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Why No One in Media Cares About Nicaragua Today

If someone interested in the priorities of the US media, government, and foreign policy establishment had gone to sleep, say, 35 years ago and woke up today, they would be surprised to learn that former Sandinista comandante Daniel Ortega was, once again, running things in Nicaragua. According to Human Rights Watch, the country’s November 7 election campaign has already been tarnished by “high-profile arrests and other serious human rights violations against critics appear to be part of a broader strategy to eliminate political competition, stifle dissent, and pave the way for President Daniel Ortega’s re-election to a fourth consecutive term.” This time, in contrast to the heavily covered elections that sent Ortega and the Sandinistas packing in 1990, hardly anyone in the US mainstream media appears to care.

The site of countless US military interventions, often undertaken below the radar of high politics, that tiny Central American nation (population 6.5 million) dominated the punditocracy’s discussion of the US role in the world for a brief period in the 1980s. Nicaragua’s Marxist government was the Critical Race Theory of its day—a wholly imaginary threat to the well-being of America’s citizens that, thanks to a sustained and sophisticated propaganda campaign, became the subject of thousands of op-ed articles, countless panel discussions, millions dispersed in lobbying fees, and, not incidentally, a secret, illegally funded and supported war that led to an arms-for-hostage scheme that almost (and should have) brought down the Reagan administration.

Today, almost no mainstream media discussion even considers Nicaragua—or any Central American nation, for that matter—outside of the context of the immigration “crisis.” This is one area where the Biden administration has not only failed to change Trump’s racist and deliberately inhumane policies; it has not even attempted to change the narrative that helped sustain those policies. It has left the Border Patrol, which even Politico deemed “America’s most out-of-control law enforcement agency,” free to do as it pleased to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

The Biden administration, like the Obama administration, sees its job—as Vice President Kamala Harris announced in Texas—as telling people, “Do not come.” What it doesn’t wish to discuss, and therefore has been almost absent from all the coverage, has been what the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador accurately described as the “intersecting crises that millions in Central America face…the result of decades of brutal state repression of democratic movements by right-wing regimes and the implementation of economic models designed to benefit local oligarchs and transnational corporations,” all done with the support of centuries of US administrations.

In El Salvador in the 1980s, for instance, the United States armed death squads that murdered thousands with impunity and were hailed by President Ronald Reagan and his minions as defenders against a Marxist insurgency. In Guatemala, US officials, led by then–State Department official Elliott Abrams, lied for and otherwise praised leaders who have since been judged by an official UN panel to have been committing genocide against its Indigenous population.

But the case that most interests me is Nicaragua, as that was where the obsession of our political elite was most evident. Back in 1986, a rather typical editorial in the then-neoconservative New Republic argued that a vote in Congress on whether to arm the US-backed Contras seeking to overthrow Ortega and company was “one of the most important foreign policy votes of the decade.” This was because “the liberation of Angola, Afghanistan, and Cambodia would not have one-tenth the geopolitical importance—and psychological importance for other oppressed democrats—that the replacement of the Sandinista regime with a democratic government in Managua would.” To those who noted the fact that Nicaragua’s neighbors preferred a peaceful solution, its editors intuited that seeing “an isolationist Congress and a rising military power in Managua,” these nations’ leaders had fallen into the grip of public appeasement and private duplicity. The editors promised—apparently on the basis of mass mental telepathy—that Nicaraguans were secretly “desperate to see the United States get rid of the Sandinistas for them.”

These editorials painted a patina of intellectual respectability on the outrageous claims and criminal actions of the Reagan administration. Reagan actually suspended parts of the Constitution on the basis of a “State of Emergency” that he declared over the alleged threat that the United States faced from Nicaragua, which he described as “a privileged sanctuary for terrorists and subversives just two days’ drive from Harlingen, Texas.” (It is actually over 2,000 miles and a three-to-four-day drive at best.) More significantly, his CIA mined Nicaragua’s harbors—legally, an act of war—and circulated an instructional assassination manual to people who might be interested in murdering its leaders. The US also demanded that neighboring Honduras pretend that Nicaragua had invaded its territory. “This is absurd,” US Ambassador John Ferch told Honduran President José Azcona at the time, “but you’ve got to do it.”

Read entire article at The Nation