories is here

We are reproducing (and, in this case, translating) this document, as we did with the ATC Statement yesterday, in an effort to present the voices of those in Nicaragua that the international media continues to ignore in coverage of the ongoing political crisis.  Major media outlets continue to give voice only to the opposition, and a narrow segment of that opposition – those calling for Ortega’s removal from office. There is a wide range of interests and organizations participating in the National Dialogue. Few are wholly uncritical of the government, but most are looking to construct a new consensus for moving forward.  

Statement of the Cooperative Movement of Nicaragua

“I lean toward a regime of cooperatives” – A. C. Sandino

The Nicaraguan Cooperative Movement, which brings together 5,000 cooperatives and 300,000 cooperatives, organized into Unions, Centrals, Federations and Departmental Councils of cooperatives, announces the following statement on the situation in Nicaragua and on the Table of National Dialogue.

Statement from the Cooperative Movement of Nicaragua

  1. We regret the death of young people and police and we show solidarity with the families of the victims.

  2. We demand that justice be done for the relatives and that the guilty be punished.

  3. We regret the violence unleashed as a result of the student protests, which in a short time have tarnished the image of the country with all the political, economic and social consequences.

  4. We encourage the communitarian identity that the National Police has had until now and we discourage any confrontation between the police and the people, especially any act of repression against the civilian population.

  5. The Nicaraguan cooperative movement has suffered a history of violence from the very first cooperative organized by Sandino in 1934, in which most of the families were bombarded by the National Guard, to the self-defense cooperatives formed during the war of aggression combined with a civil war during the decade of the 1980s, in which our cooperatives were attacked by the forces of the counterrevolution and tens of thousands of peasant families from both sides died. For such reasons we reject all those attitudes that foment violence, war and death, wherever they come from.

  6. We feel concerned and assume the share of responsibility that correspond to us about what is happening and will happen in Nicaragua, but we celebrate more than 27 years of reconciliation between Sandinista families and families coming from the counterrevolution, living together fraternally within our cooperatives, thus contributing to national reconciliation.

  7. We recognize and encourage deepening public policies in favor of the cooperative sector by the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity, as well as the peaceful climate in which we perform our work, particularly our participation in the Bureaus of Production, Consumption and Trade. Thanks to the peace, organized effort and our active participation in institutions, we have achieved food sovereignty, producing most of the food for our rural and urban families, generating self-employment for 300,000 individuals through our work.

  8. Perhaps the young people of the city do not have knowledge of this strategic sector of the national economy, partly because the universities have not managed to incorporate even the peasant sector into the academic curriculum, and even less so have they incorporated the cooperative sector; and partly because there exists the impression, even within our institutions, that private business is the only sector that produces national wealth and employment.

  9. On the reforms to the Institute of the Social Security (INSS), the initial object of the protests, we propose a progressive tax, that is to say that those who earn more pay more. We strongly oppose the privatization of social security and offer to work for cooperative insurance.

  10. We ask the National Government and the Episcopal Conference that we be included, along with small producers in general, in a four-party agreement, since we are neither business owners nor salaried workers, therefore we do not feel represented by COSEP nor by the labor unions, although our sector is as important as theirs.

  11. We invite all the living forces of the nation, the government and the opposition, the business sector and churches of all denominations, the academic sector and the media, political parties and the general public, to unite and work for peace, stability and public safety, representative and participatory democracy, the restoration of rights, civil liberties, reconciliation and national unity.

  12. We respectfully request of the Episcopal Conference and the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity a seat in the National Dialogue and we propose our colleague Orlando Núñez, who has accompanied us all this time, to represent us at the economic table.

  13. The Cooperatives of the Association of Rural Workers (ATC), the Cooperatives of the National Union of Farmers and Cattle Ranchers (UNAG) and the associations of the Nicaraguan Council for Micro, Small and Mid-size Businesses (CONIMIPYME), join this release.

Managua, 5thof May of the year 2018

We attach the signatures of the various organizations.

