Daniel Ortega Interview on RT

RT has just interviewed Daniel Ortega. The interview is dubbed in English.

“Political independence is impossible without social and economic independence,” argues Ortega. “Today, a new reality is gradually emerging in Latin American and Caribbean nations. They have more freedom today to determine their future.”

I found the interview interesting as the interviewer was asking the kind of questions that would have caused the old Ortega to start a rant. For example, coups/attempted coups in Latin America. His responses were, well, like a politician -- just not one owned by the Corpratocracy.

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This was interesting... I

This was interesting... I like the canal idea.... getting off the dole and earning your own way to critical independence. That sounds almost like a right wing idea.

What I didn't understand though what are neo-liberal capitalistic policies...that have failed the US and EU?.


The basic idea is to help the third world by loaning them more money than they can afford to pay back to develop their infrastructure and then force them to sell off that infrastructure. If you are interested in details, I recommend Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

John Perkins, the author, was there in many third-world countries and has first-hand knowledge.

If you haven't already read Debt: The First 5,000 Years

I highly recommend it. He does approach the issue from a Marxist perspective, but also discusses what's incorrect, from an anthropological point of view, about contemporary economic instruction (especially on how barter worked in real human societies).

The idea that if slums are torn down, people will do better to be able to afford nicer housing is a small scale version of the same idea. If you get people in debt, they'll work harder seems to be the core belief that's applied to college loans, improved housing, and consumer debt on the small scale; and to national debt on the large scale. The people of a country are obligated for the debts made by politicians that might not have even gone into the improvements they were supposed to go to.

See Iceland for an alternative. I'm not as familiar with Argentina, but I am under the impression that a leftist government there also saved Argentina from the worst effects of banks playing with Argentine currency.

Nicaragua's initial FSLN government vowed not to repudiate the Somoza era debts. This may not have helped it as much as the FSLN expected at the time.

Rebecca Brown

Interesting Spin

Interview with RT in 2010:

"DO: We are already seeing the results. I would say that we see the benefits which the Nicaraguan people have gained from cooperation with Russia. We think about digging a canal. We, in Nicaragua, cannot imagine doing it without Russia. But Russia’s participation is a priority. Venezuela has fully agreed to participate in the construction of the canal that will run through Nicaraguan territory. The canal’s construction has always been on the agenda and the conditions of this construction have always been Nicaragua’s main sin. Why? Because it has always been sinful in the eyes of the United States that Nicaragua wants to control every movement via the Central American region. I feel that relations with Russia are progressing in all directions. Our visit to Moscow was very important. All the treaties that we signed were also important, just as the format of developing cooperation between Russia and Nicaragua was."

Apparently the Russians didn't sign on.

I agree Mr Ortega was more moderate than he has been in the past; that seems to be his recent history. His bedfellows remain strange. I see no threat to anyone in El Comandante's present direction, except perhaps to the Nicaraguan people with the possible loss of the democracy they shed their blood for. And, that is yet far from an established fact.

I enjoyed his spin on the Chavez victory: "a victory by a point is still a victory". Precisely what Mr Obama's people will be saying if he wins next week.

And if he loses by a point

there are always riots to make them feel better.

“If you voted for Obama in 2008 to prove you were not a racist,

vote for somebody else in 2012 to prove you are not an idiot”. Anon.

Rhetoric and Demagoguery, in another word a Chimera.

