Celebrate the Facts!
Nicaragua, once a crossroads of a proxy war, is now square in the cross-hairs of the United States empire. Media accounts of the situation in Nicaragua are highly variant and dependent on the source. Given the history of the United States in Nicaragua, there is cause for skepticism of the corporate-media accounts, and so the rationale for isolating the country is baffling. Regardless, people are suffering, and the costs are real. Such cruelty deserves further investigation.
Evaluation of the economic statistics suggests the economy of Nicaragua is tied to that of the United States in many ways. The sanctions of the Reagan administration resulted in an extreme economic contraction in the late 1980s, but since then the Nicaraguan economy has grown and contracted in cycles correlated to the United States, like other Latin American countries.
Johns Hopkins University Hospital, the world’s leading authority on COVID, on January 3, 2021, reported 6,046 COVID cases in Nicaragua, with 4,225 recovered, and 165 deaths. This rate suggests the Nicaraguan government’s health care system has been extremely efficient in containing the virus. The same is true of other socialist governments around the world. Cuba has provided a good example of public health practice with its progressive health system, and Venezuela, Viet Nam, and the Indian state of Kerala have also had success restraining the spread of the virus.
Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and is bigger in area than the state of New York. Honduras borders Nicaragua on the North and Costa Rica to the south, while the Caribbean is on the East with the Pacific on the West. Nicaragua is not particularly dense in population with about 6.2 million citizens, is dominantly Christian, with mixed Indian-European racial profiles, and poor, though with great disparities in wealth.
Over the last century, Nicaragua has largely been dominated by the United States. The biggest name in governance in Nicaragua is Somoza. Anastasio Somoza García came up through the U.S-trained National Guard and overthrew a democratically elected president, Juan Sacasa, in 1937. Somoza helped the United States to establish a military base in Nicaragua during World War II and facilitated the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to champion a coup to overthrow a democratically-elected Guatemalan president, Jacobo Árbenz.
Somoza was assassinated in 1956 by a young poet but his son Luis assumed power instantly. Another son, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, headed the National Guard, the internal military force and backbone of the government, and imprisoned political rivals. The CIA-backed Cuban exiles left from Nicaragua on the way to their failed Bay of Pigs invasion. After the 1972 Managua earthquake, which killed 10,000 people, the Somozas pilfered much of the international aid sent to Nicaragua. By the mid-1970s, Somoza stood out as one of the worst human rights perpetrators in the Western Hemisphere.
The Nicaraguan Revolution was an evolutionary movement that overthrew the Somoza autocracy and distanced Nicaragua from its status as an economic enclave of the United States. It started in the early 1960s with the Sandinista National Liberation Front (known as the FSLN) but accelerated with the overthrow of Somoza and his National Guard in 1979 when the FSLN routed the autocracy and exiled Somoza. The Sandinistas ruled from 1979 to 1990, when they were turned out of power in an election.
Ronald Reagan, the most dogmatic of the United States Cold Warriors, determined the Sandanista Revolution was a Cuban-sponsored Soviet-style Marxist-Leninist movement and took substantial steps to contain it. Between 1980 and 1990 the United States provided funding and substantial diplomatic and military support to former National Guard counterrevolutionary groups known as Contras. At times this terrorist group grew to an army of 12,000, with a mission of interrupting all aspects of the governance of Nicaragua including assassination, rape, plundering the goods of peasants, and general mayhem. The United States also funded opposition political groups, through the CIA, and levied economic sanctions strangling Nicaraguan economic growth.
Reagan’s obsession with the Contras ultimately became a stain on his legacy, as his henchmen, likely with his support, engaged in illegal activities in what became known as the Iran-Contra Affair otherwise known as Arms for Hostages. The United States at large, unconcerned with the human rights violations of its agencies, chooses to unremember this era.
The Sandinista Revolution succeeded in bettering the worth of life for Nicaraguans, the FSLN was in power only a little more than a decade, not enough time to truly transform society. Defending itself against the CIA-backed Contra aggression required substantial spending on the military which could have been spent on social programs. The Sandanistas assumed power again in 2006 under the leadership of Daniel Ortega.
With the election of Donald Trump in 2016, outdated actions against progressive governments commenced again, not unlike the activities in the Reagan Administration. Some media accounts indicated there was social repression of protesters in Nicaragua and perhaps even a massacre of Sandanista opponents.
The ‘Nicaragua Human Rights and Anticorruption Act of 2018,’ passed with bipartisan ratification, was intended to throttle the Nicaraguan economy, and so compel the Nicaraguan government to conduct ‘free and fair elections’ and improve human rights conduct. Donald Trump’s surrogates drafted Executive Order 13851 published November 27, 2018, which further sanctioned Nicaragua. As a result, the contraction of the Nicaraguan economy commenced in 2019, with the attendant public health and welfare consequences.
The paradox of attempting to collapse the economy of a neighboring country, encouraging emigration for economic welfare, while being staunchly opposed to such immigration appears lost on the Trump Administration.
Nicaragua’s assets include substantial natural resources, an undeveloped tourism industry, a well-developed agricultural sector, a sophisticated private sector committed to a free economy, access to shipping and transportation, and a young, low-cost labor force. The United States is Nicaragua’s largest trading partner with about one-quarter of Nicaragua’s imports and two-thirds of Nicaragua’s exports.
For now, the story is determined by the media source. Traditional corporate media routinely publish diatribes against the Ortega regime, indicating it is engaged in repression and human rights violations. Socialist publications indicate the state of Nicaragua is determined by economic sanctions and otherwise, matters are well-administered.
The truth is somewhere in between these polarized accounts. Daniel Ortega, the head of the Nicaraguan government, has a long history with the United States and is not a big fan. Like Donald Trump, he is 74-years-old and is a dinosaur with a limited future.
Basic information about Nicaragua can be found at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/nu.html. Documentation of the Contras was provided by https://www.brown.edu/Research/Understanding_the_Iran_Contra_Affair/n-contrasus.php. United States economic sanctions against Nicaragua information was obtained at https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/126/nicaragua_eo.pdf. The information related to the ‘Nicaragua Human Rights and Anticorruption Act of 2018’ can be discovered at https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/126/nica_2018.pdf. Information on trade in Nicaragua was obtained at https://www.state.gov/reports/2020-investment-climate-statements/nicaragua/.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.