President Daniel Ortega shown dancing with musicians and supporters at the first public event after his and Vice President, Rosario Murillo’s reelection on November 8th. [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]

Despite Washington’s best effort to derail Nicaragua’s electoral process through hybrid warfare, strong voter turnout resulted in a decisive victory by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), and the reelection of President Daniel Ortega with 75.92% of the votes cast. Nicaragua’s non-partisan, independent Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) reported on Monday, November 8th that 65.23% of 4.4 million eligible voters (16 years and older) participated in Sunday’s election. Supporters attribute the FSLN’s success to its ability to ensure peace and achieve socioeconomic & political objectives that strengthen the wellbeing of the people of Nicaragua.

This markedly contrasts the widespread neglect and corruption endemic under Nicaragua’s U.S. supported neoliberal period from 1990-2007. It is precisely President Ortega and the Sandinista administration’s showing of evidence-based democracy that threatens the U.S., for Washington in comparison has become unabashedly authoritarian in its futile attempt to maintain its Hollywood-styled democratic image both domestically & abroad.

President Daniel Ortega shown dancing with musicians and supporters at the first public event after his and Vice President, Rosario Murillo’s reelection on November 8th. Songs of struggle and freedom were also performed at the Commemoration of the Assassination of Comandante Carlos Fonseca as well as ones written by Bob Marley and John Lennon—respectively, One Love and Give Peace a Chance. [Source: Lauren Smith]

Failure of U.S. Democracy in Voting

While the United States reports a relatively similar participation rate to Nicaragua—between 59.5% to 66.8% of citizens (18 years and older) voted in elections from 2000 to 2020—in stark contrast, candidates that actually lost the popular vote have won the U.S. presidency 5 times since 1824. Matter of fact, U.S. elections are so badly discredited by constituents of both its two corporate parties, that the U.S. symbolic seat of power (the Capitol building) was stormed by election protestors in January 2021.

Critics of the U.S. representative electoral voting system claim: issues with securing and preserving the chain of custody of ballots; the stuffing of ballot boxes; the fraudulent harvesting of ballots; issues with the transparency and security of black box voting such as easy hacking and tampering, and that there is no verifiable back-up paper trail. Pundits routinely report unusual divergence from exit polls, and the CEO of Diebold (the manufacturer of voting machines) claimed in 2007 that he was “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year”.

Further, voter disfranchisement methods were documented by Greg Palast and others which include the gerrymandering of voting districts; reduced polling locations; too few voting machines and failure to replace broken ones in black/brown and low-income communities; as well as the use of voter/felon “scrub” lists; ominous changes in voter ID requirements; fake ballots; missing ballots; poorly constructed and/or confusing hard to read instructions on ballots; voter suppression; voter intimidation; and understaffed polling sites, etc.

If the United States wasn’t such a bully militarily and economically, the rest of the world might be clamoring for multilateral sanctions against it until the U.S. takes effective steps to hold free, fair, and transparent elections.

Failure of Washington’s Hybrid/Covert Warfare

Even with Washington’s looming threat of using more egregious unilateral economic sanctions than the NICA Act, with the fast tracked RENACER Act (which was signed into law on November 10th) and its full-throttle regime change program RAIN (already underway)—which collectively violate a panoply of international and humanitarian laws—the people of Nicaragua stood resolute in their desire to exercise their sovereign right to choose their own leadership.

Unlike countries in the northern triangle, which includes Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, there are no gangs or drug, human and weapon trafficking in Nicaragua. Additionally, Nicaragua’s national police force is exemplary since its founded on the principles of community policing, unlike that of the United States which is often militarized and captive to white supremacists. Despite Washington controlled IMF and World Bank, they respectively still released reports in 2018 stating that up until that year Nicaragua had sustained outstanding growth in GDP; improved its social indicators; expanded tourism; and provided regional leadership in public safety and sustainable energy.