Mr Ortega has had plenty of time to hone his skills. It is ridiculous to think and expect us to believe that the Russians and the Chinese are a better option to the US. Given our position, economically that is, anybody comming over to invest in Nicaragua on such ventures will have the upper hand. As painful as this is for me to say it nevertheless I will say it: Beggars can't be choosers. Mr Ortega sees an oportunity to make more money for himself, that is all. We are a small country with too many problems that our silly partidismo don't allow us to see the solutions to those problems. Either way it happens, the building of the canal, if it does happens, we will be screwed not once but twice over. There is a lack of education, not only in the scholar manner, but in all levels that makes it hard for the few that have a clear vision and a sincere desire to do for Nicaragua what is best, not for themselves. I talk to my family here about how things are so out of whack and how our priorities are not in order and the response I get from some, more than I would like, is "you've just came back and that's how it is here, in a few months you'll see things differently. You think that way because you've learned to think that way in the US". That is the response I get when I try to tell them to save money so they can fix their homes and to have money for emergencies and the trash accumulating in the streets and the procrastination and how important school is, instead of going to the discos and drinking and eating out and all of that. There is nothing wrong with doing that but when the money is tight one must learn to prioritize. What is a necessity and what is a luxury? What is important and what can't wait for later. Did I learn not to behave or think that way in the US? NO. I learned that from my mother. Our poor people are so hungry for anything that will alleviate their despair that a few words, or lots as is the case with Ortega and Murillo, and the migajas they get combined with all the missinformation and ignorance they figure they are better off now than before. The problem is they don't have a point of reference to compare. We never had it better. It has always been bad. This the Somozas knew it and so does Ortega and company. We settle for less than mediocre. It is the conquistadores taking gold from the natives in exchange for beads and colored glass all over again. I've been going to teach for 3 weeks now, everyday for 3 hours and the kids are so grateful. The teachers are so helpful too. I really doubt Mr Ortega and Murillo really know what is going on in our "schools". Because if they knew I don't know how they wouldn't do everything in their power and reach to do what is right. The Nicaragua that he talks about is not the reality that I see out on the streets, the people, old and young in the mercados, riding the crowded buses, working for peanuts, having to put up with abuses from lecherous bosses taking advantages of their position and the necessity of the young girls to keep their jobs, everybody has become a shopkeeper, everybody sells and buys in order to make ends meet. Of all this things, the only difference I see from the past is that last one. It used to be maybe a pulperia or two per block, now there are more than five or six per block. Just about every day I read in the newspaper about the conditions of a school. Like the one today in Tipitapa, preschoolers in classrooms made out of zinc and dirt floors. Hell I've seen better tool sheds. I mean come on, can you imagine the heat those poor kids have to endure. I was commenting to the principal about maybe during the school break I could built decent restrooms and she told me not to do it because the school, the building doesn't belong to the government. They have rented that place since before I attended school there back in '73. The owners want to sell but the government keep saying there is no money to buy the property. The price was reduced and still no go. Asking price: 100,000 dollars. The teachers and the kids do their own clean up twice a day. One during break and againg after dismissal. The staff, if you can call it that tries to keep the place together as best they can with barely nothing from the ministry of education. This week they were visited by an officer from the party to remind them that the building must be cleaned and everything working, as in lighting and the restrooms because Sunday is election day. No supplies or money was given to fix one toilet that wasn't working and the replacement of a few lights. I could go on but what is the point. Although my point is to try to make you guys see that we aren't that many and our country is a small one but we have enough resources to have a better way of life than the one we have had since long before Mr Ortega and Murillo and they, as those before them, go in front of people and cameras giving speeches and interviews evoking, alluding,and proposing, an infamous past, a better present and a rosy and dreamy future and all along, all the while our reality still remains the same. No worse, no better. The same. And this is an established fact.

Just Ortega?

I am certainly not going to disagree when you say things are out of whack other than to say that problem is not unique to Nicaragua. Your school example is a good talking point.

One of the priorities of the revolution was education. I have friends who traveled to Nicaragua in the 1980s to help with infrastructure for both education and health care. Those who were here saw a US-funded war that targeted virtually any infrastructure improvements during the 1980s. That war was successful to the extent that in 1990 the US-supported candidate won the presidency. Many Nicaraguans saw that as a vote for no more war.

What followed was 16 years of neo-liberal administrations. There was no costs of war (other than the costs of recovering from one) and yet there was little progress in the way of educaiton. In fact, there was a significant decrease in the percentage of the national budget (well below what is mandated) for education.

