How the US secret combinations bought the election of 1990 in Nicaragua

Originally published 11/7/06:

It is instructive to see what sort of financial interference the US has done in the past in Nicaragua, specifically in the 1990 elections after a decade of US funding and arming of the terrorist group named the Contras, had led to their terrorizing of the nation of Nicaragua, bombing schools, hospitals and anything else they wanted to with Carter/Reagan support.  As you see below, we spent massively to get Ortega out of office, interfering hugely in the democratic process, and then when Ortega lost, hailed the election as a model of democracy.  This makes me wonder how much the Bush Administration spent in failing to defeat Ortega in Sunday’s vote down there then.  Check out these numbers from 1990 from:

http://www.brianwillson.com/awolnicelection.html

CIA Funds

$13.0 Million — 1984-1987 for covert political spending inside Nicaragua. Source: Edgar Chomorro, Institute for Media Analysis, Oct. 25, 1989 statement, “High Intensity Political Intervention Replaces Low Intensity Conflict,” citing Donald Gregg’s now unclassified testimony to Iran-Contra investigators revealing that during Boland Amendment prohibitions, Congressional Intelligence Committees, nonetheless, secretly approved $13 million for such purposes.

$10-12 Million — 1987-88 for a covert “political” account designated for Nicaragua opposition activity. Source: Chomorro, Oct. 25, 1989 statement (See above); and Holly Sklar, “Washington Wants To buy Nicaragua’s Elections Again,” Z Magazine, Dec. 1989.

$5.0 Million — 1989 for Nicaragua opposition’s “housekeeping costs.” Source: Newsweek, Sept. 25 and Oct. 9, ’89.

Total CIA Funds: $28-30 Million

NED Funds

$100,000 — 1984 to PRODEMCA for La Prensa. La Prensa, a right-wing, pro-Contra daily newspaper, served as the Contras’ mouthpiece throughout the U.S.-waged war against the Sandinista government. PRODEMCA was established by the NED in 1984 to primarily coordinate an anti-Sandinista campaign in the U.S. PRODEMCA is an acronym for “Citizens’ Committee for the Democratic Forces in Central America.” Source: The Central American Fact Book, Barry & Preusch, Grove Press, 1986.

$200, 000 — 1984 to PRODEMCA for Nicaraguan Center for Democratic Studies. The Nicaraguan Center was created by the Nicaragua Democratic Coordinating Committee (Coordindrea or CDN), the reactionary coalition that boycotted the 1984 Nicaragua elections under pressure from the U.S. in efforts to delegitimize the election results. The Center trains Nicaraguans “in the skills needed to sustain an independent democratic presence in Nicaraguan life.” Source: The Central American Fact Book (see above).

$50,000 — 1987-88 to US Information Agency (USIA) to finance speakers to address Nicaraguan groups. Source: San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 5, 1988.

$1.0 Million — 1987-88 for trade unions, political parties and other anti-Sandinista efforts. Included was $170,000 for La Prensa. Source: San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 5, 1988.

$20 Million — 1988-89 for the internal opposition in Nicaragua. Source: San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 5, I988.

$3.5 Million — 1989-90 for NED and/or UNO (National Opposition Union) directly for opposition activity in elections. Many sources citing Congressional appropriations.

$9.0 Million — 1989-90 for NED and/or UNO for opposition activity in elections. Many sources citing Congressional appropriations.

Total NED Funds: $15,850,000

The following may or may not have been included in the above NED figures:

$220,000 — 1988 from Congress to NED, in turn through Delphi International (Washington, D.C.) to fund La Prensa. Delphi took over NED La Prensa grants in 1986. Delphi also administers NED grants for Nicaraguan broadcast media. Source: Edgar Chomorro, Institute for media Analysis, Oct. 25, 1989, statement, “High Intensity Political Intervention Replaces Low Intensity Conflict.”

$397,000 — 1988 from Congress to NED, in turn through Free Trade Union Institute (FTUI) to the AFL-CIO to aid non-Sandinista unions. FTUI was established in 1977 by the AFL/CIO to combat perceived left wing trade unions. Source: Chomorro, as above.

$290, 000 — 1988 from Congress to NED, in turn through the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) for various indoctrination efforts. NDI is the U.S. Democratic Party’s mechanism for receiving NED funds. Source: Chomorro, as above.

$174,000 — 1988 from Congress to NED, in turn through the National Republican Institute for International Affairs (NRI) for various indoctrination efforts. NRI is the U.S. Republican Party’s mechanism for receiving NED funds. Source: Chomorro, as above.

