Rights Action
August 9, 2018
The political crisis in Nicaragua: Grahame Russell responds to criticisms
August 9, 2018, by Grahame Russell
Below, I respond to some of the critical comments I/Rights Action received recently because of articles we re-posted analyzing the political crisis in Nicaragua.

This back’n’forth, below, is not complete at all.  It does not remotely address the breadth of the issues going on in and related to Nicaragua.  Certain people and organizations criticized me and Rights Action, and I attempt here to respond to some of that ...
Rights Action does not work with people or groups in Nicaragua.  I started circulating a few articles about Nicaragua because:
[a] since generations ago, indeed back to the 1800s, Nicaragua’s political, economic, social reality has been intimately linked to and intertwined with the ever harmful interventionist interests of the U.S. (of course, sadly); with other Latin American countries in general; with Central American and some Caribbean countries more specifically; and most particularly with El Salvador and Guatemala and Honduras (where Rights Action does work).
What happens in Nicaragua has direct implications for Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, let alone elsewhere.
[b] I got my entry into global human rights work and activism in Mexico 1984-85, then in Nicaragua during the summers of 1985, 86, 87, translating for and leading delegations of U.S. and Canadian citizens coming to learn more about the Nicaraguan revolution and/or their resistance to U.S. supported and led repression and terrorism in Nicaragua, let alone elsewhere in the region.
Below, I respond to some of the flurry of FB comments and replies over a few days.  I have deleted the names of the individuals making the comments.  One can read the entire back’n’forth on our FB page, starting around July 24.
I send this because the crisis situation in Nicaragua –linked to and caused by local-to-national-to-global factors and interests– merits much more nuanced debate and reporting than it is getting in the main stream media in the US and Canada.
I send this because I know and respect some of the people making critical comments of me and/or Rights Action, even if we disagree in whole or in part of the nature of the causes of and actors involved in political crisis in Nicaragua.
My immediate interest is that the death, injuries and destruction stop in Nicaragua immediately.  Nicaragua – that has made what I believe are substantial if not complicated achievements and advances since the 1980s – has a lot to lose.  Since the political situation blew open into a full (and sometimes violent) crisis in April 2018, Nicaragua has already lost a lot.
There have been deaths and injuries caused by the Nicaragua government and by armed sectors of the loose coalition of opposition groups.  There has been destruction of Nicaragua’s economic infrastructure and government buildings by armed sectors of the opposition groups.
This violence and destruction has immediate harmful impacts, and longer term ones.
My long-term interest and focus of work is, as with all Rights Action’s work, that while supporting good work, projects and people in places like Guatemala and Honduras (and Nicaragua, in the case of other groups similar to Rights Action), and while paying close attention to the complicated internal politics of Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, that we – US and Canadian citizens and groups and media – focus most of our attention and activism on exposing when our own governments, militaries, economic interests, media, etc, harmfully and selfishly intervene in the well-being and affairs of other peoples and countries.  To repeat the obvious: the people and countries of Central America do not intervene harmfully and selfishly in US and Canadian well-being and affairs; it is the other way around.

Facebook comments, and replies by GR (Grahame Russell)
July 24
#1 - “I am deeply troubled by the ongoing support for the Ortega-Murillo version of events in Nicaragua from otherwise progressive people and organizations. Rights Action is one such organization.”
GR: Rights Action is not supporting the “Ortega-Murillo” version of anything.  We are adding voices into discussion about the political crisis in Nicaragua; about who are and what are the interests of the sectors involved in actions opposed to the Nica government; about the role and response of the Nica government to the situation.
#1 - “As of today I am withdrawing my support for Rights Action, and am calling on progressive allies of Nicaragua to do the same in protest -- unless and until they come out publicly stating a more progressive position.”
GR: Thank-you for all support in the past.  Everyone is [obviously] free to support and get involved with whatever work and groups they feel most comfortable with.
#1 - “Rights Action may be doing great work in Guatemala and Honduras re: anti-extractivism, but they are offering tacit support to a brutal crackdown on legitimate dissent by a neighbouring neoliberal state that kills its people.”