 

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Nicaragua: An Urgent Call for Solidarity from ATC

Below is a “Call to Solidarity” from The Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo (ATC), or Rural Workers Association in Nicaragua in relationship to the current political crisis. As the international media continues to emphasize only the voices of opposition groups, it is important that we work to get out other perspectives on what is happening.

“The ATC represents approximately 50,000 rural workers and small-scale producers in Nicaragua. The ATC has several hundred labor unions and agricultural cooperatives throughout the country. The organization coordinates agrarian sector employment training programs, political formation workshops, agricultural practicums, and advocacy on national policies that protect workers and food systems. It has active rural women and rural youth movements” (Friends of ATC). The ATC has historically been associated with the Sandinistas, though even during the 1980s was one of the most independent of the FSLN affiliated popular organizations. Today the ATC is a leader in the international peasant movement, Via Campesina, and the regional coordination of CLOC. If you’re interested in learning more, the Alliance for Global Justice is organizing a delegation to Nicaragua this coming June to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the ATC.

PDF Version of Statement, English and Spanish.

An Urgent Call for Solidarity with Nicaragua Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo /Rural Workers Association

May 17, 2018

Friends in Solidarity,

We have lived a month full of tragedy in our country. The peace we achieved as a people, so fragile and at the cost of so many lives, is in immanent danger of disappearing irreparably. There are now two sizeable camps of the population with dangerously contrary positions. On one side, there is a combination of private university students, media outlets with rightwing owners representing the oligarchy, Catholic Church bishops close to Opus Dei, the private sector and, of course, the US Embassy, working together to create a situation of chaos in the country in order to remove president Daniel Ortega. This group of actors accuses the National Police of having killed dozens of protesters in the riots that reached all Nicaraguan cities, ostensibly against a reform—since revoked—to the system of social security. As we have described, the reality is more complex, and the violence was generalized and explosive, involving protesters with homemade firearms that often misfired, as well as counter-protestors, paid pickets, unknown gunmen and street gangs. The National Police was really a minor actor in the violence, using tear gas and rubber bullets to clear crowds in a few points of Managua, but not involved in the vast majority of the 50 or more deaths that have been reported since April. The Interamerican Commission of Human Rights has been invited by the government and currently is investigating the events of April.

A national dialogue began on Wednesday, May 16th, with the participation of anti-government students, civil society organizations, and the Presidency, and mediation by the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church led by Archbishop Leonaldo Brenes. However, the coup-like violence has only grown and currently, rightwing armed groups have all of the main highways in the country closed. On the other side of the conflict, the militancy of the Sandinista Front continues to withstand phenomenal provocations, including:

  • The destruction of its Sandinista homes (party headquarters) in dozens of cities
  • The destruction or defacement of hundreds of historic monuments, murals, and memorials of Sandinistas
  • The arson of dozens of public buildings
  • The interruption of work and the food shortages that have resulted from the road closures and violence
  • The deaths of passersby and journalists by paid pickets and violent protesters
  • Relentless false accusations and lies circulated by corporate media.

It must be added that Facebook has been the primary means for transforming Nicaraguan society that one month ago was at peace into a toxic, hate-filled nightmare. Currently, hundreds of thousands of fake Facebook profiles amplify the hatred and pressure Nicaraguan Facebook users to begin to share and post hate messages. Many, if not most, of these fake Facebook profiles have been created in countries other than Nicaragua, and in particular, Miami is the city where many of the Facebook and WhatsApp accounts behind the violence are managed.

Historically, the ATC has been a participant in the Sandinista struggle. In truth, we have not felt consulted or represented by the current FSLN government. The current coup attempt makes use of these historical contradictions and is trying to co-opt the symbols, slogans, poems and songs of Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution, since of course the rightwing has none of its own. However we may feel about Daniel Ortega, the ATC would never contribute to making chaos and sowing violence in order to force the collapse of the democratically elected government in order to install a more docile, Washington-friendly neoliberal government. There are clearly real frustrations in sectors of the population, especially youth, and if these sectors are unable to find popular organizing processes, they will end up being the cannon fodder for a war, which would be the worst possible situation for the Nicaraguan people.

