Nicaragua is Not Venezuela and All Governments Lie
If you supported the Nicaraguan revolution in 1979, you should support the children of those revolutionaries in Nicaragua today.
This is a response to articles by individuals like Max Blumenthal and Daniel Kovalik who have written about the Nicaraguan protests, but seem to have very limited knowledge of the country, it’s history, or it’s current political situation. They have made declarations and assertions that are easily debunked by anyone who lives in Nicaragua and/or has even the most minimal knowledge of the modern political history and current situation in Nicaragua.
Their articles and tweets have characterized the protests in Nicaragua as being carried out by a violent opposition with leaders (students who came to visit Marco Rubio and other right wingers), and because the “leaders” of the movement posed for pictures with some reactionary opportunists in the U.S., the entire protest movement in Nicaragua is nullified -erasing millions of Nicaraguans who support the April 19th Movement.
State sponsored outlets (e.g. TeleSur and RT) have been more than willing to simply accept the Nicaraguan government’s description of the events taking place (of course, TeleSur is funded in part by the Nicaraguan government). Leftist should consider that governments are not moral actors and THEY ALL LIE. Simply taking some theory put forth by a government that has been openly murdering and torturing — with snipers, paramilitaries, and police dressed in civilian clothing — the people of Nicaragua for resisting and fighting for their human rights, is not my idea of journalism.
I have criticized the strategies and politics of some of the more visible figures in the movement and other outlets have pointed out these contradictions as well. The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) published an article that covered the issue of some so-called leaders of the movement who posed for pictures with Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and others.
María Campos nicely articulates the differences between Nicaragua and the Venezuelan protests in this article. The following is my translation of it into English:
Nicaragua is not Venezuela and the roadblocks are not guarimbas
Since April 18, it has been common to read or listen to comparisons between the protests in Nicaragua and those in Venezuela. Some people go further and openly declare that there is a “soft coup” or a “revolution of colors” taking place in Nicaragua, like what took place in Egypt (2011) or Ukraine (2013) and to take even further, that the protests are financed by the United States. To uncover the truth, there has to be an interpretation of the situation that matches the complexity of the facts.
The Gene Sharp manual on nonviolent struggle
Gene Sharp is an American academic who, in 1993, wrote a book titled From Dictatorship To Democracy. The text describes, among other things, non-violent methods to overthrow political regimes. Some people argue that Sharp developed a manual to apply “soft coups”, used by the CIA to destabilize governments that do not enjoy their approval. It is no surprise that the long tentacle of the United States is behind counterinsurgency movements like that in Nicaragua in the eighties. However, it is not possible to award Sharp all the credit for a struggle that is more closely linked to the experiences of the local population, than to a strategic plan by the CIA.
The loudest voice emphasizing Sharp has been the Russian media, who have defined movements that have forced the departure of presidents in countries such as Serbia (2000), Ukraine (2005), Kyrgyzstan (2005) and Georgia (2003) as soft coups. Interestingly, all the presidents deposed in these countries mentioned were pro-Russian.
In Venezuela, Chavistas have linked Otpor with the protests against President Maduro. Otpor was a student movement in Serbia that, at the beginning of the 2000s, was demanding the exit of President Slobodan Milošević, who years later was accused of genocide. According to the official TeleSur media, young Venezuelans were trained by Otpor leaders, who arrived in Venezuela in 2004 sponsored by NED, the CIA, USAID and Freedom House, in order to create a destabilizing program to generate a soft coup.
The uprising of popular sectors
Those who seek to link the protests of early April 2018 with the Sharp manual or the interests of the CIA follow the same script that Chavistas have used in Venezuela to misinform. This campaign is mainly aimed at people, parties and organizations that sympathize or consider themselves on the left.
The theory maintains that the United States finances the protests in Nicaragua because even though the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) were funded for many years in civil society, leadership workshops and programs for the consolidation of democracy through non-governmental organizations. This, according to them, led to young bourgeois who have been indoctrinated by the right. They assure us that through social networks, the coup d’état began to be developed promoting hashtags that have a lot of similarity with destabilizing experiences (the hashtag mostly used online is #SOSNicaragua).
What this theory fails to take into account is that, despite the fact that the role of the internet has been fundamental for organizing and documenting purposes, at the national level Internet coverage is barely 20%. Therefore, many insurgent cities did not wait for social networks: they began their resistance as soon as they learned about the massacre that was being committed. Nicaragua is a small country with a population of just six million inhabitants. In the areas of the Pacific, the Center and, above all, in urban and larger communities, the news travels rapidly through the vox populi (the voice of the people).
It also does not take into account the fact that, throughout its history, Nicaragua has suffered multiple attacks and invasions by the United States. The first recorded invasion was in 1856 and the most recent happened in 1980, under the government of Ronald Reagan. Surely, some Nicaraguans sympathize with US foreign policy, but the vast majority have a family member killed or disappeared during the war of the seventies and eighties, sponsored by the United States.
