Nicaragua – Lies, damned lies and the New Yorker

Stephen Sefton, Tortilla con Sal collective

Jon Lee Anderson’s September 3rd New Yorker article “Fake news and unrest in Nicaragua” confirms that its elite consumer oriented Condé Nast parent company has chosen to take the publication back to its 1925 origins as a “15 cent comic”. Anderson’s mix of gossip, invention, fantasy and fiction panders perfectly to the elite luxury brand marketing of his bosses. He and The New Yorker’s editors have grossly misled their readers by publishing false Nicaraguan opposition propaganda as if it were a legitimate opinion piece. But into it they have smuggled the standard psychological warfare modus operandi of sloppy journalism, downright lies and sly innuendo, repeated over and over again.

The domestic political function of Anderson’s farrago is to seduce the liberals in his audience by misrepresenting the right wing regime change coup attempted in Nicaragua as progressive. The failed coup was supported by Mike Pence, Marco Rubio, Ileana Ros Lehtinen, Bob Menendez and Ted Cruz. No self respecting US liberal would willingly line up with those right wing US political figures. So to give his liberal audience a satisfactory political alibi for supporting right wing regime change in Nicaragua, Anderson recycles the fiction that his good friend Sergio Ramirez and his clique, who were the failed coup’s prime movers, represent a progressive political option in Nicaragua and that the Sandinista Renewal Movement Ramirez founded and led for so many years is not a center right-wing political party on Nicaragua’s political spectrum as it has been from its beginnings back in 1994.

A less obvious political function of the New Yorker article is how it covers up corporate colonization of the global human rights industry so as to advance the global corporate assault on national sovereignty of which the regime change attempt in Nicaragua is the most recent example. Superficially, the patrons and instigators of the attempted coup were the US government and right wing politicians but they simply shill for the United States ruling corporate oligarchy which has also deeply infiltrated the United Nations Organization and its various subsidiaries.

So really Anderson’s article represents a multi-layered psychological warfare effort exploiting phony human rights claims and the social media idealization of youth and deploying those motifs in the service of his bosses at Condé Nast. Putting the attack on Nicaragua’s national sovereignty in those terms renders Anderson’s elite comic book treatment of the crisis in Nicaragua story worth dismantling piece by piece so as to understand more thoroughly how deeply and deliberately the New Yorker’s editors have tried to mislead people.

The bullet points are quotes from Anderson’s article, each one followed by the relevant corrective comment:

  • Daniel Ortega announced cuts to social-security benefits, along with increases in worker contributions

Neither claim is correct. The reform measure maintained and protected existing benefits and extending health coverage for pensioners in exchange for a 5% levy. The measures contradicted opposition business sector proposals to slash benefits and coverage. The country’s main pensioners’ organization was in agreement with the proposed change aimed at defending the sustainability of the social security system. The main change was a 3.5% rise in employers contributions with workers being asked to contribute 0.75% more. That is why the employers rejected the agreement. They wanted to cut benefits, cut coverage and privatize social security health clinics.

  • (on Daniel Ortega) a widespread sense that his family and a few cronies had enriched themselves at the country’s expense

Just weeks prior to the crisis Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo enjoyed approval ratings of well over 70%. Even the regional center right Latinobarometro polling company rated Daniel Ortega as the most popular leader in the region. There is no reliable evidence whatsoever for Anderson’s claim which is identical to the false propaganda of opposition leaders. Among these even Sergio Ramirez has acknowledged that Daniel Ortega has not enriched himself.

  • Students joined elderly pensioners on the streets to protest, and Ortega’s police opened fire

Hardly any pensioners took part in the original protests on Wednesday April 18th and Thursday April 19th, the great majority were students and opposition activists, subsequently reinforced with paid delinquents and unemployed youth. No one was killed on Wednesday April 18th. On Thursday 19th three people were killed, one police officer, one Sandinista supporter and one bystander all by opposition thugs. From Friday April 20th to Sunday April 22nd the police were forced to defend themselves against armed attacks and in defense of municipal offices and other property in Managua, Masaya, Granada, Diriamba, Jinotepe, Chinandega, Leon, Estelí and Bluefields.

