A regime’s roots in Washington’s terrorist war

May 21, 2018

Michael Friedman, a U.S. socialist who lived in Nicaragua after the revolution in 1979, comments on the sources of a very different climate under a former Sandinista leader.

FOR ME, there are ineludible connections between the savage bloodletting we are witnessing in Palestine and in Nicaragua — at the hands of the racist Israeli regime and the authoritarian Ortega-Murillo regime respectively.

The age of the protagonists and victims comes to mind, first and foremost: largely youth, students, children, in both cases. This is inextricably bound up with the goals of the repression in both cases: state terrorism with the goal of stamping out any hope for a different future, a hope always borne, first of all, by the youth.

There is also the effort on the part of the respective regimes to control the flow of information, particularly to the exterior. And we see victim-blaming messaging in both cases.

One final, historical connection I would make, perhaps the most controversial, is the ultimate responsibility, the legacy, of colonialism and imperialist domination.

In the case of Israel, a colonial settler state, the connection is clear. In Ortega’s case, it is obfuscated by his anti-imperialist rhetoric, the enmity of the U.S. government and the mantle that Ortega claims to the legacy of the Sandinista revolution.

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Yet the Ortega regime is hardly the anti-imperialist force its defenders make it out to be.

While the U.S. remains committed to wiping out any historical vestige of Sandino and the Sandinista movement, and so presents Ortega in much the same light as it did Sadaam Hussein, Ortega has been committed since before his reign to the constitution of a new Nicaraguan oligarchy, pacts with sectors of the old oligarchy, and neoliberal economic policies in accordance with IMF recipes. Venezuelan oil gave him some leeway within these parameters to consolidate his political economy.

But Ortega is just as much a product of imperialist intervention as the Zionist state, even if the results respond to very different geopolitical needs and balances of social forces.

Throughout the 1980s, Washington did its best to stamp out the Sandinista Revolution, to make the Nicaraguan people cry uncle through more savage bloodletting, economic sabotage and ideological warfare, though the sowing of chaos, insecurity and fear (which Naomi Klein would call disaster capitalism).

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Barring the overthrow of the revolution, Washington aimed to thoroughly distort and discredit it in the eyes of the people. And the intervention favored centralizing, verticalist, repressive tendencies. Whether by design or not, it “selected for” authoritarian figures like Daniel Ortega.

The Ortega-Murillo regime owes as much to Washington’s terrorist war and the ensuing neoliberal onslaught as it does to Ortega’s own authoritarian inclinations.

None of this is to exonerate the Ortegas, any more than the Holocaust justifies Zionist crimes. Ortega and his group chose to take the path they did. But what it poses is a cautionary tale: The Nicaraguan people’s liberation must be their own work, their self-determination. It poses the obverse of the message to U.S. leftists that “the enemy of my enemy is not my friend.”

Most importantly, it poses the need for unity on the international left in solidarity with the just struggle of the Nicaraguan people, while also reminding us that we must oppose every effort of our own government to intervene in Nicaragua to impose its own solution in Nicaragua.

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