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Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Are CIA Mockingbirds Still Nesting in Nicaragua? by Justina

2:45 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega celebrating Sandinista election victory in 2006 in the Revolutionary Plaza, Managua.

“You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month.” – CIA operative discussing with Philip Graham, editor Washington Post, on the availability and prices of journalists willing to peddle CIA propaganda and cover stories. (from “Katherine The Great,” by Deborah Davis (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1991)

Thus Davis chronicles the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) official campaign to turn American newspapers, into conduits for its anti-communist ideology which began after World War II. It was called “Operation Mockingbird”. Perhaps the operation would have been more accurately named “Operation Cuckoo” as the cuckoo will lay its egg in another bird’s nest and steal the original. With this propaganda operation and spying operation, the CIA effectively threw objectivity out of the nest of American journalism and put CIA denominated news in its place.

The CIA was successful in capturing the nests of the biggest newspapers in the U.S., including the the “Washington Post”, the “N.Y. Times” , and the “Los Angeles Times”, among many others. They all still seem to be on team. During the years of the Contra war against the lawful Sandinista government in the 1980′s, the CIA employed similar methods here in Nicaragua. Is it still going on here?

When I first investigated moving to Nicaragua in 2012, I asked a friend there about which newspapers I should read there. I was told “none of them”. She said that the two biggest national Spanish language dailies, “La Prensa” and “El Nuevo Diario” were both strongly opposed to the current Sandinista government. Of the two, “La Prensa”, was the most virulently anti-Sandinista, akin in tone to Fox News vicious attacks on Obama’s bone fides.

Thus when I moved to Nicaragua, I began reading the lessor evil, “El Nuevo Diario”, on a daily basis. About three months ago, that paper changed radically. From being something akin to a neighborhood shopping newspaper, El Nuevo Diario suddenly expanded into four sections, in color, one section totally devoted to economic news, along with a large variety of reprints of stories from the New York Times.

Many of El Dario’s international stories now routinely take pot-shots at left wing governments such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina, although largely avoiding La Prensa’s Fox-like screams against President Ortega.

“La Prensa”, likely the biggest national paper, is owned by Violeta Chamorro and her family. In the 1980‘s during the Contra war, her paper routinely attacked the Sandinistas and received U.S. funds for their efforts. She was, in 1990, the first of the three U.S. funded anti-socialist presidents. She ended the 11 year reign of the revolutionary socialist Sandinista party. Chamorro and her two U.S. approved and funded successors spent the next 16 years, allowing the U.S. government to once again call the shots in Nicaragua. Restored to power, the local capitalists’ representatives virtually demolished all the social welfare programs that the Sandinistas had put in place when they ousted Somoza family dictatorship in 1979.

In 1979, the Sandinista movement ( officially the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, or FSLN).) had come to power after years of a revolutionary war that successfully ended the Somoza regime.

The Sandinistas, begun as a small, clandestine, Marxist anti-Somoza guerrilla group in the early 1960’s, was named after Augusto César Sandino, a revered national hero for successfully evicting the U.S. Marines from Nicaragua in 1932. Sandino’s rebel forces had made the continuation of the U.S.’s 20 year military occupation untenable. The FSLN was so-named by one of its main theoreticians and founders, Carlos Fonseca. Dying in a firefight with Somoza’s National Guards in 1976, he didn’t live to see victory. The FSLN’s heroism against the hated dictatorship, however, earned it massive popular support which culminated in Somoza’s ouster and the FSLN attaining power, first under the auspices of a ruling unity junta and then with Daniel Ortega’s election as president in 1984.

Upon defeating Somoza in 1979, the Sandinista movement introduced a vast socialist program of nationalizing land, creating worker cooperatives, both agrarian and industrial, and combating the then massive illiteracy by sending thousands of teams of students into the countryside and barrios to teach reading and writing, reportedly reducing the iliteracy rate from 50.36% to 12.94% in some five months The Sandinistas also set up a huge network of free, community based health clinics, providing health care to millions who had never before had access to such services.