Some will argue that even though the head of state was not a Sandinista, effectively the FSLN/Ortega controlled the country during those 16 years. True or not, all during that time Nicaragua remained a looking for handout nation. It would seem that any of three presidents during that time could have prioritized education to the point where things would have been significantly improved where their parties (or at least not the FSLN) would have been credited with those improvements. It did not happen.

Now, you say " It is ridiculous to think and expect us to believe that the Russians and the Chinese are a better option to the US." Is that correct?

  • While trade with other countries is growing, Nicaragua's biggest trading partner is still the US. The damage inflicted on Nicaragua by the US embargo was significant because of this relationship. Embargos (Cuba, Iran) continue to be a US tactic to control other countries. Diversification of trade seems imperative.
  • The canal will directly benefit both Russia and China. (This is discussed in another thread.)
  • To the best of my knowledge, there is no restriction on US investment in the canal project.
  • The US government history of intervention in the region has continued into the 21st century, the 2002 attempted coup in Venezuela being the best documented example but clearly not the only one. While Chinese/Russia involvement may not be better, it certainly seems like it is worth a try.

Done right, the canal becomes a regional asset first and a world asset second. Trade patterns will change. It is hard to believe Nicaragua will not benefit. The canal idea is not Ortega's but, once again, it didn't move forward in neo-liberal Nicaragua. This time, it is starting to look serious.

Education counts for little

If you don't have an economy that can put these people to work. Begging can certainly employ educated people, but it doesn't build the economy. Esteli, in particular, is full of college grads working as store clerks.

I've worked in education and training in the US. The true beneficiaries of the educational system are the over-paid administrators and the few students who manage to learn anything of value and cheat the system. Politicians who babble on about 'education' also benefit if they get elected. Teachers and their leftist unions make a decent part of the power base of some politicians.

Nicaragua needs industry and the canal could be a big one--if they can get the money, avoid political disasters, construct it successfully, and wrestle a decent market share from Panama. A lot of ifs for a country with a poor track record for development. The deep water port on the Atlantic would be a good start with or without a canal. . “If you voted for Obama in 2008 to prove you were not a racist,

vote for somebody else in 2012 to prove you are not an idiot”. Anon.

We agree on something

The US higher (college) educational system decided that teaching could be done as cheaply as possible by using union-busting tactics and hiring part-timers for over 50% of the classes. Administrators are woefully over-paid.

Blaming US educational problems on teacher's unions is simple-minded since the states with the poorest educational outcomes have the most Right to Work laws.

Charter schools appear to be a mixed and problematic solution to the primary and secondary school issues -- more do worse than do better than public schools, but most do about the same. Study discussed here, link from there to the PDF: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_school#Center_for_Research_on_Educa...

The US has a strong anti-intellectual tradition and tends not to respect the people who are educators as much as any number of other cultures.

Interesting piece here about an Ethiopian experiment: http://dvice.com/archives/2012/10/ethiopian-kids.php Many people (I'm one to a certain extent) think that most children are eager to learn as much as possible as fast as possible and that most education is geared toward curbing this or channeling the innate enthusiasm into interests that the society feels are more profitable -- as in defunding arts and technical tracks in favor of business accounting programs, and being against critical thinking (platform of the Texas Republican Party is against classes in critical thinking, which might mean something different in Texas for all I know).

Most teachers tend to be rather altruistically dedicated to teaching -- working harder at teaching doesn't make anyone rich and may not make women principals in some school districts.

Rebecca Brown

US IS A Natural

as the canal investor. Some big strategic advantages to the US, plus maintaining some measure of control in CA and LA.

Maybe Romney will use that to create jobs? The Nicaraguans will need engineers, other professionals, until they get up to speed.

With the corruption associated with Ortega, and his (moderated, but still very real) anti-American stance, the US may not want to deal with an Ortega government. If the US decides that this canal has sufficient strategic importance, then Ortega will not be a major problem to the US, and I don't think a problem to most Nicaraguans either.