In Estelí alone, violent opposition protestors wounded 16 municipal workers and 18 police officers during a pitched battle lasting five hours with witnesses claiming firearms were used by opposition gunmen. By Monday 23rd, the US government funded Confidencial opposition news outlet claimed 23 people had died. Subsequently, various of the opposition’s alleged dead turned up complaining in social media they were alive and well and requesting their names not be manipulated untruthfully. Of the remaining victims over half were either police, Sandinista supporters or bystanders. There was never any “student massacre”.

  • …Masaya, which is flanked by an active volcano and a crater lake, has few roads in and out

In fact, Masaya has ten main roads in and out, and a great many more side roads and tracks.

  • young partisans across the country blocked streets with barricades of paving stones to hold back government forces

The opposition representatives in the Civic Alliance grouping themselves admitted in the televised National Dialogue that the main purpose of the barricades and roadbocks was to exert economic pressure on the government. Testimony abounds, here, here and herefrom former opposition activists that the roadblocks and barricades were operated by criminals. Testimony also abounds about how these criminals extorted money from people needing to pass the road blocks to go about their lives and their business. Right from the start the government showed great restraint so as to avoid loss of life. By May 16th the mediating Episcopal Conference, openly siding with the opposition, demanded the government withdraw the police to their stations as a precondition for the National Dialogue to begin. For the sake of a chance at peace, the government agreed. But that imposition by the bishops and the Civic Alliance left the general population at the mercy of the criminals and violent opposition extremists on whom the Civic Alliance depended to operate the roadblocks and barricades.

  • In June, the protesters in Masaya declared the city “territorio libre del dictador”—territory freed from the dictator. Ortega, insisting that they were terrorists, began trying to dislodge them. The assault was led not by soldiers but by paramilitary fighters

The protestors in Masaya laid siege to the local police station and attacked it every night with both hand guns, assault rifles and home made mortars. The besieged police had the firepower to force back their attackers but did not so so as to prevent serious loss of life. Here is the police video of that siege.

  • Nearly every day there were battles, between rebels armed with homemade mortars and slingshots and Ortega supporters with military weapons.

This is perhaps the most serious of all the many egregious errors in the article. Witnesses in Masaya confirm that while the protestors claimed to have only homemade weapons, in practice by the time the police entered to regain control of the city they had multiple weaponry (AK47s, rifles, landmines, contact bombs, Molotov cocktails, etc) which were on open display in the occupied streets. Each night a fully armed group assembled and attacked the police station using both homemade and regular firearms – the police couldn’t leave their station for 45 days. See the police video.

Anderson also fails to mention any of the horrendous acts carried out by the opposition in Masaya, including:

Ransacking shops – more than a dozen businesses were raided and TVs, motorcycles, etc stolen

– Burning public buildings – the town hall, mothers’ centre, public prosecutor’s office, municipal depot (and its vehicles), tourist market and main secondary school were all destroyed

– Ransacking or burning of Sandinista homes – these included the mayor’s brother’s home, the former deputy mayor’s home, a doctor’s house and many more

– Killing police in Masaya – José Abrahan Martínez (shot on June 3), Gabriel de Jesús Ruiz Vado (tortured then murdered, July 15), Kelvin Javier Rivera Laínez (shot in the relief of Monimbó, July 17)

– Intimidation, threats and torture of Sandinista officials and sympathisers over a period of three months, including stripping people in public and rape.

– Enforced closure of most businesses and all schools; no vehicular circulation (taxis, buses, etc.) except as allowed by the opposition.

  • For eleven years, Ortega had sustained his power through shrewd dealmaking and accommodation

Daniel Ortega has sustained his power for eleven years by winning free and fair elections. He won the Presidential election in 2006. His Sandinista Front party won the municipal elections in 2008, increasing the number of local authorities they administered. The Sandinistas increased their vote in the 2010 regional elections on the Caribbean Coast. In 2011 Daniel Ortega won the Presidency again with over 60% of the vote. In the local elections of 2012 the Sandinista Front again increased the number of municipalities it administered. In 2014 the Sandinista Front also increased its representation in that year’s regional elections on the Caribbean Coast. In 2016, Daniel Ortega was again re-elected President with around 70% of the votes and in 2017 the Sandinista Front again slightly increased its representation in the country’s local authority elections. Even the Organization of American States ratified the validity of the votes in 2011, in 2016 and in 2017.

