|Daniel Ortega's Nicaragua
The show goes on
More blows against democracy
|Apr 29th 2010 | MANAGUA | From The Economist print edition
Occasional exposure to foreign analysis by The Economist offers an indispensable reminder of the global corporate media's self-serving, counterfactual falsity. A recent piece in the Economist's print edition of April 29th - “More blows against democracy” - shows how infinite feedback disinformation loops work to generate pernicious imperialist propaganda. The article depends entirely on interpretations and versions of events from Nicaragua's right-wing opposition and its media.
Those media have taken over much of the anti-Sandinista heavy lifting previously done by the country's conventional political opposition. The Economist recycles falsehoods and half-truths fed into their propaganda machine by the Nicaraguan opposition. Then, those same right wing media and politicians and their regional allies take the noxious mess the Economist has sicked up and use it to thicken their psy-war sorcery against Nicaragua's Sandinista government.
That infinite feedback-loop is an omnipresent propaganda mechanism in the low intensity war of the US government and its allies against countries that flout their wishes and resist their demands. Two general observations may help put specific dishonesties of the Economist's latest false reporting on Nicaragua in context. Firstly, the title “More blows against democracy” is completely fake.
The Economist selectively criticises governments at the socialist end of the political spectrum but devotes negligible coverage to the worst abusers of fundamental rights in Latin America – the governments of Mexico, Colombia and Peru. As well as that regional selectivity, the Economist applies an absurdly restrictive ideological notion of democracy that eliminates its important social and economic components. Both the regional and the conceptual selectivity render more plausible the Economist's misreporting of the facts.
President Ortega's "struggle ... dismal poll ratings ... mobs"
Misreporting the facts in turn makes possible an entirely phoney and tendentious analytical interpretation. The Economist article begins by suggesting that Nicaragua's constitutional crisis has been caused by “Daniel Ortega's struggle to remain president of Nicaragua after his term ends early in 2012”. So, according to the Economist “Faced with dismal poll ratings and constitutional obstacles, Mr Ortega has taken to unleashing mobs.”
In fact, it is Nicaraguan opposition legislators' refusal to follow the legislative programme in the National Assembly that has caused the current constitutional crisis. The legislature was inactive for almost two months precisely because the opposition leaders face “dismal poll ratings and constitutional obstacles” to getting what they want. Most polls show total support for all the opposition parties running below 30% with some polls putting that support below 20%. The same polls show support for the governing FSLN party ranging from around 35% to 45%.
Among various reasons for the collapse of support for Nicaragua's right-wing opposition has been their failure to elect new candidates for 25 official posts including magistrates of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Electoral Council and officials of the national audit body. The whole process has been hijacked by the two main leaders of the political opposition – Arnoldo Aleman and Eduardo Montealegre. Their bitter, destructive power struggle has made agreement on the election for the pending 25 official posts impossible.
The Economist's version of democracy
The Economist alleges President Ortega “extended the tenure” of the relevant magistrates and officials as if that measure were a simple, permanent power grab. But President Ortega's decree is provisional, pending the election of new officials by the legislature. In the legislature, it is the right wing opposition who refuse to vote new officials, because opposition leaders hate each other so much they cannot agree on candidates for the respective posts. The Economist turns that reality into its diametric opposite.
FSLN supporters' anger exploded when those same fractious opposition politicans tried to sink the country into chaos by overturning President Ortega's decree rather than agreeing new candidates for the officials to be chosen by the National Assembly. The Economist makes great play of the minor damage and violence that occurred when Nicaraguan opposition politicians tried to force the issue. The Economist's version of democracy is that the right-wing opposition they support can act to wreck the country's institutional stability, but “Mr. Ortega's ruffians”, the Sandinista rank and file, are not entitled to object.
The Economist's double standard
Important omissions haunt the Economist's article. It treats President Ortega's success via the courts in securing his right to stand for re-election as an act of unprecedented skulduggery. But it was the Economist's darling President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica who set the precedent, by using the courts in Costa Rica to…...secure President Arias the right to stand for re-election. For the Economist that seems not to have been another “blow against democracy” - that happened only when President Ortega did the same thing.
Likewise the Economist refers to “municipal elections in 2008―elections that the opposition and observers denounced as rigged.” The sly use of the apparently benign term “observers” refers to ideologically-skewed election monitoring organizations funded by foreign governments including that of the United States. When those supposedly neutral monitoring oufits brazenly participated in opposition political activities, the electoral authorities disqualified them from observing the 2008 elections. The Economist does not mention that over 150 international observers from electoral organizations across Latin America and the Caribbean regarded the elections as free and fair.
