Biden Official Blasts US-Style Law in Nicaragua

Ben Norton reports on the State Department’s ire at  “foreign agent” legislation that made a U.S.-funded, right-wing foundation decide to close. 

Sandinistas at a peace rally in Managua, Nicaragua, Feb. 1, 2020. (Ben Norton, The Grayzone)

By Ben Norton
The Grayzone

Since Nicaragua’s socialist Sandinista Front returned to power through democratic elections in 2006, the United States government has poured many millions of dollars into right-wing opposition groups in the Central American country.

These U.S.-funded NGOs have aimed to destabilize the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, and played a central role in a brutally violent coup attempt in 2018.

Nicaragua’s National Assembly responded to the Washington-sponsored violence and destabilization efforts by passing a law in October 2020 that requires organizations funded by outside governments to register as foreign agents.

The legislation is very similar to a law passed by the United States in 1938 known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). In recent years, Washington has exploited FARA to force Russian and Chinese media outlets and journalists working in the United States to register as foreign agents — in a bipartisan, Cold War-style political escalation against both countries.

Though Washington has had this legislation on the books for more than eight decades, and still utilizes it regularly, the Joe Biden administration has lashed out at Nicaragua for its decision to pass a similar law.

On Feb. 8, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, a former CIA agent, published a statement condemning the elected Sandinista government.

State Department Spokesperson Ned Price holding daily press briefing on Feb. 3. (State Department, Ron Przysucha)

Price claimed that President “Ortega is driving Nicaragua toward dictatorship,” because the new foreign agent law led to the voluntary suspension of operations of a major U.S. government-funded opposition organization in the country.

Price demonized Nicaragua’s democratically elected government as a “regime,” while stressing that the U.S. government is “focused on empowering civil society.”

Price’s statement condemning Nicaragua came one day after the U.S.-backed right-wing president of Haiti, Jovenel Moïse, effectively declared himself a dictator, ruling without a Senate or Chamber of Deputies, hand-picking mayors, shooting journalists, and killing protesters.

Fixating on Nicaragua, the CIA staffer-turned-State Department spokesperson concluded his declaration with a thinly veiled threat: “We urge President Ortega to change course now.”

Despite the Biden administration’s hyperbolic rhetoric, it was not Ortega that passed the law; rather, it was the elected deputies of Nicaragua’s National Assembly that did so.

If the U.S. Congress approved a law, it would be very strange for a foreign government to blame the U.S. president for the legislation. But Washington reduces all of Nicaragua’s government, including its 92 assembly members and other state officials, to just one man, grossly simplifying the country’s politics.

The author of the State Department declaration, Ned Price, worked at the CIA for more than a decade, although he retired early in 2017 in protest of Donald Trump’s presidency.

CIA History in Nicaragua

The CIA has a long history of supporting right-wing opposition groups in Nicaragua. During the 1980s, the CIA armed and trained far-right death squads, known as the Contras, who waged a terrorist war on the revolutionary Sandinista government, massacring civilians, torturing officials, bombing infrastructure, mining ports, and burning down hospitals, schools, and farms.

Today, funding for anti-Sandinista NGOs comes largely through the U.S. government’s regime-change arms the U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S.AID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The latter is a CIA cut-out created by the Ronald Reagan administration at the same time when it was waging this Contra terror campaign, in order to finance similar destabilization schemes in the guise of democracy promotion.

USAID & Rightwing Opposition

The real source of the Biden administration’s anger over Nicaragua’s foreign agent law was the announcement that a right-wing opposition group funded with millions of U.S. government tax dollars had decided to shut down.

On Feb. 5, the anti-Sandinista activist organization the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation announced that it is voluntarily suspending operations in protest of the foreign agent law.

The U.S. State Department press release falsely accused the Nicaraguan government of closing the Chamorro Foundation. In reality, the Sandinista government was not shuttering or expelling the foundation or any other organization; rather, they voluntarily decided to cease activities to avoid compliance with the new legislation.

The Chamorro Foundation was founded by and is named after Nicaragua’s neoliberal former President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, who came to power in 1990 thanks to a U.S.-backed terror war and blockade of the country, along with funding from Washington’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Violeta Chamorro assuming the presidency from Daniel Ortega, at right, 1990. (Fundación Violeta Chamorro, CC0, Wikimedia Commons)

In 1991, the NED personally rewarded President Barrios de Chamorro for her loyalty to Washington, giving her a high-profile award.

The Chamorro clan is one of the wealthiest and most powerful oligarch families in Nicaragua. Many right-wing opposition leaders in the Central American nation are Chamorros, and they enjoy a close relationship with the U.S. government.

This oligarch family’s foundation is bankrolled by Washington’s soft-power arm, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

While the minimum wage in Nicaragua is just over $200 per month, USAID has poured millions of dollars into the Chamorro Foundation, allotting the following sums:

  • $1.7 million in 2020
  • $1.7 million in 2019
  • $1.2 million in 2018
  • $1.6 million in 2014

The Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation has also been used to run USAID’s Media Strengthening Program (MSP), funding and training right-wing media activists on behalf of Washington.