GR: Rights Action is not offering tacit support to “a brutal crackdown”, including deaths and injuries caused by the Nicaraguan government, any more than people and groups (inside Nicaragua and elsewhere) critical of the Nicaraguan government are offering tacit support to the death, injuries and destruction caused by armed and violent sectors of the loose coalition of opposition groups – groups and sectors that are Nicaraguan, and also US based.
#1 - “Over the past couple of days, the FB page of Rights Action has covered the crisis in Nicaragua by posting pro-Ortega articles such as TruthDig's recent piece entitled "Correcting the Record".”
GR: I encourage people critical of these articles and perspectives to write public and/or private responses and send them directly to the authors and publishers.  More debate and discussion is needed.  To repeat: Rights Action is not “pro-Ortega”, or “pro-Murillo”, … . 
Our focus is on the achievements and gains, and problems and violations of the Nicaraguan government, going back to the 1980s and continuing recently; on the reasons why certain sectors are protesting; on who are these sectors; and on the violent and destructive tactics of certain groups and sectors in the loose coalition of opposition groups.
#1 - “When confronted with a call out against that choice, Grahame responded by stating the following: ..."thanks for comments. "Truth" is obviously a loaded, complicated issue in when dealing with complicated, disputed isssues in our human community, on this planet, and the situation "in Nicaragua" is simply one more such complicated situation. If you have issues with this particular report, i encourage you to share them with the authors of the report, and with me, here at Rights Action. thanks. Grahame"”
GR: Yes, I said that.
#1 - “To which I responded: ..."Hi Grahame— RE: 'Correcting the record'. My analysis of the situation differs considerably. For starters, quite frankly anyone who is actively supporting Ortega right now is willfully blind, and sadly, in support of a brutal and criminal state crackdown on legal protest].”
GR: To repeat: I / Rights Action am not “pro-Ortega”, and we are not “actively supporting Ortega”, or anyone.  Our tiny role in all this is to contribute to more nuanced debate and discussion given what is –in my analysis– a predictable onslaught of simplistic, one-sided reporting in much of the main stream media in the US, Canada, etc.  My focus is on the responses of the US and Canadian governments to the situation.   My focus is on the Nicaraguan government – gains, problems, violations.
GR: This language – “is willfully blind, and sadly, in support of a brutal and criminal state crackdown on legal protest” – does not merit response.
#1 - “The evidence of this position is overwhelming, while those supporting the ‘soft coup’ theory can’t come up with anything to actually support their claims.”
GR: This is not my conclusion.  I believe it is documented that there has been violence and killings by the Nica gov’t and by certain sectors of the opposition.  No defense here, of either [without going into, here, concerns about the underlying motivations of the US gov’t and certain elite sectors in Nicaragua that are supporting the attempted uprising.]
#1 - “I’ve friends and family — including life-long Sandinistas -- in hiding, in hospital, and killed since April. […] My history goes back more than 30 years.”
GR: I appreciate and respect how personal and serious the situation is.  I appreciate and respect the lifelong commitments of many concerned and directly involved and implicated people on both sides of this particular human political crisis.
#1 - “I feel that these reports, from an ideological position, are an antiquated view of Nicaragua from afar and without base, that represent an lazy analysis and in fact an ignorance of how different the current moment is from the 1980s.”
GR: Rights Action is not lazy or ignorant in our work, nor in our trying to understand these issues, any more that I believe people who disagree with me are.  In expressing our concern about crisis/ violent/ killing/destruction going on right now, I am not remotely stuck in the 1980s – this is happening now.  At bottom, links to articles written from a different perspective, but many of them are written by people – Nicaraguans and others – with equally long commitments, many of whom are living in Nicaragua now.
The fault-line in differences of opinion this is not how many years one has been concerned about these issues in Nicaragua, nor where one is living now.
#1 - “That view does incredible injustice to those LEFT PROGRESSIVES who have lost lives or children to Ortega’s brutality the Left progressives in the opposition are the ones missing from such accounts.”
GR: I repeat: I / Rights Action is no more or less concerned about victims on either side of this particular human political crisis playing itself out in Nicaragua.  Neither from me/ Rights Action, nor from most of the articles I have read, is there denial that the Nica government response to the uprising and protests has resulted in deaths and injuries.  There is considerable nuance in many of the articles and reporting linked below.  There is neither glorification of, nor ignoring how violent the situation is.
