Every Single Member Of US Congress Approved Crushing Sanctions On Nicaragua

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Above Photo: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., flanked by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., left, and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 9, 2017. J. Scott Applewhite | AP

After defeating a violent US-backed coup attempt, Nicaragua’s elected government faces the NICA Act. The bill aims to force the Sandinistas from power by ratcheting up economic despair.

GrayZone Project  Every single member in both chambers of the US Congress approved legislation that will impose sanctions and financial restrictions on Nicaragua in an explicit effort to weaken its government.

Known as the NICA Act, the bill is now on its way to the desk of President Donald Trump, who will almost certainly sign it into law. Its passage was spearheaded by neoconservative lawmakers centered around the Miami lobby of right-wing Latin American exiles dedicated to eradicating any iteration of socialism in the Western hemisphere.

The United States has spent decades trying to topple Nicaragua’s government, now led by the left-wing Sandinista movement. In April, US-backed opposition figures launched an unsuccessful and exceedingly violent coup attempt in the Central American country — one of the last bastions of leftist politics in an increasingly right-leaning Latin America.

The newly approved Nicaraguan Investment and Conditionality Act(NICA) will give the US president the authority to impose targeted sanctions on Nicaraguan government officials, former officials, or people purportedly “acting on behalf of” Managua.

The bill also seeks to prevent international financial institutions from providing “any loan or financial or technical assistance” to Nicaragua’s government.

The NICA Act enjoyed bipartisan support, but the campaign behind it was largely led by neoconservative Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, with help from Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Ros-Lehtinen and Cruz met for a Facebook live this December 13 to celebrate the bill’s passage.

In June, these three right-wing Cuban-American lawmakers gathered with young leaders of the Nicaraguan opposition in Washington, DC.

The NICA Act encourages the US government to increase assistance to anti-government “civil society in Nicaragua, including independent media, human rights, and anti-corruption organizations” and to “support the protection of human rights and anti-corruption advocates in Nicaragua.”

The legislation also suggests that political negotiations should be “mediated by the Catholic Church in Nicaragua,” which has for decades supported violent right-wing forces in the region.

This October, leaked audio revealed the Catholic Church’s auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio Baez, conspiring with the opposition to oust Nicaragua’s elected president, Daniel Ortega.

“The unity that we need at this moment must include everyone opposed to the government, even if they are suspected of being opportunists, abortionists, homosexuals, [drug] traffickers…,” Baez declared, according to a translation of the leaked audio.

Baez urged the opposition to put up more of the tranqueroadblocks that had plunged the country into violence and strangled its economy, describing them as “an extraordinary invention.”

In November, USAID Director Mark Green announced an infusion of $4 million to civil society and media groups opposed to the Sandinista front.

Neoconservative gloating

In September, the NICA Act was combined with a remarkably similar bill from Democratic New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez: the Nicaragua Human Rights and Anticorruption Act, which imposed additional sanctions on Nicaraguan government officials.

Menendez – a Cuban-American whose legal defense from corruption charges was bankrolled by the pro-Israel lobby – joined his neoconservative colleagues in referring to Nicaragua’s democratically elected president, Daniel Ortega, as a “dictator” who leads a “regime.”

Ortega — who voluntarily stepped down from power after losing an election to a US-backed right-wing oligarch in 1990 — won his third presidential term in 2011 with 62 percent of the vote, in what international observers recognized was a fair election. Even the staunchly anti-Sandinista New York Times admitted at the time that Ortega had widespread support.

Ros-Lehtinen declared that “the NICA Act that will help the Nicaraguan people break free of Ortega’s despotic rule.” She has previously insinuated that Nicaragua was a national security threat to the US, proclaiming, “We must also remain vigilant of efforts by Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, China and Iran that continue to help Ortega with military equipment, surveillance, and other technology support.”

For his part, Rubio boasted, “We are one step closer to expanding sanctions and other pressures against the oppressive Ortega regime.”

