This is the second in a series of articles on Nicaragua’s November 7 elections. The first article can be found here.
The Republic of Nicaragua announced on November 19 its intention to pull out of the Organization of American States (OAS), in the latest in a series of events that have transpired in the small country’s struggle with the United States and its allies.
Earlier in the week, U.S. President Joe Biden issued a proclamation that prevents certain Nicaraguan officials—including President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo—from entering the United States because they allegedly prevented a “free and fair” election.
The suspension of travel comes amid an escalation of aggression against the Central American country that the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (Sandinista National Liberation Front, or FSLN for short) has governed for the past 15 years.
Aside from the travel ban, the United States slapped sanctions November 15 on Nicaraguan officials. The Organization of American States (OAS) also voted on November 12 to approve a resolution that condemned Nicaragua’s elections as not “free and fair” and called for “further action.”
“We are not concerned about the illegal measures the U.S. imposes against government officials or against Sandinistas,” said Nicaraguan Minister Advisor for Foreign Affairs Michael Campbell after Nicaragua’s National Assembly denounced the travel ban.
However, many myths continue to circulate in the corporate media about Nicaragua’s elections. This reporter was in Nicaragua to cover the elections and reported in a November 14 article on ordinary people’s opinions of the government. Toward Freedom believes it is necessary to report answers to commonly misreported beliefs.
Did the Ortega Government Ban Opposition Parties?
The following parties were registered to run in the November 7 elections:
- Partido Liberal Constitucionalista (Constitutionalist Liberal Party or PLC)
- Alianza FSLN (Alliance of Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional or Sandinista National Liberation Front Alliance, which is made up of nine parties)
- Camino Cristiano Nicaragüense (Nicaraguan Christian Way or CCN)
- Alianza Liberal Nicaragüense (Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance or ALN)
- Alianza por la República (Alliance for the Republic or APRE)
- Partido Liberal Independiente (Independent Liberal Party or PLI)
— Kawsachun News (@KawsachunNews) November 7, 2021
The Caribbean Coast has two autonomous regions. Indigenous peoples run the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region while Afro-descended people control the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region. Unlike voters in the rest of the country, people in these regions could choose a seventh party when voting for regional candidates. That party was called the Yapti Tasba Masraka Nanih Aslatakanka (YATAMA).
Parties were allowed to campaign from August 21 to November 3, but rallies were prohibited because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Why Is Daniel Ortega So Popular?
This year’s election can only be viewed in the context of the 2018 coup attempt that has the United States’ fingerprints all over it because of heavy U.S. funding to groups that carried out violence that killed more than 300 Nicaraguans, many of whom were Sandinistas. Nicaraguans say they continue to feel emotionally impacted by the events of that year. Nicaraguan farmers were devastated by the “tranques” or barricades coupmongers built on roads that blocked trade, as reported in a November 14 article. Below is a video of one college student, who recounted her experience and decried the United States’ role.
Hear from college student Daniela as she recounts her experience during the violent US backed coup attempt that rocked Nicaragua in 2018.
This is the death & destruction the US would like to see more of in Latin America, all in the name of "democracy." pic.twitter.com/gtG5HEXVm9
— Ari Gutman (@GariGurman) November 16, 2021
Government officials explained the economic impact of the 2018 coup attempt at a summit for international election companions and accredited press held the day before the elections. Nicaragua’s Central Bank President Ovidio Reyes said the country has experienced negative Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth since 2018. “Just as we were getting out of that cycle, the pandemic struck,” he said, adding two recent hurricanes on the Caribbean coast also impacted trade. However, this year, the country started to see the economy turn around. Much of that officials credit to the country’s policy of increased public health initiatives in lieu of a nationwide lockdown, which they say would have hurt the small country. “If we don’t work, we don’t eat,” said Laureano Ortega, who promotes Nicaragua to foreign investors, repeating the words of his father, President Daniel Ortega. And so came door-to-door visits to provide information, as well as a campaign involving mask wearing, handwashing and social distancing. As a result, Nicaragua has what appears to be the lowest amount of COVID-19-related deaths in the Western Hemisphere.
Why Are Nicaraguan Opposition Leaders in Jail?
