Nicaragua: Washington’s Other Hemispheric Nemesis

By Ted Galen Carpenter

The Trump administration continues to tighten the screws on Venezuela’s left-wing regime, imposing new economic sanctions and recognizing Juan Guido’s claim to be the country’s new interim president over current ruler Nicolás Maduro. Trump has openly lobbied the Venezuelan military to break with Maduro, and has stated ominously that “all options”—including apparently a U.S. military intervention—remain on the table. There is little doubt that the administration is pursuing regime change in Caracas.

While most of the attention is focused on the volatile situation in Venezuela, however, another crisis is brewing nearby in Nicaragua. As in Venezuela, rising domestic discontent with a socialist government has led to large-scale demonstrations demanding change. And as in Venezuela, the beleaguered regime has responded with harsh, authoritarian measures.

Nicaragua’s incumbent president is Washington’s old nemesis from the 1980s, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega. The Reagan administration expended considerable effort, including training and arming a cadre of anti-communist rebels, the so-called Contras, in an unsuccessful effort to oust the Sandinistas. Ultimately, Ortega agreed to hold free elections in 1990, and when opposition factions won, to the surprise of most U.S. officials, he relinquished power peacefully. Ortega returned to office following elections in 2007.

During his second stint in office, the government adopted increasingly authoritarian measures, and by 2018, opposition demonstrations were large and vocal. Protests surged in April 2018, and by early August, even the Ortega government reluctantly acknowledged that 195 people had died in the mounting violence. The Organization of American States (OAS) put the figure at 317, and a leading NGO, the Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association, documented 448 killings. It also contended that government security forces and allied, armed civilian groups were responsible for most of those deaths.

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The government did not take kindly to such criticism. Shortly after issuing its most recent report, the Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association announced that it was closing its offices because of “threats and harassment” against staff members. Ortega defended the violent actions that police and pro-regime paramilitary units had taken. He exhibited no receptivity whatsoever to opposition calls for a referendum on holding early national elections in place of the balloting scheduled for late 2020. Given that the last elections in 2016 were afflicted with widespread fraud, critics of the regime see little benefit in being patient.

Washington moved to adopt punitive sanctions in response to the regime’s crackdown on last summer’s demonstrations. In November, the Trump administration imposed travel restrictions and targeted the assets of several high-level officials. Washington’s justifications echoed those used to justify even harsher measures taken against the Venezuelan government. The text of the Treasury Department order stated that the action was a counter to the Nicaraguan government’s corruption, its “violent response” to protests, and its “systematic dismantling and undermining of democratic institutions and the rule of law.”

Vice President Rosario Murillo and her political operators “have systematically sought to dismantle democratic institutions and loot the wealth of Nicaragua to consolidate their grip on power,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said …read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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Trump’s Cruel Venezuela Sanctions

By Daniel Larison

The New York Times reports on Venezuela’s imploding economy and the role of U.S. sanctions in worsening conditions:

The sanctions have accelerated Venezuela’s vicious economic cycle, where declining oil exports leave Mr. Maduro with less money to invest in basic services. That, in turn, further degrades oil production, according to Siobhan Morden, an emerging markets strategist at the Nomura investment bank in New York.

“This multiplier feedback effect is very powerful and affects almost everyone” in Venezuela, she said. “The impact is going to be horrific.”

When it is our government’s policy to starve another country of resources, it is only a matter of time before the population experiences the horrific impact of sanctions. Economic warfare against Venezuela probably won’t produce the regime change that the administration wants, and in the meantime the effort to oust Maduro comes at the expense of increasing the population’s already terrible suffering. As bad as Venezuela’s economic and humanitarian crises were before, the Trump administration is deliberately making them worse in a bid to force a change in government. Deepening the misery of an entire country that has already been made miserable by the failures of its own government is cruel and wrong, and it makes our government partly responsible for depriving the population of basic necessities.

In a recent column, Jackson Diehl referred to the destructive effect that sanctions will have on Venezuela’s food and medicine supply:

Oil exports — the country’s only significant source of hard currency — are plummeting. According to Russ Dallen of Caracas Capital, they fell from 1.15 million barrels a day in January to 650,000 barrels a day in the first half of March — or 43 percent. If that continues, Venezuelan imports of food and medicine, already disastrously insufficient, will drop off a cliff [bold mine-DL].

The U.S. has supported the Saudis and Emiratis as they have blockaded and starved Yemen for years, and now our government is helping to drive Venezuela towards famine as well. As horrifying as this is, what makes it even worse is that the sanctions aren’t even likely to cause Maduro’s downfall. David Cohen writes:

Although there is little doubt that U.S. sanctions are exacerbating the dreadful economic situation in Venezuela, it is hard to imagine President Nicolás Maduro relinquishing power to relieve the sanctions pressure. The Maduro regime may fall, but if it does, the Trump administration’s unilateral sanctions are unlikely to be the cause.

