Nicaragua - A US Colony Again?
"We have made a very important treaty with a people totally unrepresented, a people dominated by our military power...I
have never considered the treaty with Nicaragua as a treaty agreed with the Nicaraguan people. We made a treaty with
ourselves. We made a treaty with a government that represented us even on the other side of the negotiating table. We
made a treaty with a government that was our instrument. It is one of the most indefensible transactions I have ever
known in international life."
- US Senator William Borah
Nothing much changes even after nearly a hundred years. Corporate war-criminal Robert Zoellick, on his day-job for the
US State Department, breezed into Nicaragua last week. He got the kind of slavish welcome he fails to get even from the
servile Washington press corps. His visit followed immediately on from an editorial by the State Department Daily (also
known as the Washington Post) condemning "undemocratic" sandinista leader Daniel Ortega. On the contrary, Ortega has
promoted and defended electoral democracy in Nicaragua since 1984.
Zoellick's visit was trivial in terms of what he had to say. The usual imperial blarney about promoting democracy
accompanied by a typical threat to withhold US$175m in aid if Nicaraguans don't do what the US government says. The
discourse has not changed since 1910. "Do what we want - or else...." One expects such diplomatic speaking-clock
declarations from career workhorses like US ambassador to Nicaragua Paul Trivelli. But maybe machiavellian corporate
Prince-lings like "call-me-Bob" Zoellick should try a little harder.
Zoellick's curriculum vitae includes stints as consultant to the corrupt Enron Corporation, adviser to privatisation
predator Viventures/Vivendi International
, associate of the exclusive Precursor Group of investment advisors
and as an executive for financial services buccaneering giant Goldman Sachs. The idea that while in government people
like Zoellick set aside their corporate ties is absurd. Like all leading functionaries of the US imperial plutocracy,
Robert Zoellick contributes to global corruption through the constant osmosis between his public duties and his personal
corporate loyalties. Then he has the outright nerve to accuse other people of corruption.
During his visit to Nicaragua, Zoellick met with President Bolaños and his ministers, as well as possible presidential
candidates Jose Antonio Alvarado, Eduardo Montealegre and Herty Lewites, members of the business sector and, as
individuals, some members of the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC) of disgraced ex-president Arnoldo Aleman. Among the
group meeting Zoellick with Lewites were Luis Carrion and Victor Hugo Tinoco. All three are former leading members of
the FSLN Sandinista revolutionary government. The main task for them all was to prostrate themselves metaphorically
before the imperial prince in order to convince him they are "democrats" cut, stitched and finished to the taste of the
Herty Lewites : currying imperial favour
Herty Lewites put this spin on it, "It was made clear that the United States can't come insisting that we sandinistas
are not working and struggling for a democratic government. It was precisely for that that they expelled us from the
party, for seeking primarily from the party ranks, the democratization of the party."
Lewites has consistently obfuscated the reasons for his expulsion from the FSLN, causing much confusion among FSLN
supporters. In fact, he was expelled from the FSLN for failing to abide by its statutes, among which chapter II section
15 of the rights and duties of members of the FSLN states that members of the FSLN are bound to "Conform strictly to
party disicpline, obeying all the directives, rules, norms and agreements of the FSLN."
Lewites failed to obey the rules. He was expelled.
Herty Lewites' meeting with Zoellick confirms the worst interpretations of his split with the FSLN. All the time he
talks about "rescuing sandinismo", what Lewites - a very talented and successful businessman - very clearly means is to
embrace US-style "free market" capitalism, and the abandonment of national sovereignty that move entails. Nothing could
be further from Augusto Cesar Sandino's vision of a free, sovereign Nicaragua.
Herty Lewites has never spoken out clearly against the Central American Free Trade Agreement or water privatization. He
is perhaps the first politician in Central America to adopt wholesale the utterly cynical modern public relations style
of sinister spin-merchants like Tony Blair. Lewites and his supporters are Tony Blair's neo-liberal New Labour
translated for Nicaraguans.
What might someone with Sandino's vision have said to Robert Zoellick? Several obvious matters of concern leap to mind.
They might have expressed dismay and condemnation of US government protection for super-terrorist Luis Posada Carriles,
wanted for mass-murder by the Venezuelan government. They might have interceded vigorously on behalf of the five Cuban
anti-terrorist heroes languishing unjustly in maximum security US prisons after having been exonerated by an Appeals
They might have urged the US immediately to honour its commitments under the Geneva Conventions by restoring a humane
regime to detainees in Guantanamo and bringing them swiftly to a fair trial. Or they might have pressed the US
government to respond promptly to an Italian court's warrant for the arrest on kidnapping charges of US
gangster-diplomat Betnie Medero-Navedo, currently First Secretary at the US embassy in Mexico.
They might even have questioned US intervention in Haiti.
Very clearly, none of these points were put to Robert Zoellick by Herty Lewites or Luis Carrion or Victor Hugo Tinoco.
Instead former revolutionaries Lewites, Carrion and Tinoco pleaded their case for benediction from the war-criminal US
government as "democrats". They did so knowing perfectly well they were dealing with one of the principal
State-terrorists responsible for sustaining the colonial occupation of Afghanistan, the fascist occupation of Iraq, the
genocidal occupation of Palestine and the rape of Haiti (leaving aside US terrorism against Nicaragua throughout the
1980s). Anyway, they came out of the meeting apparently expecting still to be taken seriously when they talk about
"rescuing Sandinismo". Seldom can public relations rhetoric and actual political behaviour have been so flagrantly
CAFTA - US protection racket collects its dues
In contrast to Lewites, even the representative of the US-dominated Organization of American States, genial and
avuncular Dante Caputo, agreed that Zoellick's threats on aid were interventionist. When asked about Zoellick's threat
to hold back US$175 from the US Millenium Account aid program, Caputo opined, "Whenever any international financial
organization imposes conditionalities, de facto there is intervention."
Few global corporate functionaries like Caputo are ever that candid in public. El Nuevo Diario reported Liberal judge
Guillermo Selva lamenting that by welcoming Zoellick, President Bolaños was fixing US$175 as Nicaragua's price. Selva
was reported as saying, "Zoellick didn't come as a diplomat, but rather as a proconsul giving orders, it oughtn't to be
Probably the main purpose of Zoellick's visit was to slap around the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC) to push through
ratification of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Despite complaints by leading Liberal figures like Guillermo
Selva, the PLC leadership knows who calls the shots. They quickly pressed the Sandinista FSLN to agree moving a vote on
the ratification of CAFTA to the top of the legislative agenda in the National Assembly. On the night of Monday October
10th 2005 the infamous deed was done and Nicaragua became formally in the words of Sandinista deputy Alba Palacios, a
United States annex "on totally disadvantageous terms".
Within a few hours of the vote, Daniel Ortega leader of the FSLN and President Enrique Bolaños announced an agreement
aimed at ending the almost year long cat-fight between the President and the country's legislators. So Nicaragua is back
to where it was in 2003 when the fatuous Colin Powell visited Nicaragua and ordered Bolaños not to have anything to do
with the FSLN. From that point on the hapless Bolaños was doomed to impotence.
At the time, the FSLN struck a deal with the PLC and tried to work out a legislative agenda on that basis, since they
had little practical alternative. Among recent agreements was the decision to postpone ratification of CAFTA pending
approval of a packet of laws designed to provide greater protection to employees, small farmers and small and
medium-sized businesses. When the PLC leadership caved in to imperial pressure in the shape of
"put-the-boot-in-harder-Bob" Zoellick, the rationale for the FSLN deal with the PLC vanished.
The voting arithmetic in Nicaragua's National Assembly is not difficult. The FSLN has 37 seats. President Bolaños can
count on 10, The PLC have 42 and there are three or four deputies from smaller parties. Since the PLC loathes Bolaños
with the internecine passion generally reserved for traitors, the FSLN and its allies can flirt with either side
depending on where its best advantage lies on any given piece of legislation.
From Sandinistas to Montewitistas
So the end result of nearly three years of US diplomacy and heavy handed intervention from the European Union, the
Organization of American States, the United Nations and the international financial institutions is circular. Nicaragua
is back where it was in 2002 before the bullying visit of clueless US Secretary of State Colin Powell. The main
significant domestic variation is the appearance on the scene of the Montewitistas.
Montewitistas are many-faced creatures who have had some difficulty deciding if they are coming or going. Like the
goddess Athena from the temple of Zeus, they all sprang fully-formed from the furrowed brows of presidential hopefuls
Herty Lewites and Eduardo Montealegre. Former FSLN member Lewites and former PLC member Montealegre have agreed various
matters relating to their respective attempts to run for the Nicaraguan presidency. It is their own squalid version of
the FSLN-PLC "pacto" which they have enjoyed lampooning for months.
When not grazing on the lush, golden slopes inhabited by the upper echelons of Nicaragua's business and
"non-governmental" classes Montewitistas spend most of the time name-calling and complaining. They cry no one will let
them take part in Nicaraguan elections, though the electoral process has not even begun. They cry the Liberal PLC and
the Sandinista FSLN are cruel, at the same time as they themselves hurl hearty abuse and threats at both. They cry that
only they are clean and good and honest, and run to seek approval from corporate gangsters like Robert Zoellick.
Leading figures among the Montewitistas include former revolutionary comandantes Henry Ruiz, Monica Baltodano and FSLN
founder member Victor Tirado. Ruiz and Baltodano have both expounded at length in Rebelión.org on their reasons for
supporting Herty Lewites. People with an addiction to long-winded Mexican novelas may well find their expositions
engrossing. But all are very coy about explaining their role as Montewitistas. Nor have they or Victor Tirado or Luis
Carrion or Victor Hugo Tinoco explained much about their rapprochement with the gangster regime of George W.Bush.
CAFTA - how big a deal?
CAFTA may have been ratified by the Nicaraguan legislature but its irrelevance to Nicaragua's underlying problems is
clear. It will not provide more net employment. It will accelerate rural depopulation, increasing the social problems in
both deserted rural areas and ever more overcrowded cities. Innumerable small and medium-sized business will shut down,
unable to compete with giant US rivals. Medicines will likely double in price or worse. Domestic taxes will have to
increase anything between 10% and 15% in order to compensate for lost revenue from import taxes.
Nicaragua will lose its food sovereignty. Terms and conditions for workers will deteriorate. Short-term investment
cowboys will finish stripping out Nicaragua's already minimal public sector. The people who will do well out of it all
will be the business classes represented by politicians like Enrique Bolaños, the leadership of the PLC, Herty Lewites
and Eduardo Montealegre. Another important set of beneficiaries will be leading representatives of the Nicaraguan
non-governmental sector picking up lucrative contracts from multilateral and bi-lateral "aid" donors to engage in the
charade of assisting victims of policies that should never have been implemented in the first place.
For the FSLN and its political allies the challenge will now be to define strategies of defence and resistance to
protect Nicaraguan workers and campesinos from the catastrophic effects for them of deepening enslavement under foreign
intervention. CAFTA and the intimately linked Plan Puebla Panama were designed to run on cheap energy in a stable
natural environment. Neither of those conditions are likely to apply now or for the foreseeable future.
Natural disasters like those that have regularly destroyed thousands of lives and billions of dollars worth of property
will become more frequent as climate change accelerates. The recent horrific flooding in much of Central America and
Mexico emphatically reinforces that fact. Venezuela's role in guaranteeing affordable oil-derived energy will counteract
US regional influence in ways that are still hard to work out. CAFTA only contributes negatively to this context. As the
majority of people's standard of living steadily declines resentment and protest will grow. Winning on CAFTA may yet
turn out to have been a pyrrhic victory for the US government and its local allies.
1. Reference from Gregorio Selser "Sandino. General de Hombres Libres" Congressional Record of Proceedings and Debates
of the 2nd Session of the 67th Congress. Vol LXII, part. 9a, pp. 8941/8942, Washington D.C.
2. www.viventures.com and http://lannuairedesfonds.journaldunet.com/fiche/63/viventures/
3. Precursor Group does not name its board members on its web site. In 2003 Zoellick was named on their web site as one
of their advisers. They are at www.precursorgroup.com
4. "Lewites y Montealegre asumen “pacto de caballeros”. Si inhiben a uno, el otro se retira de contienda." El Nuevo
Diario October 6th 2005.
5. "De los miembros del FSLN sus deberes y derechos" Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional. 1983
6. "La justicia italiana emite una orden de arresto por secuestro contra una funcionaria de la embajada de EEUU en
México" Crónica. www.rebelion.org 04-10-2005
7. "Caputo: “Opinar no significa injerencia”" Edgard Barbarena, Nuevo Diario October 8th 2005
8. "Clase política indignada con subsecretario Zoellick. Rita Fletes: “Alemán es ladrón, pero es nuestro ladrón”, Nuevo
Diario October 6th 2005.
9. Personal interview by phone, October 7th 2005.
toni solo is an activist based in Central America - contact via www.tonisolo.net