by Al Burke // Nordic News Network // 28 July 2018
There was a massive demonstration of popular support for the government of Nicaragua on July 19th, as hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — of citizens celebrated the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution.
That should not have been possible according to the nearly uniform narrative of Western mainstream media, which for the past several months have been spinning and embroidering a tale of an entire people in uproar against an oppressive government. [See draft letter to The Guardian, below.]
”It was the largest anniversary celebration ever,” reports Jorge Capelán, a native of Uruguay who has spent most of his working life as a journalist in Nicaragua and Sweden. For the past nine years he has been an editor of both print and broadcast media in Nicaragua and was on hand to observe the massive turnout on the 19th.
”There were as many people as usual in the capital city of Managua,” he notes, ”somewhere between 300-400,000. The opposition claims that there were only 50,000. But judge for yourself from the attached video. [See Note 1]
”There were also huge demonstrations in the major regional cities. I was in Masaya and it was full of celebrators. [U.S. author] Max Blumenthal was here and interviewed lots of people; he was very impressed. There are at least three major documentary films in the works, all of which will question the Western propaganda.”
That propaganda and the reality which it obscures was outlined, appropriately enough, on July 4th in ”Nicaragua: Legitimacy And Human Rights” by Stephen Sefton for Telesur at https://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Nicaragua-Legitimacy-And-Human-Rights-20180704-0034.html?utm_source=planisys&utm_medium=NewsletterIngles&utm_campaign=NewsletterIngles&utm_content=32.
[See also ”Nicaragua Defeats The Not-So-Soft Coup” at https://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Nicaragua-Defeats-The-Not-So-Soft-Coup-20180717-0019.html?utm_source=planisys&utm_medium=NewsletterIngles&utm_campaign=NewsletterIngles&utm_content=32]
Sources like Jorge Capelán and Stephen Sefton are subject to scepticism due to their evident sympathy for the Sandinista Revolution and the government of Daniel Ortega. But their evidence and arguments are clearly stated and open for inspection, not least by comparison with subsequent events. To cite but one example: No one who has relied on their reporting would have been surprised by the huge outpouring of support for the government on the revolution’s anniversary.
On the other hand, consumers of the mainstream news on Nicaragua may be forgiven for reacting to the same reality with bewilderment and/or disbelief. That risk is being minimized, however, by conducting media business as usual. Jorge Capelán notes, for example, that in the days following the July 19th celebrations, “The big news about Nicaragua in Western media was a demonstration by opposition forces” which consisted of around 1000 participants according to credible sources.
“But at the same time, demonstrations were held throughout the country by Sandinistas who demanded that the coup-makers be brought to justice. There were portraits of all the Sandinistas and police murdered by right-wing forces.”
Needless to say, this was not big news: “When an overwhelming majority demonstrates, mainstream media ignore it or suggest that the demonstrators are all ‘paramilitaries’ or mere employees of the public sector,” concludes Jorge Capelán.
This pattern of misconduct by mainstream media is neither recent nor unique. The huge discrepancy between what they report and what demonstrably occurs in Nicaragua is merely one example of the systematic falsification that so often masquerades as journalism.
1 The video with aerial views of the July 19th celebration in Managua is in Mpeg-4 format (21 megabytes).
It is available at http://www.nnn.se/share/19July2018-Managua.mp4.
In the event of problems with downloading and/or viewing, contact [email protected].
Letter to the editor of The Guardian re: Nicaragua
For the past three months there has been a political crisis in Nicaragua, with opposing forces not only confronting each other in the streets but fighting a media war. The Guardianshould be at the forefront of balanced and well-informed reporting of these events. Instead, your latest article (“Tiny coffins: how Nicaragua’s spiralling violence ravaged a family”, July 5) repeats the pattern of almost all your 15 reports since mid-April in putting most blame for the violence on Daniel Ortega’s government. Only one article (July 4) gives significant space to the government’s version of events.