In lieu of a formal vote, the NICA Act was sent to the bipartisan House Committee on Foreign Affairs for amendments, and these changes were then agreed to by each chamber, without any objections.

On November 27, amendments for the combined legislation were approved with unanimous consent in the Senate. Then on December 11, the changes were unanimously approved in the House without objection.


US corporate media echoes Nicaragua’s US-backed opposition

The unanimous approval of the de facto economic embargo on Nicaragua received very little attention in the English-language media. The story was covered by only a small handful of local newsoutlets, although it received much more attention in right-wing Spanish-language media.

In an interview with Confidencial – an opposition outlet funded by the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy regime change arm – Nicaragua’s former foreign affairs minister Norman Caldera exclaimed that the “NICA Act is a devastating blow for the regime.”

The right-wing channel 100% Noticias, whose director, Miguel Mora, stands accused by family members of coup victims of inciting hatred and violence, echoed the celebratory language.

CNN Español reported favorably on the NICA Act (it even has a tag on its website devoted to the law), although its English-language counterpart demonstrated little interest. CNN Español referred to the democratically elected government in Managua as a “regime” and noted, “The opposition of Nicaragua celebrates this decision.”

The chaos unleashed by last summer’s coup attempt has badly bledNicaragua’s economy, plunging growth from a steady five percent to almost zero and eliminating tens of thousands of jobs. With the NICA Act, the US and its local proxies are hoping that exacerbating the economic desperation even further will bend a largely non-compliant Nicaraguan population to their will.

  • Brian Cady

    Ack. Didn’t see this coming. Sorry, Nicaragua.

  • Nicarag

    Its shameful and outright bullying of the sovereignty of nations.

  • mwildfire

    Can’t make myself read much of this, the stench is too extreme. There is no hope for this country. It needs to collapse, much faster than it is, so there can be hope for the rest of the world.

  • Jon

    So disappointing that even those we consider “good guys” failed to oppose this measure.

  • I was once hired by a wealthy philanthropist to travel to Nicaragua and discover if the rumors of atrocities committed by US funded contras against innocent families was true. That job was during Reagan’s regime, it changed my life;

    Here I relate briefly what happened after an eventful afternoon and all night bus trip to the Nicaraguan frontier with Honduras. Two busloads of vital people from all over the world went to witness independence ceremonies of the Nicaraguan troops facing the contras on the border with Honduras. Since I was on the job, I had left the restaurant to investigate Lyon and had eaten my super cooked in a hubcap on an open fire in the gutter. Interestingly, I was almost the only person who had not been stricken with a terrible case of diarrhea.

    When we arrived at the frontier we were taken into a church for orientation given by a Nicaraguan General. Once again, being on the job, I left the orientation to learn about the town. I looked over me shoulder as I walked out the front door and the general was looking me straight in the eyes, he continued with his orientation speech and I quietly closed the church door.

    It was morning, I was hungry, and I soon found a small grocery store. It had flexible floor planks like an old store in rural Michigan or California. I felt right at home and bought a small bag of sweet breads. The street was narrow and dirt, I crossed to the other side and was eating my second sweetbread when an elegant woman dressed totally in black and wearing a black veil pinned by an abalone shell comb walked out of the store. I was stunned by her elegance. She glanced in my direction and began walking away on her side of the street.

    At that very moment an old Impala chevy came banging and clattering to a halt right behind me. Three large tv cameramen and one news commenter dashed out of a still rising dust cloud and the announcer told me they wanted to interview the elegant woman in black. I told them to go right ahead, after all, why ask me?

    “We don’t speak spanish,” the announcer with the microphone said. “You do it.”

    “Me? You’re crazy. Look at her all dressed in black. I’m not going to intrude in her grief.”

    They were all trying to convince me to interview the widow queen of the Nicaraguan frontier when she asked us if we needed assistance. Her voice from behind the veil was as elegant as her visage.

    “These men want to interview you for united states tv,” I responded from across the narrow street.

    She crossed the street, opened her veil, and asked me what they wanted to know.

    “What do you want to know?” I asked the news crew.

