By Hope K
“We’re well-trained by the CIA with Yankee tax money in Ft. Bragg
The Peace Corps builds US labor camps
When they think they’re building schools, ha!”
Dead Kennedys, “Bleed For Me,” 1982
When I was knee high to a grasshopper and listening to 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother) by the Eurythmics on my jambox, CIA agents were dropping tons of drugs on my state and training death squads in our forests. I had heard of Contras and Daniel Ortega, but I had no idea they had any impact on my life at all.
However, a couple of years later at one of my first babysitting gigs, I was getting a little girl ready for bed when I found a big plastic zipper bag full of white powder in her underwear drawer. “You’re not supposed to touch that,” she told me. I guess her parents thought that was a safe place to hide it. It had probably come from an airport in small town called Mena, but we’ll get to that later.
First, let’s look at the history of Nicaragua. A country of gorgeous lakes, beaches, and volcanoes and full of people so very strong in spirit.
The indigenous Nicaraguans were colonized by Spain, England, and then the US. The first unwelcome US intervention I can find was in 1850, when the USA and Britain signed a treaty, without Nicaragua’s consent, to establish an interoceanic trade route. I’m thinking Manifest Destiny meant more than just that Oregon Trail game we played in middle school. It looks like they wanted the entire Western Hemisphere.
I’m going to let General Smedley Butler summarize the Banana Wars: “I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912.” At least he was honest. War is always about money. Never forget!
In 1927, Augusto Sandino led a rebellion against the US Marines, who withdrew from Nicaragua in 1933. He was lured to a supposed peace conference by Anastasio Somoza, the head of the National Guard, when Sandino was assassinated in 1934. The Somoza dynasty ruled for decades after Sandino’s death. Franklin Roosevelt said of Somoza, “He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”
During their regime, the Somozas and their cronies benefited from US support and the ownership of Nicaraguan land and businesses. On the other hand, most Nicaraguan citizens were suffering from crushing poverty.
In the 1960s, a group of college students formed the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), named after Sandino, who had led the revolt against US occupation in the 1930s. Contrary to US propaganda, the Sandinistas did not consider themselves to be Communists. They were a coalition of people (some Marxists, many Christians, and even some conservatives) who opposed the Somoza regime and US-based corporate influence.
The Sandinistas overthrew the Somoza regime in 1979, and Daniel Ortega became leader of the multipartisan junta. The US government did not like this at all. Income was being threatened by a bunch of Spanish-speaking peasants. How dare they! So the CIA and company armed, trained, and financially supported Somoza supporters called the Contras, and Ronald Reagan proclaimed them to be “freedom fighters.” The Sandinistas were labeled Communist terrorists.
A bloody war of unimaginable tortures and killings ensued. Death squads roamed the country, kidnapping, torturing, burning, and pillaging. It was so egregious that the US Congress passed the Boland Amendment to stop the flow of money from the US to the Contras. The CIA fixed that problem at least partially by accepting cocaine for arms payments. This was at the same time Nancy Reagan was telling American youth to “Just say no” to drugs.
The US portrayed Nicaragua as a dictator-led “banana republic,” a term of derision and also the name of a trendy fashion company. A 1984 Banana Republic catalog shows drawings of tropical explorer gear and Women’s Polish Solidarity Bags. US culture was saturated with the message that drug dealers and Commies were evil, and the Sandinistas were labeled as both.
Central America is a notable narcotrafficking location, due to its being halfway between South America and the US. One pilot, Barry Seal, was flying drugs from Contra airfields to a tiny airport in the small town of Mena, Arkansas, and flying arms back to the Contras. Death squads were trained in the woods of Arkansas, sometimes alarming the locals. It appears that there were many such operations in the US, but after Seal was murdered, the plane he had previously owned was shot down in Nicaragua, and the press found out. This began an international scandal dubbed “Iran/Contra.”
In 1990, after Nicaragua had been worn down by the war, Daniel Ortega lost to a more US-friendly presidential candidate, even though polls leading up to the election clearly showed he had popular support.
“Ain’t found a way to kill me yet
Eyes burn with stinging sweat
Seems every path leads me to nowhere
Wife and kids, household pet”
Alice in Chains, “Rooster,” 1993
In the ensuing years, the Nicaraguan economy was increasingly privatized, and the Nicaraguan people became the poorest in Central America. In 2004, the CAFTA trade agreement was signed, increasing corporate interest. Nicaraguans toiled in Wal-Mart sweatshops and later coffee fields for Keurig.
In 2006, Daniel Ortega won the presidency again. Since then, Nicaragua has still been dealing with poverty and the problems that come with that. Ortega, that “brutal dictator,” has implemented “radical socialist” programs like feeding the poor and giving small businesses loans with no interest. But despite these implementations, US corporations still thrive, and Nicaragua’s economic growth has been good, due in part to tourism. It is a country of dazzling beauty and safer than other Central American countries. Well, it was until April of 2018, but we’ll get to that later.
In 2013 Nicaragua entered into a deal with a Chinese billionaire to build a canal across Nicaragua, like the one in Panama only bigger, allowing for giant cargo ships to pass through. A canal such as this could make the country billions in revenue. The Panama Canal is due for an upgrade, and as recently as last month, after the US withdrew their business manager, Panama told the US to respect its right to do business dealings with China in regard to the canal. In 2016, the US trade surplus with Panama was 5.9 billion dollars. Imagine if the Panama Canal had a rival route.