Further, unlike Nicaragua, the U.S government also stands in violation of its own Bill of Rights, by virtue of its Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2020, an update to the Patriot Act. In contrast to Nicaragua, its judicial-prison-parole-industrial complex is racist, as prisoners are predominately of African-American descent. With 2.12 million people incarcerated in 2020, the United States has the largest per capita prison population in the world at 639 per 100,000. The incarceration rate is now more than 4.3 times what is was nearly 50 years ago. Additionally, there are approximately 50,000 immigrants in detention centers, which are called, even by U.S. politicians, concentration camps. Within this total, there are over 60 political prisoners in its domestic prison system. Torture and inhumane living conditions are routinely cited by human rights organizations in regard to U.S. prisoners and detainees. Additionally, the U.S. has incarcerated and killed an untold number of political prisoners in Guantanamo and its even more abysmal worldwide black sites. In comparison, Nicaragua, has 332 prisoners per 100,000 (half that of the United States) and it is number 24 on the same list.

The longest serving political prisoner in the U.S. is Leonard Peltier. He’s spent 44 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit and was an actual VP candidate on the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) ticket in 2020, unlike the false claims of Nicaragua’s alleged “pre-candidates” that had no viable political party affiliation and are guilty of organizing violent crimes, money-laundering and treason.

PSL Presidential Candidate Gloria La Riva visits Indigenous leader Leonard Peltier.
PSL Presidential & Vice-Presidential Candidate: Gloria La Riva and Leonard Peltier []

Unlike Nicaragua, the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011 allows Washington to criminalize protest. It is a federal offense, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, to enter or remain in an area designated as restricted (such as a tar sands pipeline on indigenous land) or to protest anywhere the Secret Service might be guarding someone. Unlike Nicaragua, the U.S. military was empowered in 2013 to attack its citizens through changes in the rules of engagement under the Posse Comitatus Act. Further, the United States military routinely practices war games against its civilians, and it acknowledges in its reports that due to the failings of capitalism it is only a matter of time before civil unrest erupts over: scarce resources; disparities in wealth and power; collapsing financial systems; climate change and natural disasters.

Even with Washington’s deletion, through proxies (Facebook and Instagram), of more than a thousand pro-Sandinista accounts just days before the election, voters turned out in droves in support of the FSLN party.

Bilwi, Voting Center 1, Nov 7,2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]

Even with Washington funneling multimillions in U.S. taxpayer and debt dollars in bribes and rewards through CIA cutout institutions like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), USAID, Freedom House, and the International Republican Institute to individuals found guilty of violent insurrection in the 2018 coup d’état attempt—which resulted in the death of approximately 200 people on both sides, the loss of $420 million in tourism and 130 thousand jobs—and who blatantly defied the 2018 Amnesty Law, Nicaraguans were not only unperturbed but mostly celebratory throughout their peaceful and efficient voting process and while waiting for provisional results. Peace is attributed to just and effective law enforcement undertaken by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Attorney General, two completely separate institutions within Nicaragua.

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Bilwi, Voting Center 2, Nov.7, 2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]

President Ortega and the Sandinista administration aptly blocked Washington’s 2021 coup promoters by identifying violations of the following domestic laws: Law 147, General Law on Non Profit Legal Entities; Law 919, Law on Sovereign Security; Law 977, Law against the Laundering of Assets, Funding of Terrorism, and Funding of the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction; Law 996, Amnesty Law; Law 1040, Law Regulating Foreign Agents; and Law 1055, Law in Defense of the People’s Right to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace. The offences concerned and related crimes committed during the failed coup attempt of 2018 also violate numerous international legal statutes ratified by Nicaragua, for example: UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime; the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages.

Without compunction, Nicaragua’s 2018 coup-promoters followed the undisputedly illegal and immoral instructions detailed in Washington’s 1980’s Psychological Operations in Guerilla Warfare handbook. The CIA’s scripted handbook outlines how to use domestic terrorism strategically to destabilize Nicaragua through the hiring of criminals and agent provocateurs (page 11); the destruction of police installations and the kidnapping of Sandinistas (page 28); and the killing of journalists and others to create “martyrs” for the cause (page 71). The 2021 coup-promoters were apprehended planning to again use these same unconscionable tactics.

