Argentina’s Fernandez Claims Primary Victory After Slow Count

Source:  TeleSUR
August 14 2017

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Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announces victory. | Photo: Reuters

Though there has been no official declaration, Fernandez took the stage at a rally around 4:00 a.m. to claim victory as well as criticize the pace of the vote count.

Former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and President Mauricio Macri’s candidate are virtually tied in Argentina’s congressional primaries leading up to the October election.

RELATED: Massive Demonstration in Argentina for Disappeared Activist

With 95.58 percent of votes in Buenos Aires province counted – home to nearly 40 percent of Argentina’s electorate – the ruling party led by Macri’s former Education Minister Esteban Bullrich had captured 34.19 percent while Fernandez was within a whisker with 34.11 percent.

Though there has been no official declaration, Fernandez took the stage at a rally around 4:00 a.m. to claim victory as well as criticize the pace of the vote count.

“I never imagined I would have to ask for forgiveness from all Argentines for this embarrassment,” she said. “It’s an offense to democracy.”

There have been denunciations that the flow of information from the electoral authorities was manipulated, holding back results from poorer, pro-Fernandez areas. such as Santa Fe, home of Kichnerism.

Congressional elections in October

Regardless of the final outcome, the candidates will now face each other in the congressional elections in October, when Argentines will elect one-third of the senate and half the chamber of deputies.

However, no matter how many seats Macri’s ruling coalition picks up come October, Macri will still lack a majority and must build alliances to pass reforms.

Prior to the election, polls showed Fernandez leading Bullrich, with her campaign for senator for the Citizen Unity gaining mass support.

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But, it was Bullrich who took a comfortable lead, early on, before Fernandez posted a late comeback to narrow the gap.

Citizen’s Unity political alliance

Fernandez introduced her Citizen’s Unity political alliance in early July; a movement which aims to form a broad coalition of parties to counter the neoliberalism of Macri’s administration.

Under Macri, economic controls were lifted and social spending slashed, undoing many of the progressive gains made under the Kirchner presidencies of Fernandez and her late husband Nestor Kirchner.

Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio said that voting throughout the day took place without incident.

“It has been a very quiet and peaceful day, with important voter participation, around 74 percent of the electorate were able to vote,” Frigerio said.

US Sanctions Venezuelan Constituent Assembly Members


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The closing rally in the Constituent Assembly campaign in Caracas on July 27. Photo: TeleSUR.

9 August 2017
Source:  TeleSUR

The United States continues reprisals against Venezuela for holding elections for the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) on July 30 and swearing in constituent assembly members five days later. 

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has authorized new sanctions on six members of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly for being “involved in organizing or otherwise supporting the creation” of the ANC. Another two Venezuelan officials were also sanctioned.

RELATEDVenezuela’s Constituent Assembly to Debate Economic Measures

After United States’ sanctions on President Nicolas Maduro July 31, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin warned, “Anyone who participates in this illegitimate ANC could be exposed to future U.S. sanctions for their role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in Venezuela.

Elections held

The country held elections for the ANC on July 30 and swore in constituent assembly members five days later, but OFAC states, “Today’s designations consist of seven current and former officials of the Venezuelan Government and one individual who has participated in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Venezuela.”

Over eight million people voted in Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly election — a turnout of over 41 percent, according to electoral authorities — to choose from 6,120 candidates for the 545-member ANC in a vote that has been described as transparent, with international electoral experts and observers calling for respect for the results.

According to OFAC, six of the individuals belong to the Presidential Commission for the ANC or the Constituent Command 200 Zamora.

They are: Francisco Jose Ameliach Orta; Erika del Valle Farias Pena; Carmen Teresa Melendez Rivas; Ramon Dario Vivas Velasco; Hermann Eduardo Escarra Malave and Adan Coromoto Chavez Frias, brother of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Tania D’Amelio Cardiet, an official of the National Electoral Council and Bladimir Humberto Lugo Armas, Commander of the Special Unit to the Federal Legislative Palace of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard were also listed. OFAC accused Armas of violence against opposition-led National Assembly members.

Munchin added, “President Maduro swore in this illegitimate Constituent Assembly to further entrench his dictatorship, and continues to tighten his grip on the country.”

