Ben Norton reports on the passage of a bipartisan bill that further intensifies the U.S. attack on the Ortega government and received no coverage in the English-language corporate media.
As the Trump administration’s year-long coup attempt against Venezuela spirals out in failure, the U.S. government has taken aim at Nicaragua with increasing ferocity, in a bid to topple its democratically elected, leftist Sandinista government.
Washington’s pressure escalated further on March 9 when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan resolution in a voice vote without any opposition that demanded more sanctions and aggressive actions against the Nicaraguan government of President Daniel Ortega.
This bill — which received no coverage in the English-language corporate media — refers to Nicaragua’s elected government as the “Ortega regime,” echoing the bellicose rhetoric of the right-wing opposition.
Video of the congressional session shows that the resolution was pushed through on a voice vote in just around eight minutes. There was no debate, and a grand total of zero members of Congress spoke in opposition.
The regime-change action in the House followed numerous rounds of suffocating U.S. sanctions on Nicaragua, a small Central American country of just around 6 million people.
In fact, the behavior of U.S. legislators in the latest vote mirrored one in December 2018, when not one member of Congress spoke up against the passage of the Nicaraguan Investment and Conditionality Act (NICA). That bill hit Nicaragua with crippling economic restrictions, preventing international financial institutions from providing loans or assistance to the country’s government.
U.S. sanctions have already caused the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians in Venezuela and Iran. Now that Nicaragua is in the crosshairs, the damage of Washington’s economic warfare has only just begun.
Calling for International Economic War
The latest regime-change bill passed against Nicaragua, H.Res.754, was introduced in December 2019 by Representative Albio Sires, a Cuban-American Democrat from New Jersey.
His resolution was co-sponsored by 28 members of Congress, 19 Democrats and nine Republicans. These included Florida Democratic Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Shalala and California Democrats Jim Costa and Tony Cardenas.
The bill “urges the United States Government to continue to apply pressure on the Ortega government and consider additional sanctions against those Nicaraguan officials” accused by Washington of human rights abuses or corruption.
The resolution goes on to “urge the international community to hold the Ortega government accountable” and “restrict its access to foreign financing.”
Included in the bill is language demanding the Nicaraguan government “immediately release all political prisoners without conditions.”
However, the Sandinista government has already released hundreds of people on its “political prisoner” list, acceding to pressure from the Nicaraguan opposition and its sponsors in the U.S. and the Organization of American States. As The Grayzone reported, this list contained the names of numerous violent criminals who had previously carried out murders and rapes, and resulted in the release of an opposition hooligan who went on to stab his own pregnant girlfriend to death.
The U.S. congressional resolution also expressed support for right-wing Nicaraguan opposition organizations, media outlets, and civil society groups, many of which are funded by the U.S. government.
The House’s unanimous approval of this regime-change legislation arrived just four days after the Trump administration imposed another round of sanctions targeting Nicaraguan state institutions.
On March 5, the U.S. embassy ramped up the pressure with a security alert in Nicaragua, imposing travel restrictions on embassy personnel and advising them to stay away from demonstrations and “large groups or barricades.”
The alert was both a tacit admission that the barricades the opposition had erected around the country posed a threat to the safety of all people, including U.S. citizens, as well as a portent of the chaos and violence that Washington apparently aimed to resuscitate in its bid to topple Nicaragua’s government.
Today’s sanctions on the Nicaraguan National Police and three commissioners take aim at one of the main tools the Ortega regime uses to violently repress the people of #Nicaragua. We will continue to promote accountability of the regime for #HumanRights abuses.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) March 5, 2020
Sponsored by Republican-Turned-Democrat
The main sponsor of the new sanctions bill against Nicaragua, Albio Sires, is a former Republican who previously ran for Congress as a member of the GOP. He changed his party affiliation and went on to fill the former seat of Democratic Cuban-American hardliner Bob Menendez when he entered the Senate.
Like many elite Cuban-Americans, Sires’s family fled to the U.S. after the Cuban revolution, which removed Cuba’s right-wing, U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista from power.