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Edgar Chamorro Reading Torture Manual [Source:]

Even with the placing of anti-government and libelous propaganda in CIA directed press and media such as La Prensa, Confidencial, Radio Corporacion and 100 % Noticias, the voters refused to adhere to coup-promoting opposition’s clarion call to abstain from casting their ballots. To better understand this insidious influence, refer to “Confessions of a Contra” and “CIA and Media Manipulation” in which Edgar Chamorro, family member of the wealthiest Nicaraguan clan, outlines the greed of fellow Nicaraguan exiles; CIA scripted press conferences; his payoff for being a traitor; and egregious passages from the above referenced PSYOP manual which he helped the CIA author.

For more information, view Redfish’s documentary called the New Battle for Nicaragua and Dan Kovalik’s Nicaragua: the April Crisis and Beyond as they expose the brutality and media disinformation campaign around the 2018 coup attempt.

At roadblocks, set up by a U.S. organized network of criminal mercenaries, women were raped, while passers-by were beaten and robbed. In many instances these horrific acts of domestic terrorism were videotaped, due to the perverse sense of pride and impunity the perpetrators experienced in accomplishing these treasonous and inhumane acts as well as to prove their value and loyalty to their foreign benefactors. Within this context, it is important to further detail the crimes committed and planned that necessitated the arrest of MRS members.

“As for the opposition figures who were detained several months before the election, The Grayzone documented how they were arrested for conspiring with a foreign government (the United States), taking millions of dollars from Washington in a large money-laundering scheme to organize a violent coup attempt in 2018, in which hundreds of Nicaraguans were killed and the country was destabilized, and in which right-wing extremists hunted down, tortured, and murdered Sandinista activists and state security forces, even setting some on fire.

That the opposition leaders who were detained received millions of dollars from the US government to carry out these operations is an undeniable matter of public record, confirmed by documents from CIA cutouts such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).”

According to State Department cables obtained by the Grayzone, MRS leaders Dora Maria Téllez, Hugo Torres Jiménez, and Victor Hugo Tinoco, were U.S. embassy informants for at least 15 years. The above referenced were charged with “inciting foreign interference” in internal affairs and arrested under Nicaragua’s law 1055, which was approved by the country’s democratically elected National Assembly in December 2020. At the time of writing, MRS president Sergio Ramirez remains at large as he lives in Costa Rica.

Even with the lie that seven “pre-candidates” were arrested to limit competition, voters already had 6 political party options to choose from for the presidency—as clearly indicated on the ballot. And if these supposed candidates had been legitimate presidential hopefuls backed by national political parties (which they were not), they would have further split the opposition vote—which already dwindled down to 1.7% for the Liberal Independent Party (PLI). Further, it is important to note that the arrests were all for various criminal offences linked to continued violent coup plotting activity, in violation of the government granted amnesty to those involved in the 2018 coup attempt, similar to the amnesty granted to Contra forces in the 1980’s.

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Bilwi Regional Ballot Nov. 7, 2021. Note the 6 various parties running for President and Vice-President, National Assembly, and that a 7th candidate from the regional Yatam party is listed 3 lines down. [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]

While five of the various people arrested (Cristiana Chamorro, Arturo Cruz, Felix Maradiaga, Juan Sebastian Chamorro, and Miguel Mora) expressed aspirations to run as presidential candidates, none of them are members of any of the seventeen political parties eligible to take part in the elections. And all have long records of collaboration with U.S. and European governments, and agencies funded by those governments and by foreign corporations which render their aspirations to be presidential candidates moot, as Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council explained in a communiqué on the issue on June 3rd this year.

