Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Nicaragua: Election Ads Replay Horrors of Iran-Contra

A week ago I blogged:

Daniel Ortega leads in the race for president of Nicaragua, this some twenty years after North and others (Iran-Contra felons that now work in the Bush administration) tried to introduce American style capitalism there with guns and cocaine. I guess the Nicaraguan want their old ways back and along comes North to remind them, I am sure, what happened the last time they tried to exist as a socialist nation. North: "The anti-American leftists in Latin America are using elections -- not revolutions or military coups -- to take and then solidify power."

Then this bit of news came through in my mailbox last night (in which Reuters characterizes the CIA inspired Contra-Cocaine ops from El Salvador into Nicaragua as Nicaragua's "civil war."):

Nicaragua election ads replay civil war horrors
30 Oct 2006 15:23:46 GMT

MANAGUA, Nicaragua, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Grim television images from Nicaragua's 1980s civil war are being used by conservatives to scare people who would vote for left-wing former rebel and president Daniel Ortega in the Nov. 5 election.

TV ads by center-right candidate Eduardo Montealegre and the Liberal Party's Jose Rizo show presidential front-runner Ortega in military garb and, in a separate shot, corpses being loaded onto a truck during the war between Ortega's Sandinista government and U.S.-backed Contra rebels.

"With this past, they won't fool you with polls," says Rizo's ad, over shots of fighting and corpses and accounts of Sandinista government troops killing indigenous people and raping women.

"He's a danger for Nicaragua," booms Montealegre's ad.

Ortega, leading opinion polls in his third comeback attempt since losing a 1990 election, calls the ads a dirty campaign.

He says he has changed since the Sandinistas rolled tanks into the capital Managua in a 1979 popular revolution that overthrew a decades old family dictatorship and then spent a decade fighting the counter-revolutionary Contras.

His own ads feature himself as a peacemaker, his supporters in raspberry pink baseball caps singing along to a Spanish version of John Lennon's anthem "Give Peace a Chance."

But Ortega's rivals are flashing the word "Danger" over grainy images of wartime misery.

"Shall we go backward?" asks Montealegre's ad, over black-and-white footage of Ortega with Sandinista troops played in reverse to show them marching backward.

In another, people line up for food rations outside grocery stores emptied by a U.S. trade embargo, and count wads of bank notes made worthless by soaring inflation, a result of the war and the Sandinistas' economic mismanagement.

RATIONS AND BLOODSHED

The ads strike a chord with some voters.

"I remember food being rationed when I was little," said Mariela Zamora, 28, serving drinks at an open-air bar on the edge of Lake Managua, where people dance to pumping reggaeton and merengue on weekend afternoons.

"We don't want that again. It's important to remind people what Ortega is like."

The scare campaign by conservatives -- whose split into Rizo and Montealegre camps has boosted Ortega's chances of winning -- echoes mutterings by U.S. officials of their concern about their old Cold War foe regaining power.

In one clip, a woman recalls how her son was killed and sobs as she imagines losing her grandson in a future conflict.

While attack ads are usually effective, some Nicaraguans say these go too far.

"It's wrong to hammer our minds with stuff about the war. I would prefer we forget it and move on," said cigarette seller Luis Aleman, 57, whose brother was killed in the conflict.

"They want to keep us scared and divided, but my kids don't care about the war, they want to study and find jobs."

Others say the ads are redundant given 70 percent of Nicaraguans are under 30 and barely remember the war. Some first-time voters as young as 16 were not yet born when Ortega was voted out of power.

"This kind of campaign doesn't work anymore. Memories of the war are too far off," said Sergio Ramirez, who was Ortega's vice-president but later fell out with him and split from the Sandinista party, and is now a respected commentator.

"What can it mean to a kid of 18 to talk to him about hunger and military draft with black-and-white images?"

Opinion polls suggest only one in five voters thinks Ortega would bring back military service or spark an armed conflict.

His best chance of victory is in the first round of voting on Nov. 5, where he would need 40 percent support, or 35 percent with a 5 point lead over his nearest rival.

Recent polls give him around 35 percent and a strong lead, but if he fails to sweep the first round he could lose a run off as conservative voters rally behind a single candidate.

SOURCE: Reuters

Isn't it illegal to interfere in the elections of other nations? See this item from Counterpunch

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