Friday, November 17, 2006

Regarding COHA's November 15 "Washington Looks to Cement its Military Presence in Central America by Emphasizing its Ties to Honduras"

The Latest in a Series of COHA Reports on the Latin American Military
  • Daniel Ortega’s victory in Nicaragua’s recent presidential election could roil the U.S. – as well as its friends in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama – making Central America the new fulcrum for the Bush administration’s future regional security policy

When Honduran President Manuel Zelaya visited Washington this past June, he had two security-related requests for President Bush. The first was to convert the Colonel Enrique Soto Cano airbase (also commonly known as Palmerola) into a commercial air cargo terminal, while the second was to deploy U.S. Special Forces along the Mosquitia region in eastern Honduras to help combat drug-trafficking along the Caribbean coast. At the time of President Zelaya’s visit, there were numerous media reports indicating that a military facility would be built in the Mosquitia with Washington aid that would, most likely, house some form of a U.S. military presence.

Full Article

~Response from Armstrong A. Wiggins~

It is very sad you write a story about Military Presence in Central America... specifically in La Moskitia, Hondoras and you didn't mention anything about the Miskito Indian from la Moskitia that own that land and territories.. I think Daniel Ortega from Nicaragua needs to consult with Miskito from Nicaragua and Zelaya from Honduras need to do the same with the Miskitos from la Moskitia, Honduras.

COHA still don't get it!

-Armstrong A. Wiggins

Reply from COHA Staff:

Mr. Wiggins,

I agree with you that I should have made a clear reference to the Miskito people's position on the proposed military facility and I apologize for not doing so. However, the scope of my article was an analysis of Central American security and the U.S.' interests in the region, and as I was working under space limitations, I was unable to discuss the Miskito's position as well as other relevant issues to the proposed facility.

I agree that any proposed military facility should be the result of conclusive talks among the governments and Miskito people- I sincerely hope that this will be the case. COHA will continue to closely monitor the situationand report whatever events may occur. I do hope that even though I did not discuss it directly, my article helped raise awareness of events going on in the Mosquitia.

Finally, I can assure you that COHA does "get it." Since its foundation, COHA has fought to improve responsible policymaking and to promote the rights of people across the hemisphere, from the persecuted during the era of South AMerica military governments to those who suffered during the civil wars in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. We try our best to report on important events occurring throughout the region, particularly those regarding ethnic groups, like the Miskito, Colombia's U'wa, Chile's mapuches etc.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Regarding COHA's November 2 Press release: "Nicaragua Elections: Ortega Appeals to a Higher Power"

  • For the fourth time since his unceremonious electoral ousting from the presidential office in 1990, Daniel Ortega is looking to become the next leader of Nicaragua - and thanks to his forgiving supporters, along with his increasingly preachy sermons, he may achieve it
  • The U.S., in spite of the best covert efforts at intervention undertaken by Ambassador Paul Trivelli, has failed to bring cohesion to Ortega’s opposition and is likely to lose even more leverage in Latin America in the event of a Sandinista victory

In a campaign replete with warm-and-fuzzy rhetoric aimed at influencing the populace to look less critically at his infractions incurred during three-decades of public life, Daniel Ortega is once again running for president. Some analysts have concluded that this time he will not lose his bid as he did in 1990, 1996 and 2001, as his current closest competitor is straggling more than ten points behind him. However, looking beyond his evangelical-styled appearances at public rallies, where he never fails to pronounce the importance of reconciliation, it becomes increasingly apparent that Ortega does not really have a clearly etched platform regarding key issues such as land reform, free trade initiatives, workers’ rights or drug policy, only tactics of the day. Concomitantly, his likely victory has to be seen as providing momentum behind South America’s pink tide movement, and the strong likelihood that, to Washington’s great chagrin, he will develop some kind of a relationship with Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales. One clue to the true nature of his presidential bid is the fact that his past enmity towards the U.S. obviously still runs deep, as shown in his periodic blasts at the “empire” given at whistle stops along his campaign trail. At the same time, however, his style has been to minimize the stormy history of Nicaragua’s past and future bilateral relations between the two countries. Come November 5, Nicaraguans will have to decide if Ortega really is the changed man he claims to be.

Full article ...

~To the Editors, Ryann Bresnahan et al,

The progressives in Nicaragua have been betrayed enormously by Ortega, and his opportunistic alliance with --Aleman!-- and the Church in Nicaragua, The incredible vote which was unanimous to deny any woman an abortion]under any circumstances, was unbelievable, and besides the problems in that particularly oppressive content, was a measure of how far Ortega was willing to go to get elected.

Had Lewites not died, he would have been much closer to the core spirit and values of Sandinismo, and though they have little chance of winning, the remaining candidates for Lewites' party are at least honest partisans to represent the values that were inherent in the original Sandinista revolution.

I am very surprised, as a regular COHA subscriber and reader, and someone who appreciates the COHA research and papers, that this piece ignored the serious and deep flaws in the Ortega candidacy, not to mention his own personal liabilities in the allegations made towards him by his step-daughter.

The progressives had a real dilemma, given the US interference-- and may have had to support Ortega only for that reason. But he looks, sounds, and acts like someone who on the way to the presidency got corrupted.

Please follow up with another article in the near future on the status of women at this time in Nicaragua. I have at least three articles in Spanish from Nicaragua that describe the rage of the womens' movement there.

Thank you for your work, in general, though I take exception to this article.

David Green


COHA staff:

Dear David,

In all sincerity, I think that we were rather harsh on Ortega.
In fact, we raised all the points except for the abortion vote (which you brought up).
I do recall that Ortega put me up in the early 1980 when I was visiting the country. For this, he deserves some leeway. However, I agree with you.

Regarding COHA’s October 10 Op-Ed: “Pragmatism vs. Populism in South America”

  • The foreign policies of South American countries reflect the intricacies of national interests rather than any overarching ideology
  • Correspondingly, the perception of Washington among the South American public is characterized by substantial diversity
The reemergence of populism and the intriguing if possibly brief half-life of the left-leaning “pink tide” movement in South America have facilitated a somewhat misleading perception that the continent as a whole is headed towards an era of leftist, anti-U.S. policies. While the hostility between Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and the Bush administration reached a new high at the 61st UN General Assembly session, most of the other South American nations have taken a decidedly more pragmatic stance with regards to Washington, essentially sitting out the spat now taking place around them. In fact, the majority of South American leaders often play both sides – cooperating with left-leaning Latin American stalwarts while accommodating themselves, at important junctions, to U.S. priorities. Thus the challenges posed by Hugo Chávez and often Evo Morales could represent the exception rather than the norm.

Full article...

~ Gentlemen: One of the things we need nowadays is objective information. Utilizing the term Populism is playing up to the detractors of a system for Social Justice, it is a tool to adhere the subterm "ism" to anything in order to get it installed in the minds of the public as an idelogical brother of "communism", "fascism", "nazism", et al. Please cooperate to a better and clearer understanding. Riggin Dapena, La Corunha, Spain

COHA is always ready to cooperate and we will consider the point that you made. Please remember that the “populism” piece was put in the dissent section and does not represent COHA’s official position.

Larry Birns
COHA Director