Dan Burton in Nicaragua

Here we go again. It’s presidential election time in Nicaragua, which means that U.S. officials once again parade about making threats to Nicaraguan voters. As the country enters the final month before its November 5th elections, Congressman Dan Burton, Chair of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House´s Committee on International Relations, threatened in a press conference that if Nicaraguans elect former president Daniel Ortega, the U.S. could be forced to cut $175 million in aid through the Millenium Challenge Account and prohibit Nicaragua´s participation in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Burton also claimed that Ortega´s promise for the state to take over remittance services would result in families earning “much, much less money”–a grave threat for the many families that depend on remittances.

Burton´s press conference follows a clear pattern of several U.S. officials who have used veiled threats to steer Nicaraguans away from voting for Ortega, fifth-time presidential candidate. This meddling reached an extreme in Ambassador Paul Trivelli´s suggestion to fund primaries among the parties that oppose Ortega in April. In early September, Trivelli claimed that funds from the Millenium Challenge Account could be put in danger if Ortega were to be elected.

U.S. officials are upping the ante in response to various polls that have placed Ortega in first place, ahead of runner-up Eduardo Montealegre, banker and U.S.-favored candidate. The opposition to Ortega, which in recent years united behind an electoral alliance in order to win the elections, is uncharacteristically divided.

The fear tactics that Burton used were an obvious attempt to sway voters away from voting for Ortega. Stating that “a return to the pastwould put Nicaragua´s excellent relationship with the United States at risk”, Burton reminded Nicaraguans of the war-torn decade of the 1980s, in which the US funded a counterrevolutionary force to challenge the National Sandinista Liberation Front (FSLN) government, a revolutionary group that attempted a mixed-economy government. Ortega was president of the country for the FSLN from 1984 to 1990.

Burton declared matter-of-factly, “During the 1980s, under the government of Daniel Ortega, the inflation reached 33,000%It was a very difficult time because thousands of Nicaraguans lost their livesit´s important that the people know what can happen if the government returns to the kind of government there was in the 1980s.” By referencing this past, Burton is not only creating fear of Ortega, but also blatantly attempting to create fear of U.S. intervention in the case of an Ortega victory. Nicaraguans lost their lives and suffered run-away inflation not only due to Daniel Ortega’s policy decisions, but also because the United States funded an opposition force that created a civil war and imposed an economic blockade that crippled the Nicaraguan economy, contributing to the inflation. For a country whose war wounds are still not completely healed, the threat behind the reminder of the aggression that killed tens of thousands of Nicaraguans will surely be resounding.

Burton similarly threatened Nicaraguans with the loss of remittances, thus taking advantage of Nicaraguans’ economic desperation to bribe them into voting against Ortega. Referring to a campaign promise by Ortega to “make sure that Nicaraguans get 100% of their remittances” (usually private companies such as Western Union take out a healthy commission, hovering around 20%), Burton stated that a state-run remittance program would result in “families receiving much, much less money and a significantly reduced quality of life”. Remittances are the primary source of income for many families and for the country itself, equalling 16.9% of the country’s GDP in 2005 and 99% of the total value of the country’s exports.

Unfortunately, the most obvious casualty of these actions is Nicaragua’s sovereignty. The day after Burton’s comments, the Organization of American States issued a statement which declared, “The Electoral Observation Mission of the OAS in Nicaragua regrets that authorities and representatives from other nations intervene in an active way in the Nicaraguan electoral debatethe function of the international community is to cooperate with the Nicaraguan institutions and organizations so that the will of the people can be expressed in free, clean, and transparent elections.”

The United States has historically intervened in Nicaragua´s politics to ensure that Nicaraguan presidents do not go too far in challenging the United States´ economic dominance in the country. The U.S. cannot claim to support democracy around the world while it simultaneously undermines the democratic processes in sovereign nations such as Nicaragua. Nicaraguans, and only Nicaraguans, should decide who their next president should be.

BRYNNE KEITH-JENNINGS works with Witness for Peace Nicaragua.



More articles by:
February 24, 2020
Stephen Corry
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
M. K. Bhadrakumar
How India’s Modi is Playing on Trump’s Ego to His Advantage
Jennifer Matsui
Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie
Robert Fisk
There’s Little Chance for Change in Lebanon, Except for More Suffering
Rob Wallace
Connecting the Coronavirus to Agriculture
Bill Spence
Burning the Future: the Growing Anger of Young Australians
Eleanor Eagan
As the Primary Race Heats Up, Candidates Forget Principled Campaign Finance Stands
Binoy Kampmark
The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden
George Wuerthner
Trojan Horse Timber Sales on the Bitterroot
Rick Meis
Public Lands “Collaboration” is Lousy Management
David Swanson
Bloomberg Has Spent Enough to Give a Nickel to Every Person Whose Life He’s Ever Damaged
Peter Cohen
What Tomorrow May Bring: Politics of the People
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon?
Weekend Edition
February 21, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Election Con 2020: Exposing Trump’s Deception on the Opioid Epidemic
Joshua Frank
Bloomberg is a Climate Change Con Man
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Billion Dollar Babies
Paul Street
More Real-Time Reflections from Your Friendly South Loop Marxist
Jonathan Latham
Extensive Chemical Safety Fraud Uncovered at German Testing Laboratory
Ramzy Baroud
‘The Donald Trump I know’: Abbas’ UN Speech and the Breakdown of Palestinian Politics
Martha Rosenberg
A Trump Sentence Commutation Attorneys Generals Liked
Ted Rall
Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label
Louis Proyect
Encountering Malcolm X
Kathleen Wallace
The Debate Question That Really Mattered
Jonathan Cook
UN List of Firms Aiding Israel’s Settlements was Dead on Arrival
George Wuerthner
‘Extremists,’ Not Collaborators, Have Kept Wilderness Whole
Colin Todhunter
Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis  
Stephen Reyna
A Paradoxical Colonel: He Doesn’t Know What He is Talking About, Because He Knows What He is Talking About.
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A New Solar Power Deal From California
Richard Moser
One Winning Way to Build the Peace Movement and One Losing Way
Laiken Jordahl
Trump’s Wall is Destroying the Environment We Worked to Protect
Walden Bello
Duterte Does the Right Thing for a Change
Jefferson Morley
On JFK, Tulsi Gabbard Keeps Very Respectable Company
Vijay Prashad
Standing Up for Left Literature: In India, It Can Cost You Your Life
Gary Leupp
Bloomberg Versus Bernie: The Upcoming Battle?
Ron Jacobs
The Young Lords: Luchadores Para La Gente
Richard Klin
Loss Leaders
Gaither Stewart
Roma: How Romans Differ From Europeans
Kerron Ó Luain
The Soviet Century
Mike Garrity
We Can Fireproof Homes But Not Forests
Fred Baumgarten
Gaslighting Bernie and His Supporters
Joseph Essertier
Our First Amendment or Our Empire, But Not Both
Peter Linebaugh
A Story for the Anthropocene
Danny Sjursen
Where Have You Gone Smedley Butler?
Jill Richardson
A Broken Promise to Teachers and Nonprofit Workers
Binoy Kampmark
“Leave Our Bloke Alone”: A Little Mission for Julian Assange