To: Detroit/Seattle Workers' Voice mailing list
November 16, 2018
RE: Havana Times on the struggle in Nicaragua

While the Cuban government has vehemently supported the bloody suppression of the Nicaraguan protest movement by the Ortega/Murilla government and denounced the struggle as a US imperialist plot, a number of long-time sympathizers with Cuba have supported the Nicaraguan movement, as have many former Sandinistas.

Havana Times supports the rebellion against Ortega

By Phil West, Seattle Workers' Voice

The website The Havana Times describes itself as “open-minded writing from Cuba”.  It's actually edited in Nicaragua these days, because the staff found it impossible to publish in Cuba after about a year after it was founded.  It also regularly carries articles on Nicaragua which express opinions critical of the Ortega regime.  Here is a compilation of extracts from some of these articles along with a few comments on them:

After the Dictatorship – What to Do and What to Expect?
Onofre Guevara Lopez (Confidencial) Oct. 11, 2018</h4>

Onofre Guevara is a former leading member of the FSLN.  In the first years after the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship, he was a member of the State Council, and later, after the Esquipulas peace process, he became a member of the National Assembly.  He left the Assembly in 2000 and after that continued to work as a journalist and author.

“The formation of a Blue and White National Unity movement (Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco) with representation from the majority of the social and political sectors that actively oppose the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship, is a great historic event due to its broad political agreement without ideological discrimination or sectarianism. The ten principles, ten values and thirteen commitments of their founding proclamation must now move beyond unity and into action as the only way of achieving victory.

"Two of their essential propositions sum up all of them; and from this starting point all the others must be developed in a continuous and simultaneous way, but without a linear or mechanical vision. The first task is getting rid of the regime through any civic route, be it via the dictators’ resignation, or their defeat in early elections.  In that way, the unity movement can fulfill the humanitarian objective of freeing society from the tragedy of seeing its young taken prisoner, persecuted or killed.

"Later, a program of action and transformation must be undertaken, based on the 23 principles, values and commitments outlined. These will guide the eradication of Ortega’s system and begin the historic job of constructing a legal system built on respect for human rights and guarantees of all the democratic civil rights."

Guevara makes no attempt to describe or analyze the class composition of the UNAB movement.  He also does not explain its practical tactics.  Instead he puts forward all sorts of illusions about the goals and abilities of this movement, and tries to make us believe that this is the “magic answer” to the repression of the last several months in Nicaragua, but his assertions have a very hollow ring to them.

Is the Crisis in Nicaragua a Conspiracy or Legitimate Rebellion?
William Sanchez, Oct. 11, 2018

“Ever since the uprising began in Nicaragua, on April 18, 2008, there have been two dominant explanations as to how the series of events transpired. Let’s call them the primary theory and the conspiracy theory.

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“The primary theory alleges as follows: On April 18, 2018, in response to government-imposed changes to the pension system, student protesters took to the streets to protest these changes. Within days, the matter had erupted in violence, students were being joined in the streets by other citizens, and protesters were being killed, injured, and arrested. It was often difficult to directly identify the shooters, as they frequently worked as snipers, shooting from an undetectable and distant locations.

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“The conspiracy theory alleges: (1) that this was not an organic protest, but rather that it had been long in the planning by foreign players, (2) that the protesters were not students, but rather violent criminals and gang members, 'terrorizing' the good people and the government of Nicaragua, and most importantly, (3) that the paramilitary did in fact do most of the killing, but that the paramilitary was not acting under the control of Ortega and his people, but rather, under the direction of the USA and/or other foreign governments, or even domestic opposition parties (which had the intention of damaging Ortega and his administration by placing blame directly upon them)."

The writer examines the evidence for each theory very thoroughly, and finds the evidence for the primary theory to be much more solid than that for the conspiracy theory.   He does not make any attempt to analyze the different political trends among the “students and other citizens” who came out into the streets in opposition to the Ortega-Murillo regime's new economic program.

He also misses an important point in favor of the primary theory – that it acknowledges the active role of the masses in creating their own history, whereas the conspiracy theory   treats the masses as inherently inert, without any agency at all, and assumes that they have no will of their own or independent interests that they feel they must defend.