The U.S., in the person of then President, Jimmy Carter, was politely civil to the new Nicaraguan government. But, with his loss to Ronald Reagan in 1981, the U.S. attitude turned openly and actively belligerent. (For an excellent and detailed account of Reagan’s anti-Sandinista efforts, see Stephen Kinzer’s “Blood of Brothers — Life and War in Nicaragua” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, N.Y., 1991)

Thereafter, the Sandinista efforts to bring economic and social equality to the nation, were viciously obstructed by Reagan, who set about using the U.S.’s vast resources, both legal and illegal, to create and maintain the “ Contra” war against the Sandinista government, forcing the fledgling government to divert needed resources to its defense against the armed might of the U.S. which had created a proxy army, based in Honduras, to destabilize and destroy the new government.

Funding the Contra army against the Sandinista government was only one arm of the Reagan government’s attack. According to the Inventory of Conflict and Environment’s case study by Ellie Klerlein on “Environmental Effects of Nicaraguan Armed Conflicts”, the U.S. blocked World Bank and other foreign development loans, imposed restrictions on U.S. trade, including reducing Nicaragua’s sugar quota by 90%, and canceled its Overseas Private Investment Corporation insurance, needed to attract international loans and investment.

Reagan’s attempts to destabilize the Sandinista government were ultimately successful. By the time of the 1990 Nicaraguan election, after nine years of fighting to survive as an independent nation, the economy was in ruins. Kler in her case study cited above, puts the number of war-related deaths at 43,000. Thousands more were crippled by injuries. Food supplies were insufficient due to the Contra’s disruption of normal farming. As a result, the social fabric was in tatters.

Although the U.S.’s Contra army never succeeded in defeating the Sandinista movement militarily, the war so wrecked the economy that the U.S., by pouring a million of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars into the anti-sandinista opposition’s electoral efforts, were able to elect the U.S.’s approved unity candidate, Violeta Chamorro.

Virtually the first act of the Chamorro-led government was to grab back the land from the small farmers cooperatives that the Sandinista government had allocated to them from the nationalization of the Somoza family and friends ‘ holdings. The majority of the previously nationalized companies suffered the same fate.

Before their fall in 1979, two generations of the Somaza family dictatorship and its friends had acquired the majority of the assets of the whole country, including most of its arable land and virtually all its industries.

The first Somoza dictator, General Anastasio Somoza García, had taken presidential power in 1936. Formerly, he was head of the U.S. trained and equipped National Guards, which he employed to assassinate Augusto César Sandino in 1934. (See Kinzer, above,for details on General Somoza’s nasty history.)

General Anastasio Somoza ruled, officially and occasionally by proxy, until assassination 1956 by a young rebel poet. Thereafter Somoza’s eldest son took over until his own death, of natural causes, in 1956. Then the next eldest son, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, took over the presidency. The Somoza family ruled with an iron and greedy fist through the force of its personally controlled National Guard. After Somoza Debayle fled the country in 1979, remnants of his National Guard formed the nucleus of the U.S. created Contra force. (Kinzer, in “Blood of Brothers” gives a detailed account of Reagan’s military creation and maintenance of the Contras.)

Under the Somoza regime, the majority of the Nicaraguan population had owned nothing and lived in brutally poor conditions, without access to health care, education or land. Electoral votes were bought wholesale. It was a sham democracy controlled by the Somoza’s and their brutal and thoroughly corrupt National Guards. These were the conditions which gave rise to the Sandinista guerrilla group in the early 1960‘s and to the wide-spread hatred for the dictator.

During the 60’s and 70’s, even the upper class Chamorro family were vocal anti-Somoza opponents, even losing one activist publisher son, Pedro Chamorro, to assassination by the dictator in 1978. Perhaps that was one of Somoza’s most critical mis-steps. Thereafter even the U.S. withdrew their support.