As with other sanctions imposed against 13 high-level government officials and Maduro, the individual’s assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction are now frozen and people from the U.S. are prohibited from dealing with them.

Related:  Election meddling:US sanctions 13 Venezuela officials, warns against electing Constituent Assembly

Venezuela Rejects Violence and Wins

August 9 2017
Source:  Counterpunch

By Manuel E. Yepe

Washington to impose sanctions on Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro, according to a statement from the US Treasury Department.

For US imperialism and the continental right, July 30th in Venezuela should be a conclusive political lesson. It should also be a lesson for the organizers of the media campaigns against popular processes. Their reliability has been demonstrated by the mass exercise of their rights by a mature and determined population who rejects them.

The election on that day of the members of the Constituent National Assembly (ANC), according to the Constitution and the laws of the country, involved an enthusiastic participation of more than 8,090,230 Venezuelans –41.53% of the electoral roll– who said yes to Constituent Assembly and the Bolivarian revolution.

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US intimidation backfired

The President of the United States threatened the Venezuelans with an increase in economic sanctions. The election would certainly take place, no doubt assuming that the people, intimidated, would repudiate the democratic act and refrain from participating in it.

But, on the contrary, Trump’s threats and terrorist actions against the voters stimulated their attendance because patriotic motivation was added.

The Bolivarian government called on democratic and peace-loving people to be alert to this new interventionist escalation of US imperialism. They called for a categorical rejection of the violent, fascist, racist and criminal actions of the Venezuelan opposition who are so afraid of this democratic, legal, sovereign, peaceful and civilized act .

US freezes all assets of President Maduro

For his part, the angry American president, who has been forced to move all his chips at the same time to coincide with other serious clashes unleashed separately against Russia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This has led Washington to impose sanctions on Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro, according to a statement from the US Treasury Department.

The statement specifies that all assets of President Maduro which are or may be under US jurisdiction will be frozen. In addition, US citizens will be prohibited from any agreement with Maduro. He, in turn, has reiterated that, as President of Venezuela, he does not have to answer to anyone but Venezuela’s women and men.

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In response to the freezing of his assets by the US,  Venezuela’s President, Nicolas Maduro has noted that he does not have to answer to anyone but Venezuela’s women and men.

The Venezuelan president has described the day [of the election] as the “biggest” of the Bolivarian Revolution and has based its success on the option that made the peace proposal his banner of struggle in such complex circumstances.

Doors kept open for the opposition

Maduro stressed that, until the last moment, he kept the doors open for the Venezuelan opposition, which did not cease to call for violence and destabilizing actions on election day. He revealed that a delegation of his government had been meeting for several weeks with opposition leaders. Among these he mentioned the President of the Parliament, Julio Borges, to try to add them to the constituent assembly initiative. “Two weeks ago I proposed to the opposition that they register for the Constituent Assembly. But they did not accept,” said the leader.

“In the last six weeks, there have been direct talks between the delegations of the Democratic Unity Roundtable and a delegation presided over by Jorge Rodríguez, Delcy Rodríguez and Elías Jaua,” head of state Nicolas Maduro announced Saturday.

To reach an agreement to publish a statement approved by all parties of the MUD,” said the First Minister. He added that the leadership of the right “wanted to be registered before the National Electoral Council (CNE) for the elections of governors and governors. I called on them to get into the Constituent Assembly and they were afraid.” The meetings held were kept hidden at the request of the opposition sector.

A call for peace and tranquility

President Maduro spoke at Bolívar Plaza in the city of Caracas, after the National Electoral Council (CNE) issued the first bulletin with results. The Venezuelan president stated that the Constituent National Assembly had been born amid great popular legitimacy. “Not only does the Constituente have power, but it has the strength of legitimacy, the moral force of a people who heroically, warlike, came out to vote, to say: we want peace and tranquility,” said Maduro.

“The newly-elected Constituent Assembly had the support of a people who were not intimidated by the destabilizing climate that the Venezuelan opposition intended to create. It is the largest vote that the Revolution has had in all electoral history. The one who has eyes that sees and the one who has ears that hear,” said the president.

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More articles by:MANUEL E. YEPE

Manuel E. Yepe is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana.