Regarding the false claim that Nicaragua is limiting the role of NGOs, note that Nicaragua’s National Assembly responded to the Washington-sponsored violence and destabilization efforts by passing a law in October 2020 that requires organizations funded by outside governments to register as foreign agents. The legislation is very similar to a law passed by the United States in 1938 known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Even Washington’s dictates to vassal multi-State organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS), from which Nicaragua formally withdrew from on November 19th, and its human rights troll (IACHR) and its marshaling of right-wing priests to commit ungodly acts of torture (captured on video), could not produce any notable traction in the minds or hearts of the people of Nicaragua.

Foreign Election Contingent visit “God’s Blessing” Community Potable Water and Sanitation Committee, Ciudad Sandino, Managua Nov.5, 2021. [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]
“God’s Blessing” Community Potable Water and Sanitation Committee Trinidad Central and Cuajachillo Number 2. Residents note that local priest engaged in destruction of Social Security Office. [Source: Lauren Smith]

Moreover, Washington’s fear tactics not only proved useless in keeping voters away from the polls but also, they neglected to sway voters to select one of the five alternate candidates running against Nicaragua’s sitting president in any meaningful way. The next highest vote count was for the Liberal Constitutional Party at 14.15%.

Bilwi Voting Center 3, Nov. 7, 2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]

Washington’s Plan B—Pretend and Isolate

Thus, Washington moved to Plan B. This involves pretending the election is invalid and refusing to acknowledge the presidency of Daniel Ortega, just like it did in Venezuela with President Nicolás Maduro. Perhaps the White House will pull a rabbit out of a hat, like they did with Juan Guaidó, and anoint it interim president. Keep in mind, Guaidó was never a presidential candidate in Venezuela, and remains just another sock puppet manufactured by the CIA’s cutout mill.

Outside of declaring unilateral war against a relatively tiny country, the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere, one that has no nuclear weapons and presents no terrorist threat and is approximately the geographic size of New York State with a population about 2.5 million less than NYC, it appears Washington must use another strategy in its playbook to maintain the ruse that Nicaragua is “An unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”.

Nicaragua has borne this spurious designation on and off since the Reagan administration. Note, there is no foreign policy difference between former President Donald Trump and current President Joseph Biden when it comes to imperialism and full spectrum dominance as described by Ajamu Baraka, from the Black Alliance for Peace. So, Washington repeats baseless disinformation until the obvious truth is obscured by its subservient mainstream news media (MSM) and captive “left” media, such as, Democracy Now, The Guardian, The Nation and National Public Radio (NPR). The only issue for Washington is that the truth is the elephant-in-the-room and no one with boots-on-the-ground can be fooled by U.S. lies, irrespective of their ceaseless repetition.

Abigail Espinoza Munoz, Managua, Nov. 10, 2021. [Source: Lauren Smith]

While the situation in Nicaragua is similar today to when the Reagan administration unleashed the illegal Contra force upon it, what’s changed is that alt-media has failed to inform its base. The sad result is that the NICA act passed unanimously in the Senate and RENACER passed with little opposition. Consider how similar the words and policies issued by President Biden are to former President Reagan, a more popular president, and how Reagan’s policy on Nicaragua was still opposed by senators and congresspersons as well as the left.

Foreign Election Contingent

Thus, intelligence agency directed presidential statements and proxy armchair press releases that are outrageously false in regard to the election hold no water when countrywide interviews are conducted by 232 international journalists & electoral accompaniers from 27 countries who traveled to various departments and two autonomous regions, representing all corners of the country: Esteli, Matagalpa, Leon, Bluefields, Bilwi, Chontales, Chinandega, Granada, Masaya, Rivas and Managua. The electoral contingent visited around 50 different voting centers and interviewed voters, poll workers as well as political representatives from the 6 participating parties. I was part of the contingent and personally observed the election process as a correspondent on location for CovertAction Magazine (CAM) in Bilwi, a Miskito municipality formerly known as Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua’s Northern Caribbean Autonomous Region—it was peaceful and historic.