Cohen linked to a Miami Herald article from earlier this month on the effect of sanctions on Venezuela’s economy. This section is worth quoting:

The deep and biting economic measures are predicated on the idea that Maduro will fall quickly and interim President Juan Guaidó — recognized by Washington and more than 50 countries — can form a transitional government and call new elections, said Phil Gunson, a Caracas-based analyst with the Crisis Group.

“But what if the plan doesn’t work? Suppose the government holds on and then you’ve duplicated the suffering and you haven’t solved the problem,” he said. …read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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Why didn’t Obama do more to counter Russia’s interference in our election?

By Brett Velicovich There are a lot of unanswered questions arising from Robert Mueller’s investigation, and some of the most compelling ones involve President Obama’s seemingly inept handling of Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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Jordan Peterson & His Mission

By Rod Dreher

Last week, Jordan Peterson spoke at the Liberty University convocation (full video here). It was an unusual venue for a secular man, a clinical psychologist who is decidedly not an Evangelical in his style or his belief. Esther O’Reilly at Patheos talks about something that happened during the Q&A portion of his talk. If you want to see it, go to the main video, and fast-forward to the 21:00 mark. That’s when it happens:

A young man rushes up and grabs a microphone, on the verge of tears: “My name is David [full name redacted], and I need help! I need help! I just wanted to meet you. I’m unwell…I want to be well…”

Peterson says, “I hope you can get the help that you need.” Spiritual director David Nasser walks over to calm the student as security guards appear. The student says more that’s not quite discernible, but you can make out “I’ve called 911” and “I want to know him better…”

Then he falls on his knees and begins sobbing. Tearing, wailing sobs.

Peterson begins to walk over himself as the video feed cuts out, but audio is still rolling. You can put together that the guards must have begun to remove the student, because Nasser’s voice can be heard saying firmly, “Stop. Stop. Stop pulling him.”

While the student is still wailing, Nasser says a short, simple prayer. He prays that God would heal the student, that the Spirit would work in him, and that he would be encouraged in this moment to know that everyone is on his side. After he finishes, the wails have subsided. The last thing he says to the student is, “Hey buddy. We’re for you.” Then the conversation resumes, as well as it can be resumed after a disturbance like that. Peterson is badly shaken and breaking up, trying to collect himself. Falwell opens his mouth and says something or other. Nasser is reassuring and earnest, patting Peterson’s shoulder and forthrightly attempting to salvage what can be salvaged of the convocation. Things stumble forward towards an eventual conclusion. But the disturbance hangs over it all.

If you listen to the episode, and the agonized wailing of this young man, you can see how and why it colored everything. That poor soul is in so much pain. No wonder it knocked Peterson off his game for a bit.

In her Patheos blog entry, O’Reilly meditates on the culture clash between Peterson and the Liberty folks, and how they worked together surprisingly well, despite it. In this passage, O’Reilly refers to the convocation’s opening ceremony, which involved a full worship band, and students singing along with their hands in the air:

For his part, Peterson seems genuinely touched. Partway through, he pauses to say something about the opening ceremony. I had hoped, cringing inwardly, that perhaps he was backstage and had missed it, but I realized that in fact he had been sitting through it the whole time. Yet what he said humbled me. He said that he …read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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Trump’s next Secretary of Defense needs to have these 10 things

By Van Hipp The increasing complexity of the national security landscape, coupled with the readiness challenge that still remains, underscores that the appointment of the right Secretary of Defense will be President Trump’s most important appointment for the remainder of his first term. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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Banning Chick-fil-A is not only bigoted — it’s illegal

By Keisha Russell San Antonio has banned Chick-fil-A from setting up shop in the city’s airport due to the company’s alleged ‘legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.’ …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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Education disaster? Common Core has given us snowflakes instead of students

By Lauren DeBellis Appell While it’s been a disaster academically, from an agenda-driven perspective Common Core has been a huge win for the politically correct propaganda being peddled. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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Paul Batura: Searching for Howard Johnson’s

By Paul Batura If you’re over the age of 35, the sight of the orange roof and copper steel cupola weathervane were at one time synonymous symbols of either the great American road trip or a special family meal – or both. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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Dave Wilson: THIS attitude is essential for successful marriage

By Dave Wilson My wife, Ann, and I have been speaking around the country for 30 years on marriage, and the stories we hear are all too typical. What once started as a vibrant relationship can often grow stale and cold. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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Justin Haskins: Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez keep lying about socialism. Here’s the truth

By Justin Haskins Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have amassed a huge following among millennials by propagating the myth that the only way to solve society’s problems is to seize wealth and property away from law-abiding citizens so that the federal government has significantly more power over all of our lives. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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