US Trade Unionist Unmask Mass Media Lies on Venezuela Assembly

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Trade union leaders Judy Gonzalez, Estela Vazquez and John Patafio. | Photo: Still from Interview; Youtube; Rosana Silva

6 August 2017
Source:  TeleSUR

“We visited several polling places and that was when we were just so moved by what was going on,” said the president of the New York State Nurses Association.

Three representatives from trade unions in New York were among the many international observers to attend the Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly vote July 30 to monitor the election proceedings.

RELATED: Venezuela to Install Truth, Justice and Reparations Commission

Estela Vazquez the executive vice president of the 1199 SEIU Health Care Workers Union East, the country’s largest health care union; John Patafiothe vice president of the Transport Workers Union, and Judy Gonzalez a registered nurse and president of the New York State Nurses Association were interviewed by Rosana Silva on their experiences before and after their visit to Venezuela and their thoughts on the ANC.

The three had been invited by the Venezuelan Transport Workers Union to witness the voting process and most importantly to talk to Venezuelans and just “see what’s going on.”


Prior to arriving in the Bolivarian state, the three were warned by American Airline’s crew members of the “dangerous” situation they were walking in to.

“We had a sort of a culture shock on the airplane,” explained Gonzales who heads the NY union that includes 40,000 members across the state. “The staff on the airplane was basically hysterical. They told us that we absolutely shouldn’t go. We should get back on the plane; don’t get off the plane. That if we stepped off the plane we’d be robbed, we’d be kidnapped, we’d be raped, they’d steal our kidneys … we were absolutely putting ourselves in danger … they really did scare us.”

Vazquez, “But our experience has been different since we arrived Saturday, despite the propaganda of blood running in the streets, and fires and shootings all over the city of Caracas, that was not the case.”

“I’ve been here three days and I have to say, it’s propaganda. There’s a lot of propaganda and they’re taking some instances and they’re creating a very powerful message and it’s being repeated in very powerful media stations and good people are believing it,” agreed Patafio.

The union leaders traveled throughout Caracas unimpeded, visiting polling stations, hospitals, as well as working class sectors.

RELATED: 4 Venezuela Constituent Assembly Members You Need to Know About

Come and see for yourself

“I would say that (people) need to come and see for yourselves what is happening in Venezuela. You cannot rely on CNN or any other international communication or papers like the New York Times or the Washington Post, because they are only reflecting the story of the ruling classes, the oligarchy of this country, that want to preserve their interests,” Vazquez explained.

“They’re reflecting the voices of the 1 percent, while 99 percent of the Venezuelans support the process, support their government and they want peace and they want to continue the social gains they have made under the Bolivarian Revolution,” Vazquez concluded.

“The few areas where we saw violence, it seemed to be the more middle class areas, and the violence was centered in those areas for a few blocks … but it was only in those areas,” Patafio said, adding that any evidence of “violence was one way,” that the videos he saw showed opposition supporters instigating the acts, while the police was pinned with the violence.

RELATED:Venezuelan Armed Forces Repel Anti-Government Attack

The participation was impressive

“What we did see,” Vazquez countered, were thousands arriving to a makeshift polling station erected in the stadium in Caracas. “Thousands of people arriving there from communities in Miranda, because they could not vote in their own neighborhood because the so-called ‘opposition’ was practically holding people hostage and preventing them from voting and exercising their right to vote.”

“The participation was impressive. So I found it surprising when I saw headlines the next day talking of high absenteeism in Venezuela and that is not the truth,” Vazquez said.

“The way the voting went, was they divided everybody into sectors. They had workers sectors, they had Indigenous sectors, they had sectors based on your profession or job, they had sectors based on where you lived … They had hundreds and hundreds of slates, so clearly, there was a race going on,” said Gonzalez.

“We visited several polling places and that was when we were just so moved by what was going on. We were just overwhelmed by the number of young people and women who were basically running the vote,” she said adding that the transparency of the whole process was incredible.

“I’ve been through a lot of union elections, I know what to look for when there’s cheating, I didn’t see any cheating. I saw a very open process; I saw the people that were controlling it, were people from the community, earnest. So, I thought it was fine,” Patafio agreed.