In Congress, Sires has been a stalwart opponent of Latin America’s leftist governments, teaming up with Republican hawks from Marco Rubio to Ted Cruz to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to destabilize them.
Sires has relentlessly clamored for regime change in Cuba. He staunchly opposed the Obama administration’s partial normalization of relations with Cuba, describing his “plans for a loosening of sanctions” as “naïve and disrespectful to the millions of Cubans that have lived under the Castro’s repressive regime.”
Early on in the Trump administration’s coup attempt against the leftist Chavista government in Caracas, Sires recognized unelected coup leader Juan Guaidó as “the constitutionally legitimate Interim President of Venezuela.” Soon after, Sires met with Guaidó’s wife, describing her as “Venezuelan First Lady Fabiana Rosales.” Meanwhile, he proclaims on official social media accounts, “Maduro and his thugs must go.”
Since the failure of a violent U.S.-backed coup attempt in Nicaragua in 2018, Sires has been one of the main figures in Congress pushing for aggressive measures to topple the Sandinista government. He was a co-sponsor of the Nica Act, and took the lead in the latest regime-change resolution.
Last night, the House passed my bipartisan resolution with @RepRooney to support human rights and democracy in Nicaragua #SOSNicaragua Read my full statement: https://t.co/CwAq1XETzw
— Albio Sires (@RepSires) March 10, 2020
After Albio Sires introduced the bill, it was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where it was very slightly amended and then discussed on the House floor on March 9.
On the floor, Sires moved to suspend the rules. The speaker pro tempore, filling in for incumbent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, agreed to suspend the rules, opening up a period of 40 minutes of debate.
But no debate ensued. The only other member of Congress who spoke during the allotted period was right-wing Florida Republican Ted Yoho, who expressed his staunch support for the resolution.
After tirades against the Nicaraguan “regime” by Sires and Yoho, the House speaker pro tempore quickly moved on to a voice vote. A small handful of members declared “Aye” in support. Not one representative said no. It was all over in eight minutes.
In a triumphant statement from his office, Sires declared that the resolution “sent a strong, bipartisan message.”
Once again, potentially lethal sanctions on an impoverished nation fighting to develop itself and provide for its people were passed in broad daylight, on a Monday afternoon, and not one member of Congress spoke up against it.
Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a reporter for The Grayzone, and the producer of the “Moderate Rebels” podcast, which he co-hosts with Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.
This article is from The Grayzone.
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An excellent example of two horrible choices. Danny Ortega is a crook, and you can bet your last córdoba that whatever criminal organization the modern day Bautista guy Sires has in mind to replace him and his family with will be equally crooked. We are in the epoch of the oligarchs.
The United States has been a nation of insane psychopaths since it was created. If you vote Dem or Rep you are an accessory to murder.
Has no one ever told the US Congress that it has no jurisdiction over Nicaragua or any other country except this one? These are all sovereign lands that the meddling Congress, with the connivance of the US president, purports to control. Whether life is good or bad in these countries, it is up to their own people to decide, and change if they so desire. Besides, the Uncle Sam gang usually get it tragically wrong every time. They routinely end up killing, maiming and making homeless millions of innocent people in these escapades of theirs. Creating failed nations I believe is the correct term for what they do.
I wholeheartedly agree. What more can one add!
The C-SPAN clip starts like a fiction movie about a rising star who appeared seemingly from nowhere. Sotto voce asks how to say Sires. After being told, the voice repeats “Sires, Sires, Sires”. Then “gentleman from New Jersey” was invited to speak, surrounded by empty chairs. Coalition of empty chairs and empty suites carried the day with aplomb, elan and esprit d’corps, producing a “resolution expressing the sense of the House”.
Thus a nothing burger was quickly produced. It produced a low grade “Congress record”. There is a custom to spare members of the House from having empty record and to efficiently produce meaningless crap like that. For a member of Congress, opposing it after the fact (remember the empty chairs) would dignify the nothing burger with importance it does not have.
