[News] US Body 'Laid Groundwork For Insurrection' In Nicaragua

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jun 22 12:02:42 EDT 2018


  US Body 'Laid Groundwork For Insurrection' In Nicaragua

21 June 2018

While some corporate media outlets have portrayed the violent protest 
movement gripping Nicaragua as a progressive grassroots upswell, the 
country's own student leaders have suggested otherwise.

    Nicaragua's Crisis - The Latest Stage In A Permanent War

In early June, Nicaragua's leading young activists went on a junket to 
Washington, D.C., on the dime of the U.S. government-funded right-wing 
advocacy group Freedom House. The Nicaraguan student leaders were there 
to beseech President Donald Trump and other right-wing U.S. government 
officials to help in their fight against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

On the excursion to the U.S. capital, the young activists posed for 
photo-ops with some of the most notorious neoconservatives in the U.S. 
Congress: Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

The Nicaraguan student leaders were also shepherded to meetings with top 
officials from the State Department and the U.S. government soft-power, 
organization USAID. There, they were reassured that they would have 
Washington's full-throated support.

A month before the student protesters' meetings with ultra-conservative 
lawmakers in Washington, a publication funded by the U.S. government's 
regime-change arm, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), bluntly 
asserted that organizations backed by the NED have spent years and 
millions of dollars "laying the groundwork for insurrection" in Nicaragua.

*Innocuous Words*

This article openly boasting of U.S. meddling was published in the Latin 
America-focused news website Global Americans, and was authored by U.S. 
academic Benjamin Waddell, the academic director of the School for 
International Training in Nicaragua. Following publication of this 
piece, Global Americans replaced the term "insurrection" with the more 
innocuous word "change." The original headline can, however, still be 
seen in the article's URL.

Despite the cosmetic alteration, Waddell's article offers a remarkably 
candid assessment of the impact of the NED's sustained investments in 
Nicaraguan civil society. The author's conclusions inadvertently echoed 
those of President Ortega and his supporters, who have framed the 
protests as a carefully staged plot backed to the hilt by Washington.

"International press has depicted the rapid escalation of civil unrest 
in Nicaragua as a spontaneous explosion of collective discontent, 
triggered by the government's changes to its insolvent social security 
system and rooted in more than a decade of authoritarian rule by the 
Ortega-Murillo family," Waddell wrote.

"And while the underlying causes of the turmoil are rooted in government 
mismanagement and corruption, it's becoming more and more clear that 
U.S. support has helped play a role in nurturing the current uprisings."

In another striking passage, Waddell concluded: "The NED's current 
involvement in nurturing civil society groups in Nicaragua sheds light 
on the power of transnational funding to influence political outcomes in 
the 21st century."

*A History Of Meddling*

The NED is a leading agent of U.S. soft power that has meddled in other 
countries' affairs since its founding at the height of the Cold War, in 
1983. Its first success took place in Nicaragua, where it incubated 
anti-Sandinista media outfits such as La Prensa newspaper through a 
cut-out, Prodemca, that was also covertly funded by allies of Oliver North.

In 1990, the Sandinistas were defeated at the polls by the right-wing 
candidate Violeta Chamorro, whose family happened to own La Prensa. 
Chamorro's victory represented the culmination of nearly US$16 million 
in NED grants to anti-Sandinista political parties and media outlets.

"A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA," 
Allen Weinstein, a founder of the NED, commented in 1991.
In the years that followed, the NED and its partners have helped swing 
elections for right-wing neoliberal candidates in Russia and Mongolia in 
1996; fomented a coup that drove Haiti's democratically elected 
president Jean Bertrand Aristide from power; and directed millions 
towards dismantling Venezuela's socialist government, an ongoing effort 
complemented by crushing U.S. sanctions.

The protests that have erupted in Nicaragua have brought the NED's 
influence back into focus all over again. According to Waddell, the NED 
has spent US$4.1 million in the country since 2014, helping grow 54 
groups into major players on the political scene and "laying the 
groundwork for insurrection."

*The US-Backed Network Behind The Protests*

The unrest that has paralyzed Nicaragua was triggered by the 
announcement by President Ortega of reforms to the nearly bankrupt 
social security system. The International Monetary Fund and a local 
business umbrella group had insisted on changes that would have raised 
the retirement age and gradually privatized health clinics, threatening 
some of the most significant gains of the Sandinista revolution.

When Ortega countered with a proposal that would have demanded a greater 
contribution into the system from businesses and retirees, with business 
owners paying the lion's share, a sector of the public exploded with 
outrage. The angry reaction to Ortega's plan, reinforced with intensive 
coverage by opposition media sources, became the spark for rolling 
protests that have set the country on fire — literally, in many cases.

