US Considering a Form of Sanctions Against Nicaragua as Protests Continue

by Craig Toennies

I support my Nicaraguan friends, many of whom are in the streets bleeding for their cause, in protests over austerity measures by the government of Daniel Ortega of the FSLN, increasing mandatory contributions to, and decreasing benefits from, the country’s social security and retirement system. There are very real grievances and the streets are historically where these things are best resolved. Government repression and violence is only making the protests spread, as even strongly pro-Sandinista rural communities have been upset by the government’s bloody response. [Note: As C-L went to press, Ortega canceled the cuts and increases, after 20 deaths in protests.]

However, I will not “help” by asking for or encouraging my own government to renew its historical involvement in internal Nicaraguan affairs. If you’re asking that of me, or if you’re a fellow gringo “spreading the word” toward that end, please consider all the implications – because I, for one, know that is definitely not the solution. And I won’t participate in that. I know my country and absolutely nothing good will come from the US reasserting itself in the sovereignty of Nicaragua. Current initiatives like the NICA Act are still waiting in US Congress, and efforts like that (or worse!) will only hurt the Nicaraguan people (as everything the US has done here in nearly two centuries has.)

[This bill, by gusano Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, directs Trump to tell the US Executive Director at each international financial institution to use US influence to stop any loan for Nicaragua’s benefit, other than for basic human needs or to “promote democracy,” unless the State Department certifies that Nicaragua is taking effective steps to hold free elections overseen by “credible” observers; promote democracy; strengthen “the rule of law”; respect freedom of association and expression; combat “corruption”; and protect the right of opposition parties and other civil society activists to operate without interference. It’s part of US counter-attacks on the “pink tide” in ‘Latin’ America.–Ed.]

In my country, there’s a saying “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” The US is that hammer. Everywhere it acts, it acts with the utmost violence.

I won’t use or disseminate the hashtag #SOSNicaragua, as the “SOSx” hashtag has well-documented right wing and reactionary connotations – particularly in Venezuela. The fact that this is being used in Nicaragua has been troubling – and is a sign that this might be another reactionary movement with similar, foreign sponsorship. It’s the same thing actual fascists in Venezuela, backed by foreign intervention and wealthy Venezuelan ex-patriots in Miami, have been using since hashtags were invented to encourage the “global community” to meddle with the Bolivarian Revolution. It’s disturbing to me that people don’t know that or care enough not to replicate it here. Or if they do know it, they’re consciously emulating it. It’s suspect – and that’s exactly what Ortega’s administration will say; that this is “foreign-sponsored.” This denies the agency of people outraged at being excluded from the decisions that matter in their lives and who are being killed in their own streets for daring to speak with one voice.

FOX News photo promoting the #SOS Nicaragua hashtag

     People who want to understand the current crisis should be informed about the INSS. Specifically, in mid-2017, the IMF listed it (as well as the potential US “NICA Act” – passage of which I think will be the immediate, [and devastating] US response) as major possible sources of sovereign debt “issues” for Nicaragua in the future. See their document about “debt sustainability”:  (httpss:// external/pubs/ft/dsa/pdf/2017/ dsacr17173.pdf). They say: “Notably the risks arising from the unwinding of the Venezuela cooperation, as well as the potential passage of the NICA Act, drive staff’s assessment that Nicaragua remains at a moderate risk of external debt distress. The Nicaragua Investment Conditionality Act (NICA) Act is a bill currently being considered by the US Congress which would require U.S. Executive Directors to oppose loans to Nicaragua from International Financial Institutions unless the Nicaraguan government takes [certain] concrete steps. See the text of the bill H.R. 1918: httpss:// 115th-congress/house-bill/1918 .”

The IMF and World Bank are plain and unabashed tools of US imperialism (of “globalism,” not “global community”) and their suggestions that the INSS in Nicaragua be “privatized” to “save it” is a compelling reason the Orteguistas may have moved to “reform” it the way they did. INSS insolvency is a very big potential problem for Nicaragua. That’s a fact. So Nicaragua has to do something. But what? Saddling the already under-paid workers here with more burdens and less benefits is obviously not popular. It’s austerity. But Nicaragua has to figure out how to keep the INSS solvent, prevent theft and misappropriation – and yet also keep it away from the neo-liberal privatization the IMF and World Bank want. So how do Nicaraguans want to seriously address that?

The people have the power. The people always have the power. Everywhere. No individual or state can deny that – and no individual or state can continue to function without the power granted to it by its own people. Sandinismo is bigger than Ortega. It always was and it always will be. And one thing that remains constant in this current crisis in my adoptive country, no matter what my friends’ feelings about Ortega, is their continuing faith and belief in Sandinismo.

Nicaraguans themselves can, must and will determine the future of Nicaragua. And with a true hero like Sandino as their guide, I’m confident they can collectively achieve that future.

Craig Toennies is a US activist currently living in Nicaragua.

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