“One thing that I did think was significant is that I didn’t see any international media. No reporters from the New York Times, no cameras from CNN, no cameras from Fox Television, or any other international media … covering the poor working class neighborhoods that are the backbone of this revolutionary process in this country,” the Health Care Workers Union vice president said.

RELATED:Venezuela Rejects Interference by Mercosur in Its Affairs

Peace and self-determination

All three of the representatives were amazed by the care the government had exerted, and attested that the presence and evidence of Chavismo still runs strong, with free or low-cost health care, housing, and transportation continuing to receive financial support from the administration.

“I think there is a crisis, right, an economic crisis and to some degree it needs a political solution and I think the Constituent Assembly is an attempt to find a political solution to a serious economic crisis,” Patafio stated.

“(Venezuelans) know what they want and they wanted to determine their own fate. And, for me, self-determination became very clear,” he said. “They wanted to make sure that people know that it’s peaceful, but they also wanted to make clear that we’re going to determine what’s going to take place in Venezuela. And they were really holding onto that and that’s what I saw at the polling stations.”

Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly Explained

President Nicolas Maduro made his call for a new Assembly at the end of a trade union march on May Day.

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Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters during a meeting in Caracas, Venezuela July 29, 2017 | Photo: Reuters

Eight other members are being chosen by Venezuela’s Indigenous peoples according to their own traditions. Here is how it came about and how it works:


President Nicolas Maduro made his call for a new Constituent Assembly at the end of a trade union march on May Day, one month after the Venezuelan opposition began a series of protests which often turned violent and had already left dozens dead. He emphasized three aims:

  1. Overcoming the current conflict in Venezuela
  2. Restoring peace in the country
  3. Giving the people, especially working people, the chance to decide on Venezuela’s future

That same day, he published Decree 2830, which laid out several other aims:

  1. Restore cooperation between public powers
  2. Develop a post oil economy
  3. Give constitutional status to the social Missions
  4. Strengthen the justice system to tackle corruption, impunity, speculation, etc.
  5. Give constitutional status to the Communes etc, as new forms of democracy
  6. Defend Venezuelan sovereignty against foreign intervention
  7. Promote pluriculturalism over racial and social hatred
  8. Recognize youth rights
  9. Preserve biodiversity and promote ecological culture

The decree invoked Articles 347 and 348 of the current Bolivarian Constitution, which clearly give the president the power to call for a constituent assembly. The argument used by the opposition that he should have called a referendum first, as happened in 1999, is a political one. Maduro could have done that. But there is no requirement in the current Constitution for him to do so.

The nomination of candidates took place from May 30 to June 2.

Would-be candidates had to gather signatures from 3% of their electorate in support of their standing.

No serving member of the government or other public office holder can be a candidate.

55,314 names were put forward. 6,120 candidates met the conditions and were accepted by the National Electoral Council as candidates, 3,546 for the territorial vote and 2,574 for the sectoral vote.

The campaign for the election ran from July 9 to July 27. The vote is on Sunday July 30, from 6am to 6pm, although anyone lining up to vote at that time will be allowed to vote.


The 545 seats in the Constituent Assembly break down like this:

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Territorial Vote

364 members of the Constituent Assembly will be elected from geographical areas, with one seat for each municipality in Venezuela, and two extra for each municipality which is a state capital, in other words the larger cities. The central Caracas area, with by far the largest population, will elect 7 members.

The electoral system here is mixed: first-past-the-post for the first seat in each municipality, and proportional for the extra seats in the larger ones.

Sectoral Vote

This is the most novel aspect of this election, and the one that has caused most uproar among opponents. Apart from the eight Indigenous members, who will be chosen in the two days after the main election by a variety of assemblies in different Indigenous regions of Venezuela, 173 members will be elected from seven different sectors of society. The idea here is to give these different sectors a chance to elect members who who will speak directly to their specific interests. These seats are divided as follows:

8 for Campesinos and Fishers

5 for Business people

5 for the Disabled

24 for Students

28 for Pensioners

24 for Communal Councils

79 for Workers

The workers’ sector is itself sub-divided thus:

17 for public administration

14 for service sector

12 for social area

11 for commerce

11 for self-employed

6 for industry

4 for construction

2 for oil industry

2 for transport

This has been described as an attempt to deepen the kind of participatory democracy mentioned in the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution, but developed more explicitly after 2005 by the government of Hugo Chavez. However it is anathema to those who believe representative democracy – electing representatives every four or five years and leaving it to them – is the only acceptable form of democracy.

