Monday, November 06, 2006

Nicaragua, Ortega and US Government Hypocrisy

It's back to the future in Nicaragua:

Daniel Ortega wins Nicaragua presidency
By TRACI CARL, Associated Press Writer

MANAGUA, Nicaragua - Former Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega appeared headed for victory Monday in his longtime quest to regain power, 16 years after a U.S.-backed rebellion helped drive the former Marxist revolutionary from office. Early results from Sunday's presidential election gave the Sandinista leader a strong lead over his four rivals. His victory, if confirmed by final results, would expand the club of leftist Latin rulers led by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who has tried to help his ally by shipping cheap oil to the energy-starved nation.

Ortega, who led Nicaragua from 1985-1990, has repeatedly said he is not the Marxist revolutionary who fought U.S.-backed Contra rebels, a war that left 30,000 dead and the economy in shambles.

But while he has toned down his leftist rhetoric and pledged to continue free-trade policies, the United States remains openly wary of its former Cold War foe. Washington has threatened to withhold aid to the nation, fearing a return to the socialist economic policies of the 1980s.

The race has generated intense international interest, including a visit by Oliver North, the former White House aide at the heart of the Iran-Contra controversy. That effort to oust Ortega's Moscow-leaning Sandinista regime created a huge scandal in the United States when it became known that Washington secretly sold arms to Iran and used the money to fund and arm the Contra operation.

With 15 percent of polling stations counted, Ortega had 40 percent of Sunday's vote, compared with 33 percent for his closest challenger, the wealthy banker Eduardo Montealegre....


Ortega's supporters flooded the streets, setting off celebratory fireworks, waving the party's red-and-black flag and swaying to the candidate's campaign song, set to the tune of John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance."

The U.S. Embassy said it was too soon to "make an overall judgment on the fairness and transparency of the process..."

Here are the things that strike about this story. The following quote, for instance:

We are receiving reports of some anomalies in the electoral process, including polling stations that opened late and closed early, the [US] embassy said.

Oh, henny-penny! Heaven forbid! So, if these anomalies happen in US elections it's no big deal at all. No threat to democracy or anything. Long lines and late opening polls are all just a natural part of democracy and freedom, you know. Any suggestion to the contrary is a crazy conspiracy theory! But in Nicaragua the exact same thing is an indication of fraud according to the US govt. Imagine that!

I suppose it's important to note that Ortega's party is NOT the ruling party in Nicaragua at this time. Nicaragua's current government is controlled by Ortega's opposition. Now why would THEY, of all people, rig an election for Ortega?

OK, then there's this:

At stake are millions of dollars in potential investments, many from foreign companies drawn to Nicaragua by its cheap labor, low crime rates and decision to join the new Central American Free Trade Agreement"

Please take the time to see The Corporation. I'm watching it now (yet again). It covers all this kind of stuff. Apparently these are the only things some people care about.

This news item touches on Daniel Ortega's history as a communist leader, his seizure of property and so forth. So, many Americans may wonder how such a person, with such a background can retain so much political popularity? I'd like to suggest a possible answer. Perhaps the alternatives, like the death squads that the opposition, with massive help from the US government, unleashed on the countryside had something to do with it.

The authors here go out of their way to give the impression that the civil war in Nicaragua was something Ortega alone brought to the country with his rule. But really all his regime did to start that war was to win an election. The US, either directly or indirectly, did the rest. Remember Iran-Contra? The Contras themselves? Those were our boys, so to speak. This story gives short shrift that fact, so I thought it was worth pointing out.

So, to summize, what Nicaraguans see on the one hand is this communist movement overthrowing a tyrranical, murderous US-supported regime like the Samoza dynasty . On the other hand they see the US government responding to this by helping to create, fund, train and assist death squads in the name of capitalism and "free trade". Now, years later, Ortega is back and "free trade" is again the issue. If you're an everyday Nicaraguan, who looks like a bad guy in this context?

The ugly truth is that our government's policies that promote strict, laissez faire, "free market" capitalism at the point of a gun (or missile, or rocket, or cluster bomb) and insist on its implementation as an exploitative rape of a nation's people and resources, promoting ideologies that exhault profit above human lives, are the biggest recruiting pitch the socialist/communist set could ever have. That's why you see all these socialist and semi-socialist movements making a comeback in Latin America. We, by our policies, make capitalism look like the big, bad wolf to the impovershed people of the world. What's worse, in all honesty, is that in it's current form, the way we push it to the "third world"... it is.