In this context, the ATC has called for “all national actors to reorganize themselves based on their aspirations.” With this intention, the ATC proposes to confront the national crisis with aseries of dialogues among young people, without party distinction or any ideological basis, in favor of peace and understanding. We propose extraordinary youth assemblies in the cities of San Marcos, Jinotepe, Rivas, Granada, Masaya, Estelí, Matagalpa, Jinotega, Juigalpa, Santo Tomás and Tipitapa, as spaces for young people to discuss the national situation and find pointsof unity. It is important to mention that we do not have a previously defined “line” to impose upon these debates—they will be spaces for listening, forming ideas and thinking with our hearts.

We call upon your solidarity and generous support for the creation of an emergency fund for peace in Nicaragua that makes possible this round of extraordinary youth assemblies. The national coordinators of the Rural Youth Movement, Sixto Zelaya and Marlen Sanchez, will have the responsibility of organizing the assemblies and administering the fund with absolute transparency.

It is urgent to organize the Nicaraguan family and win peace!

International Secretariat of the ATC

 

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Manufacturing Dissent: The N.E.D., Opposition Media and the Political Crisis in Nicaragua

The world’s major media outlets have spoken, and the verdict is in: Daniel Ortega is on his way out. After years of cronyism, his dictatorial rule has met with mass popular resistance, a resistance Ortega’s government responded to with unprecedented force. All of this signals that Ortega is isolated and clueless, and that “the people” have had enough. It is only a matter of time before he and his wife go the way of former dictators, like Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu in Romania. No need to look further. The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker and others, have lent their editorial pages to “investigative” reporters, who have accepted and reproduced a consensus analysis concerning the political conflict in Nicaragua.

But this story is not true, or at best, partially and selectively told.

The consensus in the international media that Ortega is a dictator on his way out seems a conclusion underdetermined by the facts. Certainly, prior to the demonstrations in April, the Sandinistas generally, and even Ortega specifically, remained popular in many quarters. The FSLN’s anti-poverty initiatives have garnered it significant support; and Nicaragua’s overall economic performance, one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America over the past few years  – even according to the CIA  –  has until now alleviated fiscal strains that such programs might otherwise cause.

To be sure, the FSLN approach is not “revolutionary.” It is more a neo-liberalism lite, e.g., market reform offset by social service provision. But now, the tripartite alliance of government, business and labor that has allowed this strategy to move forward may well be coming undone – as signified by the business community’s opposition to the government over social security reform and its own call to demonstrate. What might replace this tripartite model is not clear, but the process of National Dialogue might offer the possibility for forming a new governing coalition. You would never know any of this from the international press.

The framing of the protests we read in the international media emerges from a concerted effort within Nicaragua to coordinate messaging and tactics among opposition groups, an undertaking funded in part by the United States’ National Endowment for Democracy. It would be a gross oversimplification to argue that the protests themselves were simply manufactured by the United States. Some of the grievances are real, and much of the protest legitimate. But our understanding of events has been distorted by the opposition filter that dominates the international media.

The Manufacturing of (a certain kind of) Dissent

Midway through Jon Lee Anderson’s April 2018 piece for The New Yorker he claims:

Arguably the only other [in addition to La Prensa] independent Nicaraguan media outlet of note is Confidencial, an online publication whose small team of reporters has taken on the Ortega government with uncommon valor. The editor-in-chief of Confidencial is Carlos Fernando Chamorro—one of the sons of Pedro Joaquín and Violeta Chamorro. [emphasis added]

But Confidencial is not really an “independent” media outlet. Confidencial’s framework of taking on Ortega with “uncommon valor” is funded, at least in part, by the National Endowment for Democracy. In 2014, for example, INVERMEDIA received a $60,000 grant in order to “foster independent digital media in Nicaragua” and they received an additional $175,000 in subsequent years. Per the grant details,

INVERMEDIA will strengthen the organizational capacity of the digital newspaper, Confidencial. Confidencial will conduct investigative reports on issues affecting Nicaraguan democracy. Confidencial will also establish working relations with leading civil society organizations in order to provide a media platform for coordinated action. Confidencial will strengthen its social media presence.