Next Steps

The new Constituent Assembly will be sworn in within 72 hours of the results being announced. It will at first work with the procedural rules used by the 1999 Constituent Assembly. One of its first tasks will be to draw up its own rules and procedures.

There is no fixed time limit for the assembly to finish its new draft constitution. This is likely to be a development of the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution rather than a wholly new document.

Once the draft is agreed, it will have to be put to a national referendum to see if the Venezuelan people as a whole accept it or reject it.

Depending on what the assembly proposes, and what the electorate approves, there may then be new presidential and parliamentary elections, possibly by the end of this year or next year.

This will be the 21st set of elections held in Venezuela in the last 18 years of the Bolivarian revolution. The voting system used will be a version of the electronic system used in most of these earlier elections, which the Carter Center once described as one of the most reliable and transparent in the world.

Ten keys to the Constituent Assembly in Venezuela

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Nicolás Maduro went for broke. “Come rain or shine, there will be a National Constituent Assembly,” the Venezuelan President stated. And so it was.

July 30, 2017, marked a historic date, not only for the Bolivarian Revolution, which came to power less than two decades ago, but for a nation that has been struggling for its independence and self-determination for over 200 years.

Several lessons

The vote that day offered us several lessons to understand the complex scenario facing the country, and the possible evolution of events:

More than eight million Venezuelans voted

1. Venezuela has a Constituent Assembly. Despite the boycott declared by the right wing and the international maneuvers against it, the support of more than eight million Venezuelans at the polls endows the constitutional mechanism activated by the Bolivarian government with legitimacy. The opposition’s bid was to prevent the Constituent Assembly by all means and it failed. They now run the risk of being left out of the Assembly that will shape the future of the country, although few doubt that some kind of dialogue is essential to resume the road to peace.

Calm elections

2. The elections were held amid relative calm. The number of people killed during the day varies according to the source.

Most speak of at least ten dead. However, after more than a hundred victims in the past few months, some of them burned alive by opposition extremists, the election day balance sheet was far from the “bloodbath” predicted by some international analysts.

The Armed Forces ensuring Venezuelans’ democratic exercise of the right to vote

3. The Armed Forces are committed to constitutional order. The plan to preserve the integrity of polling stations, for which more than 230,000 troops were deployed, as well as the extraordinary measures taken by authorities, were key to ensuring Venezuelans’ democratic exercise of the right to vote. In addition, this is a further sign that, unlike in the past, the current Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela are committed to constitutional order and are the main guarantors of the country’s stability.

The right has limited rallying power

4. The right has less strength than had appeared. The opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), the main instigator of the violence, promised to hold the “mother of all protests” to prevent the Constituent Assembly. Its limited rallying power in the days leading up to the elections, and the impotence of its leaders faced with the popular mobilization to vote, are proof that it overestimated its forces.

The silence of the mass media

5. The mass media were left without news. Venezuela was, until the vote, one of the topics receiving most coverage in the international media. Hundreds of journalists from the most important chains are present in the South American country. However, when the reality was different from the coverage they had prepared (a pitched battle and the beginning of civil war), they offered a revealing silence. Instead, they devoted themselves to reporting minor issues and so far practically no outlet has provided coverage of the massive turnout of eight million Venezuelans, who had to cross rivers or stay up through the night, in order to exercise their right at the polls.

The turnout exceeded expectations

6. The turnout exceeded expectations. Amid the polarization of the country and the instability provoked by the extreme right, the number of Venezuelans who went out to vote was not envisaged by the opposition or their international backers. Even the Bolivarian authorities recognized that the figure was a pleasant surprise. As a means of comparison, the more than eight million votes cast on July 30 exceeded the 7.7 million obtained by the MUD in the legislative elections that gave it control of the National Assembly in 2015.