  • but he has courted the International Monetary Fund

On taking office in 2007, President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista government inherited an IMF program negotiated by the previous administration of President Enrique Bolaños. The IMF tried to impose a series of measures, involving privatization of public sector resources, social security reform and tax reform, for example, which the Ortega administration resisted by making counterproposals defending public sector resources and low income families. They were able to do this because they had the support of around US$400-US$500 million a year in funds from ALBA and Petrocaribe. Nicaragua subsequently successfully completed the terms of the inherited IMF program and exited that program in 2011. The government maintains cordial relations with the IMF and the World Bank, of which Nicaragua, like most countries in the world is a member, with a view to maintaining investor confidence in its economic and monetary policy in the global context of international markets dominated by speculative US and European finance capital.

  • Ortega has tried to regain control, he has adopted a strategy employed by autocrats in Turkey, Egypt, Venezuela, and elsewhere: condemn your political opponents as traitors, incite mobs to violence, and then deny responsibility. Across the country, hundreds of protesters have been killed, and many more put in prison.

From the start of the protests the opposition Civic Alliance, which despite its false claims to the contrary represents only a small minority of Nicaragua’s population, demanded that the government resign. Their agenda was immediate, unconditional regime change in wholesale contravention of Nicaragua’s constitution. Against the generally unverified allegations of foreign funded opposition human rights organizations, the most reliable death toll is from investigations conducted by the Truth, Justice and Peace Commission created on April 27th and sworn in by the country’s National Assembly. Their official death toll from the protests is now 269, but this includes possibly as many as 198 people identified as government officials or police, Sandinistas or victims of attacks at the barricades. Only a minority of the deaths have been identified as credible ‘protestors’. Internationally, the most widely publicized death toll has been the 448 reported by the most sensationalist of the local opposition human rights organization, ANPDH, whse figures have been analyzed by the Truth Justice and Peace Commission and found to include:

– 105 deaths not related to the conflict (traffic accidents, etc.)

– 57 deaths not registered with public authorities (i.e. there is no proof of death)

– 49 victims not identified by name/place, etc., so death cannot be confirmed

– 4 duplicated names.

Serious concerns exist about the human rights reporting of deaths and casualties during Nicaragua’s crisis but none figure in the New Yorker report by Jon Anderson. He lazily recycles opposition propaganda and fails even to mention the numerous discrepancies found both by the Truth, Justice and Peace Commission and by other analysts

  • at different points Anderson supplements his faulty and mostly fact-free account with anecdotes reinforcing his reporting bias in favor of Nicaragua’s murderous, sadistic opposition activists.

For example, early on in his article he relates an encounter with the voluntary police acting under police authority to clear the barricades operated by violent opposition activists in Masaya but he sneers at their claims of having confiscated assault weapons and clearly questions their need to hide their identity, despite all the murders of police officers committed by opposition terrorists. A total of 22 police officers were murdered by Nicaragua’s opposition activists between mid-April and mid-July, but Anderson omits that fact. While insistently referring to police and volunteer police being masked, anyone familiar with policing in the rest of Central America or Mexico and Colombia for example will be well aware that police forces there frequently wear masks in operations against organized crime, narcotics or terrorism so as to protect their officers from reprisals. The same is very much true in Nicaragua.

  • (on Rosario Murillo on 18th/19th April) – They were not activists, she suggested, but “vampires demanding blood,” who were inventing stories about the deaths of protesters.

Vice President Murillo’s remarks turned out to be true. There were no deaths of protestors on April 18th or 19th despite the flood of false allegations of deaths and casualties on social media on those two days. Then on Monday 23rd alleged victims began insisting on social media they were alive and well. Anderson, not Murillo, is out of touch with reality.

  • Ortega is a wily negotiator, with a street fighter’s swagger, but he is a clumsy speaker and avoids public appearances.

President Ortega is well know for his cautious and subtle negotiating style. Anderson distorts that as “wily”. Whatever Daniel Ortega’s gait may be, only a jaundiced opposition supporter woud term it that of a “streetfighter”. Ortega’s oratory is measured, often homely and aimed at ordinary Nicaraguans rather than pseudo-sophisticated bumptious foreign visitors, like Anderson, who is also hopelessly wrong about President Ortega’s public appearances. Just two days after the protests became lethally violent as a result of opposition attacks, Daniel Ortega appeared on April 21st, in a televised meeting calling for dialogue and for the protests to be peaceful. Subsequently he repeatedly appeared in public calling for peace, condemning violence from all sides, insisting Sandinista supporters avoid provocation and confrontation, which they did, much to the opposition’s chagrin, because the opposition very clearly needed deaths and casualties to feed their strategy of fear, hatred and terror.

