Nicaragua: Sandinista victory possible
by Brian Denny The Republican coup in the United States which gave George W Bush the presidency last year has seen the re-emergence of aggressive Reaganite attitudes towards Nicaragua. While the world is up in arms at US plans to build an illegal national missile defence (NMD) system and Washington's rejection of the Kyoto climate change accords, increasing US interference in Nicaragua has gone largely unnoticed. In the 1980s, Washington fought a genocidal proxy war against Nicaragua through the contra guerrillas, largely without congressional approval. Growing anger against Nicaragua's US-backed neoliberal Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) has meant that Sandinista (FSLN) leader Daniel Ortega could win the presidential elections on November 4. The spectre of the movement that toppled the US-backed dictator Somoza in 1979 returning to power has infuriated Washington and led to a massive increase in US involvement in the country's political process. US ambassador Oliver Garza openly said that a Sandinista victory would not be in US interests. "If the Sandinistas win these coming elections, but don't change their policies, then neither will the US change its policies towards them", he said. Lino Gutierrez, who is number two in the US State Department's western hemisphere office, told leading businessmen in Managua that the Sandinistas must be defeated. "The rhetoric I hear, the literature I see, the visits they are making, the people they have in their party do not inspire confidence", he told them. He also met PLC and Conservative Party leaders to form an anti-Sandinista alliance capable of defeating the FSLN coalition — which includes social democrats, nationalists, indigenous groups and even former US-backed contra rebels. Mr Bush has also nominated Otto Reich, who ran an anti-Sandinista propaganda office during the war, as western hemisphere chief at the State Department. Mr Bush's choice for US ambassador to the United Nations is John Negroponte — the former US ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s who oversaw operations to finance and train the contras. However, Arturo Valdez, who is FSLN regional secretary for the Atlantic coast town of Bluefields, said that US interference had been met with a growing spirit of resistance. Mr Valdez, who is a candidate in the National Assembly elections in November this year, said that his country was facing economic crisis because of the collapse in coffee prices and widespread corruption. But he pointed out that various successful struggles against the privatisation of essential services have already given the people confidence. "People know that the FSLN is the only party that will give the people the government they need. "One that will give decent health and education services, regional autonomy, recognise trade unions and launch anti-corruption drive", he said. He pointed out that Nicaragua is rated as one of the most corrupt regimes in the world, including allegations of much-needed aid — given in the aftermath of hurricane Mitch in 1998 — being used to build beach houses for friends of the government. He said that the FSLN commitment to wipe out corruption was underlined by the fact that Mr Ortega's presidential running mate was Agustin Jaruin — whose own battle against corruption within the Managua regime landed him in prison in 1998. Despite growing US hostility to Nicaragua, Mr Valdez remains optimistic, pointing out that US attacks could backfire by raising Mr Ortega's profile, casting him as a president-elect. He also said that Mr Bush's nominations of Mr Reich and Mr Negroponte had been cast into doubt by the defection of a Republican Senator, which has left the Democrats with overall control of the Senate. As a result, the far-right ideologue Jesse Helms had been ousted from the committee responsible for confirming their nominations. This has underlined the importance of the democratic movement within the US, which will play a pivotal role in respecting Nicaragua's fundamental rights to self-determination as recognised under international law.
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