[News] US Congress outlines new phase of economic attacks and hybrid war on Nicaragua's Sandinista government

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Sat Sep 25 12:54:18 EDT 2021


thegrayzone.com
<https://thegrayzone.com/2021/09/24/us-congress-economic-war-nicaragua-sandinista/>
US
Congress outlines new phase of economic attacks and hybrid war on
Nicaragua's Sandinista government
Ben Norton·September 24, 2021
------------------------------

The US Congress invited neoconservative regime-change strategists to
discuss the next stage of hybrid warfare on Nicaragua’s Sandinista
government, which will likely involve creating an economic blockade,
refusing to recognize the legitimacy of President Daniel Ortega, and
borrowing tactics the Trump administration used in its coup attempt in
Venezuela.
------------------------------

A House Foreign Affairs Committee
<https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/2021/9/an-international-response-to-ortega-s-destruction-of-democracy-in-nicaragua>
hearing on September 21 set out plans for the next phase of the United
States’ hybrid warfare on Nicaragua, which aims to destabilize and
ultimately overthrow the Central American nation’s leftist Sandinista
government.

The event featured hardline neoconservative members of Congress, a senior
State Department official, a prominent Nicaraguan regime-change activist,
and the former president of Costa Rica.

The carefully staged spectacle made it clear that Washington will be
expanding its brutal economic war on Nicaragua as the country’s general
elections approach in November. This will take the form of more aggressive
financial sanctions, through legislation called the RENACER Act
<https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/1064/text>. These
sanctions could potentially expand into a de facto blockade
<https://thegrayzone.com/2019/10/11/life-resistance-venezuela-ben-norton-us-blockade/>
modeled
after the US embargo of Venezuela
<https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-expands-sanctions-against-venezuela-into-an-embargo-11565053782>
.

US officials stated explicitly that Washington will refuse to recognize the
legitimacy of the November elections. The panelists also suggested that the
Joe Biden administration may even refuse to recognize the legitimacy of
President Daniel Ortega and the Nicaraguan government itself, and will
pressure other countries in Latin America to cut diplomatic ties as well.

The hearing indicates that the Biden administration plans to repurpose many
of the same tactics that the Donald Trump administration employed in the
coup attempt it initiated against Venezuela in 2019, such as refusing to
recognize the constitutional government of President Nicolás Maduro, appointing
unelected US asset Juan Guaidó as supposed “interim president,”
<https://thegrayzone.com/2019/01/29/the-making-of-juan-guaido-how-the-us-regime-change-laboratory-created-venezuelas-coup-leader/>
and broadening the sanctions initiated by the Barack Obama administration
into a full-on economic blockade.

While the Biden administration is continuing the hard-line anti-Nicaragua
posture taken by Trump, the State Department officials crafting these
policies appear to know very little about the country.

As she spewed inflammatory rhetoric demonizing the Sandinista government as
“authoritarian,” US Deputy Assistant Secretary Emily Mendrala comically
referred to Nicaragua as an “island,” leading a member of Congress to
correct her for apparently confusing the Central American nation with Haiti.

As she plotted ways to suffocate Nicaragua with sanctions and overthrow its
Sandinista government, US State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary
@EMendrala <https://twitter.com/EMendrala?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw> called it an
"island"…

Shows how little they know about the countries they're trying to destroy:
https://t.co/deKFHKlurF pic.twitter.com/tqO9OR3RXF <https://t.co/tqO9OR3RXF>

— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) September 25, 2021
<https://twitter.com/BenjaminNorton/status/1441770747068706818?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>

Other participants made similarly absurd comments, demonstrating their
ignorance of the reality on the ground in Latin America. Congressman Juan
Vargas, for instance, farcically insisted that Fidel Castro, who died in
2016, is still alive and in power in Cuba, and “he’s been there a long
time.”

While the event represented a laughable display of colonial arrogance, the
consequences of Washington’s emerging agenda are likely to have serious
consequences for Nicaragua and its people. Indeed, the State Department has
emphasized that the Biden administration is working closely with the
European Union, Canada, Costa Rica, and the Organization of American States
(OAS) to destabilize the Sandinista government.