  • (on Rosario) “She does all the day-to-day running of the government,” a Western diplomat told me. “She’s a fruitcake, but a brilliant fruitcake.”

Anderson’s selective quotes barely conceal that he shares the opposition’s misogynist hatred of Rosario Murillo. Neither he nor his opposition friends accept that Murillo’s numerous substantial achievements have won her unprecedented popular support in recent years . However, since neither Anderson nor the people he quotes can realistically fault Murillo’s abilities and achievements, they rubbish her personality.

  • The Ortega-Murillos control a portfolio that includes several television and radio stations, an advertising agency, and much of the country’s oil industry

Anderson’s claim that President Ortega’s family controls the country’s oil industry is pure invention. Petronic is a State company and the other major company in Nicaragua’s oil sector is the joint venture company Albanisa majority held by Venezuela’s Pdvsa state oil company. President Ortega’s family has no role or investment in either Petronic or Albanisa. Even Nicaragua’s political opposition recognize their business shareholdings are unquestionably legitimate. By contrast Anderson has nothing to say about the personal wealth and investment interests of the US government funded Chamorro family, several of whose foundations are directly funded either by the US government or its satellite NGOs, including Carlos Fernando Chamorro’s CINCO NGO conglomerate.

  • (Laureano Ortega)- A few years ago, he was at the center of an ambitious deal in which a Chinese company was given rights to build a canal across the country

Dozens of government functionaries worked on the negotiations for the interoceanic canal project and were as much “at the center” of it as Laureano Ortega. The only reason Anderson might have for the sly innuendo of singling out Laureano Ortega is to promote the false idea that as a relative of the President he sought some unspecified personal benefit from project, which is a false, baseless, propaganda claim Nicaragua’s political and media opposition have failed to substantiate.

  • A few days after the uprising began, Ortega reappeared in public. He seemed uncertain what to do, at first insisting on the social-security reforms and then agreeing to cancel them.

President Ortega appeared in public on April 21st two days after the first deaths on April 19th and after a day of vicious, violent opposition aggression in Masaya and elsewhere. In that appearance, what he insisted on was that social security reform was absolutely necessary to protect the system’s sustainability. He also called on the private sector business organization to return to negotiate the reform. On April 22nd he again appeared in public to announce the reform would be withdrawn and calling on the Episcopal Conference to mediate a national dialogue. At no time did he seem uncertain what to do. To the contrary he reached out decisively to the opposition in an effort to halt the violence. It was the opposition who rejected dialogue to begin with, because they wanted immediate anti-democratic regime change.

  • [Lesther] Alemán made for an effective front man: a trucker’s son and a straight-A student, draped in the blue-and-white national flag

Alemán was in fact a counter-productive front man for the regime change focused opposition. Most people in Nicaragua saw a sassy kid insult their President, a heroic veteran of a long campaign against a real bloodthirsty dictatorship. Alemán may have played well for Nicaragua’ minority of middle class students and neocolonial foreigners like Anderson, but he earned the contempt of most Nicaraguans for his callow arrogance, his penchant for having his accomplices call him “Comandante” and also, later on in the crisis, for his sinister role organizing the roadblocks in Masaya and elsewhere, where Sandinistas and people with no political affiliation at all were intercepted, tortured and often murdered.

  • The talks, broadcast live on national television, provided an unexpected boost for the opposition……Aleman…Murillo stared at him and his comrades, as if memorizing their faces. Ortega looked bewildered. When he rose to speak, he ignored the protesters’ petitions and instead rambled about death, war, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The televising of the dialogue on national television was a debacle for the opposition. They were seen to be obstructive and insulting in ways that go deeply against the grain of what is still a society with predominantly rural habits of mind. That culture inculcates the reality that you don’t insult anyone because you never know when you may need a hand with the sowing, with the harvest, or looking out for livestock and children. The sneering, abusive urban individualist middle class demeanor of the opposition activists who insulted Rosario Murillo and Daniel Ortega sowed the first seeds of doubt among the tens of thousands of people in Managua’s urban centers who had been duped by the tsunami of false social media reports in the first days of the protests. Daniel Ortega’s dignified insistence on the need for peace impressed everybody except opposition supporters like Jon Anderson. By the time the dialogue stalled because the opposition refused to dismantle the roadblocks strangling the country’s economy, support among the general population for the political opposition had largely evaporated. The great majority of people wanted the roadblocks cleared and supported the government’s efforts to do so.

