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Nicaragua and the ‘Axis of Good’

Published Apr 20, 2005 3:48 PM

The Bush administration and its pundits have launched a full-court press in the media as part of a campaign to destabilize the upcoming presidential election in Nicaragua.

On a visit to Latin America in March, Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld announced the suspension of all U.S. military assistance to Nicaragua—about $2.3 million—for its failure to destroy its arsenal of SA-7 missiles. As long as the government in Managua was on Washington’s leash, this didn’t bother them. But now Rumsfeld is said to be worried that the Sandinistas may win the upcoming election, and they still have deep roots in the Nicaraguan Army.

The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) led a popular army in a guerrilla struggle that overturned U.S.-backed dictator Gen. Anastasio Somoza Garcia on July 19, 1978. In response, the Reagan administration set up, funded and armed a group of counter-revolutionaries—who came to be known as “Contras,” for short—to carry out a dirty war against the revolutionary process.

The Soviet-made SA-7 shoulder-to-air missiles that the U.S. now wants destroyed are part of the military aid the socialist USSR had sent to help the Sandinista-led movement defend itself against U.S.-armed terror.

As the CIA-orchestrated Contra war ground down the population, Washington also spent money hand over fist to manipulate an election to get the Sandinistas out and a U.S.-financed puppet in. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter traveled to Nicaragua in 1990, ostensibly to observe the voting. But on the eve of the election he appeared on the front page of the daily newspaper with Violeta Chamorro—the opposition candidate and owner of the newspaper. Their hands were clasped together, raised in a salute to her anticipated victory.

Now Washington and Wall Street are orchestrating another media campaign and manipulation of Nicaragua’s elections aimed against the Sandinistas, who reportedly still have many supporters in the barrios and in the army.

Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega has opened up his fourth campaign for the presidency of Nicaragua. Ginger Thom pson wrote in the April 5 New York Times, “Particularly among Nicaragua’s desperately poor masses, Ortega, now 59, has remained popular, and he has been able to call on his support to make the country ungovernable.”

Thompson added in another article on April 10 that it has been more than two decades since the struggle in Nicaragua “kept Washington awake at night.” But, she added, “In recent months, new fears, but the same old politics, have revived that tossing and turning.”

Specter of struggle

A specter is haunting Washington.

“What is happening in our neighborhood?” howls neo-con Otto Reich, U.S. assistance secretary of state for the West ern Hemisphere. This right-wing Cuban exile and longtime Republican dirty-tricks operator added that “a leftist-populist alliance is engulfing most of South Amer ica. Some Andean and Central American countries are sliding back from economic reform.”

The U.S. government is preparing to confront what it will call a threat of terrorism in Latin America with economic, military and political might. Reich says blatantly, “The first task of the U.S., and whatever coalition of the willing it can muster in the region, is to confront the dangerous alliance posed by Cuba and Venezuela.”

In an article called “Defeating the Cuba-Venezuela Axis” in the April edition of the right-wing National Review, Reich asserts “Pro-democracy, anti-radical civil society is under violent threat—violence is the favorite tool of the radicals—and thus needs the moral, political, and material support of the free nations of the world.”

Violence is the favorite tool of the radicals? One media analyst calls the media campaign and the Bush administration “irony-impaired.”(FAIR, April 6)

Resistance to U.S. military and economic repression is burgeoning in Latin America. Sounding the tocsin for U.S. intervention in Latin America, Reich’s warning that some countries are “sliding back from economic reform” is an admission that U.S. imperialist trade demands, like the new Central American Free Trade Agreement due to be completed in May, are facing serious challenges.

Guatemalans mounted major demonstrations in March against CAFTA and the resumption of U.S. aid to the Guatemalan military. The Guatemalan government responded with violence and a new round of disappearances.

In response to the proposed free trade agreement that presaged CAFTA, the Sandinistas warned that such agreements would cause bankruptcies in Nicaragua and allow “poverty and unemployment to increase.” (Prensa Latina, March 30)

Nicaragua since 1990 has been a prime example of the aggressive economic programs that have privatized land and resources, deepened the misery of the poor and cut social services to the majority of the population.

Throughout the region the devastating free trade neoliberal reforms have “vastly increased the numbers of the poor and ‘extremely poor,’ and widened the gulf separating rich and poor in Latin America and the Caribbean.” The number of poor in this vast region has been estimated at between 130 and 196 million people. (Atilio Borón, “Democracy or Neolib eralism,” Boston Review)

At the same time, Cuba and Venezuela are providing a beacon by continuing to focus on improving conditions for the mas ses while withstanding U.S. aggression.

The threat of what Venezuelan Pre si dent Hugo Chávez has called the “Axis of Good” has Washington worried.