$1.5 Million — Sept. 15, 1989, NED approved this amount for Nicaragua, separate from the $9 million which was scheduled to begin on October 1, 1989 . Source: New York Times, Sept. 29, 1989.

Total: $2,581,000

The NED Grand Total is in the range of $15,850,000 to $18,431,000.

The CIA plus NED Grand Total is in the range of $43,850,000 to $48,431,000! ($43.85 million to $48.43 million).

There were 3.5 million Nicaraguan residents in 1990. About 1.75 million registered to vote. The infusion of unspeakable amounts of money, in Nicaraguan peasant terms, for the 1990 election, revealed the following in per capita terms:

A range of $12.53 to 13.84 for each of Nicaragua’s 3.5 million citizens. A range of $25.06 to $27.68 for each of Nicaragua’s 1.75 million registered voters.

Again, a comparison with a U.S. equivalent is instructive to indicate how staggering these figures really are! The ClA plus NED grand total range for Nicaragua has the following U.S. equivalents (the U.S. has 71 times the population of Nicaragua):

$3,113,350,000 to $3,438,601,000 ($3.1 billion to $3.4 billion)

In other words, if the U.S. law would allow funds from other governments to finance U.S. elections (which it definitely does not), a country like the Soviet Union, for example, would have contributed $3.1 billion to $3.4 billion to either the Republicans or Democrats, or a third party, in an attempt to purchase an election whose party winners would reflect the interests of the Soviet Union. I wonder how many citizens, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere, upon reflection, would accept the prudence of such policy. Nicaraguan’s election laws were changed in 1989 to allow contributions from outside Nicaragua. This policy change was motivated primarily to preempt further U.S. accusations of unfairness in the Nicaraguan election campaign, hoping to remove all possible justifications for continuation of hostile U.S. intervention. It was thought that the U.S. could not cry foul if it had such opportunity to try to buy the election. The U.S. undoubtedly would not have accepted the legitimacy of Nicaragua’s election results anyway, if the Sandinistas had won. The U.S. was determined to overthrow the Sandinista Nicaraguan government at all costs.

It is of further interest to briefly examine part of the UNO budget as it was earlier presented to Congress:

$600,000 — for 20,000 poll watchers

$140,000 — for invitations to international observers

$50,000 — for UNO “leaders” to travel abroad

$1.25 Million — for salaries and benefits to UNO “leaders”, including over $335,000 for paid vacations

$1.35 Million — for purchase of Toyota jeeps, pickup trucks and buses, and Yamaha motorcycles. (Interestingly, U.S. taxpayers were purchasing Japanese vehicles because the U.S. trade embargo prevented import of U.S. automobiles. One U.S. Congressperson remarked that the opposition could rent 2250 Japanese vehicles a month at $20/day.)

Total of Miscellaneous for UNO: $3,390,000

[Source: Los Angeles Times, Oct. 17, 1989; and Edgar Chomorro statement, Oct. 25, 1989 (see above).]

Edgar Chomorro, a non-Sandinista Nicaraguan, believed that the decision of the Nicaraguan government to allow U.S. or other foreign monies into the election process was a serious mistake. He articulated four clear points:

  1. It seriously distorts the integrity of the process.
  2. It tends to corrupt individuals and institutions.
  3. It creates dependency upon foreign power centers.
  4. It is an essential violation of the principle of national sovereignty.
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6 Responses to “How the US secret combinations bought the election of 1990 in Nicaragua”


  1. 1 dianarn September 12, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Yup…. all true. We also did the same thing in Iran in the ’40’s when we put the shah in power, who killed millions of innocent people until he got exiled in the late 70’s. We’re just doing our job of spreading democracy around. Too bad democracy is just as bad as any dictatorship… mob rule… two wolves and a sheep deciding what’s for dinner. I cringe whenever they say we are a democracy. We are a Constitutional Republic, but unfortunately it seems we’re definitely heading toward a democracy.

  2. 2 theradicalmormon September 12, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    Dianarn,
    Thanks for stopping by. There are so many examples of of the USA interfering in another country’s electoral process. We have a long history of this all the way up to the current ongoing efforts against Chavez of Venezuela. We would never settle for such interference in our own elections. We definately don’t live the Golden Rule when it comes to foreign elections.

  3. 3 ChrisH September 12, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    What you neglect to mention is that despite US “interference” the ignorant electorate voted Ortega back into power last year.

