NY Times: Ortega Seen as Threat to US Interests

The New York Times is reporting that the Bush administration fears that if Daniel Ortega wins next year's presidential election in Nicaragua, the Central American nation might align itself with Venezuela and Cuba to undermine U.S. interests throughout Latin America. The New York Times reported yesterday that the Bush administration is afraid that Daniel Ortega might reclaim Nicaragua's Presidency, further undermining U.S. power in Latin America.
The administration's fear of an Ortega Presidency apparently played a key role in the U.S. decision to suspend military aid to Nicaragua last month in the wake of a heated dispute over the Nicaraguan army's refusal to destroy an old cache of surface to air missiles.  According to the Times' Ginger Thomson, after US and Nicaraguan officials lured two men into trying to sell them some of the missiles, irony-impaired administration officials and their fellow travelers at the right wing think tanks began floating the spectre of a Sandinista alliance with Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and Islamic terrorists.  The Times' Ginger Thompson writes that:

"In political magazines and Congressional testimony in Washington, cold war alums - almost as masterly at political resurrection as Mr. Ortega - issued strong, although vaguely substantiated warnings about Al Qaeda recruiting operatives in Latin America; about a new 'axis of evil' forming across the Western Hemisphere, from Venezuela through Nicaragua to Cuba; about a "destabilization,' or a 'backslide away from democratic principles' south of the border; about Daniel Ortega serving as a tool to Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.

"The missile issue consumed public attention during Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's recent tour through the region. Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters that Nicaragua's SA-7's 'can be operated by terrorists, by revolutionaries and others,' who 'are anxious and willing to kill people.'"

All very interesting of course coming from an administration that includes people like Intelligence Director John Negroponte and Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams who played an active role in supporting terrorists who were very "anxious and willing" to kill, rape, and mutilate people in Nicaragua -- and not above making deals with Islamic fundamentalists to further their goals of waging a terrorist war against the government of then President Daniel Ortega.

The punchline of Thompson's article is delivered by an anonymous State Department official who tells her that:

"The Sandinista Party that Daniel Ortega represents is not a democratic party. They may play in democratic processes, but it is not a democratic party."

The Sandinista Party is of course the party that overthrew the Somoza dictatorship and replaced it with a system of grassroots democracy that gave campesios the first real power they ever had.  And Ortega is the man who willingly vacated his office when he was defeated in an election, despite the fact that that election involved tampering by a certain superpower that threatened the Nicaraguan people with continued terrorism and a continued economic embargo if they voted for the Sandinistas.  

All of this shows though that the U.S. is being forced to take seriously the wave of democratic populism that is sweeping Latin America.  So far the best charge they seem able to mount against the Latin American left is that it is all a conspiracy orchestrated by Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro (two men who we should note have very different politics.)

In related news, the House of Representatives is rushing to take up the Central American Free Trade Agreement in May.  This is following close on the heels of major demonstrations against CAFTA in Guatemala and the resumption of US aid to the Guatemalan military.  The United States is clearly seeing that after losing control of South America it is now on the verge of losing Central America as well -- but the Bush administration's efforts may be too little too late.

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About Sean Donahue

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Sean Donahue is a poet, healer, activist, and freelance journalist wandering through New England.