According to a review of USAID’s publicly available data, the agency has spent the following sums of money just on opposition media outlets in Nicaragua since 2011:

  • $1,697,400 in 2020
  • $1,729,645 in 2019
  • $889,355 in 2018
  • $400,000 in 2017
  • $1,600,000 in 2014
  • $550,000 in 2013
  • $413,163 in 2012 (1)
  • $286,387 in 2012 (2)
  • $541,000 in 2011

And this does not include many millions of dollars more that were rewarded to redacted grantees, whose information is not revealed on the USAID website.

A small sample of USAID funding for opposition media outlets in Nicaragua.

One of the recipients of U.S. government funding through the Chamorro Foundation was Nicaragua’s far-right opposition media outlet 100% Noticias. This channel actively encouraged violence during the 2018 coup attempt, promoting extremists who used mortar cannons to kill and injure Sandinista activists and state security forces.

Washington-funded 100% Noticias director Miguel Mora has openly requested that the U.S. military invade his country and overthrow President Daniel Ortega, citing the war on Panama in 1989. Mora also hosted extremists who called on Nicaraguans to organize a violent mob to invade the presidential compound and lynch the elected leader.

The Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation is directed by Cristiana Chamorro, a wealthy right-wing operative who will likely be the opposition’s presidential candidate in the November 2021 election. Cristiana Chamorro has also helped to run the leading conservative newspaper, La Prensa.

In effect, this means that USAID has been bankrolling the Nicaraguan right-wing’s presidential candidate and the country’s top media outlet with millions of dollars over many years.

USAID allotted more than $122 million overall on operations in Nicaragua in the five years from 2016 through 2020. The majority of that money went to “leadership, management, governance,” the “Municipal Governance Program,” and the “Democratic Leadership Development Program” – in other words, funding and cultivating right-wing opposition leaders.

While USAID claims that its projects are “humanitarian,” its own publicly available data shows that the vast majority of its spending in Nicaragua goes to funding “government and civil society” and operating expenses for its staff, while less than 1 percent of its money goes to supporting public health and agriculture.

The Grayzone has exposed USAID’s role in overseeing a regime-change operation called Responsive Assistance in Nicaragua (RAIN), which explicitly aims to overthrow the socialist government, impose neoliberal reforms that lead to a “transition to a rules-based market economy” based on the “protection of private property rights,” and purge state institutions of Sandinistas.

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a reporter for The Grayzone, and the producer of the “Moderate Rebelspodcast, which he co-hosts with Max Blumenthal. His website is, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.

This article is from The Grayzone.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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18 comments for “Biden Official Blasts US-Style Law in Nicaragua

  1. evelync
    February 19, 2021 at 15:35

    Our intelligence services, our federal government (Administrative – president, cabinet; Legislative – congress; Courts – FISA court) have a twisted way of thinking wrt foreign policy. They become the judge, jury and executioner for countries whose governments act to serve their own people’s health and welfare from the riches of their natural resources.
    It’s sick; disgusting.

    That’s why I supported Bernie Sanders and feared Biden – who has been loyal his whole career to this criminal conspiracy by the elite to rob the weakest among us here at home and abroad.

    There’s a sad irony to the propaganda used against us to keep us quiet….the “national security” mantra threatens free speech and discussion of foreign policy. And the abuse of power used against those who serve and get sent into harm’s way when the country we live in is NOT under threat of invasion from the 3rd world target countries whose people are suffering.

    Our system gives birth to whistle blowers who with no benefit to themselves take enormous risk to share the reality of the depths we are willing to sink to. They are punished unmercifully.
    democracy? hah…….

    We create enemies out of whole cloth. Our own resources are plundered while our infrastructure crumbles.
    Our path is unsustainable and destabilizing.

    Good job Joe….the coup in South Carolina chose you as the one to serve the status quo.
    I hope you’re proud of yourself.

    As much as our news conduits like the NYT and Washpost spew Cold War fear mongering to take us to war, I don’t feel threatened by the people of 3rd world countries whose natural resources are plundered to enrich the oligarchs.

    How did it ever happen that our intelligence agencies were coopted, it seems, at birth to serve a corruption of capitalism – wouldn’t kleptocracy be a more accurate description?

  2. dave
    February 18, 2021 at 20:24

    So to stop “driving Nicaragua towards dictatorship”, President Ortega needs to rescind by decree a law that was passed by the elected legislature. Yeah, that totally makes sense.

  3. Andrew Peter Nichols
    February 18, 2021 at 17:03

    Meh? Another day..another US admin spouting hypocrisy. Corporate state friendly media wont notice..

  4. Jim Hartz
    February 18, 2021 at 15:19

    NEDD–National Endowment for Deterring Democracy.