This grant is just one of 55 grants totaling $4.2 million given to organizations in Nicaragua between 2014 and 2017 by the National Endowment for Democracy as part of a U.S. government-funded campaign to provide a coordinated strategy and media voice for opposition groups in Nicaragua. NED grants fund media (radio, social media and other web-based news outlets) and opposition research. In addition, strategies targeting youth get substantial funding, along with programs seeking to mobilize women’s and indigenous organizations. Though the language is of support for “civil society” and “pro-democracy” groups, the focus on funding is specifically to build coordinated opposition to the government.

Some examples from the NED database:

  • Hagamos Democracia received $520,000 in this period in order to expand reporting on activities in the National Assembly and “develop a joint civil society strategy.”
  • The Fundación Iberoamericana de las Culturas received nearly $400,000 over this period to build a network of local chapters throughout Nicaragua, and “increase the number of alliances with like-minded civil society organizations.“
  • $395,000 in grants were made to organizations including the Centro de Investigaciones de la Comunicación (CINCO), to “foster collaboration among civil society organizations. A common civil society strategy to defend democracy in Nicaragua will be promoted.“ [emphasis added]

The problem with the words “developing a joint civil society strategy,” and similar formulations of this idea, is what they obscure, which is the control of media representation through a well-coordinated strategy that excludes facts that might disrupt the story of a corrupt dictatorship with no popular support. The result of this consistent building and funding of opposition resources has been to create an echo chamber that is amplified by commentators in the international media – most of whom have no presence in Nicaragua and rely on these secondary sources. During and immediately after the INSS protests, the NED-funded opposition lost no time in using overblown rhetoric to frame a complex situation in simplistic terms, focusing solely on government misdeeds.

To take one hyperbolic example, the International Statement issued by Hagamos Democracia and other groups after the initial protests denouncing the “assassination of more than 30 young people by the police,” characterized the conduct on the side of state forces as a “genocide.”

But it is perhaps on the pages of the Confidencial, the “independent” news source celebrated by Anderson, that one can best appreciate the impact of coordinated opposition messaging. Concerning the protests, the most detailed overview of events published by Confidencial is an analysis from the Centro de Investigaciones de la Comunicación, yet another NED grantee. According to this report, students protested, and the state and “paramilitaries” repressed them. Period.

No burning of public buildings, no murder of police officers, no torching police motorcycles.

A “common civil society strategy” must omit facts that do not fit with the prevailing storyline advanced by the Centro de Investigaciones de Comunicación and others who participate in the network of media outlets and opposition groups funded by the NED. 

The Centro de Investigaciones de la Comunicacion’s analysis ends with three scenarios, presented in descending order of desirability, according to the authors of that piece: 1) Ortega could step down immediately; 2) electoral reforms could be undertaken to ensure a fully transparent election, setting up Ortega’s departure in 2021; or 3) “The least favorable scenario would be one in which the government… uses dialogue as a political mechanism to buy time and dismantle protest and mobilization.” This characterization, of course, undermines the whole process of National Dialogue, as it is intended to do.

In the end, the one-sided narrative has stuck. Even on the left, there is a marked tendency to focus on a specific plot line concerning Ortega’s betrayal of the revolution. I’m not sure what to do with this narrative. The revolution was ultimately destroyed not by Ortega but rather by a bloody U.S. intervention. One need not love Ortega to understand that inviting further U.S. intervention today is a really, really bad idea. Melissa Castillo’s piece on Latino Rebels captures this problem:

Something about the entire narrative, readily accepted by everyone with an opinion, feels too neat. All the facts presented fit perfectly, every loose thread is tied together, and the only possible conclusion from this package manufactured by social media activists on the ground is to overthrow Ortega. For years, the right wing has been trying to delegitimize Ortega and the FSLN and now it seems to be anonymously consolidating itself under a banner carried by moderates with novel grievances.