Nicaraguans seem at heart a very pragmatic people.

Romney plan

In one of the campaign debates Romney put forward a plan for North American energy independence. the re-industrialization of the US, and increased trade with Latin America. Rising industrial powers like Brazil could easily fit into this as a non-communist source of trade, as could a Nic. canal or train.

As a package, that could have good implications for the Caribbean Basin, except for the knee-jerk nationalists and pseudo-socialists. Maybe they could celebrate regional development by cornering the market on Anti-US tee shirts.

“If you voted for Obama in 2008 to prove you were not a racist,

vote for somebody else in 2012 to prove you are not an idiot”. Anon.


Where do you see Brazil fitting in? That is, what would be produced in Brazil that would fit into re-industrialization of the US? Brazil is a serious manufacturing nation -- from Stihl chain saws to Mercedes buses. While an additional canal could make it easier for Brazil to export more products to the US west coast, I can't see how Brazil can do anything more than help with the de-industrialization of the US.

no country can produce everything

there is still plenty of room for trade. When I worked in heavy industry, some of our major equipment, and the parts to keep it running, was from Scandinavia and Germany, for example. Also, Brazil has natural resources, some of which they will be selling to the highest bidder or favorite trading partners no matter who has the industry to process it.

“If you voted for Obama in 2008 to prove you were not a racist, vote for somebody else in 2012 to prove you are not an idiot”. Anon.

The devil you know may be

The devil you know may be better than the one you don't know.

Despite the US's neo-liberalism (shouldn't that really be called neo-colonialism...?) past policies towards Nica over the last century, we at least share much more culturally with each other than others across the Pacific Ocean. On one hand they don't have a significant blue-ocean Navy, so there won't be a Great White Fleet to come visit them when the Nica's also don't like their flavor of neo-liberalism. The US on the other hand has at least demonstrated some episode of respecting self determination.. Pres. Carter and Obama for example. Carter is panned in America but much respected in Nica for "losing" Nica.


Give me a break. Afghanistan is the most obvious example (yes, the US was already there but Obama has significantly increased forces) but certainly not the only one. As for the region,

  • Was the coup in Honduras self-determination?
  • Does anyone think the US was not involved in the attempted coup in Ecuador in 2010?
  • Was the sorta a coup in Paraguay (anyone who followed it would certainly call it a coup) just financially motivated by Brazilian landowners and with no US involvement?
  • Was the US just helping democracy in this year's election election in Venezuela?

Even Carter's losing Nicaragua was really his failed attempt to inflict Somocismo without Somoza on Nicaragua. While I respect Carter as a diplomat, saying he was Sandinista-friendly is unrealistic.

As for a navy, it seems the whole idea of getting many nations involved in the Nicaragua canal project is so that it will be in the best interest of the world, not just one or a few countries to support it. It is safe to assume that if China gets involved it will because it sees trade advantages in the region -- thus shared culture is at at least one end of the business. The most obvious but clearly not the only thing being shipped would be petroleum from Venezuela.

A couple of modifications

Replace "Ortega" with "politicians".

Replace "anti-American stance" with "being willing to not hide what has happened".

All too many of us like to call Ortega anti-American. This was a lot easier to justify when we just heard a rant. It would seem he is saying the same thing, for example talking about the 2002 coup in Venezuela as a "US action" which it clearly was, but is presenting it is a way we (same we) tend to expect from politician.

The longer/more we try to pretend these things don't happen (and don't call foul when they do happen) the less credibility we (Gringos here and the US government in general) have in the region. In Latin America we see growing economies (Brazil being a prime example) and countries addressing their problems (Colombia negotiating with FARC, for example) with the help of others in the region rather than the US.

I am not prowd of what the US has done in Latin America. Yes, the US or at least some big US corporations, benefited in the short term but that age is coming to a close. Ortega has gotten better at presenting the Latin American side what we need to do is make what he is talking about a thing of the past. That and that alone is what will cancel the effects of Ortega's rhetoric.