[Note: This is in reply to this article by toni solo]
A British expatriate in Nicaragua writing under the pen name Toni Solo on April 29, 2006 accused US Nicaragua solidarity of imperialism and of supporting the candidacy of former Sandinista Managua Mayor Herty Lewites in a ZNET posting entitled, “Nicaraguan solidarity: Making the US ambassador redundant?”
Mr. Solo’s allegations are just plain false. I am perplexed as to why he would criticize US groups and individuals for trying to expose and oppose the US government’s intervention in Nicaragua’s internal affairs.
Solo particularly focuses his anger on the Nicaragua Network and on Pennsylvania local solidarity activist Joe DeRaymond who has disagreed with Solo in Counterpunch. DeRaymond can’t defend himself because he’s currently serving a three month federal prison term for protesting the Army School of the Americas (now called Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation).
I don’t know whether DeRaymond has a preferred candidate in Nicaragua’s November 2006 presidential election. I do know that the Nicaragua Network does not. We do believe that Nicaraguans would likely be somewhat better off with a victory of either of the candidates of Sandinismo â€“ Daniel Ortega for the FSLN or Herty Lewites of the Sandinista Renovation Movement. That is certainly not an endorsement of Lewites who supported the Central America Free Trade Agreement. But, it is not an endorsement of Ortega either whose pact with convicted right-wing former President Arnoldo Aleman has turned Nicaraguan government into a spoils system rather than a system of laws and institutions.
When compared to the exciting rise of the Left in South America, it is very hard to even motivate US solidarity with Nicaragua given the lack of inspiration from many of the Nicaraguan political leaders. Passions do run deep however. When we publish anything positive about Ortega in our weekly internet Hotline we get several emails accusing us of being knee-jerk “sandalistas.” Conversely, we get accused of being sell-out imperialists if we say anything good about Lewites or critical of Ortega. While the gap between the Right and the Left in Nicaragua is a bit wider than that between Democrats and Republicans in the US, all too many Nicaraguans now say “a pox on all your houses” to the political class, and that includes Ortega and Lewites.
The Nicaragua Network, which serves about 200 local committees nationwide, has worked against US government intervention and to defend the gains of the Sandinista Revolution for 27 years. It is particularly hurtful that Solo uses slick writer’s tricks to conflate our actions with those of US Ambassador Paul Trivelli.
It would be unproductive to get into a tit for tat with Solo about his accusations, so I’ll give only one example. Solo ridicules DeRaymond for calling the FSLN results in 2000 municipal elections a great victory. His basis is that the Constitutional Liberal Party won more municipalities. But, the FSLN won 11 of 15 departmental capitals, including Managua, which together constitute about two-thirds of the Nicaraguan population. That should be a great victory by anyone’s calculation.
Our recent Nicaragua National Leadership Meeting passed a resolution condemning US government interference in Nicaragua’s elections and adopted a campaign to expose and oppose that interference. We’re working with a number of US and European immigrants to Nicaragua to monitor the US offenses against democracy and we thought we were working with Toni Solo as well until our counterparts in the United Kingdom called to alert us to his hatchet job on ZNET.
It is inappropriate and just plain wrong to compare the U.S. government’s interference in Nicaraguaâ€™s politics to any other possible foreign source of support for any Nicaraguan candidate. The U.S. government has a long and bloody record of attacks on Nicaragua, the most recent of which was the Contra War. Any comment by the U.S. ambassador carries with it the implied or stated threat of a renewed armed attack on Nicaragua.
Solo appears to ardently support Daniel Ortega’s candidacy. That’s fine with us. Here are some excerpts from a letter we received from the FSLN signed by Ortega.
“The Sandinista National Liberation Front calls upon our North American sisters and brothers to support the people of Nicaragua in their struggle against foreign intervention and foreign dominationâ€¦
The FSLN does not ask for your support of any Nicaraguan political party or presidential candidate.