Together, they plan to expel Nicaragua from the OAS and isolate it
diplomatically. They also hope to cut off the country’s trade with the
United States and starve it economically.

The overblown rhetoric spouted by the panelists was complemented with
fear-mongering about Russia’s alliance with Nicaragua, which they referred
to with classic colonial framing as “the US doorstep.”

The hearing also highlighted a growing and increasingly influential
right-wing Nicaraguan-American lobby, and its direct coordination with
extremist Cuban-American elements in Florida.

LIVE NOW – join to hear @HouseForeign
<https://twitter.com/HouseForeign?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw> question @BertaValle
<https://twitter.com/bertavalle?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>, @RyanBergPhD
<https://twitter.com/RyanBergPhD?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>, @Laura_Ch
<https://twitter.com/Laura_Ch?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>, and @StateDept
<https://twitter.com/StateDept?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>’s Emily Mendrala about
U.S. strategy toward Nicaragua.https://t.co/Nlf00vLNvo

— House Foreign Affairs Committee (@HouseForeign) September 21, 2021
<https://twitter.com/HouseForeign/status/1440319322543456259?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>

US Congress pledges more aggressive sanctions on Nicaragua

This 2021, the Nicaraguan government arrested a series of right-wing
opposition activists who orchestrated a violent coup attempt that
devastated the country’s economy and society in 2018.

During the failed putsch, extremists waged a campaign of terror in
Nicaragua, hunting down Sandinista activists, injuring, torturing, and
killing hundreds. For months, criminal elements erected dozens of
barricades known as *tranques*, in various parts of the country, while
waging a low-intensity civil war against the Sandinista government.

President Daniel Ortega recognized that the US-backed coup-mongers were
intentionally stoking violence, and wanted to invite a government crackdown
that they could use to justify international intervention – a strategy
that Hong
Kong separatists openly advocated
<https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/30/opinion/hong-kong-protests-police-violence.html>
in a similarly failed US-backed destabilization operation.

So Ortega ordered police not to leave their stations, which led the
foreign-funded coup-mongers to besiege Nicaraguan police stations and try
to kill as many security forces as possible.

The powerful political and economic figures behind this bloody coup attempt
finally faced legal consequences in 2021, and were arrested by the
Nicaraguan government.

Yet the US government was furious at these detentions, because Washington
had cultivated, trained, and funded these coup leaders, over years and with
millions of dollars.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing
<https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/2021/9/an-international-response-to-ortega-s-destruction-of-democracy-in-nicaragua>
on September 21, titled “An International Response to Ortega’s Destruction
of Democracy in Nicaragua,” was occasion for the US government to announce
its plans to punish the Sandinista government for arresting its Nicaraguan
assets.

The meeting was hosted by Representative Albio Sires, a right-wing
Cuban-American Democrat who had joined Florida’s neoconservative former
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in writing the NICA Act, legislation that
called for a de facto financial blockade of the Sandinista government.

Today, I held a @HouseForeign
<https://twitter.com/HouseForeign?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw> hearing on the
corrupt Ortega regime’s actions to prevent competitive elections, eliminate
the political opposition, and imprison anyone who stands in their way in
#Nicaragua
<https://twitter.com/hashtag/Nicaragua?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>. See
my opening statement:https://t.co/0n82YmCVVs

— Albio Sires (@RepSires) September 21, 2021
<https://twitter.com/RepSires/status/1440395381725032449?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>

The NICA Act was passed in December 2018, without any opposition in Congress
<https://thegrayzone.com/2018/12/14/congress-sanctions-nicaragua-nica-act/>.
The bill represented the first round of crushing US sanctions on Nicaragua.

Sires and his neoconservative colleagues in the Congress are however not
content with the economic warfare that Washington is already waging against
Nicaragua. They want more.

In the September 21 hearing, he called for the US government and European
Union to impose even more aggressive sanctions on Nicaragua and “begin
preparing a number of severe diplomatic consequences,” including suspending
the country from the Inter-American Democratic Charter and Organization of
American States.