Personally I think the American People need to impose sanctions on the US Corporate Government. We need to cut thus greedy rats nest off at the knees…
How good that would be. However, our tax dollars (without any way to protest) would be used to bail these corporations out; just as they are now being used in the Coronavirus crises and were used to bail out the monsters in the 2008 financial crises. Capitalism when it works and socialism when needed so long as the socialism is used to prop up the wealthy. How much longer do we tolerate this?
It is the poor and oppressed who rise up against the rich and powerful oppressors. The middle class is surviving and most of them do not ‘rock the boat’ by taking sides unless, of course, they are in the state run militia. The upper hand by reason of power and wealth is usually able to maintain the status quo. Those in rebellion are imprisoned, or worse, thus instilling fear in the rebellious survivors and avoiding future rebellions. Occasionally though………..
As it is in the rest of the world – and even the states. Everything is just more subtle and gradual here.
I dont know what all this means to the oppressed and Autonomous region of Nicaragua in inhabitants who were manipulated by the contras, these are the guardians of many of the fragile and integral eco systems of Nicaragua ….yet once again because they indigenous and black its no surprise that both Sandinista’s and America wouldn’t give a dam about my peoples.
I don’t trust the U.S or the Sandinista to do right by Nicaragua there must be a better way.
The “Trump administration” is obviously a puppet of the Netanyahu administration, rubber-stamping every Israeli crime requested. Israel in turn is merely an outpost of the Rothschild banking empire. e.g. tinyurl[dot]com/rf28ssz These medieval economic sieges are wars for resources, like the oil in Venezuela and the Golan Heights. They make a mockery of democracy. The silence of America’s mainsteam press is telling. As is the crusade to make criticism of Israel illegal in America. As was the fake anti-Semitism crusade against Jeremy Corbyin in Britain. America’s democracy is under siege.
I recall the late CN editor, Robert Parry, writing about the Iran-Contra drug running CIA driven scandal and the mess in Nicaragua. As long as the Sandinistas were in control, not a single ounce of heroin reached America. That changed when the Contras took over. Americans got hooked and the Contras got supplied with the weapons that crushed the innocent.
You might want to get the book, “Fire from the Mountain: The Making of a Sandinista”, as it tells the life of a Sandista, Omar Cabezes(?) and describes Daniel Ortega in some detail. You will understand why the US will never defeat true revolutionaries, just as the British could never defeat us. Alas, unjust power is the end result of too much power and wealth. People will only stand for it for so long before they stand up to it. The US government is in its last days.
America…when, oh when, will you start minding your own gd business and leave the rest of us alone? You are NOT exceptional; your EXCEPTIONABLE…which ain’t the same.
We are in an oligarchy, where the oligarchs demand war. Our democracy does not extend this far. Most regular people are afraid of the government just like the rest of the world is.
This article portrays the vote as that of the House of Representatives; but does not say how many were present. I have tried to find that out unsuccessfully; and my Congress person’s web site doesn’t even mention it. She would be unlikely to go along with such a thing. As it was a voice vote there is no individual voting record. A voice vote is a cowardly move avoiding responsibility.
The video does show a lot of empty seats, of course there had to be a quorum. A quorum has to be a majority, which to my calculation would be just over half of the full number of representatives. So there are a lot of reps. that weren’t present who shouldn’t be included in this critique. I really doubt any of the “Squad” were there.
Even at that the whole thing is reprehensible and does show how deceptive Congress can be by passing something when many are not present.
They are all complicit. Ignorance is no excuse in the law and these people are paid to know what the government is doing in our names.
The squad? Give me a break. This is an issue that should be at the top of their agenda. They all make me sick.
Let Nicaragua live!
How sad when people like Ben Norton wite half truths to promote an agenda.
1st. – The sandinista regime was NOT democratically elected – it was an electoral fraud.
2nd. – The constitution was illegally changed to allow Ortega and his family to create an oligarchy.
3rd. Between the US intervention and the status quo about 70% of Nicaraguans would choose the US to intervene and remove Ortega who is a criminal.
