To the credit of the Nicaraguan people, our sorry but somehow redeeming saga of last year’s coup attempt can now draw to a close. I’ve hesitated sharing its violence with you here. But I selected to recount just a fraction of the catastrophes that befell that hopeful citizenry for five long months.
Thank you for bearing with me — and bearing witness. It was humbling to go there and seek the truth. I found we’ve been so thoroughly misinformed! Far-right activists and international corporate media sold that Truth down the river. To reclaim it has been priceless.
Nicaragua’s legislature established their Truth, Justice & Peace Commission two weeks into the upheaval, to continually parse reality from the false, pre-scripted “news” being blared around the globe. So after a year of exhaustive record-keeping and research, we now know: the coup claimed 253 lives, including four babies, 14 primary and secondary-aged kids, and eight university students. 22 police officers died, with 401 wounded. 1,240 civilians sustained injuries. Public infrastructure was burned or smashed in 55 percent of the country, including 250 government services buildings.
Sixty-four percent of Vocational Training Centers were destroyed. (This system had 48,558 adults enrolled in classes.) 25 percent of businesses were lost, along with 130,000 jobs. The loss in tourism tallied $420 million. Overall, the attempted coup cost Nicaragua a billion dollars. So how did she survive? An analyst friend wryly observes, “The only place the coup exists today is in the international press.” That’s how lively the country looks again. The president of the country’s Central Bank explains: “We had promoted savings and had very good deposits abroad,” — which fortunately, they could access.
“The financial system was prepared to face an unknown shock. And there were already winds of change in the diplomatic sphere.” [think: Trump administration.] So Nicaragua called in her chips, raising $19 million in cash reserves to support the population and systems suffering most. There was no spike in inflation; foreign loan repayments were made on time. “We supported with everything we had,” the government banker affirmed. On November 1st, even the International Monetary Fund praised Nicaragua for surviving her conflagration “with economic stability.”
And, might I add, with grace. Through smoke-choked months of hunger, danger and incredulous sorrow, the government made every attempt to respond with non-violent restraint. The Army was never mobilized; police were largely confined to their barracks. The goal is always restorative justice: beginning just five days after the liberation of Masaya from horrifying carnage, the local judiciary freed 107 flunkies of the criminal bosses — underlings whose handlers mostly fled to Costa Rica, leaving their stooges to take the rap. Only 23 of the most vicious remained in jail; the rest were released to their families.
Whose idea was this flopped coup, anyway? Let’s follow the money back to 2010 — the year before Daniel Ortega’s first presidential reelection. Covert Washington funding, meant to illegally influence foreign elections, began flowing to Nicaragua, in hopes of strengthening candidates opposing Ortega. But he won a landslide. By 2014 — the run-up to the next presidential campaign — USAID (under the CIA) was divvying up lots more dough, quietly focusing a more complex project upon largely unwitting Nicaraguans. The objective, of course, was regime change — however long that might take.
The ‘dark money’ was hefty by Central American standards: budgets that ultimately totaled over $200 million, were printed up each fiscal year and labeled: “Nicaragua: Complete Report of the Plan of Operations — Sensitive: for the U.S. Government only — Distribution prohibited.” [Such evidence of violations against other nations’ sovereignty is a gift that Wikileaks bequeathed the world.] Lavished upon 54 “educational contractors” over eight years, the funds provided training (and brainwashing) to approximately 5,000 college-age youth, focusing on leadership-building and advanced electronic media skills — “to manipulate information in times of crisis.”
By 2016, the secretive project was getting nowhere; Ortega won reelection by 72 percent. So a nursed and coddled “organic” electoral overthrow went out the window, and serious plans were laid for the resultant violent coup. The front lines could be ‘manned’ by young wannabes and thieving druggies, of which Nicaragua, like many places, has a few. Professional sharp-shooters could be imported from foreign cartels to perform the dirtiest deeds. Even the Catholic church received a modest Judas’ purse to encourage insurrection. And the stage was set!
Bondage of the Press
A key focus of this subversive plot was to create “media war,” assuring that standard news outlets worldwide, backed by spontaneous-seeming social media blasts, formed the global consensus that Daniel Ortega had to go! The result was that last year, respectable news sources — which even American progressives rely on to inform themselves — simply rebroadcast the cooked-up falsehoods flooding from Nicaragua as the coup-attempt ground on. The Atlantic, BBC, the Guardian, the Nation, National Public Radio and the New Yorker all drank the kool-aid.
If a rare reporter got dispatched to Managua, the opposition’s guided tour and deceitful interpretations were all that she or he could grasp before fleeing the obvious danger. One young American maverick, masquerading with an illegitimate press pass and a big camera, accompanied the arsonists, torturers and killers throughout the months of coup, filing false and inaccurate stories gobbled up by the international press. The imposter was finally! deported back to Washington. NO opposition press organs were shut-down by the government during the violence. Yet the hoodlums did manage to destroy one more left-leaning, independent station, Radio Nicaragua.
This January, the government finally did shutter just one flagrant TV station, 100% Noticias, jailing its director, Miguel Mora, for “broadcasting hatred.” (100% were the ones who called for arson on-air, resulting in the destruction of independent Radio ¡Ya! in Part II.) Other felons have been recently convicted for so effectively inciting the taking of lives last year — guys like Medardo Mairena, Pedro Mena, Felix Maradiaga (actually the whole enchilada’s lynchpin, straight outta’ Washington). At one point, it must have been like “Dial M for Murder.”
But last week, a development stopped me in my tracks, knocked me off my desk chair and took my breath away: the government granted full amnesty to ALL involved in last year’s insurrection, both those serving time and not yet apprehended. EVERYONE, forgiven and set free! We are SO steeped here in a culture of punishment, I struggled to understand. So I have learned: Sandinistas did this twice before. The despot’s National Guard was sent home — swords into plowshares — after losing the Revolution. A decade later, the CIA-trained “Contras” were disarmed and given amnesty plus farm tools, once their dirty War was done.
So THIS is how that little country, fundamentally, achieves productive peace: forgiveness and moving on. It’s a whole new ballgame. Of course danger will lurk; but when has it not? And frankly, Nicaragua’s fortunes stacked against empire? I’ll put my money on the little guys who keep finding ways to live with loving kindness.
Sources: Alliance for Global Justice, Axis of Logic, Behind Backdoors, Granma, Informe Pastran, Internationalist 360, Jorge Capelán, L.A. Progressive, Orinoco Tribune, Radio La Primerísima