A new report by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) has revealed a guide to regime change in Nicaragua by USAID. The document, which dates to March-April of this year, describes in frank terms how the agency, which maintains close ties with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), could create or exploit a variety of scenarios to remove democratically-elected Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his FSLN party from power in or around the upcoming 2021 elections.
Jill Clark-Gollub, assistant editor and translator at COHA, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear Wednesday that many of the tactics outlined in the USAID document can be observed in the demonstrations that rocked Nicaragua in the summer of 2018.
‘Code-Speak for a Coup’
“It’s a contract hiring coup plotters - a ‘coup-plotters for hire’-type contract. And it’s really astounding how the whole document is based on the premise that we can impose a better version of democracy for the Nicaraguan people. It talks about a crisis and a transition, and all of this is code-speak for basically bringing about a coup.”
“It talks about three scenarios in which the transition can take place, and it says a transition could take place if our candidate wins the election, but other parts of the document make it clear that they don’t expect their pro-US candidate to win the election. They don’t even have a candidate. Then they talk about creating a crisis for a sudden transition - another code-speak for a coup - and then it talks about a delayed transition in which the FSLN party, the Sandinista Front for National Liberation, wins. And it’s even a free and fair election, and it’s recognized internationally, so it takes a longer time to get them out of there.”
“If you really hadn’t been paying attention at all, you would think there’s this country in crisis and that the US would be doing them a favor to get rid of that government and put in somebody else.”
US Officials Admit to Venezuela ‘Coup’
The news comes amid statements before a Senate committee on Tuesday in which US Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) frankly admitted to having attempted to engineer a coup d’etat against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro beginning in January 2019.
“Our Venezuela policy over the last year and a half has been an unmitigated disaster,” Murphy told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We have to admit that our big play, recognizing [Juan] Guaidó right out of the gate, and then moving quickly to implement sanctions just didn't work … First, we thought that getting Guaidó to declare himself president would be enough to topple the regime. Then we thought putting aid on the border would be enough. Then we tried to sort of construct a kind of coup in April of last year, and it blew up in our face when all the generals that were supposed to break with Maduro decided to stick with him in the end.”
Josh Hodges, the senior deputy assistant administrator in USAID's Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), told the panel USAID support has been instrumental in helping Guaidó’s movement to function.
“We are using development assistance to support the interim government and the National Assembly with technical training, staffing support, equipment and communication efforts,” Hodges said. “USAID’s support bolsters the interim government’s ability to effectively operate and interact with constituents, despite the increased repression from the illegitimate regime. Our assistance has enabled increased participation with legitimate officials.”
Manufacturing Crises via ‘Psychological Warfare’
Clark-Gollub told Sputnik that USAID being directly involved in plotting a coup was “interesting,” because “this in the past, I believe, would have been done by the CIA. Now it’s being done by USAID, and as I said, it’s advertised on LinkedIn. It’s like they have no shame anymore.”
“USAID has been funding Nicaraguan opposition and media groups for years,” she said, noting the 2018 civil disturbances were a case study in what the document describes. “You just need to go back two years and look at this document and all of this doublespeak and understand what I mean.”
“It’s almost embarrassing for the people who are allowing themselves to be used for this. The document talks about how they’re going to use NGOs and opposition parties and the media kind of to corral them to do what they need to do for this plot. So it reveals a lot of stuff that we’ve known, and it brings it out in the open. We have known the media is paid by the US; this is recognition that they’re directed by the US. And the shameful thing for people outside of Nicaragua is that our mass media just parrots what the self-serving Nicaraguan opposition media publishes in Nicaragua.”
She further noted the US was “trying to use the [COVID-19] pandemic for this crisis” mentioned in the document as a possible regime change scenario. “They even created their own citizens’ observatory with mysterious ‘scientific experts’ who they would never say who they were, who were publishing their own statistics on the number of infected and dying people in Nicaragua from the pandemic.”
Instead, Nicaragua’s health system, which the FSLN government has spent 13 years rebuilding and expanding, did not collapse on itself under the weight of the pandemic, as the US embassy in Managua predicted it would, but instead has weathered the storm well, with the lowest COVID-19 case fatality rate in Central America and a very low per capita fatality rate.
Clark-Gollub said use of these tactics “amounts to psychological warfare. They are just going to keep trying to build up, dig up things to make things into a crisis, and it’s terrible,” noting Nicaraguans are being “bombarded” with “fake news” about mass deaths and burials that are actually occurring in other countries.
Especially in 2018, the opposition was “on top of social media,” which the document also urges as a tactic. “We know that in 2018, there had been 2,000 young Nicaraguans recruited, mostly through the Catholic Church, to be social media influencers. And these were the ones putting out ‘color revolution’ type posts,” such as urging painting national colors over FSLN symbols. She also noted they would announce police violence at an event before it had happened, which created confusion and drove demonstrations about events that never occurred.
She recalled that former US national security adviser John Bolton called Nicaragua and Venezuela, along with Cuba, a “troika of tyranny,” writing in his recently released memoir that if one of the three falls, so will the others.
“These three countries are working toward a multipolar world, and the US does not want to see that succeed,” she noted.
“The Nicaraguan people got a big education in 2018; they understand that they’re under attack. It’s not as easy for them to be duped again about fake news that comes out, especially on social media. But that said, this does not mean this is not wearing on people, this psychological warfare … I think that the Nicaraguan people are standing firm and are going to continue to build their country.”