Here’s why the US has no right to interfere in Nicaragua


Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega speaks to supporters during the opening ceremony of a highway overpass in Managua, Nicaragua March 21, 2019. PHOTO/Reuters/Oswaldo Rivas

It’s been almost 200 years since the US declared that it would allow no more European colonies in the western hemisphere. A 100 years later this was twisted into a declaration that Latin America is exclusively the US’s sphere of influence, giving it a self-proclaimed right to interfere in other countries’ affairs.

The ‘Monroe Doctrine’, as it was known, deservedly fell into disrepute. But under President Trump it’s been revived. John Bolton, his national security adviser, announced in April that ‘the Monroe Doctrine is alive and well’. In May, he went even further: ‘This is our hemisphere!’ he told reporters after the failed coup in Venezuela.

‘Troika of tyranny’

The new version of the doctrine gives it a further twist. Bolton now claims to stand in defence of ‘democracy, sovereignty, security, and the rule of law’, aiming to make the Americas ‘free’ from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Of course, he’s the one who decides what ‘free’ means.

It won’t, for example, mean withdrawing support from a Honduran president who won a fraudulent election a year ago and runs one of the most repressive regimes in Latin America. Why? Because he is a Trump ally. No, Bolton intends to focus on what he calls the ‘troika of tyranny’: Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, all the subject of sanctions because their heads of state are ‘the three stooges of socialism’ who look to Russia and China for support rather than the US.

So Trump has reversed most of the reforms initiated by Obama in US-Cuba relations, recognised an unelected head of state in Venezuela and blocked loans from international agencies for poverty-reducing projects in Nicaragua.

Of the three countries in Bolton’s ‘troika’ the oddest is Nicaragua. It has a president, Daniel Ortega, who won an election in 2016 recognised as fair by the Organization of American States; unlike its northern neighbours it barely contributes to the ‘migrant caravans’ that so annoy Trump and it effectively inhibits drug smuggling. Until a year ago it was also the safest country in the region.

Return of the Reaganites

What angers Bolton (and his special envoy Elliott Abrams) is Ortega himself. Bolton was part of the Reagan administration and helped to find ways to hide the funding of the ‘Contras’ that were attacking Nicaragua’s Sandinista government in the 1980s; Abrams was indicted for his role in covering up that scandal but was later pardoned by Reagan’s successor, President Bush. For both of them, a resuscitated Monroe Doctrine is not about freedom, it’s about getting rid of leftist governments. Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua are all the subject of sanctions because their heads of state look to Russia and China for support rather than the US

Because this is what is at stake in Nicaragua. Ortega may have stretched the country’s constitution by standing for a third successive term of office, and he endorsed the ban on abortion, but even his enemies can’t deny that he’s systematically reduced poverty, has achieved the lowest inequality levels in Central America and fifth-highest ranking for the gender gap in the world according to the World Economic Forum, reduced illiteracy and increased life expectancy.

He ended the daily power cuts that occurred under his predecessor while doubling the proportion of homes that have electricity. Nicaragua is now one of eleven countries said to be leading the charge on renewable energy, aiming for its electricity supply to be 90 per cent renewable within the next year.

Settling old scores

Rather than pursuing freedom, it’s pretty obvious that Bolton and Abrams are settling historic scores. Ortega bounced back from electoral defeat in 1990, so now he’s denounced as a brutal dictator. Yet the US administration is targeting sanctions not just at Ortega himself but at the programmes funded by the World Bank and other agencies that have been part of his drive to end extreme poverty.

New Internationalist for more

Comments are closed.