Sires is the co-sponsor of a follow-up to the NICA Act, known as the RENACER
Act
<https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/2946/titles?r=263&s=1>,
which will expand the unilateral coercive measures targeting Nicaragua’s
economy, while also ratcheting up US spy operations in the country.

In the Senate, the legislation has been spearheaded by Bob Menendez,
another right-wing Cuban American Democrat who played a significant role in
the US-backed coup in Bolivia in 2019
<https://thegrayzone.com/2019/11/14/oas-us-coup-bolivia-evo-morales/>, as
well as Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican representative of far-right
Cuban-Americans in Miami.

Menendez and Rubio have lobbied hard
<https://www.foreign.senate.gov/press/chair/release/as-political-crisis-in-nicaragua-spirals-menendez-and-rubio-call-for-biden-admin-to-increase-pressure-on-ortega-regime_>
to expand US sanctions and increase aggressive tactics against Nicaragua,
using the OAS to punish the country.

This June, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the RENACER act,
although it has yet to be officially voted on.

The September 21 hearing made it clear that, despite protests by peace
activists in Washington, the RENACER will soon be rammed through Congress
with little opposition, thus escalating the US economic war on Nicaragua.

Now at US Capitol, a protest against the Renacer Act, which aims to
destabilize Nicaragua and remove its elected govt through economic warfare.

The sanctions build on the US-backed 2018 insurrection attempt that saw
right-wing gangs target Sandinistas with torture & murder.
pic.twitter.com/yzbwD3IAQg <https://t.co/yzbwD3IAQg>

— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) September 13, 2021
<https://twitter.com/MaxBlumenthal/status/1437538628771749894?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>

Joined Sires in the meeting was committee ranking member Mark Green, a
Republican representing Tennessee who is co-sponsoring the RENACER Act.

While Green was unable to pronounce the names of the US-backed Nicaraguan
coup leaders he described as “political prisoners,” he revealed that
members of the Foreign Affairs Committee “regularly meet” with figures from
the right-wing anti-Sandinista opposition to coordinate tactics.

Florida Republican Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar, a Cuban-American
representative of the most fanatical far-right forces in Miami, also held
forth during the hearing.

Salazar insisted that Washington must intervene much more aggressively in
Latin America, claiming, “The United States is not present in this
hemisphere! Period.”

Salazar held up photos of Felix Maradiaga, Arturo Cruz, and Juan Sebastián
Chamorro, US government-backed Nicaraguan regime-change activists who
played a crucial role leading the violent 2018 coup attempt.
[image: Maria Elvira Salazar Nicaragua Congress Felix Maradiaga]Far-right
Florida Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar holding up photos of US-funded
coup leaders Felix Maradiaga and Arturo Cruz at a hearing on Nicaragua

Representatives Joaquin Castro, a Democrat from Texas, and Juan Vargas, a
Democrat from California, joined the chorus of condemnation as well.

Vargas lamented that US regime-change operations targeting Cuba, Venezuela,
and Nicaragua have repeatedly failed, complaining, “We do a whole lot of
things to try to get rid of them, and we’re not very successful… We did a
whole lot of damn things against all these guys, and they still seem to
survive.”

In a comment that showed how little he actually knows about Latin America,
Vargas then suggested that Fidel Castro, who died five years ago, is still
alive and has “been there a long time. I mean we wanted to get rid of him
for a long time. We’ve done lots of things to try to get rid of him, but we
can’t get rid of him.”

[image: Emily Mendrala State Department Nicaragua Congress]
US State Department vows escalation against Nicaragua

The deputy assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Western
Hemisphere Affairs, Emily Mendrala, spoke proudly in the September 21
hearing about Washington’s political attacks on Nicaragua’s Sandinista
government.

“We continue to work with governments throughout the region, through the
OAS and otherwise, to continue” putting pressure on Nicaragua, she said.
“We are also working closely with the EU, Canada, and the UK to coordinate
additional targeted measures.”

Mendrala “welcomed the bipartisanship” in the campaign against Nicaragua,
and boasted that the US government has maintained support for right-wing
opposition activists and media outlets, stating, “Through USAID, we
continue to support Nicaraguan civil society, independent media, and human
rights defenders.”