#1 - “If you are willing and able to spread more nuanced news, please do. Here’s a start, including but not confined to:”
GR: I encourage anyone concerned to read these articles linked here, and links below.  One person’s “nuanced” version is the next person’s “fake news”.  We can agree on one thing – we do need a more nuanced understanding of how complicated the situation is, with a mixture of local-to-national-to-international actors in the mix.
#2 - “Yeah, that kind of blind spot is unfortunate, and all too common.”
GR: One person’s “blind spot” is the next person’s “deep concern and truthful insight”.
#1 - “Yup, but it's not only unfortunate, it is deadly. People are dying because of state-sponsored repression... It is unacceptable for organizations that claim to work on human rights in the region to not name it for what it is... The evidence is overwhelming. There is no other 'truth' of the matter.... Please share.”
GR: Please do share this debate and all the linked information.  However, I do disagree with this comment that there is a clear-cut black and white ‘truth’ in Nicaragua.
#4: “could you point me to an article/Statement about what you think should happen now, i.e. Ortega should go, new elections etc.? Having followed the situation in Haiti in the early and mid 2000s I saw groups that claim to be far left (Batay Ouvrie most notably) who did the CIA/NED work by criticizing Aristide from the [often legitimate] left. Their criticisms, however, we're totally divorced from the power relations taking place within the country/region. After denying that they were receiving US funds Haiti solidarity researchers finally found the proof.
#1 – “Check out the articles in the links in my comment (above). The very first thing that needs to happen is to stop the killings and repression by para-police / paramilitary forces linked to the government.  Yes, Ortega needs to hold early elections, but he is not willing.”
GR: I do not agree that early elections is a helpful solution.  As complicated as electoral democracy is in Nicaragua, as in many countries around the planet, this strategy of forcing early elections through political crisis and violence is a bad option; far too much can be lost.  Complicated as it has been, and is, I believe that one more of Nicaragua’s achievements has been the peaceful transition of governments through elections that are representative of the voting will of the Nica people.  (Much more has been said about this in some of the accompanying articles.)
#1 – “The situation is not the same as the one you describe and have posted on here re: Haiti.”
GR: While I agree the situation in Nicaragua is not “the same” as in Haiti, I do agree with the comment above that there are valid and important comparative points, particularly with respect to the interventionist role of certain international actors, mainly but not only the US.
#1 – “Yes, there have been supports by NED, USAID etc to lots of groups -- of all stripes - over the past years, including those that are NGOs, pro-government, and Sandinista supporting organizations, but Ortega's regime has also been over the years increasingly oppressive and authoritarian, leading to increasingly heavy crackdowns on civil protest against his misogynist, pro-mining, neoliberal and socially conservative rule -- by legitimate civil society organizations and social movements.  The claim that somehow the state repression that HE authorized and unleashed in April is a US plot is hogwash.”
GR: None of the articles I have read blame all the problems on a “US plot”.  As I recall, all or most of the articles I have read acknowledge there are serious problems in Nicaragua, some of them caused by the government, that need addressing and change.  As I recall, all or most of the article I have read acknowledge that the State has killed and wounded people since the April 2018 protests spiraled upwards into the current unstable situation.
#1 – “Of course, national capitalists, and American and Canadian investors have no intention of not being on the side that is going to run the country, and so they jumped into the foray seeing a sinking ship.”
GR: I think there is a lot more that must be said about the interests and interventions of global capitalists – mainly US and Canadian interests – than this casual reference to their actions and intentions.
#1 – “but there is NEVER a reason to slaughter unarmed people. To lay blame on the vague notion of 'US imperialism' for something he has orchestrated is incredibly blind-sighted. And in addition and in perhaps the greatest of ironies, HE set himslef up by being in bed with the church and the capitalist class from the beginning -- he's been a willing participant of US imperial interests. There is a lot of misinformation about what is going on circulating in otherwise progressive circles. Please read the links I've sent...”
