Sandinismo in Nicaragua comes to its forced end Ruthless Criticism

Translated from GegenStandpunkt 2-19

Sandinismo in Nicaragua comes to its forced end

The current US policy aim of terminating the Maduro regime in Venezuela has been tied by Trump’s security adviser Bolton to the warning that, with regards to spreading freedom in Latin America once and for all, the US needs to take action beyond Venezuela: Caracas, after all, is home to only one representative of the “troika of tyranny in this hemisphere – Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.” While the status and future prospects of the US-backed uprising against Maduro has received almost daily media coverage, in the case of Nicaragua there’s mostly been reminders that there too a settling of scores with an overdue dictator is pending. However, this does not mean that US power isn’t busy there. In the shadow of the Venezuelan affair, which dragged on for a while, progress was definitely being made by the US in line with its self-imposed mandate in relation to Nicaragua, attracting public attention for the first time in the spring of 2018.

Unrest in Nicaragua

“Almost unnoticed by the public, an internal conflict is continuing in Nicaragua that will cause more and more death and severe suffering for the population if a solution is not found soon. More or less out of the blue, there were nationwide protests in the otherwise quiet Central American country in mid-April when President Daniel Ortega wanted to cut pensions and increase contributions by law. Soon the demonstrators turned against Ortega himself and demanded his resignation. The pension issue was the catalyst that brought to the surface the long-standing dissatisfaction with the authoritarian ruling family and their nepotism.

The former guerrilla leader reacted with brutality. Meanwhile, according to figures from the independent Human Rights Association, three hundred opponents of the regime have been killed by the police and paramilitary forces, especially during the protests. Arbitrary arrests, torture, censorship and violent attacks on the press are the order of the day. The insurgents, on the other hand, have set up roadblocks throughout the country which is interrupting transport routes. A calming down of the situation is not foreseeable, in the last three weeks the number of deaths has even increased dramatically.” (NZZ, June 5, 2018)

The main public interest in this uprising in Central America’s second poorest country (after Haiti) focuses on the fact that the bloody protests there are against a “former guerrilla leader” who once set out to fight poverty and oppression in Nicaragua. He is given credit for some positive successes in recent years – at least in terms of economic growth, stability, and a low crime rate, he has had some results that stand up well for the region. Of course, critical reference is always made to the “authoritarian machinations” of the Ortega clan who are solely responsible for Ortega’s second presidency, which is now more than ten years old, as well as to the abuse of power that has privately enriched the family. This is said to have been the breeding ground for the “long simmering discontent” that boiled over into protests. This still leaves some questions unanswered, though: Who was discontent and why? After all, Ortega and his Sandinistas had clearly won all the elections in the country through the end of 2017. So what about the “clear skies” from which the unrest erupted so surprisingly?

The prehistory: The struggle against Somoza and the first Sandinista regime

In 1979 the Sandinistas [1] and their supporters won the civil war against the reign of the Somozas and drove Anastasio Somoza Jr. to Florida. Prior to this, the forty year rule of the Somoza dynasty, which was installed by the USA after withdrawing its troops from the country in 1936, reached the point where they owned forty percent of the country’s agricultural land, almost half the only source of wealth in this country which survives on the sale of agricultural raw materials such as bananas, coffee, or cotton, as well as a majority of the relevant shares in the nation’s companies [2]. Whatever the country once had to offer in terms of capitalistically exploitable natural resources – gold and silver mines and primeval forests covered with precious woods – had already been successfully exhausted and deforested by US companies in the 1960s. The Somozas controlled the poverty of the majority of the people surrounding the stately private estates of the Somoza clan with the ruthless use of state violence. With such lopsided cultivation of family properties, they antagonized not only the oppressed people and their political advocates, but ultimately most of the national business community and other social institutions, including the Catholic Church.

A national united front led by the Sandinistas was formed against the violently enforced equation of the Nicaraguan nation with the private benefit of the Somoza family. They reached agreement on their goal of ending the sole beneficiary status of the family clique which was ruling the country with brutal state violence, in order to put their respective interests lawfully into practice in the future; there was also more or less of a consensus that this could only be achieved by violently overthrowing Somoza, i.e. by an unauthorized change in the order that had been established in the country by the USA.