I am not someone who reads about stuff and has an opinion, I’ve live through the misery of a right wing dictatorship, a premised revolution, a failed socialist government and the subsequent left dictatorship.
And any day of the week I would chose to go back to the right wing dictatorship, not because I like it but because compared to Ortega it made them look like saints.
So please stop using oxymorons – do not write Ortega and Democracy in the same sentence or article, because that on itself is offensive to most nicaraguan people like me, who only wants our country stop being a one family government.
Really, Carlos? REALLY? Methinks thou hast an agenda that has nothing whatever to do with the “freedom” of Nicaraguans from a “one family government.” And, in any case, your attack on Norton is an outrage.
Which is why I will write in Bernie Sanders for President of the Unites States for the rest of my life.
Rather have a right wing Dictator like Drumpf than lying sub human filth like the biden clinton right wing ‘russia russia russia’ screaming regime.
biden is a regime changing murdering racist misogynist LIAR and the flat earth POOR HATING clinton puma filth embrace that in their $$$$ loving America hating Regime changing offshore $$$$ bank accounts.
Clinton filth=Trumpf filth.
the CIA/NED and US state department endorses your comment
1-2-3 are the same pretextes the US uses to overthrow governments that don’t obey them
it is getting old
Totally agree with you Carlos. My wife is Nicaraguan and had talked about all of the disgusting things that the Ortega regime has done. In fact, she has a few cousins who fled the country in order to escape the brutality of the police force (on orders from the regime). When an article like this demonizes the U.S. in support of a fraud such as Ortega and his Vice President wife, it makes me suspicious of their agenda.
“compared to Ortega it made them look like saints.” Dreaded literacy campaigns, it was hell! Now we have a thriving, vibrant democracy in Honduras, so we can compare left and right in the same conditions.
Tulsi Gabbard a no-show on an issue central to her campaign?
That is sad to hear…actually very angering! She should just shut up and bow out of the race, not that she is a player anyway.
But this action against Venezuela by the House, which is run by the Democrats, has helped me make up my mind: NO VOTE FOR
ANY DEMOCRAT – let alone no GOP….they are warhawks and should not even be thinking of regime change in ANY other country…
the only regime change that is necessary is right here in the US….the current administration should be ridden out of the country on a rail..after being tarred and feathered.
I wish Tulsi had had the nerve to speak up against this Bill. It is a “regime change war” by other means. When are we going to learn to mind our own business?
Where was Gabbard?
The US government cannot even run the affairs of the US well, but it keeps telling other countries how to run theirs?
Look at American infrastructure. Look at American ghettos. Look at American healthcare. Look at American violence. Look at American politics with two crooked parties.
You really are the last people to be telling anyone how to manage their affairs.
No, the US government is run by puppets who dance on the strings of the plutocrats who own them and by default, us. We are all cowards.
The function and practice of the US political institutions – in this instance the House and the Senate – is so predictable that it is hardly worth reporting. It would be perhaps worthwhile and cost effective to train and engage a flock of parrots. ‘squawk squawk’ – ‘regime change, regime change’ ‘who’s a pretty boy then’ ‘regime change’.
What our U.S. House of Representatives has done is radically wrong–taking the word of a Cuban expatriate, who favors the return of an oligarchic rule of Nicaragua. The people of Nicaragua will never accept it, for however much blood we can squeeze out of them.
The allegiances of the Nicaraguan people, in vast majority, is easily understandable in the present context of their resistance to U.S.-developed pressure to abandon their revolution.
Every government not in line with anglo zionist imperialism of the US is a regime, yet the US regime fosters and displays everything a true regime appears to be. What a damn shame. Where was Tulsi on this matter, since no one spoke for the Nicas? Sad
The US hasn’t had this many failures of its high handed tactics in a month of Sundays.
Again. excellent work from Ben Norton. People wonder why so many are trying to enter our southern border. Many of these people are fleeing for their lives. Fleeing political persecution and failed states imposed upon them from our imperial policies. Most Americans have no idea the cause of the crisis in our border nor would they believe it if you told them.