    ¿Cómo es vivir en la guerra? What is it like living in the war? I asked, cringing inside but also wanting to know. This was my job.

    “No es una guerra.” She said in a soft yet clear, strong voice. “It’s not a war,” I said in english.

    “If it’s not a war, what is it?” I asked her what we all wanted to know.

    “Terrorisme,” she responded in a deepened gravely voice. Terrorism. I did not need to translate. The news crews stepped back in shock.

    “What happened?” I asked.

    “I had finished shopping and walked home,” she said. “The front gate was already open, my husband was lying in the dirt. Our dog was next to him. Our three children had run out the front door to see what had happened and were all dead on the steps. The pig was dead. Our milk cow was dead. “They even shot the tractor engine!” She wailed as she set down her bags and grabbed my green tee shirt with both hands and sobbed in abandon with her face pressed against my chest.

    “I know it is the united states government and not the people who did this,” she sobbed.

    The newsmen backed away, got in their car and left. The woman cried her heart out on my chest and I held her for both our comforts and strength. Writing this still brings tears to my eyes. A few people were watching from the store side of the street. Several minutes passed and she slowly regained her composure. I picked up her bags and we walked toward her house. It was a small town and soon she stopped and reached for her bags. “You are supposed to follow that little lane between those two houses she said as she turned and walked away. She knew I was watching and turned around after a few steps. “You go on now,” she said, “Thank you. I will be ok.”

    I watched her walk away and then I walked between the houses and past a row of trees, still eating the last of my sweet breads. In front of me was a large field surrounded by forest. Military platoons were organizing themselves into squares of thirty or forty soldiers each. Men and women, all over thirty, many wearing green shirts and jeans like me. I quickly learned they were there for the duration; they were on the front defending Nicaragua from united states atrocities until they won the war or died trying. I had entered the back way and the troops were between me and the reviewing stand with the general and all the witnesses from around the world who were there to support them.

    I was noticed as somebody different as I walked around the first platoon and found myself looking into the eyes of a curious soldier. We were maybe two feet apart. I stopped and pulled my tear soaked shirt stuck to my chest. It snapped back and stuck to my chest again when I let go. I did it again. Those are tears, I said. The entire platoon was watching. I told them I was there to witness their story and then about the widow and her dead family and how we all struggle for peace and to stop united states atrocities together.

    And then; right there in front of me the entire platoon started crying. Then I started crying. And all the other platoons were leaning our way to see and hear. I decided I was turning into a spectacle and turned to hurry toward the reviewing stand. The General put up his hand to stop me. Then he waved me on to tell the rest of the army. Well, there were quite a few platoons and before long I got my speech down and I moved along to each platoon fairly quickly. By the time I reached the end the entire army was softly weeping for the widow and the pain and suffering and anguish the united states delivers world-wide. I finally walked alone from the troops to the reviewing stand. I wondered if I should be embarrassed. Nobody looked at me and I was grateful. I’ve not been the same person since then.

  • Jo Hayward-haines

    What the United States purports to be and what it actually does is sickening to witness. But we can’t stop with the tears. We must ask why this madness, and then – what can we do about it. Not later, but minute by minute, the way we live our lives and how ferociously we learn to fight for space for truth, for starters. Yes, this regime and the pack of lies that are its foundation will collapse, of course. But will we learn why and what we can do for the deep healing needed in order for change to really happen and endure? Change being justice in all sectors? Space and time to witness with wonder the phenomenon in intricate display in the natural world?? Can we get there yet?

  • larrysherk

    I wonder if there are any in Congress who knew what Sandino stood for, and why he’s a hero, and why later the Sandinistas fought Reagan, the School of the Americas, and the CIA. Daniel Ortega has survived ALL of that, and is still a hero of mine. The U. S. Congress clearly does not know what it’s doing. As you say, the “stench is too extreme.”

  • chetdude

    Ros-Lehtinen has been a dangling piece of excrement throughout her disgusting “career” in Congress…

  • briancady413 but