An interview with Daniel Ortega, President of Nicaragua
News agency EFE spoke with the leader of Nicaragua, a nation embroiled in a socio-political crisis.
On Tuesday, Sept. 4, EFE spoke with Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega in the nation's capital city Managua about the ongoing turmoil in the Central American nation. Below is the full text from the exclusive interview.
EFE: Who is responsible for what has happened these months in the streets of Nicaragua, with all the dead there?
Ortega: We have a long and well-known history that we always have to take into account: this is a power called the United States of America.
It has been intervening and occupying Nicaragua since the 1850s and there has been Yankee expansionism here. What brought them here? The Gold Rush. Nicaragua was a much more comfortable and a safer route instead of traveling across the North American territory from the east coast to the west coast. Transport companies found in us a more comfortable and safer route. Once opened up, then came American expansionism and a fixation with opening a canal.
EFE: And now you maintain that the United States is behind the incidents?
Ortega: It's the same old story. We left government after the 1990 elections, we acknowledged the results of those elections and the right-wing there began a policy of seeking to restore all the economic, political and cultural power that the U.S. had previously imposed and which we had already ended when we deposed the Somoza dictatorship. It was during that period that they were able to reimpose their project in Nicaragua.
That was followed by an effort by them to prevent the Front (Sandinista National Liberation Front) from winning elections again. President Bush said that if the Front won, the aggression against Nicaragua would continue. But if UNO won, the U.S. would support that government and, logically, it was not easy for the people to vote freely. Then, whenever there were elections in Nicaragua, there were U.S. envoys appearing publicly with the president of the day to bring the same message. One of the last envoys was General Colin Powell, and the media and EFE were there.
If you are looking for the U.S. ministers and senior officials who came to Nicaragua you can look for them. They did not respect the Nicaraguan people but made a policy of permanent interference to force the people to back the candidate of their choice. Then we saw that they did not stop their interventionist campaign between 1990 and 2007 when we returned to government. However, they had been unable to stop the triumph of the Front. Immediately afterwards they took up a policy of hostility and interference against the Sandinista government.
EFE: Do you have any proof that the United States Government is behind the people who go out to protest against your government?
Ortega: It is very clear, we came back to government and the U.S.' hostility rekindled. And the first indication of this was how Nicaragua was ejected from the Millennium Challenge account that was part of an agreed project with the previous government to place funds throughout Central America. Nicaragua has been punished because the U.S. does not consider the Sandinista National Liberation Front to be democratic and hence they immediately began to organize armed groups against us.
EFE: Who gives these groups arms?
Ortega: There was an activity that originates from the extreme right in Florida. It has been an umbilical cord that has persisted since the early days of the Contra war. There is a close relationship between Florida's American politicians and the Contras. This became a friendship. For this iteration of the right, with its considerable political power in Congress, it was very painful for the Front to return to government. They have spearheaded and fueled these armed groups and they began to be linked to narco-activity groups. Activity related to the cultivation of marijuana was found during some actions we have taken against them.
EFE: Are human rights guaranteed in Nicaragua?
Ortega: We have respected them, of course.
EFE: And why do all the international human rights organizations say that you have not?
Ortega: Because here, unfortunately, we are talking about a project that is not to the liking of the U.S. and it continues to have an enormous influence on international organizations, on the human rights commission of the Organization of American States.
EFE: Are there political prisoners in Nicaragua?
Ortega: We do not have political prisoners. Those who are detained are being held for crimes they have committed against the people and are being subjected to the corresponding due processes. No one is arrested because of their ideas or their political activism.
EFE: Is there a free press in Nicaragua?
Ortega: All you need to do is turn on the television and watch the news and read the newspapers. There is so much free press that these days there is even a program where they interview hooded people who form part of armed paramilitaries from the right. They calmly say that "more dead are needed here." They say so calmly. I do not know what would happen in other countries with an interviewee who calmly says that more deaths are needed, and this at a time when blood is running in this country.
EFE: Have you ever considered bringing forward the elections?
Ortega: No, it does not make sense. It is the most absurd thing that has been proposed. It would set a very negative precedent that would lead to the fact that at any moment a government would have to step down when the opposition did not like its measures. It would be to live the history of Ibero-American countries that did not have stability and that had to be changing governments continuously because people were going to protest on the streets and the army would come and remove the president.
EFE: You have just expelled a mission from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Would you be willing to let some kind of international commission in to monitor whether human rights are being observed in Nicaragua, to ascertain if the accusations against the government of Nicaragua are true?
Ortega: I think the problem is that in our countries, which have been treated like the U.S.' backyard, we are usually treated as if we were colonies or neo-colonies. I do not see that there has been a need for this type of arrangement when there are major conflicts in Europe. Is there an initiative that insists on sending international observers to see what is going on in Europe, to send them to Catalonia? Because the Catalans have their point of view, I have heard it. There was an election and then they were persecuted, imprisoned. There are still imprisoned Catalans in Madrid and I have not heard about any human rights organization in Europe or the UN concerned about what is happening in Catalonia. They continually want us to be supervised, intervened.
EFE: There have been no deaths in Catalonia.
Ortega: But I say that here, in our countries, if an opposition politician lands in jail, it immediately becomes a case for the Europeans and the U.S. to intervene. There is no need for the tragedy of a death.
EFE: Nicaragua is just above Haiti among the world's poorest countries. Do you consider it a failure of the government's economic policy?
Ortega: I think that the economic policy of the government has been progressing very well for 11 years, something acknowledged by the toughest organizations such as the International Monetary Fund. They have recognized the success of the economic policy in Nicaragua. It has been submitted to a test but it has not failed. What they saw here was a coup plot that caused a breakdown in the pace of development and economic growth, and we now have to fight to recover what has been lost.