Since 1994 Wales NSC has organised 14 delegations to Nicaragua. Over 24 years we have had upwards of 300 meetings and visits. We have met with everyone from Government Ministers to community groups, Sandinistas and non-Sandinistas, to try to give the delegations as broad a picture of Nicaragua as possible. As one Sandinista said to us in our last visit in February, ‘go back and tell everyone about the good and the bad’, as no place is perfect.
As well as the formal meetings you also meet up with fellow visitors, and their impressions also help build up the picture. One of our members went out to work in Nicaragua between delegations in 2010 and 2011, and that’s when he met up with Carl-David and Wyatt, two young men from the United States, wanting to find out more about Nicaragua and with a taste for adventure.
People’s trajectories in Nicaragua are always interesting. Some that we’ve met up with have gone from community activists to Assembly Members. Some working in NGOs are now leading voices in the opposition, turning up in the National Dialogue. But what happened to Carl-David was particularly unusual.
Fairness and Accuracy?
In May his by-line – Carl-David Goette-Luciak – started turning up in the Guardian, the Washington Post and the BBC, amongst others. His reports were highly critical of the Ortega government, to the point he seemed almost embedded with the opposition. A cursory glance at his social media would have confirmed this. His re-tweets were often from opposition leaders, and many of his ‘friends’ on Facebook were historical opponents of the FSLN from the time of the split in the party in the mid-nineties.
His standard line (which was music to the ears of publications like the Guardian), was that this was the violent suppression of a peaceful insurrection. The one-sided nature of coverage of the violence has been examined by FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, in the United States), which looked at 45 articles posted by Reuters (see here). As more and more articles from Carl-David appeared in the mainstream media, social media started asking what exactly was Carl-David’s agenda? There were accusations that he had witnessed and wilfully ignored opposition violence.
As the evidence built up (which is one of the things journalism is supposed to do), it was finally all gathered together in an article by Max Blumenthal (see here), published on Sept 26. It details Carl-David’s involvement with the opposition, his failure to report opposition violence, and as the accusation of bias increased, his attempts to remove photos of himself and opposition leaders from his social media.
Who Guards the Guardian?
Predictably, the Nicaraguan government finally lost patience with him and he was deported on October 1. Even more predictably, the Guardian said he was kicked out for “covering Nicaragua’s political upheaval” (see here for the full account). The Guardian stated that Blumenthal’s article was a “lengthy, insinuation-infused attack on the journalist”, and just in case we were left in any doubts about the young man’s motives, they quoted his father: “He is driven by his love for the Nicaraguan people and nothing else.”
The Guardian also called up as evidence the Committee to Protect Journalists, who had issued a statement on September 26, denouncing the smears and threats against Goette-Luciak. Our own National Union of Journalists then bravely joined the fray, raising ‘serious concerns about the safety of journalists in Nicaragua.” It is worth noting that the NUJ said nothing when the pro-government station Radio Ya was burnt to the ground, forcing the 22 workers there to flee.
So is this yet again another example of Nicaraguan government’s persecution of anyone who opposes them, and how fortunate we are to have a free press in the UK and the US, who act only with integrity and concern for the truth?
Perhaps so. Except for one thing.
Remember Carl-David’s friend, Wyatt, at the beginning of the article? The two young adventurers wanting to find out more about Nicaragua? Well Wyatt Reed went back to Nicaragua with Carl-David in 2016. Back in the United States two years later, and reading his friend’s articles, he finally felt the time had come to speak out (see here for an extended interview with him in the Canary). He wrote to the editor of the Guardian after their report on Carl-David’s deportation – the letter is reproduced below. Up to now he’s had no reply.
To the editor,
As a long time friend and former collaborator of your correspondent with the Nicaraguan opposition, I feel compelled to make a few points clear in light of the recent media frenzy over the deportation from Nicaragua of Carl–David Goette Luciak. I must be extremely clear: in the six months we lived and worked together in Nicaragua we were both very open about our plan to use our friendships with Nicaraguan opposition figures to push for the end of the Sandinista government and create careers for ourselves as journalists or consultants in the process. We were not CIA—but we were in many ways serving its same historical purpose.
I must stress that I wish no ill will on Carl-David. I’ve known him since middle school, we were best friends for much of our lives, and I want only to set the record straight. Having already spent several years in Nicaragua, I had made connections with multiple prominent anti-government groups at the time of our partnership. And since I introduced him to many of them, I feel compelled to state publicly that any notion we had of being impartial and objective journalists was simply a lie. We arrived together in Managua in January 2016 without prior journalistic experience but with a shared understanding that the Nicaraguan government represented a fundamental betrayal of socialist ideals, and the shared understanding that the ruling Sandinista party needed to be removed from power.
In the time since, I’ve come to understand that regardless of our personal feelings on the Nicaraguan president or government, any illusions we had of being uniquely capable of helping the Nicaraguan people achieve self-determination were ultimately founded in a kind of white savior complex. I left, realizing Americans cannot liberate the Nicaraguan people. Not thirty years ago, when the US government created the Contra army to fight a decade long war against socialist Nicaragua, and not now. Americans can only help destroy their government, and in the process hand power over to the same conservative neoliberals who seek to roll back the Nicaraguan safety net, privatize national resources, and undo a decade of improvements in poverty reduction and healthcare.
I have many disagreements with the Sandinista party. However, I do not feel that the violent overthrow of their government can in any way benefit working class Nicaraguans. I mourn with them the tragic deaths of the hundreds killed in the gunfights between police and armed opposition. But if the Sandinista government falls we must ask ourselves: how many tens of thousands more will die when the health clinics are closed? How many children will go barefoot, hungry, and uneducated if their welfare state is abolished? They can’t just fly back to the United States. Unlike them, the westerners who bring about “regime change” rarely have to stick around and suffer the consequences.