Those observers have been air-brushed out of the collective corporate media memory. They never figure in corporate media reports on those 2008 municipal elections. In many reports their presence was even actively denied. There again, the obtuse selectivity of the Economist's report is blatantly self-evident. It is obvious the article is written deliberately to mislead the great majority of readers who know little or nothing of Nicaragua and its recent history.
European Aid to Nicaragua
The Economist applies similarly disingenuous manipulation of the facts in relation to Nicaragua's difficult relations with aid donors, writing “Britain, Sweden and Denmark have cut off aid to Nicaragua, while the United States, the European Union, Germany and Japan have either scaled back theirs or imposed more conditions.” It is possibly accurate speculation that aid from EU countries was cut back thanks to political differences. But it is definitely true that EU countries in general have taken a decision to refocus their aid to Africa. Nor is it likely that foreign donors' funding decisions were unaffected by the effects of the economic crash in 2008.
The broader picture of Nicaragua's aid relations is very encouraging. Spain increased its development cooperation in 2009. Multilateral financial institutions have also increased their lending to Nicaragua. Countries like Taiwan, Japan, Russia, Iran and South Korea, as well as several EU countries maintain levels of development cooperation comparable to or greater than those in other countries in the region. The Economist's implicit suggestion of a collapse in donor confidence in Nicaragua is wildly inaccurate.
Nicaragua and Venezuela
The broad brush fakery continues with the Economist's account of Venezuelan development cooperation to Nicaragua, “Mr Ortega has a firm ally in Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, who provides loans and cheap oil worth up to $400m a year”. The Economist relies for that figure on “opposition leaders”. They could have asked the Nicaraguan government. The Nicaraguan government's official figure for Venezuela's cooperation for 2009 is US$443m.
The Economist and its mates among Nicaragua's “opposition leaders” omit to mention that Venezuela's cooperation has been channelled into a comprehensive program ranging from much needed industrial and communications infrastructure, through vital capitalization of Nicaragua's agricultural sector down to micro-credit for tens of thousands of low-income self-employed in the informal economy. That omission is crucial to the Economist's article's story line.
The whole article is geared to making peole believe the Sandinista government led by President Daniel Ortega is illegitimate, anti-democratic, corruptly dependent on Venezuelan development cooperation and domestically dependent on political violence to get its way. That big lie is complemented by numerous falsehoods and omissions. Falsehoods in relation to the past are now accompanied by falsehoods relating to the future – in particular the presidential elections scheduled for November 2011.
The Economist's selective use of polls
The Economist recycles the Nicaraguan right wing opposition's falsehood that if only they could unite they would win the 2011 election hands down. That may have been true in 2006. It is no longer true after three and a half years of very successful Sandinista government under President Ortega. The Economist cites a poll putting Daniel Ortega's popularity at 27%. But other polls put it much higher, one at well over 40%.
Selective use of polls is a miserable ploy akin to whistling in the dark. In the same way the Economist falsely understates Sandinista support so as to make its favourites on the Nicaraguan right wing look good, it also falsely questions the likely integrity of the 2011 elections. The logic there is confused since the Economist apparently accepts the validity of 2006 election results held under similar personnel and rules as those likely to apply in 2011.
The broader attack against Latin America
The Economist writers implicitly deny the catastrophic failure - everywhere - of their neoliberal ideology. Their denial of self-evident facts explains why they cannot report accurately about anything else. In Nicaragua, the overwhelming probability is that the Sandinistas will win the presidential elections in 2011 with increased support and a majority in the National Assembly.
The US government and its Western Bloc allies are determined to prevent that outcome. The Economist is a well known propaganda instrument for the plutocrat elite that dominates the governments of the US and its European allies. Its article on Nicaragua is a humdrum part of the wider low intensity disinformation war against independent governments in Latin America and the rest of the world.
Specifically, as the article itself makes clear, it is part of the rich-country propaganda onslaught against the Venezuelan and Cuban led Alternativa Bolivariana de nuestras Américas - ALBA. Nicaragua's example as part of ALBA delivers rapid social and economic change in favour of the country's impoverished majority. That change threatens US and allied government's political and economic control of Central America and the Caribbean.
Corporate media like the Economist provide fantasy-based disinformation in defence of the global corporate elite's completely discredited capitalist system. The system survives by means of ruthless attacks on majority living standards and quality of life. In foreign policy the system's respective governments combine to undermine leaders and political movements that successfully challenge their dominance. The Economist's latest article on Nicaragua falls entirely and predictably into that cynical strategic programme of neocolonial aggression.
*toni solo worked in construction in Europe for many years before getting involved in community and human rights activism in Central America. He is based in Nicaragua and has lived in different parts of the region for a total of over 20 years. A committed but critical supporter of the FSLN in Nicaragua, his articles have been widely published on the Internet. In 2008, together with Karla Jacobs, he launched the bilingual web site Tortilla con Sal, providing information and resources on Nicaragua and the region.