Dealing with Ortega


For the Bush administration, it wasn’t just the U.S. elections that brought bad news last week. Citizens of Nicaragua voted Nov. 5 to return former leftist President Daniel Ortega to power.

In what seems like a case of Cold War blues, U.S. officials had unsuccessfully attempted to sway the elections in favor of Mr. Ortega’s opponents. The meddling backfired, however.

Nicaragua, a country ravaged by decades of dictatorship and civil war, is second only to Haiti as the poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean. With almost 80% of its population living in poverty, it is hardly a threat to American security interests. And yet right-wing pundits, engaging in outdated and unfounded predictions of democratic regression, went to great lengths to prevent a victory by Mr. Ortega’s Sandinista Party.

Mr. Ortega was a leader of the revolutionary movement against the prolonged and brutal Somoza dictatorship, and he ruled Nicaragua in the midst of a war against the U.S.-backed contra rebels. Since losing the elections in 1990, he has been the target of accusations-from corruption and abuse of power as a member of Nicaragua’s legislative assembly, to sexual abuse by his stepdaughter. But Nicaraguan voters were willing to give Mr. Ortega another chance.

While the Bush administration has managed to keep surprisingly quiet in this year’s dozen or so other Latin American elections, U.S. officials, including Ambassador to Nicaragua Paul Trivelli and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, made public threats of reprisals if Nicaraguans voted for Mr. Ortega.

As election day drew near and Mr. Ortega remained the favorite in the polls, Republican members of Congress stepped up the pressure by threatening to cut off aid and block the millions in remittances that immigrants living in the United States send to their poor families in Nicaragua every year.

Nicaraguans are all too familiar with U.S. economic embargoes and military bullying. They experienced both during the 1980s, the last time the Sandinistas were in the presidency. This time around, voters didn’t budge.

With Mr. Ortega in power, Nicaragua joins the ranks of countries in Latin America whose voters are using the power of democracy to show political leaders their discontent with their governments’ corporate-friendly, free-trade policies.

Latin Americans from Bolivia to Argentina are electing politicians who have been critical of free-market reforms and are promising more socially focused government programs that help the poor.

The Bush administration should take the Nicaraguan election as an opportunity to rethink its policies toward Latin America.

NADIA MARTINEZ was born and raised in Panama. She is co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.


Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxembourg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving
Joseph Grosso
The Enduring Tragedy: Guatemala’s Bloody Farce