By tortilla con sal, February 18th 2015
So much has been written about Greece and the Eurozone, but practically nothing written addresses the essential reality in its global context. When Alexis Tsipras and Syriza took office – not power – this year, the situation they faced was similar in important respects and also different in important respects to what faced President Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista Front in in January 2007.
Back then, the Sandinista Front took office after 16 years of systematically under-funded education and health services, an energy generation system delivering up to 12-hour power cuts nationally every day, multiplying emigration and unemployment, a diminishing agricultural sector, deteriorating road and port infrastructure, a sterile unproductive economic and financial system, and creeping corruption in the criminal justice and civil legal system.
The fact that not a single Western analyst or political commentator has written about Greece in the global context of the West’s systematic, decades-long attack on poorer coutnries in Asia, Africa and Latin America should come as no surprise. It indicates the reluctance of Western opinion to reconize their elites’ assault on ordinary people.
It also indicates how ignorant and irrelevant most Western political commentary and analysis, across the political spectrum, has become to the rest of the world outside North America and Europe. The lessons from Nicaragua are highly relevant to Europe in particular now, given the intensifying Western élites’ assault on their own peoples.
When President Ortega took office in January 2007 in Nicaragua, he did three fundamental things.
Firstly, he declared public health and education would from then on be free, no one would be charged any payment to go to school or receive medical attention.
Secondly, he cut his own and his ministers’ salaries in recognition that public officials’ remuneration should reflect the country’s economic reality.
Thirdly, he signed Nicaragua’s membership of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) led by Venezuela and Cuba, opening up Nicaragua’s economy to ALBA’s multiple development cooperation and trade benefits, in particular in relation to the areas of energy generation, food sovereignty, health care and education, infrastructure and small business finance.
Now, over eight years on, Nicaragua’s society and economy has been transformed.
Nicaragua enjoys higher growth than its neighbours, generally has better infrastructure, higher levels of women’s participation in the economy, greater energy self-sufficiency, broader global trade relationships, good public education and health services, low levels of serious crime and diminishing emigration and unemployment.
International multilateral organizations regard Nicaragua as a model country in terms of its health and food policies and its citizen security and safety. The country no longer depends on the International Monetary Fund to sustain its public finances.
So what has Nicaragua to teach Greece?
Perhaps Nicaragua’s example has nothing to teach Greece, but a great deal to teach the European Union.
In a similar way to the Greek governing party Syriza’s emphasis on a balance between responsibilities to foreign investors and to the home population, Nicaragua’s Sandinista government has greatly improved social and economic indicators through realistic economic policies recognizing the demands and needs of both the public and private sectors.
But that has only been possible because Nicaragua signed up to the strategic ALBA alliance with Venezuela and Cuba prioritizing the needs of the human person and the right to development of the Nicaraguan people.
Between grants and preferential loans, ALBA facilitates much needed cash flow to the Nicaraguan economy of well over US$400m a year funding infrastructure, social programs and vitally important agricultural and small business credit.
The fundamental lesson of Nicaragua for Greece is that, firstly, its example reinforces the Syriza government’s arguments for socially responsible economic policy.
Secondly, it should categorically alert the Syriza leadership to the urgency of making new alliances based on the national interest, in so far as that is possible outside the straitjacket of the European Union.
Finally, it should alert the European Union political classes to the fact that their dependence on the economic and political priorities of the corporate elites that fund them is an extremely destructive, definitively anti-democratic dead end.
The tragedy of the European Union is that the venality, moral corruption and vanity of their political leaders probably makes them incapable of learning from a small, impoverished country like Nicaragua or from the outstanding moral and political example of Daniel Ortega, Rosario Murillo and their colleagues.
The tragedy of Greece and its fellow Euro-sufferers like Ireland and Portugal, Spain and Italy, is that their historically corrupt political leadership locked them into a fatally flawed alliance with Europe’s corporate elites completely subservient to their counterparts in the United States.
Europe’s chances of liberation from that subservience depends on what people in Europe are willing to learn and implement from the continuing emancipation of Latin America and, in particular, the outstanding example of Nicaragua.