For international audiences, especially those in the United States, we must look outside the echo chamber generated by U.S.-funded opposition, which has no other agenda than the collapse of the Ortega government. Further U.S. intervention at this point will only deepen the polarization of society and kill any chance for a new domestic consensus or compromise.

Drowned out by the chorus repeating the manufactured media package is the establishment of a Truth Commission to investigate the violence that unfolded during April 18-22. In addition to the Truth Commission, Nicaragua’s Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into the protests and deaths. Which is to say, domestic processes have been established to provide for investigation and prosecution, that alongside the process of National Dialogue, offer a real chance of justice for those killed, a real understanding of what happened, and the possibility of constructing a path forward.

We just need to let it happen.

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Yes, we still oppose the NICA Act!!

The NICA Act is legislation proposed by Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the U.S. Senate (a version has already passed in the House) that would require the U.S. representatives at multilateral institutions to vote against new loans for Nicaragua (at the World Bank and IMF that means a veto). The NICA Act is in response to U.S. “concerns” over electoral manipulation by the Sandinistas, and would require suspension of assistance until democratic reforms are undertaken.

We feel certain that there will be a rush to get this passed in the wake of the violence in Nicaragua last week. The NICA Act already has some Democrats as co-sponsors. This was a bad piece of legislation when introduced and still is, even after this past week of conflict.

The result of this legislation will simply be to punish those already on the economic margins.

Suspension of loans will reduce government revenue, while also raising Nicaragua’s cost of borrowing from other sources. The IMF estimates that the fiscal shock of the NICA Act would increase annual public sector deficits from 2% of GDP to over 6% of GDP by 2022. Predictably, the only way the IMF sees to offset this outcome is fiscal adjustments – meaning cuts to social programs and ending exemptions under the current VAT (Value Added Tax) formula. And then, only if the INSS solvency issue is solved.

The NICA Act, will thus usher in a period of economic instability that will simply lay the groundwork for further political polarization. Such polarization is probably the goal of the bill’s sponsors. We need to stop it.

This is particularly true since an effort to establish a process of national dialogue is underway in Nicaragua, to be mediated by the Catholic Church. Passage of the NICA Act would constitute a major disruption to these talks.

Call the Capitol Switchboard  (202) 224 – 3121 to connect with your member of Congress and tell them No NICA Act!

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The NICA Act and the never-ending hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy

The Nicaragua Investment Conditionality Act of 2017 could see action in the U.S. Senate in the coming weeks. The “NICA” Act directs U.S. representatives at international financial institutions like the World Bank,International Monetary Fund and Inter-American Development Bank to block international assistance to Nicaragua until “the Department of State certifies that Nicaragua is taking effective steps to increase election integrity, promote democracy, strengthen the rule of law and respect freedom of association and expression.” The NICA Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives this fall. The version in  the Senate is slightly different than the House version, additionally calling for a report “on activities of certain regimes” in Nicaragua – specifically, Russia, and Venezuela. Senator Leahy’s co-sponsorship of the current effort with bill author Ted Cruz makes it very possible that this version could pass in the Senate.

At the same time, and going mostly unnoticed in the United States, Donald Trump signed an executive order on December 21 declaring a “state of emergency” as a result of rampant human rights violations and corruption around the world. In the order, Trump promises to use the weight of the U.S. government to crackdown on human rights abuse and corruption by freezing the assets of individuals involved in perpetrating such abuse. The Executive Order goes on to list 13 individuals from around the world that are presumptively immediate targets for action. Among those listed is the president of the Supreme Electoral Council in Nicaragua, Roberto José Rivas Reyes. Reyes seems to be guilty of living a luxurious lifestyle while having a modest official salary. Reyes’ inclusion on this list, and the resulting Department of Treasury investigation, is also referenced in the Senate version of the NICA Act.