  • On Mother’s Day, hundreds of thousands of people marched in honor of mothers who had lost children in the unrest. At least sixteen people were killed in clashes with police, and more than two hundred others were wounded.

Here Anderson and his editors indiscriminately conflate different events around the country and exaggerate the level of participation in the marches which in Managua were in the tens of thousands. In Managua seven people were shot dead by unidentified snipers. On the basis of no evidence whatsoever, Amnesty International’s observers in Nicaragua at the time assigned blame to the government despite 20 police officers suffering gunshot injuries in the same series of incidents. Anderson follows Amnesty International in making that unjustified assumption and adopts the unverified figures of the opposition human rights organizations without noting that, for example, in La Trinidad, near Estelí, one Sandinista supporter was murdered by opposition gunmen and another 27 were wounded in the same incident, one of the injured died later of their wounds. Similar less serious incidents occurred elsewhere. All of this, Anderson deliberately omits.

  • But hours later, in Managua, Ortega supporters threw Molotov cocktails into the house of a family that had refused to allow police snipers onto their roof. (The government denied involvement.) Six members of the family, including two young children, were burned to death.

This is another case in which Anderson follows Amnesty International and the IACHR adopting wholly unverified reports in this case about an incident that shocked opinion across Nicaragua. The cause of the fire is strongly disputed. Some witnesses accuse the opposition delinquents who controlled the barricades along that road. The police vehemently deny any involvement. Government firefighters claim they were attacked and prevented from fighting the fire by opposition delinquents. Opposition sources claim the reverse. No one has been able to investigate adequately this terrible event. Anderson has no basis at all except his clear sympathies for Nicaragua’s opposition for his glib accusation against Sandinista supporters.

  • By midsummer, masked vigilantes had begun systematically attacking the barricades, and the death toll rose to three hundred. Ortega denied responsibility, saying that the paramilitaries were an invention of the media, or were aligned with his enemies, or were merely local people defending themselves.

It may have been midsummer for Anderson in the United States. In Nicaragua it was the middle of the rainy season during the dry dog days known as the canícula. The death toll had not reached 300 and most deaths seem have been caused by opposition violence as previously mentioned detailed analysis of the statistics seems to bear out. What Anderson calls masked vigilantes were in fact local volunteers acting in support of the police, a phenomenon with a long history in Nicaragua since the days of the Sandinista Revolution in the 1980s. Those volunteers had good reason to conceal their identities because opposition thugs were ruthless in targeting, torturing and murdering people they identified as police or police volunteers.

  • Then the bodies of activists started turning up, with gunshot wounds in the backs of their heads—a sign of summary executions. A senior U.S. official whom I spoke to feared that Ortega was using death squads to silence his opposition. “We’ve moved from a climate of fear to one of terror,”

To date there has been only one accusation of a summary execution (in Masaya), but no proof of who did it. In other cases, the victims’ murderers have been identified as delinquents collaborating with the Civic Alliance political opposition for example the criminal known as Viper who operated out of the private UPOLI university. The anonymous US embassy official Anderson quotes had zero real life basis for his fantasy fear. In the real world, by the time on which Anderson is reporting, the great majority of Nicaraguans were delighted and relieved to be able to begin to get back to normal life instead of being fearful night after night of attacks by marauding opposition gangs.

  • … thousands of youths who continue to fight with no weapons

Anderson includes this quote to justify his persistent misrepresentation of the opposition extremists and allied delinquents that operated the roadblocks as unarmed. Apart from the testimony of the earlier videos, the reality of the armaments and the careful planning of armed attacks on Sandinista targets can be judged here and here.