A concerted strategy

7. There is a concerted strategy to disregard the democratic process in Venezuela. The United States, Spain, and several Latin American nations, including Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Paraguay, Guatemala, and Panama, did not even wait for the results of the elections before refusing to recognize them and the new Constituent Assembly.

US destabilization efforts

8. The United States is actively working to destabilize Venezuela. Before the elections, Washington sanctioned 13 Bolivarian officials with the aim of intimidating the government in the lead-up to the Constituent Assembly vote. After learning of the results, the U.S. government announced another series of measures including sanctions against President Nicolás Maduro. Some U.S. media have speculated regarding possible sanctions on the Venezuelan oil sector, which has been in the White House’s sights from the start.

Another vote of confidence for Chavismo

9. A significant number of citizens gave Chavismo another vote of confidence. In the midst of the economic war, the decline in international oil prices, and internal destabilization, the popular support received shows just how much the Venezuelan people appreciate the transformations initiated by Hugo Chávez. It is difficult to think of another government in Venezuelan history that would have resisted a similar onslaught.

A platform to call for dialogue

10. The Constituent Assembly alone can not solve underlying problems such as the economic crisis, inflation, shortages, and violence. However, the constitutional powers with which the Assembly is invested constitute a platform to call for dialogue between the different actors in the country’s political and social life, to ensure justice for the victims of the crimes committed by violent sectors, and to once again put the country on the path to progress and peace.

Corporate Media’s Attempts to Discredit Nicaragua’s November Election

Source:  NicaNotes
by Chuck Kaufman

August 31, 2016

daniel ortega 5August seems to have been the month when the corporate media decided it was time to try to delegitimize Nicaragua’s November election for president and President Daniel Ortega in particular. None of the attacks were news stories; all were editorials and op-eds where any kind of nonsense can be written with no expectation that it must be factual, or even as former Sen. John Kyl made famous, “not intended to be a factual statement.”

A campaign of lies and innuendos against Ortega

The New York Times led off on Aug. 4 with an editorial ‘Dynasty,’ the Nicaragua Version followed on Aug. 17 by an op-ed in the Boston Globe by corporate newsman Steven Kinzer entitled Dangerous Dynasties.  The Wall St. Journal followed that up on Aug. 21 in its own hysterical style by escalating the danger of dynasties to an outright Ortega’s Nicaraguan Coup. Riffing off the WSJ, the Guardian followed up with an op-ed by renowned poet and once revolutionary, Gioconda Belli, titled, Nicaragua is drifting toward dictatorship once again.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my! We’ve certainly never heard these claims before.  I was happy to find one thing I could agree on with Gioconda. I too dislike the 130 metal trees that Rosario Murillo has built all over Managua. I especially dislike the one that shares the high ground with Sandino’s silhouette. But, I wasn’t consulted, nor should I have been. I’m sure if Managuans don’t like them, they’ll come down sooner or later. And, I have to admit, I’ve heard from plenty of people who do like them!

Otherwise, Belli, Kinzer, and the NYT and WSJ did an excellent job of assisting the State Department on getting its message out. It’s a message that has changed little since the 1980s.

To effectively rebut all the lies and innuendos in the four editorials would take far more space than the original authors took to write them, but let me address some of the common points.

The Ortega Family is a would-be dynasty

Political dynasties are hardly new in the world. The issue to me isn’t that successors are related by blood or marriage, but rather how they are selected and how they govern. Most of the world got rid of royal succession, sometimes called divine succession, when they advanced to capitalism. Some kind of democratic process, however flawed, is now required for succession. Certainly in the US most of us would call the Clinton and Bush families aspiring dynasties, but note that son/brother Jeb failed miserably to carry on the family imprimatur in last year’s primaries. Nicaraguan voters are no less sophisticated than US voters, so I’m just not worried at this point about an Ortega family dynasty, which has nothing else in common with the Somoza dynasty, holding Nicaragua in thrall against the will of the people.