By early 1979, virtually the whole country was supporting the Sandinista revolutionaries, who had taken control of most of the cities and towns. By July, even the National Guard had disintegrated. Somoza and his followers hurriedly left the country, taking millions from the national assets with them. The Sandinistas had won and would remain in government for next 11 years.

After the 1990 election, however, Pedro Chamorro ‘s widow, Violeta, was elected to office and she and her neo-liberal opposition supporters, set upon dismantling the vast community health care and free public education system that the Sandinistas had put into place. They simply diverted its funding.

In 2006, after 16 years of going backwards economically and socially, the FSLN’s Daniel Ortega, was again voted into the presidential office.

President Ortega immediately began re-building the shattered Sandinista social welfare programs, but he softened many of their previous socialist economic policies, successfully walking a fine line between cooperation with many of the U.S. controlled International Monetary fund and World Bank policies and those of Chavez’s Bolivarian socialist inspired programs of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) a progressive Latin American cooperation and development organization which has funded many large projects in Nicaragua.

Much to the distaste of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Ortega has been a strong ally of Venezuela’s Chavez government and now that of Nicholas Maduro, but he has also managed to juggle the World Bank and IMF investment demands with those of ALBA’s Bolivarian idealism to win re-election in 2011. He dances very well on thin ice.

During President Obama’s recent visit to Costa Rica, President Ortega joined other Central American leaders for a polite dinner meeting with Obama, but immediately left the group to fly to Venezuela to attend a memorial for his former close ally and friend, President Hugo Chavez. There he was outspoken in his support for the socialist Maduro and critical of U.S. meddling in Venezuela’s post-election politics. Unlike the most Latin American countries, the U.S. has refused to recognize Maduro’s victory.

The Sandinista government of today definitely pursues a “mixed economy” program, actively expanding social programs, such as health care, education, housing for the poor, micro-credits to small businesses, and job training, while encouraging foreign capitalist investment and providing sizable tax benefits to privately owned local and foreign industries.

President Ortega has seen, in the dead flesh of his own people, the dire effects of too openly flaunting U.S. capitalism’s economic hegemony. One suspects that Ortega will continue to quietly improve social conditions while courting more U.S. and foreign capitalist investment, thus hoping to avoid reawakening the active wrath of the North American colossus. If one is to judge by Nicaraguan national dailies, however, the U.S. is still maintaining its CIA funded propaganda war on the Sandinistas.

Perhaps Ortega is only waiting for his fellow Latin American countries in the Chavez-inspired CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) group (the U.S. and Canada were expressly excluded) to carry out their plans for a Latin American defensive military alliance. The U.S. and Canada were excluded from CELAC membership. Hopefully one day such an alliance might give socialist-minded countries like Nicaragua a better chance to thrive without U.S. interference. In the meantime, I expect President Ortega will keep on ice dancing, despite the fact that the the U.S.’s Operation Mockingbird may keep on singing its anti-socialist tunes in the Nicaraguan media.

Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up: Venezuela’s Chávez, A Revolutionary Empowered By Love and Kindness by Justina

12:00 am in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Here in Nicaragua, where this writer is now living, the news on December 8, 2012 that Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez Frias was to undergo yet another operation to fight the cancer which has plagued him since 2011 was reported in one of the country’s two major newspapers, “El Nuevo Diario”, under massive and thick black headlines, that in announcing his need for a 4th cancer operation, President Chavez had, for the first time, named his preferred successor to the presidency should he be unable to serve. Chavez asked the country to support his recently appointed vice president, Nicholas Maduro, should a new election be necessary.

Nicaragua, and much of the rest of Central and South America were stunned by the notion that President Chavez might be unable to serve out the new 6 year term to which he was re-elected on October 7, 2012. He conducted a physically vigorous campaign against the much younger opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, and had bested Capriles 55 + to 44 % with a more than 80% voter turnout.

