On the fight down to Nicaragua a few days ago to be one of 225 international official election accompaniers from 27 countries, the expat Nicaraguan woman sitting next to me was hostile to the current Sandinista government. She said there will be an election but no vote, because only one person is on the ballot. At the polling station in the colonial city of Leon this election morning, November 7, candidates from six political parties standing for president were in fact on the ballot: PLC, FSLN, CCN, ALN, APRE, and PLI.
Some of these parties included elements that tried in 2018 to violently overthrow the Nicaraguan government in a US-instigated regime change endeavor. All the perpetrators had been granted amnesty, despite such heinous acts as rape, torture, and even burning people alive, not to mention destruction of billions of dollars worth of public property.
To prevent a reoccurrence of the violence around today’s election, the government had arrested certain individuals who had violated the amnesty by continuing to promote the violent overthrow of the government and/or to serve as unregistered agents of foreign states (namely the US) engaged in regime change activities; actions, it should be noted, which are illegal in the US.
Yet the US government and its allied corporate press are using these legal arrests to discredit and undermine the Nicaraguan election. According to imperial logic, any election (e.g., Venezuela), where someone not beholding to the US is elected, is illegitimate and the democratic winner is a dictator.
None of the arrested individuals in Nicaragua, who are mostly connected with non-governmental associations (NGOs), were associated with the established opposition political parties. Yet the US government incredulously calls seven of them “pre-candidates,” a made-up electoral category. Not one of them was remotely a “rival” political candidate. In any case, the ruling Sandinistas were polling 60-75% pre-election approval rates, while the opposition was in disarray.
When buying an election through lavish funding of NGOs fails, when even a coup attempt as in 2018 fails, and when it is no longer politically acceptable to send in the Marines as the US did in previous times, Uncle Sam is relegated to carping about the election process.
In contrast to the US political class’s gnashing of teeth over the arrests, there were no demonstrations in support of those arrested here in Nicaragua. The response of the head of a rural women’s cooperative was typical. She felt safer that they are locked up so that they won’t repeat the violence of 2018.
This morning an Indigenous election worker at a polling station, Alfredo Jose Rodriquez Sanchez, summed what we overwhelming heard: “These elections are a call to peace, harmony, and reconciliation.” A religious man, he said that he went to church to get divine guidance on how to vote to promote tranquility and calm. He added that despite the regime change violence of 2018, “we are all one people.”
Clarisa Cardenez, a voter, commented to us election accompaniers: “I am very happy because this is a civic festival for Nicaraguans.” Like so many other Nicaraguan citizens who spoke with us today, she expressed her appreciation for us accompanying their election to see “our peace and calm.”
Outside one of the polling stations, we met Yacer Hermiday and Clender Lopez. Their Facebook account, La Consigna, along with their accounts on Instagram and Twitter, were among the over 1000 such pro-Sandinista social media accounts that had gotten shut down in the run-up to the election. The two young men had been using social media to show the good things happening in Nicaragua, since the end of the 2018 violence, only to be censored by Silicon Valley for reporting positively about the Sandinista government, headed by President Daniel Ortega.
They laughed when I asked if they were being paid to post positive images of the Nicaraguan government’s programs or were associated with the government. Shaking their heads “no,” they explained that a small group of friends were just trying to show “what is going on in Nicaragua and how our government is doing so much for our people.” They concluded: “We were shut down for telling the truth.”
The last person to engage us, on leaving the polling station, was a 26-year-old man. Voting for the second time in his life, he said: “It is a great privilege to vote; elections are an expression of Nicaragua’s sovereignty.”
In contrast, just days before today’s election, the US passed the RENACER Act. Imposing additional new illegal sanctions on Nicaragua, the act explicitly interferes in the Nicaraguan election in order to punish the people of this small and poor Central American country for exercising their independence from the colossus to the north.