After their supporters won the battle against Somoza’s National Guard, the Sandinistas seized power in the country for the first time and formed a government alliance with the parties in the bourgeois camp to proclaim a “Program of National Reconstruction” with them. Materially, they saw themselves in a position to do this because, as the new government, they now had the Somozas’ extensive private legacy at their disposal – to the extent that they had not been able to take their wealth with them into exile in Florida. They used their former properties to establish the new “social bond” to which they and their government partners had committed themselves in their provisional constitution, which earned them international applause, especially from European social democrats and leftists. The Sandinistas in principle respected the continued validity of the private property system in the country and recognized the international debts that Nicaragua had accumulated under Somoza. At the same time, however, they implemented their new understanding of the state’s guarantee and maintenance of property – which they saw as finally fair – by nationalizing former Somoza operations, by unlocking their former estates to build and support the subsistence of impoverished campesinos, and by developing a national education and health care system, which was accomplished largely with Cuba’s help. The anti-Somoza combatants aspired to the social democratic ideal of a national unity between all parts of the people and a leadership committed to them, which would reduce the misery in the country and thus be able to pacify it socially and politically. After Somoza’s ouster, this became a hopeful attempt at reconciling the social conflicts that existed in the country by building a progressive and civilized nation, and thus promoting Nicaragua’s development by means of a united exercise of power by people-friendly insurgents and political representatives of a capitalist business world interested in social peace and national advancement. However, this did not mean that the conflicts in the country vanished, and they continued to make themselves felt in a tangible way: the impoverished people tried to take advantage of the supposedly revolutionary hour to improve their bleak situation after the end of the Somoza dictatorship through strikes and land occupations – and in response felt the force of the new unity government which used strike bans to protect the growth of domestic business and tried to violently stop any land seizures that were carried out beyond Somoza’s old holdings, for the benefit of the remaining large landowners.

Yet even this commitment on the part of the Sandinistas to using state power to preserve the rights and accumulation claims of capitalist private property did not satisfy the demands of the nation’s business community and its political advocates. In the end, the latter found their socially-conscious government partners to be unsuitable advocates of their interests, accusing them of a maddening relativization of their demands that came down to the respect showed by the Sandinistas for the poor parts of the population. And even decisive elements of the Nicaraguan national church – despite all the state’s successful public welfare in terms of education and health – terminated their participation in the government, not least because they were disturbed by the atheism of the leftist representatives of the government who did not want to give them sole purview over the people’s moral orientation and indoctrination. Hence this all-party coalition for Nicaragua, installed by the victorious Sandinistas, collapsed after about a year because of conflicts that had temporarily been put on hold solely for the united fight against Somoza: The parties of the business community and the church left the government, which until then had been jointly led, in order to vigorously oppose it from then on.

This first Sandinista attempt at a united national reconstruction project was made untenable and brought to its final end only with the help of American violence. For the USA, the successful Sandinista uprising in Nicaragua stood for a disrespect of its unconditional right to create a sovereignty suitable to itself in this region over which it claims exclusive supervision. Therefore, from the very beginning, it engaged in a revision of the revolution, punishing Nicaragua’s insubordination with financial pressure in the form of a withholding of Nicaragua’s credit supply, which then increasingly spread to international financial institutions. [3]

Soon, by the early 1980s, the ruling Sandinistas found themselves not only being exposed to financial pressure from the West, but embroiled in another war with a paramilitary army of “freedom fighters” initiated by Carter and then decisively upgraded by Reagan: “the contras.” The US thus forced the Sandinistas into a battle for their own existence that lasted several years and devastated vast areas, in addition to the military costs that financially ruined the country and caused inflation to rise 3000%. This struggle, which was vigorously pursued by the US, ended in 1990 with a democratic election: the FSNL sought to have its support confirmed by the population, which had been worn down by the consequences of the war and the US embargo, against the anti-Sandinista electoral alliance UNO (Unión Nacional Opositora) – but it no longer had it, so it lost the election and stepped down peacefully, i.e. the democratically correct way.

The Sandinistas as junior partners in government

At least in part: Even after losing the election, the Sandinista military still retained power in the country, so for the newly elected president, Violeta Chamorro, whose top priority was a radical restructuring of the national budget, political stability could only be enforced by including her political opponents in the country’s new government. For their part, they were faced with the difficult alternative of either continuing the ruinous power struggle for national rule or forming a democratic opposition that renounced its remaining means of power – or finally participating in a government program for a new national reconstruction, but this time under reverse auspices: the intention of the victorious UNO was to put the war-ravaged nation back on its feet at the expense of the people – as usual. The Sandinistas under Daniel Ortega continued to see themselves as responsible for the nation, despite or precisely because of the lost election, so they accepted the standpoint of the election winners that their people-friendly ambitions were incompatible with the current condition of the state, and took Chamorro’s offer to participate in the government, which appointed Humberto Ortega, among others, as the new defense minister. They acted as opportunists of their political possibilities, downgrading their previous political goals to a distant perspective – which, to the extent that the Sandinista power apparatus willingly allowed itself to be functionalized for the rule of its former opponents, is what they became. So the Sandinistas, with their unbroken sense of national responsibility, laid the foundations for continuing their participation in the country’s political administration by giving up their political program. Violeta Chamorro took advantage of the calculated offer to her political opponents and scrapped the Sandinista’s program to Western applause:

“The new government, in which the FSLN held many important posts, adopted a comprehensive stabilization and austerity program: a capitalist private economy was introduced, the currency was devalued, prices for basic foodstuffs rose, the army was drastically reduced, the state apparatus was downsized, social institutions such as kindergartens were closed, health care was privatized, school fees were levied, agrarian reform and nationalization in the economic sector were reversed. Foreign debt, unemployment, illiteracy rates, as well as infant mortality, increased and life expectancy decreased.” (Deutsch Wikipedia, Geschichte Nicaraguas)

