Saturday, November 18, 2006

In Nicaragua: Chavez 1, Bush 0 - Greg Grandin - Washington Post

David Seaton's News Links
When you live in a Spanish speaking country for any length of time and become fluent in the Spanish language and begin to mix freely and even go to school with Latin-Americans, you will receive, whether you like it or not, what might be euphoniously known as an "alternative narrative" to "American exceptionalism". This experience was the beginning of my political consciousness, such as it is. Reagan's war in Nicaragua was every bit as criminal as Bush's war in Iraq and the World Court condemned it as criminal and was ignored. A lot of the same players are involved in both stories. DS
Abstract: Both Hugo Chavez and George Bush made it clear who they wanted to win last week's presidential election in Nicaragua: the first backed Daniel Ortega, the ex-guerrilla and Sandinista leader; the second, conservative banker Eduardo Montealegre. But the difference in the way each supported their candidate says much as to why the United States is so distrusted in Latin America. Venezuela helped Ortega by selling cheap oil with long-term, low-interest credit to Nicaraguan municipalities, a popular move since the country is gripped by a severe energy crisis. Caracas also donated tons of fertilizer and provided free eye surgery to hundreds of cataract patients. Chavez's critics pointed out this aid was nothing compared with what Washington gives Nicaragua, more than a billion dollars since Ortega was voted out of office in 1990. But roughly half of this aid goes just to keeping Nicaragua's bankrupted economy afloat, either in the form of debt relief or covering currency shortfalls, which in effect works as a subsidy to U.S. creditors and exporters, thus limiting its PR value. And of course this money pales in comparison to many billions of dollars of damage that Washington caused in Nicaragua with its devastating Contra War. In fact, the U.S. conditioned its financial assistance on Nicaragua abandoning its attempt to collect the estimated $17 billion that the World Court, in 1986, ordered Washington to pay to Managua as reparations for waging its illegal war against the country. But the real difference is that Chavez never threatened to punish Nicaraguans if they didn't vote as he hoped they would. Caracas offers all carrot and no stick. The Bush administration, in contrast, warned that an Ortega victory could bring aid cuts and trade sanctions, while Congressional Republicans said that they would pass legislation prohibiting Nicaraguans living in the U.S. from sending money home. Nicaragua is the hemisphere's second poorest country, and very heavily dependent on foreign aid and remittances; and such retaliation, if enacted, would be ruinous. That Washington reserves this kind of intimidation only for small and powerless nations like Nicaragua as opposed to a country like Mexico, where it was careful not to intervene in last summer's election, only serves to reinforce the opinion of many Latin Americans that the U.S. is a bully.(...) Jeane Kirkpatrick is one of those foreign-policy hawks who blame Chavez for Ortega's comeback. In the 1980s, as Ronald Reagan's ambassador to the UN Kirkpatrick defended the Contra War as part of a broader foreign policy that would both "protect U.S. interest and make the actual lives of actual people in Latin America somewhat better." Nicaraguans are still waiting for the second half of that pledge to be fulfilled. READ IT ALL

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