May 8, 2018
Portions about Nicaragua
… The implosion of Venezuela has also exposed another serious concern in Latin America: The government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.
For a long time the Ortega government has looked less like a democracy and more like a dictatorship.
The Maduro regime propped up Ortega with subsidized oil and other aid.
Venezuela’s self-destruction has ended that lifeline. And in the process it has exposed the rot at the core of the Nicaraguan government. Like his patron in Caracas and his mentors in Havana, the Ortega government has stayed in power by rigging elections, intimidating critics, and censoring the media.
In just the last month, the Nicaraguan people have found their voice after many years of corruption and misrule.
It is the most serious threat to the Ortega government in a decade.
It began when students and others took to the streets to first protest the poor response to massive fires. It grew larger as protests against changes to the social security system.
But it has become much more than that—protesting the very legitimacy of the oppressive government itself.
Police and pro-government mobs responded with lethal force. The government shut down independent radio and television stations. Over 60 people were killed or are still missing and hundreds were injured. The images of the violence are horrific.
One journalist was killed—shot in the head—while broadcasting live on Facebook. Another group of journalists described masked men breaking down the doors of their radio station and dousing the studio with gasoline.
The thugs then fired into the gas and ignited the building.
Hundreds of thousands have demonstrated in response, demanding democratic reforms and calling for Ortega’s resignation. For the first time in many people’s lives, Nicaraguans are unafraid to openly express their desire for a real choice in determining their future, despite the very real threat of violence.
The United States calls on the Ortega government to make good on its offer to engage in a national dialogue.
All sectors of Nicaraguan civil society—the business community, the students, and the Catholic Church, to name a few—must be included.
But talking is not enough.
The real test will be whether the Ortega government will meet the people’s demands for democratic reforms and transparency.
As Natan Sharansky might say, Nicaragua is a “fear society” that yearns to be a “free society.”
The United States stands unequivocally with the people of Nicaragua in their demands for the same freedoms enjoyed by most of the rest of our hemisphere…
… At one point in time, there was a contest of ideas about forms of government in the western hemisphere. Today that contest is over.
The Cuban-Venezuelan-Nicaraguan model of socialism, dictatorship, corruption, and gross human rights violations has proved to be a complete and total failure. It has caused the suffering of millions of people.
The freedom model of democracy, economic growth, and human rights, is improving the lives of millions throughout the region.
There is much work left to do, but so much progress has been made. So many people have sacrificed so much.
We cannot allow the last, few surviving authoritarians to drag down the hemisphere.
As neighbors, the United States and all the nations of Latin America are bound together on this journey.
If we stay true to our principles, I have no doubt we will succeed. And we will help ensure that the Western Hemisphere remains the hemisphere of freedom.
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