The majority of Venezuelans were devastated by the news, and rushed into the streets do demonstrate their support and into the churches to pray for his recovery. Thousands of people, including many heads of states, in other Latin American countries did the same.

Most of the tattered opposition, including Capriles, had the grace to refrain from showing their glee at Chávez’s possible demise, some did not. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church which had long and viciously opposed Chávez, piously pointed out to their laity that Chávez was only a frail human being, like any other man. They likely highly resented that they had to open their churches and allow masses to be conducted for the heath of this man who had frequently criticized the hierarchy for its support of the wealthy oppositionists, while at the same time calling on Catholic saints for aid during his illness. Chávez had consistently identified himself as a Christian socialist.

In Nicaragua, front page headlines on the status of President Chavez’s operation and recuperation have taken precedence over everything (with the exception of the Newtown massacre) in Nicaraguan newspapers ever since the December 8th speech.

After Chávez announcement of yet another cancer operation in Cuba, Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega immediately used the occasion of a graduation speech at a police academy to honor President Chavez and indicate Nicaragua’s continuing support and prayers for his health. The Nicaraguan National Assembly passed an official bill thanking Chávez for his active assistance to Nicaragua. A large rock concert was sponsored by the government to show the nation’s solidarity with Chavez.

Nicaragua has benefited immensely from the policies of the Chavez government, not only because of the subsidized oil which Venezuela provides, but because President Chavez led the creation of the ALBA group of Latin American states which has invested heavily in Nicaragua’s economy. This year, that economy grew at the rate of 5%. Nicaragua’s agricultural exports have increased substantially. Venezuela’s needs for Nicaragua’s beef and grains and rice have contributed to the growth in exports, as have other ALBA countries needs.

Under Chavez’s international leadership, many countries in South and Central America have opened new paths to economic and social cooperation, such as CELIAC, from which only the United States and Canada have been excluded. These Latin American countries have a new strength in their unity to counter the whims of the U.S.’s massive economic and political power. Chavez’s visions for Latin American unity and independence from the U.S. behemoth are showing fruit.

But aside from gratitude for Chavez’s political and economic policies, why do the masses of people in Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin America demonstrate such a personal devotion to him?

Why is President Chavez so personally loved, as well as massively politically supported?

One can begin to understand this love and the extraordinary personality who has attracted it, thanks to a series of penetrating interviews published in August of 2004 by two Cuban journalists, Rosa Miriam Elizalde and Luis Báez. For “Chávez Nuestro”, (Casa Editora Abril, Havana), Elizalde and Báez had interviewed those who knew Chavez well as he progressed in life from a poor child of Indian and Spanish blood living in the little village of Sabaneta, in cattle-producing Barinas state, to become president of his country and weather an opposition coup and oil company strike against his government in 2002. President Chavez himself contributed 6 hours of oral interviews to their collection, detailing critical events in his life from his own perspective

The interviews with family friends and relative about his early life reported in the “Nuestro Chávez” book, suggest that the deep love for Chávez, stems from the fact that Chávez genuinely loves the people of Venezuela and his policies and vision for Venezuela’s future physically demonstrates that improving the lives of his people are his highest priority.

Perhaps he is simply carrying out the dictates of his Indian grandmother, Rosa Inés. Based on interviews with neighbors, friends and family, Rosa Inés, despite her extreme poverty, was a respected force for human kindness in her little community. She demonstrated to the young Chávez boys the importance of treating others with kindness, helping others, and respecting the human dignity of every individual they encountered. Chávez has put these principles into action on a national scale.

The interviews with the family members, neighbors and friends from his youth, uniformly suggest that kindness and caring for others were his significant traits, while at the same time being very bright, studious and a natural leader among his playmates and fellow street baseball players.

Chávez had an absolute passion for baseball from a young age and his first dream was to become a professional baseball player. Politics only took the place of professional baseball it when it became obvious to Chávez as a student in the military academy and then graduate and military officer, that his government and especially their military leaders were only concerned with amassing their own personal wealth at the expense of the majority of the people, whose poverty and human needs the leaders ignored.

