MISKITO COAST, NICARAGUA — There is much truth in the old saying, “He who pays the piper, calls the tune,” and the neoliberal era has spawned individuals with incredible wealth who, through “philanthropy,” can feel good and flex their influence at the same time. While these philanthropists can be liberal on some issues, they almost universally support U.S. foreign policy and the “free market;” and, because many of these super-rich individuals made their wealth through investments and speculation, most do not like a planned economy, socialized services beyond the private sector, or greater government control.
These mega-wealthy individuals and the people who run their foundations are often intricately connected to the U.S. foreign policy establishment. Grants are given to projects, campaigns, and organizations that align with their long-term goals. In this direct way, supposedly independent think tanks and NGOs are influenced, if outright not controlled.
Nicaragua is a good example. For historical and contemporary reasons, Washington is hostile to the Nicaraguan government. The Sandinista Front ousted the country’s U.S.-backed dictator in 1979 and governed until 1990. Then, following a decade of U.S.-sponsored “Contra” war and economic sanctions, the Sandinistas were voted out of office. After 16 years of neoliberal governments, the Nicaraguan people voted to return the Sandinistas to power in 2006. In 2011, the Sandinista Front (FSLN) won the election again and in 2016 secured a staggering 73% of the vote.
Nicaragua has a capitalist economy, but the government provides many social services, including health care and education, along with community-based policing and an impressive 90% food self-sufficiency. Nicaragua maintains an independent foreign policy that sometimes aligns with Cuba, Venezuela, and other independent movements in Latin America. The country has also made plans for a trans-oceanic canal. Washington disapproves because this would compete with the Panama Canal and be independent of heavy U.S. influence. With the financial collapse of the canal’s Chinese investor, the plans have been suspended if not canceled. Regardless of whether the plan is implemented, the U.S. foreign policy establishment and associated media have been hostile to the Nicaraguan government for daring to even conceive of the project.
U.S. Targets Nicaragua
U.S. meddling in Nicaragua is thinly veiled behind the U.S.-funded “civil society,” a “new generation of democratic leaders,” and an “ecosystem of independent media.” In September 2016, a high USAID official told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that 2,200 Nicaraguan youth had received leadership training. The U.S. governmental hypocrisy has been quite astounding. Imagine if Nicaragua, or Russia, or any other country for that matter, trained thousands of U.S. activists to “promote democracy” in the United States!
In December 2018, the U.S. ratified the “Nicaragua Human Rights and Anticorruption Act,” which imposes sanctions and commits the U.S. to prevent Nicaragua from receiving a loan, financial or technical assistance from U.S.-dominated financial institutions.
In August 2020, details emerged of a new USAID “task order” called Responsive Assistance in Nicaragua (RAIN). The document “outlines plans for a U.S. regime-change scheme against Nicaragua’s elected leftist government.” In short, Washington is not just hostile but actively trying to undermine, destabilize and replace the Sandinista administration.
The Establishment, Nicaragua, and Elliott Abrams
A key institution of the U.S. foreign policy establishment is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Its role and importance are analyzed in the book “Wall Street’s Think Tank.” CFR reports and publications, including Foreign Affairs magazine, which together gives a good picture of America’s key foreign policy priorities and debates, consistently reflect open hostility to the Nicaraguan government.
One important example is an article by Elliott Abrams. Abrams has been a major foreign policy official for four decades. He was once convicted of lying to Congress yet is a Senior Fellow at the CFR. In September 2015, he wrote an article published at CFR titled “The Sandinistas Attack the Miskito Indians – Again.” He ends the piece with an appeal to environmental and human-rights groups:
The open question is whether anyone – groups defending the environment, or defending Indian rights or human rights more generally, or fighting against Sandinista repression – will help them [the Miskito].
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