The official concerns of U.S. policy-makers stem from actions taken by Nicaragua’s Supreme Court and Supreme Electoral Council in preparation for elections in 2011 and 2016. In 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that Ortega could run for re-election despite a constitutional ban on presidents serving consecutive terms. The Court ruled that such a ban violated another constitutional right, the right of an individual to run for office. However one views this decision, and the Court was and remains clearly in the Sandinista camp, the controversy surrounding the ruling was obviously well covered in Nicaragua’s media – which routinely lampoons Ortega and other political leaders in ways that would make Borowitz blush. Ortega still won 62% of the vote. In 2016 Ortega won again. Prior to the election the Supreme Electoral Council cancelled the legal status of leaders of the Independent Liberal Party, driving a wedge in the opposition Coalition for Democracy. Without an effective opposition Ortega would go on to win with 72% of the vote.

One need not be any kind of cheerleader for Ortega’s institutional maneuvering as head of the Sandinista party to acknowledge that his, and more importantly the party’s popularity is based on improving the lives of many people. Since 2006, the Sandinista government has provided free healthcare services, eliminated school fees (imposed by previous governments under the pressure of structural adjustment programs), invested in rural communities, and significantly reduced poverty. Nicaragua has also enjoyed a growth rate of nearly 5% in recent years. The NICA Act, if passed, would erode the government’s ability to sustain these programs. We must assume U.S. policy-makers are well aware of this; undercutting the popular basis of Sandinista rule is the goal.

As the U.S. government prepares to possibly sanction Nicaragua for what it deems electoral malfeasance, it is standing by the re-election of Juan Orlando Hernández in Honduras. The comparison is instructive. Hernandez ran for re-election despite a constitutional ban on consecutive terms for the president. He was allowed to do so by a questionable ruling of Honduras’ Supreme Court under the control of his party. This caused little concern for U.S. policy-makers. The election in Honduras was the third since a coup d’etat removed president Manuel Zelaya from office in June of 2009. Hernandez represents the coalition of forces that undertook that coup, and with U.S. support, that coalition has sought to consolidate its control over the country ever since. Despite widespread human rights abuses, the United States continues to provide tens of millions of dollars in assistance to security forces. Those security forces have been implicated in the assassination of dozens of social movement leaders. Honduras remains one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders, journalists, and environmental activists. In the wake of the coup, the murder rate sky-rocketed to the highest in the world; the murder rate for women doubled.

The election in Honduras took place on November 26, 2017. As the tallies were posted by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla was running ahead of Hernández. The tallies were quickly taken off-line, and no further public disclosures were made for several days. When preliminary results were then posted Hernández had pulled ahead, a near statistical impossibility given earlier results. Protests increased around the country demanding that there be a transparent recount, and then a new election (given that some ballots had “disappeared”). It took over two weeks for election authorities to make Hernandez the official winner. The Trump administration congratulated him the same day. The Organization of American States has called for a new election, as have the people of Honduras. The U.S. government has accepted the results. Amidst the violent crackdown against demonstrators by government forces that has resulted in at least 40 deaths, the U.S. certified Honduras’ progress in human rights in order to continue funding security forces.

The juxtaposition of U.S. policy toward Nicaragua and Honduras could not be more absurd if one actually believes the guiding issue for United States policy is democratic practice.  However, U.S. administrations have proven over and over that the U.S. government cares little about the integrity of elections in Central America. The U.S. concern is simply that the “right” people win: Those who support unencumbered corporate access to resources and labor.

What to do?

Contact your Senator and tell them to oppose NICA Act. You can call your Senators using the Capital Switchboard (202) 224-3121 Or, send a letter opposing the NICA Act directly to your Senators using our friends at the Alliance for Global Justice’s online platform here.

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Direction to office:

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Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

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