“In 1995, a multi-year agreement was reached with the IMF and the World Bank that included further layoffs in the civil service, increases in taxes and fees, reduction of agricultural loans, privatization of banks and companies such as the post office, telephone company, water and energy institutes, continued reduction of social spending and liberalization of the entire economy.” (Wikipedia, Nicaragua)

The Sandinista government’s entire “socialist misconduct,” from the point of view of the domestic and foreign business communities that made money in Nicaragua with its bananas, coffee, or cotton, etc., would thus be corrected and the country restored to the status of a capitalist raw materials supplier and pacified poorhouse, administered by a government without false ambitions and pacified by the participation of the old political opponents in the government. Nicaragua would then be recognized and cared for by the international authorities who were responsible for restoring it to its rightful place in the Western hierarchy of states:

“In early 2004, Nicaragua was granted comprehensive cancellation of its foreign debt totaling $4.5 billion (about 75% of its foreign debt) by the IMF and World Bank under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. This was preceded since 1999 by economic structural adjustment programs and, in parallel, the development of a Nicaraguan strategy to alleviate poverty. As a result, the share of debt service in government income was reduced from 20 % to 9 % in the long term.” (, 2012)

The sweepingly revised people-friendly ambitions of the new government during its “structural adjustment programs” did not even repay the old loans that the Sandinistas had taken out because there was never enough domestic business to finance their concerns. The fact that nothing would change in this regard in a country like Nicaragua was taken into account in the granted debt relief, which provided a new basis for the finance capital business with the government borrowing requirements of a country of such limited means; and alongside this, the maintenance of its thereby duly restored status as a “poor country,” in which the permanent poverty of the people is assumed like a fact of nature, was pursued by the “strategies to alleviate poverty” pertinent to a people useless for business.

Yet even this state of affairs in Nicaragua, which had completely rehabilitated itself according to the applicable capitalist standards, did not enjoy undivided foreign recognition, especially not from the decisive party: The USA considered anti-Americanism to be far from extinct there because of the continued existence of the former revolutionaries of the FSLN and their leader Daniel Ortega who had waged an unauthorized rebellion against the former governor of its interests in the country – and who as co-rulers and as an electoral party were trying to get the people to put them back in power in successive elections, something that failed for quite some time, however, thanks to the energetic interventions of the USA. [4]

The reformed Sandinistas regain power

Yet in 2006 Ortega finally won the elections and subsequently claimed his newly won presidency despite all the challenges and accusations of electoral fraud by the US. However, he kept his previously made campaign promise: his program no longer included a revival of his socially ambitious policies which wanted the state to impose better living conditions on Nicaraguan capitalism for its people and therefore restricted some freedoms for the capitalist enterprises and the large land-owning estates. He no longer saw any promise in a national development that went against the decisive interests of the domestic or international (essentially US) business communities, in fact quite the opposite: having the state serve them was now supposed to form the basis of the purified Sandinista government policy. Business should feel at home in the country and the nation should advance with the help of foreign investment:

“After perennial strife with the business community, the church and the United States during his first term, Ortega has reinvented himself as a conservative Catholic who promises stability to his former opponents. Although his anti-imperialist rhetoric and voting record at the UN are strongly reminiscent of Venezuela and Cuba, he has been pleasantly pragmatic on migration and drug trafficking in the eyes of the United States. To appease the church, he has introduced one of the world’s strictest bans on abortion. He has also won over business leaders with orthodox economic policies. He has even enshrined a ‘permanent, consensus-oriented dialogue’ between the state and the private sector in the constitution. In this way, he provides business with reliable economic conditions and influence over economic policy in exchange for its promise to stay out of politics.” (The Economist, April 28, 2018)

That’s what serving the country right now looked like to a Sandinista government that had learned its own lessons from the past: It knew what is important for its previously powerful enemies at home and abroad – and agreed with them! In the guise of a conservative Catholic, Ortega demonstrated his support for the abortion laws of the Catholic Church; complied with the demands of the international order under US supervision in the region by paying attention to the containment of migration and drug trafficking in the country; and last but not least, had professed the principles of an “orthodox economic policy” in governing, thus promising in principle to not only refrain from disturbing any of the business activities of his domestic or foreign entrepreneurs, but to make their concerns the general guideline of his government decisions.