In the “Nuestro Chávez interviews, relatives and friends recount how Chavez loved to sing and could recount long, historical poems, often based on significant Venezuelano independence and freedom fighters, from memory, firing the imaginations of friends and family and teaching their history in the days before any of them had a television set.

For the last 13 years, President Chávez has done the same on Venezuela’s national television and radio. He treats the country like his extended family, seeking to inspire them to read, debate ideas and actively participate in the national political life on their own behalf.

We see from these interviews how Chávez became a socialist, not because he read Marx, although he has read Marx, but because he personally lived in the same conditions that impelled Marx to analyze conditions under capitalism and to call for its abolition. For Chávez, his Christian socialism was the way to share the work and the resources to improve the lives of everyone.

Chávez himself relates in the book that while a young military officer on patrol against “insurgents”, Chávez witnessed the torture of prisoners and personal corruption of his superiors, facts which fed his own rebellion. For attempting to stop the torture, he was officially reprimanded by his superiors and his military career damaged.

In 1989, when an extreme “austerity” measure imposed by the International Monetary Fund lighted the fuse of massive popular rebellion in Caracas, the government ordered the military to shoot its own citizens, thousands were killed or wounded. This horrible massacre is known as the Caracazo.

The Caracazo enraged Chávez and, together with the other young officers who shared his anger, they began to consider outright rebellion, which led to their aborted attempt at doing so in 1992.

Chavez frequently emphasizes that this poorly organized rebellion was an inchoate insurrection against corruption and injustice. It was not a coup to gain personal power or riches.

These interviews give a clue as to why Chávez, living in the presidential palace of Miraflores in the capitol in 2010, would have opened the palace to house refugees made homeless as a result of flooding from a series of rain storms. He had, after all, grown up with the practice of sharing, as he and his brother had shared their grandmother, Rosa Inés room in her tiny mud-floored, palm-roofed cottage. The Chavez government housed other refugees in government building and in private hotels, at government expense.

Although living only a block away from Hugo’s parents, the paternal grandmother, Rosa Inés Chávez, raised Hugo and Adam, the two eldest sons of Elena and Hugo de ls Reyes Chávez. Both were poorly paid elementary school teachers who ultimately had six children.

To support herself and her grandsons, Rosa Inés made candies from the fruit trees in her yard, while Hugo and his older brother, Adam, acted as her salesmen in their primary school and around the small town at social and sports events.

While grandmother Inés did the hot, sweaty work of cooking the candies, Hugo and Adam listened to her stories about the history of their family, village and country. Rosa Inés passed on the oral history she had learned from her own grandmother and grandfather, who had fought with the famed progressive General, Esquel Zamora in their own village of Sabaneta. The blood of those celebrated battles lay directly beneath the naked feet of the two Chavez boys. Their love for Venezuelan revolutionary history was born at home.

Hugo Chávez Frías was reported by his primary school teachers to be an excellent student. He wanted very much to go to high school, a desire Rosa Inés and his family shared. But, his first attempt to attend high school was a disaster when he was refused entry to the school because he did not have shoes. He had only rubber slippers which were not allowed. The usually stalwart and tough Rosa Inés broke into tears because she did not have money for shoes. Her extended family members came to the rescue, and Chávez, with shoes, was allowed to enter highs school.

In high school, Chávez was passionate about history and deepened his knowledge and respect for the actions and ideas of Simon Bolivar, who had successfully led the rebellion against Spanish rule in Venezuela, Colombia (which then included what is now Panama), Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. Bolivar’s vision was for a free, independent and united Latin America without human slavery and poverty. Bolivar succeeded in abolishing slavery and attaining independence from Spain, but he could not keep the countries he liberated united or abolish the poverty.