Bilwi, Declan McKenna, election accompanier from Ireland, explains the Nicaragua voting process, Nov.7, 2021. [Source: Lauren Smith]

Managua, Declan McKenna, election accompanier from Ireland, explains the strength of Nicaragua’s electoral process compared to that used in Ireland, Nov 8, 2021. [Source: Lauren Smith]

Bilwi, Voting Center 4, Nov 7, 2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]
Bilwi, Voting Center 4, Nov 7, 2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]

In Bilwi, we visited 4 polling sites, met with election officials, and interviewed Myrna Cunningham, a Miskito feminist and indigenous rights activist, and medical surgeon. In Managua, we visited the Bismark Martinez housing development. In Ciudad Sandino, we met with community members from “God’s Blessing” Community Potable Water and Sanitation Committee Trinidad Central and Cuajachillo Number 2 and health care providers with Nueva Vida Clinic. Both projects in Managua are made possible through creative public/non-profit partnerships.

“God’s Blessing” Community Potable Water and Sanitation Committee Trinidad Central and Cuajachillo Number 2

Committee representatives explained the importance of potable water, paved roadways, and electricity for public health. They contrasted the achievements made by President Ortega and the Sandinista administration in providing services to residents of Ciudad Sandino, which was formed by refugees from a series of natural and human disasters since 1968, against the theft of international aid funds by the Somoza dictatorship, and of the theft and neglect of neo-liberal puppet governments from 1990 to 2007.

“God’s Blessing” Community Potable Water and Sanitation Committee Trinidad Central and Cuajachillo Number 2 discuss the impact of U.S. unilateral economic sanctions on the impoverished Nov. 5 2021. [Source: Lauren Smith]

Nueva Vida Clinic

In response to questions regarding abortion access, a litmus test in the United States for women’s rights, Nueva Vida Clinic’s medical staff explained that as a largely Christian country Nicaragua has conservative values in regard to the taking of life (unlike the hypocritical and contradictory United States, Nicaragua abolished the death penalty). Nonetheless, the Morning-After pill is available without a prescription and in practice abortions can be authorized if the bearer’s life is in danger or they have been victimized by rape and/or incest. This policy balances the rights of women within the structure of the overall culture. Both physicians stressed the government’s focus on preventative measures involving family planning and noted the wide and inexpensive distribution of contraceptives.

Additionally, as a testament to both health and personal freedom, there are no vaccine passports or mandates, and the COVID jab is available free of charge to those who want it. This balance achieves economic productivity with personal safety, health, and self-determinism. Additionally, as in other developing countries, preventative health is encouraged by the distribution of packets containing the anti-viral Ivermectin, antibiotics, and vitamins C, D and zinc. Unlike in the U.S., patients are not told to go home without being issued medication and only allowed to return when their lips turn blue from hypoxia. Thus, the U.S. has one of the highest death tolls in the world due to its failure to effectively treat Covid patients.

The providers also spoke about the increased development of hospitals/clinics and improved medical access throughout the country under President Ortega’s Sandinista administration. While Nicaragua is building and renovating hospitals (21 new and 46 renovated) and clinics (1,259 medical posts, 192 health centers and 178 maternity homes), the United States is closing them. As of 2015, 125 hospitals in NYC alone have closed. The infant mortality rate in Nicaragua is 15 out of 1,000 births, whereas in low income zip codes in NYC the rate is up to 27 out of 1,000 births, nearly double.

Nueva Vida Clinic on Birth Control, Nov. 5, 2021. [Source: Lauren Smith]
Nueva Vida Clinic on Sanctions, Nov. 5, 2021. [Source: Lauren Smith]

Bilwi/Puerto Cabezas/Autonomous Region

The autonomous region is comprised of 40,000 indigenous families. Three hundred indigenous communities legally own approximately one third of Nicaragua’s national territory. President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista administration had granted Nicaragua’s indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples title to 15 territories covering more than two million hectares within four years of his election in 2007. In October this year, the last two indigenous territories pending received their land titles bringing the total to 25 legally registered and formally recognized indigenous and afro-descendant territories in Nicaragua.

