On Friday night, whilst Wales NSC is hosting Dr Florence Levy in Mold, another type of meeting will be held in London. SOSNicaraguaUK have organised their most high profile meeting so far, with Bianca Jagger and Felix Maradiaga. Jagger, although a longstanding opponent of the Sandinistas, has been a fairly benign figure in the human rights movement. However, how this squares with her recent meeting with now ex-US envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is anyone’s guess. The extreme Right in the Republican Party – Ileana Ros Lehtinen and Marco Rubio amongst them – queued up to mourn the political passing of Haley four days after this photo (see here).
Maradiaga is another kettle of fish. He’s one of the self-appointed poster boys of the Nicaraguan opposition, and the darling of the #SOSNicaragua crowd. He has met with many right-wingers in Washington and actively lobbied for the NICA Act. In September, Haley used her presidency of the UN Security Council to invite Maradiaga to address the UN as a ‘member of Nicaraguan civil society’.
Maradiaga is described in the publicity for the Friday meeting as an ‘academic and social entrepreneur’ by SOSNicaraguaUK. His ‘social entrepreneurship’ includes a spell working with Grupo Coen, the network of firms owned by one of Nicaragua’s richest families; and currently Pioneer Capital Partners, a venture capital firm specialising in Latin America.
Whilst he tried to present himself as an ‘independent spokeman’ for Nicaragua, the organisations he is associated with are kept afloat by a lake of US money. The former Secretary General of Nicaragua’s Ministry of Defence under the neo-liberal Bolanos administration has headed up Nicaraguan organisations awash with dollars from the US National Endowment for Democracy. They include:
Movement for Nicaragua – $395,423 from the NED for ‘democracy promotion’ over four years
IEEPP – $224,161 from the NED – the IEEPP has also been linked to some of the students who toured the UK and Europe during the summer
Leadership Institute for Civil Society – set up by Maradiaga in 2007, it is funded by the National Democratic Institute, part of the NED ‘family’
Fundacion Libertad, set up by Maradiaga in 2012
The last organisation is one of the most interesting. It’s funding is not obvious, but its alliances are clearer (see here). The US Atlas Network is a right wing libertarian organisation with a web of partners throughout Latin America. It is particularly notorious for its activities in Brazil (see here for a expose in the Intercept last year). The German Friedrich Naumann Foundation is another ultra-free market organisation up to its neck in Latin America. It funds the RELIAL network (see here), with some crossover with members of the Atlas Network.
As the saying goes, ‘By their friends ye shall know them’ (to mis-quote Matthew). We know who Maradiaga’s friends are. And we now know who SOSNicaraguaUK’s friends are as well.
Don’t forget our meeting on Friday:
So it came to pass. Trump, following in Reagan’s footsteps, has passed an Executive Order describing Nicaragua as an ‘unusual and extraordinary threat’, and declared ‘a state of emergency to deal with that threat‘. On the same day, the NICA Act passed the US Senate, which will allow it to be signed off by Trump in the near future. The sanctions it contains on Nicaragua seek to cut the country off from international loans, which help fund economic development and social programmes. There’s no doubt that the sanctions will lead to hardship and, in some cases, threaten lives. But that is their point. Like the blockade against Cuba and the sanctions against Venezuela, they are there, as Nixon ordered the CIA in Chile, to ‘make the economy scream’.
Just in case we were in any doubt, the White House National Security Advisor, John Bolton, helped us understand in a speech on November 1. Bolton has been at the heart of US imperialism for decades. In his speech he praised Brazil’s fascist president Jair Bolsonaro. He went on to name Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua as the ‘troika of tyranny’, with Bolivia also in his sights.
On Saturday in Adelante! Latin America Conference 2018 these countries were attacked by SOS Nicaragua UK for standing in solidarity with each other. Even a cursory glance at their twitter feed reveals that the agenda goes beyond changing the government in Nicaragua. Venezuela and Bolivia are also due for the same treatment.
It is important to put the attempted coup in a regional context. You only need to look over the border in Honduras. The country has been receiving global attention because of the ‘caravana’ of refugees which made its way to the US border before the mid-term elections in early November. Very few articles looked at the reasons why.
Honduras during the 1980s was known as ‘USS Honduras’. the US Army’s Central American aircraft carrier. Today the US is strengthening its presence in Honduras, particularly around the Soto Cano Air Base, where 600 US military personnel are permanently stationed. It is the centre for the US military’s operation against drugs in Central America, and has recently seen its runway facilities improved. President Manuel Zelaya’s opposition to the US presence in Honduras was one of the main reasons he was removed in a coup in 2009 (see here for an analysis of the effects of the US military presence on Honduras).
In the decade under Reagan huge joint US-Honduras military wargames consisted of thousands of US troops landing in Honduras, then leaving their equipment for the Contra. Trump has already talked about a military invasion of Venezuela. So watch out for ramped up military ‘wargames’ in Honduras. We know what the results will be.