In retrospect, the Western media now wants to see the changes made to the old state program of the ruling Sandinistas as cimply a calculating method for the Ortega clique’s alleged sole aim, namely, the retention of their own power:

“The violent state response to the current unrest has destroyed the alliance Ortega formed with the business community after he, who led a leftist Sandinista revolution against a brutal dictatorship in the 1970s, returned to power following the 2006 election. Business leaders have given him a free hand in politics - which he has used to bring independent institutions under his wing, undermine the opposition and rig subsequent elections. Ortega has returned the favor with pro-business policies.” (The Economist, April 28, 2018)

But this was precisely the renewed purpose of the government under Ortega: As a nationally responsible statesman, he no longer wanted to have a falling out with his “business leaders” and provoke their hostility, but rather to enjoy their active support with his “business-friendly policies” – in anticipation of a more successful future for his country, which has always suffered from its economic distress, and all of this not only in the service of economic progress, but of course also to strengthen the nation’s sovereignty. Ever since, the national business community had good reason to abstain from politically opposing a government in which it was involved with its decision-making in a constitutionally guaranteed permanent dialogue, and at this time suspended its power struggle against the Sandinistas. This stable alliance between capitalist business and old revolutionaries prevailed and worked out in the country until the current unrest, leading to the result desired by both sides: business in Nicaragua was successfully integrated into international trade in the region, was promoted by the relevant international financial institutions, and grew at rates that were unusually high for a Central American country. [5]

However, even such good economic data did not end the political reservations of the US about this Nicaraguan government – if only because of its past insubordination. Washington easily detected in the Nicaraguan leadership’s insistence on its political autonomy vis-à-vis the USA, which the superpower forced on it with its own hostilities, a persistent rejection of its demand for subordination to its hegemony. For this reason, Washington renewed its hostilities and substantially accentuated it by building up and supporting an opposition to Ortega. [6] The decrees and laws with which Ortega tried to defend his power against the relevant parties and institutions then proved, as if by themselves, the legitimacy of mistrust in his leadership, and the regime was gradually deprived of Western support at the insistence of the USA. This mistrust was further fueled by the fact that the Sandinista government, even against the objections of the US, took aid from the wrong sides to secure its national existence. The country needed it. Ortega’s successful reconciliation program with his national business community and the investment offers made by international businessmen did not eliminate the fundamental contradiction between the state’s economically capitalist foundation and the survival conditions of its people. Only Venezuela’s support spared Ortega from the scandal of asking how far the capitalist role of this type of raw materials exporting country, its participation, however lively, in a world market business which has no capitalistically productive need or use for its people, thus does not maintain them, is at all compatible with the survival of the people: the devastating social consequence of such economic success, the continuing impoverishment of the majority of the people, was thereby at least suspended in Nicaragua.

The Sandinistas’ next offense: Allies and sponsors unacceptable to the U.S.

“As Nicaragua’s institutions have deteriorated, Western governments have cut back on development aid. But instead of backing down, Ortega has sought support from Venezuela’s equally autocratic Hugo Chávez. Between 2008 and 2015, Nicaragua bought $4.5 billion worth of Venezuelan oil at preferential prices.” (The Economist, April 28, 2018)

Like a good dowry, Ortega brought his friendly political relations with Hugo Chávez, who was interested in promoting a stable anti-American alliance of states in Latin America, into the government he led since 2006. Venezuela’s cheap oil supplies opened for Nicaragua’s national budget – in addition to compensating for the extortionate cancellation of loans from Western sources – the freedom to renew the financing of social services. The nation’s budgetary funds were always insufficient for these because, firstly, the earnings from the protected capitalist business in the country did not yield enough for the national budget and, secondly, the state’s policy was itself programmatically responsible for this, since it did not want to burden business with costs that are detrimental to its profits:

“It all began with the so-called Petrocaribe program, which Nicaragua joined shortly after Ortega's return to power. In this program, Venezuela supplies its socialist allies in the region with oil on preferential terms. In Nicaragua's case, the cooperation is between the state-owned oil company PdVSA and its Nicaraguan counterpart, the state-owned Empresa nicaragüense de Petróleo S.A. (Petronic). In the Petrocaribe program, buyers pay only half of the oil they receive directly; the rest is repaid over a 25-year period, with interest at just two percent. To handle the transactions, the Albanisa joint venture was created in 2007, with PdVSA holding a 51 percent stake and Petronic 49 percent...

Albanisa gave Ortega the opportunity to maintain investment in his country, boost growth and avoid growing pressure from abroad because of the government's increasingly authoritarian style. Albanisa flushed more than $500 million a year into the state coffers during the good times. 40 percent went to social programs that earned Ortega popularity.” (, 8/16/18)

Hugo Chávez thus spared his Nicaraguan comrades “in the good times” from admitting that the growing capitalist business on which Ortega’s new policy was based was fundamentally incompatible with any plan to free the people from their poverty. Ortega avoided the practical refutation of his social idealism by having the internationally disreputable Venezuelan ally finance a Nicaraguan welfare state. The resulting containment of domestic poverty that was made possible, along with such consequences as violent crime, drug trafficking, etc., even won him a moment of recognition from the imperialistically ordered community of states. It was not only its economic growth rates that made Nicaragua during his reign a model state in the Central American region; it also reaped some praise for the stability and internal order brought about by the solidarity sponsored by Venezuela's oil revenues:

“Previously troubled Nicaragua has since become a politically stable country and-along with Costa Rica-an island of security in a region marked by violent crime. The poor majority of the population has benefited from Ortega's return to power. His neoliberal predecessors had bled the state education and health systems dry, but he invested.