In Nicaragua, aside from the understandable concern from environmental activists, something funny is going on with their proposed canal. The Wikipedia page for it says that its status is cancelled, but the Nicaraguan government is saying they’re still planning to build it. The Chinese billionaire who was funding the canal lost most of his fortune in the stock market and is embroiled in scandal. The US mainstream media calls him the “Canal Madman” and the Nicaraguan project “magical realism.” It’s almost like the US feels… economically threatened? Surely not!
Like any country, Nicaragua has cracks within its society. Intelligence agencies find those cracks, hammer wedges into them, and pillage. That’s just what they do. In the 1980s, the cracks were between Somoza’s supporters and the Sandinistas. Now it seems to be a fractured political left. The Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) broke off from the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). The MRS is kind of like the US neoliberals — lots of talk about human rights while supporting US corporate interests and interventionism.
The Ortega presidency has had its share of criticisms. Thousands have protested the canal, though polls show most Nicaraguans favor the project, due to the money and jobs it would bring into the country. Others have protested what they consider to be corruption, cronyism, and nepotism in the current government. The police’s reactions to the protesters have been denounced as “brutal” by the likes of Bianca Jagger, who oddly enough, came to Ortega’s “Emotional Rescue” in the 1980s.
Whether or not Ortega is corrupt, and I have no doubt that neither he nor his administration are perfect, it is not the US government’s business. Nicaragua is a sovereign country. Or at least it should be. The people of Nicaragua need to be the ones to decide who their president is.
The FSLN and its supporters claim that the protesters have kidnapped, tortured, and killed people sympathetic to the government. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting déjà vu, and it’s not just that Clash song stuck in my head. I think the CIA is trying to pull a coup in Nicaragua again.
Violent protests sprang up in April after Ortega made social security reforms. Students in blue and white bandanas trashed college campuses. Catholic churches sheltered protesters. Bloody pictures and SOSNicaragua hashtags began to appear on social media. When the SOSNicaragua folks started praising Marco Rubio, I got suspicious. Why would they want sanctions put on their own country? Why would Nicaraguans want US intervention? They say it’s because of Ortega’s brutal regime.
A WikiLeaks cable from 2007, shortly after Ortega was elected, explains some things. At the University of Central America (UCA) in Managua, the Millenium Challenge Corporation, a CIA front organization, held a feminist forum to educate the women on how difficult their lives were. Few university students actually showed up, but the ones that did were eager for the information, according to the document. Eleven years later, on this October 1st, a protest was held at the main gate of UCA.
In another cable from 2008, CIA front USAID held a moot court at the National Autonomous University (UNAN) in Leon. Ten years later, UNAN, Nicaragua’s largest university, was overrun with masked rebels and molotov cocktails. It just reopened in September after being closed since April, due to the protests.
This has been planned for a long time and even some Nicaraguans didn’t understand what was happening at first.
Because, you see, that’s how they do it now. The CIA can’t just do a covert action anymore. They have to create these “charitible” (in reality deceitful) NGOs and go in pretending like they’re nice or something while rounding up criminals and malcontents, training them, and arming them. It’s neoliberal colonialism. Think the Clinton Foundation in Haiti. Yeah. That kind of thing.
“Cash rules everything around me
Singin’ dollar dollar bill y’all (dollar, dollar bill y’all)”
Wyclef Jean, “Sweetest Girl,” 2007
Unless you look very hard, and let’s face it — most people in the US don’t bother, you won’t find out about some of the protesters being gang members holding siege to poor urban neighborhoods, setting up roadblocks, torturing people, and setting bodies on fire. You’re just going to hear that the paramilitary police are shooting innocent students and Ortega is a brutal dictator. That’s by design. Even Amnesty International is in on it.
So are the Washington Post, and the Guardian, surprise, surprise. They sent a reporter to Nicaragua who encouraged the government opposition groups and filmed the kidnapping and torture of an elderly man accused of being an Ortega sympathizer, which the “reporter” did not report. Recently he wound up getting detained and then deported from Nicaragua. Rumors spread that he was working on behalf of the CIA, and though there is no proof of this, he basically performed the same function a CIA officer would. As my friend on Twitter said, “Sometimes you can’t tell an asshole from an agent — and it doesn’t matter.”
Some of you reading this who aren’t from Nicaragua might wonder, what does this have to do with me? Why should I care?
Well, in 1996 Gary Webb did a series called Dark Alliance about how the CIA was at least partly responsible for the crack epidemic that destroyed inner cities of the US. His reporting on the drug led him to Nicaragua. Unfortunately, he died of two-bullet suicide. So don’t be surprised when your 12-year-old babysitting daughter stumbles upon some scary drugs that were brought into the country to fund a faraway war.
People of the US should know, also, that their tax dollars are being spent on invading tiny, poverty-stricken countries not for national defense, but to make some rich folks richer.
Also, I see a lot of whining in the US about the border situation. Republicans want a wall, and Democrats are worried about refugee children in cages. But hardly anybody is talking about the root cause of the problem — US government meddling in countries south of its border.
What’s happening in Nicaragua follows the color revolution model used by USAID & NED (CIA), the Open Society Institute (Soros), and other sneaky NGOs to destroy a country and set up a puppet government. The Ukraine is a famous example. They got the color orange. I don’t know what color Nicaragua gets. Maybe pink.
What color will your country get?
“There’s a mountaintop that I’m dreaming of
If you need me, you know where I’ll be
I’ll be riding shotgun underneath the hot sun
Feeling like a someone”
George Ezra, “Shotgun,” 2018