As explained by Dr. Cunningham in her interview, President Ortega and the Sandinista administration’s respect for the sovereignty of the autonomous region, stands in stark contrast to that experienced in the neo-liberal years, 1990-2007. The neo-liberal government blocked land titles and ignored them economically. Since President Ortega’s return, Dr. Cunningham noted improvements in critical infrastructure involving water, electricity, and healthcare as well as the construction of a roadway that will connect the autonomous region to Managua, with only 70Km left to be completed out of 522Km.

Additionally, she praised the Sandinista government’s emergency management agency with providing preparation and evacuation of residents during two Category 4 hurricanes (Eta & Iota) that impacted the region in 2020. Namely, Dr. Cunningham attributed the lack of casualties to good planning and the prompt restoration of electricity, phones, internet, and the rapid replacement of roofs stripped from homes during the severe storms. She also spoke about U.S. interference in the arming of Miskitos with weapons to sow discord between them and the area’s Mestizos population to expose the sitting government to false claims of regional instability. Also, Dr. Cunningham explained that the U.S. misuses social media to create problems between peoples to achieve the same sinister objective.

Dr. Myrna Cunningham, Bilwi, the foreign arming of Miskitos, Nov. 6, 2021. [Source: Lauren Smith]

Dr. Myrna Cunningham, Bilwi, neo-liberal neglect/Sandinista improvements, Nov. 6, 2021. [Source: Lauren Smith]

Electoral Contingent Press

Together, our electoral contingent prepared a joint written statement and conducted a press conference on November 9th detailing our first-hand account of Nicaragua’s exemplary election process and the strong participation of its eligible voters, that contrasts foreign media reports made by absent journalists.

Additionally, many on-site journalists uploaded articles and interviews on Twitter in real time or shortly thereafter. A few notable journalists and activists with uploads are Ben Norton, Dan KovalikMargaret KimberleyAhmed KaballoConvo Couch, Denis RogatyukBen RubinsteinWyatt Reed, Camila Escalante, Caleb Maupin, Alison Bodine/Fire this Time Movement of Social Justice, and Rick Kohn.

Other onsite journalists and election accompaniers wrote articles dispelling the CIA’s repetitive lies/talking points: John Perry, Roger Harris, Nan McCurdy, Margaret Kimberly, Ben Norton, The Grayzone, Stephen Sefton, Rita Jill Clark-Gollub, and Rick Sterling. Additionally, Yoav Elinevsky of Massachusetts Peace Action conducted a webinar on the election with Camila Escalante and Ben Norton. Further, Jimmy Dore’s interview with Convo Couch on Nov. 18th simplifies the U.S. disinformation campaign that attempts to conceal Nicaragua’s enviable voting system.

Essentially, what was revealed to all observers is that what matters most to Nicaraguan voters is national sovereignty and peace, as well as tangible gains in highway connectivity, expanding water & electricity coverage, free healthcare/ education, and the availability of low-cost housing, made possible by President Ortega and the Sandinista administration.

Nicaraguan voters also support the administration’s gender parity law which requires that all electoral lists, from local councils to the National Assembly, must now by comprised by 50 percent women. The percentage of congresswomen now stands at 48.4. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2019 report, Nicaragua ranked 8 in the world for women in parliamentary positions and the United States ranked 75.

The government sponsored “Zero Usury” microloan program, which has allocated US $1,144,491 dollars to train 4,000 women in 92 municipalities to open or expand small restaurants, miscellaneous stores, and tourism services in Managua, is also popular with voters. Since 2007, when the Sandinista government came into office, 23,345 micro and small businesses have been formalized, meaning these workers are now part of the social security system, receiving benefits and paying into their retirement pensions. Small businesses account for 70% of employment and are the backbone of the nation’s economy. Additionally, in the past 14 years, 318,000 members have been inducted into 5,900 new worker cooperatives.