  • Ramírez didn’t have an official role in the opposition, but he hurried back to Managua after receiving the prize, to “accompany” his fellow-citizens. I met him at his house, and we spoke in a two-story library filled with his collection of books. “Ortega has won the battle, but he’s lost the war,”

Anderson makes no secret of his friendship with Sergio Ramirez which is frank admission of outright partisanship on his part. The space devoted to Ramirez, who, like US funded opposition propagandist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, is a darling of the US liberal elites, contrasts strongly with the absence from Anderson’s novela-like fantasy of any interview with one of the widows of the 22 police officers murdered by Anderson’s heroic unarmed youth.

  • Chávez began sending subsidized petroleum, reportedly worth half a billion dollars a year; Ortega created a company called Albanisa to manage the proceeds, which he used as a personal source of patronage funds.

Anderson’s remarks are a downright lie. The Venezuelan and Nicaraguan governments set up Albanisa in 2007 as a joint venture company between Venezuela’s state oil company Pdvsa and Nicaragua’s state oil company Petronic. Pdvsa with a 51% interest is the majority shareholder. In eleven years there has never been any hint of scandal involving President Ortega or his family despite intense scrutiny from opposition and foreign media. Albanisa is subject to the same controls as every commercial company in Nicaragua and has been audited by the state’s Comptroller General. In addition Albanisa has made regular reports and presentations over the years to the IMF, the World Bank, and Nicaragua’s National Assembly. Albanisa receives oil from Pdvsa on preferential terms paying 50% within 90 days and 50% over 20 years at around 2% annual interest.

The 50% to be repaid over 20 years is administered by the CARUNA savings and loan cooperative. Around a third of those funds are devoted to social programs to help people improve their housing and community infrastructure the other two thirds are loaned out at preferential interest rates to agricultural and fishing cooperatives, small farmers, credit for women owned micro-businesses and other productive economic activities. CARUNA is subject to all the controls that apply to Nicaragua’s non-banking financial sector.

In effect the ALBA funding has enabled the Nicaraguan government to operate a policy of deficit spending that made it possible to challenge the dictates and impositions attempted by the IMF and the World Bank in the first period of President Ortega’s government between 2007 and 2011. And it made possible a rapid recuperation of the economy after the crisis provoked by the West’s financial crash of 2007-2009

  • …the years of growth had helped improve access to higher education, [but] the only people who succeeded were those with money or with connections to Ortega and his cronies

More baseless nonsense for Anderson’s comic strip narrative. President Ortega’s government reversed moves under the previous administration of Enrique Bolaños to privatize Nicaragua’s education system and defended the constitutional allocation of 6% of the education budget to the university sector. This has been particularly important for the public National Autonomous university and its regional campuses and for private universities serving lower income students like the Universidad Politécnica. Effectively President Ortega’s education policies defended access to those universities against the unfair advantages of privileged middle class families who attend smart, more expensive, private universities for example like the Jesuit owned Central American University and the Catholic Church owned UNICA university or the UCATSE agricultural university owned by Estelí’s sharp businessman bishop Abelardo Mata whose administrator once notoriously remarked “poor people can’t be engineers”.

  • After Chávez’s death, in 2013, Venezuela drastically cut back the oil shipments. But corruption only grew worse.

Against categorical evidence to the contrary, Anderson presumes Venezuela’s development cooperation with Nicaragua has been used corruptly. International organizations like the Inter-American Development Bank, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, the World Bank, UN organizations like WHO, UNESCO and UNICEF and numerous bilateral development cooperation organizations have repeatedly praised Nicaragua for its transparent, efficient use of loans and resources in the country’s public administration. In repeated opinion polls over the last five years less than 10% of the population viewed corruption as a problem.

  • Ortega and his loyalists had become pariahs…

Anderson plays down as legitimate popular outrage an incident in which Sandinista legislative deputy Edwin Castro was aggressively mobbed, and he omits systematic violent opposition attacks involving the murder, arson and ransacking of the homes of ordinary Sandinista families and vicious attacks, kidnapping and torture of Sandinista local authority workers and government functionaries. By contrast, later in his article he invites his readers to be indignant over an incident in which the Nicaraguan police protected him and an opposition journalist from angry Sandinistas.

  • As the violence grew, protesters on the street took to chanting, “Ortega y Somoza, son la misma cosa”—Ortega and Somoza are the same thing.