She also revealed that the US State Department “launched a social media
campaign in August” against the Sandinista government.

Mendrala went on to take credit for a June statement in the OAS condemning
Nicaragua. “Through US leadership, we were we were able to secure a very
important coalition of 26 member states” to support the anti-Nicaragua OAS
resolution, she said.

Quoting Secretary of State Antony Blinken
<https://www.state.gov/the-lack-of-prospects-for-free-and-fair-election-in-nicaragua/>,
Mendrala claimed that Nicaragua’s “electoral process, including its
eventual results, has lost all credibility,” making it clear that
Washington will not recognize them.

Reading closely from written statements accusing Nicaragua of using
“Russian-inspired laws to carry out repression,” Mendrala’s comments
reflected the neoconservative tenor of the Biden State Department.

Rep. Mark Green interjected to chastise Mendrala for insufficiently zealous
rhetoric. “I would encourage you to say ‘the Ortega regime,’ because I’m
not sure that it’s really legitimate,” the Republican said. “In fact, I
think it’s not, I’m convinced it’s not a legitimate government.”

At one point, Mendrala even mistakenly referred to Nicaragua as an
“island,” raising questions about her knowledge of the region’s most basic
geographical contours.

“You called Nicaragua an island a minute ago,” Rep. Andy Levin corrected
Mendrala. “I think you’re referring to the poorest country in the
atmosphere, Haiti.”
[image: Laura Chinchilla Costa Rica Obama US]US President Barack Obama with
Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla in 2013 Costa Rica’s former president
calls for escalating hybrid warfare on Nicaragua

The inclusion of Costa Rica’s neoliberal former President Laura Chinchilla
in the Congressional hearing reflected the Biden administration’s close
coordination with Nicaragua’s US-backed neighbor to destabilize the
Sandinista government.

Chinchilla echoed the extreme commentary of her US counterparts, citing
“Ortega’s military strategy of increasing cooperation with Russia” to dub
Nicaragua “a threat to regional security.”

The Costa Rican leader said Nicaragua must be expelled from the OAS, and
called for a de facto economic blockade, “in order to stop immediately the
external supply of financial oxygen to the Ortega regime.”

She also called for targeting the military, noting that “the Nicaraguan
army [is] a key player in the endurance of the regime.” This was a
not-so-subtle hint that Washington should curry favor with Nicaraguan
generals to try to overthrow President Ortega.

Drawing on a US strategy used against Venezuela
<https://thegrayzone.com/2020/03/27/trump-bounty-maduro-guaido-plot/>,
Chinchilla then suggested that Washington should charge top Nicaraguan
government officials with “money laundering and drug trafficking,” a
patently absurd accusation.

She also suggested Washington should “deny legitimacy to the government” of
Nicaragua, again echoing the US tactic of refusing to recognize the
legitimacy of Venezuela’s constitutional government.

Today, Chinchilla is co-chair of the influential DC-based lobby group the
Inter-American Dialogue. This February, she participated in a panel of
neoliberal Central American officials
<https://thegrayzone.com/2021/03/08/central-america-neoliberal-biden-plan/>
at the corporate-backed think tank. It was joined by Biden’s special envoy
to the region, Ricardo Zúñiga, and convened to cement the administration’s
Central America policy.

The February event had hinted at tactics Washington and its regional
clients would use to destabilize Nicaragua, including potentially
recognizing US government-funded multimillionaire oligarch Cristiana
Chamorro as a Juan Guaidó-style “interim president.” (The Sandinista
government foiled those plans by arresting Chamorro on charges on money
laundering
<https://thegrayzone.com/2021/06/01/cia-usaid-nicaragua-right-wing-media/>.)