For this reason, Ortega has always used the revival of anti-yankee rhetoric in his speeches: he knows that there are still resentments and bitterness towards the U.S. Therefore, it would not be logical to think that this time most Nicaraguans would accept, without question, the interference of the United States, when the ghosts of the wars sponsored by US policies still appear outside of the window.
The experience of the Sandinista popular revolution of 1979
There are many more similarities between the Nicaragua of 2018 and the Nicaragua of 1979, than with any experience of a soft coup. A photo of a barricade that compares Nicaragua to a guarimba in Venezuela is not enough proof to argue that in both countries the same script was applied by the same actor (the United States).
Before the siege of paramilitaries that terrorize many cities of Nicaragua, the settlers have organized themselves in their neighborhoods and have decided to create roadblocks (tranques). Real walls have been erected in the same streets where during the popular Sandinista revolution of ’79, the guerrillas taught the population how to make the barricades. The same paving stones have been used for these barricades.
They are the parents and grandparents of the millennial generation who have transferred organizational knowledge. In cities like Masaya, entire families resist from their homes to the constant attack of the national police and paramilitaries tied to the government. This city has been a symbol of struggle both now and during the Sandinista popular revolution. There is an indigenous neighborhood called Monimbó, known for the resistance it showed to Spanish colonization and the Somoza dictatorship. It is no coincidence that when the protests began, this neighborhood was one of the first places in the country to rise up. The people of Masaya also have a been organized (declared themselves independent on June 18), since every year they perform very important festivities and popular celebrations where everyone gets involved from an early age and, as they grow up, assume a role that makes them part of a network. In a similar way, the inhabitants of this city are united in the struggle against the dictatorship.
Nicaraguans feel a kind of flashback between the insurrection we are experiencing now and what happened in previous decades. But according to the theory, it is the Americans who are behind all this. However, it does not fit in his narrative that the first sectors to be insurrected have been popular sectors. Like Monimbó, the current crisis erupted when students from three public universities in Managua (UNA, UNI, UPOLI) took to the streets to protest against a measure approved by the Ortega administration in relation to social security. What followed was the horror: police and paramiliatry groups killed students and demonstrators in general.
These murders stoked the spark of outrage and more neighborhoods and cities joined, creating the barricades in the form of protest. Once again, popular sectors manifested themselves; even in cities considered bastions of Sandinismo, such as León and Matagalpa.
The demand for President Ortega to step down from power
One thing must be clear: the protests have not been a mere spontaneous reaction to the brutal way in which President Ortega and his wife — Vice-President Murillo — have repressed the population. There have been many frustrations accumulated during the 11 years they have been in power: the law of the interoceanic canal that will deprive many peasant families of their lands and destroy a natural biosphere; the lack of freedom of expression and protests; corruption and embezzlement; the loss of university autonomy, the increase in fuel and energy prices, among others.
The protests in Nicaragua lack visible leadership, which works in our favor. In the negotiations carried out in the National Dialogue held by the government, there is a coalition of different sectors: students, peasants, academics, human rights groups and civil society, the feminist movement, among others. They are the representatives of the people and, although there are certain figures that stand out, they are not the vanguard. Those who lead the fight are entrenched in the universities or in the various barricades that hinder traffic on the Pan-American Highway and other roads.
To say that in Nicaragua a movement led by popular sectors without any political party involved, is creating a coup d’état, is to say that the Sandinista Popular Revolution of 1979 was also a coup, as the dictator Somoza said. Coups d’état, by definition, represent a sudden takeover of power in a violent manner. In this case, the seizure of power is not taking place suddenly or violently, since during the National Dialogue what has been presented is an agenda that allows the democratization of the country and the peaceful and orderly departure of Ortega. There is a legal basis for the departure of Ortega, and there is no unconstitutional requirement, unlike his illegal re-election in 2011.
Neither has been the manual of Gene Sharp nor the forums on leadership who have structured a plan to destabilize the government of Ortega. Of the more than 220 people killed by the government so far, most have been residents of marginalized neighborhoods or students of public universities. None of them fits with the conspirators’ description of bourgeois leaders being indoctrinated by USAID and the CIA. It would not even be possible to establish a link between these martyred boys and USAID.
The departure of Ortega is not the demand of an elite group, it is a popular demand, and those who have been the most punished by the Ortega government have been towns and cities that have a Sandinista majority, like many neighborhoods in the capital of Managua. How ironic it would be that a soft coup from the CIA was brewing in the same streets that staged the anti-Somoza struggle.
To understand the Nicaraguan protests, you should first begin by realizing that the current Sandinista state is not the left, it has sold out to big capital and the protesters have not been violent. There is an image of a man who was burned and the FLSN (sandinista) flag was draped over him. Even if a group of protesters committed this terrible act, the overwhelming majority of the violence has come from the state (10 deaths so far of supporters of the state). Destroying a state radio station or any other property is not violence. Murdering over 350 unarmed human beings in two months for protesting… that’s a different story.