In 2020, Nicaragua’s National Assembly passed Law 1055 or the “Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination for Peace”. Under this law, it is a crime to seek foreign interference in the country’s internal affairs, request military intervention, organize acts of terrorism and destabilization, promote coercive economic, commercial and financial measures against the country and its institutions, or request and welcome sanctions against Nicaragua’s state apparatus and its citizens.
Nicaragua also has a law called article 90, chapter IV, that governs the financing of electoral campaigns, according to government documents.
“The financing system for parties or alliances of parties establishes that they may not receive donations from state or mixed institutions, whether national or foreign, or from private institutions, when they are foreigners or nationals while abroad. They may not receive donations from any type of foreign entity for any purpose.”
Article 91 also prohibits foreign donations to elections.
Article 92 lays out the punishment for breaking electoral finance laws. Consequences can include candidates paying a fine, being eliminated from running for elected or party positions, and being barred from serving in a public office from two to six years.
The Ortega government had offered amnesty in 2019 to opposition members who had helped organize the 2018 coup attempt. However, opposition leaders this year have faced arrest and jail time because they violated the above laws. The corporate media has used the terms “pre-candidates” and “presidential hopefuls” to describe these people.
Many countries around the world, including the United States, prohibit accepting money from foreign governments, foreign private institutions or individuals who are based abroad.
Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) governs elections and is considered the fourth branch of the country’s government. The same cannot be said in the United States, for example. The CSE is comprised of members from each of the 19 political parties that can register to run a candidate in the elections.
Weren’t Opposition Parties Barred from Participating?
After 100 percent of votes were counted, the FSLN prevailed with more than 75 percent. The second-place party, Partido Liberal Constitutionalista (PLC), received 14 percent, while other parties picked up only single-digit percentages. All opposition parties are anti-Sandinista.
#EleccionesSoberanas2021🇳🇮| Tercer Informe con 100% de Juntas escrutadas y computadas Elección: Presidente/a Vicepresidente/a🗳
🏫𝑱𝒖𝒏𝒕𝒂𝒔 𝑹𝒆𝒄𝒆𝒑𝒕𝒐𝒓𝒂𝒔 𝒕𝒐𝒕𝒂𝒍𝒆𝒔 13,459
☑️𝑱𝒖𝒏𝒕𝒂𝒔 𝑬𝒔𝒄𝒓𝒖𝒕𝒂𝒅𝒂𝒔 100%
👫🏻P𝑎𝑟𝑡𝑖𝑐𝑖𝑝𝑎𝑐𝑖ó𝑛 𝑐𝑖𝑢𝑑𝑎𝑑𝑎𝑛𝑎 65.26% pic.twitter.com/I2LZjbTYxv
— Consejo Supremo Electoral de Nicaragua 🇳🇮 (@cse_nicaragua) November 10, 2021
In the run-up to Election Day, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced the “sham of an election.” In doing so, he reinforced the foundation for increased U.S. aggression on the small country, about the size of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.
However, this reporter and close to 70 other journalists reporting on the elections found a calm and organized voting process at stations we visited across the country. Some of the protocols involved included:
- Voters must display special identification created just for voting purposes to voting station workers
- Voters names can be found in a computer database and on paper
- One voter per station (which was usually the size of a classroom)
- Handwashing, hand sanitizer and masks were provided
- Ballots indicate parties along with the photos of each of the presidential candidates
- Ballots are inserted into a box after voting
- All ballots are counted at voting centers, not transported to another site as has been seen in the United States, which has resulted in missing ballots being found on streets and claims of fraud
- Members of each political party participating in the elections were in the voting centers to monitor vote counting
How Do the Opposition Relate to the Ortega Government?
Below is a video (courtesy of Friends of Latin America) that shows two opposition-party monitors—one from the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) and the other from the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC)—explaining that they both oppose what they deem “intolerance” among a certain section of the Nicaraguan opposition that supported the violence of the 2018 attempted coup. They also condemned U.S. sanctions, which they said would affect all Nicaraguans, regardless of political affiliation.
In the following video by Ramiro Sebastián Fúnez, a former Contra militant leader explains why she allied with the Sandinistas and the Ortega government.
Were Foreign Journalists and International Observers Allowed In Nicaragua?
