By Camilo Mejía
Nicaraguan-born anti-war organizer and Iraq war resister Camilo Mejía gave this talk Feb. 21 at the United National Antiwar Coalition meeting at The People’s Forum in New York. It has been slightly edited..
On Nov. 1, 2018, former National Security Adviser John Bolton gave a speech in Miami in which he first mentioned the “troika of tyranny,” referring to Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, stating that the three are causing a tremendous amount of human suffering.
So today I would like to speak to you as a Nicaraguan, a Sandinista and a proud citizen of the troika, because being a citizen of the troika means that my country is a main target of U.S. aggression — which means we must be doing something good.
And just like the axis of evil speech, back in 2002 when George W. Bush laid down what would become U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, this troika of tyranny speech also has basically laid down the foundations of U.S. aggression toward Latin America.
So I’d like to speak a little bit about the context that we’re in, but in simple terms, I believe that the time of U.S. hegemony has come to an end. What we are also seeing is a lot more serious than that because the neoliberal economic world order has also proven itself to be ineffective and to be causing tremendous amounts of suffering, human suffering, as opposed to the troika.
These neoliberal policies have caused gross inequality, environmental destruction, great poverty, disease, infant and maternal mortality, the destruction of countries’ infrastructure and the destruction of countries’ sovereignty.
Alongside that, what we have is a world of emerging world powers that are taking an approach that is very different and that is basically grounding its new relationships in collaboration and the rebuilding of infrastructure, the development of new, cleaner technologies. What we’re seeing really is that there is an alternative being created in the face of all this neoliberal suffering.
Yet, what we see is that the United States, rather than change its ways and right its many wrongs, continues to make the same mistakes and to try to impose its neoliberal policies all over the American continent and the world.
I don’t have to convince you that many of the disastrous impacts that we are seeing in Latin America and the rest of the world we are also seeing here. The neoliberal policies of privatization and austerity have caused the vast majority of people living in the United States great suffering, from gentrification to environmental injustice and destruction, to police and state brutality, to housing, health care and education crises. Neoliberalism, not the troika, is causing all this tremendous human and environmental suffering.
The situation abroad isn’t any less urgent. The massive uprisings that we’re seeing from Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to Paris, France, and throughout the rest of the world are in direct response to the impact of neoliberal policies and the impact that that’s having on the vast majority of humanity. Neoliberal policies translate to environmental destruction, morbid rates of mortality, hunger, disease and war, only to name a few.
So here we are this evening, and what more could we possibly ask for than to be able to participate in an anti-imperialist conference in the belly of the beast.
In this time of transition on a global scale, we are at the very epicenter of that transition — which means we have to be very aware of the circumstances and historical context in which we find ourselves, which present many dangers, but also many opportunities. In order to address those opportunities I’d like to, maybe just for a few minutes, go back to the troika, and I’ll speak more specifically about Nicaragua.
The dirty war against Nicaragua
Between the years of 1926 and 1933, the United States used a big portion of its military power, including war ships, artillery and thousands of well-armed U.S. Marines to capture and kill the last remaining rebel general in Nicaragua, Augusto Cesar Sandino. Gen. Sandino gave birth to the popular, anti-imperialist struggle for sovereignty and independence from the United States when he refused to accept terms of a truce that would have resulted in handing control of the country and its resources to the United States; he continued to fight a guerrilla war in which he and his men were at a gross disadvantage.
Yet thanks to their intimate knowledge of the terrain, popular support and the unbreakable resolve of his patriotic army, Gen. Sandino prevailed in 1933, and since then the Marines have never occupied Nicaraguan territory again.
However, the United States did not give up; they simply resorted to the use of lies and betrayal to obtain what Gen. Sandino had denied them for years in battle. They employed the services of a bourgeois liberal general named Anastasio Somoza to lure Gen. Sandino into a trap, and Somoza assassinated Gen. Sandino exactly 86 years ago today! But the legacy of Gen. Sandino inspired the struggle for liberation, of a revolutionary movement that not only eventually defeated what became the Somoza dynasty, which ruled Nicaragua for more than 40 years, but which also became one of the three governments collectively known today as the troika of tyranny! Of course I am talking about the Sandinista National Liberation Front, or FSLN, the colors of which I’m wearing around my neck tonight.
When the Sandinista National Liberation Front defeated the U.S.-supported dictatorship of the Somoza family in 1979, the United States did not wait long to launch a counteroffensive to retain control and began training and financing the mercenary Nicaraguan army, known as the contras.
But since the U.S. Congress had banned the funding of mercenary armies, the Reagan administration had to resort to creative ways to support the puppet army, including the sale of weapons to Iran during the Iran/Iraq war, a scandal that became known as the Iran-Contra Affair. That was the same war in which the U.S. armed the Iraqi army of Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons, which were later used against Kurds and the Iranian military and civilian population.
Another scheme to keep the war going saw the CIA facilitating the trafficking of crack cocaine into African-American neighborhoods in Los Angeles. This led not only to a health epidemic, but also a social one, as it created a violent drug-trafficking environment, causing alarming rates of addiction, mental health issues, unemployment, homelessness, to name a few. All the while the Reagan administration cut funding to social programs, including mental health services, housing, education and other basic needs.