When a young man traveling in Italy with his teacher, Simon Rodríguez,in the early 1800′s, Bolivar had taken a spoken vow to devote his life to winning freedom for his country from Spain.

In 1982, Chávez, then a captain in the military, gathered together three of his co-officers who shared his vision of liberating their country from dictators and their corruption. They took the same oath that Simon Bolivar had taken, but rather than freeing their country from Spanish rule, they vowed to free it from the hands of the rich and powerful.

Early during an abortive uprising by Chávez and other young military officers in 1992, Hugo Chávez was arrested. In face of government threats to bomb his own insurgent military unit in Maracoy (a parachutist brigade) the government allowed him to appear on television in order to call upon other officers in the rebellion to put down their arms and avoid getting bombed. Chávez spoke on TV and then was jailed, but his call to put down arms changed Venezuelan history.

Much of the nation heard Chavez say “It is over….. for now.” His statement inspired thousands with the hope that the fight was not over and they would eventually prevail, which they did six years later in 1998, when the nation overwhelmingly voted to elect Hugo Chávez Frías as president of Venezuela.

Upon taking office, Chávez proceeded to teach about Simon Bolivar’s actions and ideas on a massive scale. But first people had to be able to read them; so with the help of Cuba, whose own revolution had over-come a huge literacy gape, Chavez began a massive literacy campaign called Mission Robinson in honor of the pseudo name used by Simone Bolivar’s own teacher, Simon Rodríguez.

Mission Robinson sent thousands of high school and college students all over the country to teach everyone to read. According to United Nation’s surveys, that campaign has had great success: now some 99% of Venezuelans can read and write.

The Chavez government re-published in paper editions the works of major Venezuelan world writers, poets and political figures, which were then distributed free throughout the country. Chávez routinely reads to the country from his own significant reading, such as Noam Chomsky and Eduardo Galeano, the Uruguayan author of “Open Veins of Latin America”.

In “Nuestro Chávez”, President Chávez relates that one of the most significant events of his own political history came when he commanded a military unit in Elorza, where he lived for several weeks with an Indian tribe and personally experienced life in communal socialism.

While Chavez, who proudly shared their Indian blood, and his squad were investigating claims of Indian thefts from the white farmers in the area. On horseback, they encountered a group of Indians eating mangoes from a tree in the bush. The Indians reacted to the military presence with a hail of arrows against them, one of which nearly hit Chávez. He commanded his men not to fire back and ordered them to retreat.

Chavez himself retreated to a university to consult an anthropologist friend who had been working peacefully with Indian tribes in the area for twenty years. Discarding his military uniform and its identify, Chávez joined the anthropologist’s field researchers, living for three week with the same group of Indians who had attacked his military squadron.

While living daily life with the tribe, Chávez made many friends and learned about their principles of life. Several weeks after leaving the Indian group, Chavez returned – in uniform with his squadron — to the group. Upon seeing the group, Chávez called out to them. The Indians were paralyzed, caught between the impulse to fight and to acknowledge their friend. Friendship won out and soon the soldiers and the Indians were mingling peacefully with each other.

Thereafter the Indian group regularly visited Chávez and his family at their local home. His wife prepared food for the 60 or 70 Indians visitors, but later complained to Chávez that they returned her hospitality by stealing her children’s clothes that were drying on a clothesline. Chavez replied that, in their custom and communal practices, there was no such thing as private property; everything was shared; the Indians took the clothes like they would take mangos to eat from a tree.

Chávez had the benefit of living with native socialists, just as he experienced the poverty and its suffering that the capitalist dictators had visited upon his own village and state, while personally observing the cruelty and corruption in his military superiors and political leaders. Those experiences undoubtedly made him a socialist, but it was the loving kindness of his grandmother, Rosa Inéz, which he naturally radiates to all he meets and deals with that has made him a beloved socialist.

It is that mutual respect and love which has powered Venezuela’s march to socialism. Love continues to lead this revolution.