He had schools and health posts built in the countryside, abolished school fees as well as patient participation in medical costs. With money from Albanisa profits, he set up social programs, supported small farmers in the country's hunger zones and the construction of simple housing. And the beneficiaries know: This aid does not come from the state, it comes from Daniel Ortega.” (taz, 5.11.16)

In addition, Ortega used the second dowry he drew from his insubordinate past by securing the Russians as another powerful international ally. [7] They were particularly interested in Nicaragua’s geographic location in Central America because of their strategic interest in building and expanding their own navigational satellite system [8] and used their old good relations with the Sandinistas to agree on investments in Nicaragua. These were positively recorded there as another welcome external source of state income for the chronically tight coffers of the nation.

In the USA, however, Russia’s intentions – together with the renewed intensification of military cooperation with Nicaragua – were being carefully noted and evaluated according to the world power’s anti-Russian reason of state: Putin now sits there – not only with his navigational technology – again in dangerous proximity to its own borders:

“The Soviet Union fought in Nicaragua during the Cold War. Now Putin’s Russia is back.” (Washington Post, August 4, 2017)

Even greater hopes of escaping the eternal lack of national resources through a prospective steady influx of foreign exchange dollars was opened up to Nicaragua by China’s economic expansion program and in particular by negotiations with a Chinese entrepreneur named Wang Jing: in 2013, they agreed with the latter on the “Gran Canal” project across Nicaragua as an alternative to the US controlled Panama Canal between the Pacific and the Atlantic and Daniel Ortega announced to the nation with great pathos:

“Our people have been wandering through the desert for so long! But the day has come when we will reach the Promised Land!” (Quoted in NZZ, September 17, 2017)

Western media commentary was less euphoric, being hypocritically concerned that Nicaragua’s so highly cherished sovereignty was being sold out, [9] as if the influence of investors with undesirable nationalities were threatening it. The fact that this project, which Ortega expected to bring decisive progress in the development of his national economy and the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs, did not make much headway [10] was due less to the fact that the planned “Gran Canal” was “stillborn”: for China, the project was a sub-item in the escalation of its competition with the USA and underwent ups and downs with it, which in turn Ortega was only passively affected by and thus taught in practice on which calculations the well-being of his state depends. He has remained true to his “principle of hope,’ continues to grant concessions for construction projects, and expropriates numerous small farmers. For him and his co-regents, the fact that the people’s livelihoods have to bite the dust is obviously the inevitable and worthwhile price of national progress. The influx of foreign capital as a means of subsistence for the state requires, if necessary, that the people renounce their own – this is the other side of the efforts to ensure that the country’s poverty is properly looked after by a welfare state. As a result, at least the protest of those affected by Ortega’s attempted national liberation strike clearly lives on – along with the protest of concerned environmental organizations against the foreseeable environmental damage, especially in the area of Lake Nicaragua, through which the canal is to run.

The current crisis in Nicaragua: The U.S. tries to eliminate the Sandinistas

However, the decisive material foundations of the Nicaraguan “model,” which has been publicly admired here because an upswing in terms of economy and stability is completely unusual for such a country, were abruptly lost when Venezuela’s aid dried up in the wake of the Chavista bankruptcy:

“Within a week, the Nicaraguan model's dependence on an outside sponsor blew up, just as it did in Fidel Castro’s Cuba after the end of the Soviet Union. Because Venezuela’s economy has collapsed, the country can no longer afford to keep its allies alive. In 2016, Venezuela’s oil exports to Nicaragua fell by more than two-thirds. On the other hand, Nicaraguan exports to Venezuela have fallen dramatically since their peak in 2012.” (The Economist, 4/28/18)

Venezuela’s crisis-inflicted collapse directly summoned the Sandinista’s budgetary woes which the state is struggling with today. The attempt to reorganize the balance sheets of the state and the state-organized coffers by the usual means – layoffs in the public sector, price increases for electricity, increases in contributions to social security benefits and cuts, etc. – incited other broad sectors of the people who saw their already poor existence affected, , in addition to those dispossessed by the canal project, to protest against the Sandinista government. [11]

So the failure of the Chavistas in Venezuela to face the imperialist power of the US and its dollars through the use of their oil revenues for their “Bolivarian socialism” [12] created a growing discontent and spurred an opposition in Nicaragua as well, one which fueled and exploited this discontent nearly to the point of civil war in February 2018 after Ortega decreed in mitigated form the increase in social contributions and reduction in benefits that had been urged by the IMF, which was supposed to bring a plus of $200 million to the state’s coffers. [13] Very quick to the front of the social protests, as leaders and powerful driving forces, were students from state and private universities who for years had received their basic political training and financial support from the relevant institutions in the US – and to everyone’s shock, the influential national employers’ association COSEP (Consejo Superior de la Empresa Privada en Nicaragua), with whom Ortega had until now amicably coordinated his political measures. [14] The business community’s benefit from cooperation with the top-level Sandinista was apparently now more than in question for them. And not only because their contributions to the restructuring of the social security system were to increase by 3.5%, but more fundamentally: state leadership under Ortega had turned into a business obstacle for them.