Ortega Government Editor Speaks Out in Exile,
Patricia Martinez G.  (*Confidencial*), Oct. 23, 2018

Since the civic protests against the government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo began in April, official media outlets have disqualified the demonstrations as an “attempted coup d’état by the right,” and that is no coincidence. “Anyone who opposes the Sandinista Front or Daniel Ortega, is (categorized) as a rightist,” assures the former editor of the official outlet 19 Digital, Mikel Espinoza, now exiled in Costa Rica, in an interview with journalist Carlos Salinas, for the program “Esta Noche.” (Tonight).

"Espinoza says that in the government media there are guidelines that do not allow them to discuss, inside the newsroom, the journalistic coverage of the crisis in Nicaragua.

"The “compañera” (comrade), as they are told to call Murillo, is the person in charge of the “communication council” of official media outlets. She ordered that the main objective of the media was “not to inform” about what was happening in the country. “The only thing that was to be reported was press statements from the National Police and whatever the “compañera” said, everything official,” expressed Espinoza.

"The journalist added that reporters from that media were not going to cover the first protests and were guided by what the Communicators’ Network, aligned to the governing FSLN, sent them. “We were not going to the protests, the Communicators’ Network was there to pass photos, videos, but the journalists were not there,” he said. However, he says that starting April 20th, two days after the social outbreak, they began to provide coverage.

"Espinoza is now exile in Costa Rica. After presenting his letter of resignation, he left Nicaragua because he wanted to “detoxify.” I felt out of breath, I wanted to detoxify. Living in Nicaragua is frightening, especially for someone like me who worked for the Sandinista Front,” he commented."

Without a Political Accord, Economic Decline in Nicaragua Could Be 20%;
Ivan Olivares  (*Confidencial*)  Oct. 25, 2018

“Facing the impossibility of hammering out a Stand By agreement with the Fund [the IMF], the government will receive them with one objective in mind: securing the backing it urgently needs to push through economic reforms [concerning two laws] that are extremely unpopular.

"These two laws, mentioned in the 2019 budget, are the Tax Agreement Law [LCT] and the Social Security Law [INSS]. At the same time, the government is also looking to find a way to stop the flow of funds out of the national bank, as people withdraw their money  – which has now passed US $1.3 billion and, if possible, do the same with its battered international reserves.

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"... the IMF cannot take any measures — even if that only means offering advice to the country – when that country is, like Nicaragua, in the midst of such serious conflicts, and in a context in which the Government is even attempting to resolve the political problem that touched off a series of economic problems, but rather looking to force society to surrender due to hunger, fear or exhaustion.

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“It would seem that the regime understands that, from an economic point of view, 2018 is basically unsalvageable, and thus they are trying to reform the LCT so that it functions as a sort of lifesaver for 2019 — as the proposed reforms would allow for at least the negative 1 percent growth that is predicted.  The problem is that the 2019 predictions are not at all pleasing.

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“The other urgent matter is seeking a solution – or something close to one – to the deficit that keeps increasing in the Nicaraguan Institute of Social Security – it was almost 2.4 billion córdobas in 2017, and will have more than doubled to 5.5 billion córdobas by the end of this year, and is expected to soar to 8.6 billion córdobas by the end of 2019.  (1 USD = 32 Cordobas)

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“The worsening of the INSS is due to a worsening of the national economy, with massive layoffs that increase unemployment and will undoubtedly affect the INSS’ financial situation, forcing it to implement reforms that may not be agreeable to many Nicaraguans,” according to economist Leonardo Labarca, researcher with the Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policy (IEEPP).

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"These extracts show that a grim economic situation exists in Nicaragua, and the government is willing to force the burden of this crisis onto the backs of the working people and the poor, in line with the IMF's  implacable demands.  It has been a long time since the Ortega-Murillo regime gave any thought to alternatives that would defend popular interests instead of attacking them.  Pursuing such policies is a litmus test for claims that the FLSN still represents anything progressive. "

Nicaragua: Is the IMF an Accomplice or Acquiescent?
Enrique Saenz; (*Confidencial*) Oct. 26, 2018

“... I am going to express my opinion, without restrictions: I believe the IMF has carried out an acquiescent role towards the Ortega regime. Rather, its actions border on the limits of complicity.