Another success by the President Ortega and the Sandinista administration, that has gotten traction among rural voters, is the guarantee of property titles to small farmers which along with preferential credit programs and enhanced technical assistance for grass roots producers has helped Nicaragua achieve a level of 90% food sovereignty. These policies have given continuity to the massive land reform program of the 1980’s Nicaraguan revolutionary Sandinista government, which distributed about half the country’s arable land (5 million acres) to 120,000 peasant families.

Regarding public housing, the goal set for this year is to deliver 50,000 houses and 50,000 lots. The houses are in the municipalities of Estelí, Pueblo Nuevo, Condega, Granada, Masaya, Rivas, and Granada. In the municipality of Ticuantepe, three blocks of land were acquired to be divided into more than 100 lots, part of the national housing program named after Bismark Martinez which already has approximate 1,400 homes constructed or in the construction phase. Bismark Martinez, a Sandinista militant, was tortured and murdered by U.S. sponsored right-wing opposition forces in 2018. The housing is available to all Nicaraguans, irrespective of political party affiliation, and a typical house costs $40 USD per month.

Attorney, Professor and Human Rights Activist, Dan Kovalik, at Bismark Martinez Housing Development, Nov. 4, 2021. [Source: Lauren Smith]

Bismark Martinez Housing Development, Nov 4, 2021. [Source: Lauren Smith]

Contrast this housing initiative with the homeless rate in New York City (NYC) which stands at almost 48,000 and is located in the U.S which is listed as the 7th richest country in the world.

Voting Process

Nicaragua began its voting process with the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) updating and confirming its voter rolls earlier this year. Voters were able to verify their information and polling locations both in person and on-line. Polling stations are set within 15km of a given voter’s home address with each station staffed and equipped to handle up to 400 voters. Most voter centers, each containing several polling stations, are in schools.

If voters have moved and their home addresses were not updated in time for the election, they must return to the voting center linked to their former address. If voters are not able to vote due to disability, they are assisted by CSE poll station workers upon entry—if family members are not able to help them. I spoke with a couple that included a woman seated in a wheelchair and was informed that they liked to vote early because it becomes too crowded for them later in the day.

A young woman showed me a program on her smart phone operated by CSE that listed her personal information and voting location. For redundancy and ease of access, white and green master lists were also printed and affixed just inside the entrance to each of the four voting centers visited. The white list identified voters that have cast ballots in past elections and the green list identified new or recently relocated voters.

Bilwi, Voting Center 1. Voter checking master voter rolls. White indicates prior voters; green indicates new or relocated voters. Nov. 7, 2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]

Additionally, smaller lists of registered voters culled from the master list, were reprinted outside each classroom door. These classrooms are referred to Juntas Receptoras de Votos (JRV). Each one is designated to serve between 380-400 voters. At site one, there were 27 JVRs; at site two, 12 JVRs; at site three, 13 JVR; and at site four, 14 JVRs.

Bilwi, Voting Center 2, close-up of JVR staff & site identification. Nov. 7, 2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]
Bilwi, Voting Center 1, close-up of JVR staff & site identification. Nov. 7, 2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]
Bilwi, Voting Center 1, close-up of JVR staff & site identification. Nov. 7, 2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]

Overall, there was a holiday feeling to the voting process as neighbors greeted each other, bought snacks from vendors, and exchanged conversation with the various CSE workers and representatives from the six campaigning parties. Voters were also happy to speak to members from our contingent. The voting areas felt safe, secure and in no way oppressive or intimidating.

After voters have their government-issued IDs verified upon entry (either by scan or by keystrokes) they went to one of predesignated polling station (JVRs) to cast their vote.

Bilwi, Voting Center 1, Voters’ IDs are verified upon entrance. Nov. 7, 2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]
Bilwi, Voting Center 1, close-up of voter roll inside JVR. Nov. 7, 2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]

Once in the JVR, they again provided their ID to the CSE worker who then checked them off on a paper printout of the voter roll.