  5. J Joon
    February 18, 2021 at 14:32

    Embargos and sanctions, all manner of sabotage, funding opposition forces, guerrilla warfare, forced regime change, assassinations, terrorism, torture, crimes against humanity, overthrowing democratically-elected governments, and calling it all “freedom and democracy”, and “prosperity”. When the US does it, it is not a crime. When the US starts saying “freedom and democracy”, watch out; death and destruction inevitably follow. Because the US is pro-family, and pro-children.

  6. Guy
    February 18, 2021 at 12:38

    Good article exposing the US agencies subverting democratically elected governments of other nations .We ,or you might not like their politics but under democratic rules espoused by the US itself ,let the people decide is first and foremost the last word ,unless the electoral process has been compromised .
    The bottom line should be ,mind your own business and stay out of our domestic affairs , as so well put by the Russian president of late addressing the EU and the US regarding the charlatan Navalny with his incarceration .

  7. February 18, 2021 at 11:05

    Glad to see Nicaragua pass a FARA style law. Nothing wrong with transparency. If the empire can demand it, so can the rest of the world. Brilliant.

    That laws that promote transparency annoy CIA agent Ted Price, should tell you something. The CIA does not like transparency.

    Once again, a timely, succinct, and excellent article from none other than nuestro estimado camarada, Ben Norton.

    Thanks also to the entire Grayzone brigade.

  8. February 18, 2021 at 10:32

    Who would ever think that the U.S. would be guilty of hypocrisy?

  9. Diane Lesher
    February 18, 2021 at 10:15

    Few Americans are aware of their own government’s illegal and deadly undermining of democratically-elected governments, no thanks in large part from the corporate-owned mainstream media and the fake news they continue to perfect. It doesn’t matter which party is in office, they will continue to destroy other countries, along with their own people. Sure there are a few voices from the UN and US Progressives speaking out but it’s not enough to stop the government-installed military industrial complex who runs the government from further destroying the world and themselves. Americans won’t take to the streets by the millions for if they do they’ll be shut down, just like what happened with Black Lives Matter protesters. Fear works wonders. It will get worse under the Biden administration because their many improved weapons of mass destruction, improved surveillance technology, and deadly sanctions that kill civilians are so much more precise and deadly today. Also, let’s not forget about the ever increasing money to buy off far-right factions in countries all around the world when that money could be used for peace and for the starving and homeless Americans now growing in size by the day from the mishandled Covid pandemic that has bailed out major corporations, mainly. I just don’t see anyone able to stop the US Empire before more massive damage occurs. Mark my words, once the American Empire implodes and the dollar crashes, maybe then there will be peace on Earth, but not true for the millions of the non-elite Americans who will go down with the sinking ship.

    • Guy
      February 18, 2021 at 12:49

      Hard to argue your post .I have been saying pretty much the same for quite some time .When people finally realize that money is created on nothing more than thin air ,based on nothing more than the confidence factor in the great value of the USD ,implosion will begin and it just might be swift in nature.

    • bobzz
      February 18, 2021 at 16:10

      And just before it happens, the billionaires will abandon ship taking their billions with them. And the Zionists will write America off and jump ship and begin manipulating Russia.

  10. Anonymot
    February 18, 2021 at 10:13

    Anyone who is a “former CIA agent” is known to carry the neo-fascistic bacteria of that agency and should not be in politically responsible positions in a democratic society. here are plenty of other jobs they can find: selling shoes, security guards on construction sites or working in a law firm since many of them have law degrees. Those who chose Biden’s staff should have known better – particularly where an ex-CIA might use the word Nicaragua!

    • Tim S.
      February 18, 2021 at 17:58

      > Those who chose Biden’s staff should have known better

      Oh really? Have you never heard the old saying “Birds of a feather flock together”?

  11. bob browning
    February 18, 2021 at 10:05

    The US people would not allow our govmt. to operate this way, if MSM even hinted that this was going on.

  12. Vera Gottlieb
    February 18, 2021 at 09:34

    Most probably I won’t live that long but…will the day ever come when the US stops meddling in other nations’ affairs?

  13. Rodion Raskolnikov
    February 18, 2021 at 08:55

    Good for Nicaragua! It should go farther and throw these covert regime change organizations out of the country. The track record of CIA front organizations like the NED, USAID, and many, many more is well known and just terrible. What they do is criminal.

    These organizations may claim a “humanitarian” mission but we know that many in Washington’s imperial regime think in terms of “humanitarian warfare.” To them, US imperialism is humanitarian, as indigenous democracy is destroyed and people are brought under the rule of the US regime and its corporations. They see this, as all colonizers have, as “progress” and “civilization.”

    What we need to be clear about is that “neo-liberalism” is not progress or civilization. It is the derivative of Nazi economic theory, brought to the US by the Austrian economists after WW II. It flourished here and is now one of the chief imperial exports of the US and its CIA front groups like USAID, Freedom House, Atlantic Council, NED, and very many more organizations that work in socialist nations all over the world.

  14. A.z
    February 18, 2021 at 01:06

    Uh such a nice name” violeta” colour revolutions r still in vogue it seems

  15. Jeff Harrison
    February 17, 2021 at 20:59

    If this wasn’t so scary, it’d be funny.

Comments are closed.