When the FSLN lost the general election in 1990, a series of neoliberal governments immediately began to undermine all the achievements of the revolution, including the land reform, literacy campaign, victories in gender equality, health care, education programs, workers rights and much more. The country ceased to be a sovereign nation and became a cheap market for transnational companies to savagely exploit, with no regard for the country’s people or its natural environment.
A situation similar to the drug epidemic in LA ensued in Nicaragua, as most of our citizens lost the safety net that had been provided by the Sandinista government: Mortality rates once again skyrocketed, campesinos lost their land, illiteracy went through the roof, poor children became malnourished, massive unemployment led to higher crime rates and unsafe neighborhoods, and with the sale of the electric company, the country went into a 16-year period of literal darkness.
Despite that grim reality that befell Nicaragua for 16 years, the United States government [and] the U.S. corporate media never reported, much less complained, about the morbid existence of most Nicaraguans during that 16-year neoliberal period. There were no human rights organizations writing reports about the alarming rates of mortality, hunger, disease or anything else caused by privatization and austerity neoliberal policies.
The Organization of American States never expressed any interest in the country, despite blatant electoral fraud, overseen by the United States to prevent the Sandinistas from returning to power. It was as if the country no longer existed.
Sandinistas return, restore human rights
So today’s Sandinista government, in power for 12 years, has been able to cut poverty in half and extreme poverty by two-thirds, provide universal health care and education to all our citizens, rebuild our infrastructure, turn Nicaragua into one of the safest nations in Latin America, achieve 90 percent of food sovereignty, increase access to electric power from 54 percent to 92 percent, launch credit and lending programs to support hundreds of thousands of micro-, small- and medium-size businesses, and place the country in the top three nations in the world in terms of gender equality.
Nicaragua is not alone in these achievements. Under presidents Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, despite constant U.S. intervention in the form of sanctions, sabotage and regime change operations, Venezuela has launched a series of programs designed to promote the development of the South American nation, including housing programs that have built approximately 3 million homes for Venezuela’s poorest citizens, food distribution programs, education programs and much more.
In the case of Cuba, not only has their revolution survived over 60 years of economic, political, diplomatic and even military war from the United States, it has managed to achieve incredible victories in health care and education, not to mention medicine, climate resilience, the development of a sustainable economy and much more. Of the hundreds of millions of hungry children who roam the world homeless, not a single one of them lives in Cuba, as the revolutionary island, despite decades of U.S. aggression, has managed to completely eradicate homelessness.
This is the troika!
Build the anti-imperialist movement!
But I share all this with you, not only in the interest of my country and Venezuela or Cuba. I’m sharing this with you because I keep hearing people say that “The enemy of my enemy is not my friend” or “denouncing U.S. imperialism doesn’t mean that we have to support dictatorships.” Another common one is: “We must support grassroots movements standing up to totalitarian regimes, even if they once were progressive.”
So let me tell you something, the enemies of your enemy, namely the troika nations, as well as other nations who are being targeted by U.S. regime change policies and other forms of aggression, are not being targeted because they are dictatorships. They are being targeted because we represent an alternative to the prevailing, neoliberal world order. It’s the same world order that’s denying U.S. youth a bright future, that’s destroying our environment, that’s turned basic human necessities into products to be bought and sold in transnational markets.
We need to build a united, anti-imperialist, internationalist movement that is [able] to understand the historical moment in which we find ourselves — a movement that is capable of telling the difference between an economic model that serves the interests of the poor and not the interest of the rich and transnational corporations.
We need to understand how U.S.-funded nongovernmental organizations have seized control of the post-truth narrative of dictatorships and democracy, and how they have weaponized identity politics, human and civil rights, to create division among us and to redirect our solidarity efforts toward the rejection of governments and revolutionary movements that are fighting tooth and nail against the very same policies that are causing tremendous human suffering and environmental degradation in our communities, right here in the United States.
U.S. imperialism has many allies, very powerful allies, and they are not divided. They don’t waste time vilifying each other as they launch media smear campaigns that pave the way for regime change in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and everywhere else, where they are burning black and brown bodies and destroying progressive programs for the poor under the guise of pro-democracy movements.
The same people who flood U.S. streets with drugs and violence are supporting efforts to overthrow revolutionary governments. The same people who have facilitated the use of chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds and Iranian military and civilian populations and who are demolishing Palestinian homes are funding mercenary armies in places like Colombia and Nicaragua.
They are behind the narratives that keep us debating the merits and flaws of revolutionary governments fighting for self-determination, while they stand united in the destruction of our environment, our future and our ability to live life with dignity and to fight for what is decent and right.
So I am here as a proud citizen of the troika, a Nicaraguan, as someone who has been a Sandinista since before birth because both of my parents were insurgents in the fight against Somoza, and who will remain Sandinista until the very moment I draw my last breath.
I am not here to apologize for it; I’m not here to apologize for my government as we build this movement; I am not I here to request help for our struggle.
I am here to tell everyone that your struggle and mine are one and the same and that if we are to work together, as we should, we must build an anti-imperialist movement that is grounded in a strong understanding of regime change in the 21 century and that is capable to go beyond the corporate headline, to dig deeper, to reach across smear campaigns and see through the smokescreen of imperialism in order to see the values that unite our struggles and that can help us work together as we fight for a better world.