What we ask of the Nicaragua Network is to use all of your efforts to prevent the U.S. government from interferingâ€”directly or indirectlyâ€”in the internal affairs of Nicaragua.
Nicaragua is a sovereign and democratic nation. It is not appropriate for any nation, including the United States, to intervene in the internal affairs of another sovereign and democratic nation. As you know, the United States has interfered in the internal affairs of Nicaragua for almost two centuries.
We ask that you work, in solidarity with us, to ensure that the Nicaraguan presidential elections of 2006 are free of all foreign intervention and control.”
As part of that campaign I am leading a delegation to Nicaragua from June 17-24 We will meet with the parties, interview the organizations receiving National Endowment for Democracy and US Agency for International Development election funding (and those on the Left which are not!) and we will tell the Nicaraguan people through the radio and other media that there are US citizens and residents who support their democratic right to vote for whoever they want to free from threats by the US government.
If Solo thinks that puts us on a par with Ambassador Trivelli it is difficult to imagine what he would think is a proper role for US solidarity.
We invite anyone confused by Solo’s caricature of the Nicaragua Network to visit our web page at www.nicanet.org. The site includes organizing materials for our anti-election intervention campaign including the June investigative delegation. Interested persons can sign up for our low volume Nicaragua Network Hotline listserve which includes a weekly summary of the news from Nicaragua, our analysis, and alerts for US activists.
Toni Solo Responds (May 8, 2006):
Chuck Kaufman’s disappointing response to my article questioning certain lines of argument in the North American solidarity movement leaves several points unanswered. His mediocre personal attack and distortion of what I wrote confirms Nicanet’s lack of attention to detail. I am not a “British expatriate”.
In the original article, I point out clear errors of fact in Nicanet’s reporting on Venezuela’s cooperation agreement with the Association of Nicaraguan Municpalities. Kaufman does not dispute that. He completely fails to address it. Likewise, however he tries to spin it, he confirms my observation that Joe DeRaymond got his facts wrong too.
In my article I asked – on the basis of clear documentation of a Nicanet circular letter, an article by Joe DeRaymond and an article by Brynne Keith-Jennings – why it is that North American solidarity activists tend to adopt anti-FSLN positions. In practice, one comes across such views constantly among the North American solidarity community in Nicaragua.
In that circular letter of 2000 Nicanet wrote: “The Nicaragua Network remains in solidarity with the most democratic sectors of the Sandinista movement that are working to improve the lives of Nicaragua’s poor and oppressed. We recognize that these Sandinistas can be found within the Sandinista party structures and outside them and even (in a few cases) within the party leadership.” But is Nicanet any better equipped to identify who are “democratic sectors” than US Ambassador Trivelli is? Such assertions are stunningly arrogant and un-self-critical.
This is another point Kaufman runs away from. During the fierce internal splits that racked the FSLN through the 1990s and into the current decade, the foreign solidarity managerial classes, including Nicanet, tended to side with the Movimiento Renovador Sandinista, founded by Sergio Ramirez among others, and, lately, with Herty Lewites. Relations between Nicanet and the FSLN have been poor for years.
It is still not clear what electoral damage Herty Lewites is likely to inflict on the FSLN by dividing the Sandinista vote, something the US embassy is anxious to promote. Nicanet seems to think that telling, “the Nicaraguan people through the radio and other media that there are US citizens and residents who support their democratic right to vote for whoever they want to free from threats by the US government” constitutes an adequate anti-imperialist policy.
But the class logic of such a limited position is depressingly clear. Foreign governments are not going to stop intervening in Nicaragua until the country itself has a government determined to defend its right to self-determination. Currently, the best chance for Nicaragua to forge new relationships relatively free of imperialist intervention is for the FSLN to return to government. One would have thought that should be a central theme of solidarity work around the Nicaraguan elections this year. It is a shame Nicanet seems to think otherwise.