Of course, this proof was provided by a powerful external influence: since Ortega took power again, the USA became increasingly active and in the last two years, through hostile interventions into national political and economic affairs with the help of the so-called Nica Act, has definitely tried to remove from power this ex-revolutionary government that has gotten mixed up with the wrong people:

“The US House of Representatives unanimously approved the ‘Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act of 2017’ in early October. This law now seeks to impose financial sanctions on Nicaragua, similar to those recently imposed on Venezuela. It plans to cut off the country from loans and financing from international institutions and block future opportunities for borrowing. To date, Nicaragua has drawn down about $300 million annually in this way. Repayment of debt is also to be made impossible. Now the US Senate still has to vote on it. The Nica Act will go into effect when signed by President Trump.” (, October 9, 2017)

With this sanctions law, the USA took advantage of the Sandinista regime’s dependence on its remaining sources of credit and ensured that they were definitely withdrawn. This created the desired state of emergency, especially now that it needs credit all the more urgently after losing the Venezuelan sponsor and debts remaining of around $3 billion. This integration of Nicaragua into the world’s credit relations, which until now had been highly appreciated internationally in economic terms, is being used by the US with its sanctions as an overpowering means of pressure for the purpose of finally ending the Sandinista’s program, which was made possible by the wrong friends, and eliminating the Sandinista’s leadership:

“The justification for the measure is to put pressure on the government of Nicaragua to conduct ‘free and transparent elections,’ as well as ‘substantive steps for the renewal of democracy, fight against corruption, respect for human rights, and the free admission of opposition political parties.’” (, October 9, 2017)

If the Nicaraguan electorate, who were being called on to officially disempower the FSNL, was notoriously recalcitrant, [15] there was always influence over the national authorities who are decisive for the country’s economic existence: The sanctions regime of the Nica Act with its goal of financially strangling the Sandinistas, was supplemented by the provisions of a law not only used against the Russians, the Magnitsky Act, which makes it punishable by America to have any business relations – including those of the national business community – with the incriminated functionaries of the regime, and thus in principle any cooperation with the ruling Sandinistas. [16]

The message from the US – that it wants to finally get rid of the regime in Nicaragua that it has always hated, and indeed through sanctions that hurt the business community in Nicaragua because of its cooperation with Ortega in its business interests – could not be ignored by them. [17] Of course, they quickly understood that they would hardly be able to change the mind of the US with their publicly announced concerns. So with the first stirrings of unrest in the country in the spring of 2018, they put themselves at the head of the anti-Sandinista opposition through their media and their association COSEP. The latter consistently called for new elections in the country, without the renewed candidacy of Ortega or his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. To reinforce this demand, the business federation even called for nationwide general strikes, that is, an escalation of the country’s economic situation, which had already been damaged by the consequences of protests, blockades, and barricades.

A “solution” to the conflict, for which the NZZ, as quoted at the beginning, looks in vain, has so far failed because of Ortega’s stubborn refusal to step down from his presidency. He sees himself – not unjustifiably – as once again involved in a form of warfare with the US imperialists who wage it today not by supplying weapons to an opposition army, but by means of precise sanctions, the effects of which are based on what Ortega, in the absence of viable alternatives, is trying to make a means of success for the rise of his nation: settling the economic demands of the dollar-dominated world market by mutual agreement. The dependencies – on the business interests of its national capital, as well as on foreign loans and investments – that the Sandinista government seeks to make productive for the country are handled by the US with its sanctions as a means for its imperialist demand for political subordination, making it clear that such an accommodation is not possible without its license, i.e., in this case, without the capitulation of the Sandinistas. Their uprising in the past and Ortega’s foreign policy freedoms today, which are quite different in terms of national independence and perceived as such, their turn towards the relevant imperialist competitors of the US, are the decisive crimes – in addition to his cooperation with Venezuela and Cuba – that are his downfall today:

“In the congressional debate, it appeared that an important motive for sanctions, moreover, was the Sandinista government's good relations with Russia and China.” (, 8/4/17)

“US Rep. Ros-Lethinen, who had been instrumental in pushing the legislative initiative, cited as further justification in the debate that ‘the Russians are operating in Nicaragua. This threatens our national security interests.’ Moreover, President Ortega was defending Venezuela politically.” (, 10/9/2017)


The US has opposed the existence of the Sandinista regime ever since the unauthorized revolution against the US protégé Somoza. Since then, the USA has exercised the freedom to consider whichever imperialist practice is necessary to revise this annoyance in various ways: After successfully combatting it militarily beginning in the 1970s through the “contras” that it equipped, it finally put up for a few years with Ortega’s attempt to assert his country’s independence even against the objections of its superior power, in order today – where Trump considers these exertions of the imperialist super power to be nothing but signs of American weakness and failure – to enforce American supremacy over Latin America against the remnants of an insubordinate state even in Nicaragua. US sanctions are now being used as a lever to bring about the economic ruin of the country, fueling a growing opposition intended to lead to the political end of Sandinista rule – by abdicating, the Sandinists should finally disappear as a troublesome nuisance for the USA.