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“...the Fund once again looked the other way from the fraudulent channeling of Venezuelan oil cooperation, and joined the chorus of praise about the behavior of Nicaraguan economy.

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“Let us begin with the INSS. The binge with the loans, with expenses and the unclear handling of investments were public events, whose obvious consequences were to undermine the finances of the institution. And the IMF did not call a spade a spade about these issues.

"On another aspect, from the structural point of view, the root of the INSS crisis has been the inability of the allegedly successful economy to generate stable and formal jobs, in sufficient quantity and quality. Employment is one of the strongest indicators of a “robust economy.” The leaders of the regime and the bureaucrats of the IMF gloated over the figures of economic growth, but they looked the other way at the unemployment figures, the informal economy and the precariousness of small and medium size companies.

"As for the review of exonerations and exemptions, it is a reality that a review was needed since some time ago, since the State stopped receiving hundreds of millions of dollars because of the privileges that are granted to companies regarding taxes.

"So much so, that the gradual reduction of tax exemptions was incorporated into the Tax Conciliation Law, since 2012, under an approach that was certainly reasonable. In order to preserve fiscal privileges, companies had to follow a program to generate employment, increase investment and modernize technology. However, the regime, in the framework of its business alliances, at the stroke of a pen sent to the garbage those provisions and restored the exemptions indefinitely.

"On subsidies, the IMF celebrated the apparent elimination of electricity tariff subsidies. In fact, subsidies in the electricity sector were not eliminated. They remain fully valid, fattening the packets of the energy generating companies, with ALBANISA in the lead, and the distributing company, the not so mentioned TSK. The owners of these companies were and are the true beneficiaries of the subsidies.

"The change was that, until before April of this year, the money came from the budget and was channeled, let’s say that, by means of a “bypass,” since it was disguised in the tariff of the consumers. Now the substantial weight of the subsidy was unloaded on the backs of consumers, including businesses.

"What will the IMF say now about the INSS (Nicaragua’s Social Security Institute), the exonerations and the subsidies?

"We will be alert.

"**In Conclusion**

"Finally, let me add that several reports place the regime as the most corrupt in Central America and third among the most corrupt in Latin America, which undoubtedly has economic consequences." <>

Taiwan Denies Purchase of Bonds from Ortega’s Dictatorship;
Ivan Olivares  (Confidencial)  Oct. 27, 2018

“The Ambassador of Taiwan in Managua, Jaime Wu, denied that the diplomatic legation under his leadership or any other agency of the Government of Taiwan, has held talks with the Government of Nicaragua to buy the equivalent of more than 280 million dollars in Bonds of the Republic.

"This Friday, Confidencial published, based on two diplomatic sources that had access to high Nicaraguan government authorities, that Taiwan would buy the 9.035 billion Cordobas in bonds issued to cover the fall in government revenues, which occurred during the economic crisis caused by the political crisis over the last six months.

"'Nothing. There is nothing, nothing of that. If there were something, I would not had accepted your interview; but, if I accept it, it is because I want to clarify this,' Wu said.

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"In the last few years, the Republic of China in Taiwan (whose territory is the island of Formosa, which is considered by the mainland Government of China as a rebel province), has lost the support of several nations of the twenty or so that recognized them and not their giant neighbor.

"Only eight countries in the American hemisphere recognize Taiwan: Paraguay, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Caribbean Islands of Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Saint Lucia. In August of this year, El Salvador dealt a strong blow to Taiwan’s diplomacy when it broke relations to establish them with the People’s Republic of China. Immediately, Taiwan rewarded the loyalty of the Ortega regime, transferring [to Nicaragua] six projects that it had in El Salvador for an amount of 2.9 million dollars.

"In spite of everything, the diplomat rejected the possibility that they had been forced to provide support to the Ortega regime, reminding that such a financial decision would be easily detectable.

" 'Taiwan’s international cooperation remains unchanged. The amounts remain the same, without any abrupt increases. That always remains along those lines,' he said.

"When he enumerated the amounts and areas to which Taiwanese cooperation in Nicaragua is destined, Ambassador Wu said that the bilateral program contemplates 10 million dollars annually, for five years, for a total of 50 million." <>

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Posted on January 15, 2018
Some typos have been corrected.