This slogan of Anderson’s friends in Sergio Ramirez’s Sandinista Renewal Movement has been current since at least 2008, opposition supporters have been chanting it for years. It remains as grotesquely untrue now as it has always been, no matter how loud the opposition electoral losers shout it or how often it gets reproduced by unscrupulous partisan commentators like Anderson.

  • (Masaya July17th) several hundred paramilitary fighters gathered in Masaya in Toyota HiLux pickups, like those used by Taliban raiders in Afghanistan. Before dawn the next morning, they pushed through town, using bulldozers to knock down barricades and firing from the backs of their trucks. The rebels, outgunned, put up only a token resistance before retreating.…one of several local protesters who had been killed the day before

Inhabitants and foreign eye-witnesses consider the liberation of Masaya was a model of restrained policing and successful tactics given the level of weaponry the protestors then had. Only five people were killed, including one policeman. the giveaway of Anderson’s dishonesty is that he recognizes that the opposition were “outgunned” after previously and repeatedly insisting they were unarmed.

  • [In Masaya, July 18] …No one wanted to talk……the man introduced himself as Jairo, and told me that he was happy about the “cleansing of Monimbó.” The youths at the barricades had been holding the locals hostage for months, he said: “If you weren’t in agreement with them, they burned your house or threatened you.”

The silence of people in Monimbó at that point was hardly surprising as the situation was still dangerous and armed opposition activists were still in hiding nearby. Monimbó has since largely returned to normal. This is the one few truthful points Anderson makes in his whole article but one which he completely fails to follow up, preferring to continue slanting his account in favor of the opposition supporters and their families who for months supported the opposition gangs’ repression of Sandinista families and now feared reprisals, which never happened thanks to the authorities restoration of normal law enforcement.

  • (19th July celebration)- Several hundred thousand people turned out, and, as they waited for the First Couple, the remembrance turned into a raucous open-air party,

I was on the press stand in the plaza on July 19th along with over a dozen opposition and foreign news journalists. Early on before the event got going they seemed very happy that the Plaza was mostly empty. Then as it filled up through the afternoon their faces got longer and longer until they seemed to resign themselves to the fact that they were victims of their own propaganda. Anderson’s admission that hundreds of thousands attended the event leaves out the fact that this huge number did not include the usual massive influx of an additional hundred to two hundred thousand people from Nicaragua’s departments who were ordered this year to hold local events so as to avoid terrorist attacks by the opposition.

  • against dissidents in the early years, and Somoza mobilized gangs of tough market women to harass opponents.) A woman and a man began screaming at Salinas, beating him to the ground and kicking him fiercely. Several policemen appeared and formed a protective barrier around us. Salinas, who works for El Confidencial, one of Nicaragua’s few independent media outlets…

By “independent” Anderson self-evidently means “opposed to the government”. In fact the right wing opposition control all the national newspapers, most local cable TV and local radio networks as well as half the national TV channels. At least Anderson acknowledges the efficiency and professionalism of Nicaragua’s police in protecting him and Salinas from angry Sandinistas, behavior Anderson regarded as legitimate when mentioning the case of Edwin Castro attacked by angry opposition supporters. But here too Anderson neglects to point out the cause of the Sandinistas’ anger, namely the systematic opposition media omission of the extreme violence and repression Sandinista families suffered during the weeks of opposition roadblocks and barricades and the deliberate opposition media campaign of lies and exaggerations about opposition deaths and casualties.

  • …the government-controlled media accused the Church of helping the opposition hide weapons

In contrast to the opposition media’s and Anderson’s demonstrable falsehoods, evidence abounds of weapons, food and other supplies being held by churches, as well as recordings of priests supervising the torture of Sandinistas and even actively inciting murder. The infamous role of the Catholic clergy allowing their churches to be used as bases to attack Sandinistas and municipal and government targets is now proven beyond dispute.

  • Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, travelling with a bishop and an envoy from the Vatican, was roughed up by pro-government thugs

Cardinal Brenes and the Papal Nuncio were accompanied and protected that day by a heavy contingent of police, because the authorities knew the angry local population might otherwise have attacked Cardinal Brenes more fiercely. He is the most senior member of the church to have actively supported the protests, persistently denied that they were armed and persistently refused to specifically condemn their violent attacks on Sandinista families and public offices, hence people’s anger. In Jinotepe, where this happened, the church lead a vicious campaign by the opposition protesters against the police and against ordinary Sandinistas. Four police were killed there by the violent opposition gangs who killed 28 people there in total, including bystanders and many Sandinistas. In one case, a young Sandinista supporter was shot dead in his house and a week later the opposition thugs returned and murdered his father. These are Anderson’s heroic unarmed youth.