While most of the recent violence is associated with opposition barricades erected across the country, you still refer to a “wave of violence and repression by the government” (June 24). Not once do you refer to the numerous deaths of government supporters or the 13 deaths and hundreds of injuries suffered by the police. Nor did you report the only attack on a member of the “national dialogue” set up to try resolve the crisis, when student leader Leonel Morales was shot and left for dead on June 12; he is a government supporter. Your report from Masaya (June 12) failed to mention that the protesters had burnt down public buildings, ransacked shops and destroyed the homes of government officials. Nor have you recorded the kidnapping of hundreds of long-distance lorries and their drivers, who have spent a month in effective captivity despite efforts by their ambassadors, international mediators and the government to secure their release. Your report of the shooting of a one year-old boy in “the latest round of government repression” (June 25) does not mention video evidence that he was killed by opposition youths.
The author of several articles, Carl David Goette-Luciak, openly associates with opposition figures. On July 5 he blamed the police for the terrible house fire in Managua three weeks earlier, relying largely on assertions from government opponents. Yet videos appearing to show police presence were actually taken on April 21, before barricades were erected to prevent police entering the area.
Several times you cite “human rights activists” who are often long-standing government opponents (such as Vilma Núñez, April 28). You unquestioningly quote Amnesty International (May 31) yet their reports turn a blind eye to violence by protesters. You quote prominently student representatives such as Lesther Aleman (May 16), but do not report the visit of several students and other government opponents to the United States to meet right-wing Republicans, a trip denounced by one of their colleagues (elfaro.net, June 10). Nor have you cited detailed evidence that opposition groups benefit from millions of dollars in US funding aimed at “nurturing” the Nicaraguan uprising (theglobalamericans.org, May 1).
On June 6 you said that “Ortega has lost control of the streets” and on June 11 that Nicaragua is “a country of barricades.” Since then the government has successfully worked with local people to restore order and remove the vast majority of barricades. Armed bands have been arrested in the process, including members of notorious gangs from El Salvador. This goes unreported.
Most of the articles refer to protesters’ demands that Ortega should simply renounce the presidency, but not that international bodies mediating the crisis (the UN, Organisation of American States and the Central American Integration System) have all rejected this as being unconstitutional and likely to produce chaos. You have given sparse coverage to the many marches by government supporters calling for a peaceful, negotiated outcome.
Recently, Simon Jenkins wrote in a different context (July 5) of “the rush to judgment at the bidding of the news agenda” in which “social media and false news are weaponised.” In our view this is precisely what is happening in mainstream reporting of Nicaragua. We call on The Guardian to take a more responsible stand, to challenge the abundant misinformation and in future to provide a much more balanced analysis of the crisis.
Ellen Barfield, Baltimore, MD Chapter Veterans for Peace
Brian Becker, Radio Show Host, Loud & Clear
Carol Berman, Nicaraguan Cultural Alliance
Max Blumenthal, journalist
Al Burke, Editor, Nordic News Network
Lee Camp, head writer/host of Redacted Tonight
Maritza Castillo, Nicaraguan activist
Sofía Clark, political analyst
Mitchel Cohen, former Chair, WBAI radio Local Board
Don DeBar, writer and radio journalist
Warwick Fry, writer and radio journalist
Greg Grandin, journalist
Peter Grimes, sociologist and author
Paul Baker Hernández, singer, song-writer
Chuck Kaufman, Alliance for Global Justice
Dan Kovalik, human rights lawyer
Barbara Larcom, Baltimore Coordinator, Casa Baltimore/Limay
Abby Martin, journalist and presenter, The Empire Files
Arnold Matlin M.D, Rochester (NY) Committee on Latin America
Camilo Mejia, former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience
Nils McCune, IALA Mesoamerica
Nan McCurdy, Methodist missionary
Ben Norton, journalist
John Perry, Guardian contributor
Stephen Sefton, writer
Patricia Villegas, President, Telesur
S. Brian Willson, Lawyer activist
Kevin Zeese, co-director, Popular Resistance
[Note: This original draft, submitted to The Guardian in mid-July, was rejected on the grounds that it was too long. A shorter version is currently being considered and may be published within the next few days. — Al Burke, 23 July 2018]