Washington threatens reprisals against Nicaragua’s voters

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John Riddell interviews Felipe Stuart Cournoyer

In a fit of petulant anger, the US government lashed out on January 25 against the outcome of Nicaragua’s recent presidential election. To understand the context of the US threats, I talked to Felipe Stuart Cournoyer, a Nicaraguan citizen and member of Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) [1].

John Riddell: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that Nicaragua’s November 6, 2011, election “marked a setback to democracy in Nicaragua and undermined the ability of Nicaraguans to hold their government accountable”, but offered no particulars. What has roused Washington’s ire?

Felipe Stuart Cournoyer: It’s quite simple. On November 6, 2011, the Sandinista candidate, Daniel Ortega, won with 62.66% of the vote, more than twice the total of the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) candidate favoured by the US embassy. Washington is not pleased when small, poor countries defy its will.

But Clinton says US concern is based on a report by Organization of American States (OAS) observers.

The OAS report notes that the official results were similar to the readings of pre-election polls, and to their own exit polls on election day.[2] Both the OAS and the European Union observer missions noted some irregularities and technical difficulties, but did not consider that they called into question the FSLN victory. The main complaint of right-wing opposition parties was that Ortega should not have been permitted to run for re-election. The voters certainly gave a clear verdict on that one.[3]

Clinton says the US will respond by a “review of our assistance” and “aggressive scrutiny” of loans by international bodies to Nicaragua. That sounds like sanctions. What’s this about? Have aid projects gone wrong?

On the contrary, aid projects under Ortega’s presidency have been enormously successful. Let me cite the most important. Illiteracy was 30% when the FSLN was elected in 2006. Thanks to a literacy campaign carried out with help from Cuba and Venezuela, the United Nations has now declared Nicaragua to be free of illiteracy.

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