Bilwi, Voting Center 1, ID is verified. Voter waits on line. Nov. 7, 2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]
Bilwi, Voting Center 1, Handing of a stamped ballot. Nov. 7, 2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]

After that, voters were given a stamped, numbered, and initialed copy of the ballot by the CSE worker.

Bilwi, Voting Center 1, close-up of stamped ballot. Nov. 7, 2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]
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Figure Bilwi, Voting Center 1, Voter marks ballot. Nov. 7, 2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]

Then, the voters were directed to a voting booth by the CSE worker and given privacy.

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Bilwi, Voting Center 1, Voter casts ballot. Nov. 7, 2021[Source: photo by Lauren Smith]

Then, a CSE worker marks the voters’ thumbs with indelible ink so they cannot vote twice. The ink is impervious to solvents and doesn’t wear off for several days.

Bilwi, Voting Center 1, Voter’s Thumb Marked with Indelible Ink. Nov 7, 2021[Source: photo by Lauren Smith]
Managua, Voters’ thumb still shows ink on Nov 10, 2021 [Source: photo by Lauren Smith]

Ballots are counted in the JVR, with members from respective political parties present. The number of ballots counted, plus the unused ballots, must match the number of ballots given to that JVR at the beginning of the day. A paper copy of the vote count is submitted to the central CSE, and it is also communicated electronically, but it is the paper trail that prevails in this case which provides the most secure election integrity possible. When the boxes became full, new ones were used. The boxes bore JVR specific information ensuring bulletproof chain of custody, unlike in the United States.

Bilwi, Voting Center 2. Note Election collection box has scannable ID label on the right side. Nov 7, 2021[Source: photo by Lauren Smith]
Bilwi, Duration of time U.S. media journalists, Convo Couch, noted it takes to Vote (8.43 minutes) Nov 7, 2021. [Source: Lauren Smith]

President Ortega and the Sandinista administration’s accomplishments are not only undeniable, but one reason why the U.S. imposes unilateral economic sanctions upon it. Not only does the U.S seek to kill the threat of a good example to other Latin American countries but especially to its residents that are denied access to free healthcare and advanced education and affordable housing. Moreover, U.S. residents are subject to institutionalized inequality based on gender, race, sexual orientation, and preference. In many U.S. states, women lack reproductive rights, and residents are subject to federal vaccination mandates that deprive them of bodily autonomy.

So, not only do citizens of the U.S. superpower lack faith in their voting system—that is not verifiable and lacks chain of custody—unlike that of relatively tiny Nicaragua, but the fact that the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere has achieved such great socioeconomic & political strides while the seventh wealthiest country in the world has not, is nothing short of revolutionary—as Nicaragua’s evidence-based democracy threatens the very foundation of U.S. oppression both domestically and abroad.

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  1. An excellent article by Lauren Smith. Everything is correct, is true. However, from what I have seen in Latin America in 80 years, Washington has not become unabashedly authoritarian, but has always been authoritarian in the most immoral and inhumane way possible. What Ms Smith sees as a “futile attempt to maintain its Hollywood-styled democratic image both domestically & abroad.”, to me it is a covert way of keeping MIC, presided by the Pentagon (vice-president CIA) producing, selling and killing, in partnership with the White House and the intimate collaboration of UK mercenary companies.

    In 80 years I have seen so many government changes, revolutions, dictatorships (civil and military), guerrillas, terrorist acts, kidnappings and assassinations, that I know it is only a matter of time before violence and disaster strikes again. And, if it doesn’t happen in Nicaragua, it has to happen, by Pentagon orders, elsewhere. If Ms Smith owned a bomb factory, how will she pay her employees if politicians didn’t organize wars?

    Not demanding the Universal Abolition of the War Industry, is the same as supporting Armed Forces, political corruption, dictators, wars, legal murder of innocent people.

    What I wrote applies to Africa, Middle East and South East Asia and by extension to the rest of the planet. In short, not campaigning for the end of Militarism equals campaigning for World War III.

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