WASHINGTON - July 11 - The Nicaragua Network sent a delegation of academics and representatives of human rights and solidarity groups to Nicaragua June 17-24, 2006, to investigate the role of the US government in Nicaragua's presidential election scheduled for November 5, 2006. The Nicaragua Network is a national network of local committees which has worked for 27 years to change US government policy toward Nicaragua.
In all the delegation held formal meetings with 30 people representing the full spectrum of Nicaragua's politics.
[One week after the delegation returned to the US, one of the four principal presidential candidates, Herty Lewites, died of a heart attack. While domestically his death had profound consequences, it had no effect on the findings of our delegation. The delegation had a narrow mission to investigate the US government role in the Nicaraguan election.]
This is what the delegates say in their report that they concluded from their meetings with Nicaraguans:
1. The Nicaraguan people are able to analyze and explain the current political situation and the country’s history in a very sophisticated, informed and coherent manner.
2. With the exception of U.S. Ambassador Paul Trivelli and the International Republican Institute (IRI), all the persons interviewed believed that the government of the United States had gone beyond what was appropriate and correct in its involvement in the electoral process. Even the spokesperson for Eduardo Montealegre, the US-favored candidate of the National Liberal Alliance (ALN), said Trivelli's statements had probably hurt his candidate.
3. Nicaraguans expressed to us emphatically their desire for sovereignty, saying many times that they want to be able to resolve their affairs themselves and are capable of doing so.
4. We heard many times, including from all four campaigns, that the 20% of the national budget allowed for social spending (health, education, etc.) under International Monetary Fund structural adjustment conditions is not enough to resolve the great social problems from which Nicaragua suffers.
5. We heard many times that the United States has intervened continuously in Nicaragua but that the current electoral interference is particularly heavy-handed. One person said that there is a thin line between cooperation and interference. While Nicaraguans differ on where that line is, everyone we met with believes that Ambassador Trivelli has crossed it.
Specifically the members of the delegation say in the report that they, as citizens of the United States, are committed to:
1. Work to report to the people of the US the information we have gathered, presenting it in a way that will raise their awareness so that they will speak up to stop the intervention of the United States in the Nicaraguan electoral process.
2. Work energetically, given all that we have heard and understood from the men and women of Nicaragua, to expose and oppose interventionist practices and the misuse of power by our government that impedes the proper functioning of Nicaragua’s electoral process. We will do all in our power and we hope that this will help the Nicaraguan people to do the same, given that they have expressed the strong desire to live in a true democracy.
3. Urge, and demand, as members of the civil society of the United States, that our government, represented especially by Ambassador Paul Trivelli, stop immediately its intervention and that it find a role that will truly help forge democracy in Nicaragua. This democracy faces great obstacles expressed in the powerful and interventionist policies that have formed the history between Nicaragua and the United States.
The delegation report also noted that:
The amount of money the US is spending on the election depends on who is talking. Trivelli’s assistant told us the US is spending $12 million. When Trivelli joined the meeting he said $13 million. The IRI representative told us it is $10 million divided equally between the IRI, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), IFES (a technical organization providing assistance to the Nicaraguan Supreme Electoral Council), and the Organization of American States mission to observe the elections. But, the OAS representative told us their entire budget from all sources is just under $2 million from a number of sources. So, there is a lot of unaccounted for money. Many Nicaraguans we met with are suspicious that money is being used covertly to support Montealegre, the candidate favored by the US.
This and other unanswered questions seem to mandate a follow-up delegation before the November 5 election.
The full report of the pre-election delegation is available for download at: http://www.nicanet.org along with a list of U.S. interventions in the current Nicaraguan electoral cycle.