A positive offer for Nicaragua’s future is not included in this US program. The country should be able to cope with whatever its existence on the world market and the interests of the USA gives it, and this should be as hassle-free as possible. Trump’s “America first!” imperialism takes it for granted that the states in the center and south of the continent have to function for America on their own initiative exactly like Yankee imperialism once taught them with its “big stick.” They are judged by the demand that they keep in mind their subservience to the USA as their own reason of state – and judged by this, Nicaragua is ruled out as a respectable state entity by the USA. Not because its political leadership would have done lasting damaged to the interests of the world power – it lacks the power to do this anyway – but because, in order to save its own sovereign power over its poorhouse, it gets involved with friends whom America has in its sites as its great “rivals”: This puts Nicaragua, as an appendage and subset of the great Venezuelan and Cuban troublemakers, on the current US list of “rogue states” that can no longer be tolerated in Latin America.

[1] Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional, named after A. C. Sandino, the leader in the fight against the American occupation of Nicaragua, who was shot dead together with his officers at a banquet by the President of the Republic in 1934, after the US Marines left, by the National Guard led by US confidante Somoza.

[2] “Today, the dynasty owns 120 companies, forty percent of the cultivable land, almost the entire land area of the capital, and numerous international holdings. Anyone flying from Miami to Nicaragua with the airline Lanica is already in the hands of the Somozas. He remains so when he boards a Mercedes cab at the airport to get to the capital. Although Daimler Benz terminated its contract with the Somoza family in 1971, the business relationship remains. Somoza owns only half of the largest hotel in Managua, but almost everything that guests eat there comes from the presidential family. Foreign businessmen know, moreover, that no business can be done in Nicaragua without offering the head of state a share right at the beginning. The biggest windfall for the clan, however, came after the catastrophic earthquake of 1972 that leveled the capital city of Managua. Half a billion dollars in international aid disappeared mostly into the private coffers of the president, who had appointed himself administrator of the donations. The rest was collected by his construction companies for what little was rebuilt. Donations in kind were still being bartered away at the airfield. And what land the Somozas did not already own, they now bought up cheaply as rubble plots.” (Hamburger Abendblatt, Historical Archive No.143, June 22, 1979)

[3] This then brought the Eastern bloc on the scene, in addition to Cuba, with “socialist brotherly aid” in the form of money, goods, and later also arms deliveries from the SU:
“With the credit freeze (1981), the decline in bilateral loans from Latin American states and the absence of multilateral loans (1984), the aid provided by socialist states gained enormously in importance. This applied both to lending and with respect to donations (free oil and food supplies, etc.) and foreign trade, some of which was conducted on the basis of loans and subsidies.” (Dieter Nohlen/Franz Nuscheler: Handbuch der dritten Welt, Teil 3: Mittelamerika und Karibik, 1995 edition, p. 218)
In the eyes of the USA, this only made the crime of the Sandinistas all the greater and the need for their elimination all the more urgent.

[4] See GegenStandpunkt 4-01: “Wahlen in Nicaragua: Mit amerikanischer Nachhilfe alles richtig gemacht!” [untranslated]

[5]“Since 2006, Nicaragua has been a member of the Central American Free Trade Area (CAFTA-DR), which has allowed it to dramatically increase its export earnings. The main export country is the USA. An important trading partner within the ALBA alliance is Venezuela. Thanks to exemplary project management, Nicaragua has easy access to support programs from the IMF, the World Bank and other international donors. Since the Sandinista government took office in 2007, debt service has been reduced to 4%. After a severe economic slump in 2009 as a result of the global financial and economic crisis, Nicaragua is achieving growth rates of 4-5% annually. The inflation rate is estimated at 6.4% for 2012.” (, 2012)

[6]“The media describes the first student-led demonstrations as spontaneous acts of outrage at the actions of the Ortega government. For many students, this may be true, but at the center of the protests there are also organized groups that have been led and paid for by US government authorities for years. The Civic Movement of Youth (Movimiento Civico de Juventudes, MCJ), which has been active in Nicaragua for years, describes itself as an organization dedicated to promoting civic responsibility, education for and promotion of democratic institutions among students and youth. MCJ was created and funded by the National Institute for Democracy (NID). The NID itself is an arm of the primarily US Congress-funded ‘National Endowment for Democracy’ (NED) which has a long history with the US foreign intelligence agency, the CIA. One of its areas of work was the Contra war in the 1980s, when NED gave several million US dollars to anti-Sandinista opposition groups. According to more recent reports, NED gave about $4.1 million to ‘promote pro-democracy activities’ to Nicaraguan opposition groups between 2014 and 2017.” (, March 10, 2018)