GR: I don’t fully understand this comment, but in Latin American history and quite particularly in Nicaraguan history there are very clear experiences (violent, harmful, destructive) of US imperialism – it is not vague.  One can debate the degree to which the US is directly and indirectly involved right now – and many articles delve into this -, but I / Rights Action have no doubt the US has not changed one whit its interventionist interests and actions in Latin America, including Nica.
#4 - NGOs helped overthrow Haiti’s elected government, YVESENGLER.COM
#4 -Feminist NGOs:
#4 - NGOs:, The Canadian, COAT.NCF.CA
#4 – “Basically in Haiti they created a network of US/Canadian/French funded civil society organizations [feminist, human rights, anarchist etc.] that were all effectively campaigning for what Washington and Ottawa wanted: regime change for a government that wasn't following all of its orders.”
#4 – “A French language website called alterpresse, which was intellectual hub of the civil society groups, was completely fascinating. They all spoke a left wing language on a whole range of issues except for the most important one facing the country: do we align or not with efforts at regime change.”
#5 – “More and more I am seeing condemnations written by Latin Americans of left wing silence (or collusion) about Nicaragua e.g. and 
#5 - “People who think the Ortega-Murillo regime is somehow "progressive" or "socialist" have not been paying attention.” … “Lori has followed the degradation of Sandinismo and offers a clear picture of what's happening. For comprehensive reports, Envío provides lots of detail and context e.g.”

GR: Rights Action’s concerns about the current crisis are not related to whether the policies of the current government are progressive enough, or regressive.  Our concerns are the violence and destruction of some of the opposition groups trying to put an end to this government, and the underlying interests of some of the opposition groups, both from inside Nica and outside, in trying to end this government before its term.
Quite clearly, some of the opposition groups – certain Nica economic elites, the US gov’t – are not opposing the Nicaraguan gov’t because it is not “progressive” or “socialist” enough.  In the articles below, there are many that are critical of many policies and actions of the Nicaraguan government – some more, some less.  The debate and discussion should not be, in my view, about that (at this time), but rather focused on what steps need to be taken, inside Nicaragua and outside, to put an end to the use of violence – both by sectors of the loose coalition of the opposition and by the State – and let Nicaragua return to a situation of relatively peaceful institutionality.
This relatively peaceful institutionality is one of the achievements of Nicaragua through and since the 1980s.  This is an achievement of most sectors of Nicaragua society, not just of successive governments.  In my view, it is a massive, inter-generational achievement that – until the April 2018 explosion of violence from both sides – Nica had achieved the lowest, by far, rates of violence and repression, corruption and impunity amongst the four countries [El Sal, Honduras and Guate] that have been so dominated and abused by violence and repression, corruption and impunity that for so long have been caused by internal elites and their international partners, mainly but not only in the US.
I think it valid to point out, over and over, that until April 2018, almost no Nicaraguans were joining the constant waves of tens of thousands of Hondurans and Guatemalans fleeing north, year after year, decade after decade.  The establishment and maintaining of a comparatively and relatively peaceful, orderly society in Nica, even as violence and repression, impunity and corruption continued unabated in Guatemala and Honduras, is not a small achievement – it is a huge achievement, over the past 40 years, or so, of successive Nicaraguan governments and civil society.
Again, this is not at all a simplistic point of view that until April 2018 all was perfect in Nicaragua.
#1 – “As for the term "regime change", it's really up to Nicas to decide on what kind of government they want. Overthrowing the Somoza dynasty in 1979 was a very positive "regime change" and many Nicas equating Ortega with Somoza, because of his role in violent repression of protest, want him & Murillo gone ASAP. I can't blame them.”
Silencios que matan - Brecha, BRECHA.COM.UY
GR: I don’t equate the current government of Nicaragua with the Somoza regime.  Again, this is not a simplisitic point of view that until April 2018 all was perfect in Nicaragua, but I disagree with the Somoza regime comparison.
Enough said, for now.  The debates and disagreements will continue.  I encourage folks to read the links above, and a list of them below.  I have not read all of them.
The mainstream media in the US and Canada is, again, doing a one-sided job in reporting on the crisis in Nicaragua.  It is incumbent on Canadians and particularly Americans to be clearly aware of the past and current roles of our governments and economic interests in harmfully intervening in smaller, weaker countries in Latin America, particularly in Central America and the Caribbean, and most particularly in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
While we will disagree on what is happening inside Nicaragua [let alone El Sal, Honduras, Guatemala], and which sectors are too blame, US and Canadian citizens should not disagree on exposing and holding out governments, companies, investors, etc, to account, if and when they intervene or operated in other countries in harmful, exploitative, violence ways.
Grahame Russell

Assorted articles, interviews
Surviving violence and Ortega in Nicaragua,
How Nicaragua’s good guys turned bad, 1 August 2018,, Kevin Zeese 7/22/18, In Nicaragua is operation “Contra bis” Failing?, 7/21/18, by Alex Anfruns, En Nicaragua los “autoconvocados” Destruyen las instalaciones de la UNAN, por Tortilla con Sal, 7/21/18, Interview Dan Kovalik and Max Blumenthal, 7/19/18, 7/17/18, by Stephen Sefton, Interview, 7/17/18, 7/15/18, Nicaragua's opposition erase crimes to facilitate US intervention, 7/11/18, round-table of young Nicaraguans talking about NED and NGOs
JUL 11, 2018, What Is Happening in Nicaragua?, Kevin Zeese and Nils McCune,, 7/10/18, Carlos Escorcia, 7/8/18, 7/7/18, 7/6/18, by Celina Stien-Della Cross, Masks Worn on Both Sides, Interview with Jacinto Suarez, 7/6/18, 7/6/18, Entrevista con Jacinto Suarez, 7/5/18, 7/5/18, Alex Anfruns, 7/4/18, by Stephen Sefton, 7/4/18, 7/1/18, SICA, System of Central American Integration, calls for peace, 7/1/18, Barbara Koeppel, Information on CIA manual given to contras. Many tactics being used now by opposition, 6/28/18
Interview with founder of Popular Resistance, Kevin Zeese, on Venezuela and Nicaragua,, June 27, 2018, 6/25/18, Tortilla Con Sal, 6/25/18, 6/24/18, Tortilla con Sal, June 24, 2018, by Stephon Sefton.
Interview with Max Blumenthal, The Real News,, 6/23/18, Alex Anfruns
Quixote Center, Tom Ricker, June 22, 2018,, 22/6/18
6/22/18, 22/6/18, Canciller Denis Moncada Colindres, Guerra Sicologica, 22/6/18, by John Perry, The Nation, June 22, 2018, 21/6/18, Terrorismo desde Costa Rica, por Oscar Barrantes Rodrigues, June 20, 2018, Zona FranK, Tortilla con Sal, June 20, 2018, June 20, 2018, Joyce Nelson
by Max Blumenthal, June 19/20,, June 20, 2018
Democracy Now interview with Paul Oquist, June 20, 2018,, June 20, 2018
Part 1 Interview with Camilo Mejia and Trevor Evans,
Nicaraguan Opposition Suspends Negotiations: A Return to Violence? (Pt 1/2), June 19, 2018, The Real News

Part 2 Interview with Camilo Mejia, June 19, 2018, Nicaraguan Opposition Suspends Negotiations: A Return to Violence? (Pt 2/2)
Marvin Sotelo, 17/6/18,, Dan Kovalik,  June 15, 2018, Carta a Frei Betto, June 15, 2018, 14/6/18, Carlos Fonseca, Tom Ricker, June 13, 2018, June 13, 2018, Open Letter to Amnesty International, by Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, by Camilo Mejia, June 13, 2018, June 12, 2018
Maras en Nicaragua, por Amaru Barahona, 11 de Junio 2017,, historia del asesinato de dos policias en San Jose Oriental, Managua 6/11/18, June 10, 2018, Barbara Moore, interview with John Perry, June 7, 2018, June 7, 2018, June 7, 2018, June 7, 2018, June 6, 2018, by Chuck Kaufman and John Kotula; news summary, May 30 to June 4, May 31, Achim Rodner
May 30, Nan McCurdy News summary,, May 31, 2018,  Giorgio Trucchi
May 30, 2018 Telesur — “Rebellion or Counter-Revolution: Made in US in Nicaragua?",
NED-funded center report,, May 12, 2018, May 11. 2018, Benjamin Waddell, May 1, 2018
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