This reporter, as well as 66 other journalists, were accredited as press prior to the elections. Not a single journalist on the ground reported seeing or hearing of their colleagues being banned from entering. A few election companions had trouble entering Nicaragua if they did not provide a negative COVID-19 test result on a printed document that contained both the seal from the testing facility as well as a doctor’s signature.
Meanwhile, no journalists from corporate media outlets were on the ground. Yet, outlets like the New York Times went on to claim the elections were dubious in nature. One Times reporter, Natalie Kitroeff, was met with facts from journalists on the ground while she tweeted from Mexico City that the elections were rigged.
Absurd fake news from US gov't mouthpiece NY Times: Unlike this propagandist I'm actually in Nicaragua, reporting on the elections
I went to 4 different voting stations; they were all full, with a totally calm, transparent process
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) November 7, 2021
Aside from 67 journalists, 165 international “accompañantes electoral,” or election companions, were allowed to participate. The journalists and election companions traveled from 27 countries. Some flew from as far away as Russia and China, while 70 election companions traveled from the United States.
Despite corporate media’s claims of being denied access to Nicaragua, this reporter only knows of one journalist who was denied access. But the Nicaraguan government wasn’t involved. Steve Sweeney, international editor at the Morning Star, a socialist newspaper in the United Kingdom, tweeted he had been detained in Mexico en route to cover the Nicaragua elections. Over three days, he was denied food and medical access as a diabetic, as he describes in the tweet below.
Coverage of my detention in Mexico where I was held in conditions some are describing as torture, having food withheld for three days.
— Steve Sweeney (@SweeneySteve) November 9, 2021
Meanwhile, the corporate media has not raised their voices to decry the conditions under which Wikileaks Publisher Julian Assange and independent journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal have been held, both of whom the United Nations has reported are being tortured in prison.
Only one European Parliament member attended. Mick Wallace represents Ireland in the parliament and opposed the European Union cooperating with the United States to engage in a hybrid war against Nicaragua. He can be seen expressing opposition in the video below that he tweeted on November 11.
Recent statements from MEP's + #EU Officials on the #Nicaragua Elections have no basis in reality, are an affront to the people of Nicaragua + #UN Charter's principle of non-interference – Only crime is that they've pushed back against #US Imperialism to help their own people… pic.twitter.com/0mBaH796dB
— Mick Wallace (@wallacemick) November 11, 2021
A “hybrid war” is a term historian Vijay Prashad uses to describe the documented U.S. policy of wearing down a country’s defenses through “unconventional” tactics such as economic sanctions, funding proxy groups and NGOs, and distributing misinformation.
Nicaragua decided not to use the term “election observers” because of how OAS and EU election observers in the past had used their role to legitimize meddling in the country’s affairs, according to Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry representatives. Because of that history, as well as the OAS’ documented role in helping create the 2019 coup in Bolivia, Nicaragua did not allow the OAS to send election companions.
Were Nicaraguans Prevented From Voting?
Despite mainstream media claiming people were sometimes violently kept from voting, journalists on the ground in cities as diverse as Bilwi in the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, Bluefields in the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region and in the Pacific northwestern city of Chinandega found a free, fair and transparent process in which Nicaraguans voted. Voters in Bilwi told The Convo Couch, a U.S.-based media outlet, that the government’s response after two hurricanes last year hit the Caribbean coast solidified support for the FSLN.
The Foreign’s Ministry’s Campbell told journalists 10 departments (Estelí, Chinandega, León, Rivas, Chontales, Matagalpa, Masaya, Granada, Carazo and Managua) and two autonomous regions contained 63 voting centers and 791 voting stations.
Everywhere foreign journalists and election companions visited contained a peaceful and orderly voting process. Voters expressed gratitude and pride in their country’s elections, which took a year to plan, according to government officials.
Many journalists recorded election workers supporting elderly and disabled people to vote, many times carrying them to voting stations.
— Ahmed Kaballo (@AhmedKaballo) November 7, 2021
Below are videos journalists on the ground developed to show how voting looked in different Nicaraguan cities.
Voting in Bilwi
Voting in Bluefields
Voting in Chinandega
Julie Varughese is editor of Toward Freedom. She spent a week traveling through Nicaragua as part of a delegation organized by the Associación de Trabajadores del Campo (Rural Workers’ Association, or the ATC for short), an independent farm workers’ organization.