The most visible faces of the anti-Ortega movement have not been 
retirees impacted by the social security reforms, but urban, politically 
unaffiliated students seeking a total victory. They have forged an 
alliance with the traditional right-wing, pro-business opponents of 
Sandinismo, along with a marginal sector of former Sandinistas alienated 
by Ortega's rapid consolidation of power.

*Masked Men And Mortars*

Meanwhile, masked men toting homemade mortars and firearms have formed 
the front line of the tranque road blocks that have already drained 
Nicaragua's economy of some US$250 million in revenue. To date, at least 
170 people have been killed in the chaos. As the death toll mounts on 
both sides, talk of a new civil war seems like a more than remote 

Since the unrest began, the NED has taken measures to conceal the names 
of the groups it funds in Nicaragua on the grounds that they could face 
reprisals from the government. But the main recipients of backing from 
Washington were already well known in the country.

Hagamos Democracia ('Let's Make Democracy') is the largest recipient of 
NED funding, reaping over US$525,000 in grants since 2014. The group's 
president, Luciano Garcia, who oversees a network of reporters and 
activists, has declared that Ortega has turned Nicaragua into a "failed 
state" and demanded his immediate resignation.

The Managua-based Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policy 
(Ieepp) has received at least US$260,000 from the NED since 2014. The 
grants have been earmarked to support the Ieepp's work training 
activists in "encouraging debate and generating information on security 
and violence." The funding has also covered efforts to monitor the 
"increased presence of Russia and China in the region," an obvious 
priority for Washington.

*Open Agendas*

As soon as the violent protests against Ortega were ignited, Ieepp 
director Felix Mariadiaga brought his agenda out into the open. A former 
World Economic Forum Young Global Leader educated at Yale and Harvard, 
Mariadaga was hailed by La Prensa for having "sweated, bled and cried 
alongside the young students who have led the protests in Nicaragua that 
continue from April until the end of May."

Asked by La Prensa if there was any way out of the violence without 
regime change, Mariadaga was blunt: "I cannot imagine a way out at this 
moment that does not include a transition to democracy without Daniel 

Earlier this month, Mariadaga led an opposition delegation to Washington 
to denounce Ortega's rule before the General Assembly of the 
Organization for American States (OAS). He was joined by Anibal Toruno, 
director of Radio Dario — another longtime recipient of support from 
NED, and one of the key hubs of anti-Ortega media in the Nicaraguan city 
of Leon.

While Mariadaga was in Washington, he was charged by the Nicaraguan 
police with overseeing an organized criminal network that has murdered 
several people during the violent unrest that has gripped the country. 
Mariadaga slammed the allegations as a "political persecution" and a 
"ridiculous accusation," but postponed his return to Nicaragua. The U.S. 
State Department backed him up with a statement of vehement support.

At the same time, a group of Nicaraguan student leaders of the 
anti-Ortega protests were in Washington to lobby the Trump 
administration for help in bringing their country's leader down.

*'Things We Need To Believe In'*

Among the U.S. officials to receive the students was USAID director Mark 
Green. "We need to stand with those who are standing up for things that 
we need to believe in," Green said of the students, in an interview with 

Aside from NED, USAID has been the most active promoter of regime change 
against socialist-oriented governments in Latin America. In Nicaragua, 
USAID's budget topped US$5.2 million in 2018, with most of the funding 
directed towards training civil society and media organizations.

The Nicaraguan students' junket to Washington was paid for by Freedom 
House, a U.S. government-funded NED partner whose agenda typically 
aligns with the neoconservative wing of the American foreign policy 

Freedom House crafted an itinerary for the students that culminated with 
a photo-op with some of the most hawkish Republicans in Washington: 
Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Back in Managua, another prominent student leader, Harley Morales, 
reeled in disgust at his peers' appearance on Capitol Hill. "It was 
terrible," Morales told the newspaper El Faro. "They (Cruz, Rubio, and 
Ros-Lehtinen) are the extreme Republican right. We are very unhappy with 
this trip; they were paid for by the United States and an agenda was 
imposed on them. We have given ourselves a terrible image."

Though he hoped for "an error correction plan," Morales conceded that 
the grip of powerful outside interests on the student protesters was 
tightening. "All movements now have advisors," he lamented. "Movers and 
shakers. Children of politicians, businessmen… They have a very clear 
political line."

/Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of 
best-selling books 'Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That 
Shattered the Party,' 'Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel,' 
and 'The Fifty One Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza, and The 
Management of Savagery,' which will be published later this year by 
Verso. Blumenthal founded the Grayzone Project 
<http://grayzoneproject.com/> in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on 
America's state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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