Dealing with Ortega

by NADIA MARTINEZ

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 And yet right-wing pundits, engaging in outdated and unfounded predictions of democratic regression, went to great lengths to prevent a victory by Mr.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.




 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Police Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by London Cops
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
David Yearsley
A Rising Star Over a Dark Forest
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman