Material World: Nicaragua – Truth Will Out
Many liberals, including the newly elected mayor of New York, Bill De Blasio, were inspired by the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega in the 1980s. Indeed it was difficult for anyone not have some sympathy for the Sandinistas. After all, they were being confronted by the might of the United States who were not only sponsoring acts of terrorism against them but actually engaging in acts of war by mining Nicaragua’s ports, acts for which they were duly found guilty by the World Court (although they totally ignored the verdict). Nor could many help but admire their achievements in literacy and health-care.
Nevertheless, the Socialist Party could see through the false claims being presented that a Sandinista Nicaragua was in some way socialist. The Socialist Standard wrote at the time ‘Needless to say, the Socialist Party is hostile in every way to the Contra terrorists and their backers. But the enemy of an enemy is not necessarily a friend… Socialists do not support the state-capitalist government of Nicaragua and to the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign which implores us to do so we respond that our only support is for workers of all lands in their struggle against the capitalists of all lands, be they imperial exploiters or native ones, left or right wing’ (July 1987).
Ortega may have been a Sandinista rebel who helped defeat the Somoza dictatorship but now he has managed to transform himself from ‘revolutionary’ leader to simply just another revolting capitalist ruler.
With the subsequent re-elections of Ortega’s FSLN our cautionary counsel has been proved wise. In November 2013, Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister visited the UK to promote his country’s stable economy, potential for growth, infrastructure development and favourable fiscal legislation to international investments. He underlined the political stability, attractive set of labour laws, tax incentives and the comparative advantage that his country offers to British and European investors.
Under the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), a trade and economic cooperation pact that includes Cuba, Bolivia, and Venezuela, Ortega, by presidential decree, established Councils of Citizen Power under the control of the Sandinista party to administer and distribute much of the social spending but which also provides an estimated $3 – 500 million in funds to be personally administered by Ortega with no public accountability.
Since being reconciled with the Catholic Church, Ortega has become a strident opponent of abortion. In a country where the population is 85 percent Catholic it is always helpful in elections to have the blessing of the Church even if it means supporting a ban on therapeutic abortions that has set back women’s rights. Even a pregnancy that cannot possibly result in a viable baby – an anencephalic or ectopic one – has to be carried to term. A pregnant woman with cancer has to have the baby first, then treatment for the cancer, no matter what the risk to her chances of survival. A woman who gets pregnant through an act of rape or incest has to have the baby. In 2012 the government forced a 12-year old girl who had been raped and impregnated by her stepfather to remain under ‘state protection’ in a Managua hospital until she gave birth. Sonia Castro, Nicaragua’s Minister of Health, even anointed herself ‘protector-in-chief,’ making sure the child did not escape from the hospital.
The Independent wrote ‘Today in Nicaragua, two years after the Sandinistas’ return to power, there is no idealism, no poetry, no romance. The regime over which President Ortega presides is an anthem to brute cynicism. Or a parable of human weakness, the old story of what happens with idealists, always and everywhere, once they have tasted power. It is Animal Farm all over again’ (21 Nov 2008).
The objective of socialists is to assist in the emancipation of the workers from our enslavement to the capitalist class. Ortega’s Sandinistas have not betrayed their core principles or ‘values’. Their socialist credentials were always weak and in fact made no claim to being socialist. The Sandinista movement was officially designated ‘a popular, democratic, and anti-imperialist revolution.’ How often have disillusioned left liberals cried ‘betrayal!’? It’s a simple matter of understanding economic systems. No one need be fooled by propaganda spin.