  • the Divina Misericordia church, where student activists and clergy, along with a Washington Post reporter, had fled paramilitaries, who were shooting into the campus of the national university. The siege lasted fifteen hours, and two students were killed.

Despite voluminous coverage, what really happened in this incident remains confused. Opposition protestors have testified many opposition supporters were carrying firearms in the university campus right next door to the church. On that same day eight Sandinistas going to a peace march were attacked and wounded by opposition activists based on the university campus near the church. At the time of the alleged attack near the church, opposition media were reporting the peaceful evacuation of opposition supporters from the campus by bus, a process which passed without incident. The alleged attack also followed yet one more of various notorious incidents of staged ‘under fire’ videos, later shown to be cynical play-acting. The two young people who were killed died not in the church, as Anderson seems to suggest, but in incidents nearby involving the removal by police of barricades operated by armed opposition activists.

  • El Chipote – a Somoza-era hilltop prison where Ortega’s political opponents were reportedly being raped and tortured

The weasel-word “reportedly” indicates these claims are unverified opposition anecdotes. There is no evidence for any of these allegations. When people have appeared after having been detained in prison, they invariably look in good health and show no signs of ill treatment.

  • Ortega’s worst liability was the economy. Foreign investment was stalled, tourism had collapsed, and many businesses were closed or barely operational.

Anderson disingenuously omits that opposition business leaders like Michael Healey said they were not concerned at the damage they were causing the economy because it was a price worth paying to oust the government. The opposition deliberately devastated Nicaragua’s economy explicitly stating that the policy of roadblocks and barricades was intended to put pressure on the government to make political concessions by hurting the country’s economy. They stated this publicly during the televised National Dialogue.

  • “Ortega has completely lost legitimacy in the eyes of his people,” the official said. “But that doesn’t mean he won’t rule at the point of a gun.”

Even Anderson had to admit the massive popular support apparent on July 19th for President Daniel Ortega and his government. Sandinista rallies and marches continue to attract huge support, and are being held every few days as people demand justice for those killed and injured by protesters. It is Nicaragau’s minority political opposition who resorted to do politics “at the point of a gun” not the Sandinista government.

  • Two jeeps full of paramilitaries came roaring up the street. One came to a halt outside the house, and several men carrying weapons clambered down. As they fanned out, Bayardo’s mother, sister, and widow began crying and moaning in terror.

Anderson chose to end his article with an anecdote at a moment of insecurity and uncertainty following the liberation of Masaya from the armed oppsition gangs of the suffering of a family, as a result of the violence. Without diminishing the bereavement of the family Anderson chose to visit, his account itself diminishes and omits the suffering of the hundreds of Sandinista families, many of them also suffering bereavement, in Masaya who were victims of vicious repression by violent armed opposition supporters for over two months.


Jon Lee Anderson’s article is factually inaccurate and blatantly partisan in favor of the Nicaraguan opposition. He mendaciously omits the fundamental reality that Nicaragua’s minority political opposition violently sought regime change. Using social media they deceived a huge number of people who subsequently realized they had been fooled, at which point support for the opposition evaporated. When their support began to disappear in late May and early June the opposition intensified their political violence and intimidation via events like those on May 30th. Anderson deliberately and systematically covers up the context of extremely violent, murderous repression by the country’s political opposition against ordinary people in Nicaragua, especially against Sandinista supporters.

In this he can point to support from organizations like Amnesty International, the Inter American Commission for Human Rights and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights all led by ideological allies of the US government. Far from being an independent voice, Anderson slavishly recycles,  like all those US government allied organizations, the narrative of Nicaragua’s right wing opposition who are funded, trained and supported both by the US government itself and by the corrupt right-wing terrorist mafia around Ileana Ros Lehtinen and Marco Rubio in Florida. Liberals and progressive in the United States should look twice before swallowing Anderson’s account of the crisis in Nicaragua because the ingredients of support for an extreme right wing agenda he has smuggled into it should be completely unpalatable to them.

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