    Maybe the US should have spent more to educate the people on what a good government could be. Then they’d be able to cast an informed vote and maybe, just maybe, pull themselves into the 21st century. Ortega’s performance has been dismal: the power outages have worsened, his economic plan with the IMF does not project a reduction in poverty, his illegal seizure of Esso’s private property is not only scaring away investors but is also causing gas stations to close for lack of supply, and then of course there are his absurd political alignments with Venezuela and Iran. Iran is offering Ortega their nuclear tenchology — what a joke! Can anyone who’s ever been to Nicaragua seriously imagine nuclear technology there?

    Ortega is incompetent and I think it’s perfectly acceptable for the US to spend money to educate and inform the people about how a country should be run. It’s the ethical thing to do. Helping underdeveloped countries pull themselves up by their bootstraps is part of what advances human civilization. Letting them wallow in their own filth for another few generations is immoral. Of course we should not stuff their ballot boxes for them. But I believe we do owe it to the world to tell them how they might improve their lot. Even if they are stupid enough to elect a loser like Ortega.

  4. 4 theradicalmormon September 12, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Ortega may be a loser, I have not been close enough to Nicaragua since the election to tell. However, that he was elected says something about the competition doesn’t it?

    The US usually spends money, not to improve the lives of those in small, poor nations, but to get a US friendly leader elected so that our corporations can pluck the fruit of the nation unimpaired. Anyone who talks about making US corporations follow the rules gets into trouble. Guatemala in the 1950’s is a good example of that. United Fruit was not happy with the Guatemalan government and lobbied Congress to have him overthrown, which our government gladly obliged.

    Our support of the Contras in the 80’s and our spending on opposition to the Sandinistas was like holding a gun to the Nicaraguan’s heads and saying “vote for our man… or else.”

    If we are truly to spend money to help the people of Nicaragua and lift them out of poverty… I’d be all for it. However, that’d be altruistic. Governemnts in general do not act out of altruism, especially ours. We act only in our self-interest (meaning the interest of a few elite).

  5. 5 ChrisH September 12, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    Ortega was elected with only 38% of the vote. The year before the election, he got the constitution changed to allow a candidate to win with only 35% of the vote in the first round — a ridiculously low percentage. In most multi-party systems, 50% of the vote is required to win in the first round; if no one gets 50% then there is a second runoff election between the two candidates with the greatest number of votes.

    So the fact that he won does not mean there weren’t any better candidates running (in fact, there were). The fact the he won is a testament to the country’s political immaturity. And to the people’s lazy desperation: Ortega offered free medical care and education (an empty promise, which he now cannot afford to pay for). The other guys offered jobs and growth but having never experienced that, the people didn’t understand what it meant for them. The US and businessmen like me tried to explain it to them but it takes time.

    No, governments do not act out of altruism, but I believe the US does try to negotiate win-win outcomes most of the time. We may offer aid or influence an election because we want a political ally and a trading partner; but if the people get clean drinking water, antibiotics and paved streets out of the deal, is that really analagous to holding a gun to their heads? Or is it more like telling a friend, “This is a great opportunity, you really should go for it.”

    Our self-interest frequently coincides with their self-interest. No, the system isn’t perfect, and there are many examples of where we have failed; but there are many many more case where we have succeeded. Unfortunately those aren’t dramatic enough to make headlines.

  6. 6 theradicalmormon September 13, 2007 at 5:01 am

    Chris,
    “So the fact that he won does not mean there weren’t any better candidates running (in fact, there were).”

    In your opinion.

    “The fact the he won is a testament to the country’s political immaturity.”

    Then the US electorate is also indicted with the same indictment after the 2004 election.

    “We may offer aid or influence an election because we want a political ally and a trading partner; but if the people get clean drinking water, antibiotics and paved streets out of the deal, is that really analagous to holding a gun to their heads? Or is it more like telling a friend, “This is a great opportunity, you really should go for it.””

    In the case of Nicaragua, the gun to their heads was, “we will continue to strangle your economy and send the contras to terrorize you if you elect the Sandinistas again.” If you so choose to put it that way, the opportunity was, “The aid will flow again if you vote for Washington’s man.” I suppose that is like saying, “I’ll let you live and give you, ‘clean drinking water, antibiotics and paved streets’ if you capitulate to my demands.” If that’s what you call an opportunity then so be it. I am rather in favor of allowing an elected government to succeed or not on their own merits rather than to interfere so heavily. It is immoral to say the least.


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