Rubio tuvo el honor de reunirse con las esposas de @Jschamorrog
<https://twitter.com/Jschamorrog?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw> y Felix @Maradiaga
<https://twitter.com/maradiaga?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>, quienes permanecen
arbitrariamente desaparecidos por el régimen de #Ortega
<https://twitter.com/hashtag/Ortega?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>. Nos
unimos a la lucha de estas valientes mujeres y su pedido para que liberen a
sus esposos de inmediato. #SOSNicaragua
<https://twitter.com/hashtag/SOSNicaragua?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>
pic.twitter.com/dVWDevyebO <https://t.co/dVWDevyebO>

— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) July 20, 2021
<https://twitter.com/SenRubioPress/status/1417527638399365125?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>

Elite right-wing Nicaraguan regime-change activist lobbies for more
aggressive actions

Also starring in the Congressional hearing was right-wing Nicaraguan
activist Berta Valle, the wife of coup leader Felix Maradiaga, a US-trained
political operative who played a major role in the failed 2018 coup attempt.

Maradiaga, who grew up and was educated in the United States, has long been
cultivated by the US government with the goal of destabilizing the
Sandinista government.

Although his support base in his homeland is tiny, and he is despised by
Sandinista supporters who hold him responsible for destabilizing the
country over three years ago, Maradiaga has remained a top US government
asset.

Incubated in the bowels of elite corporate-funded neoliberal institutions
like the World Economic Forum
<https://www.weforum.org/people/felix-maradiaga>, Maradiaga has led a
series of NGOs and think tanks, such as the Institute for Strategic Studies
and Public Policy (IEEPP), which use plentiful funding from CIA cutouts to
wage hybrid warfare against the Nicaraguan government.
[image: Berta Valle Felix Maradiaga World Economic Forum]US-funded
Nicaraguan coup leader Felix Maradiaga and his wife Berta Valle at the
World Economic Forum

Like her husband, Valle was trained by the World Economic Forum, a
notorious symbol of the global financial oligarchy. Valle is a proud part
of the WEF’s Global Shapers Community <https://www.globalshapers.org/>, an
international initiative to create neoliberal leaders who then push
right-wing policies around the world that benefit the large corporations
and billionaire plutocrats who fund the WEF.

A privileged member of Nicaragua’s miniscule class of wealthy elites, Valle
made her name as a media personality at the country’s major right-wing
outlets, such as Vos TV.

In her testimony in the Congressional hearing, Valle acknowledged that the
Nicaraguan “government is alleging that Felix [Maradiaga] and others were
part of a global conspiracy to use foreign resources, including from the US
Agency for International Development, the International Republican
Institute, and the National Endowment for Democracy, to harm the interests
of the nation.”

That they did this is undeniable; it is an objective fact. Public records
show that the organizations led by Maradiaga, such as IEEPP, have received
huge sums of money from these CIA cutouts.

Here is top USAID/NED "pro-democracy" grantee Felix Maradiaga (white shirt)
at Nicaragua's UPOLI with fellow coup planners including Pio Arellano,
accused member of Viper criminal network waving a pistol in the air.
pic.twitter.com/uqigHnYqTu <https://t.co/uqigHnYqTu>

— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) August 8, 2018
<https://twitter.com/MaxBlumenthal/status/1027263371853352960?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw>

It is quite ironic that Valle mentioned these charges as if they were
ludicrous, because the Nicaraguan justice system’s accusations against
Maradiaga and other US-backed coup leaders were in fact confirmed by what
the State Department official, Mendrala, said in the very same hearing.

Moreover, the State Department itself boasted
<https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-nicaragua/> in a public statement
on September 14 that “the U.S. Government continues to support civil
society organizations, human rights defenders, and independent media” in
Nicaragua. Valle’s husband Maradiaga has been one of the top recipients of
this foreign material support.

In her remarks, Valle also revealed that she has been coordinating with top
members of the US government, and insisted on more US meddling in Nicaragua.

In July, Valle and other right-wing Nicaraguans traveled to Washington to
meet with members of Congress, including Marco Rubio.

Today, Valle lives in the United States, and, with the active support of
the US government, has been working to construct an anti-Sandinista
Nicaraguan-American lobby to complement the power of the anti-revolution
Cuban political machine in Miami. Already, her efforts and those of her
patrons in Washington are bearing fruit, with an escalated economic war on
her country of birth.
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