Ortega is a dictator

The slander that Daniel is a dictator has been periodically leveled since the first day of his new term in 2007, and of course all through the contra war. Few acknowledge that when Ortega handed over the presidential sash to Violeta Chamorro in April 1990, it was the first time in Nicaragua’s history that the presidency transferred peacefully from one party to another. This proof of his democratic credentials is never mentioned by his opposition. I would add that his acceptance of defeat, at the urging of Jimmy Carter, in the blatantly crooked 1996 election, is another proof that Daniel is a patriot who cares about country before personal gain.  He squeaked into office under the electoral law in force in 2006 with a 38% plurality. By 2011, a clear majority of Nicaraguan voters supported him and he won by a landslide 63%. Rare for a president who has been in office for this long, today he is even more popular than in 2011. It is not undemocratic to be popular. It is not undemocratic to have an opposition which offers no national vision and is so fractious that successive US ambassadors have failed in their primary mission to unite them.

But what is most disgusting about the accusation of dictator, which is especially disgusting coming from Gioconda Belli who helped overthrow a real one, is, where is the evidence? Where are the political prisoners? Where are the bodies dumped at strategic intersections? Where are the blank columns in the newspapers where government censors have forbidden articles? Where are the torture chambers and the knocks on doors in the middle of the night? Where are the soldiers and militarized police intimidating people in the street? Have Ortega’s critics visited post-coup Honduras? It makes my blood boil to hear the term applied in a country which, within my adult life, had a real dictatorship which 40,000 people gave their lives to get rid of.

“He is believed to be one of the richest men in the country.”

Oh yes, just like the US government and Cuban gusanos claim that Fidel is the richest man in the world by ascribing every Cuban asset to his personal worth. In Nicaragua it is the claim that all the Venezuelan aid has gone into the Ortega family vault. I sat through a PowerPoint presentation by the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) once that purported to show that the Ortega government had spent nothing to address poverty in the nation. Their twisted “logic” was that all the Venezuela oil aid revenue belonged to Daniel and therefore his government wasn’t spending anything on social welfare. The free schools and healthcare, the myriad social programs such as dignified housing and revitalizing peasant agriculture, none of these counted. And yet, Nicaragua somehow eradicated illiteracy, raised the lifespan by 10 years, and achieved the UN Millennium Goals while Daniel sat in his vault and counted his gold. Right.

He has hegemonic control of all the branches of government.

True. It’s what all governing parties try to do. Certainly the Democrats and Republicans aspire to that in the US. Otherwise why all these fundraising letters and emails to “take back the Senate” or warning that Clinton or Trump shouldn’t be elected because of whom they’ll appoint to the Supreme Court? The fact is, Ortega’s government has done such a good job of responding to the articulated priorities of the people that the Sandinista Party can certainly be described as hegemonic. Even before the Supreme Court returned the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) to its historic leadership, all the opposition parties combined had a popularity barely reaching double digits. There is no democratic virtue in having two parties that trade the top spot back and forth every few years with barely a ripple in national policy. That describes the United States plutocracy which I wouldn’t wish on Nicaragua under any circumstances.

Ortega will win in November because he won’t let the real opposition run.

I know that there are people who view Daniel Ortega as a spider in a web pulling all the strings to draw in the flies. Maybe they are right and Daniel, plus Rosario, have the capacity to watch each sparrow fall in their kingdom, but I doubt it. I’m not saying he’s not a powerful and extremely capable strategist and tactician. But it is a whole lot easier to believe that the Supreme Court made a legal decision on a case brought by the historic leadership of the PLI contesting the take-over of their party by forces led by US-backed banker Eduardo Montealegre. When Montealegre refused to let the returned leadership examine the party finances and when he and several of his fellow party members in the National Assembly refused to acknowledge their legal leadership, it doesn’t take any personal involvement from Ortega for the party leadership to kick the rebels out of the legislature and replace them with party loyalists. There was no incentive for Ortega to get involved. He’s so far ahead in the polls that nothing the opposition could do in the next few months will affect the outcome. The newly reconstituted PLI aren’t his friends and allies. This is clearly a case of the internecine warfare on the Right that has so frustrated multiple US ambassadors. We don’t need a conspiracy theory to explain it.

I could continue, but as I said at the beginning, it would take more words to refute all the lies and innuendo than it took the authors to make them. Daniel Ortega will win in November because Nicaragua has improved economically, socially, and politically under his leadership. Voters appreciate stability and improving standards of living. There are reasons they are not joining their fellow Central Americans on the dangerous journey to the US border. It is as simple as that.