[7] “Since Daniel Ortega’s return to the presidency, relations between the two countries have been strengthened. Russia's Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, who traveled to Managua in January for Ortega’s inauguration, called Nicaragua a historic partner and emphasized close ties and common positions on international policy issues.” (, June 2, 2017)

[8] “In April, the first station of the Glonass global navigation satellite system is to be put into operation by the Russian Institute of Research and Machine Building in Nicaragua. According to the Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Posts (Telcor), the satellite navigation station will gather data from Glonass and other such global systems. In August 2014, the Space Agency of Russia (Roscosmos) and Telcor had signed the relevant contract for the construction of the station in Nicaragua. Ground stations already exist on the territory of CIS countries and in Brazil. The development of the system was started in Cold War times for military purposes, but was put into operation only in 1993. Today, the system can also be used for civilian purposes. Glonass can be used with most mobile devices.” (, February 6, 2017)

[9] “Thus spoke the president in the role of a Moses of Managua, and the Sandinista parliamentary majority subservient to him quickly approved a special law which literally bartered away the country’s sovereignty. Nicaragua granted Chinese entrepreneur Wang Jing for 100 years the concession to build and operate a 278-kilometer canal between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and to expropriate land at will. The ‘Gran Canal’ project also includes ports, an international airport, rail and road links, a free trade zone, resorts and all ‘other necessary facilities.’ The project turned the Nicaraguan constitution on its head without any public consultation or even referendum.” (NZZ, September 18, 2017)

[10]“Recently, however, the pharaonic construction project, estimated at 150 billion dollars and supposedly to be completed by 2020, has become increasingly quiet. All that has been realized so far is the expansion of a few kilometers of access roads in the province of Rivas on the Pacific coast in the south of the country. The start of construction of the actual canal works had last been postponed to 2016, and now there is not even a new date for this... The conclusion is that the great Nicaragua Canal is stillborn and joins a long line of similar plans over the last 150 years.” (ibid.)

[11]“Without Venezuela’s largesse, Ortega would no longer be able to maintain the public spending with which he has so far kept resistance at bay. To curb the ever-growing national debt, he has already raised electricity prices by a double-digit percentage. He has abandoned giving out free zinc roofs to the poor in favor of merely subsidized roofs. And the pension funds – whose reserves, according to local newspaper La Prensa, have been partially invested in companies that have contacts with government officials and Ortega’s party – are expected to be empty by August. The deficit has forced the government to make cuts that have sparked the protests.” (The Economist, April 28, 2018)

[12] See GegenStandpunkt 2-18: “Venezuela: Der Niedergang des ‚bolivarischen Sozialismus‘ und seine Gründe” [untranslated]

[13] “The unrest was triggered by measures decreed by Ortega to reduce the chronic deficit of the social security system. Employee contributions are to be increased from 6.25 to 7 percent, while employer contributions are to be raised successively from 19 to 22.5 percent of wages. In addition, pensioners are to have 5 percent of their pensions, which in most cases amount to $300 to $500 per month, deducted and transferred to the national health service.” (NZZ, April 22, 2018)

[14] “The political novelty in Nicaragua's turmoil is the turnaround that the private sector has made under the leadership of the main business association, Cosep. Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo – wife, vice president and government spokesperson all rolled into one – have been able to afford their autocratic regime for the past eleven years primarily because they have allied themselves with the private sector. This has benefited both sides: The business community, in contrast to, say, Venezuela under Chavista rule, which is allied with Ortega, was able to go about its business undisturbed, while Ortega’s clan also enriched itself through dishonest means, and the Nicaraguan economy developed positively, according to standard macroeconomic statistics.” (NZZ, April 22, 2018)

[15]“The news comes in the midst of the campaign for the November 5 municipal elections. Also, when the Nica Act was first presented to the US Congress on September 21, 2016, Nicaragua’s legislative and presidential elections were just around the corner. The threat, which was widely publicized in the media, was aimed primarily at Nicaraguan voters. Nevertheless, with a voter turnout of 68.2 percent, 72 percent of voters once again chose Daniel Ortega as president. The ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) received about two-thirds of the vote in the general election.” (, October 9, 2017)

[16] “On Thursday, the US imposed sanctions on three members of the Nicaraguan government whom it accuses of human rights violations and corruption. They include the country's police chief and the head of the state oil company Petronic, who is also vice president of Albanisa, a private company that imports and sells Venezuelan oil products.” (Reuters, July 5, 2018)

[17]“Nicaraguan business associations expressed concern about the recent positive economic development and also opposed possible punitive measures from the United States.” (, August 4, 2017)